When Imogen Simmonds went off to study geology at University, she thought she’d end up working in a high-flying office job, bringing in a regular salary and doing her bit for the environment. But spending a few weeks on a triathlon training camp in Thailand gave her other ideas and she soon swapped the idea of office attire for Lycra and set out to become a professional triathlete. In 2019 she had a real breakthrough year, not only did she come second on her Ironman debut at the European Championships in Frankfurt to qualify for Kona, she surprised many by finishing 3rd at the Ironman 70.3 World champs in Nice.
*Why she thinks it's important to let her hair down every so often
*Why she likes to get nervous before a race and doesn't pack out her race season
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INTERVIEW TIME LINE* (not the whole episode)
03.10 – always loved sport, it’s always been part of her life. Swam until she was 12, then did athletics and cross country until she was 14 and then moved to team sports. Was also very academically driven. Started triathlon when she was 21 but admits it took a while to want to do it again.
Until I was 22 years old, I had never thought of professional triathlon as a career. I had always been studying and always thought a desk job was awaiting for me.
5.00 talks about doing a Masters in environmental technology and business 'I struggled between going down the environmental route and being an athlete.'
6.15 I underestimated doing a training camp for a couple of weeks and living that life all of the time. It is very different when every single day when come rain or shine, whether you feel sick, you just have to go out. It takes a mental toll doing nothing during the day sometimes but its not a bad job.
7.15 I got my pro licence through the swiss federation, so I represent Switzerland. I got it after the Molloolooba 70.3 World Champs “I wasn’t fast enough for British Triathlon.” Talks about the funding she receives.
10.30 Imogen admits she doesn’t really like doing a lot of indoor training, and explains how the pool she does a lot of training in in Thailand is covered. Trains in Thailand for around 4 months of the year and talks about why she enjoys training her work out there.
15.00 Talks about her move to Ironman. Jurgen has always been big on the Ironman side of things, but never pushed me until I started to mention it. They are very different distances and I didn’t respect that enough. But I enjoy both.
16.45 What was her goal for 2019? “Going into 70.3 Worlds, when I looked at the start list, I thought ‘I’m going to have a hard time coming top 10, let along more than that. So I still pinch myself about that because I basically executed a good race on the day and living and training in the Alps paid off.” “I didn’t expect that result. I had been training a lot with guys, I hadn’t really been training with girls over the summer, so I didn’t know where my cycling was. So I was probably comparing myself to them and wasn’t as confident as I should have been.”
20.00 On standing on the start line of her first Ironman “I had no idea what to expect” I learnt a number of lessons that day including don’t power off on the bike! It was 39 degrees and you suddenly learn to experience Aid Stations a lot more. Talks about the difference between Kona and her debut at Frankfurt.
22.41 She’s going to try to qualify for Kona at the inaugural Ironman Thun, which is a female pro only race.
24.00 On meditating to go to sleep and calm down.
24.45 I do get nervous and anxious and I find my worse events are when I don’t get nervous or anxious. I always think a bit of nerves is a good thing, because that’s just your body’s natural response of going into a race. I do some meditation, some breathing practice and I try to surround myself my people or I distract myself from the hype. If my heart isn’t in it, for whatever reason. That’s why I don’t race too much because I want to keep that excitement clean and if I start to race a lot, then they will all merge into one. Last year I ended up doing a lot of Championship races, like the 70.3 World Champs, the Ironman World Championships etc… And they take not just a physical, but a mental toll on me.
27.45 My training for Ironman Thun, the long rides have already started and it’s almost like a big exam and then finish the exam and you want to go wild and forget about it all for a few days. There is a big hype towards it and you put everything into it. When you are a professional athlete. I have to let my hair down once in a while.
31.00 We talk about the environment and the ‘disgusting’ amount of plastic waste in Thailand and how Imogen would like to put her background and her studies to use at some point down the line.