• The Sub 5-Hour 70.3: How To Improve Your Half Ironman Time

    running triathlon Eton Dorney

    I’m going to let you into a little secret. I started triathlon in 2012 unable to swim a single length of front crawl. This meant that in my very first triathlon, the London Triathlon, I swam breaststroke and was accompanied by the safety kayaks. I’d love to say this was a one-off and after this I sky-rocketed to triathlon success, but I’m afraid it wasn’t, and I didn’t. I entered a few more national races and the story was devastatingly similar – if not worse. I was accompanied by the safety kayak in every race and was the last person out of the water in nearly all of them.

    Why on earth did I not just throw it all in at this point? Well, I guess I still had some demons to put to bed first. Besides, I had entered my first half Ironman. Your first Ironman 70.3 (1.9k swim, 90k bike and 21k run) should probably be a nice, local, accessible one, where your friends and family can come and support you and where familiarity goes some way to help you cope with the prospect of taking on those intimidating distances. Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing, though?

    cycling triathlon Ironman racing

    In “I’ll enter now and think about it later” style, I signed up for Ironman Lanzarote 70.3, having no clue what the island had in store for me, as I had never even been. Sounds nice though. Don’t people go on holiday there? Oh boy was I about to get a rude awakening. I had never flown abroad with my bike, never taken my bike apart and attempted to put it back together again, never raced the distance before and – to make matters worse – I’d never even hired a car abroad or driven on the wrong side of the road before. So I flew out to Lanzarote and did all of the above. Completely and utterly on my own.

    The race was something else. I vividly recall almost missing the swim start as I was faffing about, and then struggling through with a painfully slow front crawl/breast stroke mix combo. I exited the water (eventually) and there were basically a handful of bikes left in the thousand-strong transition area.

    Things got worse on the bike. Not only were there barely any cyclists around, but I had never before cycled downhill while standing up in the pedals. Yep, the notorious Lanzarote wind (which I was totally oblivious to until I experienced it in real life) hit me hard. I struggled through and after what felt like an age, I was on the run, plodding along, suffering, struggling, and disliking the whole experience immensely.

    I ran through the finish line in 7 hours and 24 minutes, just over half an hour away from the cut-off. I came second from last in my age group; a whole 2 hours and 15 minutes behind the winner of my age group.

    Sundried triathlete ambassador Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote

    Why then, did I not give up now?

    Well, there was the full Ironman, of course! I decided I wanted to just tick the box of doing an Ironman then I would give up triathlon and move onto something else that perhaps I wasn’t shamefully bad at.

    The only thing was, once I did an Ironman the following year, I decided to carry on…

    Fast forward seven years and I am now a sponsored triathlete having qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships a total of five times. I have completed over 30 half Ironman triathlons in total, and this year I have been on the podium with second place in my age group at two different international 70.3 races, coming in the top 10 females overall, including pros. I am a consistently sub-5 hour half Ironman finisher with a PB of 4:47 – a long way away from that epic 2012 finish time…

    Sundried activewear triathlon trisuit Ironman triathlon

    So this isn’t one of those “I tried my first triathlon and just casually won it” stories. Oh no. There’s no natural talent here – it was just hard work, grit, and dogged determination that has enabled me to get where I am in the sport.

    This is how I managed it:

    • I got a coach. This was key as making sure you’re doing the right training and getting sufficient recovery in is basically the best investment you can ever make if you want to improve.
    • I never, ever gave up. Probably the most important thing of all – even when I was embarrassed at how slow and rubbish I was, I was determined to better myself. I certainly wasn’t competing against anyone else, it was 100% an exercise of self-improvement.
    • I found a community. I joined a local tri club which gave me more confidence in myself, gave me people to train with, to ask questions, and gave me people to aspire to and draw inspiration from.
    • I raced lots. The only way to get better at racing is to race lots – sure, you can put all the hours you like into training but if you get it wrong on race day, it’s over. I learned by making probably every mistake there is to make over the course of a few years.
    • I adopted a professional approach. Sure, I wasn’t professional – probably as far from professional as you could get at the time, but I looked after myself, and I did everything properly. This meant nutrition, body maintenance, rest and recovery, fuelling, following structured plans to a T.
    • I created mini goals. I never once imagined I’d get where I am now, but along the way I just created mini goals, such as ‘go sub-6 hours’ or ‘go sub-3 hours on the bike’. Eventually, you just keep chipping away at it all and you keep on moving the goalposts as you improve. It makes it less daunting and far more achievable.

