Stephanie Clutterbuck: Choose Joy

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As a very slow 74 year old mainly 70.3 athlete from NZ, it is so gratifying to see stephanies rise but mainly her realisation of the JOY necessary to go on. This is the essence of anything in life and a quality I have to continually remind myself of, along with the specific work ( hopefully enjoyed) necessary to aim for my next goal – Cairns ( AUS ) 70.3 Go Stephanie – will be following you with much joy!

mike Gaffaney 27 marzo, 2024

What an inspirational story. Its a universal truth that when you lose your fear of failure, when you stop trying so hard to win and focus instead on the joy of the competition you will always go faster

Angus Slater 27 marzo, 2024

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Third time's the charm for Stephanie Clutterbuck. After trying to forge a career in swimming and rowing, the 2023 age group Ironman World Champion finally found her sport. Turning professional for the 2024 long distance triathlon season, it took Clutterbuck a whole lot of searching to live her joy and, despite being a newbie in triathlon, she’s coming in hot. 

Pathfinder

From 11-19 years old, Clutterbuck was in the pool twice a day and even took a year off after high school to swim full time. After stepping back from competitive swimming, she transitioned to university and started rowing. Quickly, the Olympic dream was rekindled but once again, in 2018, her sporting ambitions were folded. Forced to choose between back surgery and retirement, Clutterbuck chose the latter. 

At an unplanned crossroads, Clutterbuck “drifted.” Facing jarring disappointment for the second time, she went searching. 

She picked up a bike and cycled the legendary 1400 km of Land’s End to John O’Groats. She traveled throughout the UK, visited Barcelona, and spent two months in New Zealand. She chopped off her long blonde hair and donated it to charity. She started a personal blog, got a corporate job, and she signed up for an Ironman. 

Although she was working as a consultant, Clutterbuck leaned into cycling and triathlon more and more. About three years after her second retirement, she signed to ride for the Movistar E-Team, an elite indoor cycling team racing on Zwift, an online cycling platform. Soon after that, her ambitions to pursue triathlon at a professional level were about to come true. 

In 2023, Clutterbuck was one of four women to be selected for the Zwift Academy Triathlon team. With full professional support for equipment, coaching, and nutrition, Clutterbuck described it simply as a “dream come true.” 

As past disappointments faded into the perfect preparation, Clutterbuck’s years of training all came together with age group wins at Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire, Iroman Vittoria-Gasteiz, and the Ironman 70.3 World Championship. If that wasn't impressive enough, she also finished 19th in her age group at Kona but posted the 10th overall fastest women’s swim with a blazing 52:37 (1:23/100m) for the 3.8km open water swim, only 3 minutes behind course record holder and ultimate winner Lucy Charles-Barclay. 

Turning Point  

Now, about to start her first professional season, Clutterbuck was able to quit her corporate work and focus on triathlon full-time. But even after finally finding a sport that she loved and could be successful at in the way she wanted, she had never intended to leave her desk job. 

“The decision to turn professional was an exciting one and one that I really wanted to take and we knew about it for a while. I qualified for my license in July but I wanted to do Kona as an age grouper and then take my license— but I never expected to change so much of my life in that decision.”

“I had actually always intended to continue working…But I went from the place [Kona] that celebrated what I did to one where it was immediately back to reality, where there was a fear that if I screwed up, the world would come tumbling down. And it was like, okay, you know what? I don't need to live like that anymore. I can't live like that anymore. So that was when I decided that my attempts to balance pro life with my job was not going to work. And I needed to have a clean break so that the life that I create, everything works together and it's triathlon first.”

Choose Joy

It seems like an easy decision to grab a fairy tale ending and live the professional athlete life she had always wanted; but, in between ending her rowing career and becoming a pro triathlete, Clutterbuck put in the hard personal work to be able to make that big decision. 

Back in 2020 she wrote on her blog:

I will always want the best of myself, it’s how I grew up. However, my view on being “the best” has now shifted. My preconceived notions of what I should be doing at this point in my life to be the “best” have been trained away. 

My “best” is now to find the most happiness that I can, and I have come to accept that this might not be now, and it might not be in the next couple of decisions I make.

Through every decision to swim, bike, run, and race, those penned thoughts have manifested into an athlete that is grounded by who she is rather than what she does and that, arguably, is her most impressive result to date. 

“This is my third go at being a professional athlete. I swam competitively until I was 19 and in rowing I was fighting for Olympic selection and in both sports I ended up losing a little bit of myself, losing a lot of joy.”

“If you don't enjoy it, it's not worth doing it. Yes, triathlon is a job but you have to enjoy it because if you don't it's not gonna last. Make sure you keep the joy.”

Clarity

The mental clarity Clutterbuck speaks with is something far harder to achieve than her impressive race results and, even against her world-class speedy swims, it will be her super power as she navigates her first professional season. 

“I've not raced as a professional yet. I've not got no idea what's to come. And I'm just excited. There's no fear. There's no terror. I'm not scared of failing. I'm fully expecting to have a flop at some point this season where everything goes wrong and it's a complete disaster. But that's okay because I'll learn something from it.”

“Not every day is a great day but I know that I will have put in the work physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually to be exactly who I need to be on that start line and deal with exactly what comes my way.”

“My soul is being taken by this thing and the freedom in my brain to love something so much and give everything to it–it’s amazing.”

( 2 ) Comments

As a very slow 74 year old mainly 70.3 athlete from NZ, it is so gratifying to see stephanies rise but mainly her realisation of the JOY necessary to go on. This is the essence of anything in life and a quality I have to continually remind myself of, along with the specific work ( hopefully enjoyed) necessary to aim for my next goal – Cairns ( AUS ) 70.3 Go Stephanie – will be following you with much joy!

mike Gaffaney

What an inspirational story. Its a universal truth that when you lose your fear of failure, when you stop trying so hard to win and focus instead on the joy of the competition you will always go faster

Angus Slater

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