• End Of Season Round Up With Vanrisch McLean

    triathlon triathlete

    In short, I’m glad I survived, it was a little touch and go there towards the end! 2017 has been a long year with lots of ups and a couple of downs. Let’s see if I can share a few of them here.

    I started the season with a duathlon/sprint triathlon combo at Eton Dorney Lake and Crystal Palace respectively. In short, it went way better than I hoped for; I achieved first place at Eton Dorney and second at Crystal Palace where I was eight seconds off the win and just missed the bike course record. 

    My first key race was Ironman 70.3 St. Polten in Austria.

    A race known for a long Australian exit swim (swim, exit the water, run a little bit then dive in and swim again), a challenging bike course where you climb a 600m mountain at 60km then a “pan flat” run along the local river. I trained for this, I was ready for this. I wasn’t ready for the weather though. Torrential rain on race day made the bike a little sketchy on the descents, however my mountain biking skills were used to good effect and got me through it. The run ended up being a muddy slog up and down the river banks. I just thought to myself that everyone has the same conditions to deal with so let’s get on with it. The outcome, 4th amateur overall and an age group win.

    running triathlon activewear trisuit

    I had a month until my next race, Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire.

    Let’s just say, the combination of another mechanical, overtraining, and general fatigue and race day temperatures of thirty degrees (most of my training is in Norway, a little chilly) meant I underperformed here. The words “who stole 50 watts?!” were spoken. I learnt how to do the Ironman shuffle that day, very humbling indeed. My thanks to the race day volunteers who took care of me. Still, 30th overall isn’t too shabby!

    Next up, the elite wave at the Outlaw Half Holkham.

    Outlaw (OSB Events) know how to organise a race, and apart from one hiccup they did not fail here. A lake swim, a countryside bike and a run around the grounds of a beautiful old English country house. The little hiccup, the wrong swim cap provided, meant I wasn’t allowed to start with the elites and I had to start with the age group waves. Partly my fault, I should have checked the briefing more closely. Unfortunately, my wave thought it was better to beat each other to a pulp rather than swim forwards. Ouch. I eventually found clear water and was freed up to swim my own race, coming out of the water somewhere in the top 10.

    Onto the bike I went and 30km in my chain jammed in my front mech! Two minutes and an oily trisuit later I was off, only for disaster to strike again at 80km - my shifter snapped clean off! After picking up the pieces I pedalled on. The final 10km were a mixture of comic spinning on the downs and praying my knees wouldn’t explode on the way back up! The run was a comparatively quiet affair.  A surprising 10th place overall and a vow to come back next year.

    Thorpe Park Olympic and the Cowman Middle distance triathlon.

    Thorpe Park was only one week after Outlaw Holkham. I just thought, let’s give it a go, no expectations, no pressure, let’s have some fun. I took almost seven minutes off my fastest swim of 2016, biked strongly and ran sensibly, and won the race too! At Cowman, I wanted to concentrate on the process of my race and not have the pressure of racing with all the big names.  It turned out that ex-Formula 1 world champion (and rapid triathlete) Jenson Button was also using this as a tune up race. Great, not! After the best swim of the season thus far it was time to execute my plan - ride on my own at a constant 300 watts for 90km. I'm now able to claim that Jenson Button stared at my rear end for two hours, ha! I put in a little gas out of T2 and snapped that elastic once and for all. My third overall win of the year in the bag.

    triathlon triathlete running racing Sundried activewear

    Into September and Ironman 70.3 Cascais, Portugal.

    Why this race? Well, it fitted the calendar and had an interesting looking course with a pancake flat (cough cough) run along the seafront. By now, the long season was catching up with me as I’d picked up one of a series of colds. I was debating whether or not to start as I felt dreadful. During the swim I thought I’d made the wrong decision. I started to perk up a little on the bike and I’m glad I did, what a course. 40km of head down hammering along a freeway followed by some short, sharp power climbs through mountain forests, a circuit of the Estoril race track and then some off-the-brakes twisty descents back down to the sea. I’ve never been out of my biggest gear for so long, tuck all the way!

    I’ve now learnt never to trust race organisers who advertise a flat run. They must have forgotten to include the 300m total ascent on this one. Oh well, onwards and upwards, and then downwards. I took a little tumble going around a dead turn at the far end of the course. After telling myself to drink a pint of proverbial cement off I went again. I held on and brought it home to a shocked 6th place overall, 3rd amateur and another age group win. Bosh!

    Ironman 70.3 Weymouth was the season finale two weeks later.

    Man I was over it, I so didn’t want to race. I just wanted to eat pizza and drink beer but Ironman race entries don’t come cheap so you better use it or lose it! I got my act together, packed my bags and headed south. The swim in Weymouth Bay can be described by two words, ‘washing’ and ‘machine’. That was a tough one. I couldn’t see the buoys and kept thinking “I’m on my own, I’ve gone off course!”, until a wave came and threw me into another poor soul fighting for survival in the English Channel.

    I started the bike numb. My hands were numb, my feet were numb, even my chest went numb. Is that even possible?! For the first 40km I had to change both sets of gears with my right hand, my left hand was useless. I’ll admit to a moment of weakness here, I considered climbing off my bike and waiting for the broom wagon to carry me and my club feet back to town. Luckily the air temperature started to rise and with that so did my body temperature which allowed me to up the intensity and start dropping some wattage bazookas.

    The run course at Weymouth is actually pancake flat, but also very windy. Three laps out and back, head wind, tail wind. It’s a great course for supporters as it’s up and down the beach promenade past the classic British beach huts. It turned out to be a tough one but I got it done. I’m really pleased I fought through this one as I ended up having a lot of fun trying to give a young lad lessons in how to say my name twice each lap, ”no it’s not Varnish, try again!”. 14th overall, 4th amateur and one final age group victory in the bag. 

    Sundried activewear triathlon season report

    So that’s 2017 in all its flavours.

    Some races in beautiful places, some unenviable weather, far too many mechanicals (I’ve now been bike shopping) a couple of victories and plenty of age group podiums along the way. I can happily say I have eaten both pizza and drank beer, I’ve caught up with neglected friends, pedalled my bike without a power meter attached and even watched a fair few episodes of Star Trek (not even embarrassed a little). Pre-season training is looming on the horizon and the urge to open Training Peaks is creeping up on me. Strangely enough I really can’t wait. Let’s hope for more of the same in 2018.

    I have to say a special thanks to my fiancée for supporting me through all this even though she already has a full plate and crushes it at most of the same races too, my coach Terry Collins at Triforfitness whose diet of tough love always sees me right, and finally to Sundried for making sure I always look the part even when things may not go to plan.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Alice Hector Triathlete

    Alice Hector triathlete triathlon Ironman running Sundried ambassador

    Alice Hector is one of Sundried's sponsored professional athletes and has been competing professionally in triathlon since 2014. She has won Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote as well as the Israman triathlon among many others. She was crowned Ironman 70.3 champion in Ruegen in a course record time, is two-times Israman champion, and has collected wins and podiums at several 70.3 and full Iron distance races.

    She has been both Scottish Triathlon and Duathlon Champion, was the fastest amateur overall at the World Sprint Championships in 2013, and enjoyed an unbroken run of ultra-marathon victories from 2010-2012; a sport which she plans to return to with full force in the future. Aside from triathlon, Alice is a freelance copywriter and fitness model. She talks to us about her long and prosperous career.

    How did you get into triathlon?

    I swam and ran for the County as a child and wanted to be an elite athlete at both distance running and sprint swimming. My coaches tried to get me into triathlon but I thought it sounded like a silly sport so put it off for ages.

    When I got to Loughborough University, I approached the swim coach who promptly told me I would only be good for their 4th team, and to go and do triathlon. I could avoid it no longer. Desperate to be an elite at something, the journey started aged 19.

    I fell out of love with triathlon after a few years of taking it too seriously. I stopped, got a job and did the ‘living for the weekend’ thing for 6 years, but there was no real satisfaction in that. To keep ‘my toe in’ whilst working, ultra-marathon was my new sport. I only did a couple of years of it and won the 5 I did: the furthest being 100 miles in one day. I got injured (as you would) and was swimming and cycling a bit which also coincided with a move to Windsor in 2012, where I met lots of ‘triathlonny’ people who were actually pretty fun! Hence my relationship with EVO tri club was born and remains to this day. I decided to go for the World AG champs, won that in 2013, and never looked back. I’m loving this ‘second wind’ – it feels like I’m doing it my way this time, and it’s starting to work!

    Having said that I want to know my limits with ultra running, so will definitely look to return to that once I am too old and slow to be a pro.

    What are your top tri tips for anyone new to the sport?

    1. Join a club. Experiences are far better when shared with friends, and you’ll learn a lot too.
    2. Triathlon has so many facets to it that it can easily become obsessive. It’s important to maintain friendships and relationships outside of the sport and not become one-dimensional and boring.
    3. There will be good days and bad. Try not to get too high when it goes well and too low when it doesn’t. The nature of sport is that it’s unpredictable, so go with the flow, and try and learn from every experience.
    4. Stick at it! You’ll be amazed how far you come but it takes a bit of time. A lot of coaches say never to look back, just look forward. For me, remembering from whence I came is a vital part of keeping my motivation intact.

    How much time do you spend training?

    Totally varies. This week I’ve only done about 6 hours as I’ve had a cold! A typical week tops out at around 20-25 but I don’t really count. I’m not huge into volume and find regular, quality sessions work best for me, then I simply add in a few long rides as an aerobic boosters before any race at or above 70.3 distance.

    Alice Hector Ironman

    What are your favourite exercises?

    I like the hardest interval wattbike sessions so anything with repeats of 1,2 or 3 minutes when I’m right on the limit. The same with treadmill sessions: I like short interval repeats, repeated over and over! I prefer the treadmill as it sets the pace for you and all you have to do is not fall off.

    However, were all my sessions to be indoors I would most definitely get cabin fever, so a breath of fresh air is a wonderful thing too. Windsor has great open water swimming venues in the summer and I like the freedom of being able to do my own swimming training uninterrupted.  

    Do you have a pre race routine to get yourself motivated?

    I certainly don’t need motivating any more at big races – they are nerve-wracking enough.

    I find it best not to have a ‘must-do’ routine as this can get you stressed in a new place. I had it in my head a year ago that I needed to swim the day before a race to keep ‘the feel’ alive, so we would end up trekking into various squalid lagoons or driving a long way to go to a pool. Then I didn’t bother one race and the outcome was no different. So it’s a case of ‘whatever’ now, to an extent.

    I do lots of mobility exercises that I can do anywhere, and chill out as much as possible. A few minutes at race pace the day before the race sees me good.

    Who are your fitness heroes?

    Sadly, I have banished heroes from my life as I was a massive Lance Armstrong/100 m sprinting fan as a child and that got spoiled. I do love the stories on social media about older people running long or fast or being gymnastic at 90 – they amaze me and I hope I am fortunate enough to emulate them in some way one day.

    Alice Hector Triathlete Running

    What do you like most about Sundried?

    The Sundried brand looks great, for starters. I like the vibe of the team: positive, creative types that buy into my skillset as an athlete and brand.

    Sundried mirrors to a great extent the qualities that are required to succeed in elite sport: they take no shortcuts, use quality products, and there’s a real attention to detail with the little things, such as packaging, stitching, fabrics, and overall presentation. They’re extremely ethical and are setting the standard for other clothing brands to aspire to.


    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Helene Wright Athlete Ambassador

    helene wright triathlon running

    Helene is an extremely competitive person who once chased a cyclist who wasn't even part of the race! She talks to Sundried about life as a triathlete and duathlete. 

    Have you always been into sport?

    I have always been into sport, but not always duathlon. My main passion growing up was horse riding, where I won my first trophy at the age of three. This passion continued throughout my teenage years and I won individual and team silver at the BUCS National Championships representing the University of Nottingham in 2010. Post uni, and moving into the ‘real’ working world, I found I had limited time to look after a horse so began running and joined my local club. For a good few years I would have described myself as a non-competitive social runner and dabbled with various distances and enjoyed taking part in club events. It was only in 2016 that I ventured into the multi-sport world.

