• Chris Smith Athlete Ambassador

    running ultra marathon outdoors fitness

    Chris is an ultra runner who has raced in some of the most beautiful places in the world, including across a glacier in Patagonia. He talks to Sundried about life as an ultra runner.

    Have you always been into sport?

    I have always been into sport, playing soccer as a child in the UK to a fairly decent level.

    How did you first get into triathlon?

    I got into triathlon with my wife when we saw a short course fun series and decided to enter. Since then, I have probably done 4 or 5 triathlons.

    What has been your favourite race to date and why?

    My favourite race is Ultra Fiord in Patagonia. The scenery is amazing, you get to run through private land that is only open for the race, and there are not many races in the world where you can run over a glacier.

    What is your proudest achievement?

    My proudest achievement is winning the Berry Long Run 40km in 2018. My son was 2 months old and I hadn't been able to train or sleep as much as I would have liked so I went in with very few expectations.

    Have you ever had any racing disasters?

    I have ended up being sick in so many races, especially around 40km in. The first time this happened, I ended up having my one and only DNF.

    How do you overcome setbacks?

    Participating in ultra running has taught me that anything can happen in a race and putting one foot in front of another will get you to the end. You never know what everyone else is going through.i have had to lay down after being sick and managed to catch people back up as it is what I have needed

    What advice do you wish you'd been given when you first started out?

    The fact that in ultras you need to listen to your body and sometimes sit for a bit and recover rather than push on.

    What are your goals?

    My goal is to compete in a 100-mile race and I would also love to race Mount Marathon in Alaska.

    Who inspires you?

    My wife inspires me as she is so consistent and always runs with a smile on her face.

    Why work with Sundried?

    I love being out in nature and realise we make a huge impact. I have been looking at clothing brands who limit the impact we have on the environment and stumbled across Sundried. I want to share Sundried with as many people as possible as I believe if we all do a little we can have a great impact.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Jasmine Sandalli Athlete Ambassador

    ultra running runner marathon

    Jasmine is an ultra runner originally from Cyprus who aspires to one day run the iconic Western States 100. She talks to Sundried about training and racing.

    Have you always been into sport?

    I hated PE at school but I’ve always loved proper sports. I was lucky enough to grow up in the mountains of North Cyprus and spent a lot of time out either rambling or cycling. Being part of the track team at school, I loved running the longer distances but I wasn’t allowed to compete in them so I lost interest until a few years ago when I ran my first marathon and ever since then I've been hooked.

    What’s been your favourite race to date and why?

    Probably the 3-day Druids Challenge along the Ridgeway. I’ve run it a few times now but the first time in 2015 was my favourite. Everything lined up perfectly, I had a great weekend and came tenth but most of all I got to enjoy the company of some amazing runners and the beauty of the trails for 3 whole days!

    And your proudest achievement?

    My first ever 50-mile race (which was actually something like 53 miles) – I’d never run the distance before and I finished third after running basically the whole day with the top two ladies. We chatted and supported each other the whole way round, I was so proud to be part of that field and to make a connection with those two brilliant women. The race was called the 50 Mile Challenge down in Kent (England) and it doesn’t exist any more but the distance is definitely my favourite to run.

    Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?

    I’ve made two attempts at the North Downs Way 100 Miler and both times DNF’d at 66 miles. Both times I let myself get badly dehydrated and couldn’t eat for hours, it was so frustrating to make the same mistake twice too. I was massively underprepared both times and it’s given me a real motivation to learn from those mistakes for the next attempt.

    How do you overcome setbacks?

    By getting back on the horse – failures are commas not full stops. Of course I get a bit down but I have to use that experience to learn and improve. I never want to DNF the same race twice again! But if I have to try it a hundred times before I finish it I will...

    What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?

    Always remember what you’re here for. If you want to win, picture winning. If you want to finish, picture the finish line. If you can remember why you want to compete you can forget all the voices telling you to stop. And above all, adaptability is better than invincibility.

    What are your goals?

    My main goal is to one day qualify for and run the Western States 100 but I’m a few years off that yet. For me, it’s always to run further, for longer, and to show women they have every chance of being on that podium as men do. You can’t be what you can’t see!

