Rachael is a Cross Country runner who has represented England. She talks to Sundried about training and racing.
Have you always been into sport?
I have always been fairly sporty - I played a lot of netball, hockey and badminton as a child and would regularly go walking with my parents in the Lake District. I did dabble in Cross country in High School and came last in a local school competition- I find it ironic that I have since represented both my County and Country at Cross Country!! Goes to show that you can improve at sport much later in life and it’s never too late.
How did you first get into triathlon?
My husband started to participate in triathlon and joined the local tri club. I was interested in the sport but I couldn’t do any front crawl!! He wanted to attend the annual tri camp in Majorca but I didn’t want to be the only person in attendance who couldn’t swim, so aged 32, I took up coached swim sessions with the club. I went from being unable to put my head under water, to being able to swim 400m fairly comfortably and managed a few sea swims during the camp which I was really proud of. I then entered a triathlon on my return and have included triathlons in my racing schedule ever since.
What has been your favourite race to date and why?
I love London marathon- I have been lucky enough to take part 5 times and it still gets me emotional! For that one weekend, the whole of London comes together. The atmosphere is electric and the support incredible. There is never a dry eye at the finish line and I love watching it on tv if I’m not taking part myself. I think any marathon or large fundraising event is a real testimony to the good in the world and to the boundaries we can push as mankind.
What is your proudest achievement?
I had my son in 2018, and I wanted to try and return to racing competitively but knew it would be more challenging with a young family. I had to learn to be more flexible with my training and understand that progress would be slower than before, but I kept on chipping away- often jumping on the treadmill whilst Sam had a nap! I was really proud to be selected again to represent my County (Merseyside) at the Inter Counties Cross Country Championship, just over 5 months after his birth and I was then selected for my first England Masters vest, also in Cross Country just over a year after he was born. I hope that gives parents some hope that you can balance a young family with training with a bit of flexibility and creativity. It often means early mornings, pram runs or tag team training but it can be done! It takes a bit longer to make progress these days, but I am still improving as an athlete and enjoying the challenge.
Have you ever had any racing disasters?
I have had a few disasters, mainly in triathlon! Before one triathlon, a lady collapsed in front of me and had a fit. I was the closest to her and performed emergency first aid until the paramedics arrived. 5 minutes later I was poolside, and I wasn’t able to swim front crawl because I was still in shock. I finished the triathlon doing breaststroke and she thankfully made a full recovery. I also lost my trainer during the Parbold hill race. Luckily I was only half a mile from the finish so I ran through the fields with just one shoe. Unfortunately when I went back, the shoe had been sucked into the bog!
How do you overcome setbacks?
I have had a few setbacks over the 16 years that I have been running. Most memorably is fracturing my fibula late 2016. I was in the form of my life, obtaining PB’s across a variety of distances but I was, on reflection, over training. My body was tired, I ignored the signs and eventually something gave way. I ended up having nearly 3 months out from running and my return to the sport was gradual. I tried to take the positives, and I learnt that I needed to balance training with rest and more injury prevention – its important not to skimp on gym work and preventative measures. I became an expert aqua jogger and I learnt how to endure time in the garage on the turbo (no zwift at the time!). Even now, I am conscious not to run more than I know my body can take, unless I can make time for adequate recovery. This is especially important with having a young family, time is a luxury so I maximise what I do ensuring I am being consistent week in/ week out rather than try and do too much.
What advice do you wish you'd been given when you first started out?
I wish I had learnt more about training - when you first start a sport you are in effect a toddler. You need to spend time laying the basic foundations before working on speed or specific events. In effect, learning to walk before you can run. People often get injured because they forget they are new and it takes years to fully develop your aerobic capability. I wish I had started out focusing on events that were more suited to my age and development stage- I did my first marathon at 23 and I hadn’t been running long. I should have spent more time working on the shorter distances, which would then improve my ability over longer distances in time.
What are your goals?
Now that I am 36, I want to focus more on masters events in the UK and internationally, together with age-group triathlon. I am really excited by the opportunities this will bring in terms of travel (hopefully!), meeting new people and seeing what improvements I can make over various distances.
Who inspires you?
I follow professional athletics and triathlon actively, and I love an underdog story or when years of persistence finally pays off. Chrissie Welllington and Jo Pavey are two of my favourites. However, I am generally more inspired by all the great local athletes that I know. I know full time working mums with children that train every day at 5am. I know people that have health conditions but don’t let that stop them from trying to be their best. I know people who have overcome their fears and set themselves new challenges. I know people who have turned their life around, from being inactive to a role model and people who suffer with poor mental health who use exercise as a form of therapy. These are the people that inspire me.
Why work with Sundried?
I am really passionate about encouraging people to make small changes to improve our environmental footprint, and I think being a Sundried ambassador would give me a greater platform to do this, whilst also representing a really strong British brand. I love the fact you are developing new product lines that are more eco friendly and use sustainably sourced materials. We all have a part to play in protecting our planet and clothes manufacturing has such a big impact on our environment. I love the designs and classic styles of Sundried clothing, meaning that it will still look good in years to come. I think its really important to focus on long term wear rather than the “quick fashion” we are accustomed to and I hope this will help athletes change their buying habits to more sustainable ones.
To hear more from our ambassadors and get free tips on workout plans and more, connect with the Sundried Personal Trainers on our app.