Happy and Shocked by a Race That Means I Can Finally Look Forward to the Olympics

Super League Triathlon Columnist 16x9 83ed54f8 B8b1 434e 8963 B7b58524a414

Since I finished second at WTCS Leeds people have said to me ‘you must have known how fit you were,’ but I can honestly say I am so happy and shocked by how it went.

After such a difficult winter with my injury I went into the race knowing I hadn’t run much for a long time. Sometimes you can do well in sessions – like perhaps 20 minute efforts – but it was too much to believe I could do that after an hour and a half on the Leeds course.

I did know that the course suited me and it was going to be a slower run because it’s hilly and people can’t run as fast off a hilly bike, but I never thought I could podium. Top ten is what I was aiming for and a solid performance, so I was so happy.

Jessica Learmonth Superleague Triathlon Arena Games Rotterdam Pro Women Final 153

I was asked for my last column when the last time I had really tried hard was and I remember thinking it was really awkward because I couldn’t even remember as I hadn’t been allowed. That plays on your mind and it’s really difficult to be confident when you have no idea where you are at.

My mindset was to just try to relax and go into it thinking ‘’I’m glad I am on the start line’, especially as I did a race a few weeks before and didn’t finish it because of where I was.

The swim and the bike went well, which I had hoped they would as I had been training for them longer as they were the first things I could do when I was coming back, but the run…I was hanging!

I thought to myself I would last 5k and I was confident in that, but I knew 10k would be a push, and to be honest it was. I lasted until about 8k and the last 2k I was running on fumes. I was leaning forward running because my back had gone and then quads went – it was like everything was going beneath me. I felt a bit embarrassed and I was just happy to finish.

Jessica Learmonth at the SLT Arena Games for Super League Triathlon

It’s given me confidence and more than anything I’m really excited about the Olympics now and I feel it has given me the chance to relax and try and take everything in. 

I don’t want to look back and think I didn’t appreciate it enough. I know people say it’s not the same as a normal Olympics, but for me it is probably my only Olympics so I want to enjoy it.

Leeds has given me confidence that I can look forward to it rather than wondering what I might be like.

Dealing With Media Doesn’t Come Naturally To Everyone

There’s been a lot in the headlines about athletes dealing with the media after what happened with Naomi Osaka and when I first started triathlon I honestly would avoid the media at all costs.

If there were any pre-race interviews or anything like that I couldn’t cope with it. I found it unnatural.

Superleague Arena Games 2020

When I first got on programme with British Triathlon they send you away to get to know each other. I didn’t sleep for a week while we were there and got ill because I was so nervous about speaking in front of people – and there were only about ten of us, and nothing like Naomi has to deal with. I tried to get out of going after that because mentally I couldn’t get around it.

I might be able to do triathlon but I’m not a media person and I couldn’t do this column without some help. I’m just not good at public speaking. I get asked to go to primary schools and speak to kids and, I know this sounds laughable, but I did it once and it was the most horrendous thing I have ever done. I am so scarred from it I can’t do it again.

I think sometimes people think it comes naturally to everybody. You see people like Andy Murray who speak so well and they are so accomplished that you might think everyone can do it.

I have come to appreciate it is part of the sport. I would be turning down things and my partner Jon would say to me ‘it’s not good for you and you need to get out there because it’s part of the sport and promoting it.’

As time has gone on I have found it a little bit easier and the thing I always think is that if I don’t do it then it’s not fair on other athletes who do have to do it.

I don’t have a solution to the issues that have arisen, but I really do sympathise.

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