Hayley has worked hard to get to World level in competitive triathlon, despite some big injuries and setbacks. She talks to Sundried about life as a triathlete.
Have you always been into sport?
Sport has always been a huge part of my life; from taking part in all sports on offer at an early age in school to now where I'm concentrating more seriously on one sport.
I have always done one sport at a competitive level. I started off with swimming at a national level between the ages of 10-14 years, reaching numerous national finals each year. I then took up rowing and very quickly picked up the skills and strength required, getting a silver medal at the National Championships.
When I moved to Imperial College London University, I decided to stop rowing to embrace the university social life. But it wasn’t long until I found a new sport that I loved: triathlon. I had the swimming background and the lower body strength from rowing, and I loved running!
Sport energises me, gives me structure around my week, and allows me to meet so many like-minded fantastic people. I cannot imagine my life without sport.
What made you decide to enter the world of triathlon?
My hometown of Liverpool holds a triathlon every year. My friend suggested that I enter and try it out. He lent me his bike (two sizes too big!) and I gave it a shot. I loved it!
The atmosphere was amazing and I loved being able to race three different sports in one event. With swimming as my strongest discipline, it meant I was leading from the start which is a great place to be. I also love the training for triathlon, allowing me to mix it up with the three different sports and gym sessions means there is never a boring week!
What’s been your favourite race to date and why?
The 2020 World Championships Qualification race held in Cardiff in June 2019. This was the race where everything came together. All my hard work, support and determination was reflected. I was the fastest female in the whole event, winning by almost 2 minutes. The swim, bike and run felt great and I felt strong the whole race. Qualifying for the World Championships in Canada was just the icing on the cake.
And your proudest achievement?
Representing GB for the first time in 2019 and winning a silver medal at the European Championships held in Kazan and finishing in 8th place at the World Championships in Lausanne. It was such a great feeling to represent my country with so many other talented athletes.
Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?
I have had a number of races where various things have not gone to plan. None of these have meant I could not finish the race, which would be my definition of a disaster.
I have run around transition trying to find my spot, wasting important minutes. I raced coming back from a knee injury, putting me out of running for 4 months – during this race I was also recovering from a chest infection and from the start to the finish, it was horrible! Sometimes you must listen to your body and make the sensible decision not to race.
My toughest race was the 2019 World Championships in Lausanne. Not only was I against the best girls in the world, I was up against one of the toughest courses in triathlon. The race involved big hills. This is very unusual for triathlon and it really tests the field. The bike course involved three long, steep hills which really worked in my favour. Cycling is one of my strongest disciplines and I find my power output up hills is generally better than the average. This meant I was able to drop some girls on the bike leg.
Then to finish it off, the run course had two extremely steep hills, to the point of almost walking/tip-toeing to get up the hill! At the end of an already difficult race, this really was a mental battle! The pain was unreal, but I knew everyone else was going through it too so I powered on.
How do you overcome setbacks?
I have had a number of setbacks in the last year. I had glandular fever last year which knocked me out for several months and it took me almost 9 months to completely get over the virus. There were times when I thought it would end my triathlon career as I was so unfit and weak. But I had friends, family and a great support team behind me that kept me going. I always try to surround myself with positive people and share my thoughts and worries with my friends and/or family. It really helps to talk and work out a plan.
My most recent setback was a cycling accident where I broke several bones and suffered concussion. This really hit home. It has made me question cycling on the road again, especially any hard effort training. I was out of training for 10 weeks, but tried to stay positive throughout. It happened just before my season break, so I thought of it as forced rest. Not the kind of rest I had anticipated – catching up with friends, taking a holiday and enjoying downtime – but it did give my mind and body a good rest. I really value getting support as an athlete, such as physio, sports massage and talking to my coaches. These people have got me through the rehab required and ensured I come back just as fit, if not stronger, than before!
What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?
You will get injured! I hate being injured and always think it is something I did wrong or something I could have done better to avoid it. Sometimes it is, but most of the time it is just part of high-level sports, pushing yourself to the limit and balancing that fine line between rest and training load. The best in the world get injured, so how can you expect not to!
What are your goals for 2020?
I have qualified for the 2020 European and World Championships in Sweden and Canada and my goal is a podium position at both of these events. This is an extremely hard goal as I expect the competition to be fierce! I have also missed a big block of my winter training after my cycling accident, so I will not put too much pressure on myself, but that is my ultimate goal!
I also hope to start competing at Olympic distance triathlon in 2020, moving away from sprint as I believe they will be better suited to me as non-drafting races on the bike.
Who do you take your inspiration from?
I take my inspiration from other competitors in my field – if they can do it, so can I!
I also take my inspiration from my support team, family and friends; their belief in me and support they give me is invaluable and it inspires me to become the best that I can be.
Sometimes the will to get off the couch and into the water, in the saddle or on the road just isn’t there and these days it is often the structure of set training sessions from my coach and the thought of uploading my completed sessions to training peaks and seeing the session go green that gets me moving!
I really advise hiring a coach when trying to compete at a high level in triathlon, or at least planning your sessions for the week ahead. It takes the worry out of thinking what sessions to do and when I am feeling flat and demotivated, instead of ducking out early from sessions or pretending it was only supposed to be a short session; I finish what has been set to avoid having to explain why I gave in!
What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?
The kit is fantastic! It feels and looks great for training and racing purposes and it is at an affordable price. I also love that the Sundried brand cares about the environment by ensuring everything they do has the very smallest carbon footprint. Finally, the positive and energetic vibe of the team is fantastic and I am very happy to become a part of it.
My favourite bit of kit so far is the Sundried Bib Shorts. These are perfect for my numerous indoor turbo sessions on the bike, sometimes going for 2+ hours. They provide the right amount of comfort without being too thick and have stayed in top quality after numerous washes! They also really look the part.