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The Making Of Lucy Charles-Barclay | Swimmer To Triathlon Champion

The Making Of Lucy Charles-Barclay | Swimmer To Triathlon Champion


– Lucy Charles-Barclay is one
of the most talented athletes in the world of triathlon. In 2019, at the age of 25, she has multiple Ironman wins, numerous swim course records, and a second at KONA twice
in consecutive years. And she’s achieved all of
this in just four years. So I wanted to catch up
with her to hear her story and how she’s done all of this. Okay Lucy, so we know loads
about you as a triathlete and all your triathlon accolades, but I’m really keen now today to hear about, well, the
making of Lucy the triathlete. So where it all started, and from what I know you
started out in swimming, when did you get into swimming? What age were you getting in the water, was it before you could walk? – Yeah, so I mean, as a child I kind of, my mum and dad said I
was quite water obsessed. So we’d go on holiday, I think
I probably wasn’t even one but I was like one of those young toddlers just sort of running
around out of control. And I had arm bands on and we
was on the beach on holiday and my mum and dad said they
literally turn their head for one second and I
was running at the sea tryna get in there. I think there was always, sort
of a love of water as a child but it wasn’t until I
was about eight years old that I actually got into a swimming club and started swimming properly. – At what point then,
in this swimming career that you started out in,
did you then start thinking, right I actually kind of want
to do this quite seriously and started upping the game a bit with it? – Yeah, I mean, so if I
started round about eight and then I was nine I won
the county championship, so that was kind of what sparked it, that actually I’d quite like to do this and I’d watched previous Olympic games and knew what the Olympics was. So I was always sort of
thinking, even at nine years old, the Olympics is what I want to do, it’s the pinnacle in the sport and can I get there? So even at nine years old I was probably super dedicated to training and probably a bit obsessed with it. – What were your kind
of biggest results then in performances in swimming? – So I had several national titles from, I think my first one was when I was 16, I got the open water national title and the 1,500, and maybe even the 800. I mean, we were part of
a great swimming club, so we were at Hatfield Swimming Club and one year, we sort of, we won the relay and several national titles. So it helped that we were part of, sort of a massive club
were people were going and winning these national medals. So yeah, I think some of highlights were probably winning
those national medals and then gettin’ selected for the GB Team, so I raced in Canada. Then when I did open water,
I was racing in Brazil and Argentina, so it
was a lot of traveling and quite a lot of elite level racing. – Can you impress us all now, just give us a few of your swim times and PB’s for those years, like 400, 1,500, full time. – Yeah, I think my most impressive time is probably my 1,500 which
short course was a 16:15. So I think that’s still
the fastest ever in the UK. Yeah, that was a pretty good swim. – Do you think you’d still
be close to that now? – I think, I wouldn’t
probably have to swim the volume I used to then,
to do that kind of swim, but I would have to swim
more than I’m swimming now. But I think actually the cross training with the bike and run would maybe allow me to be just as good on less swim volume. So worth the same,
maybe I’ll give it a go. – That’s really interesting. So at what point did you then decide, actually this isn’t for me anymore and start maybe drifting
away from swimming? – So I think I was about 19 and, yeah, I kind of, I just missed out on the London Olympics for the open water where Great Britain only took one athlete. So, I was quite disheartened by that. It was like can I do another four years trying to make an Olympic team or do I just not think I could do it? And I basically gave it a shot for 2013 and I really went for it. Like I joined a new club and committed more training
than I’d ever done, more strength training than I’d ever done, and I had one of my best ever swims at British championships. I should of been over the moon with it, but I kind of was a bit
flat after the race I guess, and that was I knew,
I don’t think I can do four more years of this
because I’m not getting that same buzz that I used to get. And basically just, I think
it was May of that year, I just decided I couldn’t of it anymore and pretty much went straight into work. I worked at a zoo, which is quite random. But it was the local zoo,
and I actually worked there doing marketing, so I did all their socials and stuff.
– So you weren’t looking after the animals? – No, I got to see all the animals, but unfortunately, yeah,
I wasn’t qualified enough to actually work with the animals or anything like that, but I did get to shadow the keepers and find out a lot more actually, and I am a real animal lover, so. – I was just picturing
you mucking out the rhinos and stuff like that. Now let’s talk a little bit more about that Olympics selection because how does that make you feel then when they didn’t select you and that idea of sort of,
just letting swimming go. – Yeah, I think it’s a pretty scary thing for any athlete when all you’ve ever known is the sport that you’re in, so you’re very much in that bubble and the outside world
is kind of quite scary because it’s like, yeah,
you’ve got to get a real job if you’re not going to
work in this environment of swimming anymore,
where I wasn’t earning really any money at all actually, because the funding was so little. And we weren’t allowed to get a job whilst we were swimming because basically you
had to be fully committed to your swim program which those hours didn’t really allow you to get a job. So you had no real work experience, you’d only sort of been
studying and swimming. So yeah, it was quite scary which I think is why I think
I gave a little bit more time before I decided, actually
I know I can’t do this. But, I guess from being a nine year old pursuing that goal of
being an Olympic swimmer and then 10 years later deciding, actually no I’m not going to do it, you kind of feel, one I
felt I’d let my parents down because they’d dedicated so much time taking me training that
I felt guilty for them, and then I felt guilty
for my nine year old self that I’d been like, I’m going to do this, I’m going to put everything into. So, yeah, it’s a scary time I think for any athlete to kind
of make that decision. – Yeah, I mean, it’s your life,
it’s your identity isn’t it? – Yeah.
– So, yeah that’s really hard. So how did you find the day to day work, the nine to five grind? – I quickly found out that I definitely didn’t want to work for someone else. Having kind of, I guess
I was told what to do as a swimmer, but you’re in
control of what you’re doing to some extent. Actually being in a job where you have arrive at nine O’Clock, and I think sometimes we had
to work ’til six or later, depending on the summer hours. So I kind of quickly realized I definitely don’t want
to work for someone else. And then, I hadn’t been
working there that long and Reece and I decided to set up a personal training business. So basically, whilst I
was working at the zoo I was training to be a personal trainer, Reece was obviously
studying sport science, so as part of that he would get his personal trainer qualification. So we then decided to
start up our own business so we didn’t have to work for anyone else. – And out of interest, did
you keep swimming going in the background? I’m guessing not to the same level and like as much training, but were you still doing a little bit? – I had no real desire at all to swim, I was completely done with
the sport all together. So the thought of getting back in a pool and having to swim just
didn’t appeal to me. Yeah, I definitely didn’t
do much swimming after that. – When did triathlon come along? What was your first, sort
of encounter with the sport? – I think it must have
been the back end of 2013. So I basically stopped
swimming in May 2013 and then, I think it was around June time or maybe even later, it
might’ve been August actually, we decided to still enter
this open water swim which was the Great Scottish swim. So I’d done a lot of the
great swim series before, so I decided I’ll still do that, let’s see where I’m at. It was kind of just to
keep me training I guess, and keep me a bit fit,
to have a bit of a goal. But Reece and I both
went and did that swim and swam absolutely abysmal, it was so embarrassing, I was like, oh, we shouldn’t have done this. And basically, went
back to the hotel after and I think it was Reece’s idea actually, we just pulled up Ironman UK’s website and just both signed
there and then basically. ‘Cause we knew we needed
something to train for otherwise we wasn’t
even going to keep fit. I think if you haven’t got
something to work towards then– – Straight in on the hardest distance, no messing about. – Yeah, then it was kind of, we went down to the post
athlete awards evening and basically said, ah well, we’re doing Ironman now, we’ve signed up. So it was like, yeah that’s
what we’re doing now, we’re not swimming
anymore, we’re doing this. So I guess it was a bit of
spur of the moment thing and quickly learned actually this is going to be pretty difficult. I mean, originally we
said we got probably do it on a mountain bike. And then, wow, we have a mountain bike so we can do it on that. And it was like, you soon learnt there’s no way we’re going to even finish if we do it on a mountain bike. So it was a steep learning
curb in that sense, then we finally got road bikes that was a whole difference experience. And I remember just
falling off every minute and gettin’ laughed at. And I think, the thing was
I was only going to do one and tick the box, say yeah I’ve done it, and then I was hooked after that. – Where there any big hiccups or things that you look
at now from that race and like, oh god, why did do that? – I mean, I did something
I would never recommend to any of the athletes I work with now, but I basically got a TT bike
one month before the race and used that, and having obviously–
– To come from a mountain bike to a TT bike within a matter months. – So yeah, I mean
obviously I’m no where near in the aero position I am now, so it probably still basically looked like a road bike position on a TT bike, but the biggest thing was
I was too scared to change from the big ring to the
little ring on climbs, so I thought I was going to drop my chain and even then I was didn’t know
how to put a chain back on, so it would be like the end of my race if a chain drops. I find it so funny now how I
kind of feel so comfortable around basic bike mechanics, but back then a small thing like that I just would have no clue what to do. But, I mean, aside from that, actually there wasn’t
really any major hiccups. I think the hardest part was coming in being a strong swimmer, it was, I came out the swim very near the front, and then the whole day on the bike was just constantly being overtaken, which is quite hard sort
of to handle I guess. – What made you kind of
pursue going for it really, in a pro lifestyle? – I mean, initially it
literally was just for fun, something completely different. I almost hoped that I would
be rubbish at it in a way, because I’d had that top
end elite career in swimming that I just wanted to do something for fun that maybe I could just
be an average person at and just enjoy it. And then instantly my
competitive edge came in and I wanted to win races. And I think as I started to get
more comfortable on the bike and my run developed, I was like, oh I could maybe be quite good at this, and then after that first Ironman I learnt about what KONA was and wanted to pursue that so I signed up for Ironman
UK again the next year, and I kind of dedicated a lot
more time to training actually. So I quit the job at the zoo and then was a personal trainer full time so I could train around that and to have more of that pro lifestyle. But obviously I had to fund it someway so we had to personal
train a hell of a lot. But it gave me that
bit more time to train. So I think I went from
doing 12 hours 16 minutes in that first Ironman, and then a year later went
just under 11 hours, so. – You won your age group right? – Yes, yeah, so that’s
how I qualified for KONA. From getting that big
jump of taking an hour off I kind of knew actually, yeah maybe I could be quite good at this. And once I won my age
group in KONA that year, I kind of thought, well what’s next? There’s not really a bigger
step than that in long distance so that was when I decided to
try and get my pro license, which, I don’t know if many people know, but I actually got rejected
from British triathlon the first time. So I had to appeal it
and then kind of got it on a trial basis, which
meant kind of the year 2016 I was tryin’ to prove a point that I deserved to have the license. (upbeat music) – Do you feel that this kind of need to go to KONA, win KONA, be
this fantastic pro triathlete is maybe a little bit of a
hangover from the swimming and not being selected for the Olympics? – Yeah definitely, I think
obviously, as I said, as a nine year when you have that goal of making the Olympics and then when you come so close to not get it at the end, the Olympics was always the big goal, so even when I came into triathlon I kind of still had a
think about the Olympics and could I do that? Which I was kind of almost
shocked now and again by the governing body of triathlon, and it felt similar to in swimming, so I guess I really did have that fire to be like, right well, okay, I’m kind of doing long distance, let’s see if I can get to the top in that and prove everyone wrong. I guess, yeah, I’m able now
to compete at the top level in long distance, at the
pinnacle of that sport, so for me that’s kind of yeah, it means I can be
satisfied now because yeah. I think if I hadn’t of done that I always would of thought, well what if, could I
have been at the top level in whatever sport I was doing? – And would you even go back to considering triathlon
Olympics and ITU racing anywhere? – I feel less likely to do that now. I think this is going so well, I’ve sort of said before
maybe to a few people, that if I’d won KONA twice now, then maybe I would ’cause I’d be like, actually I kind of done that maybe now let’s have a
new challenge and do this. But the fact that I’ve come second twice, I’m so hungry to get that top spot in KONA that I’m not willing to change my plan yet until I’ve done that. – Let’s think back to you in
that marketing job at the zoo, how old were you then? – So I think I was about 20
when I was working there. – Okay, so you’re 20, if
you were to think back to yourself there and you were to say, oh, I’m going to be a pro
triathlete in three years time or so and I’m going to be one of the best, rocking up at KONA and duking
it out with Danny Oreefe, I mean, what would you think? – Yeah, it wouldn’t of
even crossed my mind. I think sitting at that desk, so initially obviously I had signed up for the first ever Ironman and I told the people working there I was going to do this crazy triathlon, and they kind of knew what it was, and my kind of biggest
goal was just to maybe get first out of the swim,
because I used to be a swimmer, but there was never any thought of, I didn’t even really know you could be a pro triathlete in Ironman,
I didn’t know it was a thing. So yeah, I wouldn’t of
even dreamt about it. Yeah, it wouldn’t of crossed my mind. (gentle upbeat music) – Well, thanks ever so
much for joining us today, it’s been absolutely fascinating. I hope you guys enjoyed that as well. If you did then please do
hit the thumbs up button and if you’d like to see more from GTN just click on the globe and subscribe. – Yeah, and if you’d like
to hear my swim tips video then just click here.

93 comments on “The Making Of Lucy Charles-Barclay | Swimmer To Triathlon Champion

  1. Lucy is a lamb on the outside, but she would have the heart of a lion. You have to give her full marks for perseverance to get to that level.
    Great interview Mark, ride safe everyone.

  2. Wow. From Olympics tryouts -> Zoo -> Triathlon, quite the journey.
    Great content guys.
    Keep them coming !!!!!

  3. Very inspiring story ! Do you think inline speed skating is compatible with long distance triathlon, both at competitive levels (not pro, of course) ?

  4. I really hope more companies sponsor Lucy as "Brand Lucy" is incredibly marketable! The Girl Next Door / Wonder Woman in Battle Braids definitely has appeal!

  5. Great interview and good to see that LCB is so down to earth and self effacing given her uber stays in world of trip- seems a very genuine person. After a 9 year break I would credit the GCN Team and LCB with motivating me to do the Alpe D'Huez tri next year at age 61. Keep up the good work.

  6. She reminds me of Jodie Swallow back in the day. Good to see the UK having such a strong Tri line-up.

    Urban myth?? Was Jodie disqualified from an event when the her sponsors logo was deemed too large because it was given an extra bit of ‘Lycra stretch’ over her chest?

  7. So let me get this straight. An Olympic swimmer, won age group at Kona, wants to turn pro and UK Tri says no? That for me sums up orgnaising bodies. Totally out of touch. Priorities on Olympic parades, while every actual athlete pretty much only has IM as a goal. They've never supported long distance particularly well.

  8. Mark did a great job at this interview. open questions, some structure but just let Lucy talk and then followed up with certain points. Would love to see GTN do some longer form backgrounds on other athletes in the future.

  9. I wish Lucy that win at last in Kona! The problem I have personally is that I also finger cross for Daniela Ryf who is also super nice person. My problem is even more problematic because I also wish with all my heart for Rinny her fourth win this time as a mom 😀 This championship is so amazing to me that I really wishing well for so many competitors because triathlon is a special sport with a very special and nice personalities both in male and female fields.

  10. Great interview lucy. Im training for my first IM and im happy im not the only one who signed up by “fuck this, im doing this now” 🤣 enjoyed hearing your experiences!
    Luckily, i had to learn the bike chain stuff during training last week 😇

  11. Thanks for giving us this interview with one of the biggest stars in triathlon. Lucy you are a lovely sportswoman and person!

  12. Somebody please tell her to try the mid foot cleat position that Daniela Ryf uses. It puts less strain and stress on the calves so they will be fresher for the run leg.

  13. I would love to see more in-depth interviews from the pros like this. Hearing a full cohesive interview about their background is a lot more captivating and endearing, much better than hearing a multitude of different and sometimes unrelated questions.
    I know it's hard to shoot something like this for so long and still have it seem fully seamless, but this is easily your best interview ever so it really pays off.

  14. Anyone who swims year round is crazy. It's a mind numbing sport. Still have nothing but respect for swimmers though.

  15. Looking at the number of people commenting with tongues lolling at her, no wonder she keeps name dropping Reece so often to remind us shes is married. hahaha

  16. RANT!! Lucy, like so many other GB Triathletes achieve amazing results time after time after time.
    Do we hear anything about it in the mainstream media? Of course not.
    Kick a ball around a field for 90 minutes, or hit a ball with a bat & you are a god & all over the media … become a World Champion Triathlete (Vicky Holland) & … nothing!! Same with Lucy.
    It's a bloody disgrace & all U.K. triathletes should be up in arms about it.
    End of rant … have an epic 2019 & 2020 everyone 😉

  17. Really love interviews like this to let us know more about how the top pro athletes started their journey in the sports . Really sad to see how most governments neglected the Ironman athletes . They only cares about Olympic because it gets the highest worldwide coverage and audience like the World Cup. Love it when she was asked whether she will try Olympic distance and she answered that her only target now is Kona Champion , that shows how determined she is , not allowing anything to distract her from eyeing the Kona Queen title. That’s the true spirit of Ironman athletes and she is so humble & down to earth. Can’t wait to see her and Daniella fight for the title in the upcoming Kona. All the best Lucy !

  18. Loved this interview. Presented a realistic picture of what training to be an elite athlete, able to compete at the Olympic entails, the amount of monetary support, unable perhaps to keep a full time job. In the US she would have got a full swim scholarship to a great university. We lack that kind of sponsorship to really make something of our great young talent.

  19. If there’s ever a cult in the making, where people go about worshiping Lucy and training for Ironmans all day long, I’d sign up in a heartbeat! Seriously though, Lucy you’re awesome and GTN great interview!

  20. Listened to this and felt sad that GB doesn’t support these promising athletes enough. Must train and commit 100% but can’t have a job – how many great talents does this deter? Great to hear she had the belief to succeed. Funding needs to improve in the UK and get closer to the US system.

  21. How was the random woman from the GTN team you have used as a model for the back of Lucy's head to show 'her' working in an office? 😀

  22. She’s such an inspiration, and definitely one of my fav pro triathletes, but no, she didn’t “do this in just 4 years”! For hobbyists like me who literally didn’t even know how to swim freestyle a few years ago and started as adults…I’d say her race prep started since she was a kid. Inspirational nonetheless, but please understand that not every athlete knew we wanted to be one since a very young age, and that should NOT make our hard work and achievements any less “impressive” or “incredible” or whatever the word should be… I only discovered my love for this sport since 21, and I’ve been building another career along the way as well. Every day I tell myself “I only started to swim when I was 21, but this shouldn’t be the reason I don’t dream to qualify for Kona”.

  23. Mark has a crush on Lucy and she is playing with it. Very pleasant interview with good content. Maybe the best athlete’s interview. Thanks,❤️ GTN !

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