x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

No U-turn for iron lady

Julie Hall's idea of a relaxing holiday regularly involves swimming nearly 4km and cycling 180km, all topped off by running a marathon.

Julie Hall, who lives the life of an athlete but tries to squeeze it in around her job as a fitness instructor, has qualified for the World Championship 70.3 Half Ironman and the Long Course Triathlon World Championship.
Julie Hall, who lives the life of an athlete but tries to squeeze it in around her job as a fitness instructor, has qualified for the World Championship 70.3 Half Ironman and the Long Course Triathlon World Championship.

Julie Hall's idea of a relaxing holiday regularly involves swimming nearly 4km and cycling 180km, all topped off by running a marathon. To describe the Dubai-based ironman competitor as "full of energy" would be an understatement; she regularly gets up at 2am to drive to remote corners of the UAE for six-hour cycles before heading back to start a working day crammed with fitness classes.

"It does seem a bit crazy," she admitted in the early morning sunshine at Jumeirah Open Beach. "I suppose I've always been full of beans and needed to get rid of my energy somehow." Hall's solution might seem extreme to some; she travels to triathlon and ironman competitions all year round but as a self-employed fitness instructor she must also put in the work hours to fund her excursions to places as far afield as Brazil, the USA and Australia.

"I'm basically living the life of a professional athlete and trying to squeeze it in around my job," she said. "I'm lucky because my job is active, so everything I do can be seen as training in some form, but what I miss out on are rest days." And with each competition costing around Dh10,000 of Hall's own money, she can't afford to cut back on her working hours either. She may be busy but she is also successful. Hall, 39, who competes in the 40-44 age group for the first time this season, has qualified for two major events this year - November's World Championship 70.3 Half Ironman in Clearwater, Florida and the Long Course Triathlon World Championship in Perth, Australia in October. "I qualified for the 70.3 when I came third in Singapore in March this year," she said. "And I'm representing Great Britain in my age category in the Long Course World Championship.

"It's an important achievement for me, especially because you have to get selected to the age category teams and I suppose that's what's so addictive about these events - you always want to go faster and perform better but then you put more pressure on yourself and need to train harder so it is a vicious cycle." So hectic is Hall's 24/7 lifestyle that she often finds competitions relaxing, even though she must compete over distances and often in extremes of heat and terrain.

"It's funny to say, but when I go away for a competition it feels like a bit of a break," she said. "I'm going to an Olympic distance triathlon on June 21 in Liverpool and while it's probably a bit too short for me, I'm using that as an excuse to see my family and have some time away from work. "I love my job but because I have to spend so much time motivating others, sometimes I feel I don't have anything left for myself."

To combat this, Hall has employed a triathlon coach, even though she is a triathlon coach. "It's been great," she said. "You can't overestimate how important it is to have someone from outside your life look at your training plan and get you back on track if your fuel tank is running low. "I now have three major training sessions per week that I can't miss, normally a six-hour cycle, two-hour run and one-hour swim. I'm hoping that with this training plan in place, plus the extra I do as part of my job, I can get my time in the World Championship down to 5hr 20min.

My personal best is 5hr 44min - but there I go again, putting more pressure on myself." stregoning@thenational.ae To sponsor Hall, or inquire about fitness classes, email julie@dubaitriclub.net