Suunto UK has partnered up with the Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds, England. The historic ITU race takes place this June and to celebrate, we recently ran a contest to find a lucky competitor to share his training tips and the experience of taking part. The winner is Dan Blackburn, a 36-year-old digital marketing director, who once weighed 17 stone (108kg).
Proud Yorkshireman Dan Blackburn transitioning.
Tell us about yourself
I’m a perfectly regular 36-year-old age-group triathlon competitor, with a busy job in digital marketing, two amazing but exhausting little boys, one long-suffering and incredibly supportive wife, but without an ounce of natural sporting talent in my body.
So how did you become this athlete that you are today?
The fat, beer-swilling teenage me would have found this turn of events ridiculous! Growing up, sport wasn't really my thing. I enjoyed mountain biking and Rugby League but my natural ability was below average. So I gravitated towards the things that came more naturally – wine, women and song! It was after university – where I probably hit 17 stone (108kg) – that I first decided to sort myself out. I returned to cycling, took up martial arts and even started running.
© Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds
Throughout my 20s I did several 10k runs, graduating from a 56-minute plodder to 45-minute runner. I ticked off a couple of half marathons and some awesome mountain bike rides too. And I even ended up with a black belt in Ju Jitsu! All things the teenage me didn't think were possible. Every time I set myself a physical challenge, I got there. Maybe not in first place, but that didn't matter one jot. I bloody did it.
Why the move to triathlon?
I'd always fancied having a go but was convinced it was beyond me - not least because I'd last swum properly in primary school. I couldn't put two lengths of front crawl together. But fatherhood was the making of me. I consciously decided I was going to be a role model for my boys – to show them that effort, sacrifice and a positive, can-do attitude makes pretty much anything possible.
What’s special about the Leeds triathlon?
How often do you get the chance to race with the world's best triathletes on the streets you train on every day? Local boys Ali and Jonny Brownlee live just up the road and they’re leading the charge. I’m a proud Yorkshireman and Yorkshire [a county in northern England known locally as God’s Own Country] knows how to put on a proper show. Welcoming the Tour de France in 2014 was an utter joy and I'm sure we'll welcome the World Triathlon Series with equal enthusiasm.
Press play to check out the triathlon
How’s the training?
So this year I'm pushing my training further than ever. I'm signed up with my local Triathlon Club, I have a proper training plan courtesy of coach Simon Ward [whose training plans are also available to TrainingPeaks users. I've been following as best I can since November, and I've quit drinking completely (OMG!) until after I cross that finish line. And of course, I’ll be using my new Suunto Ambit3 Sport which will help me stay on track.
What’s your goal?
I doubt I'll ever stand on a podium or win an age-group world champs place, but I'm loving it. I'm feeling super-positive and seriously relishing the next few months. I'm looking forward to sharing my journey. I'm in as good shape as I've ever been and there's plenty of training still to come. Bring it on.
Main Image: © Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds