• Ironman Wales 2017

    Matt Leeman Triathlon Triathlete Ironman Wales

    Matt Leeman is an outstanding triathlete and has won some fantastic full iron distance races this year. He tells us about his experience competing as a pro for the first time.

    This whole year has been about me gearing up to be able to race at an international professional level. That meant no corners could be cut and I had to get the most out of every day. Ironman Wales was chosen to be my first professional start at full iron distance. Me and my coach Perry Agass had chosen this race as it played to my strengths with a hilly bike and run. There was a strong start list of 22 including Ironman champions and World championship qualifiers. I had a rough aim in my head with regards to position but was mainly focused on the process of having a solid race and making a good account of myself at the level I want to race at.

    The Swim

    Tenby is a seaside town on the Pembrokeshire coast. The sea swim is fairly straightforward with an Australian exit (run out of the water and back in again), which in this case was around a massive rock on the beach. This is great for spectators and competitors as it enables you to see your position in the race. It was a beach start which is a favourite of mine as it's pretty exhilarating charging towards the water without any regard for the race being over 9 hours, it’s all about the sprint and getting yourself to the front of the field.

    My first lap was pretty quick and I was sitting at the back of the lead group of six or seven. I made the effort during the Aussie exit to ensure I started the next lap with the front pack; the sand saps your energy but if the elastic breaks and you’re not there, you won’t be catching up again. I put the effort in and dived in on the feet of the group. I then found the swim feeling pretty comfortable, maybe because the spike in heart rate from the run around the rock warmed me up or the confidence gained from being at the front of the race. I worked my way nearer to the front and settled in. We passed the back end of the age group field and got to the last buoy. I took an aggressive line from the buoy and into shore and found myself at the front of the pack. I decided to capitalise on this and kept the tempo high to dissuade anyone else from coming around me. However, Harry Wiltshire had jumped on my feet and sprinted me on the last few meters and began charging up the beach. The run into transition is around 1km uphill through the town. Once I got running I overtook Harry and lead the race into transition. I couldn’t believe that me, a humble lad from Essex, was leading an international field from the swim in my first pro Ironman.

    Swim Exit Ironman Wales Triathlon Extreme Race Elite

    The Bike

    Once I had negotiated the Ironman transition I started the bike leg in third place. I knew I was going to have to ride my own race to get the best performance out of myself. The bike is an area of mine I need to work on to balance myself out across the three disciplines, but I knew it was hilly and drew from my experience of the Castle Series Bastion and how hard that felt 80-90 miles in and paced myself accordingly. I remembered being told by George Gandy, running distance coach when I was at Loughborough University, ‘Don’t fight the hills, or you’ll lose’. Great advice for this type of course. The first loop took us out to Angle, a narrow peninsula at the tip of South-West Wales. Strong winds were forecast and they were in full swing by the time I’d reached this area, making for a good test of bike handling skills. Once this area and the sand dunes had been negotiated, it was back inland where it had began to rain quite heavily and the roads were now very wet. I had taken a tumble from my bike two weeks previously in a race so was still a little cautious on the wet roads. There had also been some oil put on the corners of some country roads which made it even sketchier. I was very happy to be heading back into Tenby on my bike having stayed on two wheels for 112 miles. I had caught a few athletes who had gone up the road earlier on the race so knew I was still in a decent position in the race.

    Bike course sportive Wales Tenby Ironman

    The Run

    I started the run in 8th place and just focused on getting the first of four laps done, by breaking the marathon down into quarters. There are a few turn around points on the run on Ironman Wales, therefore plenty of opportunity to work out how everyone is getting on around you. I knew I was putting time into the athletes behind me, bar one, Andrej Vištica who was absolutely flying when he passed me. And fortunately some of the athletes ahead began flagging so it very much became a war of attrition. I had worked my way up to 5th place, which was a massive boost, as I had not expected to place this high and although the race wasn’t done I was determined to keep it. I had put 90 seconds into the athlete I had overtaken quite quickly, but he seemed to be maintaining this gap and although I was pretty certain he wouldn’t make that time up in the last 3 miles, I got my head down to put as much time into him going into the last few turn around points to make sure he didn’t want to try and fight back. I learnt this lesson the hard way when I was younger.

