Samantha Rose, an RAF officer, won the OA Inter-Services Triathlon in 2016. We interviewed her to discover what it takes to be a winning a triathlete ahead of the race next week.
This year the triathlon is organised by the RAF Triathlon Association, and sponsored by the OA. The Army, Navy and RAF will compete at the annual event, in individual and team categories, including Male, Female and Veteran. In addition to the Armed Forces, the emergency services, the OA and guest teams will participate.
The OA sponsors the OA Inter-Services Triathlon to celebrate the high levels of physical fitness, mental determination and self-discipline that competing requires. These are qualities that will support Service leavers when they make a successful transition into civilian life.
Tell us about yourself.
I completed my first triathlon in 2011 while studying at the University of Birmingham, and was instantly hooked. I immediately progressed to racing standard distance triathlons, and medalled in my first race. I graduated as a dentist in July 2012, and since then I have combined working full-time with training and racing in triathlons at a highly competitive level. After working in the NHS, I joined the RAF in January 2016.
My best achievements to date include coming third in the World ITU AG Champs in Chicago (2015); third in ETU AG Champs in Kitzbuhel (2017), 11th in the London Elite Triathlon (2016) and I won the OA Inter-Services Standard Distance triathlon (2016). 2017 has been a jam-packed season, fitting races in early due to my deployment to the Falklands being brought forwards.
What was it like to win the OA Inter-Services Triathlon last year?
It was great! It was my first OA Inter-Services Triathlon, and I didn’t know what to expect from the competition. I pushed myself hard all the way round the course, and as it is also a team event I kept thinking “every second counts”. It was brilliant event, with fantastic support from all three services. I always feel part of the RAF family every time I race.
How many triathlons have you competed in?
Over the years it’s hard to say! I think 30-35 triathlons; 6 sprint triathlons; 1 half ironman and the rest as standard distance races.
Why do you enjoy competing in triathlons?
The training in the build up to races keeps you fit, mentally and physically, which is important to my overall wellbeing, especially working full-time as well. I also enjoy competing in a triathlon, because it’s something I’m good at (through a combination of very hard work, and fortunate athletic build). Triathlon is so much a part of my identity that I can’t imagine life without it.
What makes a triathlon tough?
Triathlons are physically tough: you have to be able to do three sports one after the other and make your body adapt between the three. More so, triathlon is a mentally challenging sport. When your body wants to give in, hold back or give up, it takes mental strength to push through.
Which is your favourite discipline and why?
My favourite discipline is normally the swim because it’s my strongest leg of the race, although I enjoy elements of all three. I love climbing on the bike, and I love the finish on the run (mainly because it means the running is over).
What is your training programme?
Up until this year I’d never stuck to a ‘proper’ training programme or been coached. Previously I trained what and when I thought my body needed, but since February I’ve been coached by Scott Murray (Synergie Coaching), which has been a learning curve. I’ve had more rest days than I’d have ever given myself before, but Scott incorporates a mix of speed and distance swimming, turbo/spin and road biking and interval, slightly longer steady runs into my programme and brick sessions.
What advice would you give to someone competing in a triathlon?
Enjoy it! Whether it’s your first triathlon or your 100th, each race brings something different. Embrace the opportunity of meeting some fantastic people – I’ve been a sportswoman my whole life and have never known a community as warm, welcoming or fun as the triathlon. Be proud to be a part of it.
What makes the OA Inter-Services Triathlon challenging?
It’s a tough field, and I know there are lots of really talented athletes this year. It’s always great racing with teammates, but also tough competing against them. It’s the overall team aspect that motivates you to perform to your best, and knowing that every second counts pushes you that bit harder.
What is your sporting ambition?
That’s a tricky question. I had considered being a full-time triathlete, but I enjoy racing at my current level and I love my job, so for now I’m happy with the work-life balance. I’m planning on moving up from standard to middle distance triathlon, because the longer distance may suit me better.