How did you first get into triathlon?
I’ve done some sort of sport all my life and I played squash when I was off-duty as a nurse. 22 years ago, I changed my employer and was always late to the squash court. I became so frustrated I gave up, joined a gym and started running. After a couple of half marathons and marathons I realised I had a reasonable speed and pursued it. Unfortunately, that just led to recurring injuries so a physio suggested I should think about triathlon because it would take less of a toll on my body (although this point is yet to be proven!) I joined a triathlon club and never looked back.
Do you have any advice for beginners looking to get into triathlon?
Join a local triathlon club and don’t hesitate to turn up that first time. I put it off for so long because I was nervous and quite shy but it was the best thing I ever did. You don’t need any fancy kit, but as beginners it’s easy to make mistakes with over-training. The experience of others who have learnt by making those mistakes is invaluable. They are also a font of knowledge for all the skills you’ll need from nutrition to fixing a puncture to learning about transitions etc. In addition, there are usually second-hand kit bargains to be had and training partners on tap!
What’s been your favourite race to date and why?
Hands down it’s the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii 2022. It’s been a dream of mine for 13 years and I never thought that dream would come true. Unfortunately, I have a history of allergies and after suffering a severe multi-system inflammatory reaction to my second covid vaccine, I wasn’t able to function to my normal level so I opted to take a year out of racing for the GB AG Team. Instead, I just focused on completing rather than competing. Little did I know that I would cruise to an AG win in Ironman Finland and therefore qualify for Kona!
How do you use INCUS to train/prepare for your races
I use the INCUS NOVA for all my swim and run sessions. I’m still trying to improve my swim times. I find it the most frustrating discipline. I try different tactics with my stroke such as focusing on increasing my stroke rate, doing drills then swimming again to see how that impacts my stats. This is still very much a work in progress! I’m also prone to running injuries so I use my NOVA to check my form and imbalances both when I’m in good shape and when I’m injured. I use run power and my HR data to assess adaptations to my training.
Have you faced any setbacks and if so, how did you overcome them?
Plenty! I always try to focus on the positives and what I can do as opposed to the setback leading to what I cannot do. In 2010, I was diagnosed with exercise-induced anaphylaxis after having an anaphylactic reaction whilst racing an iron distance swim in a lake. The swim was supposed to give me confidence for my second Ironman two weeks later, but it ended up doing the complete opposite.
An expert in allergies told me that my racing days were over. I was devastated. Over time, I have learnt what my prodromal signs are and now have a better idea of what is likely to trigger a reaction. However, it’s pretty unpredictable so I am always on high alert. I’ve had to adapt my training. I have to carry an Epipen and antihistamines and usually only train with others or indoors. If I do run on my own it’s always loops close to home (or a hospital if I’m at work!)
I’ve also had my fair share of injuries. My coach (INCUS Enabled athlete Thomas Davis) adapts my training around the injuries. Time and time again, even if I have had gaps in one discipline, focusing on the others has still enabled me to race well when it matters. The most important thing I’ve learnt is not to panic even if a race is looming. This year was a great example. I injured my foot five weeks before Ironman Finland. I stopped running. Just ran on the day and lo and behold, as I mentioned, I trotted into first place and qualified for Kona.
Do you have any examples of how INCUS metrics have personally helped you in your racing career?
I’ve used the NOVA to compare different wetsuits and running shoes to find the most efficient kit for my races. It was great fun to do these comparisons and I did them several times, but changing wetsuits when wet is a challenge in itself!
Do you have any insider tips for other athletes looking to level up their performance?
Be consistent in your training. I’m not a talented athlete but I am consistent. My consistency has meant I’ve achieved more than I ever dreamt of. If you struggle to be disciplined or if you feel that your performance has plateaued, think about enlisting the help of a coach. There are plenty of plans available online but personally I do not have the time to put a plan together so I use a coach.
I enjoy training so much I am also at risk of doing too much and not tapering or recovering properly. Having a coach makes you more accountable to do your training but also reigns you in when it is important to do so. My coach somehow keeps making me faster in spite of my age too!
Also, listen to your body. If I ever don’t fancy training or I am putting a session off, it is usually because my body wants a rest. Rest, sleep and recovery are just as important as the training. Without recovering properly, the body simply won’t adapt to the training stimuli.
Last but not least, fuel properly both before, during and after training. When I started monitoring my carbohydrate intake and loading the day before a race it was a game-changer, both for performance on race day and recovery.