Belper TenTwenty Triathlon Club’s Pete Shuttleworth has gone from a 16-stone ex footballer to the sixth quickest triathlete of his age in Europe.
The PE teacher’s journey is a familiar one for many triathletes – borrowing a bike to tackle their first sprint race, getting hooked, getting immersed and getting better.
But not many make the sacrifices necessary to compete at the upper echelons of the European and World Age Group Championships.
For Shuttleworth, not only has he had to give up on precious sleep, but a decent job in non league football.
The reward for his dedication was sixth place in Geneva at the European Championships earlier this month, six years after he took up the sport.
He explained: “In 2009 I had given up football and cricket, I was 16 stone and a friend suggest I give triathlon a go.
“I ran a bit to lose weight, I had swam as a kid but not for 12 years and I had never been on a road bike.”
“After borrowing a bike, I did my first one in Southwell in the September, really enjoyed it and went from there.”
As a footballer playing for the likes of Borrowash Victoria, Belper Town and Heanor Town, he enjoyed the benefits of team sport,
But in his own words he ‘never claimed to be a good player.’
When it came to swim, bike, run, however he discovered he could improve, consistently.
“Every year I got a bit quicker, I would sit down after every race and work out what I needed to do to beat my times.
Eventually he discovered there was a Great Britain team, competing in age group categories at European and World level each year.
Training went up another level, he got a coach and earned a place on Team GB for the 2012 World Championships in Auckland.
“That was my first big achievement,” he said.
“I went down there to compete and found the level a completely different playing field, it was a bit too much for me at the time.
The year after he was in GB colours again, this time in London, working even harder to qualify for a World Championships that every serious amateur triathlete was targetting.
He took 24th in his age group, the age category that provided the overall winner.
After a brief flirtation with the idea of making that his final achievement, family and friends bullied him into carrying on, so they could holiday in Kitzbuehel, Austria. He did, and the 2014 Europeans saw him finish 19th.
To make another step up in performance, however, he had to make a tough decision: “I was assistant manager at Worksop Town and we had an amazing year, came so close to getting into the Conference North.
“I had to choose between football and triathlon, and while I’m still young enough to improve I had to go with triathlon.”
The choice enabled him to train three times a day last summer, and dedicate more time over the winter to his sport.
It paid off too, the now 36-year-old going under two hours for the Olympic distance race at Bala in Wales.
That qualified him for the 2015 European Championships in Geneva, where he reached a new personal level.
“I was sixth in my age group, the third Brit home.
“It couldn’t really have gone any better.”
As much as he’s out there on the race course on his own, and self motivates for those 4.30am training sessions before work at Tupton Hall School in Chesterfield, it’s not strictly an individual venture.
He explains: “My mum and dad are great supporters, school have been great with time off, and obviously having Gemma and our 14-week-old son Albie in Geneva was great.
“And wearing the GB vest, people call out your name or should ‘Go GB’ - the British support is amazing.
“The flip side is when you come home and go out for a run and no one has any idea who you are.
“And people know what you’ve achieved, but they don’t really know, they don’t really understand that it takes 15 to 20 hours of training every week.”
The sacrifices are substantial, but the rewards obviously rich enough to keep Shuttleworth going.
And he has his eye on another improvement.
“Next year I would love to medal. I’ve pre-qualified for Lisbon as the third Brit, so I’ll be training to get on the podium.”