Interview with Women and Sports

06/05/2014 15:16


Rowena de Belligny – Triathlon


1. Tell us more about yourself and three words that best describe you.

Organised. Determined. Mummy.

I am a Triathlete and a full time working Mummy. I am focused and driven at work and in my training, I am determined. I strive to do my best in everything that I start and get great satisfaction from pushing through my perceived limits. I am also a loving mother to two boys!

We don’t have a car, so we cycle or run everywhere. Family, colleagues and friends nicknamed me ‘Iron Mummy’, for being ‘hard core’ and managing to fit so much into each day.
I am British, but we now call Singapore home. I love to train in Singapore’s year round, warm climate!

I have been a runner for more than 25 years, but only since moving to Singapore did I take up triathlon. Our young sons love living here; they spend a lot of time outside with my husband, swimming, cycling and playing in the warm weather. I cycle to work most days and sometimes I run in. It saves time – it’s faster than the bus and that means I get about 100 km a week extra in the saddle – every little bit helps!

2. What are some activities you do during your free time?

I don’t really have any free time! When I am not doing either (or several simultaneously) training, work, commuting, eating or sleeping, I spend time with my children.

3. When did you start going for triathlons? What is it about participating for a triathlon that attracts you?

After having my second son, I decided that I wanted to try triathlons. I had always been a runner and I cycle a lot, mainly as a form of cheap (and free) transport, and I had done a bit more swimming than usual during my pregnancy. About 3 months after giving birth, I bought a bike. There were many comedic moments (for others) as I was getting used to the clipless pedals – falling off when stationary, at traffic lights, in front of doors and gates. My hips and knees were bruised and scratched for most of the first few weeks, but eventually I got the hang of it.

When I went back to work, I cycled to work 3 days a week carrying my breast pump in my backpack and going as fast as I could in the evenings so that my pots of frozen milk were still frozen when I arrived home!

My first triathlon was in January 2013. By the end of 2013, I had won races, came second in my first Ironman 70.3 race, been offered the opportunity to race at the world championships and started training with a structured, heart rate based programme.

I love triathlons because you can really do a lot and get in great shape but because there is more variety and the stress is not always on the same part of the body, I find I get injured less than when I was only running. The other reason I love a triathlon is the people. A triathlon is a very friendly and open sport, and the triathletes really support each other. I have met some really great people since I got involved!

4. How do you prepare yourself (in terms of trainings) for each of the races that you have participated in?

I follow a training program designed by Journey Fitness Company based on heart rate zones. The most important thing for me is consistency. Since I have been training with heart, my injury and illness rates have plummeted. I am sure that this is because I have reliable data to tell me when I should be pushing harder, to ease off, or even to have a rest day.
I usually train for a total of between 6 and 11 hours spread over 6 days a week. I also cycle or run to work most days.

5. Do you have any specific diet plans to follow prior to the race day?

I try to eat well all the time, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, not too much meat and not too much sugar.

Prior to race day, I try to eat how my body is used to being fed – similar foods, similar timed meals and snacks. Sometimes I may top up a little extra with multivitamin supplements and definitely ensure I am very well hydrated.

6. How do you juggle between training/preparing for a race and the other commitments such as work and family that you have?

Finding time to train for triathlon, hold down a full time job and spend enough quality time with my children and husband is a challenge, so taking advantage of all of the time saving tricks I can is very important to me. I usually get home in time for bath time, story time and a cuddle before bed, and then once the children are asleep, I either swim, spend time with my husband or drag him out to accompany me for a run on his bike. Most mornings, I get up early – about 5am. During the week I go out once or twice on my bike with a small group of friends and I am back before the children wake up. At the weekends, I get up as early as 4am to ride more than 120 km and be home for breakfast at 8:30am. Most Sundays I run pushing both of the boys in the pushchair, sometimes having to bribe them to keep still with the promise of a cheese prata at the end of the run.

I am only able to train like this because my husband is so supportive of my sporting activities. With his support and by organising my life like this, cycling or running to work, training when my children are asleep, we can fit it all in!

7. Participating in an endurance sports requires a lot of perseverance and endurance. How do you keep yourself going to reach the finish line?

If I am honest, I quite enjoy the feeling of really pushing myself. While I am running which is the last part of a triathlon, so usually the hardest, I think of my family waiting for me at the finish line – I would love so, so much to be an inspiration to my sons. I also think of my sponsors and coach. I try to compete well so that they are proud of me.

8. Share with us some of your most memorable race experience.

It has to be the Ironman 70.3 in the Philippines last August, where I was offered a place at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships. The location was beautiful, the whole family came with me and we had a lovely holiday at the same time.

The race was memorable mainly because of the crowds – cheering, screaming crowds throughout the entire course, even the whole length of the bike course. It was so motivating to have so many enthusiastic people watching the race and encouraging us. For a long stretch of the cycle, spectators, especially girls, were screaming every time I passed, literally screaming – not shouting or cheering!

I noticed after a while that the guy in front of me was acknowledging all of them, waving and bowing to the crowd… then it dawned on me… the screams were for the Filipino heart throb actor in front, not me. Nevertheless, I did my best to kid myself for the remainder of the bike that some of it was for me and it was still pretty cool!

9. What do you think could be some possible challenges for one to start participating in a triathlon?

If you can swim (any kind of stroke), ride a bike (any kind of bike) and run (any kind of pace) there should be nothing stopping you from trying triathlon. There are many shorter distance races in Singapore, especially catering to those who are new to the sport, or to those who simply prefer shorter distances.

10. Lastly, in your opinion, what could be a baby step to encourage one to start participating in such endurance sports?

It would be just that… baby steps! If you are new to endurance sports then start your training with something manageable, something that you can already do, and something that does not fill you with dread and make you want to bury yourself under the blankets!
If you know you can run for 10 minutes, then make a habit of going out 3-4 times a week and doing just that. Once you make a habit of training, it is much, much easier to get out there and do it. Once you feel good doing your 10 minutes, try going for a bit longer, or riding your bike for a while and then doing your 10 minutes running straight afterwards.

Don’t plan training sessions that make you want to hide or hibernate because they are too hard. It’s supposed to be fun and make you feel good!