Pablo has had his heart set on competing in the Ironman World Championships since he was a child. (A dream which has now come true.) He talks to Sundried about how his hard work and determination and making his dream come true.
Have you always been into sport?
As far as I know yes! I remember my grandad bought me a football even before I was born and ever since my life has been linked to sport in one way or another. Football, basketball, tennis, surfing, snowboarding, rugby, ice hockey, triathlon… My parents are still mad at me for having so much equipment at theirs! I just love it too much and I don’t understand life without practising some sort of sport every single day of my life. Whether it is just 20 minutes or 12 hours, it’s a must in my daily life.
What made you decide to enter triathlon?
I remember I watched a video about the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii when I was probably about 10 or 11 years old and thought one day I’d be there. For many years I just forgot it but when I was finishing university in the UK at 21 and had to go back to sunny Spain it came back to my mind. One day, I saw an article about Ironman races in the UK and thought, why not giving it a go? I won’t be able to play ice hockey back at home so I may try a triathlon and see how it is and whether I enjoy it. From the very first day, I fell in love with the sport and going to the Ironman World Championships went from being just a childhood dream to a real objective.
What’s been your best race to date?
I think I’ve had many good races over the last few years. I remember my first and so far only Ironman race I finished feeling super strong and felt I had a lot left in the tank. Also, the ETU European Duathlon Championships where I went from getting very bad results the year before to achieving a super solid performance and a 6th place in my age group.
However, if I have to choose only one, it has to be the Marlow Classic Half Ironman this year. I had a really bad chest infection that put me in bed for 2 weeks just a month before race day. I had been training super consistently until that time of the season and that illness was a tough setback. To make it worse, I suffered a back injury the week before the race so I wasn’t sure I'd even be able to start the race until the day before. My goal of going for a PB, targeting similar split times to what I want to achieve in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in September, and maybe a podium place had to disappear from my mind. I was quite gutted, but then I remembered that at the end of the day, I am (we all are) super lucky for being on that start line. So I just changed my mindset for the race from competing to enjoying it and seeing what happens. I’m very competitive so I still tried to stick to my initial racing plan, but no stress if it didn’t go well.
Long story short, I ended up coming 3rd in my age-group and 4th overall, only 12 seconds behind third place.
And your proudest achievement?
It has to be finishing an Ironman race. Not for the sake of finishing it, which is of itself a massive achievement, but the fact of doing it whilst I had a part-time job and was doing my Masters in Oceanography which I completed with distinction. I decided to sign up for the race just a few days before starting my Masters in September and took on the challenge of training seriously 2-3 hours a day as well as doing everything else. It was a really tough year but I did enjoy it all the way to crossing the finish line and proved to myself what I was capable of.
Have you ever had any racing disasters / your toughest race yet?
Absolutely! Doing things right is cool and we all love it, but focusing on the bad points of a race is what makes you a better athlete. I always analyse my races, especially the tough ones.
Last year I qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Weymouth. Everything was going to plan until I started running. I started too fast and I was racing for a podium place so we were all running way too fast. I think the 4 of us knew that pace was more appropriate to a 10k but we were all in at that time and we were enjoying it. In my case, I lasted 7k and then I had to run and walk the rest of the half marathon. I really considered giving up and call it a DNF race but my mind switched off and I kept running. I finished in 14th place in the end.
What is the best bit of advice you wish someone had told you before you started competing?
Don’t take anything too serious and make sure that you love what you are doing. Being super competitive and being hungry is a good thing to a certain level. I am very ambitious indeed but luckily I keep in mind the reason why I do what I do and why I love it so much. Make sure that the reason why you are doing something is the right one and that if nobody was to see you, you would still do it the same way.
What are your goals for 2017?
My season is about to finish on September 10th at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships and I’m going all-out to push myself and see where I am at this point of my short triathlon career.
Who do you take your inspiration from?
My favourite athlete has always been Michael Phelps. He went through the greatest up and downs and always had the determination to get back on track and do the right thing. In triathlon, Craig Alexander and Chrissie Wellington are definitely my favourite athletes for their journeys. Everyone who likes triathlon and Ironman distance should read and watch their books and documentaries. And obviously, I also look at Jan Frodeno as the alien who is destroying everything we thought was a limit in the long distance sport. I also think that all of them are amazing role models out of the sport.
What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?
The first thing I liked about Sundried when I heard about the brand was its recycled fabrics. Coming from a biology and oceanography background, I know quite a lot about the CO2 footprint and impacts of this compound in the ocean and the atmosphere. I always like looking at small details, and the ethos of this brand caught my attention from the very first moment. Nowadays you can find endless brands in the market with the latest technology so what makes them different are little details such as the ethical ethos or donations to charity from every purchase. Also, they have all the information perfectly explained on their website, which to me as a customer, shows that they know exactly what they are doing as a brand.
My favourite bit of kit is by far the Sundried Grande Casse Hoodie! It does not only look amazing with a great fit but also is super comfortable to use when practicing sport or after. I love having it in my bag regardless the weather and put it on as soon as I finish training. Warm and cosy despite not being like a proper jacket. I have also used it at the gym and training outdoors a couple of times and felt great, not too warm, not too cold, just perfect.
Last weekend Sundried hosted the inaugural Southend Triathlon at which I was swim director! It was my job to stay on the beach and count all the athletes as they safely exited the water. It was an incredible day and the atmosphere was amazing. It was my first time experiencing a triathlon and it really was very special. I've taken part in numerous 10ks and half marathons, which always have a great buzz, but this something entirely different and we had nearly 3000 spectators out to watch and cheer people on! It has really inspired and motivated me to up my game with my training for my triathlon and I am looking to enter one sooner than I thought!
After editing the content for all the events that Sundried will be sponsoring this year, I came across the Louth Triathlon in Lincolnshire. It is a beginner-friendly event with a 400m pool swim and easy bike and run course. I must say I'm really tempted to enter! It takes place on Sunday the 3rd of September which is only 2 months way. Will I be ready by then?
I think that my fitness is certainly up to finishing a triathlon at this point, especially a shortened course featuring a pool swim, but I still need to have swimming lessons! I haven't even attempted the front crawl since I was 10 years old. Eek! I also need to step up my cycle training, but I am being left frustrated as it's so hard to get up any speed in Southend due to pedestrians walking out in front of me on the cycle path and angry motorists interrupting any cycling I do on the roads. I shall power on though.
My running is going amazingly though, and with my new Garmin Forerunner 735XT watch I did a lactate threshold test and have also determined my VO2 max (which is pretty good if I do say so myself!) I'm hoping to achieve a new 5k PB soon, although now that I'm finding running easier I need to make sure I don't sprint off too quick and burn out after a mile!
I'm hoping to make up my mind about entering the Louth Triathlon soon, with the only thing being it would come before the duathlon I have entered, which was supposed to be a toe-dip into the world of multi-sport competing and give me an idea of how it feels. However, at this point I do feel like I don't really need to ease myself in too much and that I'd manage it okay. That's another feeling of confidence that came from watching all the competitors at the Sundried Southend Triathlon, as we had racers from all walks of life from professional triathletes to people who had never done one before and turned up on a mountain bike!
I'm guilty of having 'yolo' moments so chances are I will end up entering the triathlon in September, in which case things are about to get intense! Stay tuned for more, it may be time to get the swimsuit out of retirement!
Read the next instalment - Couch To Triathlon (8) - Training Adventures
Lauren Steadman is a young Paralympian who has a number of incredible achievements under her belt. She competed at the Paralympic Games in Rio in 2016 and is now preparing for Tokyo 2020. I was fortunate enough to be able to interview her at an exclusive Garmin launch event, and she tells me about her inspirations, her motivations, and life as an elite athlete.
Your journey to becoming a triathlete started at a very young age, did you always know you wanted to be a triathlete?
I started when I was 11 as a swimmer, and competed at 2 paralympic games as a swimmer. After London 2012, I decided to make the transfer across to triathlon. At that time it wasn’t a paralympic sport so I trained hard for 3 years, then won the 2 World Titles and 4 European titles, then competed in Rio 2016. I never dreamt I’d be a triathlete, but I’ve always been a cross-trainer and good at all 3 sports, so it just all fell into place. And while there’s still a hell of a lot for me to improve on, it’s going alright so far!
You’ve accomplished some amazing things, what was your proudest moment?
Out of triathlon probably the first world title. I think the first time you qualify for the paralympic games and your first world champion medal is always the best. You can qualify again but it’ll never be your first one. All my family was there and I won by 3 and a half minutes so it was a really good win. It makes you more determined to win the title and work harder to stay ahead of the rest of the world.
What’s an unusual fact we might not know about you?
That I like to dance salsa; I’ve been doing it for about 4 years and I teach now as well. I got into it because my psychologist said that sport is no longer your hobby it’s your career, so you need something outside of that to enjoy. One day when I was walking home from uni I saw salsa dancing advertised every Wednesday, so I gave it a try and the rest is history! It’s a chance not to think about the stress of competing and to just enjoy dancing.
What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
I would probably say to get over my fear of open water. I really really don’t like open water, even in a lake I’m pretty damn sure there’s a great white! I’m confident in a pool, I’ve done it my whole life, so just to enjoy being in open water and get it done. If you get eaten, you get eaten!
Do you follow a specific nutrition plan? If so, what/when do you eat?
Because I’ve been an elite athlete since I was 11 it’s ingrained for me to eat healthily. I do watch what I eat but as a triathlete, I expend a vast amount of calories so I can enjoy eating lots. I have favourites, I love eggs, avocados, and I do love meat - I actually lived in South Africa when I was younger - so I love my meat.
What has been your toughest race?
Probably the toughest race was Rio, purely because I’ve never made a mistake as big as I made then. I was proud of how I came back from that but it was very tough to deal with the fact that I’d been as prepared as I could and something that I could’ve controlled went wrong. I was proud of my reaction to it, but it was tough to deal with the fact it had not gone how it was supposed to.
What are your goals now? What’s next on the horizon for you?
So this year was predominantly just to finish my masters, I want a distinction in it. I will race, Europeans and worlds are on the cards, but my main focus was getting my dissertation finished. I’ll give it my best shot, training hasn’t been optimal, but I’ve got 3 years to get back on track.
Can you talk me through your training regime?
I tend to work with my coach Sam Warriner, and we train in a 4-week split with 1 week swimming, 1 week cycling, 1 week running, then 1 week resting; when the intensity drops but the volume doesn’t. I also do 3 gym sessions a week. I have a good level of swimming from being a swimmer but I still swim 3 times a week and do a long bike ride every 2 weeks, which is anything up to 4 hours.
You’re studying for a master's in business, how do you balance training and a social life?
It was something that I had to learn; leading up to London 2012 I didn’t do it very well, I prioritised training but I now believe happy Lauren equals happy athlete. You have to make sacrifices but you have to be around people who understand and are supportive which I am.
What’s the ultimate goal for you?
Probably just to be happy. Just because so many things bring me happiness but I really want to feel a sense of achievement in myself. Maybe to regain titles that I let slip last year with my crash and swimming the wrong way, but mostly just happiness.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
Lots of people have inspired me at different stages in my career; when I was younger I was at a caravan park with my grandparents and I watched Dame Kelly Holmes win her two golds, and then last year when I got back from Rio, her and I were put together on a panel for a question and answer session and I was just like “wow, I watched you all those years ago in 2004 thinking I can be like that, I can be like her, and here I am sat here with you with an Olympic medal from Rio!”
What would you say to someone considering entering triathlon for the first time?
To enjoy it, to work on your weaknesses as well as your strengths, and to find a coach who you get on well with.
Why choose Garmin?
Garmin for me have always been the secure and safe option; they're reliable, their products have everything I need, and they sponsor triathlon so everything I need is in one place. My coach can see my stats all the way from New Zealand where she is based, and I like things to look nice and their latest watch looks great!
From all at Team Sundried, good luck Lauren and we look forward to seeing you succeed in all that you do!