    Who do you take your inspiration from?

    Courtney Dauwalter is my absolute hero – it’s not just what she achieves but her infectious smile, love for the sport and for life. I could write an essay about her but I’ll leave it at that!

    What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?

    I’m very uncomfortable with consuming a lot of “disposable fashion” – not interested in cheap running tops that cost £5 and go straight to landfill within a couple of months. Given the impact that fashion has on the environment and how avoidable this is, it means a lot to me that Sundried’s kit is both ethically sourced and produced and is also SO durable – if we can’t avoid buying kit altogether then we should be buying kit that lasts the course. I’ve got a pair of the Capri leggings that are still basically box fresh two years on and I know they’ll last for years to come!

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • James Bull Athlete Ambassador

    runner marathon racing

    James is an ultra runner and a firefighter. He talks to Sundried about his journey.

    Have you always been into sport?

    I originally got into sport by accident! When I was very young, I was given a detention by one of my teachers who happened to be the school rugby coach. Instead of sitting in a classroom writing lines, I was forced to take part in a training session with the rugby team after school. I managed to tackle somebody (although I think to be honest I probably just fell over in front of them and they tripped); and all of a sudden I was getting praise. This was a new experience and I quite liked it. I had always been a big lad, but hadn’t really grown into my body at that point.

    Within two years of that detention, I was captain of the local town youth side and representing the county at a representative level. Fast forward a few years again, and I was gaining national honours and being signed on a contract. Once I had learned how to use my growing body, and I was being applauded for it, I got into a lot of sports but it was rugby that became my main love. I came to endurance events later in life.

    What made you decide to enter the world of ultra running?

    I have always been a good runner and have run various iconic marathons across the world and competed in various endurance events. When I started ‘trying’ to retire from rugby, I knew I still needed something to satisfy my competitive drive, so the running took over. I was never quick enough with my frame to challenge podium places over the marathon distance, so I started taking on ultra marathons.

    Whilst I wasn’t the quickest, I had a good engine and I could run at a steady rate for very long periods of time. It was only ever meant to be a hobby, but within two years I was chasing British ranking events; and for a while it took over from where the rugby had left off.

    What’s been your favourite race to date and why?

    Marathon Des Sables – considered the hardest race on Earth, 250km across the Saharan desert.

    And your proudest achievement?

    I have had a few proud sporting moments, but to date my proudest achievement was becoming a father. It changed my whole perspective on life in general. In a sporting context, being capped by the England Fire Service was a proud moment, as was representing my country at the World Firefighter Games.

    Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?

    I ran the Isle of Wight Ultra which is 107km on a loop of the island. The weather was horrific and we were completely exposed on the coastal paths. Despite some of the terrain being brutal, at some points it was difficult to stand due to the high winds and horizontal rain.

    The going was incredibly tough and it was the first time me and my running partner had run out of glycogen; devoid of any energy stores, we started to become quite delirious. We later learned that there had been an 80% drop-out rate by the third checkpoint at around 77km as a result of the conditions. However, I was so glad we had persevered. It took a lot longer to cover the distance than it would normally and became a very long day. However, like a lot of things, the harder the event, the more satisfying it is to conquer it.

    How do you overcome setbacks?

    Setbacks come in many forms. Whether it be forced due to injury, or a loss of form or confidence. Personally, I have struggled with mental health; specifically, depression and PTSD associated with my career as a firefighter. However, one thing I have learned with help of professionals and the Firefighters Charity is that I am always stronger than I think. Feelings and thoughts are just that, they are not always fact.

    I have learnt to allow myself the time to stress over things and process them, but in the knowledge they will pass. I have learnt to give myself a break, and focus on my strengths rather than my weaknesses. As a coping mechanism, I live my life by routine and structure which means I am quite disciplined; and this lends itself well to my job, and as an athlete because it creates a robust mindset. I am now learning to recognise triggers to my negative thoughts and learn from my experiences that they will pass. ‘That was then, this is now’ has become my mantra.

    What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?

