After giving birth to her second child, 34-year-old mum-of-two Sophie Bubb from Lymingtom was determined to take on a challenge to “scare” her body back into shape. Seven months later, Sophie Bubb was on the start line of the Challenge Weymouth European Long Distance Triathlon Championships about to complete – and win – her first ever Ironman.
However, after struggling to walk during her second pregnancy due to complications, Sophie little thought she would be taking on a 2.5-mile swim, 112-mile cycle, and 26.2-mile run, never mind crossing the line as amateur champion.
After developing Diastasis Recti just 12 weeks into her pregnancy, Sophie suffered tremendous pain, leaving her unable to walk up the stairs. But this did not stop her. Neither did breastfeeding, for that matter. Seeking expert advice from her Physio, Sophie worked hard to re-develop her core strength, constructed a plan to fit intensive training hours around nursery hours and breast-feeding, and utilised every possible opportunity to work on building her endurance.
Despite getting up at 5am most mornings, training for up to seven hours at a time, Sophie told us that she enjoyed the challenge, as it granted her that all-important ‘me time’ outside of family life which, she believes, allows her to be the best possible mother she can be. “I love being a mum and this will always be my first priority,” said Sophie, “but I truly believe it is important for me to have my own goals and time to myself.”
A Corporate Sales Executive by day, with very little experience competing in triathlon, Sophie Bubb couldn’t be more deserving of the title ‘supermum.’ Sophie puts her success down to her ability to balance and prioritise family life, alongside the invaluable support she received from her husband while training for the event. We caught up with Sophie to find out just how she did it.
What motivated you to take on an Ironman distance triathlon after the birth of your second child?
I was motivated to take on an Ironman distance triathlon as I wanted a challenge; I wanted to do something to benchmark that I was back being fit and strong. I needed something big enough to scare me into training. I loved the focus the Paris marathon gave me on my previous maternity leave.
I love being a mum and this will always be my first priority but I truly believe it is important for me to have my own goals and time to myself. The only time I ever have to myself is when I am training or racing, and this little space allows me to really appreciate the boys when we are together.
Prior to having your two children, what was your level of fitness?
Prior to having children, I would have said I was moderately fit; once I met my husband I would say my fitness improved! He’s always coming up with crazy ideas!
To give you some idea, one of our early ‘dates’ included cycling between Lands End and John O’Groats and for our honeymoon we hiked Wainwright’s Coast To Coast across England, through the Lake District, the Peak District and the Yorkshire Moors.
Before deciding to do the Challenge Weymouth European Long Distance Triathlon Championships I wouldn’t have said I was a triathlete, having only done a handful of local sprint events before. I was, however, a keen cyclist and enjoyed running. I did my first marathon during my last maternity leave in Paris; at the time I completed it, my first son Rory was six-months old.
How did you manage to fit your training around your busy schedule as a mother of two young children? What did your training involve?
Getting to the start line in Weymouth was a team effort; my husband, Nick, is incredibly supportive and I wouldn’t have been there without him. I decided not to have a training plan as I thought it would stress me out; I have always said family first.
Wednesday mornings were always key, I would generally fit in about seven hours of training. My eldest, Rory, was at nursery then and a friend offered to look after Billy, our youngest. Nick works in London, Monday to Wednesday night; to maximise my Wednesday mornings I would stay at my mum’s on a Tuesday night, and she would drop the boys off where they needed to be in the morning.
Doing this left me free to go to running club on a Tuesday evening and head up to Ellingham Lake first thing Wednesday morning. The lake opens at 6am, so I would generally get up at 5am and head there for a session before going out on the bike.
I hated training impacting on family time, so outside of Wednesday mornings most of it was done when the boys were asleep.
For us, getting to the start line of Challenge Weymouth became a lifestyle; fitting training in as a family and making it as much of a family event as possible. When I first started training, Nick was known to drive and find me when I was out on a bike ride to fit in with the breast-feeding schedule and an ice cream stop for Rory.
So I could go running with the family, Billy started being towed around on the back of Nick’s bike in a trailer while strapped into his car seat, as he was too small for all other options. Rory sat on the bike seat on the back of the bike; they both seemed to love it, or just sleep!
You completed the Challenge Weymouth European Long Distance Triathlon Championships in 11.04 hours, coming ninth overall and first amateur. Were you surprised by this result? How did it feel crossing the line?
Truly speechless, I still am! I just felt relief crossing the line as I could stop running. I thought I would be a bit emotional, but at that stage I knew I had won my age category and so was in shock.
How important would you say it is for mothers to utilise exercise as ‘me time’/set personal goals for themselves?
I truly believe that it is important for mums to have goals for themselves, be it going to the gym for one session a week, a 5K run, or to learn the piano.
I can only talk from my own experience, but I am totally absorbed by being a mum, this will always be my first priority and my last. I find that I always prioritise the needs of my boys over mine; this comes down to everything. I generally don’t think I am unique here.
If I didn’t set clearly defined goals for myself I feel I would be absorbed by the children, and I know this wouldn’t make me happy. Having a goal and achieving it, whatever the goal is, always gives a person a huge sense of achievement and a feel good factor. It also allows you to go out there and do what you need to do to achieve your goal without feeling guilty about being away from the kids (to a certain point at least!).
I also believe that a happy mum makes for happy children. This positivity gets shared with the whole family.
You can follow Sophie and her adventures on Facebook here.