    Matt Leeman running Tenby Wales Ironman triathlon pro athlete

    I pushed on till the end and crossed the finish line in 5th place. I took a huge gamble this year by not pursuing a full time job and deciding to go pro instead. Winning prize money at this race justifies this decision and the sacrifices that come with it. It’s been a long season, I have surpassed my expectations and am now enjoying some down time freshening up physically and mentally to get working ready for next season.

    Ironman Finish Line Professional Triathlete

    Posted by Guest Reviewer
  • Brooke Gillies Team GB Age Group Triathlete

    Brooke Gillies Triathlete Sundried Bike

    Brooke is a Scottish triathlete who only got into the sport one year ago. She has trained hard and made it to the World Championships in Rotterdam. She tells Sundried about life as a triathlete.

    Have you always been into sport?

    I started swimming at the age of 7 and I continued that for 10 years. In that time I qualified for 15 Scottish Championships and I made all the finals in the freestyle and backstroke event. In all the years I swam, I was ranked top 10 for my age group every year. I also went to occasional swim camps, such as Fuerteventura, Lanzarote and Calella. 

    Through the years I played football from time to time as well. Being goalkeeper for Dunfermline Ladies Reserves was a big achievement, especially when we went on to reach the final of the League Cup in 2016. 

    What made you decide to enter triathlon?

    Towards the end of 2015 I got ill, this set me back a lot as I was sick for a few months with a bad infection. I started to fall behind in training and I wasn't able to keep up my fitness levels, this made me lose so much motivation because I wasn’t sure if I could pick it back up again.

    The only way to resolve this was to take a long break away from the pool and take it easy for a few months. In this time I came across triathlon and I felt this could be the beginning of a whole new chapter for me. I started by reading up on it and watching YouTube videos to see what it was all about.

    Triathlon looked to be a new goal for me, so I went for it. I set myself up to just go for it and entered my first triathlon back in June 2016, and now one year later I am training hard to be one of the best triathletes in the country.

    What’s been your best race to date?

    My best race to date has to be the World Championships in Rotterdam 2017. This was my first major race and I was really nervous to be competing against girls from all over the world. But I kept my head up and just gave it my all throughout the full race to finish 5th out of 53 girls in my age group (16-19). I was also the first British female to cross the line in a time of 1:12:19. 

    And your proudest achievement?

    From the very first event I entered I have taken a very substantial amount of time off my overall time. My first event I finished in a time of 1:31:12 and now I am reaching sub 1 hour 10 mins. That for me is a great achievement because it shows how hard I have trained over the past year. 

    Have you ever had any racing disasters / your toughest race yet?

    I had a bad experience in Wales when I went to compete in a super series event. I underestimated how competitive the field was. 

    Since I hadn't competed in a super series race before, my name was called out last meaning there was limited choice for me to pick where to stand for the start of the swim, I would have preferred the right hand side but there was only space in the middle. When the race started everyone was jumping on each other and grabbing legs and that's when I got kicked in the face and grabbed underwater, it made me feel really dizzy and I was disorientated and that's when the kayaks came over and took me out of the water. That was the end of my race.

    How do you overcome setbacks?

    I pick myself up and just keep training hard because I believe what I am doing is right and I know it will all pay off in the end.

    What is the best bit of advice you wish someone had told you before you started competing?

    Be prepared before you fully commit to the sport. Find a coach and a good club to help you train. Don't put all the pressure on yourself.

    What are your goals for 2017?

    My goal for 2017 was to reach the World Championships in Rotterdam for my age group and I achieved that goal. And what made it even better was that I finished 5th overall and 1st British female.

    Who do you take your inspiration from?

    I take inspiration from watching the elite females compete, seeing them compete at such a high level makes me want to train harder to reach my goals.

    What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?

    I like Sundried because it was founded by athletes and that means that they know what apparel will be suited for other athletes like myself. 

    I also really appreciate the charity work that Sundried do, the fact that money from every purchase goes to Water for Kids is amazing. 

    My favourite bit of the Sundried kit is the sports bras and the leggings, they are really comfortable to train in and they look modern.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Ironman 70.3 World Championship 2017

    Ironman World Championship Chattanooga Tennessee USA 70.3

    Sundried ambassador Pablo Marcos is a promising young triathlete who has enjoyed a fantastic season this year. He gives us a detailed report of his experience competing at the renowned Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA and meeting legends of the triathlon world. 

    I qualified for the Ironman 70.3 Championship after racing Ironman 70.3 Weymouth.  The run is my worst discipline when it comes to triathlon so I spent 8 months from the end of 2016 into the middle of 2017 committed to improving my run with the help of a triathlon coach. My hard work paid off with a 3rd place result at the Marlow half iron distance triathlon and this gave me the confidence I needed to secure a great result and qualify at the Weymouth event.

    Meeting legends of triathlon

    We arrived in Tennessee the day before the Ironman village opened and we decided to do some shopping before the race products sold out. As everything was in one place, I registered for the race to get it out of the way for the rest of the weekend. Despite feeling okay, I decided not to train and to rest well instead.

    Thursday started at 6am. I had a small snack for breakfast and went for a run to kick off the day. No pace or time as a goal but just moving the legs and feeling how they were. It was when I was out for my morning run that something amazing happened. I bumped into a man and woman who were also out for a run and they asked if I wanted to run with them. The man was Ken Glah, a triathlon legend who has competed 33 times in a row at the Iroman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, first as a professional (10 top ten finishes with a 3rd place in 1988) and now as an age group athlete. He is also part of the triathlon hall of fame in the USA. He not only gave me lots of advice, but also helped me to mount my bike and one of his mechanics did a pre-race bike check for me. It was a pleasure and an honour to spend some time with someone like him and also to see what a normal guy he is (thanks triathlon for not creating athletes like footballers!)

    Ken Glah Triathlon Legend Icon Racing Ironman World Championship

    After this incredible encounter, we headed to the riverfront where we went for a swim in the river and finally experienced how strong the current was going upstream. It was a short loop, about 450m, that we completed in almost 10 minutes. Looking at the Garmin stats, our pace upstream was 1’53/100m. After a couple of laps trying different things, it was time for the athlete briefing and the press conference where we took some photos with the pro athletes and I had a chat with Ironman legend Javier Gomez Noya and his coach Carlos Prieto.

    Jose Gomez Noya Triathlon Ironman 70.3 World Championship

    We then headed for food and enjoyed some tourism in Rock City and Lookout Mountain. What a place to visit! We found ourselves so impressed with the incredible landscapes and such amazing nature. We were so surprised with the trails in the middle of the rocky mountains that we spent almost 3 hours visiting them and enjoying the views at the top, being able to see the 5 states on a perfectly clear sunny day.

    Friday was very similar to Thursday. I started with a gentle run, had another swim in the stream, and took the bike for a test spin. As with all the other sessions, it was about checking that everything was alright with the bike more than anything else. For me, it also meant trying the disc wheel on the killer Lookout Mountain Climb. First impressions were that the climb was real. It was a tough one peaking at a 13% gradient but one that could be done “easily” sticking to the watts and being conscious of the length of the course ahead.  

