After a long career in banking, Rhian decided to get back into sport and found a love of swimrun with her husband. She talks to Sundried about her favourite races and the world of swimrun.
Have you always been into sport?
Yes, since a really early age. When I was younger, I represented Great Britain in triathlon and Wales for triathlon, duathlon, swimming and cross country at junior and U23 level. I then left top level sport and started an investment banking career in London.
Fast forward 12 years, following the birth of our 2nd child I wanted a career that could fit around the children, so I retrained as a personal trainer and started a fitness business. Whilst I stayed fit in banking, post-children I increased my fitness and qualified and competed in the British marathon championships.
What made you decide to enter the world of swimrun?
One day a client came to me saying he was competing in Otillo swimrun, I googled it and marvelled at the sheer spectacle and endurance of the event. The seed was sown!
Then in 2015, the inaugural UK swimrun sprint series was held at Eton Dorney Lake, just down the road from us. I persuaded my husband to enter with me. We won the series and won entry to the Otillo World Series event in Switzerland. We haven’t looked back since!
What’s been your favourite race to date and why?
All our swimrun races are memorable as each race is so different – Otillo, who run the World Series and championships, provide “unique races in unique places” and this is certainly the case! The Breca races are also in stunning locations.
My favourite location for the swimrun is the Isle of Scilly – beautiful Caribbean-like beaches and unspoilt islands, plus very friendly locals. We have podiumed twice there!
And your proudest achievement?
Becoming World Number 1 in the Mixed swimrun team rankings in 2017. I get to do a sport I love with my husband and we managed to become world number 1 even though we were age 39 & 43 (there are no age categories in swimrun so we compete against all ages).
Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?
The toughest race was the 2017 world championship in Sweden – aside from being 65km of extreme trail running and 10km of sea swimming it was the weather that made it even harder. Forty knot winds, huge waves, heavy rain, rip tides, slippery rocks and cold seas! I am pretty sure if that had been in the UK the race would have been cancelled.
How do you overcome setbacks?
In the 2018 World Swimrun Championships we came 15th mixed team and top UK Team. Whilst initially a little disappointed with this as we felt this did not reflect our true potential – when you put it into perspective we have to be proud of what we have achieved. We’ve had many sets backs to overcome this season: I suffered a career-threatening injury in late 2017 and then this year my husband Ben got pneumonia. It got worse before it got better as I then twisted my other ankle on a training run in France in July with only 6 weeks to go before the race. But we know these races are about mental strength as well as physical fitness so we drew on previous experience.
What is the best bit of advice you wish someone had told you before you started competing?
Don’t stop believing. I thought I was too old to become an elite athlete all over again, but finding the right sport, training hard, looking after my body, fuelling and hydrating properly, we achieved something that I did not think was possible.
What are your goals for 2019?
To inspire more people to do swimrun. We will continue to compete internationally with our focus being Otillo and Breca races.
Who do you take your inspiration from?
Other strong, older women who continue to compete at the top level post-children like Nicola Spirig, Annika Ericsson, and Jo Pavey.
What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?
I like the Sundried ethical ethos, how they care for the environment and also work closely with a number of charities to give something back.
I spend most of my life in sports kit so it is important to have something that is comfortable, looks good and aids performance. The Ruinette cropped leggings are good for running and also for the school run!