My Triathlon: Hannah Gibney

Triathletes are extraordinary people with inspiring stories to tell. Triathlon Ireland feature a story from someone in our triathlon community, told in their own words as part our "My Triathlon" series. 

Hannah Gibney_MyTriathlon

When talking to Hannah Gibney from Rush, Co. Dublin, it is impossible not to be inspired by her passion for triathlon. The 26 year old took up the sport in 2016, despite being scared of the open water, and has since progressed to being an international age group athlete on TriTeam Ireland and a Technical Official (TO). We caught up with Hannah to find out more about her journey in the sport...

"I got into triathlon back in 2016. I decided I was going to take it up after watching it in the Olympics in 2012. I decided I wanted to give it a go but I wasn’t brave enough with the open water swimming but then I just decided in 2016 to just give it a go. I knew I’d be able to do it if I just put my mind to it really. So DCT was my first triathlon in 2016 and it was probably the most fun I have ever had. I think I was the longest person on the course that day but that didn’t matter, once I finished, I finished and I realised I could do it and it sort of kicked off from there."

Hannah credits being part of a club with staying involved with and progressing in the sport. Starting out with Portmarnock Triathlon Club she found the club and the coaches she has met along the way have helped her greatly in progressing with her goals;

"I was running in college, once I had done my first triathlon I started running in college because I was still studying at the time and then that is how I discovered I wanted to do a bit more. I found then that duathlon was really well suited to me at the start, so I started doing a lot of duathlons...I joined Portmarnock (Triathlon Club) in 2018 and they really helped me come along. With their help I started moving forward and I was working with a few different people so then 2018 I actually became an age group athlete when I went to Denmark for the first time, to the World Champs for duathlon." 

Hannah Gibney_Ibiza Swim Exit 2018

Now with Piranha TC, Hannah receives a constant stream of support from her club while abroad racing but has also developed new friendships with her TriTeam Ireland teammates;

There was a great group of Irish out there. I made friends with a load of people there and it’s great because even now every time I see them at a race you’ll stop and have a really good chat. I think you just make friends for life at these kinds of things. I have a huge number of people I consider close friends just from triathlon alone now. 

TriTeam Ireland - Lausanne ITU Grand Final 2019

"When you’re away at these things as well like getting to race on the courses that the pros and the elites get to race on, I think that’s an extra element. You get to see them do what they do for their full time career and you’re sitting there thinking “I’d love to be able to do that too!” "

How did Hannah feel putting on the Irish International Age Group trisuit for the first time?

"That was absolutely, that was definitely one of the highlights I’d say, and it still is a highlight! To be honest, I did sport for years and I really, really wanted to represent Ireland at some point. For a long time I thought that was never going to happen until I got the email to say I was going to Denmark. I was sitting in one of my last lectures of college, in fourth year. I just got so excited, the whole place nearly erupted they were like “what on earth is going on?!”. Me sitting in the back corner getting so giddy at the thought of getting to wear an Irish trisuit. It was kind of magical as well!"

support & encouragement from ireland's top triathletes

In 2018 Hannah took the challenge of racing in the draft legal Super Series against some of the best triathletes in the country, and feels racing at that level helped her overcome her fear of the water;

"Some of the girls that that we have racing in this country are just absolutely fantastic, like there’s Carolyn Hayes, Erin McConnell and they’re all just so supportive and encouraging and really from then on I was like “I’m going to do this, I’m going to swim”."

Racing in the ETU Multisport Champs in Ibiza in 2018, Hannah qualified to race in the Aquathlon;

"When I went to Ibiza then I decided that I was doing the aquathlon, to give that I go. From then I just really knew that was what I had to do, I had to commit to it."

Overcoming her fear of the open water was one of Hannah's biggest barriers to competing, what is her advice for others with the same fear?

"I try not to think about it too much! But now to be honest I love the water, I love getting into it. Now that I’ve gotten over that fear of the unknown I actually do love it. The other thing was - I just don’t think about what anyone else says. Like people would be standing there on the side of the water, at the beach and be like “oh, there’s a jellyfish”. I’m like “there’s no jellyfish”. If you look hard enough you’ll find them, just get in and don’t look for them, that’s always my motto. To get in, you just need to get in and get used to it, that’s all it takes really. You just get over the initial shock of it."

the ITU grand final, lausanne

This year, Hannah represented Ireland in her age group at the ITU Grand Final in Lausanne, the world championships for triathlon! 

"That was my first time (at a Grand Final) and it was magical! Lausanne was a whole different ball game altogether. It was probably one of the best trips I’ve ever gone on, one of the best races that I’ve ever gone to and it was just, I don’t think I stopped all weekend. There was just so much going on. So many people to see and there was so many people out supporting on the course. What made Lausanne even better was the fact that we got to see the paratriathlon, loved seeing that and the fact that we got to see our guys doing so well in that between Andrew (Nicholson) and Cassie (Cava). As well as that seeing Con (Doherty) and Russell White performing in the elite men’s race it was just a great element of the sport, it was a great weekend of triathlon. I can’t wait to go to another one now because it was just amazing."

