Tracey Sample has had an incredible multisport journey spanning almost two decades. From racing in the Age-Group Team to coaching and taking on a role in the Triathlon England Council, Sample now lives swim, bike, run.
“I got into triathlon in 2004,” Sample commented. “My husband had been doing triathlon for two years and I would cheer him on but never even thought I could do a triathlon. I was in my mid 30s and had done no sport since I was 16 at school.”
Sample’s husband then secretly entered her into a local pool sprint race, giving her twelve weeks to train, with Sample saying: “I didn't own a bike so I borrowed his, I'm 5'6" and he is 6'3". It is a good job I wasn't going quick enough to need the brakes as I couldn't reach them.
“I swam in my bikini and learned very quickly that trying to put Lycra on a wet body doesn’t work. I'd had it drummed into me that the first thing to do on reaching the bike was to put my helmet on, so that when I tried to put a shirt on the neck hole wouldn't go over the helmet and I was completely stuck in my clothes.
“I won't say how long it took me to complete, but I did finish and I was hooked. So much so that I helped form Alnwick Tri Club.
“In 2005, I was no better, just more ambitious,” Sample quipped. “As a proper ‘back of pack’ athlete, I did two standard distance races. I just loved the sport and a recurring theme is that every single race photo there has been since then is me grinning like the loon I am.”
Sample trained for the rest of the year, returning to the sport in 2006 and reaching the podium in each of her races, saying: “I was lucky as there was not the high standard that races have now but it was still a massive improvement. I was still terrible at standard distance and I even tried a middle distance and was properly bad at that.”
It was at this point that Sample attended British Triathlon’s AGM, learning of the first ever sprint distance world championships.
“It was at that moment my focus changed,” Sample revealed. “None of this ‘going long’ malarkey that everyone seemed to think was the pinnacle of triathlon. I was ‘going short’.
Putting in hard work over the winter and entering all qualification races, Sample made it to the championships, saying: “I knew I had to be 4th and I started to cry about 1km from the end of the race because I knew I'd done it. I continued to work well and did fantastically well in Hamburg finishing 9th in my age group, something I could never have dreamed about.”
It was in 2009 and 2010 that Sample’s Age-Group Team career really kicked on, finishing 8th at the world championships in Budapest.
“The wheels fell off in 2011,” Sample explained. “I was told I'd never get back on a bike again and had to have a hip operation which took me more than a year to recover from. I tried to race a year after but unfortunately fell off and broke my collar bone so didn't finish another triathlon until 2013.
“By 2016 I had to have a second hip operation. This time I knew what I was doing for rehab and I got back to racing only eight months later, and I completed my first GB Europeans at Dusseldorf. I have had many setbacks due to my body, which just falls to pieces no matter how much rehab or strength training I do, but I keep coming back because I love racing so much.”
Sample has now managed to represent Great Britain in every combination of multisport on the road and is working on traveling to Bilbao in 2022 and Ibiza in 2023 to compete in cross triathlon. However, aside from her racing aspiration, Sample is also busy facilitating others in the sport.
Sample has been a club coach since 2005 and qualified as a Level 3 coach in 2013, setting up the junior section of her club in 2012, saying: “I have been coaching the North East Development Squad (which trains the team for the Inter Regional Championships) since 2013 and we have taken the North East from last place in that year, steadily through the ranks to finish 2nd in the last IRC event in 2019.
“I set up my own coaching business in 2014 and I have been living the dream ever since. I get to live and breathe swim, bike and run every day and sometimes people even pay me to talk about it. How great is that?”
She took on the role of regional chair in 2015 alongside an active role on the Triathlon England Council, saying: “I followed this up with a stint as President of the Triathlon England Council, and currently I am a Triathlon England Council appointed board member but retain my involvement in the region as welfare officer with a passion for promoting environments where parents are supportive of their children's efforts.
“One of the best things I do is help organise the Children's Disability Triathlon. It is my favourite day of the year and I am always inspired by the kids. They make me realise my seemingly huge injury issues are nothing to what they have to deal with every day and yet they always stay positive and happy. I love every one of those competitors and seeing the improvements they have made in their lives over the years is humbling.”
Reflecting on her racing career so far, Sample said: “My best races have not necessarily been the ones where I have had brilliant results. My best three races were Hamburg 2007 (first race in a GB trisuit), London 2013 (first time back after my first hip operation) and Dusseldorf (first time back after my second hip operation).
“The best experience was in Ibiza 2018 for the Aquathlon European Championships. I was coming back from Achilles issues and didn't know if I could even run the whole 5km and I got to run down the finishing carpet with my good friend as the sun was setting behind us. It actually doesn't get any better than that.”
The Great Britain Age-Group Team offers all Home Nation members a unique opportunity to compete at World and European Championships across a variety of multisport disciplines. To find out more about how you can represent Great Britain in the Age-Group Team, click the button below.
“The GB trisuit is magic,” said Sample. “For some reason you race so much better when you are wearing it. The team is a family with the fantastic team managers looking after you. Even though they are there for everyone, they make you feel like they are there just for you. Once you have earned that GB suit, you walk taller and your grin is bigger.”