James has always been into sport, with his dad and granddad spurring him on from a young age. He tells Sundried about some of his toughest challenges to date and his aspiration to complete the toughest races on earth.
Have you always been into sport?
Yes - always loved running and swimming from a young age.
What made you decide to enter triathlon?
In 1999 my dad mentioned to me that there was a new triathlon club starting near where we lived in Devon and I liked the sound of it. So I went along and the rest is history.
What’s been your best race to date?
My best race in terms of results was Bristol Triathlon (Olympic distance) 2014. I hope to better this in June.
And your proudest achievement?
Completing Ironman Lanzarote in 2015. This is known as the hardest Ironman in the world - my plan from here on is to find the hardest events and complete some of the most gruelling races the world has to offer.
Have you ever had any racing disasters / your toughest race yet?
Dislocating my shoulder in the swim portion of Ironman 70.3 UK on Exmoor in 2013 - managed to get it back in and finish the race but it hurt.....a lot.
How do you overcome setbacks?
The setbacks for me have mainly revolved around health - I had to have a new shoulder in March 2016 and I'm slowly getting used to training with the new joint. Swimming was tough and riding on the drops. Just have to maintain focus and keep going - it will come back but I try not to put too much pressure on myself.
What is the best bit of advice you wish someone had told you before you started competing?
Consistency is key. When you go long, go slow. When you do intervals make them count.
What are your goals for 2017?
- Bodmin Tri
- Bristol Olympic Tri
- LEJOG - 8 days
- Ilfracombe Sprint Tri
- Brecon Ultra Marathon
Who do you take your inspiration from?
My dad and my granddad. Plus a little bit of Greg Lemond.
What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?
I have liked Sundried for some time, I'm really into the ethical stance the company takes it resonates with me and my lifestyle. I think my favourite bit of kit at the moment is the Pro Cycling Top. It looks awesome.
"Finding The Bright Side"
This past summer I had an unfortunate crash on my bike during one of my triathlon Junior Canadian Series races in Montreal, Quebec. I left this incident with a broken wrist, collarbone, shoulder blade, two vertebrae, and a rib that caused a lung puncture. Although it seemed like nothing could be worse, I was able to see the positives with the help of family and friends. I realized I was lucky to suffer no head trauma, no needed surgeries, and the lower part of my body had no damage. I was incredibly lucky to physically walk away from this. I am a strong believer in the saying, 'everything happens for a reason,' and I have finally found the silver lining of it all.
It continues to be a rough journey getting back to the normal swing of things, but I couldn’t be happier to be able to train again. I was immobile in both arms for months post crash, but my family was there with me giving me the assistance I needed (my dad became very good at doing my hair). Once I gained enough mobility to bike and run, I was completing trainer rides on my bike with my wrist cast still on, but able to enjoy the outdoors on the running trails. Due to my lower bone density, my bones healed slower than normal, and I was out of the pool for five months to ensure I had a safe return to training.
Within the last few months of training, I have found my silver lining, with the help of coaches and teammates of course. After having 10 weeks off, it came to no surprise that I had lost my feel for the water, and at the same time, my bike and run form was almost forgotten. While I thought it wasn't a great situation, my coaches thought the opposite. I was seen as a blank canvas where I could start fresh and recreate my swim, bike, and run technique to be more efficient (an opportunity a lot of athletes don’t get). So far there have been a lot of technical improvements and gains! The other benefit is being able to focus on my bike and run, and have those two demands become stronger... the swimming will come later. Because of this, I have already achieved an all-time personal best in the 20min FTP on the bike! I have learned that you may need to look at a situation differently in order to find out how to get the most from it and to not be afraid to ask others for support along the way.
The past eight months have been anything but easy, but I have been able to push through all the doubts and challenging moments to get where I am today. I try to stay optimistic with everything I do (knowing that something good is eventually going to happen). But there is no doubt that sometimes that satisfaction doesn't hold. I am originally from Alberta, train in British Columbia, and was away at a four-month training camp in Arizona where I was still rehabilitating. About five months into recovery I hit a mental wall. I didn't want anything to do with the sport and the last thing I wanted to do was begin a training session. I dreamed of being home with my family and friends and stop what I have worked and trained for up to this point. The hardest part was losing the motivation to train for a sport that I know I loved.
Even in this slump, which seemed to last forever, I found optimism. I believed that if I kept going and surrounded myself with people that wanted to train the mentality would eventually come back. Sure enough, with a lot of positive self-reinforcement, the will to train is currently making a comeback. This period included looking at highlights from past races and training sessions while trying to regain that feeling of accomplishment and pride after pushing myself to the limit. I looked up to athletes who have gone through struggles but were strong enough to get back on track and be successful. But most of all it was finding a bright side to every situation no matter what! (Had a horrible workout? Well that workout is out of your system and now you’ll be faster tomorrow). Many times you have to laugh it off and have the confidence to know that it was just a bad day. A few bad workouts don't make a bad athlete.
Recovery is a process and unfortunately, there are no time frames for when you will be fully healthy. I have learned there is a lot of patience involved and finding little goals along the way instead of solely focusing on the main target helps the time go by. A good reminder is that you don't want to get back to where you were, but rather better than you were. Work on the little things when you have the chance!
I am realizing more and more how crucial is it to listen to your body and if something is 'not right' to investigate immediately, and take all the recovery time required until it's safe to get back into training. I have (like most athletes) continued to train through injuries in the past thinking the pain will eventually go away, but I'm finally confident in taking a step back to play on the safer side of a situation and not risk further damage.
My right shoulder continues to be a challenge with one day pain-free and the next day having me leaving a swim early due. I am fully aware that this is going to be on an on/off basis for the next year, but I have the best support team with me in Victoria who is always by my side. I couldn't be more grateful for the doctors, physios, nutritionists, massage therapists, and coaches that have given me relentless aid.
I am now gearing up to an American Cup in Richmond, VA, as my first race of the season followed by Canadian Championships in Ottawa. I am starting to see everything steadily advancing together, and it's honestly a great feeling. I am exceedingly giddy to race, and I have confidence that I am heading in a positive direction.
They did it, two women with a love of tea cycled on a tandem from one end of the country to the other. We caught up with the achy legged ladies to find out how they got on.
Do you think you were fully prepared for the journeys events?
We think there’s only so much you can prepare for! We had trained and felt fit and healthy, but nothing can prepare your body and mental strength for 12 solid days of cycling through wind, rain, shine and midge swarms! We weren’t endurance cyclists, so it was always going to be a big leap for us to suddenly cycle 1,000 miles and scale more hill climbs than the height of Everest! But we proved we were strong enough to push through, even though we had the worst weather the Highlands have had on record!
Your last day was one to remember. What happened?
Our final day started so incredibly! We arrived at the start point for the day and were greeted by Amanda’s best friend Lucy and her fiancé Jules, clad in leather and astride their amazing motorbikes! After trying to convince them to swap their bikes for ours, we pulled out of Bodmin to blaring music, flanked by two super cool bikers. We felt like rock stars! But 15 miles in, the weatherman had different plans for us. As it started to drizzle, the winding country roads became like an ice rink and within a split second we went from two confident tandemers, to a crumpled heap on the floor. We think we might have caught a small stone, and when that front wheel goes from under you, there is nothing you can do to counter the weight and fall of a heavy vintage tandem and her two riders. We were badly hurt, Amanda taking the brunt of the fall with the bike landing on her ribs, both of us hitting our heads, sustaining big grazes on our legs and getting a big shock! We called for our support guys to give us some roadside first aid, and after a while of calming down and warming up, we tentatively got back on the road. Babs was in a bit of a state too, battered and bruised with half a back pedal missing, but we all only had 50 miles left to go which, at that point, felt like a thousand all over again.
We were nervous and had the lost the confidence we had accumulated over the past 11 days. For the first time we were cautiously taking the downhills at a slow pace, whereas before it was as if we were on the free fall at the top of Nemesis at Alton Towers, bombing downhill, calling out with excitement as if Hanson had just made an appearance at our 13th birthday party.
So, our progress was slow, but we were pushing through the miles. It was a blooming hilly day so as lunch time approached, we were desperate for the break. And a pasty. Also, both our mums were there to give us a cuddle, a cup of tea and fresh bandages. Jecca's mum made us cry like school kids as she sprayed our sore bits with antiseptic. What a sight we were, two grown women sobbing, dirty, covered in cuts and scrapes, clutching half eaten pasties. Once again, we forced ourselves back on the road, this time with full bellies and a bit more confidence in our hearts. We sang and chatted at we skimmed along the coast of Cornwall during our final couple of hours, stopping only to take pictures, have water and, 5 miles before the end, give our bags to the support guys so as we rode to the finish line our charity t-shirts were fully on-show. The last 5 miles were a record. We absolutely flew! We were so happy to be finishing, in utter disbelief that we'd actually done it and in so much pain that the nearer the finish line got, the more happy-hurt-exhausted tears came flooding. We arrived at the finish line to a crowd of all our loved ones waving banners, cheering and joining us in our proud crying. We hugged; best friends, adventurers, tandemers, charity fundraisers. The captain and the stoker, or in our case, the driver and the turbo.
How did you find the motivation and courage to get back on Babs?
There was no other option. We'd done over 11 days, cycled the length of the UK and we couldn't fail at the last obstacle. It was hard, we were both nervous, Amanda more so as she was in charge of steering, but we did it. Just as we overcame every other challenge we faced. It wasn't easy, we took it slow, but we dug deep for the last bit of fight left in us and told Babs she only had 50 miles left to get us through, then she could have a long break!
If you had your time again what would you change?
Hindsight is a beautiful thing! We had so many problems with Babs, but even during the ride we still loved her! The fact that she was old and heavy and caused a lot of problems, just made our adventure what it was. Without the heavy, old tandem, without the worst winds on record in Scotland, without the random routes making us carry Babs over footbridges and push her through fields, without the crash, it just wouldn't have been our adventure.
We maintain, although we had the head wind, we chose the right way for us, going Scotland down. We may have been wrong thinking it would be downhill.... But it meant we got the lonely bit done first and then cycled in to civilisation as the ride went on, ending with all our family there.
So, maybe we wouldn't actually change anything..... Except having face masks for the midges in Scotland, they were rank!
It was great to see you rocking the Sundried gear across your travels, how did you find it?
The Sundried gear was amazing! After a day in, normally wet and cold, cycling gear, the first thing we did at the end of the day was to shower (when possible!) and change into our super comfy Sundried outfits. We trained in it before the ride and are still living in it now! Our Sundried bottles also came on every mile and were attached to Babs with our well needed electrolyte water every day! You guys provided our hydration and our comfort and for that we are eternally grateful!
How much money have you raised and can people still donate?
So far we've raised an incredible £5,000 across both Parkinson's UK and Breast Cancer Care. We're so over the moon, but of course would still love to raise more! Our JustGiving page is still up and running- www.justgiving.com/teams/GBTTT
What are you doing for your recovery?
Sleep and rest and physio. And apparently still consuming like we're burning 5,000 calories a day! We were both left with different aches and pains, Jecca got tendinitis in her right knee so has been having Physio for that and trying to regain strength whereas Amanda had more injuries from the crash, such as bruised ribs and really bad grazes which need to heal before she can do much training. During the ride we were getting around 7 or 8 hours sleep a night, which isn't a lot when you're on a bike for 10 hours a day, so we really caught up on a sleep afterwards! Our bodies almost went into shut down and we had a really big come down leaving us feeling pretty lethargic and low. We pushed through with tea, cake and friends but we've definitely got a tandem adventure shaped hole in our lives. It's difficult going back to normality after such an incredible 12 day adventure, where every day we woke up knowing exactly what we needed to achieve that day and we'd do it together no matter what got thrown at us, and that we were doing it for all the right reasons.
What are your top tips for anyone looking to do their first long distance ride?
Just do it! Don't listen to anyone who says you aren't prepared or fit enough, or that you're going the wrong way or your bike is too old! If you believe you can do it then you will. It's an incredible way to see the world and it's definitely given us the cycling bug. Do your research (read our blog!), pack the right stuff, plan the right amount of miles and hill climbs each day and don't let the rain or wind or midges get you down.
Also, buy really good chamis cream…
So they made it back in one peice, Babs and all.Congratulations girls.
2 girls, a tandem named Babs and 1000 miles. Sounds like Amanda and Jecca are in for a trip and a half. These two not-quite-30 year old best friends have set themselves a challenge of tyres and tea. We spoke to the girls and let me tell you, they seem as crazy as the challenge!
What is the Tandem Tea Tour?
The 'Tandem Tea Tour' is an epic charity adventure! 2 girls, 1 tandem and 1000 miles! Amanda and Jessica will be tandeming from John O' Groats to Land's End raising money for Parkinson's UK and Breast Cancer Care. Each day they will be blogging about all the best places they find to stop for a well earned cuppa and cake, so you too can hop on a bike and head for cake!
How long have you girls been friends… let’s do a mini journey of your friendship shall we, how’d you meet etc..?
We are both actresses and met on a job over 3 years ago. Our main work is in the crazy, Lycra-clad world of Motion Capture where we perform in video Games, television and film. We've been lucky to work with each other a lot on various cool projects, but the Tandem Tea Tour is by far our biggest challenge yet!
How did you get started on the Tandem?
We came up with the crazy idea of doing the ride on a tandem long before we'd ever got on one! By the time we'd purchased a tandem and given it a go (and realised how much more difficult it is!) it was far too late to back out! Our tandem is pre-loved and has already been from the north to south of France with its previous owner who, fantastically, gave us our first tandem crash course upon purchase!
Do you ever secretly just give up and let the other one do all the work?
Our tandem (Babs) is the same height front and back, meaning we can switch around throughout the tour, which is lucky because it's so much harder at the front! Both of us will have to resist the temptation to sit back and relax on the back seat because we wouldn't want the other person doing that when we're the other way around!
What are you looking forward to the most about the tour?
We're going to get the chance to see incredible bits of the UK in a way we wouldn't ever otherwise. Driving through places is too fast, walking would take faaaar too long, cycling is just right! We're under no illusions that it's not going to be tough, but we're looking forward to pushing our bodies and our fitness and determination in ways we've never done before. This is by far the biggest, longest and toughest thing either of us we've ever done, and we're looking forward to supporting (and forcing) each other through it.
What are you dreading most?
The hills! We've been told that in total we will be climbing the equivalent of 2 of Everest! Hills are hard work on a normal bike, but on a heavy tandem, they can be near on impossible. There will be times where we don't think we can physically carry on, but that's when our grit and determination will get us though. Also knowing there's cake along the way helps.
Where’s the best Tandem ride you’ve done so far… and where’s had the best tea?
We haven't done any long tandem rides yet, which is pretty scary! Babs (the tandem) is getting a full service and make over by Makersville who are kitting her out with new, top of the range brakes and gears etc. As soon as she's done, we'll be getting her out every day!
As for the tea, there are so many places we love! We always pass by Gail's in Hampstead because it's local. We love Saint Espresso and quirky individual coffee houses like them and are super excited to be tasting the best tea we can find on our route!
Why did you pick to raise money for breast cancer and Parkinson's UK?
They are two charities very close to our hearts. Amanda's mum is a Breast Cancer survivor and Jessica's Father-in-Law was diagnosed with Parkinson's last year. They are two devastating illnesses not only for the person fighting it, but the family and friends around them too. There is little two girls can do to help fight these illnesses, but there's amazing research continuing every day for both and we all need to keep raising money, in the hope that cures can be found as soon as possible.
What recovery have you got planned?
Massage, Physio, osteopathy and a long bath! As painful as it will be, we'll be taking our massage balls and doing our best to look after our bodies during the ride, but, inevitably, it's going to take its toll. We have an amazing Physio/osteo Ash at Precision Wellbeing who is doing all he can in the lead up and is prepped for fixing us on our return!
Will there be a Tandem Tea Tour 2.0?
We've already been discussing where we'd like to take Babs next! But we think we should get the first tour done first before we agree to anything else!
What’s your favourite piece in the Sundried collection?
We love the whole collection! The leggings and tank tops are absolutely perfect for training.
Any training tips for tandem newbies?
Just don't give up too soon and believe people when they tell you it's nothing like riding a bike! Hold on tight, stay strong and allow any frustrations to wash over you! Oh and get a little bit of practice before attempting to do 1000 miles!
Well, they’re used to their lycra and it sounds like they’re every bit crazy enough to smash this challenge. Good luck girls. Sundried will be supporting the girls throughout their challenge providing them with premium ethical activewear and as much publicity as we can.
Visit the Tandem Tea Tour website here:
Visit their Justgiving page here: