Simon Gray, tax partner at Leeds-based Henton & Co Chartered Accountants
Growing up I wasn’t a particularly keen athlete and the thought of swimming, cycling and running for many miles made me feel slightly queasy.
However, I’ve always had a competitive nature and drive which I bring to my job, so when I reached my early thirties I really wanted to try a new challenge and push myself out of my comfort zone.
My first introduction to this gruelling sport was when I competed in my first triathlon in 2004 after having done well at an indoor triathlon put on by my local gym the previous winter. I trained fairly hard for about six months beforehand to get in shape. My performance in that first race was respectable for a ‘newbie’, and I immediately fell in love with the buzz of competing and pushing myself to my limits. It wasn’t until 2006 that things started to take off for me and I started to improve my times and performance, largely due to the fact that a pal of mine took up the sport so for the first time I had a regular training buddy.
I was 34 and decided to compete in one of the most well-known races in the calendar, the London Triathlon. There were 350 people taking part in the amateur race and I came first. I really felt like one of the pros, having a police motorcycle escort guide me around the streets of London. It was a surreal experience competing. In 2008 I got into the British triathlon team and have managed to qualify and stay in the team since then. I compete in the GB age group team. The age group team competes all over the world and the focus each year is the World Championships, which are always held at the same time and location as the Professional World Championship Series Final.
Getting to rub shoulders with the world’s elite triathletes in places as far flung as Beijing and the Gold Coast is something I could never have dreamed of way back in that first local Yorkshire race in 2004. My current focus is to try and qualify for my fifth consecutive GB age group team; and the Worlds this year are in New Zealand in October. In theory, as I’ve also just turned 40, this should be my best shot at making the 40-44 age group team.
I train around 10 hours each week and I’m also a member of the Leeds & Bradford Triathlon Club. All my GB representations have been in the so called ‘Sprint’ event, which consists of a 750m swim, followed by a 20km bike ride and finally a 5km run, although something that lasts for just over an hour is not exactly everyone’s idea of a sprint.
In Austria in 2009 I tried my hand at the famous Iron Man triathlon, which consisted of a three-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, finished off with a marathon run (26 miles) at the end for good measure. Needless to say, I won’t be entering another one in a hurry, and I think I’ll just stick with the ‘sprints’.