Adventure, Interviews, Triathlons

Interview with Rachel Joyce – Professional Triathlete

1.By the looks of it, you were made to be a tri-athlete.  How did you get into it? 

I’m not sure if I was made to be a triathlete but I am very pleased that I got into the sport.  You could say it was life changing!  I’m originally from a swimming background.  I swam through my high school years and reached a national level although I never was good enough to make the national junior teams.  At 17 I’d lost my love for racing so I quit although I stayed active:  swimming a bit, running and going to the gym. 

At university I got back into swimming: this time on a more social basis and then when I started working for Taylor Wessing in London I joined up with the Otters Master SC.  By then I’d definitely got my love of racing back but I was tiring of the black line of the swimming pool.  I ran the London Marathon, and then bought a bike…triathlon was the natural next step!  I swam with a few guys who did triathlon and did the longer half ironman distances.  I decided that was my challenge: to complete a half ironman.  At that time an Ironman seemed way too daunting!

2. You have just moved teams, who is your new team?

Yes, after two good years with the Abu Dhabi Tri Team this year I have decided to go solo, although that’s not really an accurate description as I am supported by a host of fantastic sponsors and by my friends and family, who have been a rock since I decided to race triathlon full-time. 

This year I am very happy to announce that I will be working with Cervelo –I rode the P3 last year so I am stoked to make it official this year. The new P5 just looks AWESOME!  I cannot wait to ride it.  I have also joined up with Newton Running Shoes too: and had a good start with them at the Abu Dhabi Triathlon where I took the run course record.

I have also started working with the Biestmilch crew.  Biestmilch is a colostrums product which I take daily to help maintain a healthy immune system: super important when you are training and racing hard.  Also, I am continuing to work with PowerBar, Aquasphere, ISM saddles, XLAb and SRM. 


3.What is going through your mind while you are racing?

A whole lot of things! I stay focused on keeping my pace up, I make sure that I am eating and drinking enough, I talk to myself to make sure I keep a positive mindset (well, I try to!)…sometimes I sing to myself.  It’s a long day so lots of things go through my head.

4.Do you have a goal that you are working towards, a certain number of races, a certain race…?

Kona is my main focus in the year, and then I have a couple of other A races – so this year that’s Ironman Melbourne and Challenge Roth. I am also doing a few 70.3 (Florida in May, Kansas in June and Timberman in August) and while I want to perform well in these races, they are not A races but building blocks to hopefully help me peak for my A races.


5.What does your weekly training schedule consist of?

I usually swim 5 or 6 times, ride 5 times and run about 5 times a week.  For each discipline I look to include an endurance session, plus a speed and strength session.  A typical week is anything from 20-25 hours week: sometimes less sometimes more.

6.What injuries have you received in the course of your racing career?

When I first got into the sport I struggled a lot with a persistent back injury.  I have a damaged disc or two which caused me sciatica problems that were hard to shake.  Now it is a case of managing the issue. 

I think it is the nature of triathlon that most people get injured at some point, so of course I’ve had other niggles. I guess the main injury in recent years was during the Abu Dhabi Triathlon in 2010.  I cut my foot open in T1 on the chain ring of my bike and lacerated three tendons.  I spent 6 weeks in a cast and it took a lot of work to get back to racing but the year ended on a high when I finished 5th in Kona.


7.What is the appeal of the race, of combining the three elements?

For me I love pushing myself and seeing what I can achieve.  I’m driven by trying to get the best out of myself.  I don’t think I’m there yet so I’m sticking at it! 


8.What is your favourite moment in a race?

Running down the finishing chute for sure!


9.After all those years, do you still get a thrill out of it?

Yes I do.  In fact the sport still feels new to me which I guess is a good sign.  I really do still love the training and the racing.


10.How do you balance a career in law, your sport and having a social life?

I resigned from my job as a lawyer back at the end of 2008, which makes it much easier!  Social life…well, I don’t see some of my friends as much as I’d like but I make sure I stay in touch. I joke with my sister that she has to tell me about her social life so I can live vicariously through her when I’m on training camp! Luckily the internet and Skype makes that much easier!  I’ve also made some great new friends from doing the sport so I count myself lucky in that respect.


11. To be honest law and triathlons sound like polar opposites, how is it you love both?

They are quite different that’s for sure but there are overlaps.  I liked law for the mental challenge and the problem solving aspects.  It sounds nerdy but figuring out how to put together a contract to achieve a client’s requirements was quite satisfying.  Triathlon is a different type of challenge, but people make the mistake of thinking it’s just physical.  It’s not.  There’s a huge mental aspect to training and racing.  Like in law, in triathlon there are times when you are put under pressure and you have to keep your cool and think your way through a problem/issue.


