Dirt Tri Magazine Interview 2016
8th Nov 2016
Check out the interview I did for dirttri.com back in April :)
1. Being brief, give us your back ground story. No more than 4 or 5 sentences. Short and sweet.
I was definitely a latecomer to elite sport! I competed in track & field and cross-country running since the age of 10 but never got beyond county level. After graduating from University, I worked full time as a web developer / computer programmer for 11 years. I discovered triathlon while injured from running, and within a year was competing for GB at Age Group level. But it was not until the age of 33 I had the opportunity to race Pro in Xterra! I took a career break to race the Xterra Tour as much as possible in 2014/15, but I am now back to juggling racing with an office job.
2. Share a fun story with us. It can be about anything. ANYTHING.
When I was a student, I was the biggest fan of the band Aqua (remember Barbie Girl?!) I discovered they were performing at the Eurovision Song Contest in Denmark... the weekend before my final exams at Uni! Despite this, and despite the show being sold out, there was no question of missing it! My friend and I embarked on the craziest adventure - sleeping on the floor at Malmo airport, getting interviewed on Danish TV, winning tickets to the Song Contest(!) AND passes to Aqua's Afterparty! This was genuinely the most exciting thing ever - getting to meet & hang out with the band (and zero sleep before our flight home!) Somehow I still passed my exams...
3. What are/were some of your favorite races and why? (specify the name(s), year, location, and some other details)
My favourite races are always the shorter, faster courses which make far more exciting racing when all the athletes are close together. Xterra Greece was one of the best (2014/15) even though I finished 4th both times - Kostas and the team always put on a great event. I also loved Xterra Sweden and Denmark 2014 - any excuse to visit Scandinavia! But my best memory of all is the European X-Duathlon in Castro Urdiales, Spain, 2015. There is always something extra special about representing your country as an Elite, and wearing national kit. Winning a medal there was the best possible way to end 2015 season.
4. Tell us about a fun or crazy adventure you had before or after a race?
In 2009, I got selected for my first ever World Champs (Age Group) race, on Australia's Gold Coast. I was so excited, and flew out to Brisbane 2 weeks early to get over the jetlag and do some warm weather training. But the day after I arrived, I was hit by a car and broke my collarbone - or rather, I went straight into the passenger door at 50kph - when it pulled out as I was descending on my TT bike! The rest of the day was surreal, like being in an episode of 'Casualty' - a whole fire crew to my assistance and an ambulance ride to A&E... it would have been pretty exciting if I wasn't so distraught, as it meant I wouldn't be able to race. I did get to fly home business class on insurance though, so you have to take the silver linings!
5. Have you had a great/fun/crazy story from training that you'd like to share?
I often get lost while training away from home - although I'm good at reading maps, I have zero sense of direction without one! Last year I had a 30 minute pre-breakfast run to do, so my husband dropped me off a few miles from Afan MTB centre, where I was meant to meet him 1/2h later for bacon sandwiches! But I got lost for almost 3 hours in the rainy Welsh hills with no food or water. By the time I finally found the café, Simon was out searching for me, and on the verge of calling the police! Needless to say, neither of us was in the mood for our planned MTB day afterwards!
6. Do you have a new sponsor or returning sponsor that you'd like to highlight? Maybe a few? Tell us about them and why you are associated with them.
I am fortunate to be supported by a number of local sponsors, whose knowledge and expertise in their field is as valuable as the financial benefits.
* Firstly Mountain Trax, my local bike shop, has been looking after me for years and always go above and beyond with customer service. They always make sure I have the best equipment for the job. Usually this means custom builds to stay within budget, and often solving last minute mechanicals before a race.
* Secondly I am an ambassador for the Drummond Clinic, the best physio practise around. They specialize in sports injuries, biomechanics and rehab, and Alex races Xterra himself so he really understands the demands of the sport.
* I have also been supported by leading British wetsuit brand Zone3, since the early days back in 2012. High performance race kit makes a great difference when you are looking for every extra % racing at elite level, and Zone3 kit always delivers.
* Lastly I am supported by membership at David Lloyd - the best gym facility in Reading! It's important to have access to pool and gym whenever I can fit it in around work, and the sauna is invaluable for heat training.
7. What bike are you riding this year? Why? Are you sponsored by that brand? Why is this bike your bike of choice?
I ride a Scott Scale 27.5", which I got 2 years ago at cost price; both Scott and Mountain Trax helped me out with this as one-off sponsorship. But I don't have a bike sponsor as such, I would love to move to a full suss like the Scott Spark if I could ever fund it.
8. What are some of your strengths and weaknesses?
My best discipline is usually the run, coming from a running background. But I'd say my best overall strength is my determination and never giving up. I've crashed so many times in races, damaged the bike or myself, had heat exhaustion, dehydration, hypothermia, cramps, vomiting, bee stings, punctures... or simply that demoralizing feeling of knowing I am last in the race... but I have never DNF'd in 25 years of competing! I am as proud of that record as any of my successes.
9. How do you build your strengths?
I work with a great coach, Mark Pearce, who designs my training program, and from whom I get the best advice on maintaining my strengths. That has been particularly valuable this winter through a number of setbacks. It's important to address weaknesses too, but I never get complacent about my strengths, I always keep working on them.
10. How do you work around your weaknesses in both training and racing?
Again, working with the right coach, we are chipping away at the weaknesses to turn them into strengths. It has also made a massive difference working with my sport psychologist Andy. I usually have a good mindset on race day - you can't control what anyone else is doing, so I just focus on the right processes to get the best out of myself, and the result will take care of itself.
11. What is one of your favorite workouts that is brutally hard?
Coming from a track & field background, I like good old fashioned hill or track reps! 400's or 800's with a minute recovery, or anything that takes you up towards Max HR. Brutally hard but short! There's nowhere to hide from the stopwatch and it's reassuring nailing some good times before a key race.
12. What type of courses do you like (hilly, flat, rocky, technical, fast, etc)?
I'm happy on any kind of course - hilly/flat, technical/easy, dry/muddy - as long as it's fast! And as long as there are no tedious hike-a-bike sections! My favourite has to be Xterra South Africa as it has a bit of everything - rock gardens, flowy singletrack, forest trails, a few climbs... and you're loving it all the way to T2.
13. Tell us something unique about yourself?
I taught myself to speak Danish - after spending 3 days in Copenhagen and deciding I wanted to live there! (Which I eventually did for a year)
14. Do you have any hobbies outside of triathlon? Please elaborate.
I love baking, reading athlete biographies, and watching Danish TV series! (Borgen, The Bridge, The Killing etc)
15. What is something that you say to yourself during a difficult workout or during a race when you're really suffering?
Giving up is never an option, so I focus on the processes I'm meant to be working on. Whether that's body position or footwork on the bike, remembering to eat and drink, or cadence and posture on the run.
16. What are some of your favorite foods for training?
I like real foods like dates, nuts and dark chocolate. But sometimes sports nutrition is more practical, and my favourite energy products are Honey stinger bars and chews.
17. What are some of your favorite cheat foods/post race foods?
I always crave chips or crisps after races - savoury and salty!
18. During a race - Hydration pack or no hydration pack? Socks or no socks? Sunglasses? Hat or visor? Gloves? 1 piece race kit or 2 piece?
This year I'll be trying hydration packs for the first time - I've lost too many bottles mid race! Always sunglasses and gloves on the bike. No socks unless it's a duathlon! Vizor if it's sunny.
19. What are a few songs that you have been listening to recently?
My iPod is mainly motivational songs for training! Anything from Nightwish and Rammstein to Madonna and Aqua.
20. How/when did you learn to mountain bike?
I am still learning, haha! I guess it really started in 2013 when I got married, and my husband suggested 2 weeks of mountain biking in Colorado for our honeymoon! I did not take much persuading ;) I made so much progress on my skills that I didn't want them to go to waste... so I kept riding offroad ever since.
21. Do you have a travel story or tip or trick that you'd like to share?
I usually fly with British Airways because you can take the bike as your checked luggage and not pay extra.
The best tip I would give is to keep *all* your race essentials in your hand luggage. Worst case you can borrow a bike to race. But it would be 10 x the hassle finding bike shoes, tri suit, sports bra etc all in your size, if you had to replace those in a foreign country!
22. We are all a little odd and quirky. What are some interesting or strange quirks you have?
I always clean my teeth before the race start.
23. Why do you to off-road triathlon?
I love getting away from roads and cars, for both racing and training. Off-road racing is much more interesting & challenging as each course is so different, and rewards skill as well as fitness. You get to travel to amazing places, and the atmosphere is so much more friendly than road tri.
24. Do you work with a charity? Tell us about it.
I don't work with a particular charity but sometimes get opportunities to help out. Most recently I helped out for a day with BBC Radio Berkshire - commentating/advising on their triathlon challenge for Sport Relief.
25. What are some of the races you are excited for this year?
ETU X-Duathlon Champs in Romania
Xterra Portugal (if I can get the time off work!)
Design © 2018 Louise Fox. Photography © Lukasz Warzecha