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Kelda’s Triathlon Challenge Update
23 Aug 2021

For 2021 Kelda decided to set herself a challenge to complete a series of triathlons – despite not being able to run, swim well or ride a standard bike due to a serious leg injury she sustained in 2002. It was all about demonstrating the 'How Can I?' Climbing Out ethos. 

Since then she has taken on not one, but two triathlons (and not easy ones at that!) with a third coming up in a couple of weeks time.

She isn’t shy of challenges, having previously climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Aconcagua - the highest mountain in South America, and in 2019 she became the first adaptive female to row solo across the Atlantic to raise awareness and funds for Climbing Out. 

And now she’s a triathlete!

Her training hasn’t been easy. Amongst Covid restrictions closing her local pool, a packed Climbing Out schedule and poor weather to train in, she also received a shocking diagnosis at the start of 2021 – breast cancer.

Training was paused whilst Kelda had a mastectomy, and thankfully a few weeks later she received the great news that she had the all clear.

Here's an update from Kelda on how it's all been going... 

“Due to scheduling problems, my first triathlon ended up being here in Shropshire at Alderford Lake on the 19th June.

I had always planned to do the running section in a racing wheelchair because of my leg injury, but training with it didn’t go very smoothly! I realised tackling the hills in it was near impossible and I was really worried I wasn’t going to be able to do the triathlons.

As I was struggling up a hill in the chair, I had a thought – I could walk faster than this… And there was the light bulb moment! I can’t run, but I can do a kind of shuffle. So, with now 6 days until the triathlon, I had a go running with walking poles and it worked!

I keep saying that this challenge is all about finding solutions to problems to achieve awesome things – and adapting with the poles was part of that.

I had spent 18 years thinking I couldn’t run – and I proved myself wrong!

The first triathlon was an Olympic distance - 1500m swim, 40km bike ride and a 10km run.

On the morning of the event I felt like I was stepping in to the unknown, unsure of how I was going to handle the different disciplines involved. But then I got caught up in the amazing atmosphere. There was such a friendly vibe, it took away my feelings overwhelm and made it fun.

I learnt during the swim that my steering isn’t great! Rather than spotting buoys I was spotting reeds! I’ve swum at Alderford before, but it feels totally different in a race setting. I felt a bit panicked with my breathing and where I was going. The marshals had to rescue me twice as I was going in the wrong direction!

I was wrapped up thinking that I was being so useless, but then I had a word with myself - you need to start laughing at yourself and get over this! After all, it wasn’t that long ago I couldn’t do the front crawl at all.

Eventually I was on my own in the lake, as everyone else had swum off, but I hit a rhythm by the second lap.

My leg seizes up when I swim, so quite often when I come out of the water I lose my balance. At that point I needed my walking poles to get me to the next stage – the cycling.

I was hit by a lorry on a horse many years ago and have avoided riding on roads ever since, so I couldn’t quite believe I was riding a bike on such a big road. I felt chuffed getting over that hurdle.

Then came the running / shuffling. After 2.5km I started to tell myself that I’m never going to finish the whole 10km. But I kept pushing to do more, and not walk a single step. The amount of encouragement from other runners and spectators was incredible, so I kept going.

It’s all about mindset, and I found myself using tools from my Atlantic row. I said to myself - JUST KEEP GOING. Every footstep, every lap, you’re one step closer. And I did it! It was an amazing feeling to cross the finish line of my first ever triathlon – something I had always thought wasn’t possible.”

Kelda’s second triathlon was The Snowman Triathlon in North Wales. It is well known as the toughest multi terrain triathlon in the UK! She took on a 750m swim, 31km bike ride, and a 6km run up Moel Siabod.

“My ankle is fused at 90 degrees so the uphill for me wasn’t as bad as you might think – the downhill not so much! I couldn’t believe I actually overtook a few people running up the mountain, but they all passed me again on the way back down! It was an epic course with absolutely stunning scenery."

Kelda plans to do one more triathlon this year. She’s taking on the Shropshire Triathlon in Ellesmere on the 5th September. She will be doing the Olympic distance.

“I’ve spent nearly 20 years telling myself I can’t run. I might not be quick or have a great style, but you know what - I can run. Knowing that has given me a lot of confidence. What else can I do!?

Following my breast cancer scare this year, these triathlons enabled me to move forward from that and not be defined by it. I’ve built my confidence and self worth by setting myself this challenge. I even feel fitter now than when I was on the GB squad, which is a huge boost.

If anyone is thinking about taking part in a triathlon, I say, just do it!”