• 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
  • Kelsey Price Athlete Ambassador

    ultra runner Sundried activewear ambassador running

    Kelsey is an ultra runner who went from hating PE at school to now enjoying 100-mile ultra races. She talks to Sundried about training and her racing goals for the next year. 

    Have you always been into sport?

    Definitely not! In fact, at school I always dreaded PE. I never got on with the likes of netball or hockey, but I really liked the idea of being physically active. At my school, there was not a great deal of opportunity nor inspiration for things other than traditional team sports.

    It wasn't until I was 17 when I taught myself to run on the treadmill at the gym that I really engaged with running (initially I struggled to manage even 10 minutes!) I was quick to figure out that running outside was 1000 times more enjoyable, and then for my 18th birthday my dad booked me my first marathon as a surprise – things then escalated pretty quickly from there!

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

    The North Downs Way 100-mile Centurion race. It was my first (and only so far) 100-mile race, in which I learnt so much about myself. I was blessed to have three different pacers to chat to and keep me company in the second 50 miles which made the world of difference to my mindset. I managed to stay so present throughout the race, more than I imagined I could be, which allowed me to appreciate the countryside around me, chat to other runners, and smile as much as I possibly could. The 400m track 'lap of glory' before crossing the finish line was surreal, topped off with 3rd place which I was massively surprised about.

    And your proudest achievement?

    My proudest achievement probably has to be placing 1st woman in a 100k race (Round Reading Ultra 100k). I turned up to race HQ the night before to collect my race number and I remember thinking, "Right, I may come last tomorrow as I have never run anything like this distance before, but I am cool with that, as long as I get round and finish."

    At the 50k mark, I was told that I was in the lead and that instant my head switched and all of a sudden it wasn't about just "finishing" the race, I wanted to win! After that I felt so focused, motivated and really positive. It was all so unexpected, and I was amazed at what my body was capable of, which is why it probably is my proudest achievement. Shaving over an hour off the course record was a massive bonus too!

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

    Yes! The Isle of Man mountain ultra marathon. Both of my race buddies dropped out of the race part way through and leaving them was so hard. However, I had to go on, meaning I had to massively speed up to chase the race cut-offs and was worried that I would then burn out.

    I had not prepared for self-navigation as I was relying on my dad (the navigation master!) It was super stressful not knowing where to go when on my own on a mountain and was not my most held-together moment!

    How do you overcome setbacks?

    Being kind to myself! We are all guilty of being a bit too hard on ourselves and putting so much pressure on ourselves sometimes. I find that it is so easy to get hung up on feeling like I have had a rubbish run, getting slower minute miles, missing a training run because I am struggling to find the motivation to go out etc, but we are all human!

    If I am feeling slightly unmotivated, I will focus on something different for a week or so, perhaps I will go to the gym instead. Before I know it, I am missing running and it is enough time for my head to reset. Also, there is nothing like hitting the trails! I try to run trails somewhere (with somebody ideally) and explore nature. This is when I feel most inspired and motivated to run. I find it can be a lot easier mentally too, for example knowing I can walk the uphills gives a nice little reset break!

    What advice would you give somebody before starting to compete?

    Good question! I would say that learning to control your mind is really important. When you are out there in the middle of nowhere, with nobody around and you are feeling exhausted, it is easy to get into a negative mindset. If you can talk yourself out of these mindsets or be at peace with the fact they are only temporary, that will help so much.

    On my first ultramarathon, which was 48 miles through Snowdonia, I got to 20 miles and was absolutely broken; the thought of another 28 miles seemed absolutely impossible. This really prevented me from enjoying a run which probably had some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen.

    I try to focus on breaking the run down into chunks; you know you're going to be out there for a long time so you should try to enjoy it. I focus on getting to the next check point where I can then reset (mostly I think about what snacks they are going to have there!) Having a good crew also makes the world of difference.

    And I must mention that I think gym classes/strength training in the gym is not given enough credit for its value in training – it is important to keep doing this rather than replacing it with all of your runs – I believe it is the secret to not getting injured.

    What are your goals for 2020?

    I am super excited for this, after probably too long of ‘winging it’ I have just got a coach! I always feared that having a coach might make me feel tied down or they would make me run 100 miles a week or something crazy like that, but I am reassured and confident that this is a great decision to help me focus on new achievements.

    I am running the Country to Capital Ultra in January, which is a 45-mile race from Wendover (near Aylesbury in the Chilterns) to Little Venice (near Regent's Park in London). In preparation for this, I am hoping to complete the Marcothon, which is a challenge to run a minimum of 3 miles every day of December, including Christmas Day! 

    I am also going to run either a 100-miler or 100k, although I'm not sure which right now – the problems of being indecisive! 

    Alongside this, my mini goals include spending more time running with other people rather than by myself and most importantly to get more people inspired to run, whether that be from their first 5k to ultra marathons.

    Who do you take your inspiration from?

    My dad. He is has always taught me that I can do anything if I put my mind to it, and this is what inspires me most. I am also massively for girl power, particularly those athletes who have incredible running achievements whilst having jobs/life/children etc such as Beth Pascall, Mimi Anderson and Jasmin Paris – I am super passionate about the work/life/run balance!

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

    Firstly, there is nothing more satisfying than knowing you’re wearing kit made from recycled materials, I love that! But the most important thing to me is probably comfort, and Sundried have mastered this!

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Stephen Dunnett Athlete Ambassador

    Sundried running ambassador

    Stephen is an older athlete who competed in the second ever running of the London marathon. He talks to Sundried about all things running. 

    Have you always been into sport?

    No! At school I was the kid who hid when it came to PE. I think I am what you call a late bloomer.

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

    I was into rock climbing when I was in 6th form and beyond. I then watched the 1st ever London Marathon on TV and thought ‘yep, that looks cool, I might have a go at that’! Never having run before, I got an entry and completed the 2nd running of the event.

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

    I now compete as a V60 athlete. I won my category in the 2018 Eden Project Marathon after 2nd places the previous 2 years in the half marathon. It is a really well organised event and uses small lanes and trails as well as a superb finish right by the Eden domes. I have many V60 1st places but I feel this one was hard won.

    And your proudest achievement?

    After a serious illness and time in hospital back in 2009, my 2 sons and I completed a non- stop Lands End to John o’ Groats cycle relay. The three of us completed this in 68 hours 15 mins with my wife doing all the support driving. We raised a lot of money for Cancer Campaign in Suffolk.

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

    Not one of my longest races, but I did the Motatapu Trail Marathon in New Zealand a couple of years ago. I had done it before and wanted to get on the podium in my category. I felt ‘a bit off’ before the race and at the highest point in the race with 10 miles still to go, I got the worst cramp I have ever had. A helicopter that had landed to evacuate an MTB competitor waited to see if I too needed a lift! I don’t do giving up so I did get to the end under my own steam but the lesson is, if you feel unwell leave the heroics to another day.

    How do you overcome setbacks?

    Setbacks make the successes all the sweeter.

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

    When I reached V55 I based my performance (or lack of) on what I was doing when I was 28. A coach friend of mine gave me the simple advice to start V55 as a ‘new career’ - forget all PBs before that. Simple yes, but it got me into the right place mentally.

    What are your goals for 2019 and 2020?

    My major goals for 2019 are almost completed including the Keswick Mountain Festival Ultra Trail Race and the International Snowdon Race. It is now back to cycling for my major 2020 goal which is the Tour Aotearoa in February. Luckily it is in New Zealand so it is summer there!

    Who do you take your inspiration from?

    Anyone who overcomes adversity to compete or simply enjoys taking part in sport.

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

    I first became aware of Sundried when they supported the Clacton Half Marathon, shortly after their launch. I liked the idea of sustainable sports kit and the use of coffee grounds had me hooked. I own several of the original tops which just last and perform so well. I have now ordered a full set of Cadence cycling kit and can’t wait to put it through its paces.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Andrew Mason Athlete Ambassador

    Sundried ambassador running ultra marathon

    Andrew is an ultra runner and is also a vegan. He talks to Sundried about training and racing.

    Have you always been into sport?

    Yes, I started playing football when I was around six and I was also on the school cricket, badminton and athletics teams 

    What is your proudest achievement?

    Completing Chester 50 miles in March which was my first ultra marathon.

    Have you ever had any racing disasters

    I had my first DNF (Did Not Finish) in March this year, that hurt a lot.

    How do you overcome setbacks?

    By getting straight back out and running as soon as I am physically able.

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

    Only focus on your own times and not the times of everyone else.

    What are your goals for 2019?

    My main goal for 2019 was complete an ultra which I have now done, but I still have another one in October to do so I'm very excited about that.

    Who do you take your inspiration from?

    Other runners, whether they are completing 100 miles or their first 5k I think it’s brilliant.

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

    My Sundried men's running shorts are very comfortable and made from recycled water bottles, I think the way the company uses recycled materials is brilliant.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • How To Fuel Before, During, And After An Ultra Marathon

    ultra marathon running race how to fuel nutrition hydration

    Fuelling for an ultra marathon is possibly one of the most difficult areas to get right and one of the main reasons runners drop during distance racing. As runners, we tend to focus on the obvious: our physical training and endless kit choices. However, fuelling and mindset are two really important areas which can be neglected.

    This year I am competing in the Centurion Grand Slam: a series of four 100-mile foot races in May, July, August and October. I have completed this distance twice previously but doing all four within a year has been a very different experience and a massive learning curve. Time of year, trail conditions, course and temperatures all play a big part in the fuelling strategy.

    Pre-Race Fuelling

    Pre-race fuelling is the easy part. Contrary to popular opinion, 'carb-loading' shouldn't be eating everything in sight the night before the race. Instead, you should gradually increase your carbohydrate intake in the week leading up to the race in order to get your body used to storing more fuel.

