Matt is an Ironman triathlete who uses grit and determination to get him to the finish line. He talks to Sundried about training and racing.
Have you always been into sport?
I've been into triathlon for about ten years, so I probably caught the first stages of what has been a massive growth period for the sport. It's been really interesting to see so many new events, clubs and competitors come into the sport over that period.
What made you decide to enter the world of triathlon?
A friend convince me to enter an event, and I was hooked immediately due to the variety of the training, and also the variance in racing distances. This meant I could have short, medium and long term ambitions without ever feeling like I wasn't learning or improving. Its the perfect mix of being easy to enter but difficult to master.
What’s been your favourite race to date and why?
That's a difficult question to answer. I had very fond memories of Ironman UK in 2017 at Bolton as that felt like the final destination on what had been a 3 year journey moving from Olympic to 70.3 to Iron. In some respects, I enjoyed the process of getting there more than actually achieving it. That said, I also love the Outlaw half at Nottingham for the sheer speed of the course. But perhaps my favourite is a small race series on the South Coast called the Salty Sea Dog, based at Boscombe: it has a sea swim from the beach and the run course is along the promenade. It starts at 6am, and by the time you finish the cafes are open and it's great to sit there on the beach side, watching the world start its day when you've already completed a triathlon.
And your proudest achievement?
Completing an Ironman; I think it's the benchmark and pinnacle of triathlon. I love the mental torture of it and in many respects it's a realistic target for most casual triathletes that can commit to one season of proper training whereas age group racing for a GB place will only ever be open to limited number of natural athletes that can maximise their potential through quality training.
Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?
Two races spring to mind instantly: this year's Outlaw was a nightmare with the bike section being cancelled whilst we were all in the water doing the swim due to heavy rain. The feeling of getting out of the water to be told that was crushing. In the end, we skipped straight to the marathon. I ended up enjoying the run but the first few miles I was mentally done and could easily have quit as I felt so deflated.
I also had a nightmare at Hever Castle a couple of years ago as I broke my toe quite badly coming out of the water, however on the bike it had no impact whatsoever and with cold feet I couldn't feel any pain, so I had a really good bike leg, but the minute I put my trainers on for the run it was excruciating. I barely ran out of transition before I had to stop and withdraw because the pain was so bad. I wouldn't want to repeat that experience.
How do you overcome setbacks?
I think most athletes in the age group sections, especially when they start approaching their late 30s, have to accept that injuries will cause issues as the healing time is significantly slower compared to when you're in your 20s.
I lost a season to tendinitis a few years ago which cost me a couple of hundred pounds in lost entry fees. I think you have to remind yourself that injuries are part and parcel of age group racing and that your fitness will ebb and flow, I often remind myself that I'm not doing this for a living, I'm doing it for fun and it can't take over my life at the expense of my family.
What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?
Join a club. The world of triathlon can seem like a daunting place populated with super fit athletes communicating in an alien language of "bonking, brick session, wattage" etc but in reality triathlon is such an incredibly friendly race scene and people are keen to share info and help people into the sport.
What are your goals for 2019 and 2020?
With the Outlaw having to pull the bike section on my "A race" for 2019, I'm now looking forward to 2020. I'm starting the season with Ironman Lanzarote and we'll see from there but I'd likely to aim for Outlaw and Tenby for a hat-trick of Iron distance races or I may go for something harder like the Brutal at the back end of the season. 2020 will be a big season for me.
Who do you take your inspiration from?
I find real people the inspiration, I've never found any of the pro athletes to be inspiring, they're blessed with amazing genes which they're absolutely exploiting with great training and discipline, but what about that is inspiring to someone like me? A middle-of-group plodder. Their experience and journey doesn't reflect mine but people that I might meet at my clubs or doing races are such an inspiration. I met a lady who was looking to qualify for Kona in her age group of over 65s on the run section of an Ironman event, how can you not be inspired by that? Will I be able to do it when I'm that age? Who knows, but she's my inspiration and I want to try.
What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?
For me, it's that Sundried is product- and athlete-led rather than being a marketing-led company trying to create a brand at the expense of the garment quality. My favourite kit are the items I use the most which are t-shirts as they're an every session garment, they wick quickly and the seams are strong. I'm looking to trying the Eco products too as I've massively had my eyes opened to the damage man made-fibres can have on the environment.