Lily-Mae turned to the disciplines of triathlon when the gyms closed this year. She talks to Sundried about her passion for sport.
Have you always been into sport?
I have always played a lot of sport. I played county, regionally and nationally in multiple sports all throughout my teens including hockey, netball, lacrosse and pole vault. After joining university and having no more time to compete at such a high level, my sports interests shifted more towards the gym, CrossFit and generally getting strong. I competed regularly in CrossFit and trained twice daily for the next few years, I fell in love with the sport.
I started road cycling at age 21 where I took my first challenge on the 8 mile ride to work which at the time was epic, now I get a similar feeling with a 100 mile ride! I continued with CrossFit for the next few years, dabbling only lightly into triathlon, but with the gyms closed during lockdown I took up cycling and running more consistently, cycling 150-200 miles a week and running around 40-50 miles a week. My week now consists of training 2 to 3 times daily trying to balance all three triathlon disciplines and a little bit of CrossFit too.
How did you first get into triathlon?
An Ironman has been on my bucket list for years and lockdown gave me the perfect excuse to switch from CrossFit and gym training to running, cycling and swimming. I have done a few unofficial triathlons over the years on activity holidays or just with friends but when all the gyms closed, I thought I’d take the plunge and start training for an Ironman next year.
What has been your favourite race to date and why?
I did the Bournemouth international in September where I ended up coming first female for the team I was competing for. The support and atmosphere there was fantastic and all 50 of us were all representing in our kit together, I felt proud to be part of it.
What is your proudest achievement?
I don’t have a proudest moment really. I have been so fortunate in life to have had so many opportunities to achieve great things which I have taken and loved every single one! I can talk all day about good sporting memories all as good as the last, and hopefully many more to come! Times I have been most proud are where there have been others to achieve it with and share that moment with them.
Have you ever had any racing disasters?
Not to date, and hopefully keep it that way!
How do you overcome setbacks?
I train because I love it so a setback means I just adjust my routine but keep training. If I have a set back like an injury, I keep training around it, but train smart by adjust work load/weight/distance. I am strict on stretching and injury prevention and if something is wrong for a while I seek out a professional who, so far, has managed to fix me up!
What advice do you wish you'd been given when you first started out?
Train smart not hard. I trained so hard for so many years with no real plan but to smash myself every session. This works for a time until you plateau and need to change it up with training blocks varying in intensity and volume. I programme all my own stuff and am still learning but definitely training smart is so beneficial!
What are your goals?
Well I have just completed a goal for this year which was a 10 mile swim last week to raise money for charity, such a great day! Then goals next year are to complete an IronMan, somewhere abroad and warm ideally! Also to run 250 miles of the SW coastal path over 2 weeks (around 20 miles a day). Another on my bucket list since a child is to swim the English channel, which I will definitely do at some point (maybe not next year with the other challenges happening too).
Who inspires you?
A big inspiration of mine is Ross Edgley. He swam round the uk last year and is always so positive and bubbly, something I try and install in my own personality as it is infectious!
Why work with Sundried?
I have only recently discovered Sundried and love the quality of their clothing. It’s not just another cheap gym top I'm going to wear to death and throw away next year, its high quality and will last. I also like how Sundried do an EcoTech range made of completely recycled material, which is new and innovative, and the way the world should be moving!
Triathlon season has begun and it's the most exciting time of year for multi-sport athletes. All those hours spent in the pain cave over winter have paid off and now it's time to reap the rewards. But what if it's your first triathlon? You're bound to have a lot of questions. Follow these 5 tips to not only survive but thrive in your first triathlon.
1. Don't underestimate an open water swim
If you've done all of your swim training in the local pool but are taking part in an open water swim event, there may be an element of surprise waiting for you. An open water swim is very different from a pool swim in lots of different ways. Not only this, it depends on the type of open water, as events range from lakes to canals to the sea and even oceans, all of which come with their own challenges.
When choosing your first triathlon, it might be an idea to choose a pool-based swim as this will ease you into the sport and is less likely to scare you off! Especially if you are not such a confident swimmer, swimming in open water can be very tough, especially if it's tidal. Practice in a lake or the sea before the race so that you have an idea of what to expect.
2. Wear the right kit
A triathlon is very different from a running race as there is a fair bit of specialist kit you will need. Make sure you have a good quality trisuit that is comfortable and has the right support for you. You want a triathlon suit that has a chamois pad to keep you comfortable on the bike but one that isn't so big and bulky it'll get in the way on the run.
There are also other items of triathlon clothing that you may wish to get such as cycle socks, a race number belt, and even race number temporary tattoos. These are all triathlon-specific items that you probably won't have otherwise, so do your research first and make sure you have all the kit you need before the big day.
3. Don't neglect brick training sessions
If you have never tried running after cycling, you need to practice! Running off the bike is a totally different experience to running on its own and you might be taken by surprise at how your legs feel. If you haven't practised, you are more likely to get injured and it would be a shame to ruin your day.
Brick workouts are training sessions where you practice doing two or even three of the triathlon disciplines back-to-back. This is usually running after cycling as this can be one of the toughest aspects of a triathlon. Getting your legs used to doing different types of movement and being under different types of strain is very important and will prepare you well for your big day.
4. Recce the course first
If you have been training on flat ground the whole time and there is a huge hill on your race course, you are likely to suffer! Make sure you check the course before you even sign up so that there are no nasty surprises. Things you want to consider are whether the bike leg is done on closed roads or if there is going to be the hazard of traffic, whether there are any notable ascents and descents, and whether the entire race is done on road and tarmac or if any of the run or bike are off-road.
Being fully prepared for the race will be great for you mentally and will mean there is less to worry and stress about on the day. It will also mean you can train appropriately and wear the right gear!
5. Remember to have fun!
This is perhaps the most important point. It's always important to remember why you signed up in the first place and to not take it too seriously. Unless you are a professional athlete and rely on prize money and sponsorships, it doesn't matter if something goes wrong. Make sure you enjoy yourself!
If you're looking to improve your triathlon PB, getting your transitions as seamless as possible could be the key. Read on for tips on how to improve your transition times and get the edge in your next race.
6 Ways To Improve Your Triathlon Transition Times
Practice makes perfect
As with everything in life, you will only get better if you practice, practice, practice. If you are part of a triathlon club, transition training will be something you do as part of your race preparation. In the weeks leading up to your race, practice getting out of a wetsuit and running with your bike. It will come with time, and you will find that your technique becomes more streamlined the more you practice.
A great trick that many professional triathletes use is quick-tying laces on their running shoes. Having to sit on the floor and tie your laces before your run can be very time consuming, so being able to smooth out this part of transition can save you a lot of time.
You can add quick-tying laces to the running shoes that you already use. These laces will fasten with a toggle which you can simply pull to tighten the laces and head off for your run.
Practice mounting and dismounting the bike
This is something else that will come with practice, especially as you need confidence to pull it off. If you are looking to go all out, a flying mount and dismount will not only save you time but will certainly impress your fellow triathletes. Pro triathletes will strap their cycling shoes to the pedals with rubber bands so that they can run with the bike without the shoes scraping on the floor. Once they reach the mount line, they will jump onto the bike and immediately start pedalling with their feet sitting on top of their shoes. Once they reach a decent cruising speed, they will reach down and secure their feet in the shoes.
This is something that will really take practice, but can save you huge amounts of time in your transitions if you're really trying to save every possible second and gain the edge over your competition.
Recce the course before the race
There's nothing worse than becoming disorientated in a large transition area during a race, with some athletes running towards the mount line, some still coming in from the swim, and some crossing the finish line nearby. Before the race begins, take a look around and make a mental note of where all the entrances and exits are in the transition area. Plan out your entry and exit points and how they will flow during the race and go through the process in your head.
Once you've done this, you should be able to work on autopilot during the actual race without becoming confused and wasting time.
When every second counts, you don't want to be fiddling with a water bottle or putting on socks. If you're really looking to steam through transition, eliminate everything that isn't absolutely necessary. This includes socks! Make sure your bottle is already on your bike, your gels are taped to the stem, and everything you need is ready to go.
Identify your bike quickly
At larger triathlons, there can be hundreds or even thousands of bikes in the vast transition area. Especially if you ride a popular brand of bike, it can be difficult to identify your place and this can waste a lot of time. There are many different tricks you can use, ranging from a brightly coloured towel to tying a balloon to your section of the rack. Just make sure the organisers allow it!
Image credit: Richard Knight Photography
Since the 19th century, professional athletes have been defined as people who make a living from their sport. They are the people on TV, the ones on the covers of magazines, and are everywhere on social networks. We know them, we imitate them, and we dream about competing against them. We also dream about winning like them.
Professional athletes are the best in their sport and in triathlon this is no different. However, in order to become professionals, these athletes had to be amongst the top amateur athletes. What did it take for them to turn pro and how did they do it?
Maybe you have heard the Malcolm Gladwell theory that you need 10,000 hours of practice in something to become an expert. Well, this definitely falls short for professional triathletes. If you want to become a pro, you need a lot more than just 10,000 hours of training time. You need to train harder than your rivals, it helps to have good genetics, you need to create the perfect lifestyle with a balance of family, friends, and socialising, you need to have motivation, self-esteem, resilience, sacrifice, you need to know the right people, and possibly even just a bit of dumb luck.
As a pro athlete, you live focusing 100% of your life on your sport, most of the time supervised by a team of professionals like your coach, personal trainer, physiotherapist, sport doctor… Your life is a daily routine in which everything is pointed towards achieving your potential performance. This means constantly planning for very specific volumes and intensities during the season, planning for recovery and sleep, and eating for fuel to guarantee that the specific needs for your training are met.
Despite travelling the world for racing, life for most professional athletes is very simple and boring. In terms of money, they mostly rely on sponsors, sports grants, and governmental and institutional supports to fund their seasons. Top pro athletes will receive prize money as well but unfortunately, triathlon is a sport in which only the top 3 to top 5 will receive enough prize money to make a living. This is why it is becoming more common for pro triathletes to also do some complementary activity to have an additional income such as coaching (like Pablo Sapena - ITU Long Distance World Champion) or setting up their own business (like Jesse Thomas or Fernando Alarza among others).
On the other end of the spectrum, we have the vast majority of participants in any event: the passionate Age Groupers or amateur triathletes. In fact, they tend to be so passionate that they love the sport as much if not more than the pro athletes. However, unlike pro athletes, they have other commitments in their life such as a full-time job or children to raise. This means they will never be able to dedicate 100% of their time to the sport and therefore, their performance will never be the same.
As an amateur, you have to manage your training to fit around a full-time job, family, children, friends, and social commitments, which will affect the way you train. The volume and intensity won’t depend on what is best for your training, it will depend on what fits around your life. You also have to pay for everything from entry fees and travel to all your equipment, as well as a coach and sporadic visits to a physiotherapist. Most won’t even look into nutrition and those who do, tend to do it “half way” as it would require too big of a sacrifice and challenge to fit it in their life.
In the following table we summarise some of the main aspects that define amateur and pro athletes.
Training conditioned by work, family and other commitments
Life organised around training schedules
Physio and massages
Most don’t have or club coaches
What life allows
Is a focus to recover fully from sessions
Hours of sleep
Not a focus
Planned and controlled for fuelling
% against other athletes
Among the 99% of athletes
Among the 1% of athletes
Don’t tend to
Tend to focus on a specific distance (LD, MD, Olympic or Sprint)
Less than 70ml/kg/min
There will always be, however, amateur athletes that fall in between these categories and indeed, there are more athletes each year that could be included in a new category. The so-called 'Pro Age Groupers'. These tend to be a group of athletes that, despite being amateurs and hence cannot make a living out of triathlon, live almost as if they were pros.
These Pro Age Groupers have very good organisation, are extremely motivated, and step by step are closing all the gaps with Pro Athletes. This normally comes from a very flexible job or even some people changing jobs to adapt their life around training and not the other way round as we might expect. This leads to several top athletes that can be seen on the top of the boards competing against professionals. A lot of brands are actually endorsing this type of triathlete – like Sundried, who are represented by many elite age groupers.
Image credit: Richard Knight photography
In these athletes, brands see people with the capacity to be influential and show the world that it is possible to combine both parts of your life and perform at the top level. For example, at the last Challenge Shepparton (Australia), 4 athletes out of the overall top 10 were amateurs.
Whichever of these categories you fall into, it is very important to know where you are and where you stand. It is clear that at any level, triathlon is a sport that provides a lot of highs in your life and personal achievements. But we cannot forget that when we set ourselves a goal, whether as a Pro, Age Grouper or Pro Age Grouper, we are putting pressure on ourselves and this will vary massively depending on how seriously you take the sport.
About the author: Pablo Marcos is a Sundried triathlete ambassador who turned pro in 2018. He has achieved wins and podiums at half and full Ironman distance and competed at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in 2017.
You can do all the swim, bike, and run training in the world, but a poor fuelling plan could land you with a dreaded DNF. Read our advice from athletes who have been there, done it, and made the mistakes so you don't have to.
Helena Kvepa – Experienced Ironman Triathlete
I consume 300kcal an hour on the bike and bit less on the run. It's something I do in training as well to get used to it. I eat every 20 minutes on the bike; a mix of gels and bars, and every 5km on the run, gels only. But it's very individual and something to practise on longer workouts.
It's important to hydrate leading up to the race and eat what you are used to. I hear way too many stories of people who stuff themselves with pizza and pasta to carb load and then suffer gastric problems during the race. I just eat as normal, just bigger portions and restrict the fibrous foods.
On race day, I'll have my usual breakfast of porridge with banana and honey and a black coffee. I'll sip 750ml of electrolyte drink while getting ready and have a gel just before the start, but not a caffeinated one as, together with the race nerves, it does terrible things to my blood pressure. I leave a gel and caffeine shot in my bike shoe or helmet to remind myself to take them straight away. I leave bike nutrition in the transition bag so I quickly stuff it in my tri suit.
I carry two bottles of water on my bike. One for the drinks that I replace at every water station and one backup. I always replenish my bottle at each feed station as it's better to have more than you need than to run out before the next station. Also, I carry a few caffeine gels, as in later stages you might need an extra boost. I make my watch beep at me every 20 minutes to remind me to eat. It's better to consume more on the bike than get to the run with an empty tank.
I have another gel and caffeine shot in my running shoe for the run. I have a race belt with a little pocket where I stuff my gels. I take one every 5km and try to time it around the water stations. I sip water and maybe Redbull later in the run. I don't carry water on the run as I make sure I hydrate on the bike so I don't need as much on the run. I can't stomach solids on the run, but other people I know would have a banana or something. If there is a special needs bag, I leave extra emergency gels and caffeine shots in there along with dry socks.
When racing in hot weather, I use salt stick tables. I carry them in the plastic egg found inside Kinder egg. I never skip food; it's better to have more and don't need it, than hit a wall, as it's almost impossible to recover from that. You will never consume as many calories in a long distance triathlon as you will burn.
After the race, I try to eat well and plenty of fruit and vegetables. After a long race, your immune system is depleted, so it's easier to become ill. Get some food in even if you don't feel like it and drink a lot of water.
Vikki Roberts-Caiger – Triathlete & Coach
Start fuelling before you feel you need to! It's almost impossible to recover if you get to the red line in terms of energy. I made the mistake of not taking on enough in T1 on my first middle distance event and so now I'm religious about having an energy bar in T1 and plenty early on during the bike.
Find out what's available on the course and see if it suits you, and if not, be prepared to carry everything you need. I've got a big bento box for the bike on the top bar, two bottles on the frame and use a race vest for the run unless there are lots of aid stations (one every mile at Lakesman for example).
Practise fuelling on your long training sessions. I found that I needed two squares of flapjack/energy balls/quarter sandwich and a Percy Pig every 5 miles on the bike. I also have a swig of electrolytes every 5 miles.
I favour food over gels (although I use them for a boost) and find it's important to have a mix of textures and flavours (I go sweet and savoury). I remember one ride where I only had fig rolls and I physically couldn't swallow them in the last third of the ride!
Steve Vaughan – Team GB Age Group Triathlete
Pre-race, you need to carb-load effectively. There are lots of different techniques and it's not just about eating tons of pasta the day before the race. I use the 6 day method, which means gradually building up carb intake in the week before the race.
On race day, I get up early and eat several hundred calories; I swear by rice pudding. Then I'll drink plenty of water and eat a banana before the start of the swim. After the swim, I try to use the little and often principle. I usually have half an energy bar in my transition bag that I try to eat on my way to mounting the bike (I used to force a gel down as well!) then graze constantly throughout the bike leg.
I break bars up into my box, perhaps put my favourite brand into my pockets if I don’t like the race brand, and then supplement with bananas. I have 2 bottles of carbohydrate drink on the bike to start with and then just take water from the aid stations. If there is an ‘aid bag’ opportunity, I have something savoury and another carbohydrate drink.
I often put something savoury in my T2 bag for the run; I like pretzels, but races now often have a savoury option on the run too. I put 2-3 packets of Clif blocs in my pockets and am disciplined about eating 1 of these with water at each stop (so one about every mile and a bit). If I’m hungry, I eat whatever is on the table!
Ben Greene – World Level Triathlete
It's important to remember that heat, humidity, and race pace all have an impact on digestion. I raced Ironman Cairns in North Australia earlier this year and to prepare over the winter, I completed a number of indoor brick sessions with the thermostat set to 30 degrees Celsius.
I quickly switched from solid fuel (my usual preference) to a more liquid-based approach as I struggled to digest the solid fuel at a higher heart rate (caused by the increase in temperate and race pace).
My top tip: practise your race nutrition in race conditions (i.e. climate and course specific) and at race pace. I've found that fuel which sits well in Zone 1 or 2 during a training ride might not sit so well at Zone 3 on race day.
Marc Went – Experienced Ironman Triathlete
Hydration and nutrition are always a hot topic of conversation and one which we all need to find out what works for us. For me, I found that I can take in gels fine at shorter distances, but for middle distance triathlon upwards, gels became a big gut issue on the run, so of late I've trained and raced with Tailwind. To date, it's been perfect for anything from ultra marathons to full distance Ironman, but I do add some solids on the bike.
The biggest thing I'd say is set out on finding out what works for you months in advance and train/test with it as there is a strong likelihood you'll tweak it along the way. Think how you will manage the volumes needed on the day, albeit using on-course sponsor brands or taking your own and if you'll need to add some additional hydration storage or bento boxes.
With Tailwind, I tend to pre-mix my Xlab Torpedo and carry the rest as a concentrate in a 750ml bottle and mix with water from course aid stations into the Xlab during the race.
Also, think about other factors which may influence your race day nutrition/hydration needs. I'm an above-average sweater, so I found without taking on some additional salts, my legs tended to cramp up later in the race. Since looking at salt loss more closely and introducing salt tablets on the bike and run, this tendency to cramp has gone completely.
Hydrate sufficiently in the week running up to the race and before the swim. Eat and drink little and often; I use my Garmin alarm notification to bleep every few minutes as a reminder.
On the final 10k of the run, take whatever you can and keep smiling!
David Rother – Professional Triathlete
I usually go for a no-carb Monday and Tuesday and start filling up with carbs slowly from Wednesday to Saturday lunchtime. Saturday evening is just a light normal meal. I also reduce my coffee intake during race week to zero to have maximum effect on race morning, when I drink up to 4 double espresso.
On race morning, I'll have some water-overnight oats with a half-ripe banana about 3 hours before the race start. Then I switch to Maurten gels and drink mix and I have one gel before the swim.
On the bike and on the run, I have a set nutrition plan personalised for me and try to execute it as well as I can. Normally, during the run, it's just taking gels and every cup of water, coke or gel that I can grab from the aid stations. Oh, and of course, half a litre of beetroot juice every day during race week!