12. What bike do you race on?

Cervelo P3 soon to be the P5.

-What wetsuit?

Aquasphere Phantom

-What trainers/sneakers/runners?

Newton Lightweight Distance.


13.How do you think the women’s field is progressing in this sport, Is it as popular as the men’s or at least is it growing?

I do think it is progressing at every level:  elite and age group.  I think that we will see women’s participation in triathlon continue to increase in the years to come which is fantastic. Sure men outnumber women at the moment but the gap will close. 

One of the reasons I was so disappointed that the WTC limited the women’s field to 30 at Kona, versus 50 for the men was because I think this sends out the wrong message.  I believe it is in everyone’s interest to increase the participation of women in the sport and I think that an example should be set at the pro level to promote changes within the age groups and children getting into the sport.

14. What is your post race recovery routine?

I usually hang out for a little while at the finish line to chat to other finishers, then it’s drug testing if I’m picked, then food, hydration and shower…after which I’ll wrestle to put my Compressport Full Legs on.  I love to go back to the finish line of an Ironman and see the final finishers….the atmosphere is incredible.


15.Have you tried other sports?

As a kid I tried every sport and I remain interested in lots of sport although I don’t participate in as many as I used to.  I have already lined up a whole bunch of sports I’ll do when I hang up my racing boots:  get back to skiing, play tennis, climbing, surfing…I’ll have a go at most sports and love being outdoors.


16. Do you think there is an end point to improvement, a limit on how far your body can go?

Every person has a limit to what they can do but I think in reality very few people ever actually reach that limit and the limit is higher than they believe.


17.How do you think the sport is developing in Britain?

I really think it is flourishing on all levels.  There are so many clubs springing up so the sport is becoming more accessible…although it is obviously not a cheap sport to get into.  At the elite level things look healthy too:  the Brownlee’s, Helen Jenkins, Chrissie and lots of depth behind them.


18. What is your diet like?

Pretty healthy overall I’d say.  I focus on lots of fresh fruit and vegetables plus high quality proteins such as chicken and fish. I also try to limit the processed foods I eat although I do have a weakness for good bread which I try to keep under control! I like to indulge in a good steak one a week. There are certain things you’ll always find in my fridge or store cupboard:  yoghurt, almond butter, oats and there’s always some dark chocolate knocking about!


19.Do you prefer racing in extreme heat or cold?

Heat any day.  Despite being from the UK I don’t like the cold at all.


20.How many tri suits do you own?

It may surprise people to know that I only have one current race suit!


21.You raced in Ireland’s 70.3, (I’m Irish) what do you think the place is like for racing?

Galway 70.3 was such a fun event.  I didn’t have a particularly good race and conditions were *savage* (I think that’s how the locals described it 😉 ) but the atmosphere was brilliant.  The community was so welcoming and friendly and the town really had embraced the event….the after race shindig was also very good but I guess you would expect that!


22. Who is your main competition?

There are so many fast women out there that I couldn’t list them all.  I think we have seen a “Chrissie” effect over the last few years.  The women’s field has improved so much both in terms of depth and with faster times.  The obvious names are Mirinda Carfrae, Caroline Steffan, Julie Dibens, Leanda Cave, Catriona Morrison, Jodie Swallow, Mellissa Rollison…I just can’t list everyone – there’s too many! 

Sports, Triathlons

5 Ironman’s in 5 Days

The body is a temple. it can be cared for, it can be abused and in an athletes case it can be pushed to extremes and exhausted, so as on occasion the audience gets to witness crazy yet incredible things.
On 8 June 2011, 26 year old former army member Ian Walsh, will attempt to complete five Ironman’s in five days. He will be competing in the European Ultra Triathlon Championships in Bournemouth in the South of England. The Waterford man will be entering the Quintuple Enduroman Race which consists of  a 2.5 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride and a 26 mile run, but he will be doing it five times, totting up an impressive total of 702.5miles.

Each morning for five days Ian will line up for take off at 6am. He will survive on a mixture of liquids and solid foods and 3 fat filled meals will be served a day. “Il just slog it out, I’ve never done an Ironman before but I’ve competed in a few triathlons and I used to box and kickbox with the army.” Walsh has also completed the annual 100km run in Galway and an 80km run in Switzerland. “I suppose i do it because i can, to test myself but also no one else does it.” he says. Walsh has kept his crucial support team surprisingly simple. It consists of only one member, his girlfriend Leanne Carberry; “I heard a story of these two men where one brought a whole support team, physiotherapist, the works and he failed to complete it. The other guy just brought his 80year old granny and he succeeded, so I’m going to go with the latter.”

