Helene is an extremely competitive person who once chased a cyclist who wasn't even part of the race! She talks to Sundried about life as a triathlete and duathlete.
Have you always been into sport?
I have always been into sport, but not always duathlon. My main passion growing up was horse riding, where I won my first trophy at the age of three. This passion continued throughout my teenage years and I won individual and team silver at the BUCS National Championships representing the University of Nottingham in 2010. Post uni, and moving into the ‘real’ working world, I found I had limited time to look after a horse so began running and joined my local club. For a good few years I would have described myself as a non-competitive social runner and dabbled with various distances and enjoyed taking part in club events. It was only in 2016 that I ventured into the multi-sport world.
What made you decide to enter the world of triathlon?
Having been plagued with running-based injuries for over a year, I bought my first road bike in May 2016 to begin cross training. Having gotten over my first few cleat incidents (it happens to us all), I began to really enjoy cycling – maybe even more so than running!? In September 2016, a group of my running club were doing London Duathlon and encouraged me to enter. I did and loved it. More surprisingly, I finished 2nd in my age category and was one of the fastest women on the bike, sparking realisation that maybe I stood the chance of progressing further within the world of duathlon. I love pushing myself so set myself the challenge of trying to qualify for the age group GB duathlon team.
In terms of triathlon, I have never really swum ‘properly’ before but peer pressure (plus my competitive head couldn’t let me miss an event which 28 of my club mates were doing) meant I entered my first pool-based sprint triathlon this spring. Four weeks of swimming coaching later and I completed my first tri, finishing 11/265 ladies! I thought I would hate it, but in reality I loved it can’t wait to do my next one at the end of April this year.
What’s been your favourite race and why?
My favourite race has got to be my first ever duathlon in London in 2016. It was the first time I had ‘raced’ on my bike and I will never forget the buzz and rush of adrenaline I experienced whizzing around Richmond Park. Yes the second run hurt, they always do, but the grin I had when I crossed the finish line remained for hours afterwards.
And your proudest achievement?
My proudest achievement most definitely has to be when I finished 3rd in my age group at Bedford Duathlon and accomplished my goal for the 2017 season – qualifying to represent the Age Group GB team in Ibiza at the European Duathlon Championships 2018. I was over the moon!
Have you ever had any racing disasters/toughest race yet?
I have had two major disasters, and they both just prove the fact I have zero sense of direction…
The first was during my second ever duathlon. About ¾ of the way around the bike course I saw another man cycling up ahead. My competitive head took over and I desperately wanted to pass him. We approached some cross roads and the man turned left, so I followed. It was only when I caught him up, having cycled down a steep hill, I realised he didn’t have a number on so wasn’t even part of my race! To top it off, there were no directional arrows anywhere to be seen – I had followed this man off course and had to climb back up the hill to get back on course. I somehow still finished 2nd lady so was kicking myself thinking I could have thrown away my chances of winning the race.
The second was during a local mid-week evening TT. The last thing the starter asked me before I set off was ‘do you know the route?’ I responded confidently saying ‘yes, it’s on my Garmin anyway’. 30 minutes later I was in a pub car park, miles off course, using a stranger's phone to ring my partner to come and save me. How embarrassing. Moral of the story, if you have no sense of direction, don’t rely on your Garmin to direct you or at least make sure you load the route onto it correctly!
How do you overcome setbacks?
I am a pretty optimistic person, so I generally always think about the positives in any situation – something that has been instilled into me from an early age. I have also always had the mantra of if you have no control over it then don’t let it worry you. Some things do happen for a reason, just make sure you learn from them and do the best you can in that situation.
What is the best bit of advice you wish someone had told you before you started competing?
Don’t spend your time comparing yourself to others. We are all unique – we have different strengths and weakness and what works for some may not work for you! Spend time on developing yourself – becoming the best you can be.
What are your goals for 2018?
Having found a sport I love, I now want to continue improving and become the best I can be, but most importantly continue enjoying myself! My focus this year is on the European Duathlon Championships in Ibiza this October where it would be a dream come true to finish in the top 10 in my age group and make my parents proud who are flying over to support me. In the longer term, I have also got my sights set on qualifying for the World Age Group Duathlon Championships 2019 with the qualifying races taking place in spring and autumn this year.
Who do you take your inspiration from?
I am really lucky to be a member of Spa Striders who (I think) are the most supportive and inclusive running club I know. No matter what level you are, you are made to feel special giving you the confidence to succeed in all you do. So really, I take inspiration from all of the wonderful Striders, who in their own individual ways have achieved amazing things over the years I have been a member.
What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?
Being a qualified and very passionate environmental and sustainability specialist, I love Sundried’s products which are made from recycled materials such as the Grivola loose flowing yoga top which is made from 100% recycled materials including ground coffee beans (how cool is that!) and I am really looking forward to purchasing their newly launched Piz Fora women's training vest ready for summer training in the sun. Sustainability is something that means a lot to me, so I am very pleased to be a brand ambassador for a company that prides itself in being a low carbon, sustainable and ethical company.