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You recently finished 11th at Ironman South Africa – how did the race go for you and were you happy with your result?

 

I was really pleased. It was far from a perfect race, including some rookie mistakes from me, but there were plenty of positives, and I was encouraged to have finished behind ten world class women in my fourth Ironman.

 

It was also the first time I performed better in hot conditions, so it gives me confidence to try travelling further afield for future races. One of my goals is to perform credibly among the best in the world, and this result showed me that I am starting to close down that gap.

 

How much did your breakthrough win at Challenge Weymouth last year help your confidence?

 

Massively! My running has always been my weakest of the three sports, but I have been working hard on this in the last few years.

 

It doesn’t matter if you have the fastest swim, bike or run – it’s about getting to the finish line first, and having the ability to hold it together during the run – slowing down the least – is key.

 

It was frustrating that the run was about 4 km short (although I understand that it will be the full distance this year, for those racing the ETU Long Distance Championships). However, I was running really strongly and it gave me confidence to know what I am capable of when I get pacing and nutrition right on the day.

You have consistently established yourself as a professional athlete, but you also still work – it is frustrating not being able to commit 100% to being an athlete?

 

I think about this a lot and there are arguments on both sides.

 

When I am stressed out and frazzled at work, and still at my desk after 10 hours, of course I think how much better rested I would be and how I could maximize the most of any given training session. It seems to me that factors relating to recovery and stress are currently my biggest limiters.

 

However, without salaried work, I would have considerably more financial stress – at least my part time salary just about covers my day-to-day living – and I’m not sure that the implications of that on the pressure to perform and earn enough to eat would necessarily be positive for performance in itself.

 

In the ideal world, work hours would just be fewer and also more predictable, but the grass is always greener, I’m sure! I have to just strive to get the work/tri balance as best as I can and find ways to make it practical on both sides.

 

What do you think you have to do to bridge the gap to the podium places?

 

One thing I have worked really hard on this winter is my swimming, to set up the rest of my race.

 

In South Africa, I came out of the water with girls that I wouldn’t have been able to swim with last year. Now I need to not muck up transitions, and make sure I keep in better contact on the bike!

What are your goals for this season?

 

My main focus is to start trying to qualify for the Ironman World Championships 2016, which will involve me racing an Ironman or two from September onwards, to start accruing points towards qualification.

 

In the interim, I am looking to better my 2013 ETU Middle Distance Championships result at Challenge Rimini in a few weeks time. Then I am looking forward to racing on home soil at IMUK, at Bolton, and aiming for a strong result there.

 

You had a lot of success at standard and middle distance racing before stepping up to Ironman – what prompted you to step up to long distance triathlon?

 

My coach John likes to remind me that I always said I would never do long distance as it looked too crazy!

 

Once I was able to start working part time, a friend suggested maybe now was a good time to try it, whilst I had a bit more training time available.

 

Of course, once I did one, I realized it wouldn’t be a one off because you always want to try again and improve. I do still love the shorter distance racing though – fast and furious!

 

What shoes do you run in?

 

I have been running in Brooks Pureflows since getting advice from Profeet and they suit me perfectly – light, with a roomy toebox, snug heel cup, and cushioning that is not too firm or squidgy. It has been a long quest trying to find the right shoe, but I think I’ve finally settled for these ones!

 

I understand you also have insoles in your bike shoes – how do you find that helps you?

 

I first approached Profeet because I got burning pain in the balls of my feet during middle distance triathlons.

 

It turns out that how comfy my feet are during the bike section is key to running in comfort. By distributing the pressure through a custom insole in my bike shoe, hot spots and pressure points don’t develop, leaving my feet feeling fresh and ready to run.

 

Not only that, but the footbeds help make sure I don’t cramp after a sometimes cold swim, and keep my feet that bit warmer.

 

The stiffness and support then contributes to helping me maximize the power I can get out of each pedal stroke, because my sole is in more complete contact with the shoe, and keeps the ankle, knee and hips aligned.

What advice could you offer to an aspiring triathlete who is thinking of making the step up from age group racing to the Pro level?

 

Well, firstly I would clarify that I didn’t ‘turn pro’ overnight.

 

I managed a podium at Lisboa international triathlon in 2011, then in 2012 at the ICAN Marbella race, I found myself given a swim hat with a single digit race number and realized they’d put me in the ‘elite’ wave to bump up the numbers. Luckily, I came 3rd and was relieved that I deserved to have been there.

 

After that, it was a case of being brave enough to request entry to the ‘elite’ division at races where they had an elite field, and hoping my race performance merited my inclusion.

 

It certainly felt like a gamble asking to race pro at my first Ironman in Lanzarote last year, but I figured it would be really annoying if I made it into the prize money and then wasn’t eligible for it.

 

As it was, I was out of the money, but gave a credible first Ironman performance, and learned a lot to take away for the (inevitable) next one!

 

As for advice, you really have to believe in yourself – during races, the gremlins creep into your mindset and plague you with doubts, but if you believe in what you’re capable of, it’s much easier to override the gremlins and stay strong and fast to the line!


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