Lucy Nell, an RAF officer, won the OA Inter-Services Triathlon in 2014 and 2015. Her RAF graduation meant she missed the race last year, which was won by fellow RAF officer Samantha Rose. Both are competing this year, but will either of them win again?
We interviewed Lucy to find out how she is preparing for the race, and why she enjoys triathlon.
Tell us about yourself.
I became an RAF Medical Officer, before qualifying from the University of Leeds Medical School in 2013. I undertook my foundation years working as a junior doctor in Birmingham, and then completed my Officer Training at RAFC Cranwell in July 2016. I have always been a keen triathlete, and was on the World Class Start Programme for talented young triathletes. Over the last four years, I have raced on the domestic elite scene and was recently awarded Elite Athlete Status in the RAF. This will be my third Inter-Services Triathlon, having won in 2014 and 2015. I was unable to compete last year because I was commissioning.
How many triathlons have you competed in?
I have lost track of the number of triathlons I have competed in – probably upwards of 50. I’ve been involved in the sport since the age of 11, when I first took part in the Milk Series Triathlons for children.
Why do you enjoy competing in triathlons?
Triathlons for me – perhaps like any sport – provide the opportunity to really challenge myself personally, to see how deep I can dig when everything is hurting, both in training and races. I also find a huge amount of personal satisfaction from training hard and seeing improvements in my performance. Being able to see how far I can progress as a triathlete, while representing the RAF, is such an incredible opportunity.
What makes a triathlon tough?
Three different disciplines in one race make the sport tough, requiring a huge amount of training. The toughest thing, especially when I had a full time job, was balancing training, social life and work. I absolutely take my hat off to all the athletes competing in this year’s OA Inter-Services Triathlon who successfully balance all of their commitments. Now as a full time athlete, the balance of training hours, versus injury prevention, plus adequate recovery is something I am learning rapidly. You need to listen to a tired body, even when your head is screaming at you to complete the session.
Which is your favourite discipline and why?
Oh gosh, this is a tough one. If you had asked me 10 years ago I would definitely have answered swimming. However, recently I’ve been really enjoying cycling. I’ve been able to benefit from being a member of RAF Cycling, and some of the road and criterium racing experience has been a good crossover for triathlon.
What is your training programme?
My training programme varies daily, but usually involves three sessions in varying combinations of swimming, cycling, running, strength and conditioning, yoga and foot and run drills. I’m also in the fortunate position to benefit from nutrition, sports psychology advice and testing from staff at the Performance Centre at the University of Birmingham.
What advice would you give to someone competing in a triathlon?
Enjoy yourself. Try not to get so bogged down in your training regime so that triathlon stops becoming fun. There are so many opportunities in the UK and abroad to race in some beautiful locations, take them in and smile.
What makes the OA Inter-Services Triathlon challenging?
You never quite know who your competition is going to be at the OA Inter-Services Triathlon, and if the Army or Navy have recruited any talented triathletes in the last year. There is such a healthy rivalry between the services, with each team desperate to win. Therefore I think each triathlete puts a certain amount of pressure on themselves to race as well as they can for their service, and hopefully help to become the OA Inter-Services Triathlon champions.
What is your sporting ambition?
My sporting ambitions grow as my confidence and performance develop. Rather than jump in and say my ambition is to go to the Olympics or Commonwealth Games, I’d prefer to see how I adapt and improve with the opportunity to train full time. Currently I have goals of reaching the podium at domestic elite races, and performing well in European Cup races. Longer term I would absolutely love to line up against the world’s best triathletes in one of the World Triathlon Series (WTS) events.
About the OA Inter-Services Triathlon
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.