As a PE teacher you have to be pretty resilient and it is not just going out in the British wind and rain that have its challenges. Summer comes with the iconic ‘PE teacher tan’; sock and t-shirt lines are tough to work with!
When I am not out on the school field with 30 teenagers in tow I’m either training, racing or doing more outdoorsy things which tend to fill my weekends and holidays. Through school and university I was always your typical sporty girl; in every team and spending every evening at training for one thing or another. It was being involved with Guides and Scouts however that really opened up the world of outdoor pursuits and wow did I love them all. Kayaking, climbing, camping were all so different to the school sports I spent my weekdays doing so these began to fill my weekends.
When I became a teacher my aim was to give the pupils in my care the opportunities that I had, I have amazing active parents and this really showed in my childhood. This goal is still my main driving force through my career and has been my motivation to lead many new activities to my pupils. I really try to be an inspiration to my pupils, children tend to have a very low belief in their actions and I strive to motivate through mine. It was starting new trips and sports in school that got me thinking about starting new things for myself. A mate and I planned what has become an annual surfing trip to Newquay, this was the first time I had ever surfed and I was hooked instantly! So I bought my own board, roof racks, the works and now the other half gets dragged along on surfing holidays too!
In September 2014 my Dad decided after 40 years of running that it was no longer enough of a challenge so he entered a local triathlon. Not wanting to be outdone I borrowed my partner’s bike and entered. I have always swam competitively since a young child so this part didn’t faze me but in the other two sections I was just waiting for the end. Turns out it all went pretty well and in the well renowned hardest sprint distance triathlon in the country I finished in second place.
I had caught the bug! I love training hard anyway but find competing in events gives me a focus and makes me push that little bit harder in every set. Through the year I have started to enjoy the Aquathlons more, mainly because it means no blagging 24km on a borrowed bike, obviously a massive bonus! After 2 further races which saw me get a 2nd and 4th under my belt I wanted to qualify for the National Championships, this meant another new thing; open water! I consider myself to be pretty tough and swimming in dark murky water doesn’t bother me, despite not liking pond weed touching my feet, but nothing could have prepared me for this swim! Swimming is my favourite thing to do ever but I hated it, I was in a borrowed Tri wetsuit so I was totally freezing, there were fish, I felt sea sick bobbing along in the waves, I just wanted to get out. But giving up is never an option so instead I held my own and fought back in the run to finish in second place. Not bad for my first OW attempt and that was it I was going to the National Championships and undertaking yet another new aspect… a sea swim. I was hoping for a better swim; I knew what to do now, I had the tactics going round and round in my head, I was going for clean water, ready and determined. I wouldn’t say it went perfectly and was my dream race but I was crowned Runner-up British Aquathlon Champion. I had done it, I had held my own against the best in the country – that is all I ever wanted and I am so proud! I don’t think any race goes without a hiccup, in this one I was stung across my neck by a jelly fish and had to go back in transition to get my race belt that I had forgotten to put on – who does that in the National Champs?! But it was fun, I was working hard and that’s what matters. Everything I do is due to pure 100% love of it and giving things ago, you never know what you can do until you try and you often surprise yourself.
Next step for me is the European and World Aquathlon champs in 2016 which I am eagerly awaiting details on. To have the opportunity to compete against the best in the world whilst representing the mighty GBR is so exciting and something that keeps me focused every night in training. It makes every muddy, sweaty, painful rep totally worth it.
To learn more about Stef check out her profile on our ambassador page and #BeInspired