Leigh started his athletic life as a cyclist but moved into triathlon after an injury. He now represents Great Britain as an Age Group triathlete. He talks to Sundried about life in the sport.
Have you always been into sport?
From a young age I was always active, spending most of my time outside on my bike, playing football or climbing trees! It wasn’t until secondary school that I began to focus on sport properly. I had a great PE teacher who allowed friends and I to ride bikes during his lesson.
Following that I started racing mountain bikes at local cross-country races and ended up riding XC and downhill all over the UK and France for my local bike shop and Pace Racing. I was away most weekends, my parents even nicknamed me “The Lodger” because they never saw me! It was a fun time experienced with great friends.
What made you decide to enter the world of triathlon?
I got into triathlon following an achilles rupture in 2011. As part of my rehabilitation I started looking at other sports and on the advice of my physiotherapist I started swimming and running which I began to enjoy. Having regained some strength and as a training goal I decided to compete in a local triathlon where I came 3rd. I haven’t looked back since and my passion for the sport continues to grow.
What’s been your favourite race to date and why?
My favourite has to be Leeds WTS in June 2017. I was a little apprehensive going into the race due to organisational problems the previous year and the fact it was a qualification race for Australia World Championships 2018. My wife had also told me not to come home unless I qualified (I’m sure she was only joking) so the pressure was on. I needn’t have worried as the organisation was fantastic and I finished in Q3 spot to qualify for Australia. The main reason it stands out was the fabulous crowds! I’ve never experienced such support and encouragement at an event, I think the whole of Leeds turned out!
And your proudest achievement?
It was qualifying for the 2016 Sprint World Championships in Mexico at Eton Dorney. This was my first qualifier, so I didn’t know what to expect, it was tough racing in a quality field that included 7 times world Champion Richard Stannard.
Although I finished outside the top 4, missing out on automatic qualification, I was pleased to finish inside the percentage required to be offered a fast finisher spot, this was subject to other race results later in the year.
I was ecstatic to find out I had qualified as I didn’t expect to achieve such a good result in my first qualification race.
Have you ever had any racing disasters / your toughest race yet?
That’s got to be at the 2016 Sprint World Triathlon Championships in Mexico. It was not so much a racing disaster more a learning experience. I’d had a great swim (PB) and worked hard to get into a good bike group, I even managed to break away coming into T2, then the run happened!
As soon as I came out of transition I found myself going backwards, despite taking water on at every aid station my body just couldn’t cope with the extreme heat and humidity; frustratingly I ran the slowest 5k I’ve ever run!
In hindsight I was lucky to finish the race at all as many others didn’t, and some were even hospitalised.
How do you overcome setbacks?
Normally my biggest setbacks come when I get injured, however, the joy of triathlon is that you get to train in 3 different disciplines. An injury can be frustrating, but I try and convalesce by focusing on my weaknesses in the other disciplines.
I like to reflect a lot on previous training/races and ask myself constructively how/why things went wrong and what I could have done differently. I’m also very lucky to have a supportive family and triathlon club who let me offload a lot of my concerns and help me gain perspective.
What is the best bit of advice you wish someone had told you before you started competing?
Join a Triathlon club. They are full of fantastic likeminded athletes with a common passion for fitness and the sport. They will also have a range of different sessions and expert coaches to guide you through the various disciplines making sure you’re ready for your first race.
I would also say have fun, don’t take it too seriously, relax, enjoy your training and racing, and the results will come.
What are your goals for 2018?
I’ve already qualified for the Standard Distance World Championships in Australia so the goal for 2018 is to try and qualify for the Sprint Distance race as well. The race I’m targeting is Eton Dorney in May which is also the qualifier for the 2019 World Championships in Lausanne so hopefully I’ll be able to qualify for both.
Who do you take your inspiration from?
I was first inspired at an young age by Miguel Induráin, he is one of the reasons I got into cycling and really started pushing myself. Recently I would say the Brownlee brothers because they are not only amazing athletes but also great ambassadors for the sport.
Most importantly I get inspiration daily from my friends and family who prove that age is no barrier in triathlon.
What do you like about Sundries and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?
It has become a throwaway society; therefore, it is refreshing to find a quality brand who cares about how their sportswear is produced from the materials, staff to the final product packaging. It is clear to see that the company is passionate about sustainability and fitness.
It is great to be partnered with a brand who has a similar ethos and passion and can help in my journey of meeting new people and inspiring others to take up the sport.
My favourite bit of kit at the moment is the Plaret Men's Training T-Shirt, it’s a great cut, fits perfectly and is very versatile, I use it for most of my activities. The wicking quality of the garment is also very impressive, and I love the fact that it’s made from 100% recycled plastic bottles.