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Emma O'Toole Athlete Ambassador

Sundried activewear cycling triathlon

Emma is a triathlete who now represents Team GB. She talks to Sundried about life as a triathlete.

Have you always been into sport?

Yes, I have always been into sports. At school, I think I was part of every sports team going! I used to really enjoy playing football and supporting my local team with my dad. I moved towards endurance sports at 16, joined my local gym to add in some strength work and began teaching indoor cycling classes 2 years later.

What made you decide to enter the world of triathlon?

Well, “why be bad at one sport, when you can be bad at three?” Triathlon gives so much variety with training and it is great to be able to develop in three different sports. There is always room for improvement and I love being constantly challenged. There is no better feeling than working hard at each of the disciplines (especially your weakest!) and noticing improvements. 

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

My favourite race to date has been the New Forest Triathlon. I did this race three weeks after a half Ironman and was unsure how my body would respond. It was mentally tough as I battled against a lot of self-doubt during the lake swim. I felt strong on the bike and when I got to the run, I was shocked to be told by a marshal that I was 2nd woman. The leader was nowhere in sight and another marshal told me that she was about 90 seconds ahead. Again, the self-doubt crept back in that 90 seconds is a lot in running; I was questioning whether I should try to speed up and risk ‘blowing up’ or hold steady with my pace.

I held steady and 4km from the end, I could see her coming into sight. With roughly 1.6km to go I caught her. I then had another decision to make: pace her or go for it? I went with the latter as I was feeling strong, I ended up finishing 1st with some 40 second lead. It has been my favourite because it felt like a ‘real race’ with key decision making based on the information I was receiving.

And your proudest achievement?

My proudest achievement was coming 3rd senior woman and 2nd in age category in a 70.3 race. It was my first middle distance triathlon and I was so nervous beforehand. I had trained hard, but you always have to expect the unexpected as there are so many variables in triathlon. The scenery was beautiful, the race was well-organised and it was all-round an awesome day!

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

My toughest race was in a trail half marathon race this season. I had qualified for the European Long Distance Triathlon Championships representing Great Britain’s Good for Age Team in September and was putting in the mileage by using the race as a training run.

I surprised myself by leading the race amongst the women, however I could not shake the pain in my left groin and hip which had been niggling away since I was knocked off my road bike two weeks beforehand. I dosed myself up with ibuprofen gel and thought I could run through it.

At about 10km, I could not put any weight through my left leg, I knew it was not good news! I had to go to the nearest marshal point and pull out of the race, my first ever DNF. I tried to think about the EU championships and not jeopardize that by completing the race today. Unfortunately, I ended up in hospital on crutches and have been undergoing physiotherapy since. I am waiting for MRI scan results to see what damage has been done; I’m unable to run at the moment but keeping myself busy with lots of swimming and cycling.

How do you overcome setbacks?

I try to remain positive and focus on taking each day as it comes. I also try to create achievable micro-goals; so rather than focus on where I should have been if it were not for the injury or change in circumstances, I can stay positive. Cross-training across the disciplines is great for this; chances are if I’m not able to run, then at least I can swim or bike. 

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

I wish I had joined a team earlier on. Southampton Triathlon Club have been great at providing a network of support and encouragement. The sessions put on by tri clubs also encourages you to mix up your training in ways you might not have thought of yourself. Other than that, don’t forget to believe in yourself and most importantly, enjoy it!

What are your goals for 2019 and 2020?

My goals for the end of the 2019 season are still in limbo because I am awaiting the MRI results. I will continue to race British Cycling Crit races and potentially move over to the track in the winter. For 2020, I am hoping to race an international Middle Distance Triathlon and an international Aquabike for Team GB Good for Age Squad. 

Who do you take your inspiration from?

Jessica Ennis and Peter Sagan! I was glued to the TV during the 2012 London Olympics, I think Jessica is a role-model for athletes; she is grounded, modest and hard-working. Peter Sagan is a cyclist for Bora-Hansgrohe and I just love watching him ride, he is always so genuinely happy to do what he does and keeping the crowds entertained!

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

Sundried noticed a gap in the market and has stayed true to it. I love the fact that it makes top-notch triathlon apparel affordable and accessible to all. My favourite bit of kit is definitely the Sundried Velo Women's Aero Skinsuit, it is a super fast one-piece that is versatile across different triathlon distances- making it a great buy to endure the whole season, from start to finish. The colours also match my bike!

The new Eco Tech range is also amazing, in a climate conscious world, Sundried’s biodegradable clothing paves the way for future generations to enjoy the world of triathlon!

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