    What made you decide to enter the world of triathlon?

    Having been plagued with running-based injuries for over a year, I bought my first road bike in May 2016 to begin cross training. Having gotten over my first few cleat incidents (it happens to us all), I began to really enjoy cycling – maybe even more so than running!?  In September 2016, a group of my running club were doing London Duathlon and encouraged me to enter. I did and loved it. More surprisingly, I finished 2nd in my age category and was one of the fastest women on the bike, sparking realisation that maybe I stood the chance of progressing further within the world of duathlon. I love pushing myself so set myself the challenge of trying to qualify for the age group GB duathlon team.

    In terms of triathlon, I have never really swum ‘properly’ before but peer pressure (plus my competitive head couldn’t let me miss an event which 28 of my club mates were doing) meant I entered my first pool-based sprint triathlon this spring. Four weeks of swimming coaching later and I completed my first tri, finishing 11/265 ladies! I thought I would hate it, but in reality I loved it can’t wait to do my next one at the end of April this year.  

    What’s been your favourite race and why?

    My favourite race has got to be my first ever duathlon in London in 2016. It was the first time I had ‘raced’ on my bike and I will never forget the buzz and rush of adrenaline I experienced whizzing around Richmond Park. Yes the second run hurt, they always do, but the grin I had when I crossed the finish line remained for hours afterwards.

    And your proudest achievement?

    My proudest achievement most definitely has to be when I finished 3rd in my age group at Bedford Duathlon and accomplished my goal for the 2017 season – qualifying to represent the Age Group GB team in Ibiza at the European Duathlon Championships 2018. I was over the moon!

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

    I have had two major disasters, and they both just prove the fact I have zero sense of direction…

    The first was during my second ever duathlon. About ¾ of the way around the bike course I saw another man cycling up ahead. My competitive head took over and I desperately wanted to pass him. We approached some cross roads and the man turned left, so I followed. It was only when I caught him up, having cycled down a steep hill, I realised he didn’t have a number on so wasn’t even part of my race! To top it off, there were no directional arrows anywhere to be seen – I had followed this man off course and had to climb back up the hill to get back on course. I somehow still finished 2nd lady so was kicking myself thinking I could have thrown away my chances of winning the race.

    The second was during a local mid-week evening TT. The last thing the starter asked me before I set off was ‘do you know the route?’ I responded confidently saying ‘yes, it’s on my Garmin anyway’. 30 minutes later I was in a pub car park, miles off course, using a stranger's phone to ring my partner to come and save me. How embarrassing. Moral of the story, if you have no sense of direction, don’t rely on your Garmin to direct you or at least make sure you load the route onto it correctly!

    How do you overcome setbacks?

    I am a pretty optimistic person, so I generally always think about the positives in any situation – something that has been instilled into me from an early age. I have also always had the mantra of if you have no control over it then don’t let it worry you. Some things do happen for a reason, just make sure you learn from them and do the best you can in that situation.

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

    Don’t spend your time comparing yourself to others. We are all unique – we have different strengths and weakness and what works for some may not work for you! Spend time on developing yourself – becoming the best you can be.

    What are your goals for 2018?

    Having found a sport I love, I now want to continue improving and become the best I can be, but most importantly continue enjoying myself! My focus this year is on the European Duathlon Championships in Ibiza this October where it would be a dream come true to finish in the top 10 in my age group and make my parents proud who are flying over to support me. In the longer term, I have also got my sights set on qualifying for the World Age Group Duathlon Championships 2019 with the qualifying races taking place in spring and autumn this year.

    Who do you take your inspiration from?

    I am really lucky to be a member of Spa Striders who (I think) are the most supportive and inclusive running club I know. No matter what level you are, you are made to feel special giving you the confidence to succeed in all you do. So really, I take inspiration from all of the wonderful Striders, who in their own individual ways have achieved amazing things over the years I have been a member.

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

    Being a qualified and very passionate environmental and sustainability specialist, I love Sundried’s products which are made from recycled materials such as the Grivola loose flowing yoga top which is made from 100% recycled materials including ground coffee beans (how cool is that!) and I am really looking forward to purchasing their newly launched Piz Fora women's training vest ready for summer training in the sun. Sustainability is something that means a lot to me, so I am very pleased to be a brand ambassador for a company that prides itself in being a low carbon, sustainable and ethical company.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Hever Castle Triathlon 2017 | Race Report

    Hever Castle Triathlon Triathlete Racing

    Austin Hall is a Sundried ambassador who completed the Sprint Plus (Henry VIII) distance triathlon at Hever Castle. He tells us about his experience.

    The last race of the season.

    Sprint Plus – 800m Swim - 40km Bike - 8km Run

    Race Result – 5th Overall, 2nd Age Group, Time: 2hr 12

    Registration and Organisation

    Hever Castle Triathlon was an important race for me as it was the last race of the season. My first impressions of a Castle Series Triathlon weren’t the best as the road directions to the car park were not clear and therefore took a further 30 minutes than expected to find the car park.

    Once there, registration was straight forward and I was soon into transition, but behind schedule. Transition was packed and they didn’t allow you much transition space so the layout of my transition area was different to normal. That said, I did manage to rack in a good position.

    By the time I had racked and sorted my kit out it was already 0700 and just 45 minutes until the race brief, so that only gave me 30 minutes warm up time. I wasn’t used to being rushed for warming up and when walking to the race brief I just didn’t feel sufficiently prepared for the start. Start time was scheduled for 0800, but we didn’t start until around 0810, and in that time I felt my body start to cool down and I wasn’t as switched on as I should have been.

    The Swim

    Hearing the starter in the water was challenging and my reaction was therefore slow off the line. But I swam hard and fast, but controlled and managed to get myself into 3rd and more importantly onto the feet of the person in second. I have practised drafting a lot during training sessions back at Loughborough, but never been quite able to make it stick during races, so I used the draft to my maximum advantage.

    Hever Castle Triathlon Swimming Race

    The Bike

    I held onto 3rd (new 800m swim PB) and after a smooth transition found myself in 1st place heading out onto the road. I had done some research into the course at Hever, but it was a lot harder than I expected. It was a very undulating course, with some long medium-gradient climbs. I found it difficult to sustain periods on the aerobars due to the constant climbing and wasn’t confident in my bike handling to stay down on the bars on the descents and corners. The second lap of 20km seemed to drag on but after checking my watch, I was around about where I expected to be.

    Hever Castle Triathlon Triathlete Cycling Race

    The Run

    The bike into transition is horrible, as it is about 150m on gravel and then grass, but I had a great dismount and good transition to the run. That was when it all started to fall apart. The hills on the bike had just taken it all out of my legs and it was the worst feeling I have experienced running from the bike. To make matters worse, I hadn’t sufficiently researched the run course and wasn’t expecting it to be pretty much like a cross country circuit. I just tried to keep my pace as best as I could and managed to come home in 5th overall and 2nd in the age group.

    Final Thoughts

    In review, it was the toughest race I have completed. I was very disappointed in my run because I felt training had been going well. But after sitting down with my coach a week later we discussed that my programme should have been altered to get used to the hills. So I have learnt a lot from the race, being that I need to do more research into the course, adjust training accordingly and improve bike handling.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Rachel Hawker Athlete Ambassador

    cycling road bike uphill athlete race

    Rachel knew she loved triathlon from her very first race and is now qualified for the Ironman 70.3 Age Group Championships. She talks to Sundried about training and racing.

    Have you always been into sport?

    No, I have always loved being outside but was never particularly into sport until I was about 16. I lived by the sea growing up and loved swimming but there were no swim clubs near me so I wasn’t a ‘swimmer’ as such. I was particularly terrible at ball sports. Then when I was about 16 I started running a bit; I told my dad I wanted to get fit and he told me to run up the hill outside our house thirty times before school so I did that twice a week for a while with the reps growing every time. I did a few running races and one triathlon around the same time. After I came 2nd in a nearby 5k road racing league, a couple of people in the community started a middle distance athletics group for me and a couple of other girls. Since then I’ve been an athlete of one kind or another.