Hannah Gibney_Finish Line

Despite some issues with travelling to Lausanne, including having to catch two flights and put her bike on a separate plane, Hannah relished in the adventure and stayed focussed on the task in hand;

"The next day when I got up we went and had a look at the race venue. Then I got in for a swim in the lake because I thought that was going to be really important. That was one of the first things I had to do was get into the lake to make sure I was going to be comfortable in it, especially without the wetsuit because it was a non-wetsuit swim so a lot of people were freaking out but I actually loved the non-wetsuit swim."

"Then we met Blanca and Kevin (TriTeam Ireland Managers) and the rest of the Irish Age Group Team athletes so that was lovely, and then we went to the Parade of Nations. So it’s a busy few days as you’ve register and go to team briefings but it’s really, really informative. It’s great being around the team a lot of the time."

finding the time

Gibney works as a nurse in an Emergency Department, a busy and demanding role, how does she find the time to balance everything?

"I suppose that took a lot of time to find time to balance everything and I’m still trying to figure that out sometimes. It’s really just about having good time management and planning your days and just being really organised. Even with your food, what you’re going to need to wear, stupid as it sounds. You just have to plan everything to a T. It’s like a science in itself and you have to be committed to early mornings and late nights, that’s what I’ve discovered. I’m no stranger on the roads of Rush to be seen running around doing a run session at 10.30 at night after work. You just have to get it in and that’s one way to do it."

Is the sport is a stress reliever for her?

"It 100% is a stress reliever. There’s nothing like being able to go for a swim or a cycle after a bad day in work. But I suppose that goes back to why I got into triathlon. It’s just been really, really good for me and my mental health the last few years. It’s one of those things, I feel like triathlon has given me so much that I love giving back to the sport now by volunteering or getting involved as much as I can in the sport."

Being a Technical Official

"I absolutely love that. I love the technical side of things, I love the rules I suppose! I love that I get to  give back to the sport in that way, in volunteering. I love getting down to the nitty gritty of it all and seeing how things run and how we work at each event and how we can improve things and improve the sport in the country for other people coming on board. I love being a Technical Official I think it’s brilliant, and I know it’s not for everyone but I’ve learned so much being a Technical Official, I’ve learned so much from the sport. It’s even helped me become a better athlete by just knowing the small things, the ins and outs and it’s always beneficial. You can always pass this information on to other club members or to other people. Like when you’re at a race and you see someone, they’re definitely new and they’re not sure what they’re doing, I’m very comfortable to explain to them. It makes life easier for them and I feel like “I’ve helped someone today!”."

After completing a one day Local Technical Official (LTO) course, Hannah then shadowed six events before becoming more independent in her role. She is hoping to complete the next level on the TO course ladder - the National Technical Official (NTO) course in 2020.

"I was technical delegate this year for some smaller races, and race referee. I’ve gotten really good experience working with some of the top TO’s in the country so I’m thankful for that."

"I’m really looking forward to that (the NTO Course)…it’s great that we have some of our TO’s on the international circuit. Especially Hugh (McAtamney) who was at Lausanne, that was amazing to think that he ran that whole event and it was great to have so many Irish TO’s at that as well."

 

Seeing the sport from many angles

As she has experienced triathlon as an athlete at national and international level, as well as being a TO, does Hannah have a favourite part of the sport?

"I love being an athlete. I spent equal time racing and TO’ing this year so it’s hard to pick but I love being an athlete. It comes down to the fact that I really love this sport like it’s probably the best thing that has ever come into my life, I can’t even describe how much I love it."

"I think it’s changed my life for the better. I’ve always worked hard and strived to do the best that I can but now that I have triathlon, I have all these goals within triathlon. I’m just so happy to be in the sport and be involved, I can’t even describe it’s one of those hard ones – it really has changed my life. I’ve gotten so many opportunities and so many things – I get to see so many things."

Hannah Gibney_Technical Official

 

get the head down

So, what advice does Hannah have for someone who thinks that they wouldn't be able to qualify to be part of TriTeam Ireland? 

"Get the head down if that’s what you want to do – work on your BMW Triathlon National Series, work on your BMW Duathlon National Series, whatever you want to do just keep trying for it. Whatever you want to do, you’ll get there in the end. I said to myself “I really want to be on the international team and that’s what I’m going to do”. That’s what I look forward to every year is trying to qualify." 

"People probably think “Oh, she’s just saying that because she’s already there”, and I always like to revert people back to my first triathlon. It was the sprint triathlon in DCT and it took me two hours, thirty eight minutes to do that and now look where I am so anyone can do it. If I can do it – so can they."

goals for 2020 and beyond

"So they next few years I suppose – next year I’m going to focus on the BMW Triathlon National Series. I’m going to go over to Leeds to do the standard distance race over there during the World Triathlon Series just because it’s so close. Then I’m going to Malmo as well for the Sprint European Champs so really, my main goal over the next few years is to try and move up in my BMW Triathlon National Series ranking, get a few more podiums and hopefully qualify to go to Bermuda in 2021, that’s my big plan!"



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