Episode 121

Ailbhe Carroll: Stop under-fuelling!

This is such an important conversation to hear about the danger of underfuelling and losing your period. Thank you to Ailbhe Carroll for being so open and honest and for all of the work you are doing to help women stay as active for as long as possible.

You'll hear:

05:00 Ailbhe introduces herself and explains how she's ended up living and training in Girona and why she loves it.

08:15 Ailbhe talks about growing up horse riding and playing Camogie, "I had to sell my horse in order to do triathlon." She did her first triathlon just before her 16th birthday, having never really done swim, bike or run before. But she didn't start taking triathlon seriously until she was 18. "Nobody in my family does it. I thought I would be that weirdo!"

11:30 My first 400m timed effort was 6min and 20s which isn't too bad for someone who hasn't swum before. Within two years I had got it down to 4min48. I swam 50km weeks sometimes but I had 8 year olds in the pool kicking my arse. Probably naively I thought I wanted to wear an Irish vest and the elite pool of irish triathletes wasn't very big.

14:15 Ailbhe talks about her first European Cup race abroad when she was totally alone and the ups and downs of injuries in the early years. Then living in New Zealand before spending 5 years in Loughborough. I tried to break into the squad there and I lived with Sophie Coldwell for a year which was good. talks about going to New Zealand for her degree and getting into a bad place mentally. I didn't want to come home because I didn't want people to see me. I wasn't really training and I couldn't get out of this rut I was in.

19:08 Ailbhe actually got in touch with Helen after the Body Positive episodes with Witsup and said she wanted others to hear her story and learn from it. "I had the biggest shovel I could find and I was digging the biggest hole I could dig for myself. I had just come through 18 months of underfueling, losing my period, just not getting my body to do what I wanted it do to. There was a pressure to lose weight in order to race, so I dropped all food. I was down on 1200 calories, no period, but instead of losing weight, I was piling weight on. There was one week during this 18month period, that I consumed less than 500 calories a day for 7 days in a row because I felt like I needed to do something extreme. I don't think I cracked right until the end.

25:33 My saving grace was a woman in Limerick. She was drawing my life so she could she what had happened in my life in the previous 27 years. I was in there for 2.5-3 hours and it came apparent that I had parasites in my system and whatever I did with food or exercise, it just wasn't going to make a difference. But I still needed to dig myself out of the whole I had dug for myself. I went through a whole rehab programme for my gut and almost re-programme it completely. Getting back for normal levels of food was a huge psychological barrier and even going food shopping filled me with dread.

30:00 During all of this my parents knew nothing. I have since called them. I did a lot of mental healing before I spoke to them which was a shock. The mental side of it was hard, but it probably took me year to get better physically. I did actually injure my foot which was fair enough due to the fact I had under-fuelled for so long.

33:00 What would Ailbhe's message be to others? Off the back of all of my issues, I undertook a Masters in Sport and Exercise nutrition, because I think if you can do coaching and nutrition together, it will stop a lot of people going down the rabbit hole that I went down. It doesn't matter what the scales say or how you look. Once you can live and function as a normal person, you're onto a winner and you're going to be in an athletic career for a lot longer.

39:00 Ailbhe's work with triathlon Ireland and her work through Women and Sport.

41:00 "I'm just really excited all of the time. I feel like I have a new lease of life. I'm going into sessions fuelled but my brain is fuelled too. Ailbhe is training closely with Taylor Spivey and the ITU athletes based in Girona. "They are all just normal people and it's so hard for people to take those stars off their pedestal. I'm just going to keep on riding the wave as that's all I can do, right."

Find out more about this week's guests

Ailbhe Carroll Instagram

Helen's mum's charity fundraising page

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About the Podcast

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Inside Tri Show
Helen Murray brings you awesome interviews from triathlon and beyond

About your host

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Helen Murray

Helen has been working in triathlon for a decade as an athlete, coach and broadcaster.

Helen hosts the Inside Tri Show podcast bringing you awesome interviews from triathlon and beyond