    Race day

    I woke up at 5 am, before my alarm went off, and realised that it was finally race day. The past year of training and working all led up to this point. Surprisingly, I slept really well that night and I woke up feeling rested and ready for what was ahead of me. With the feeling that today was going to be my day no matter what, it was time to get ready. Breakfast was the same as what I had been eating for the past two months: 2 scrambled eggs on toast with honey, porridge with oats and chia seeds, orange juice, a banana, and a coffee. By 6.30am we were on our way to the athlete village. The event was organised very well and we were able to park easily only 100m away from transition. I performed some last minute checks on the bike, pumping the tyres, getting food and drink on the bike and spending some time with other athletes. Nothing to stress about as everything was going according to plan. I even got a photo with the Prince of Bahrain! We watched the start of the elite race with Javier Gomez Noya leading the swim and then was our time to get ready. Time to put the wet suit on and get the body pumping. At this point, I particularly like getting away from everything for a few minutes and just spend time with myself visualising everything that I want to do and reviewing my race plan in my head. 

    The Swim

    With the rolling start, we jumped into the water in groups of 7 in intervals of 10 seconds, which guaranteed there would be no fighting in the water. There was a 900m upstream section with the sun high enough to blind us all the way. I remembered all the tips my coach gave me and focused on keep my core strong to avoid going sideways and I guess it worked as we soon were getting to the first of the two bridges we had to cross. From that point I could take the other bridge as a reference and go from there as we had trained the day before exactly on the same place. I knew what to expect and hence tried to make the most of it. The current was incredibly strong but I had trained hard with my coach and the practice the previous few days really paid off.

    Swim Chattanooga Ironman Middle Distance Triathlon

    My swim stats

    I completed the swim in 30 minutes and 39 seconds at an average pace of 1’34/100m. Despite being slower than my target, this felt really good considering the current. Most importantly, I completed it with no fatigue at all and ready to enjoy the bike! At the beginning of transition, there were volunteers who help you to get your wet suit off. It did help as by the time I went up the 5 steps of the stairs, they had unzipped my wetsuit and I was ready to get my wetsuit off on my own. I enjoyed a quick transition in which once the wetsuit was on my hand, I ran the 100m to the changing area receiving my bike gear bag from one of the volunteers. At the changing area I only had to put my helmet on and left as quick as possible as another volunteer took all my stuff and put them in my bag. Super smooth work from them! That’s one of the reasons why racing at the worlds can’t compare with any other triathlon.

    The Bike

    The bike course was an incredible one. Tough and quick at the same time. One that showed the best of every athlete in a bunch of different terrains. We started on the climbing section to then head into a rolling section with a couple of short efforts going up 10-12% segments. Then it was a super fast descent where a lot of time could be gained or lost depending on how much you were willing to risk leading to a long 20km of pretty flat roads were consistency was a key. One last climb for 2kms and down to the bottom of the Lookout Mountain Climb from were we headed back into transition in the same way than on the way out.

    My bike stats

    I completed the bike leg in 2h 27 min at an average speed of 36.8km/h and 245W. Overall, I believe I achieved my target on the bike cutting out a few minutes from my planned time and sticking to the watts and heart rate I wanted to do. It was a challenging course and I got to transition with legs feeling good to run and most importantly really motivated for the last split of the day. Getting to transition in just over 3 hours also meant I had a chance of beating my PB, although I knew this wasn't the ideal run leg for it.

    The Run

    The run really started as soon as I got off the bike. For the first time in my life, I could experience the difference of an Ironman 70.3 World Championship against any other race. Getting off the bike, I handed it to a volunteer and ran to the changing tent whilst another volunteer handed me my stuff. Absolutely nothing else to focus on than running in and out of transition! 

    The aim was to run a first km at 4:30 and from there get to my pace of 4’00 to 4’10 to aim for a 1h 25 half marathon. It was an optimistic target and in fact I knew from km 3 that that was not going to be the case. Anyway, I got out of transition and my legs felt great. I had eaten and drunk well in the lead up to the race so I was feeling good and full of energy. I saw my friends and family cheering me on from the riverfront and that gave me a huge boost. However, that was probably the last time I smiled on the run. The day was getting hotter (about 32ºC) and the humidity was high (about 90%) so we were about to start a mental battle with ourselves.

    Run Ironman World Champs

    The run was a two-lap route with some tough hills. The first was half a kilometre of climbing a 7% gradient. I had to really dig deep to keep my pace, but thankfully we only had to tackle this hill once. However, there were going to be 6 more hills harder than this one. That made me change my race plan to a conservative approach. It was very tough mentally to realise I wouldn't stand a chance of getting a PB on this course, but I started saving energy going up the hills, letting myself go with the momentum on the downhills and in the short flat segments. I knew in my heart that if it weren't for the tough course I would've achieve a PB and that was enough for me.

    After more tough hills I was struggling mentally. This is when I reminded myself that I was racing at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships and that all the tough training through the winter and all the support from my friends, family, and coach were leading up to this point. I pushed as hard as I could but did have to walk a little up the final tough hill.

    The final part of the run was a blur where I didn't listen to my body and just kept on going. That's when i realised I could see the finish line in sight.

    Ironman 70.3 World Championship Finish Line Racing

    The Finish

    I had done it. 4h and 44 minutes later I was stepping on the red carpet and listening to hundreds of people from the city of Chattanooga cheering me on (and every other single athlete). I remember looking behind me to make sure I had nobody to slow down and enjoy the moment on the carpet, high five all the kids I could, make sure I had some good photos on my own looking to my friends, and scream one more time letting all the emotions leave my body. I crossed the finish line with a huge smile knowing I had given my absolutely best. Ironman 70.3 World Championships is a dream no longer and nobody will take that away from me. 

    I want to thank all my friends and family for being there for me through all the good and no so good times always believing in me and encouraging me to follow my dreams. I also want to thank Sundried and ProBikeTool for believing in me and let me part of their team. And also to my coach and physiotherapist who have been by my side from the very beginning of this adventure, you have made this a possibly!

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Pablo Marcos Ironman Triathlete

    Pablo marcos Ironman Triathlete Sundried

    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. 

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Austin Hall GB Age-Group Triathlete

    Austin Hall Triathlete Age Group Team GB

    Austin qualified for the Team GB Age-Group team after a brilliant performance during the 2017 season. He tells Sundried about preparations for future races.

    Have you always been into sport?

    My life has evolved around sport from a very young age. Being at boarding school I was playing sport every day and a big variety as well, including rugby, hockey and cricket. School also made me very competitive and motivated me to be the best I can be.

    What made you decide to enter triathlon?

    I was a club swimmer and a county runner and the achievements of the Brownlee brothers in 2012 made me throw the cycling element into the mix as well.

    What’s been your best race to date?

    BUCS Standard in May 2017 at Southport was a very good race for me. I surprised myself in the swim, setting a new PB and the cycle course suited me as it was fast and flat. I finished 62nd against some of the best university triathletes in the country.

    And your proudest achievement?

    Qualifying for the Great Britain Age Group Team for the European Standard Championships in 2018. I did not expect to automatically qualify as I wasn’t in great shape due to just overcoming a hip injury.

    Have you ever had any racing disasters / your toughest race yet?

    My friend convinced me it would be a great idea to enter the Mud Sweat and Gears Mountain Bike race at Hadleigh Park, which was the London 2012 MTB course. Safe to say I haven’t raced MTB again. There is a video on youtube of me falling off my bike around pretty much every corner and obstacle.

    How do you overcome setbacks?

    The sooner I overcome the disappointed of the setback, the sooner I can move on and refocus to getting back in form and increasing my motivation.

    What is the best bit of advice you wish someone had told you before you started competing?

    Just chill out and take a step back to look at the bigger picture because there are so many elements you just can’t prepare for, so there is no point in worrying. Prepare everything that is in your control and then just enjoy it.

    What are your goals for 2017?

    For the 2017/18 season my main focus is on the European Championships where my goal is for a top 15 finish.

    Who do you take your inspiration from?

    Mo Farah because he never gives up

    What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?

    What I most like about Sundried is how they value their staff, as understanding the needs of their employees will result in better productivity. My favourite bit of kit is the Grande Casse Hoody as it is so warm and comfortable to train in.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren