triathlete racing triathlon bike

David started his sporting career in modern pentathlon but has now competed in triathlon internationally. He talks to Sundried about training and racing.

Have you always been into sport?

Pretty much! I loved cycling as a toddler, and was riding without stabilisers by the age of 2. Before I took up triathlon at the age of 17, my background was in Modern Pentathlon. I started competing seriously at the age of 10, representing Downsend School in the National Schools Biathlon Championships. That started me on a path to representing Great Britain at U16/18 level in Modern Pentathlon, having added shooting, fencing and show jumping at the age of 13. It's a great sport, the one in the Olympics that nobody has heard of.

How did you first get into triathlon?

It was at the start of sixth form that I began to wonder whether I was doing the right sport. I had a very enthusiastic sports teacher who took us on a training camp to Club La Santa. I was very much a Modern Pentathlete so I only ran and swam but he insisted I should become a triathlete which I laughed off at the time.

That was how I stayed for 6 months until I started to question whether Modern Pentathlon was quite the right sport for me. I had reached a good level but felt that my inability to manage my nerves was a battle I was loosing. I was always good at the suffering side, but some athletes seemed to be able to stay calm with gun in hand even on the biggest occasions. Big occasions would get to me and my hand would sometimes tremble on adrenaline as I aimed. The same was true of the show jumping. Triathlon was a way out of that, pure unadulterated suffering, YUM!

What has been your favourite race to date and why?

I have to say two:

2015 16-19M World Sprint Triathlon Championships - Chicago. This will always have a special place in my heart as my first international in triathlon. I made a load of mistakes and learnt a lot from this race, but I was hugely satisfied to make the top 10 on my first outing, and it cemented my love of the sport

2018 Oulton Park Duathlon ITU Duathlon Qualifier - there is no good reason for this race to be up there other than I regard it as the closest I have come to executing a perfect race from a personal performance perspective. And that's despite coming 2nd! But I look back fondly because it was one of the few races I can say I don't think I could have gone a second faster on the day if I tried.

What is your proudest achievement?

I am proud of my current run of 5 consecutive international podium finishes but if I had to pick one of them it would be finishing fastest Brit overall in at European Sprint Triathlon Championships in Kazan 2019. That was a really special day.

Have you ever had any racing disasters?

Haven't we all. I crashed twice in the 2017 European Triathlon Championships in Germany and ended up in hospital with an anaphylactic shock. That's about as bad as it gets. DNF.

How do you overcome setbacks?

I think my biggest disappointment in sport was never making it to European Championships in Modern Pentathlon. I finished 5th in the National Youth Selection Series and they normally took 5 but that year they had a budget cut so took 4.

Overcoming setbacks I think takes a few things. The vision to decide a realistic path to overcoming the setback to achieve your goal. The persistence to understand that overcoming a setback may take a long time, and being in it for the long hall. And the drive to focus on a narrow specific goal, and to peruse it to the exclusion of other things. For me the vision was to win medals at European championships in Triathlon. The persistence to know it was going to take me a while to get to the level in triathlon I was at in modern pentathlon. And the drive to do it, to focus on the narrow goal of sprint triathlon only, not getting distracted with trying to train for other sports or distances at the same time.

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

I'll be honest, I'm quite glad I didn't get too much advice when I started out. In order for me to transition from Modern Pentathlon to Triathlon, I first had to fall in love with the sport. Some people start triathlon and immediately seek advice on how to structure their training, and for some people that's ok. But I really benefitted from a year of just doing my own thing and loving it. I trained hard that year, but I didn't train smart. That was ok though, because doing crazy stuff made me love my sport and I began to take advice when I was ready. Love your sport first!

What are your goals?

It's been a weird year 2020. With Covid-19 making swimming hard my plan for next year is to focus on Duathlon and step up to standard as well as sprint. My big goal is I would like to win a medal at the 2021 World Championships in Almere. I'd also like to try to take one of the English National or British Duathlon titles in my age-group next year. We shall see.

Who inspires you?

My idol is Liam Lloyd, because he's a great guy, a great athlete and is super encouraging of other athletes. I had the privilege of racing against him at the 2019 British Triathlon Championships and found myself in a 3 man breakaway with him on the bike which was an experience that has stuck with me.

Why work with Sundried?

I've been wearing Sundried kit for a while now and I love it so I thought it was about time I started to make it more official! My favourite piece of kit is the aero trisuit. It's great particularly for duathlon and in winter, as it's more aero than the standard issue GB trisuit and warmer too. Sundried is fast becoming the unofficial kit of British Triathlon so many athletes are using it.