    When I was younger, I wouldn’t have allowed myself to admit that I wasn’t the best at something. If I wasn’t, or I lost at something, I would have a huge sense of shame and embarrassment. This is called an ego! It’s not always a bad thing as long as you learn to harness it. However, it puts an immense amount of pressure on us when we fail to reach a level we feel we should. Inevitably, if you never quite reach that level, you’re always going to feel like a failure. I am trying to learn to treat my sense of shame with kindness. When I had my son, it was a great leveller and changed my whole perspective on life. It wasn’t about me anymore. When we realise that we’re not actually that important in other people’s worlds, and we’re not the centre of attention; and they’re probably not even thinking about us – you’d be surprised how much pressure that takes off you. Losing one’s ego is probably the best bit of advice I never had, that I know now allows me to compete for enjoyment and fulfilment. I hope that I make my family proud and inspire my son to try new things and push beyond the comfort zone.

    What are your goals?

    I didn’t become a household name, that was the plan when I was younger but I’m fine with that now! With advancing years, I’m past being elite standard, but I can still be a great athlete. I would like to remain in great shape, stay fit and healthy, and to spend quality time with my family when my job allows. Moving forward, I would like to represent my country for my age group, but I am still trying to define which distance this will be over. I also want to tick off a number of endurance challenges across the globe. I like to take on events that other people think are crazy, to show that nothing is impossible with the right mindset.

    Who do you take your inspiration from?

    I have many sporting icons from the rugby world, but in terms of my favourite athlete, it has to be James Cracknell. He is just a phenomenal athlete across a variety of disciplines, and his mindset is unbreakable. I would love the opportunity to take on some of the events he has had the opportunity to. He is also living proof that with the right mindset and training, you can still compete at the highest levels with advancing years.

    What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?

    Not only is the kit great, but the ethical approach to constructing it is second to none. Even the way Sundried have adopted and prioritised fitness and exercise sessions for their staff whilst at work is forward thinking, and indicative of their organisational culture. My most recent acquisitions have been some training tights and top with compression technology. They keep me warm and supported in the desert when recovery is paramount before another long stage the following day when I need to be ready to go again. All Sundried garments are manufactured with sustainability in mind and reducing carbon footprint to a minimum. These values align with my own, and are an important factor in my decision to be associated with Sundried in pursuit of my goals.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Alison Walker Athlete Ambassador

    ultra runner Sundried activewear ambassador

    Alison is an ultra runner who runs 100 miles a week. She talks to Sundried about training and racing.

    Have you always been into sport?

    No, I never really did sport until I discovered running. I didn't really have much hand-eye coordination so never really saw the appeal... Whoever knew that 20 years later I'd be running 100 miles a week on average in a year?!

    What made you decide to enter the world of ultra running?

    I really like the idea of pushing myself to my limits and running very long distances. I prefer the slow burn rather than 'deep fried' form of running!

    What’s been your favourite race to date and why?

    The Beer Lovers Marathon in Liege. It's a different type of race and is definitely very fun. I would recommend it to everyone.

    And your proudest achievement?

    Achieving the fastest 100km time in Malaysia (men and women) of 9:40:40 on a trail course in winter.

    Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?

    At the Tooting 24, there was a heat wave that weekend and I found it really hard to keep cool or fuel myself. Unfortunately, due to the nature of 24-hour races, once you fail to give your body enough nutrition, the body can't cope. I only managed 185.9km which was disappointing given the training I had put in.

    How do you overcome setbacks?

    I just treat each day as a new day and start again. I also don't complain too much and just get on with it regardless of what the weather is or how tough the session is. It builds mental strength and resilience which is so important as an athlete.

    What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?

    Find a coach you trust and don't just go with the coach everyone has. Having full and complete trust in your coach and them understanding your body is so important as it takes out a lot of second guessing. Working with a coach also takes time. It took about 6 months of working with my coach to see big leaps in my performance.

    What are your goals?

    To compete in the Big's Backyard ultra one day, and redeem myself on a 24-hour race.

    Who do you take your inspiration from?

    My coach. He is 70+ and still runs everyday for at least an hour, regardless of the weather. He is very passionate about running and carries this through when running sessions. He runs Tuesday track and Saturday hills for free for anyone and never fails to bring out some really horrible sessions!

    What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?

