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Louella O'Herlihy Athlete Ambassador

by Alexandra Parren

Sundried ambassador cycling bike riding triathlon

Louella started her sporting career as a rugby player but got into triathlon later in life. She talks to Sundried about her passion for racing and overcoming setbacks.

Have you always been into sport?

Yes, I've always been into sport. I played rugby for 18 years for Clifton Ladies (now Bristol), Saracens, England South, England Students and a game for England A. This was in the 90s until 2003. I then started to 'get fit', go to the gym, and started running. I entered my first marathon in 2007 in Washington DC and have done London twice (my PB is 3:25). 

What made you decide to enter the world of triathlon?

I got into triathlon in 2011 when I did a 'Try a Tri' and loved it, despite being the only person in a bikini for the sea swim in September and pretty much last out the water! This provided me with a whole new challenge of learning something new and a new dream goal to aspire to: the Ironman World Championships in Kona.

I loved how friendly and helpful everyone was, but most of all I was blown away by the competitors in their 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond. This made me realise I have another 20+ years of racing to go, which should give me plenty of time to try and qualify for Kona! I did a few local triathlons in 2012 and then joined a local tri club in 2013.

What's been your best race to date?

My favourite triathlon was probably my first Ironman 70.3 in Mallorca in May 2014. It was a great swim - an easy out-and-back so I couldn't stray off course too much - a good hilly scenic bike course and a lapped run through town. It was hot and dry too which is what I thought triathlon was all about.

My favourite duathlon was Oulton Park in October 2014. I had bought my first triathlon bike the week before and rode it for the first time in the race which was awesome, plus I came first female overall!

And you proudest achievement?

My proudest achievement is my ETU Gold medal (F40-44) which I earned in the Standard Distance Duathlon in Alcobendas, Spain in 2015. It was a truly hard race in filthy cold conditions with rain, wind, and sleet. 

Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?

I've raced a lot in tough conditions and had a few near racing disasters! Almost crashing into a roundabout going too fast in the rain in Alcobendas, to my handlebars coming loose and pointing downwards while crunching over a cattle grid in ETU Challenge Walchsee and also in IM70.3 Pula, September 2016 where the swim was the driest leg! The rain was so hard that it came over the rims of the bike and over my laces on the run but I somehow had my best half marathon time and came first to qualify for the IM70.3 World Champs in Chattanooga. 

How do you overcome setbacks?

My main way of overcoming setbacks is keeping the end goal in sight and not letting all of my training go to waste! I have a strong work ethic all year so my racing is a time to enjoy it all and not get bogged down by a set-back, shaking it off if possible. I tend to get a lot of gut-issues with my stomach often cramping up during a race, so even if I have to slow down I won't allow a DNF.

I've even done 56 miles on the bike and a half marathon with one eye closed in Weymouth after some grit got caught in my eye when I scratched it during the swim giving me a corneal ulcer! The medics wanted me to stop...I knew these roads, so no way, and you don't need two eyes to run!

What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?

I wish I'd been told earlier not to put so much pressure on myself and to just enjoy the experience. No one is forcing me to do these events, so since hearing that I now channel that energy into trying to do my best rather than worrying about it so much.

What are your goals for 2018?

In 2018 I'm trying to get a medal in ETU or ITU Triathlon as this has still evaded me, having only managed 4th as my best so far. My opportunity for this is the Long Course Tri In Fyn, Denmark in July and the Middle Distance in Ibiza in October. Otherwise my mission is still to become a 'triathlete' rather than someone who swims, bikes then runs.

Who do you take inspiration from?

- my inspiration is usually drawn from my peers, where I see some amazing performances from people juggling life as well as training. Two of my friends are Gill Fullen and Sophie Bubb, both incredibly successful and inspirational ladies, who I can train with and share training woes with so that we help each other achieve our goals. I then get completely blown away by watching the para-athletes compete as this is humbling and puts into perspective any 'problems' I perceive myself to have. 

What do you like about Sundried and what is your favourite bit of kit?

I love the brand and concept of Sundried as it is ethically produced with a low carbon footprint. The environment is important to me and my hope is that cyclists, especially in big brand races like the Tour De France, would respect it too by not littering. At present, one of my favourite pieces is the Piz Ela Sports Bra as it fits well, looks great, and I know it has been ethically produced.

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