triathlon coach open water swimming

Wai Ming Loh started out as a complete beginner who thought triathlon was only for elites. He now has a coaching qualification and has competed in full distance events. He talks to Sundried about his journey.

Have you always been into sport?

As a young child, I was very active and played badminton at school at club level until I was about 15, encouraged by my dad who had played since he was young. My mum took us ice skating when I was 8 and so I also figure-skated for a couple of years. Into my teens I became a bit of a football obsessive, and this took over from everything else through most of high school and university... until I discovered triathlon several years later. I had never tried any endurance sport until that point, and always thought I wasn't cut out for it.

How did you first get into triathlon?

In 2008, a friend entered a sprint triathlon and said I should try it. I could barely swim 50m front crawl, couldn't cycle more than a few miles, and would plod a 5k. I think like many people who haven't been to or done a triathlon I assumed everyone else would be super fit, super fast, and make me look silly. However, I agreed to come support him and, if I didn't think I'd make a fool of myself, give it a go next time.

I was surprised by the range of people who entered: from the top-end competitors with the best kit to the first-timers on mountain bikes; all shapes and sizes; all ages; all abilities... what really struck me was that there was no negative judgement, regardless of ability, and the spectators and competitors were all really supportive of each other.

I entered my first race soon after (on a borrowed bike- see 'racing disasters 1') and really enjoyed it. Since then I have gone on to do all sorts of races from sprint to full Iron distance.

I did my coaching qualifications so now I coach at my local club, Exeter Triathlon Club, do individual coaching, run a training camp in Cornwall, and also organise a couple of races with a friend.

What has been your favourite race to date and why?

The most fun I've had racing must be the National Relay Championships in Nottingham, when the format involved racing up to three times over the weekend as both a normal team relay (when each of you completed the triathlon before passing the baton to the next person) and then as a team time trial. The camaraderie and support from team members and club mates was superb.

I've also raced at the Outlaw three times, and for organisation, friendliness, and atmosphere it's got the be up there. It can't be easy to make an iron-distance race feel like that.

I was supposed to do Challenge Roth this year, which I think would have been amazing, but that was of course postponed like most other races in 2020.

What is your proudest achievement?

As an athlete, it was great to win my first race as a V40 (even though it was a fairly small, local affair). As a coach it's being able to help people to both improve their performance in training and racing, as well as making training more fun. As a person, it was stopping mid-qualifier to assist someone who'd had a bad bike crash- he'd sustained some serious injuries. We got in touch after and he made a great recovery- going on to represent GB at age-group duathlon. Although I was nothing to do with his recovery and subsequent performance, it was great to follow his progress and see his achievement having seen him at such a low point.

Have you ever had any racing disasters?

My first race saw me getting my foot stuck in the toe cage of the bike when trying to dismount and doing a bit of a somersault to the tarmac in T1. Embarrassing, but no harm done! I did an ironman on the back of almost no training (not recommended) and didn't enjoy a single minute of it, even after I finished. These both point to a lack of preparation, which really is the key to doing as well as you can.

How do you overcome setbacks?

I look at what went wrong and categorise them into: what I can control or influence and what I can't control or influence. This helps me to rationalise why I may have had a setback and also try to work out what I can do (if anything) to reduce the risk of it happening again, and also helps me not blame myself for things like bad weather. I try to take positives from every experience- which isn't always easy- and learn from my mistakes. A good example is racing disaster 2 above. On reflection, although my physical performance was not what it
could have been, I discovered that my mental strength was good- finishing the race even though it was about 2.5h slower than I'd originally been aiming for when I entered.

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

Find a club that you feel comfortable and welcomed in. Due to work and study I've moved around a fair bit and therefore been a member at several clubs (both triathlon and athletics). The difference between feeling really welcome or not can be the difference between enjoying your sport or not. If you're not happy and comfortable you're less likely to stick at something or achieve your potential.

Also, don't assume all the advice you're given or read is good advice. Rely on trusted sources, whether that's a respected coach, a good publication, or something else. There is a lot of poor and sometimes dangerous information about around training and injury, especially on forums and social media, so it's important to try to filter out the bad stuff.

What are your goals?

I really want to do Challenge Roth and set a new PB while also hitting my target time and would like to try and qualify for GB age-group competition. I'd also like to continue to see my coached athletes achieve their goals.

Who inspires you?

Mainly people I know personally, as I find it hard to relate to professional athletes or other public. Examples include a friend who has had four young children yet still manages to train and race competitively, somehow balancing her extremely busy life; Steve Crowley, a GB Paralympic hopeful and friend who shows an amazing level of commitment and motivation; numerous other club mates who set themselves goals and challenges to see what they can achieve, irrespective of where they might finish in the overall race positions.

I'm also inspired by those who take a stand based on their ethical and moral principles, even in the face of challenges and opposition

Why work with Sundried?

The biggest reason is the ecological, ethical, and sustainability stance that Sundried has, something that is hugely important to me. I also think that the kit both looks and feels good, especially my Cadence long sleeved cycling jersey.