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Richard & Sophie of TRI2 Ambassadors

by Alexandra Parren
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Ambitious athletes Sophie and Richard have dreams of going pro and deliver coaching to triathletes. They talk to Sundried about their journey.

Have you always been into sport?

Sophie- I loved sports as a kid and was encouraged by my family from the moment I could walk. I was skiing at 3 years old and doing multi day hikes in New Zealand by the time I was 6. I was an avid swimmer and always played tennis and netball for local and school teams. I loved rounders, rollerblading and always went on active holidays.

At secondary school, I was on most sports teams - netball, hockey, tennis, cross country, athletics, swimming. I don’t think there was a lunch time or after school session when I wasn’t playing sport. However, I broke my leg at 17 and was told I might never play sports again. It took me a long, long time to rediscover my love of sport - maybe 10 years.

Richard- I have been completely obsessed with sport since I was a kid and was in every school sports team that I could join. I particularly enjoyed Rugby and Athletics which I spent the majority of my time competing in rather than studying.

As I became older I started to focus more and more on Rugby, probably training or playing at least 5 times a week. I played for my school team, local town team and county. My local town team was very strong with one particular season going undefeated and another coming 2nd at a national tournament. Some of the players now play at a professional level and some of the others could have reached those heights too if they had pursued it. For me, I also had aspirations to become a professional rugby player but unfortunately a dislocated knee at a crucial stage put me out of the sport.

How did you first get into triathlon?

Sophie- I broke my leg at 17 and put on lots of weight at university. My health also suffered and I ended up in and out of hospital for 9 months having 5 operations until I was better. In 2015, I started a successful health and fitness blog called “100 healthy days” where I tracked my journey back to health and fitness. I bought a bike and discovered local sprint triathlons and my love of triathlon grew from there. Meeting Rich inspired me to take triathlon more seriously. With him as my coach, I went from amateur to winning my age group at Xiamen Ironman 70.3 and qualifying for Kona and Taupo 70.3 World Championship in 4 months. We also inspired each other to give up our jobs and take up triathlon full time as part of our Tri2 company. Now Rich is offering online coaching for triathletes that want to qualify for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship and we are both training to go professional.

Richard- After my Rugby injury, I looked for non-contact sports that I could compete in and I found triathlon. My inspiration came when I watched the Brownlee brothers take gold and bronze at the London 2012 Olympics. With them coming from a rural setting like me (albeit on the opposite side of the country), this gave me the desire to pursue triathlon. I competed in this on and off through my mid-twenties and then really pushed to be a better triathlete when I moved to Singapore in 2017. I joined Metasport tri club and became hooked on Ironman 70.3 racing and have never looked back.

What has been your favourite race to date and why?

Sophie- Zell Am See Ironman 70.3 in Austria was very memorable for me as it was my first Ironman and just an awe inspiring race in the most beautiful surroundings. The atmosphere was electric and the scenery so stunning with mountains and waterfalls and lush, green fields everywhere. I smiled the whole way through the bike ride and chatted to competitors as they overtook me. I struggled on the run and nearly hit breaking point when a friendly Austrian racer stopped to check I was OK and then chatted to me the whole rest of the way. I couldn't have finished without him.

Richard- Qualifying for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship at Ironman 70.3 Vietnam was one of the most memorable races for me. I had all my friends there and a big support crew, so the atmosphere and the race lead up was one the the most enjoyable I have ever had. I remember coming off the bike in 8th and my support crew shouting at me, 1st position is gone but you can run the rest down and that is what I did. In blistering hot conditions, I settled into my rhythm and started running my competitors down. I ended up coming 4th but it was enough and I had booked my Ironman 70.3 World Championship qualification. All the training had paid off!

What is your proudest achievement?

Sophie- I had always done quite well in triathlon without training very seriously. I came 2nd female overall in Cornwall Sprint Triathlon series one year, came 3rd female at Bintan Sprint Triathlon, 3rd female at Singapore’s City 60 duathlon. However last summer, thanks to Rich’s coaching and following a proper training programme for 4 months, I managed to win my age group at Xiamen Ironman 70.3 in November and qualified for Kona Ironman World Championship and Taupo Ironman 70.3 World Championship. At rolldown ceremony was put in the incredible position of having to choose between the two. I chose New Zealand in the end as it is a home from home and where my dad grew up. Kona would have to wait.

Richard- Lots of different podiums at local aquathlons, duathlons and triathlons. My first Ironman 70.3 in Bintan 2017, I came 3rd in my age group. I qualified for the World Championship 2019 at the Asia Championships at Vietnam Ironman 70.3. My favourite race experience to date was obviously then taking part in Nice Ironman 70.3 World Championship last year. It was a dream come true to be racing with the best of the best in the sport.

Have you ever had any racing disasters?

Sophie- DaNang 70.3 in Vietnam was a total disaster although miraculously I still finished. It started with the swim nearly being cancelled due to crazy surf, a jellyfish sting, my entire crank falling off my bike, waiting 90 minutes in 40 degrees with no mechanics around, losing a tri bar in order to use a screw to fix my bike, getting sun stroke and ending up in an ambulance on the run, using the ocean as a toilet...but somehow still finishing before the cut off time.

Richard- In my second Ironman 70.3 in Langkawi, I snapped my seatpost the day before the race. I went to the race mechanics to see if they could fix it and they were adamant that super glue, a stick and cable ties would do the trick, but I would have to wait until the race to try as the glue needed time to dry. So race morning arrived, I got through the swim, found my bike and tentatively mounted my bike... It held together... for 10km! Which meant one thing... I would need to bike the remaining 80km standing up. Disaster! Even though this was far from ideal, I still completed the race with a personal best and very tired legs. Perseverance got me through!

How do you overcome setbacks?

Sophie- Stay positive and think about how you are going to learn from and move forward from the setback (once you have had a good cry first of course).

Richard- Allow yourself to be upset in the moment but then don't dwell on it and control what you can control. Use the setback as a learning experience and move forward to become a better, stronger athlete!

What advice do you wish you'd been given when you first started out?

Sophie- You have to love what you do so find a form of exercise that you want to get out of bed in the morning to do. I just wish someone had introduced me to cycling and triathlon at an earlier age. I regret those wasted years before I eventually fell in love with cycling.

Richard- Remember to enjoy the moment and be patient in your training. Our body may be capable of going 100% for a short amount of time but it is not sustainable. So yes, train hard but also train smart!

What are your goals?

We are both very ambitious and love triathlon. We were achieving good results even whilst trying to balance busy full time jobs and lives alongside training. We just questioned how amazing it would be if we could train full time to see what we could achieve. At 30 and 32, it’s not going to be easy, and we may have left it too late but we didn’t want to look back and regret not giving it a good go. We are tracking our progress on social media #oneyeartogopro

Who inspires you?

Sophie- Lucy Charles Barclay is an obvious choice. She is just a machine and so determined. I also feel like I relate to her as her boyfriend bribed her with a puppy if she won Kona and I feel like that is exactly the kind of incentive I would want to win a race.

Richard- Alistair Brownlee. I love the way that he races. He doesn't hold back and pushes his body to the limit. It is great to see what we are capable of as athletes and he sets the bar high!

Why work with Sundried?

I think it was the sustainable and ethical approach that made Sundried stand out to us. We both turned vegetarian last year and are very conscious at the moment of what is going on with our planet and how we can always do more.

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