For our British followers, Louise Minchin is perhaps best known as the smiley face looking back at you from your television set as you sip on your morning coffee (or perhaps while you get a pre-work turbo session in).
As one of the hosts of the BBC Breakfast television programme, Louise is accustomed to early starts and hard work, which are two of the reasons why her move into the world of triathlon made perfect sense.
Louise was in her mid-40s when she was invited to take part in the BBC’s annual Christmas Challenge in 2012, which involved a team cycling challenge with the other Breakfast presenters at the Manchester Velodrome.
By her own admission, Louise’s exercise regime at the time involved hopping on her bike in order to cycle the few miles into work occasionally.
So, how did Louise go from a morning commuter to someone who would go on to represent Great Britain in her age group and a finisher of two of the most extreme swim-bike-run events in the world – the Patagonman and the Norseman?
Source: Louise Minchin Twitter ©
It all began with the BBC Christmas Challenge as Louise entered the daunting world of cycling (and mounted a bike with drop-handle bars) for the very first time and her successful foray in the velodrome provides the starting point for her book, ‘Dare To Tri’.
Note: this is an unbiased opinion despite the fact Louise uses Precision Hydration to help fuel her adventures...
The book details Louise’s journey from the velodrome to wearing the GB colours in Chicago and it describes in detail the many fears that any beginner faces when contemplating their first triathlon event.
Louise – who was an excellent swimmer in her younger days before she swerved away from the sport in her teens as she didn’t like her "muscly shoulders" - helps demystify those initial fears for those looking to make their first steps in the sport, although her book isn’t only a ‘bible’ for novices. Louise’s stories about her progression and remarkable rise in the sport are undoubtedly ones that will resonate with even the most experienced triathlete.
It’s a book that came out at a good time for me as I read it when thinking about dipping my toe into triathlon. On the outside looking in, triathlon is an intimidating place for a ‘newbie’ who had watched various World Triathlon Series events, both on television and in the flesh, for many years.
The fears and worries for beginners in the sport are many, and Louise covers all of them – from sitting in a portaloo worrying pre-race to the confusion of where to place your kit in transition, along with the chaos of the ‘washing machine’ on the swim leg, the comedy of failing to unclip and falling from her bike in front of a fellow group of cyclists, and the mental challenges…
As Louise puts it, ‘why don’t I just stop being so silly, quit running, walk back and have a nice cup of tea and cake with my family?’
Source: Louise Minchin Instagram ©
The book made me, at least, feel a whole lot better when going into my first triathlon.
The big concern is cocking up and making yourself look like a fool, but ‘Dare To Tri’ made me realise that there will inevitably be mistakes – Louise details her own comical experiences when everything seemed to go wrong at a triathlon in Machynlleth, and the big takeaway from the book is that every event is a learning experience.
I made errors despite reading Louise’s book – there was a 60-mile training ride that involved me falling off three times when failing to unclip properly each time, and then the actual event when I failed to sight and probably added 250 metres to my swim. And there was the final run when my legs seemed to belong to someone else, a lolloping baby giraffe perhaps, but definitely not to me.
Louise’s book played a big part in me finally making the move from someone who runs a lot, swims a bit and cycles occasionally, to a ‘triathlete’ (of sorts).
I came away from the experience of my own first triathlon saying, “I wish I’d been fitter”. But it has also left me with an appetite and motivation to be better and to take part in more swim-bike-run events in the future.
Whether I ever follow in the footsteps of Louise and make what seems like a gigantic step up to a Patagonman or Norseman remains to be seen, but what I do know is that ‘Dare To Tri’ is an invaluable tool for anyone who is new to the sport or a relative novice.
It goes beyond being a beginner’s instruction manual though as it should appeal to anyone with a passing interest in triathlon or sport. No matter what your level of expertise, background or experience, Louise has shown what can be achieved when you possess determination and a desire to learn and improve.