Charlie lost a dramatic amount of weight and has found a true passion for triathlon. He talks to Sundried about training and motivation.
Have you always been into sport?
I was always into football and BMX cycling as a kid, then as I got older I drifted into golf. By the time I was 16 I was a solid golfer but all other sports had fallen by the wayside. Triathlon happened quite late for me; I had ballooned to 23 stone (322lbs/146kg) and decided enough was enough, so I downloaded Couch To 5k. I was commuting to work by bike but this barely touched the sides with the amount of food I was consuming! I managed to get through the programme from not being able to run 100 metres to completing 5k. When I finished that, I signed up for my first super sprint triathlon and the rest is history!
What made you decide to enter the world of triathlon?
I was massively overweight and needed to do something about it. I had just completed the Couch To 5k programme and then the same day I was served an advert for the London Triathlon and saw they had a super sprint option. I took the plunge thinking it would be good motivation to keep going. I loved it and was hooked from that race.
What’s been your favourite race to date and why?
My favourite race to date has to be the Woburner middle distance triathlon in September last year. It was my furthest distance to date so I was understandably nervous standing on the start line, but as soon as the gun went off, the nerves evaporated and I raced strong.
Everything went to plan and I stuck to my race strategy which can be hard when you're in the racing environment. My nutrition was on point and my legs felt strong; so strong in fact I ran a PB on the run leg. I was over the moon with a sub 2-hour half marathon after a hilly bike leg!
Crossing the finish line was an amazing moment for me and could possibly be one the proudest moments of my life. I couldn't help but think of all the people who knocked me back and laughed at me and told me I'd never complete the super sprint. I was thinking to myself "ha, look at me now, Half Ironman, completed it mate!" In a decent time as well, 6:30 which I was very pleased with!
And your proudest achievement?
My proudest achievement has to be finishing that first super sprint. Distance isn't a factor here; I was still around 21 stone (294lbs/133kg), only had a single speed bike and I managed to complete the race in just over an hour. That time isn't great now that I can say I have completed a sprint triathlon in less time. However, with the weight I was and the emotional demons I was carrying with me at that time, I was massively proud to finish; running over the line (even managed a little sprint!) has to be one of the best feelings.
After that race, I think a lot of people started taking me more seriously rather than just laughing off the fact I'm a triathlete, even if I'm not your typical triathlete build!
Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?
I haven't had many racing disasters as such, the worst one I've had was during an Olympic triathlon running into T1 after a strong swim to find my front wheel flat as a pancake! Luckily, I carry foam with me before I consider trying a tube so I was up and running within a few minutes of ripping the duct tape'd can from under my seat.
After this, though, I felt I was playing catch up so I went into the red on the bike and my nutrition strategy went out the window. I came out of T2 not feeling too great and within 3k of the run I was losing speed rapidly and could feel myself bonking hard. Luckily, the drinks station had some gels so I necked 2 of them each lap and managed to get through the rest of the run once they started working!
How do you overcome setbacks?
The main way I overcome setbacks is by not beating myself up too much about it. I try to think of solutions and not think about the problem; dwelling on problems isn't going to solve them so there's no point overthinking them and trying to work out what went wrong.
Think of a solution to fix the problem and then once you've put the solution in place, you can debrief and work out why it went wrong so it doesn't happen again. Prime example of this was when I bonked in the Olympic triathlon. I could have beaten myself up about it and DNF'd but I dug in, managed to source some gels (the solution) got them down me and stuck at it to get through and finished with a sub 3-hour time even with a slow run leg.
Afterwards, I sat down and thought about why it had happened. It was obvious, too hard on the bike and I didn't execute my nutrition strategy properly, that was my debrief and now I always make sure I follow my nutrition plan from what I practise in training.
What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?
An amazing piece of advice that I give myself time and time again is don't let other people tell you that you can't because you can, you definitely can. Let them have their say and laugh it off, then just show them your race time or your finish line smile when you cross it.
If you train hard enough and work for it, you can achieve anything. As the famous Ironman saying goes, "anything is possible". Literally anything, I mean I would never have thought that 2 and a half years ago I'd be saying I've completed several triathlons, a half Ironman and this year I'm going for a marathon and full Ironman! Don't let others tell you it's not possible. Go out there and grab it by the horns and let their doubts become your motivation to show them they were wrong!
What are your goals for 2020?
My main goals for 2020 are a sub 4 hour at the London marathon, beat my PB at the London triathlon and complete my ultra Ironman, The Brutal in Snowdonia. Its going to take a lot of blood sweat and tears and hours and hours of endless training but it will all be worth it when I run across those finish lines!
Who do you take your inspiration from?
I get my life inspiration from my mum. She's had a tough life but always manages to get through it and has given me, my brother and sister the best lives possible while also becoming our best friend in the process. I genuinely couldn't ask for a better person to be my mum, she's my biggest fan and will support me through anything 100%.
I get my sporting inspiration from Bradley Wiggins. He was the person who inspired me into cycling which was my gateway to getting into triathlon. I caught the cycling bug from the 2012 Olympics and began commuting by bike to work. I must have looked a sight at 20 stone crammed into Lycra walking up the hills!
One quote that really stood out for me from Brad was "lads from Kilburn don't win the Tour de France" which shows how hard he has had to train and sacrifice for that Tour win and an element that it's still unbelievable that he's won it.
What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?
I love Sundried because they offer some of the best kit I've ever trained and raced in at a price that allows everyone to buy. I also love the fact that they are a sustainable company with great ethical values, something which we should all be striving for.
I love all my Sundried kit but my favourite has to be the Horizon Hoodie. It's my go-to bit of kit for training, it has that soft touch that feels amazing after a long cold run and the warmth to help you out after a cold swim in the open water, that paired with the Horizon jogging bottoms if I'm heading out somewhere or the Roteck 2.0 leggings if I'm looking for some recovery compression, I think you'd find it hard to beat the technology available, especially at that price.