James started running as a way to ease his insomnia and before long discovered a passion for triathlon. He talks to Sundried about training and racing.
Have you always been into sport?
I enjoyed running around the playground as a child and playing hide and seek, but was quite nerdy and spent most of my time around computers or musical instruments, so would never have dreamed of describing myself as 'sporty'. When I was a teenager, I started to struggle with insomnia, and after a couple of particularly unhappy and drowsy years, I tried running to tire myself out before bed.
It worked a treat and I was immediately hooked. I started out with short, slow 3km runs around Glasgow, then built up to 5km and a couple of years later ran my first ever race at the Great Scottish Run 10k. I loved every second of it. At uni, I discovered cycling and began competing in time trials and duathlon. This year, in 2019, I discovered triathlon.
What made you decide to enter the world of triathlon?
Having raced in the London Duathlon a few times, triathlon had always seemed inevitable, and I'd often have people asking me when I was going to give it a go. The swimming had always been the discipline that daunted me and put me off, as I hadn't swam properly since I was a child.
In January 2019, I took the plunge and decided I'd compete in a sprint triathlon and then Olympic triathlon with six months of training. I began swimming at least once a week and gradually progressed from "objectively terrible" to "not bad". I'd say I'm now "average" and attaining "good" is a goal for 2020. In April, I joined my local triathlon club and as soon as I'd competed in my first triathlon race (Marlow Sprint) I knew this was a sport I wanted to do for a very long time.
What’s been your favourite race to date and why?
I enjoyed the Woburner Half Ironman immensely. My plan for 2019 had been to get to Olympic distance level, then spend a year training for a half Ironman in 2020. However, things didn't go to plan.
Whilst I was on holiday in Poland, and before I'd even completed an Olympic race yet, I received an email from the Woburner race team letting me know that entries closed that evening. Unfortunately, the email arrived whilst I was quite tipsy, so I spontaneously signed up for the race with just 8 weeks to prepare for it.
This turned out to be one of the best decisions I've ever made – the race was extremely well organised and I enjoyed it immensely. I bagged my fastest 1.9km swim time ever (36 mins), and felt like I was flying on the relatively flat bike course (I was ranked 20th of 251 on the bike). Unfortunately, the half marathon broke me and took me to a place of extreme pain, but that's why we all compete in these crazy races, right?
And your proudest achievement?
Running a half marathon in 1 hour 25 minutes a couple of weeks ago. It happened on an ordinary evening training run, which makes me wonder how close I could get to 1 hour 20 minutes minutes in a good race.
Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?
I pushed too hard on the bike leg of the Woburner Half Ironman, meaning I had very little left in the tank for the half marathon at the end. Whilst I can normally do a half marathon comfortably in 90-95 minutes, this one took me just over 2 hours, and involved a few walking sections, which I wasn't proud of.
I didn't enjoy this at all and spent most of the two hours wanting the race to be over and battling the voice in my head telling me to stop. Lesson learned - save some energy for the toughest part of the race!
How do you overcome setbacks?
I've been lucky not to experience any real setbacks in my racing so far, apart from a very minor injury in my ankle at the start of summer that meant I couldn't run for a couple of weeks.
What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?
I don't think I paid enough attention to my nutrition when I started training and competing seriously. I wouldn't fuel workouts sufficiently and don't think I was eating enough immediately after big efforts, which meant I was often fatigued during the weeks and taking naps to get through the working day.
I now realise that nutrition, sleep, and good recovery are just as important as the workouts themselves and they're all things I'm more mindful of these days.
What are your goals for 2019 and 2020?
I'm running my first marathon (Athens) this November and can't wait to tick it off the bucket list! I'd like to get close to 3 hours, but it's a hilly course, so anything could happen.
Another bucket list item I'm hoping to tick off before New Year's Eve is a 50km ultra run.
Next year, I'm registered for Ironman Wales in Tenby, which I'm told is a particularly brutal course (9th hardest Ironman in the world!?)
I'm also keen to get my Half Ironman time closer to 5 hours (currently 5:48) and my 5km run time closer to 17 minutes.
Who do you take your inspiration from?
I really enjoy reading Cody Beals' blog on triathlon, and feel like I've only scratched the surface of all the amazing writing he's produced. Like me, he's a self-confessed nerd and he tracks data from various aspects of his life and training in a really smart way.
He's also extremely honest about the more difficult personal aspects of triathlon and some of the side-effects of training at such a high level, which is refreshing. More than anything, though, he's an absolute beast and his times are nothing short of inspiring.
What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?
I'm a huge fan of the ethics behind Sundried. We're living at a critical juncture in history where we need to act rapidly to reverse the effects of climate change and Sundried is a sports brand that I see as leading the charge towards a more sustainable industry. I love my Dom 2.0 Running vest that's made from recycled plastic bottles, and I raced in my Sundried trisuit for the first time at Woburn Half Ironman last month, which was extremely comfortable.