Lucy Charles-Barclay’s stunning wire-to-wire win at the Ironman World Championships in Kona has helped her secure a clean sweep across the media and public vote to also claim October’s PTO Athlete of the Month.
Despite an arduous three-day journey back from Hawaii to the UK, Charles-Barclay took time out following her return to promote the amazing win – and the sport she loves – in triathlon as well as UK mainstream media, talking to The Times and The Mirror, speaking on ITV News and BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and making an appearance on Channel Four’s Sunday Brunch on Sunday alongside pop star Leona Lewis, former Top Gear host Richard Hammond, comedian Richard Herring, actress Lolita Chakrabarti and singer Roisin Murphy.
Speaking to Sunday Brunch hosts Tim Lovejoy and Simon Rimmer, the new PTO World #4 said:
“It’s been a real journey, but it’s slowly starting to sink in now. I’ve come home and seen my friends and family and seen what it means to them as well which is amazing.”
“2017 was the first time I raced there [Kona] as a professional and I came second. So you naturally think, ‘I’m going to win this at some point’…but it’s taken me a long, long time. It was my fifth time racing there and I finally did it and got the win.”
Listening to Lucy’s achievements, Tim and Simon were quick to marvel at the dedication and training required to be a top professional triathlete and also having to spend much of her record breaking 8 hours 24 minutes 31 seconds on her own at the front of the race.
“I had a 90-second lead in Hawaii and then I never saw another person after that. We don’t have radio but we do get splits occasionally. So someone will come up and say ‘this is your gap to the girls behind’. I had people from my bike team with a white board telling me the gaps to the other girls. Generally if that gap’s getting bigger, it’s this massive positive boost. But if you see the gap coming down it’s about how you handle that. The shortest gap was the 90-seconds out of the swim. So I was having a really good day.”
They were also amazed that Lucy ran 25 miles of her marathon with severe calf pain.
“I broke my foot in May when I was doing a triathlon. We think it happened running into the swim when I actually hit a rock. I continued racing and ended up coming second at the end. But leading into this race I felt a bit of pain from the race and we managed it well. I’ve got an amazing physio who was doing his thing. But a mile into the marathon I felt pain in my calf really bad and I saw my husband out on the course about four miles in and I said: ‘it’s really bad’. He had a heart attack at that moment thinking she’s got a ten-minute lead but she’s not going to do it because she’s in pain. But I was like, ‘you know what, it’s going to be more painful to come second again’, so I thought ‘you’ve got to do this’.”
“It would be amazing. Triathlon is quite a niche sport. Most people know it with the Olympic distance. My race in Kona was four times the distance of that. So to get people committed to watch me race for eight hours is quite hard. But that would be amazing if I did get nominated.”
Following her win, Lucy is at least being included in the odds. Skybet now has her at 125/1, above England men’s team captain Harry Kane (150/1), with Lioness goalkeeper Mary Earps installed as the current favourite. But with an expert BBC Sport panel not picking their shortlist until December 2023, there is still time.
Taking Triathlon Mainstream
To get the casual sports fan more engaged in triathlon, which is arguably the ultimate endurance sport, Tim’s next question made a lot of sense: ‘Would you do the Olympic distance?’
“The Olympic distance was the dream for me. In swimming the Olympics was the goal. Now in triathlon there’s a new and really exciting triathlon series from the PTO, which is the Professional Triathletes Organisation. That race lasts for just about 3 hours and is the 100km distance. So it would be fun to watch and I think people could tune in for that long and it’s really exciting. They want to make it like the F1 of triathlons so that the top 40 athletes will race multiple times a year and they’ll be a World Champion crowned at the end of the year. So that will be my goal going forward.”
The boys also asked about her husband, Reece, assuming he must be a triathlete too and why she’d largely trained at home in Chingford, rather than in sunnier climes in the build up to the race.
“It’s a full time commitment doing this. My husband Reece used to race and now he’s a coach. I have another coach called Dan [Lorang] as well, but Reece is there every single day making sure the job gets done and it makes it a bit easier having him there supporting me.”
“I’ve been training abroad a lot. I generally based myself in Lanzarote and they have an amazing training complex there. But I’d been away from home so much, I just wanted the home comforts. I wanted to be with my dogs. I wanted to have my physio around. But it was tough.”
In response to also being asked whether training on a treadmill and indoor bike really replicates what you experience in the real world, Lucy said:
“That was slightly our concern. Although in Hawaii, although it has rolling hills, it’s generally straight out and back along a highway in between the lava fields and you turn around and come back. So actually the technical skills aren’t really required on the bike. You just need to be really strong and you can get that from indoor riding coz you’re never free-wheeling down a hill. And the treadmill is the same. I’ve been injury prone over the years, so keeping me on the treadmill we knew the risk of getting injured was less and we could do a lot more mileage than I’d ever done before. And when we got to Hawaii, it had translated really well.”
‘Do you enjoy it’ was Simon’s final, very understandable question:
“Most of the time, yes,” said Lucy. “The training block leading into these championships was brutal. I did it all at home, but I was on training camp at home, so I really wasn’t ‘at home’.”
The PTO Athlete of the Month is a new accolade introduced for the first time this season by the Professional Triathletes Organisation to celebrate its members across the year and recognises a female or male PTO athlete each month based on: outstanding race performances, significant movement up the PTO World Rankings and/or challenges overcome.
The six-athlete shortlist for October 2023 included (in alphabetical order) Josh Amberger, Lucy Charles-Barclay, Anne Haug, Youri Keulen, Mathis Margirier and Imogen Simmonds, and was voted on by a panel of triathlon media as well as fans. The media panel includes: Global Triathlon Network (GTN), Triathlete, Triathlon Magazine & Tri-Mag.de. Each gives their 1, 2, 3 based on the shortlist and fans voted during Friday 27 October, 2023, across the PTO’s social channels. Three points are awarded for being voted #1, 2 pts for #2 and 1 pt for #3. The points are then added up to determine the winner. Lucy collected 15 points, placing top in all the votes.
For Further Information
Anthony Scammell E: [email protected]
About the Professional Triathletes Organisation
The PTO is a new body, co-owned by the professional athletes, seeking to elevate and grow the sport of Triathlon and take it to the next level. Each PTO Open is raced over 100km (2km swim, 80km bike and 18km run). In 2023, the calendar consisted of the PTO European Open on 6 May and was followed by the PTO US Open in Milwaukee on 4-5 August and then the PTO Asian Open in Singapore on 19-20 August. With the season underpinned by the new PTO World Rankings, helping to create a compelling season-long narrative in the sport for the first time. The PTO has already confirmed that the PTO Tour will go back to Singapore on 13-14 April, 2024, and that further stages of the Tour will be announced in the coming months.