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August 13, 2020

#teamtwinkle Shine Bright In The Leeds Virtual Challenge

Tracey Sample was planning to make 2020 a sporting year to remember. Approaching her 50th birthday, she wanted to celebrate the shift in age group by travelling to Walchsee for the European championships.

“I’d managed to get a load of people qualified for the aquathlon that never thought they could, and we were going to do the Leeds aquathlon as a warmup,” said Sample.

“Leeds is always an insane weekend anyway, and I go down there because I’m a coach for the North East Dev Squad and it’s always a really nice weekend.”

Sample is a member of an online community called #TeamTwinkle. Joined by around 1,500 women, the community allows for women in sport to find like-minded people, sharing support and encouraging other members.

“It’s a wonderful place to be,” Sample commented. “We feel like we know these people a lot, we talk to each other day in, day out and once a year we get to meet up and there are hugs all around, even if you haven’t met in person before. It’s great.

“You’ll go to a qualifier or something and you’ll see someone in a pink #TeamTwinkle hoodie, or a buff and you just go straight over to them and find out who they are.”

Sample’s initial summer plan was to take on the Leeds aquathlon before travelling down the country to complete the middle distance, Cotswold 113 with more than 100 members of #TeamTwinkle.

Of course, circumstances soon changed, with less meetups and social distancing now having to be followed. However, this hasn’t prevented Sample from connecting to the women in #TeamTwinkle.

Zoe Neasham joined Sample for the challenge. Neasham had initially planned to travel to Leeds this year to join Sample in the aquathlon as well as to shadow Regional Technical Officials after recently qualifying to become an RTO herself.

Additionally, Lucy Micklethwaite, was travelling to Tracey’s village during the week of the challenge and met with the women to complete the run section together.

The AJ Bell World Triathlon Leeds Virtual Challenge was created in the wake of the postponement of this year’s event. The challenge allowed participants to take on their choice of three duathlon distances, racing at their own pace over the course of the week between 20 and 26 July.

“When the Leeds Virtual Challenge came up, we thought ‘this is absolutely wonderful’,” said Sample. “It was so nice to connect with people whilst doing the challenge. It was great to be able to check in on people throughout the week and see how they’re getting on.

“It took all the stress out of it. It didn’t matter what the time was, I was never going to be top of the list and that was ok because it meant that we could connect.”

Sample has been training on her own throughout the lockdown. Whilst it has been difficult at times, it’s also allowed her to concentrate on herself and have fun with her training.

“At this time of year, I’d normally be doing two races a week. Without that, I feel as fit as a fiddle. It’s frustrating in a way, knowing that you’re unbelievably fit, but I’m able to enjoy myself going out adventuring.

“Whether I’m running or cycling, just exploring for four or five hours with my map and backpack on, following the trails. It’s a very different way of training and it’s been a really lovely thing to do,” Sample added.

Reflecting on the last few months of her multisport journey, Sample said: “It reminds you why you do the sport in the first place. Just having a period where you’re really enjoying what you’re doing.”