    What made you decide to enter the world of triathlon?

    I did a triathlon on a borrowed road bike as one of my first ever sports events at 16 after being encouraged by family friends who were part of the local tri club. It was just a local race but I won it and absolutely loved it. My parents bought me a road bike because I was ‘definitely’ going to do triathlon. Immediately after this, I decided I was going to be a runner instead.

    After a couple of years running competitively in Ireland, I came to the UK for uni. I had a lot of injuries and was a bit disenfranchised with athletics, in particular I never really enjoyed track racing. I still loved swimming and I used to ride my bike to unwind after bad races, so at the Sports Fair I joined both the Athletics and Triathlon clubs. The Triathlon club had more training sessions so instinctively I ended up doing more triathlon than athletics and it just sort of took over.

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

    Hell of the West on the west coast of Ireland is an incredible race. It’s a really tough course right on the coast in some of the most beautiful scenery you could find. I also love sea swims, they’re so much nicer than wading through muddy rivers or lakes.

    And your proudest achievement?

    Winning Outlaw Holkham this year was amazing. The race itself ended in a really close finish which was so exciting. I love sprint finishes because they give you the motivation and opportunity to completely empty yourself at the end of a race. It was also my first time winning a race that had a tape to ‘break’ so that was great too!

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

    I crashed on some slurry on the road once mid-race, so gross! They warned us beforehand that a farmer had spilled some slurry on the road so one of the corners was a ‘bit dodgy’. I thought I’d slowed down enough but before I knew it I was sliding along the road on my back watching my bike go the other direction. I got up and was about to cry but then the marshal handed me my bike and said ‘GO’, so I got back on and off I went.  I probably only lost about 30 seconds in the actual race but the event was really far away and I had a 6 hour drive home. Sitting in the car with the road rash and bruises all tightening up was really awful, as was the whip lash the next day.

    How do you overcome setbacks?

    I try to see the long term picture. I don’t focus too hard on any one race or aim. That way if I get sick or injured and have to miss a race, it’s not that big of a deal because that one race was only a building block to the next one and each year is a stepping stone to the next year etc. The goal is always to improve and get stronger and sometimes setbacks are signs that there’s something important I’m missing in training.

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

    I wish someone had told me not to worry about what I eat. There is so much damaging messaging about food and I spent ages thinking that to be an athlete I had to stop eating chocolate, takeaways, sugar, and all these other things that I really enjoy and only ate within a normal diet anyway. I didn’t stop eating any of them but I wasted a lot of emotional energy feeling guilty about the choices I made.

    For me, the stress of worrying about diet is much more damaging than eating what you feel like when you feel like it. The same goes before races. I wish I’d been told that a meticulous pre-race routine is not necessary or helpful. The most important thing is to arrive at the start line without any additional stress, in my experience being too attached to a pre-race ritual almost always creates additional stress.

    What are your goals for 2019?

    I am qualified for Ironman 70.3 age-group world champs in Nice, so that will be my main race-goal. Otherwise I want to get enough solid results to earn a professional license in 2020 and generally I just want to keep improving on all aspects of my performance from this year.

    Who do you take your inspiration from?

    There’s no-one in particular that I aspire to be like but I take a lot of inspiration from the people I train with every day. People have a lot of different approaches and attitudes which challenges me to learn and question how I think. For example, I often fall into a trap of dreading really hard sessions but I have friends who love and live for them which often makes me adjust the way I approach aspects of my training.

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

    I’m a PhD student studying atmospheric science (mainly clouds) so climate and environmental sustainability is something I spend a lot of my time reading and talking about. I’m always trying to make more sustainable choices; it’s extremely difficult to do that when buying activewear. I love that Sundried provides that option. My favourite is the Grand Tournalin Long Sleeve Training Top.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren