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Mr March - Roly Shaw

Tell us about your pre-triathlon sporting history and your favourite sport at school?

As a youngster, I used to run everywhere! My Mum called me "Roly The Runner" as I seemed unable to walk at any time. At school I did XC, but, didn't run as an adult until my late twenties. I played rugby for school, but, got fed up as I was nearly always the substitute - or got substituted! I played football for church youth clubs, often in goal or as a defender. My claim to fame is playing for Leeds United................Reformed Baptist Church!! Ha! Ha! One day, before kick-off, the other team captain said "We can take this bunch of bible bashers!" I was annoyed, so with my first tackle I took him out - big time! "Not bad for a bible basher" I whispered - I got booked and we lost!

I was a competitive Laser dinghy sailor from my youth until about ten years ago. I competed all over the UK, plus Europe a few times, even Mexico once. I thought I would do it forever, but, gave up when we arrived in East Anglia - The Broads were too "tame" and, by then, triathlon had taken over! I still sail for pleasure, but, only big boats in the warmer parts of the world - as per Elaine's instructions!

Over the years, we have joined sailing clubs and running clubs wherever we have lived. So, I guess I am well versed in how they tick!

How and why did you get into triathlon and what was your first event?

We were living in Illinois, USA in 1999. No sailing, so I just ran. I got injured, so swam to aid rehabilitation. A running work colleague called Nigel saw me and asked if I could ride a bike, with a smirk I said "yes" and he said "you could be a triathlete" and I actually said "what is one of them?!" He lent me his spare bike and shoes for two years and we did a few events together. The first was an OW sprint in which I did breast stroke throughout the swim - in a sailing shorty wet suit that I had used in Mexico. I was very average but loved it! I owe Nigel a lot.

Your greatest achievement and personal bests?

In sailing, I ended up with a boot load of trophies from club and regional / national events. I raced against some of the best in the country and learned such a lot from them. Their attitude, ability, fitness, focus, preparation, training, concentration and even a bit of selfishness, if needed, was impressive . Never blaming anyone or anything else for a bad result - the wind could be fickle, so they learned to work with it. The good guys made their own luck! You may have been "dumped on" in competition, so had to keep calm and work your way out of the mess. Unlike triathlon, anyone could win a single race, but, it was the good guys who won regattas. The best example I ever saw was a British National Champion (Colin Smith) with scores of 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 2nd, 3rd, 6th in a fleet of 205 boats. He never won a race that week, but, never had a bad one either. Mr Consistency! The parallel with triathlon is that, if you model yourself on the good guys, then you will reach your potential and the results you deserve will come. My best was 9th from 144 at the Laser Class Masters (AG) European Championships - I never won a race that week either!

In triathlon, I have been privileged to race for GBR a few times in AG and picked up a few podiums at National and Continental level. I guess the ones that stand out are my first English title (Standard Duathlon M60-64) at Stockton and a European Long Distance bronze medal (M55-59) at Challenge Weymouth in 11:47 - though Outlaw was quicker in 11:33! I have never actually won anything for individual swim, bike or run events - my performances all being quite mediocre. But, I can do all three disciplines reasonably well - so I'm often in contention.

What have been your best & worst triathlon moments to date? (and funniest)

Best - see above. Funniest - nearly getting my head stuck up a horses a##e on the bike leg at Swashbuckler Tri. I went fast round a blind left hand bend after which a New Forest pony was nibbling the hedge at the kerbside. Only funny afterwards! Worst - falling off my new Giant TT bike in 2008 at Fritton Tri having failed to negotiate a bend. I separated the AC joint in my shoulder. Least funny - seeing an injured tri cyclist in the road after an incident with a vehicle. A bus tried to pass him before cutting in ahead of a traffic island. Our very own Tim Morton sacrificed his race to render emergency assistance. Be careful (and tolerant) out there guys - the biker always comes off worst!

What is your motivation and who is/are your inspiration/s?

Triathlon is so positive, inclusive and friendly - I just love being involved whether it is racing, coaching or organising. Of course, I want to win at as high a level as I can so I am very driven. Like sailing, I get a buzz from racing against the best guys - and learning from them. Some of them (even in my AG) are so quick it is humbling, though I am pleased if I have given a good account of myself. I am really enjoying coaching at Beccles Tri Club and helping with the triathlon in June. I have had so much out of triathlon, that I am happy to continue putting something back in. There have been many magic moments already - not least when something clicks for one of our athletes and they have a "light bulb moment" - like getting a swim stroke correct.

Gordon Merfield from The Saxons was my coach until I retired from work (Sizewell B) in December 2016. He used to race successfully at a very high level and taught me a lot when I started getting serious about triathlon, so I will always be grateful to him.

Ali Brownlee is the "top banana" for me! He has a phenomenal "race head", a real big game player. I love the way he approaches his races - just like the Laser sailors of years ago. My only claim on his success is that my son-in-law Chris was the brothers swim coach in Bradford when they were about 12 or 13 years old.

Favourite bit of kit?

It is always the bike isn't it! I ride a Giant Trinity Alliance Zero TT bike. My GBR tri-suit is well up there also!

Do you have a motto and any special pre-race routines?

I have loads of mottos and one-liners - using them all the time to get a point across. Train to race, then race to win - don't miss out the middle step. Process - Practice - Performance - Podium. Train hard - race easy. Most of them need a bit of explanation, but they capture a principle very well. So if you'd like to buy me a coffee some time...................!!

I have a mega checklist for each event I do - it goes with me all the way to transition and I always use it before I leave my bike to go swimming. I often get that butterfly feeling sometime in the hours before a race - from then on I am in race mode and it is game on! I don't talk much and Elaine just leaves me alone in my little world of triathlon. I always walk my complete route through transition from "Swim in" to "Run out" and mimic everything I have to do.

What advice would you give to someone entering their first event and tips for improvers?

Enjoy it! Everyone is routing for you, so savour the moment. Just finish with a smile on your face, wanting to do it again. Improvements and refinements can come later. Tips to improve - come to club sessions and learn from the coaches and other athletes!

What are your future ambitions for 2018 and beyond?

I have entered Manchester Marathon (

April) and IM Barcelona (October) this year. I will do a few of the National Championships and Qualifiers also, having selected ones that I hope will serve as build up events to IM.

I have secured my Level 2 Triathlon Coach Award recently. I am also practising for the Local Technical Official (referee) Award - so be nice to me!

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