    I like Sundried's approach to making kit sustainable and functional. As someone who run 100 miles a week, I like kit that last and Sundried materials are very hardy! I really like the sports bras and tops as they fit well to my body and do not chafe (very important for my super long runs!)

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • A Change In Pace: Triathlon To Ultra Running

    Sundried sponsored athlete Alice Hector triathlete to ultra runner

    For six years, I have been a professional triathlete and have enjoyed achieving at a high level and racing the best athletes in the world. After winning an Ironman 70.3 in 2016, my initial goal was completed and in my heart I admit I felt it was ‘job done’. However, I embarked upon another few years in the hope of taking the ‘next step’ – however good you get, there is always a next step! Triathlon has always been a little ‘faffy’ and techy for me though and you have to love what you do.

    I am so glad I got the opportunity to compete at such a high level, but at 37 years old I have other things to achieve and if I’m to do them, it’s now time to get a move on! So come this summer, it was time to put triathlon to one side (though not abandon completely, as you will see!)

    Ultra running. That’s where I came from and that’s where I’m heading now. I restarted triathlon after a run injury sustained shortly after my last long ultra: a successful 100 miler in 2012. Then aged 30, if I wanted to seize the opportunity of trying to be a pro athlete, triathlon was my best bet, and the time window relatively small. So when the opportunity presented itself, I put ultra to one side in the hope I could return one day (ultra runners tend to get good results when older - so in that respect I hoped I could afford to wait a while).

    Alice Hector professional triathlete turned ultra runner

    I have big goals for ultra and I have my eye on some British records that are rather mind-boggling, but I’ll give it a go and see how close I can get. I am not scared of failing, as I’ll still achieve lots along the way. It’s good to have a target though. Unlike triathlon, where there are no real times to aim for as courses are so variable, it is refreshing to have something specifically time-based as a goal.

    The only problem with ultra running is the extreme nature and the need to build resilience without too many injuries. I have already overcooked it once in the past few months and had to take 3 weeks out from running - hard to do when you love it so much. Hence, the cycling and swimming will stay in place a bit this year, whilst we ‘transition’. I’ve already done my first cyclocross race, Redbull Timelaps and have a local duathlon lined up for December. It’s nice to be able to mix it up a bit - being ‘pro’ means you’re generally quite restricted in that respect.

    As for life balance, I’ll continue to work closely with my key sponsors, including Sundried (watch out for some exciting new kit drops arriving soon!) and as well as paying the bills with freelance copy writing, I’ve relaunched my other passion, art.

    Messy, crazy art. I studied art when younger but didn’t touch it for years. I have now ransacked my partner’s son’s old bedroom and it is now a splattered ‘art studio’, out of which comes all sorts of creations made with resin and/or acrylic pouring. I am still in the exploratory stage, but the business is gaining traction, particularly in ‘useful art’ - bespoke trophies, coasters, clocks, table tops, jewellery etc. Follow @aliceartuk on Facebook or Instagram to see my experiments!

    Alice Hector Sundried sponsored athlete

    In summary, it’s hard to make changes, especially when a routine is so drilled, but if you take a few weeks out of the sport every year or two, and let the dust settle, then you can truly reflect on what it is you want to be doing. I found a week off here and there doesn’t break what essentially is a habit, but after 3 weeks, it became clear where I wanted to go. Take your time to reflect. The body WILL thank you for an extended rest anyway!

    Whilst I slowly build towards record attempts (I anticipate 3-4 years but that’s a guess), I simply want to get out and enjoy the blissful feeling of rhythmical running, take part in ultra events, enjoy some success and see some amazing sights, that can be right there in the doorstep.

    My advice to you:

    1. Try new things in the off-season.
    2. Your gut instinct will tell you all you need, if you let it.
    3. Change is always possible.
    4. Take time to reflect: no goal is going to be a joyous upward trajectory so there will be ups and downs. Knee-jerk decisions are risky.
    5. Accept you cannot have success without failure.
    6. Having said that, make sure to regularly check in with yourself that you are predominately enjoying your journey, wherever it takes you!

    About the author: Alice Hector has been a sponsored Sundried athlete since our inception and has been competing professionally in triathlon since 2014.

    Posted by Guest Account
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