His strength lies in the run, his enjoyment in the cycle. Ian has been extremely lucky on the injury front considering the huge amount of training he undertakes on a daily basis.At an earlier stage, he started off with a one hour swim in the morning, 75miles on the bike and a 14mile run. He then began to build it up to an hour and a half swim, 90mile cycle and 19mile run everyday for 5days followed by a 3 days rest. An Ironman competitor is allowed 22 hrs to complete the race each day, unsurprizingly Ian Walsh’s target is much more ambitious at 14hrs per day.

For 6-9 months what you eat for, sleep for, exercise for, all you think about is the Ironman, it consumes you. After it you’re wiped out, drained both physically and mentally. 50% of people who do the Ironman fall into depression afterwards because they go from constant training and healthy eating to a lull, to a gap in their lives. To that Walsh said; “I just won’t stop, I’ll have an active rest. I have a kickboxing fight coming up in America a month after it anyway.”

To date, he has raised €2,000 for the Share a Dream Foundation, a charity that fulfills the dreams of children with terminal illnesses. To donate, log onto

Events, Triathlons

The Irish Rubberman Challenge

Most of us talk crap, our aspirations, our dreams all rolled into one and hoisted on a pedestal. An unreachable, unobtainable pedestal, that we leave up there and frequently gaze up at as they rot into regrets. But then there are the achievers, the straight talkers, devoid of bullshit and pedestals. People who have an idea and a will to follow it up. The Rubberman Challenge was founded by two such men; James Bodels, an Antrim man and Tony Redmond from Wexford, who had not an idea but a bet.

The Irish Rubberman Challenge took off  in 2001.It is a contest of the will to endure a 10mile cycle, 2mile run and 18holes of golf, it is a race to finish not to win. A triathlon with a difference, for the ordinary people, the non sporting people. Held in the quaint yet unfamiliar town of Bunclody, once a year people from all over the world gather together to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis. Mr. Redmond says “We’ve had a lot of people that do it every year and we have attracted entrants from New York, Texas, South Africa, and Sweden to name a few.”

The idea came about from two friends jokingly insisting that one was fitter than the other but as usual with the male species rivalry triumphed and the bet ensued. Tony could run, James could cycle, so a triathlon of sorts was decided upon. Tony Redmond one of the founders said; ” The reason we choose golf was because I couldn’t swim but in reality back then we didn’t know anyone who did triathlons and we never even considered it.”

To date they have raised close to €200,000. Charities that they have so far contributed to include Meningitis Research Foundation, Make a Wish foundation, and Brainwave – Irish Epilepsy Association. However, their primary charity is Cystic Fibrosis.

The trek takes place along considerably challenging terrain across the countryside of County Wexford; one gets a taste of the real Ireland. What separates it from all the other triathlons besides the shortened distance is the sense of community that taints it. Many come along for the day to support their friends, their family, and their community. When you cross the finish line the relentless cheer that pulsates through the air is indescribable.

A huge impetus for the transition from a bet in the bar to a fully fledged money-making race was James Bodels sons, Campbell and Chris who both have Cystic Fibrosis. They inspired James to transform the race into something worthwhile. Campbell passed away three years ago. A cup dedicated to him commemorates his part in the founding of The Irish Rubberman Challenge.

Over the years, hundreds of people have taken part but only the founding fathers can say who they thought were the real champions. Tony allows it was; “ Jim Furlong and Orla O’Leary  at the start but later Brian Kavanagh certainly.  Ronan O’Donovan, an excellent athlete and golfer was also a past Rubberman champion (2002) but sadly passed away in 2008 while on holiday in Paris.”

The fun element is a key part of race day, the scary bikes dusted in cobwebs, rusted chains and soft tires make a stark and laughable contrast to the sleek racers and pointed helmets of the pros.People have been bitten by dogs, gone the wrong direction, fallen off, fallen off again, dismounted and pushed their bikes up hills and attempted to play golf for the first time in their lives.

Tony’s favourite memory is;  “ when two ladies (neither ever played before) were over heard on the golf course, there golf balls were close together and neither of them knew which ball to hit. (In golf you have to play the same ball or be penalized 2 shots or be disqualified if you do not declare it.  It’s a very strict rule). They walked up to both balls and after a lengthy discussion one turned to the other said “which one would you prefer”. Priceless.”

The future of the Irish Rubberman Challenge looks bountiful with the possibility of becoming an intercounty event. Mr. Bodels shrugs it off and said; “If they want it, they can organize it”, but he does confirm that it will be expanding to Limerick in the coming year.