Why do you do triathlon?
Triathlon for me has always been about the racing. From the 50m sprint race in primary school, through track & field in secondary school, road cycling and then eventually triathlon; competition and the opportunity to go head to head and push limits and boundaries has always been my passion in sport.
How did you start in triathlon?
Signing up for a big race and then going from there. I entered the UK Ironman race and then set about learning how to swim, bike, run. I was lucky enough to have a well organised triathlon club close to home, which I joined and then learnt to swim with, at their coached pool sessions. The coach there was invaluable as my first experience of real coaching and showed me the importance of taking on new ideas and having a source of advice close to you that you can trust.
From there and entering practice events to go racing, it has been a case of continuous learning, as your understanding of how to train, prepare and put all the pieces of the puzzle together is constantly evolving.
What is your pre-race routine?
The pre-race routine is mainly about being efficient, consistent and relaxed. There’s a lot to get through at a major 70.3 event and race site can be spread across a large area, so things like registration, race briefings, transition set up and the final warm-up sessions can swallow up a lot of time if you’re not careful and you can easily spend the day before the race very rushed and stressed.
We try to stick to the same routine, as much as the race weekend timetable allows, in order to reduce the risk of things going wrong or forgetting something. Even things like what and when I eat become a similar routine at each race, but which also means there are no surprises for my body either. The first major race of the year is always a little overwhelming, but it quickly becomes habit, although the 5 races over just 7 weeks for the beginning of this season did get a little repetitive for the food.
This year we’ve actually really got the race weekends dialed in and working well, and yet even then, there’s always surprises and nuances to get used to at each race site. Most important though is being able to stay relaxed, getting the feet up and early to bed – saving the excitement for the race.
What do you think about while you’re training?
Sometimes I’m in the moment, concentrating on form and pace or timings and other times I try to keep my mind far away from how it’s feeling there in the moment. The days when you really feel the speed are obviously great and you can just enjoy the pain and feeling of your body working well and pushing hard.
In the pool I normally have to concentrate very hard on my technique as this is something I’m still doing a lot of work on and actually spend a lot of time outside the pool visualising as well. A run session on the track is always one of the hardest sessions in terms of intensity, so I’m mainly also thinking about my technique there as well – trying to run as efficiently as possible to make sure I make it through the session, so trying to feel my leg turnover and foot placement on the ground for example.
As I mentioned earlier, I love to race, so having a partner for any sessions is great to simply be able to focus your mind on competing against someone. A lot of the time I’m on my own though and often trying to distract myself from the moment, picturing race situations, a food or drink fixation or simply thinking about the people who have invested so much into my development and give me the opportunity to do this sport for a living. If I’m ever thinking about giving up on a session, I have to remind myself of what an amazing opportunity this is and how lucky I am thanks to these people.
What does no one tell you about being a professional athlete?
That actually follows on nicely to this question and I would probably have to say that it’s just how much you will rely on the people around you on a daily basis and for so many things – and I can’t emphasise that enough. Professional sport is incredibly tough and a huge, complex puzzle to put together for success, over a long period of time, and it takes so many people alongside you to make that happen.
Bdh Sterling have been a huge part of my journey as we started working together very early in my triathlon career and they’ve seen me through success as an age-grouper and then on to professional racing. Alongside them, I rely on my partner, my coach and my family every day, as well as for the bigger challenges to put together a race season and who are often there supporting me at many of the races. Another good example has been finding the right physio who is able to take care of and manage some specific issues I have with my body and has been a big step forward in the last couple of years too.
The success within this sport is all built on the foundation of those around you and on your team.
What is the key ingredient for success/ best piece of advice?
Consistency. It’s no magic training session or type of food and not the most exciting piece of advice, but one of the most difficult things to truly achieve. Maintaining the motivation, recovery and training quality, to be consistent at such a high level day after day for weeks and months and years is an art and incredibly difficult to realise, as there is always so much working against you sustaining that consistency.
This is what your race performance is built on though, there’s no way around it and no shortcuts. It takes time and hard work and the most difficult thing is holding course long enough to get there – while enjoying the journey at the same time!