    There are no shortcuts or quick and easy routes to performance gains (especially when you start out as badly as I did!), but patience, hard work, and relentless commitment to your goals along the way all pay off. Most importantly, you really have to enjoy the process as triathlon is a bit of a lifestyle shift!

    For anyone who is thinking of giving triathlon a go but is unsure, please let me tell you this: just go after it. Ignore any negativity, ignore any embarrassment, ignore any self-doubt – because believe me, if I can do it, you most definitely can. And in a few years time, you might even surprise yourself with how far you’ve come.

    Posted by Guest Account
  • Tom Davey Athlete Ambassador

    Sundried athlete ambassador cycling fitness activewearPhoto Credit to Nik Langdon-Ward

    Tom is a triathlete who lives in Cornwall and was lucky enough to train with Olympians while at university in Loughborough. He talks to Sundried about training and racing.

    Have you always been into sport?

    Yes, I used to play hockey up to regional and county level when I was younger, and have always been into cycling and running, snowboarding and surfing – I love being outdoors and Cornwall is a great place to live for this; me and my wife are making sure our children are the same!

    What made you decide to enter the world of triathlon?

    I got into triathlon while studying at Loughborough Uni after a friend got me to join the club. I had no swimming background so this was always the challenge but quickly realised I was right up there on the bike and run so started to take it more seriously. Being based at Loughborough was so motivational and inspiring as I got to train with some of the country’s top triathletes as they prepared for the Olympics. I am still friends with many of them now which is great.

    What’s been your favourite race to date and why?

    My favourite race of the year is always the Perranporth Extreme Triathlon in Cornwall – very tough course and fantastic crowds and support on the beach make it a must do! Gutted I can't do it this year!

    And your proudest achievement?

    Racing in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater, Florida has to be up there – amazing experience and would love to qualify and go back again soon.

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

    Yes many! But I like to think I have used these experiences to make me a stronger athlete and learn from them. Perranporth is always a tough one, as well as the old UK Ironman 70.3 race on Exmoor – brutal course with so many hills!

    How do you overcome setbacks?

    Look at the bigger picture, take stock of the whole situation and focus on a solution and plan to get back on track

    What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?

    How important race nutrition is  - this is very often the key to a great performance over an average one!

    What are your goals for 2019 and 2020?

    My number 1 goal this year was to run a sub 3 hour marathon which I did in May this year at Newport. I have since used this fitness to have a successful triathlon season and also got back into half ironman distance racing which I really enjoyed.

    2020 goals are to possibly lower my marathon PB, and do more longer distance racing – maybe Ironman….

    Who do you take your inspiration from?

    My son Noah – he is obsessed with triathlon, cycling and running and absolutely loves it – he reminds me that enjoying the process is so important to get results!

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

    The Tri Suit is great, I cant wait to use it in my next race, I am also looking forward to using some of the eco friendly run and cycling kit in training. Sundried make great quality kit but also have an very important underlying ethos to protect the environment and be as sustainable as possible. This is important to me both personally and professionally as I also work for a company with similar values.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Triathletes Tell Us What They Wish They'd Known Before Getting Into Triathlon

    triathlon beginner advice

    Triathlon is a complex sport and takes a lot of research, effort, and knowledge for those just getting started. We talk to professional triathletes and GB Age-Groupers about what they wish they'd known before they started out. 

    Paul Suett - Team GB Age Group Triathlete

    I wish I had known how to properly pace a race rather than going out as fast as I can for as long as I can. I seem to have got the grips of it now though.... well, most of the time!

    Alice Tourell North - Team GB Age Group Triathlete

    I wish I’d known how completely obsessed I would become with it! I did two races as a total beginner then went to my first Age Group World Championships in Edmonton, Canada and was instantly hooked. It’s the most competitive hobby I’ve ever had but I wouldn’t change a thing - my husband may disagree with this though as all his holidays, including our honeymoon, now include a triathlon!

    Dominic Garnham - Team GB Age Group Triathlete

    1. Quality training over quantity. Train smarter, not more.

    2. Build up training slowly to prevent injury.

    3. Just have fun! if you're not a professional triathlete, you don’t get paid to do this.

    Megan Powell - Team GB Age Group Triathlete

    I wish I'd realised how different the run at the end of a triathlon feels!

    Melissa Hinojosa - Mexican Triathlete

    1. How addictive it is

    2. How expensive it can be to gear up (especially bike-wise)

    3. When travelling to compete, your luggage will multiply and flying with your bike can be challenging/uncomfortable.

    Ian Dodds - Amateur Triathlete

    That silly 'kicking my bum with my heels' thing at the start of the run is actually super helpful and worth looking a bit ridiculous.

    Ali Trauttmansdorff - Team GB Age Group Triathlete

    That lots of people start to think you are either nuts or superhuman or both, but really you are just someone with resilience and motivation who is willing to feel challenged and push the limits for a few hours.

    Sophie Kennedy - Team GB Age Group Triathlete

    1. I wish I knew how much I would love races! I certainly would have enjoyed doing them earlier in life, but didn't enter until my boyfriend suggested I should.

    2. Don't be put off by the price, have a look around at different events and locations as prices can differ quite a lot. Also they are worth every penny anyway!

    3. In terms of the triathlon itself: My first one I'd never swum in open water before so I zig-zagged my way round the lake. It's definitely worth looking into spotting techniques and practising beforehand. Your cadence on the bike and the run can massively help with the weird legs feeling from bike to run.

    Read more: Beginner Triathlon Advice

    Read more: Beginners Triathlon Guide

    Read more: How To Start Exercising As A Complete Beginner

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Jackie Livingston Athlete Ambassador

    cyclist bike triathlon outdoor fitness

    Jackie is an Ironman triathlete who was inspired by an older woman she saw taking on Ironman Canada. She talks to Sundried about life as a triathlete.

    Have you always been into sport?

    Yes, when I was younger I was a swimmer and did the usual physical education at school. When I joined the Royal Navy I found other sports: netball, volleyball, and hockey to name but a few. I also continued to swim at a higher level.

    What made you decide to enter the world of triathlon?

    During my 30s I had a break from sport, I still exercised but not to the same extent. When I turned 40 I was looking for a new challenge and saw a local event which just happened to be a triathlon. I entered and from there I was hooked.

    What’s been your favourite race to date and why?

    Probably Ironman UK two years ago. Apart from the amazing support from the locals, it was seeing my mum when I crossed the finish line, she's my number one supporter.

    And your proudest achievement?

    I have two, the first was when I had my passing out parade when I was in the Royal Navy; I achieved a lifelong dream and seeing my parents and sister there to witness it was amazing.

    The second was crossing the finish line at Ironman UK, it was a hard 7 months training but worth it.

    Have you had any racing disasters/toughest race yet?

    I have been very lucky (so far) no disasters, no punctures, no mechanicals.

    Probably my toughest race was Ironman 70.3 UK… at the time it was classed as one of the toughest 70.3 Ironman courses in Europe…  I guess the 52 hills on the bike course gave it its reputation!

    How do you overcome setbacks?

    Probably like most people, self-pity for a couple of days, then pick myself up, and re-evaluate, learn some lessons and move on to become better and stronger. Every day is a school day.

    What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?

    The importance of nutrition. Thankfully in my longer distance triathlons my nutrition has always been on point. However, on my first long cycle event I hit the wall, though not literally I might add!

    What are your goals for 2019 and 2020?

    No more middle or long distance triathlons until 2021, where I plan to do Ironman Wales.

    But in 2020 I'm planning on doing shorter distance events to shake my training up, more cycling events. I will probably be tempted to do a middle distance triathlon… I always love a challenge.

    I am also a local Technical Official for British Triathlon, so I plan on officiating at more events and becoming a Regional Technical Official.

    Who do you take your inspiration from?

    My inspiration for getting into long distance triathlon came from an unknown 62 year old woman from Canada. During the highlights of an Ironman event she was getting interviewed whilst on the run, and I thought how amazing she was and if she can do it at 62 then so can I, anything is possible.

    My inspiration in life comes from my mum and dad.

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

    What I like about sundried is the fact you have quality products at an affordable price. Triathlon is an expensive sport and what athletes need are good quality, affordable products like those from Sundried. I also love the ethos of Sundried, using recycled bottles to make the products.

    So far my favourite piece of kit is the short sleeved training cycling top…. Wow...the quality is awesome and is a great fit.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Georgie Rutherford Athlete Ambassador

    Sundried professional triathlete ambassador running outdoors

    Georgie is a triathlete who has some incredible achievements under her belt. She talks to Sundried about racing highs and lows.

    Have you always been into sport?

    Yes, since I can remember I have been very active – football, hockey, running, swimming and then discovering triathlon at 18 years old.

    What made you decide to enter the world of triathlon?

    I enjoyed running competitively throughout school and whilst I studied for my A-levels, but my dad saw a British Triathlon flyer for some squad trials in Leeds (back in 2001) and he suggested I go to the trials. You had to swim and run and my times were fast enough to get me a place on the Northern British Triathlon squad and that was it, I was hooked.

    What’s been your favourite race to date and why?

    My first ever half Ironman hosted by Cleveland Tri Club in the North East. I was 25 and terrified of not being fit enough to race 90km on the bike and then run a half marathon, however the friendly competitors and organisers made the entire event so much fun. It still gives me many happy memories.

    And your proudest achievement?

    Winning the 2009 Ironman 70.3 World Championships as fastest female amateur overall and my time was 10th fastest female including the professional women. I was really proud of this race as due to a water safety issue they set us off as a time trial, rather than in a mass start so I did the entire race on my own, not racing people in my category.

    My 2nd proudest achievement is returning to competing after being side-lined for 18 months with an injury to win the 2018 Oceanman 5km Swimming World Championships.

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

    Yes lots; concussion from a hard racing crash in Abu Dhabi in 2014, hypothermia at the British Champs in Strathclyde, sickness during a race in Sardinia. However, the hardest one to deal with was on the world stage at the 2010 Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater. I was returning to defend my title and was overtaken and then knocked off my bike by a large pack of drafting male competitors. I fell off my bike and another male competitor rode over me, breaking my ribs and leaving a hole in my back where his pedal had gone into me. I tried to get up and finish as I was in the lead but I could not move and ended up in hospital. I was devastated, mainly because Ironman did nothing to prevent the drafting.

    How do you overcome setbacks?

    Find the positives, there is always at least one. Use the opportunity to learn more about the situation that has caused the setback or the setback itself by reading/talking to experts/watching.

    Get my head out of the setback by surrounding myself with family & friends, working on something else, learning a new skill – for example, when I could not swim, bike or run for 12 months due to a severe hip injury following a road traffic accident I learnt to play the drums.

    Avoid social media so I do not fill my head with other people’s lives – focus on my own journey.

    What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?

    I was lucky to receive great advice when I first started triathlon such as to fuel well, to enjoy the training, and to keep a lifestyle balance. However, when I turned professional in 2015 I wish I had been given better advice about which races to do. My own choices were not always the smartest.

    What are your goals for 2019 and 2020?

    2019 has been about endurance swimming and running and getting stronger off road. I have just completed a self created endurance challenge called the ‘Merewater Challenge’ where my partner and I swam the length of ten of the lakes in the Lake District which was 60km of swimming.

    Next up I have a few Swimrun events and a few trail running races.

    2020 I would like to return to the Otillo Swimrun World Championships – I raced in 2018 as a mixed pair and LOVED it but I was not prepared for how technical the 60km of running would be so I am working hard to improve my off road endurance skills to be more competitive.

    Who do you take your inspiration from?

    A huge range of people. There are some very inspiring unsung heroes in my local community who inspire me daily and then there are some incredible people who overcome adversity who go on to do great things to help the world population.

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

    I love that Sundried place a huge importance on company staff well-being and that they create their gorgeous products with a sustainable focus, with recycled material, so I can continue to train and compete in clothing that I know is promoting the reduction of waste and helping save the environment from plastic pollution.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren