Claire took up running as a way to lose weight for her wedding but soon discovered a passion for all things triathlon. She has since completed an Ironman triathlon and talks to Sundried about racing highs and lows.
Have you always been into sport?
As a child I used to swim for my local swimming club and loved horse riding, we had our own horse for 25 years so yes I have always been active and enjoy being outdoors. It was when I went to university that this changed, I was too interested in boys and bars so exercise became too much of a chore. It was only when I was trying to lose weight for my wedding that I took up running, which I really enjoyed. This then lead to trying out some swim sessions at a local triathlon club, and that's where the love affair with sport, and especially triathlon, started.
How did you first get into triathlon?
I took up running as a way of trying to lose weight for my wedding (I was around 14 stone) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the freedom and head space it gave me, it de-stressed me and I was starting to see the rewards of my hard work. I was dragged along to support one of my friends that wanted to try some swim sessions at a local triathlon club, I really didn't think I would enjoy it as much as I did. The members were really friendly, very inclusive and supportive and before I knew it I had joined the club and I was helping to volunteer at the club's triathlon events. At this point I was only volunteering as I never though that it would be possible to compete in a triathlon. It was only after seeing the wide range of abilities at these events that I realised that I should give it a go. I entered a nearby novice triathlon and loved it, that was it, I was hooked!
What has been your best race to date?
This is a hard question but I would have to say it was at Mallorca Ironman 70.3 last May. This was my first competitive 70.3 so there was a lot of unknown territory in terms of how I would perform, how my nutrition would work out, how I would cope with the heat and how I would get on with the hills of Mallorca on my new TT bike.
I had been quite optimistic going into the race, aiming for around 5 hours but never in my wildest dreams did I ever think it was possible to achieve it. The race was perfect, the conditions were fantastic, if not a little warm for the run and I loved every minute of the experience. I finished in a time of 5.03.52, 5 seconds off 3rd place!
This is also why I put this forward as my best race as I had so many areas I could have improved on, I enjoyed the experience maybe too much. I was chatting to so many people on the bike course, even my coach! I took my time in transition, emptying pockets and making sure I had enough sun cream on. If I hadn't done this, or focused more on just getting on with the race, I could have easily got under the 5 hour bracket which would have placed me 2nd in my age group and given me an Ironman 70.3 world championship qualification spot.
That's what I love, that I was so close and had no idea. I have already booked my place for next year as I have a score to settle with those 4 minutes, I WILL get under 5 hours!
And your proudest achievement?
My proudest achievement would have to be representing my country at the ITU World championships in Australia. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be able to travel to a place like Australia, yet to do that and compete for my country was just the most incredible experience of my life. My parents had stayed up to watch the live feed back home and they were sending me pictures of them up at 3am with drinks in hand celebrating, just amazing.
When I was out there, the BBC were looking for triathletes to do an interview on body image, and trying to inspire others to give triathlon a go. That interview also has to be up there in my proudest moments, briefly telling them my story, my weight loss, how I felt doing my first triathlon with a t-shirt on over the top of my trisuit so no-one could see my body, talking about the inclusive, supportive community we have – I just hope it did inspire some people to at least consider giving triathlon a go.
Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?
Funnily enough, my last race was both my toughest and most disastrous! I competed at Cardiff recently in the sprint distance ITU world championship qualifier. I really enjoyed this event last year and as this was my first sprint distance race of this year and I was feeling really up for it.
Before we started, there had been a police incident so the bike course had been changed from a 2 lap course to a shorter 4 lap course, meaning that the draft illegal aspect was going to be extremely difficult and also the amount of competitors on the course could potentially make it quite dangerous.
The goal was to qualify so I only needed to come in the top 4 of my age group to achieve this and I was feeling really confident. The swim was very choppy and I struggled to sight where the exit was. The bike course was everything I thought it would be, very congested and extremely dangerous in places. By the first turn point there was already 1 big accident which we were being asked to slow down past! I was approaching the end of lap 1 and I started to overtake another competitor when they started to drift into my path, before I knew it we had collided and we both ended up on the floor! Thankfully they got up straight away and carried on but I had trouble getting the chain back into my bike. I eventually managed to get it working again and got back on. I completed the 4 bike laps and the 5k run but I was covered in blood, cuts, road rash and a sore head from hitting the floor!
The point was it could have been so easy to give up after coming off the bike but I didn't have it in me to quit. I needed to finish to at least be in with a chance of qualifying. I was very lucky to finish 2nd in my age group and 11th overall, which under the circumstances I am extremely happy with.
How do you overcome setbacks?
In a race I have learnt just to dig deeper and give it everything I have; I know if I have tried my best then there isn't a lot more I can do. Away from racing I just try to focus on the future, keep the bigger picture in mind. There are going to be times when training isn't going well or injuries occur but trying to adapt to this, rest up, eat and drink right and keep looking forward is my way of staying on track.
What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?
That the triathlon community is supportive and inclusive, no one cares what you look like as it's the achievement of getting to that finish line and taking part that is the biggest achievement.
What are your goals for 2019 and 2020?
For the rest of the 2019 season my goals are to qualify for the European sprint championships next year and I am dreaming of a podium finish at this year's World Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland. Next year I am returning to Mallorca Ironman 70.3 to try and get under that 5 hour mark and the only other event we have planned are the ITU World championships in Canada. I just want to continue to improve, work hard and do the best I can.
Who do you take your inspiration from?
I think Sarah Storey is pretty incredible, to achieve what she has in both swimming and cycling is so inspiring to me. I also love the likes of the Brownlee brothers and Lucy Charles. They have all raised the profile of the sport, making it more popular than ever. I also find it inspiring to be around other like minded people within the triathlon community, the time, effort and dedication people put into the sport they love while holding down full time jobs and life in general, I don't know how they do it sometimes!
What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?
I love what Sundried represents: eco-friendly, recycled materials which look incredible, fit well and are superb quality.
My personal favourites are the training vest tops and I am obsessed with the leggings. As a personal trainer I am a huge believer in barefoot workouts and allowing our feet to get the proprioceptive feedback from the floor, for this reason I also highly recommend the barefoot gym shoes.