What does it take to be a world class triathlete?
We sat down with professional triathlete and member of Optima Racing Team Gill Sanders. A former lawyer working in London, Sanders decided to take up her lifelong dream once again in 2010 of competing as a triathlete. Her path took her all the way to the London 2012 olympics.
We talked to her about latest accomplishments, her goals for the year ahead, and asked her advice for any runners thinking of giving triathlon a go...
How has this season started for you?
I've had a great start to the season thanks. I started off running a bit of cross country at the beginning of the year and managed to pick up a 2nd at the Surrey County Champs. Triathlon season has now begun in earnest and I've been really pleased with my results. I managed a win at an ITU African Cup in Egypt, a 2nd at an African Cup in East London, became African Champ in Zimbabwe and then picked up a 15th and 10th at the Cape Town and Yokohama World Tri Series races. It's the best start to the season I've ever had so couldn't be more happy!
Are you approaching training differently this year?
Yes. We've cut down on a lot of junk miles. I was doing 30 hrs plus of training per week last year. This year I'm doing about 25 hrs per week. It just seems to give me more energy to do my harder sessions harder which I think has helped my performance.
What is your favourite run training session and why?
I love track sessions, especially those ones where you are pushing hard but everything seems to flow. Race pace 1k reps with short (30sec) rest were an example of a great session we were doing over the winter.
What are your goals for the year ahead?
Well hopefully I've done enough to qualify for the Commonwealth Games and if so, I'd love to do really well there, hopefully a medal! Other than that, I want to race consistently well and finish as high up as possible in the World Triathlon Series.
What runners / triathletes do you most admire right now?
I definitely admire the way Gwen Jorgenson (USA) is running off the bike right now. To run a 32 minute 10km after a hard 40km bike and 1500m swim is pretty impressive. She is pushing the boundaries in our sport and we all have to try and keep up and push ourselves harder, it's great!
What advice would you give runners who fancy giving triathlon a go?
Go for it! You've already got the hardest part nailed. As a runner you should have the aerobic fitness to pick up cycling quite easily which just leaves the swimming. It's a good idea to find a coach who can look at your swim technique. Improving your technique will help you go much faster than thrashing out lengths down the pool. Joining a triathlon club with a properly qualified coach is a good idea as you'll be surrounded by like minded people as well as enjoying the expertise of a coach.
Similarly, what advice would you give about staying active and competitive as one grows older?
Well personally I think triathlon/cross training is great as its a bit kinder on your joints than only doing weight bearing activities such as running. Mixing it up a bit will also give your body an all over workout. Swimming is great for strengthening back muscles etc. I don't think you need to place a limit on your capabilities as you get older. Do as much as you're comfortable with and listen to your body. Exercise is one of the best anti ageing remedies!