Originally from Sweden, Annika Frossling did her first triathlon at 59 – an Enticer at the Townsville Triathlon Festival – and today she will do her first Ironman 70.3 (half) at the age of 62, swimming 1.9km, riding 90km and running 21.1km. She admits she never would have imagined it was possible 15 years ago – especially battling health problems and being unable to swim.
After joining hundreds of Townsville competitors in today’s iconic race, her next big challenges will be the Classic (formerly Olympic) distance at the Townsville Triathlon Festival later this month and representing Australia in the 55+ age group in Chicago in September.
We talk to this inspiring lady who proves it’s never too late to start something you may grow to love. And who knows where it will take you?
“I would NEVER have believed that I could do anything like this: Fifteen years ago I could hardly walk up and down my street as I have fibromyalgia and I was in constant pain”
How did you discover triathlon? I did my first Enticer (400m swim, 15km bike and 2.5km run) at Townsville Triathlon Festival in 2012. I had just learned to swim, but I had to breaststroke the whole swim as I was terrified of the water.
To rewind a bit: I started to run in 2010. My ex and I tried to reconcile and he asked me to go to Sydney with him to do the Half Marathon. I had never really run before and I was going to walk it. I could bushwalk all day with a backpack so I didn’t think it would be a problem. But, they had a cut-off time and I realised that I couldn’t make it in that time, so I joined the Townsville Road Runners and started to run two months before the marathon.
In 2011 I moved to Kirwan and a friend talked me into buying her old road bike. I met some people at Road Runners who were riding bikes as well and I started to ride with them, VERY slowly! I then did a duathlon at the Ross Dam and liked it.
Then some of those friends started to talk about triathlons. I was barely able to swim, so a few of us did classes with Heath Brennan (at Free Radicals Tri Club) and I slowly learned to freestyle in time for the 2012 Townsville Tri Fest.
Have you always been active? Yes, I’ve always had horses and when I was younger I played football as well. I love to be outdoors.
What’s your best achievement to-date? I guess was winning my age group in last year’s Townsville Triathlon Festival and therefore being selected to represent Australia in Chicago in September this year.
“I decided to go as it will be a very special to represent my country: It will be once in a lifetime experience”
Are there any particularly memorable experiences – either good or bad? On the good side: Doing my first full marathon in 2010 in Melbourne after having been running for less than four months. The spectators were amazing and running in to the MCG and seeing myself on the big screen and the speakers calling out my name was pretty exciting. The bad side? I could hardly walk for a week after that (laughs). Another great memorable experience was when I did my first Olympic distance in Port Douglas in 2013: I tried to swim the day before and I came out of the water crying after five minutes. The waves felt like they were 5m high and I just couldn’t do it. I was going to pull out of it. But the morning of the race I woke up all calm and I did the race and finished third in the 55+ age group.
How are you feeling about competing in your first Ironman 70.3 today? Is it something that you ever imagined you’d do? It’s a crazy thing to do, but I like to test myself to see how far my body will carry me. I would NEVER have believed that I could do anything like this: Fifteen years ago I could hardly walk up and down my street as I have fibromyalgia [chronic widespread pain and a heightened and painful response to pressure] and I was in constant pain. I had to sell my horses as I couldn’t ride any more.
What will you do after Ironman to celebrate? I will have dinner with some friends and watch the full Ironman runners come in (if I can stay awake).
Getting fit, being outdoors and getting to know so many great people. What more could you ask for?”
What are your next goals? Are you doing the Townsville Tri Fest? Yes, I am doing the Townsville Tri Festival. That was where it all started and it’s a great race. I am doing the Olympic distance as that is what I am doing in Chicago. I qualified for Chicago as the Townville Tri was one of eight qualifying races for the World Championships. As there are very few in my age group it is easy to win! I decided to go as it will be very special to represent my country: It will be a once in a lifetime experience.
Do you think triathlon is a sport that’s suited to all ages and abilities? It’s a great sport for all ages: Look at me. I started running when I was 57 and did my first triathlon at 59. It’s a great way to stay fit and by doing three different disciplines it never gets boring.
What have you personally got out of it? I have made heaps of great friends: Without them I wouldn’t be here today – they are always so encouraging. Also getting fit, being outdoors and getting to know so many great people. What more could you ask for?
“There are so many fantastic triathletes and Ironmen in Townsville… many have overcome issues like obesity, alcohol, or handicaps and I admire them all for what they have achieved”
What’s been your biggest lesson in triathlon? You don’t have to be really good in any discipline: Being average will take you a long way, especially in the older age groups.
How else are you getting moving at the moment? I like all outdoor sports: I mountain bike, trail run, kayak, bushwalk and sometimes horse ride (yes, I can do that again). I like Outer Limits Adventure Fitness’ trail runs and the Adventurethon events.
What’s your favourite thing to do on a weekend in Townsville? Apart from being with my family, being active outdoors with good friends.
What would you say to others curious about triathlon or wanting to give it a go, but doubt their ability, or capacity to commit time-wise? Join a club. The Free Radicals Tri Club is a really friendly and helpful club and they will help anyone who is interested. A good way to start is to do a triathlon event as a team.
What’s your top tri tip? Have fun!
Is there any training advice you wish you’d listened to earlier on? Not really. I’ve never taken my training that seriously as I’ve only ever done it for fun, but going to the World Tri is a totally different story, so I have now started to work with a coach (Brendan Cochrane) – I wish I had done that earlier.
What’s your must-have piece of gear? My Garmin!
How do you stay motivated? That is the hardest thing sometimes, but I have joined a few groups riding and running and that helps me to get up in the mornings. A few of us have been training for Ironman together. It’s a lot easier and more fun to train with friends.
Is there anyone who you look up to in particular in the sport? There are so many fantastic triathletes and Ironmen in Townsville and in my club: They all have a great story behind them. Many have overcome issues like obesity, alcohol, or handicaps and I admire them all for what they have achieved.
Last words? Triathlon is a great sport for all ages.
If you couldn’t make it to Cairns to see the hundreds of Townsville athletes compete, you can follow their progress via Livestream here.
If you want to give triathlon a go, we have partnered with local businesses and sporting groups to offer a host of free sessions as part of the Triathlon and Multisport Series. See the full schedule of activities here.