A MORAY mum-of-two has overcome her fear of water to qualify for the world triathlon championships in only her second full year of competing.
Lynda Anderson (44) was a keen runner and cyclist who couldn’t swim until recent years when she took up adult coaching in an effort to pursue her sporting dream.
Now she is heading to Mexico to take on some of the fittest athletes in the world in her age group.
Lynda, from Elgin, admits she couldn’t have made it without the support of her family and her coach, as she juggles intense training stints with bringing up her two children and running her own physiotherapy business.
Her strength and determination came to light during a triathlon event last year when she was involved in a terrifying cycling crash, but despite being concussed she got back on her bike and finished the race.
The greatest achievement came for Lynda in June when she entered a world qualifier in Wales “just to gain experience” and finished third. Her placing earned her a place in the British team for the International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championships.
“That was huge, for me being able to do these things, it was just daft,” she said. “Sometimes I’ve got to pinch myself.”
Lynda, who runs her Velocity Physiotherapy business in Fochabers on her own, gets no funding in triathlon and has to pay for everything herself, including expensive bikes, trainers and even the GB kit she wears in events.
She would love to gain sponsorship from a local business or individual willing to back her efforts on the world triathlon circuit.
“We are finding that a lot of people assume we get everything paid for us. They don’t even give you your kit to wear.
“We are completely self-funded. I’m selling items just to try and help a little bit with the costs and economise as well as I can. So sponsorship would be amazing, even little things.”
Lynda was brought up in the Buckie area, moved to university and lived abroad for spells before returning to the Moray area around seven years ago.
She had ran marathons and done long distance cycling but her urge to take up triathlon was triggered by an advert for an event which included a swim under the Forth road bridge, as well as a 100 mile uphill cycle and a run up Ben Nevis.
“I thought to myself ‘it can’t be that hard, I can cycle 100 miles, I can run a marathon so why can’t I learn to swim.
“But I was so terrified of water, and I still am. I have a very deep rooted fear of water because when I was quite small I went to the pool and said I didn’t need armbands, and when I tried to swim I sank. I can just remember being picked up from the bottom of the pool.
“So in my subconscious I’ve still got that in my head. I still have panic attacks in the water but I really love swimming now.”
She got in touch with Ian Parfitt from Mandian swim school in Moray around four years ago, and mentioned the swim challenge she had read about.
“I told him ‘I’d like to do this, do you think I can?’. He said ‘but you can’t swim a length of the pool’. It was just the inspiration of it, though I didn’t end up doing it. I couldn’t run at the time because I was injured so I decided to learn to swim.
“I’ve always been a bit eccentric and where most people would say that’s just silly and I’m too old to do that, I still have all these thoughts where I’d like to do these things.”
Before long she was working with a technical swimming coach, and for triathlon she linked up with Barry Farquhar from Celtic Coaching, who gave her the belief that she could compete at a high level.
He encouraged her to take up shorter, sprint distances of 750 metres open water swim, 20km cycle and 5km run.
In one event in Weymouth last year, she came crashing off her bike on the road but still managed to carry on.
“It was a nasty, nasty crash where it took me a good 20 minutes to get off the road and even longer to get back on my bike. I finished the race and it was only on reflection the next day when they looked at the damage to my helmet, because I had landed on my head on concrete.
“I have very little recollection of it so I think I had gone into proper shock. I got back on the bike and I was OK but by the end of the 56 miles I was really in difficulty. I had gone into concussion and really shouldn’t have been on my bike.”
Lynda tried to qualify for the European Triathlon Union (ETU) Championships at an event in Strathclyde in June, but it didn’t go according to plan and she failed to make the mark. A second effort in the Peak District means she awaits selectors’ decision on who makes the GB team.
However a superb performance in Llandudno landed her a top three ranking and a place in the world championships for the 40-44 age group, beginning on September 15 in Cozumel, Mexico.
Her training programme is intensive, sometimes doing two or three sessions a day to build up her fitness.
But family is always a priority for Lynda, and her son Charlie (12) and daughter Emily (10) are her two greatest supporters.
“They always come first, there’s no question about that. If it’s between them and me dropping a swimming session or a bike session, that’s what happens. That’s why I’ve got a coach, so if you can’t train for the next week he will sort that all out and remove that stress.”
Lynda says her parents have also been incredibly supportive in looking after her children – and their two dogs and a cat – whenever she is away competing.