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New mum Alison Peasgood on her tough journey back as she chases Paralympics place

"When you've been up twice a night to feed your baby you think 'how on earth am I ever going to do that?'"

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It’s been a challenging journey to get back to racing but, inspired by the likes of Vicky Holland and many others, Alison Peasgood is set for her comeback this weekend at the World Triathlon Para Series event in Devonport, Australia.

Peasgood, who has less than 10% vision, was a silver medallist in Rio in 2016 and fourth in Tokyo at the 2021 Paralympics.

But she hasn’t raced since finishing third behind the legendary Susana Rodriguez at the World Triathlon Para Championships in Abu Dhabi at the end of 2022.

Since then she has given birth to her first child, Logan, who was born the same day that that Alison’s PTVI category was taking place at the Paralympics Test Event in Paris.

“We kept joking that we’re all just training for the same thing,” says Alison. “He ended up being born two weeks early, which was quite good timing as my husband Jack, who’s a coach, was able to be with me and not worry about the Test Event. And then when everyone came back from there, he was ready to be back at work.”

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Seeing the bigger picture

Talking through what was an active pregnancy, Alison told TRI247: “I was actually quite surprised how much I could do. Even running – it was nearly 32 weeks when I finally wasn’t able to run anymore.”

Training is one thing but how did Peasgood find not being able to compete in 2023?

“It was hard watching everyone and being away from the team environment. I’m good at analysing races and from all the categories, not just my own. I like to feel involved in part of it. Afterwards, I was still doing all that. I was still checking results, checking times, working out who’s improving and that sort of stuff.

“I heard lots about the Test Event. The bike especially sounds good. I love technical riding. I’m quite good on the back of a tandem at leaning around corners and the technical aspect of it, so that excites me and obviously the fact that it’s a river swim, it just makes it way more interesting.

But it was actually nice to take a step back.

“As an athlete, you can be so in the moment and you can’t see the bigger picture. You’re frustrated at your times, you’re frustrated if you’re not hitting your power today.

“So it was interesting being removed from that – I’ve had that to an extent occasionally when I’ve been injured, but this felt different.”

‘It was harder than I thought’

So what about adapting to being a mum and the path back to race fitness, how has she found that?

“It was harder than I thought,” she explains. “Because I ended up being quite ill at the very end of my pregnancy, and when I was in labour itself became very unwell and was taken to intensive care.

“So I think then in the weeks afterwards, I struggled more than I had anticipated because previous to being an athlete, I was a women’s health physiotherapist. So I felt like ‘oh, yeah, I know what this is going to be like’. And I had this idea of how I was going to be able to get back – and none of that happened.

“Actually, the first few weeks, especially the first month or so, was just about being able to just be a mum and change nappies and get around without feeling dizzy. So I think it took me by surprise just how hard that after bit was.

“But since then I’ve been able to do much more physically and have been supported really well to gradually get back into things.

“But it’s taken probably until six months down the line to really feel like I’m actually training and not just exercising.”

‘Quite a big ask’

Now it’s the practicalities rather than the physical conditioning which is proving to be the biggest challenge, with Alison adding: “It still feels like there’s a long way to go and actually probably the biggest barrier is childcare in terms of allowing me to start swimming a bit more. It’s all the little things you just didn’t think about.”

And time is relatively short for Peasgood to book her Paris place as she explains: “So obviously with qualification, it’s your three best scores. And with me not doing the Worlds, which is the biggest point scorer, you kind of have to rely on doing three good World Series or at least two good World Series and a World Cup win, which is obviously quite a big ask.

“There are loads of races in the calendar, but that’s not necessarily a good thing for me because it just means it spreads the points out across lots of different people. But the World Triathlon Para Series Devonport was always plan A for a first race and then I’ll try and target the other World Series within the year as well.”

Alison Peasgood, Brooke Gillies World Paratriathlon Championship Abu Dhabi 2022
Alison Peasgood races in Abu Dhabi in 2022 [Photo credit: World Triathlon]

She’s flown out to Australia with her husband Jack and Logan and Logan and in terms of the three disciplines it was the bike fitness which came back quickest, again largely due to practical reasons: “Just because it’s at home, it’s in the garage. I can have Logan asleep and I can be on the bike trainer.

“Running is a bit like that now, too. So now that I am running, I’m using the Lever System [which provides the ability to train with a lighter load due to its support] on the treadmill.

“And I think especially with power, you can start to feel that you’re progressing quite quickly with the bike and run which motivates you and that really helps.

“Whereas the swimming, which is my weakest discipline anyway, isn’t on our doorstep, and it also means someone has to look after Logan. So actually it’s the one that’s almost a bit frustrating as it’s the hardest to access but we’re definitely getting somewhere with that.”

Showing the way

And Peasgood has also been inspired by seeing other triathlete mums make superb comebacks to the sport in a relatively short space of time.

“It’s crazy, actually, to think just how well everyone’s doing. Vicky Holland has been amazing because actually our journeys are fairly similar in that her husband is a coach on the programme, of course, and so it’s been good to be able to ask her questions about how she managed certain situations, and that’s actually been really positive because she didn’t get back into training straight away either.

So the fact that she was able to race at the back end of last year and race pretty well, definitely gives me the confidence that it’s doable.

“When you’ve been up twice a night to feed your baby you think ‘how on earth am I ever going to do that?’ But then you realise people are doing it – and they’re doing it really well.”

Vicky Holland third place World Triathlon Cup Vina del Mar 2023 Photo credit: World Triathlon / Wagner Araujo
Vicky Holland has been a great role model [Photo credit: World Triathlon / Wagner Araujo]

And winning a medal in Paris would be an amazing reward for all that work: “First of all, it is about getting there,” cautions Peasgood. “Of course, you’ve got to take every day as it comes, but obviously the dream would be to be able to go there and medal.

“I think that’s definitely a doable thing if everything goes how we expect it to and I keep progressing at the rate that I’m on. But getting there and actually knowing that I did that whilst being a mum to Logan would be incredible in itself.

“But the sport really is moving on and there’s loads of girls who could be in contention.

“Francesca Tarantello, who won the Worlds last year and is a really good swimmer, has to be right up there. And of course Susana [Rodgiguez] is still where she is. They’re still probably your top two, but then when you drop down from that, those people around that third and fourth place, there’s quite a lot of them, which is actually really exciting.”

Jonathan Turner
Written by
Jonathan Turner
Jonathan Turner is News Director for both TRI247 and RUN247, and is accustomed to big-name interviews, breaking news stories and providing unrivalled coverage for endurance sports.  

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