Sport Sunday, July 3rd Words by: Adam Knight

Quick Hits: 10 questions with GB triathlete Eliot Taylor

Sport Sunday, July 3rd

Quick Hits: 10 questions with GB triathlete Eliot Taylor

Fighting off a biting leg cramp in the Spanish heat, Hereford endurance athlete Eliot Taylor crossed the line in 13th at the ITU World Dualthlon (run-bike-run) Champs in Aviles earlier this year

It was the third time in twelve months that he hit the line with the letters G-B-R across his chest,  finishing in the top-30 in the age-group race at the European Championships in Geneva last July, and then placing in the top-60 in the world two months later in Chicago.

“I'm still getting used to people shouting 'Come on GB!'” said Taylor.

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‘-athlon’ is the new king of sporting suffixes.

Endurance sports are as popular as they ever have been at grassroots level, and with the successes of the Brownlee Brothers in the triathlon at London 2012 a generation of wetsuited multi-sport athletes had a pair of Olympic heroes to hang their hats on.

Hereford Triathlon Cub has nurtured a number of those athletes to GB level, among them Taylor, a converted distance runner.

The star dualthete was edged out at this weekend’s sold-out Herefordshire sprint triathlon – a short track version of the swim-bike-run race – by, and try to keep up here, Hereford-based world quadrathlon champ Steve King, who specialises in the four-discipline sport which also includes kayaking.

We caught up with Eliot to find out what it takes to compete at the top of one of the world’s toughest sports.

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Name: Eliot Taylor

Age: 25

Club: Hereford Triathlon Club

 

  1. How did you start out running, and with triathlon?

I've always been surrounded by endurance sports. My father who competed (and still competes) in running and triathlon and from an early age I was always taken to various events he was competing in, and I entered the 'fun runs' wherever possible. It seemed like the normal thing to do and seeing Dad more win prizes was certainly something I wanted to do in years to come!

2. When you were a young athlete, how early did you start really start taking your sport seriously?

I had a brief spell at Hereford Athletic and competed in a few meetings however track and field never really appealed to me. It was actually football I spent most my time doing and played from Under 9's through to U18's for Pegasus Juniors as a right back!

I'd always had a reputation as been 'the runner' at Aylestone and I had also started cycling by then, but by the time I'd begun college I felt that three sports was too much and something had to give.

I'd massively enjoyed football but the choice was easy to make.

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3. Every elite athlete has had to endure more than a few rough training sessions – for your sport, are there any particularly nasty ones that come to mind, and how do you get through them?

Winter is always a difficult time, it's dark and gloomy and typically raining.

Sessions which you complete on your own either on the running track or turbo trainer are not only battles against yourself but a battle against the elements! It's sometimes too easy to skip a session after a long day at work and it's pouring down outside, but those are the times you look back on and know they count towards your ultimate goal. 

4. What’s been highlight so far competing in triathlon (and in dualthlon, or any other endurance sports)?

My first big highlight was competing at the World Age Group Triathlon Champs in Edmonton, Canada back in 2014. I qualified for the event in my first standard distance triathlon which made the hard work and my transition from 'runner' more meaningful.

2015 was a particular great year competing in the European Triathlon Champs in Geneva, the World Champs in Chicago and coming 2nd in my age group for duathlon at the English Nationals.

5. What was it like representing GB over the last twelve months?

To represent GB for a Championship Age Group Event in Olympic or Sprint distance, British Triathlon select three qualifying races from around the country and those who finish in the top 4 in their age group earn automatic qualification and receive that much-anticipated email confirmation.

It's not so much having the letters on the tri suit, it's when the large crowds of GB supporters are waving flags, taking photos, cheering you on that get's you going. I'm still getting used to people shouting 'Come on GB!'.

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6. For those who don’t know; what sports are in the triathlon, and the duathlon, and in what order do they come?

A triathlon begins with the swim, typically open water in a lake or sea for Olympic and long-distance events or a swimming pool for short races. This is followed by a quick change to head out onto the bike leg and is completed with a leg-burning run! A Duathlon is simply run, bike and run again!

7. From the outside a 1500m swim, a 40km bike and 10km run – even completed individually – seem like a pretty tough task. And to be completed together, it seems almost superhuman in the times that Olympic athletes aim for. In terms of the mentality of endurance sports – what does it take, and what draws you to it?

I've grown up around endurance sports and have never been pressured to do what I do by those around me - that comes from myself.

My father always reminds me that enjoyment is the key. There's certainly an element of family pride when it comes to running and trying to emulate my father’s achievements, so that definitely spurred me in the early days.

I view my triathlons as a race of 3 separate races, rather than start to finish, it helps to have targets to keep you sharp during a race.

Hitting the run leg always motivates me as I know that's my strongest discipline, I will catch and pass people and that's my enjoyment, I'm in my zone gaining position and working through the fatigue. However, when you overcook your effort on the bike, a 10km becomes a long long way, people come past you, everything irritates you, even down how tight your watch strap is!

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8. The Brownlee brothers certainly put the sport on the map after 2012, have you noticed in uptick in popularity at club level and in the number of triathlon/duathlon events around the country since 2012?

Triathlon is enjoying a boom period and that's evident through the number of participants in local events and stiffer competition regionally and nationally.

For me personally, I felt I'd achieved enough on the county running scene and I fell in to the cycle of entering the same races year after year - it was that point I wanted to challenge myself and triathlon was a great way of doing that and competing further afield.

I found the element of learning a new sport and particularly new techniques when it comes to swimming was - and is - a big stumbling block when transitioning through sports. I was once told I “swim like a runner” which is never a good thing!

But if you're determined enough there's great facilities and friendly coached club nights with Hereford Triathlon club to assist.

9. In training for the Worlds I’d imagine you get up towards, or even over, 100km in a week. How much do you have to eat each day to fuel your body up for that kind of training?

I would like to give a scientific answer, but I'm really not fussy with food and love a biscuit!

10. I know you had a cramp issue in Aviles – what are the worst injuries for triathletes?

Blisters are always a common occurrence due to not wearing socks on either the bike or run parts of the race.

Avoiding any incidents on the bike, other injuries can occur during the run with the onset of cramp, but psychologically a lot of people experience anxiety in the swim, which can end your race immediately.

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11. I understand there are a few GB-level triathletes who have come out of Herefordshire in recent years. Given its relative size, how does the county fare on a national level?

Hereford Triathlon has a large member base, consisting of triathletes who are increasingly representing GB at age group level, which is fantastic to see and a great inspiration to others.

Given that no one is professional, and everyone is balancing work and family lives with training, everyone is prepared to share their experiences and offer advice. Membership costs are incredibly great value - the club organises Sunday cycle rides, reduced entry fees for chosen events, or free when it comes to local cross-country races, twice-a-week indoor swim coached sessions and one open water session per week and a host of British Triathlon certified coaches.

There are so many incentives on offer to encourage the new participation regardless of goals and ambitions in the sport and the number of GB representatives is a result of that.

12. For yourself – I know sportspeople love setting goals – what are you looking to get out of the sport, in the next 12 months,  and more long term?

I will be finishing off my triathlon season in September before fully focusing on European Duathlon Champs 2017 in April throughout my winter training period. Later in 2017 I intend to qualify for the World Triathlon Champs.

It's going to be another busy year!
  

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