    There is a limit to how much fuel can be stored in the muscles. Most sources estimate 400gm or 1600 calories, but each individual is different. Personally, my diet does not change too much the week before a race. I tend to eat little and often with 6 smaller portion meals which are easier to digest than opting for 3 larger meals which will just leave me feeling bloated and uncomfortable. I also ensure I am hydrating well.

    I tend to increase my carb intake and reduce my consumption of fruit and vegetables; the less fibre the better as this will prevent gastric issues while you are running. Normally I love spice in my food, but on endurance events your digestion system will be taking a back seat as all energy focuses through the big movement muscles, therefore it is best to stick to plain and bland foods to avoid stomach upset.

    I am very much a creature of habit on the “final dinner” which is always pasta with fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil and olive oil. I eat dinner 2 hours earlier than normal, followed by a sandwich an hour before bed. You want to allow time for your dinner to digest before bed, so when you have to get up for an early start, your body is ready to complete the digestion process – meaning no last minute toilet queues!

    Key points:

    • Don't eat everything in sight the night before the race. Carb load for an entire week before the race by eating little and often and gradually increasing your carb intake.
    • Reduce or eliminate entirely your intake of fruit and vegetables. Less fibre will prevent an upset stomach or gastric issues/emergency toilet stops.
    • Avoid spicy foods, stick with plain and bland foods.

    ultra running marathon race endurance trail nutrition hydration fuelling

    Race Day Fuelling

    If you can eat breakfast, keep it light. If nerves get the better of you and you feel like you can't eat: don’t worry.

    For marathon distance, gels work well for most people and are a convenient choice, however on the longer distance you really need to be able to eat “real” food. Checkpoints are usually stocked with a variety of sweet and savoury foods and on longer distances, the later checkpoints will even provide hot food and drinks.

    It is worth checking your race information, which usually lists the type of foods and drinks you can expect. If you have specific dietary requirements, you may need to be more self-sufficient – I am vegan so this applies to me. It is also worth carrying emergency supplies on your person.

    Start fuelling early and take plastic bags with you so that you can take away foods from the checkpoints to eat while you continue to run. You may need to slow your pace to allow your body to digest the food properly. 

    Some ultra marathons and most races beyond 100km will allow access to drop bags and crew at designated points so ensure you pack some food into your drop bag (in addition to extra kit). It is difficult to decide before the race what you will feel like eating, but get some of your favourites in there – it’s always nice to have a special treat to look forward to.

    fuelling for running marathon ultra race nutrition hydration

    Nausea

    Nausea is one of the most common things that prevents runners from finishing ultra marathons. If you are feeling or being sick, you are losing energy and hydration – lack of both will cause the body to dip mentally and physically. As difficult as it may be, you need to keep eating and hydrating. If you feel nauseous, try slowly chewing crystalised ginger as this can settle the stomach. Also try chewing gum.

    Hot Weather

    Weather conditions also affect your fuelling strategy. Extreme heat can make it difficult to eat and you might have a tendency to drink in excess which will cause a sloshing effect on an empty stomach. It’s always a good idea to carry some money so that you can buy a cold drink or ice cream, or ask your crew to have some ice and cold drinks available.

    Night Races

    If your race takes you through the night, the body will find it difficult to digest as it’s simply not used to eating through the night. Keep eating little and often and if there are hot drinks available from checkpoints and crew take advantage of this; it will also keep you warm.

    Sodium Replenishment

    Replenishing sodium is something you should have practised in your training. As you sweat, you will lose body salts and minerals so over long endurance events it is vital to replace as you go along, otherwise you may suffer nausea and muscle cramp. There are lots of products on the market in tablet and liquid form – get to know your body and practise in training, and carry additional in your hydration vest on race day. Also bear in mind seasonal factors; it’s easy to tell you are sweating in the height of summer, but you will also be working up a sweat in the middle of winter.

    Post Race Fuelling

    Race completed: permission to eat the world granted! Do not be surprised if in the first 24 hours you have no appetite – your digestion system has to re-boot and this generally requires sleep. I find that after a 100-mile ultra marathon I sleep for a few hours, wake up hungry, eat a little, then sleep again – this is the first 24 hour routine.

    Once your appetite returns, make sure you fuel little and often. It’s natural to feel fatigued between meals as your body runs out of food. The best advice on post ultra-fuelling is to listen to your body. Ideally, you require all food groups, but you may crave protein as the body will want to repair muscles. I tend to want protein and masses of fruit and vegetables as my body craves the nutrients from the vegetables. Dependant on the distance of your ultra, recovery will take from one week to usually six weeks for a 100-miler. A spa treat to relax both body and mind the week after a tough race is a great idea. Look after your body – it has served you well!

    About the author: Sheila Rose is a personal trainer, ultra runner and Sundried ambassador. 

    Posted by Alexandra Parren