Harrison is a bright, intelligent, promising young athlete who already has some impressive titles under his belt. After winning the Sundried Southend Triathlon, we had to invite him on board the team. He tells us more.
Have you always been into sport?
Yes, it has been a key part of my life for as long as I can remember. When I was younger I mainly ran and played rugby, dabbling unsuccessfully in football and golf before choosing to focus on triathlon in year 10 (age 15).
What made you decide to enter triathlon?
I went down to the local triathlon club (East Essex Tri) initially just to improve my running. However, after they encouraged me to try swimming and I’d got to the point where I could swim 400m without drowning, I borrowed my dad’s bike and entered my first triathlon.
What’s been your best race to date?
I won the World Duathlon Championships for the Under 20 age group in 2016; the race went perfectly, a rare occurrence in multisport.
And your proudest achievement?
Probably winning the recent Sundried Southend Triathlon; there’s nothing quite like winning your home race by over two minutes in front of a huge crowd.
Have you ever had any racing disasters / your toughest race yet?
A couple of years ago I won the Great Notley Duathlon... at least I thought I won the Great Notley Duathlon until I crossed the line to find I’d been disqualified for improper racking.
How do you overcome setbacks?
By returning to Great Notley the next year and winning it by the biggest ever margin.
What is the best bit of advice you wish someone had told you before you started competing?
To get my swimming stroke sorted before I started doing regular swimming sessions; it took Gill and Dawn at Tri ‘n’ Swim Well months to fix all the bad habits I had developed.
What are your goals for 2017?
2017 has, so far, had to be painstakingly quiet because I’m doing my A-level exams. That said, I have already achieved a few of my targets; I won the European Duathlon Championships and captained the Essex Cross Country team at the English Schools, both targets of mine for a couple of years now. I want to test myself over an Olympic distance triathlon at some point, break the 1-hour mark for a 25-mile time trial, run a sub-4 minute 1500m and swim a sub-4 minute 400m.
Who do you take your inspiration from?
Jan Frodeno, Alistair Brownlee, and my grandfather, who, at 82, still cycles every day.
What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?
I really like the fact that a brand so local to me is so radical and progressive in its vision. My favourite bit of kit is the Olperer t-shirt; it looks great, fits perfectly, and – because it’s made from coffee it stops you from overheating on your long summer runs.
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
Triathlon is a complex sport and there's a lot to get your head around. Sundried is here to explain the jargon and help you on your way to your first race.
Beginner Triathlon Guide
Sundried has written a guide for beginner triathletes so that you can understand everything that it entails. From distances to jargon, this handy guide has everything you need to know. You can find the Sundried triathlon guide here.
What do I wear for a triathlon?
Triathlon gear is very specific and you will need to buy some items you don't already own. Most people already have a pair of running trainers and leggings. But you'll need a tri suit and other accessories. Check out our guide on triathlon gear for the full list of things you'll need for your race.
Triathlon Race Day Checklist
If you forget something important, you won't be able to race! So it's important to have a comprehensive checklist of everything you'll need for the day. Have a read of Sundried's triathlon race day checklist so that you can see what kit you'll need for your first triathlon and be sure that you've got everything for the big day!
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!
Sundried ambassador and winner of the Southend Triathlon 2017 Harrison Smith gives us an account of his time at the ITU WTC in Rotterdam.
Feeling Fresh and Relaxed
This year’s World Triathlon Championships were held in Rotterdam, Netherlands. With the race scheduled for late Sunday afternoon, my dad and I woke up bright and early Saturday morning, clipped the bike to the top of the car and breezed through the six-hour trip. Our hotel was situated about a mile from the finish line, so, after unpacking, we walked down to catch the elite men’s race. The pace they can sustain for 10km never ceases to amaze me. I went through the standard procedure: register, go back to the room, stick everything onto the bike, and go for an easy shake-out run to check out the course.
I woke up feeling fresh and relaxed; I focused a lot on my running last summer and my only other triathlon had been the Sundried Southend Triathlon three months previously. I wasn’t hugely confident, but I knew that if I could get myself into a decent group on the bike I would come through in the footrace.
Unsurprisingly, the day dragged on as we waited, idly watching the other age-groupers. The race was at three o’clock so I had a small bite for lunch before setting up in the two transitions- T1 was on the north side of the river, we would cross the bridge during the bike and finish on the south side for the run.
I warmed up with my usual run followed by drills before slipping my Tri’n’Swim Well wetsuit on and doing some sprints in the water to get a feel for the rather fresh 16-degree temperature. Alas, we were let out onto the pontoon and I realised how big the field actually was- over 70 guys from countries as far away as Australia had made the trip.
I went hard to the first buoy- as did everyone else- and was forced backwards in the ensuing chaos. As we rounded the last of the two buoys and began our journey to the swim exit, I was latched onto a set of feet, focusing on maintaining my technique and keeping up the cadence, consciously aware that I was toward the back. As I sprinted out of the water and into the 300m run to transition, my dad shouted that I had swam 10.40, hardly my fastest time for the 750m but not awful considering I had swam only a few times all summer.
I put a big effort in through transition while trying to focus on being as efficient as possible. It paid of as after a couple of kilometres of hard riding I found myself in a group of about eight, around 45 seconds behind the main peloton. Luckily the bike course was narrow- mainly on bike paths- and particularly winding, which suited our small group. As we worked together I did take a moment- at about 15km- to acknowledge how awesome it was that I was chain ganging through Rotterdam with an Aussie, and Belgian, another Brit and an American. We made good progress through the final miles, bringing the peloton from out of sight, to within 20 seconds as we leaped from our bikes into T2.
Surprisingly for me, I breezed through T2 too without a problem. I had a slight stich but I also had a long line of competitors in front, enticing me to push on. I was told at the start of the run that I was in 40th, hardly where I was aiming for in the back of my mind. By halfway I had passed most of the peloton and was in about 15th with my sights set on the stragglers from the first group out of the swim. Ignoring the rising pain, I focused on holding form and I raced down the last hill toward the finish, picking people off all the way. As I turned onto the carpet I was in 10th, so, with one last burst of adrenaline, I sprinted past two more guys, collapsing across the line in 8th with the fastest run time by 30 seconds- a respectable 16.05.
As we drove home that evening I was content with my effort, but excited for the year to come; the winner had only swum 35 seconds faster than me, with a faster swim I could potentially have won. With the priceless support of Sundried for my kit, Tri’n’Swim Well for my wetsuit and swim coaching, Finely Tuned Physio for my sports massages and injury treatment, and my coach- Nick Wetheridge- for guidance, I see no reason why I shouldn’t be able to fulfil that potential and win next year.