Matt Thomas Athlete Ambassador
Matt is an ex-rugby player who turned to triathlon after a bad injury. He talks to Sundried about the highs and lows of triathlon.
Have you always been into sport?
As a competitive swimmer from a very young age, then a rugby player through my 20s and now a triathlete, I have always been involved in competitive sport. I love competing, especially the nerves at the beginning, and the euphoria of finishing, winning, or realising I’ve reached my goals. I have either raced or been part of a team pretty much my whole life, with no slowing down as yet!
What made you decide to enter the world of triathlon?
It was almost by bad luck; I unfortunately suffered a serious head injury during a rugby game. While recovering, I got back in the water and bought a bike, mainly for my own sanity and to keep fit. But by happy coincidence, I regained the love of swimming and became pretty good on the bike! It was only the run I had to work on….before I knew it, with a little push from family, here I am!
What’s been your favourite race to date and why?
Ironman Elsinore 70.3 European Championships 2018. It’s pretty much the only race so far where everything went right! As anyone who does Ironman knows, it’s a long day with so many things that can go wrong. It’s also a race where my whole family came to support. To have everyone that helps and supports you all together at the finish line makes the early mornings, late nights, painful sessions and the sacrifices made by my family all worthwhile.
And your proudest achievement?
Ironman Hamburg 2019. I was an hour slower than my target time and still my proudest sporting achievement. The race was tough, very tough. Germany was experiencing a heatwave making the marathon an unexpected 33 degrees. The bike was hot, very windy and the swim was like a rugby match. During the second half of the run, the heat hit me hard. I had to dig deeper than I’ve ever dug before. It was the first time I’ve ever thought about giving up, I even thought about cheating! I spent over 2 hours in a very dark place, but I learnt so much about myself and what I’m capable of!
Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?
Ironman Cozumel 2018. This time I was ready for the heat, but a small disaster struck. Around 60 miles of the bike leg, I hit a rogue water bottle on the road through a feed station. I tried to miss it but crashed, watching my bike bounce up the road in front of me. I realised I’d hurt my hip but didn’t think much of it. I fixed the double puncture it caused, got back on and completed the bike. It was only 2 miles into the marathon that I realised there was something wrong with my hip. I was in a lot of pain but gritted my teeth and finished the race. It later turned out that that I’d fractured my pelvis. Maybe doing a marathon with a broken hip should be my proudest achievement instead?!
How do you overcome setbacks?
My biggest setback was a serious head injury. As a proud Welshman, to be told that I could never play rugby again was a major blow. It was a way of life, a circle of friends, and I loved the game. While recovery took some months, with any setback you have to stay positive. I set goals, short term at first, then aimed longer as I progressed. It may not be the case every time in the future, but with every setback I’ve had in my sporting career and personal life, I’ve come back stronger.
What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?
That not every training session will go well and you can’t get a PB in every race. Just because you don’t better yourself in a race, doesn’t mean you haven’t learned how to be stronger next time!
What are your goals for 2019 and 2020?
To qualify for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships and hopefully represent GB at the ITU Long Course World Championships
Who do you take your inspiration from?
I know most would say the professional athletes like Lucy Charles, Lionel Sanders, Jan Frodeno. Sure, these athletes are amazing, and what their bodies and minds can achieve is incredible. But for me, it’s the age grouper triathletes the people that come in at the last hour of an Ironman, the people that strive to achieve being their best, usually when there are so many odds stacked against them or people telling them they can’t. You see some people doing triathlon and society dictates that they should never be there, but they are and they’re killing it. If I had half the heart and determination of some of these people, I’d be a far better athlete myself.
What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?
Sundried have a great ethos. The world is changing, especially our environment, and Sundried are changing with it. I love the eco-friendly ethics, but I especially like the ability to create outstanding race quality kit, but not at an earth shattering cost like most brands.
My favourite bit of kit has to be the trisuit. I’ve tried a fair few brands in my time, most at eye watering prices, but this ticks all boxes. It’s comfortable, ample cushion for the bike (well needed over 180km!), the underarm doesn’t restrict arm movement during the swim and it’s great to run in! It’s also very very fast of course!