Sport Editor Kit Shepard talks to University of Birmingham Triathlon captain Dan Shepherd about his ambitions for the club in 2020
There are few sports that demand greater endurance, mental toughness and versatility than the triathlon. First comes swimming, which forces almost every muscle in the body to work in perfect unison, all while keeping a relaxed, metronomic breathing pattern. The moment they reach dry land, competitors find themselves in the midst of the gruelling lower-body challenge synonymous with cycling. Finally, using whatever energy remains, a long-distance run (which tests all limbs and lungs, let alone weary ones) is all that stands between them and a sensational achievement.
As tough as it sounds, the sport is not reserved for interdisciplinary exercise junkies, something that UoB triathlon captain Dan Shepherd is keen to emphasise. ‘Everyone’s got a weakness and a strength,’ insists Shepherd who was initially drawn to the club for reasons beyond the prospect of sporting prowess. ‘When I first came to the university, the club looked really friendly and everyone seemed to really enjoy doing it.’
This generous, relaxed atmosphere is something that the club champions. ‘One of our key aspects is that you don’t have to commit to anything when you join,’ says Shepherd, as both a development squad and a performance squad are on offer. ‘You could be just a swimmer looking to gain some fitness and just come to our swim sessions, or you could just do our spin sessions that are quite sociable and just chat to people.’
The club can also provide serious competition in abundance. The performance squad ‘do all the BUCS races [duathlon, biathlon, sprint and Olympic-distance triathlon]’, giving them the chance to ‘race against other triathletes all across the country.’ Shepherd describes these competitions as his ‘main focus,’ and he plans to use them to foster some camaraderie throughout the club. ‘It’s really nice to get the whole team there and [to create] a really nice team environment.’
Away from BUCS, members will also take part in the British Super series in the upcoming months, with Hannah Hobbs, Jack Shayler and Roberto Gibson among the ones to watch.
Margins can be so fine that Shepherd’s squad practice quick transitions between the three sports. Challenges include taking a wetsuit off at rapid speed, getting shoes on while cycling to jumping off the bike without stopping. ‘It does sound like a lot,’ Shepherd concedes, ‘but we do break it down into small individual sections.’
Equally, Shepherd states that the club ‘really does cater for everyone who wants to join,’ and this belief is exemplified through the opportunity all members have to complete a triathlon. ‘We are going to be entering a few beginner triathlons in March [and] April for our new members that have joined this year, just to get a chance to go to a local one that’s not as intense as BUCS.’
For a sport built on variety, it is fitting that triathlon at UoB offers such a wide range of options for members, and whether you prefer to swim, cycle, run, or none of the above, Shepherd believes the benefits the club offers are equally varied. ‘Once you get involved and get a few sessions under your belt, your confidence will increase, your fitness will increase and you’ll just have a great time.’
Further information about Triathlon can be found on the UBSport website.