Gary is a PE Teacher who uses his experience as a triathlete to help inspire his students and give them opportunities. He talks to Sundried about all things triathlon.
Have you always been into sport?
I have always had a love for sports. Football, basketball, golf and athletics were my main sports at school but I would play every sport going. When I went to university, I wanted to play something for fun rather than be ultra-competitive so I played hockey and loved it. I then went back to football and played at a semi-professional level after leaving university.
After university, I became a Physical Education teacher so the fact that I played virtually every sport helped massively. When I had my 2 children I gave up football and golf and got into cycling as I could fit my training around them, rather than having to be out for hours on a weekend.
I wish there had been triathlon on my doorstep earlier but unfortunately there wasn’t. As a PE teacher, I aim to give students opportunities to play a wide range of sports. We are looking at hosting an aquathlon next year with the view of progressing to a school triathlon, to give the students an opportunity I didn’t have.
What made you decide to enter the world of triathlon?
Having competed in a few cycling sportives, I saw an advert for Dawlish Triathlon in 2015 and a friend from the PE department decided to do it with me. I knew my bike was good but I was really worried about the swim. As it turned out, the swim was my best discipline! I finished midfield and from there I have been completely addicted to triathlon.
What’s been your favourite race to date and why?
The ETU Multisport Championship Aquathlon in Ibiza 2018 has been my favourite race. Going out on the boat into the middle of San Antonio Bay and then swimming back in crystal clear waters, then running through Café Del Mar with the sun setting was such a surreal experience. The atmosphere around the whole course was amazing. I met some amazing athletes on that trip who are now good friends.
And your proudest achievement?
Representing my country in Age Group aquathlon. The speech the team manager did in Denmark before our race will stick with me for ever. “You’re representing your country in a World Championships.”
Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?
This year in the ETU Eton Dorney Sprint Triathlon qualifier I had my biggest disaster of a race. I knew I had to get off to a fast swim. Within the first 50m, I managed to get a heel smash into my forehead. Other than my head hurting a lot, I couldn’t catch my breath. I was seeing the lead group go and I was getting more panicked that I couldn’t catch my breath, so headed to the support kayak. I thought I was there for just 10 seconds but I saw after the race that my Garmin had stopped for 1 minute 30 seconds.
That race was practically over for me within a minute. Having travelled a long way, I thought I would have to carry on. I started charging through the swim field. As it was draft legal, I managed to work well with two lads on the bike trying to catch the big group in front but unfortunately by lap 4 the resignation set in that we had burnt our legs up and were not catching them. I missed out on qualifying and had concussion for the rest of the week so couldn’t train.
How do you overcome setbacks?
I have tended to be very injury prone throughout my life so I have got used to having setbacks. I used to sulk but now I try to look at it in a positive light and think that if I have injured a muscle in my leg it’s a great chance to work on my upper body strength. That is the beauty of triathlon; there is not enough time to work on everything so an injury can give you an opportunity to work on a specific part of your body.
What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?
The best bit of advice I heard a few triathlons ago was given by a dad telling his daughter, “Slow everything down, your swim stroke, your transition etc and you will go faster”. When I jumped in the sea that day I made sure my arm pulls were slower and longer which helped me so much in speed and energy conservation. There is a lot of rushing around in triathlon and if you can just take a few deep breaths and calm yourself down it can make a massive difference.
What are your goals for 2020?
Keep improving! I have started to set myself goals for the year as I think that's really important. Not only for motivating myself but also giving me a buzz when I attain that goal.
My first priority is to make sure I get the Team GB Age Group Aquathlon qualifying time secured early in the season. I love these events and I have met some amazing people at them and I definitely don’t want to miss out. I came fifth in the ETU Aquathlon in 2019 so the ambitious aim would be to podium at that event in Austria next year.
I am currently hoping for a roll down place to become available to represent GB at the ETU Sprint Triathlon in Malmo. If that doesn’t happen, I really want to qualify for the year after so will be targeting getting myself fit for the qualifiers.
Who do you take your inspiration from?
Too many to name a specific person. Everybody who does sport is inspirational to me.
What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?
I am so impressed with all the Sundried kit. The designs are so good. Probably the cycling kit is my favourite.
I love how environmentally friendly the brand is and I think it’s amazing that some of the kit is made from 100% recycled materials. I really like the company's values of promoting the reduction of waste and helping to save the environment from plastic pollution.