How does it feel to be racing in the WTS for the first time?
Exciting and a bit scary as well at the same time! I’m really lucky to train alongside Non and the rest of the athletes in Leeds. The chance to get on the start line with those girls is what you dream of every day when you wake up and it’s what you train for, so I can’t wait to start in Abu Dhabi!
Like I said it’s very nerve-wracking at the same time. I do get nervous, but I think that works in your favour because it gets the adrenaline going. But I think I will be very, very nervous for my first World Series race! But I’ve trained for it so know that hopefully I’ve got the fitness for it, so fingers crossed it will go ok.
What’s it like training in Leeds?
It’s amazing. We go away in the winter, but we all say you can’t get a better place to train than Leeds because you’ve got the cycling into the Dales, the swimming is great and the main thing is the team you’re training with. The girls all get on so well, we’re best friends as well which makes it so much easier when it’s raining and you don’t want to get out there – we’ll all get together and go and it makes things so much easier. Non’s one of my best friends and I get to train alongside her every day.
Tell us a bit about how you got into triathlon…
I did a lot of swimming and I crazily signed up to swim the channel when I was 18! I came to university in 2009 [Heather was studying to be a nurse] and I thought ‘I’m not going to make it as a swimmer’. I wasn’t good enough, so I thought I’d give triathlon a try. Four years down the line and I’m about to start my first ITU race – so it’s been fast! I didn’t start running properly until three years ago. I’ve come into the sport quite late but managed to adapt to it quite quickly which was good!
What can we expect to see from you? Is swimming still your strength?
I’d say the run is probably more my strength now. I seem to have over the last year seen my running come on quite a lot. It’s probably down to my coach as well as training alongside the best people in the world – you’re going to get better and better.
The swim’s – I’m not like Lucy Hall, going into a race knowing that she’s going to be at the front of the swim – I’m probably a similar standard to Non, knowing that we have to do our best swim in order to be in the front of the pack. But it’s not impossible. I’ll go into the race knowing I can make the front pack if I swim to the best of my ability.
On the bike, it’s a matter of holding on to the group! My biking is improving year on year, it’s just a case of getting the miles in, of doing the hard sessions on the bike. We’ve been going to York and doing a crit circuit – there’s no cars on the road so we can get some good miles in. It’s about working on that speed and acceleration too, about making us the best we can be really.
Tell us which races you’re looking forward to…
My first race will obviously be Abu Dhabi so that’s going to be amazing for me. Also I’d quite like to qualify for the Europeans, and there’s a new event this year which is the Baku European Games so I’ll hopefully qualify for that and do some European cups and try and podium at them. Hopefully I’ll get some more starts for the world series too, depending on how everyone is. There’s also a race in Rio this year – a test event for the Olympics – and they’re potentially taking six GB girls there so hopefully I can qualify for that too. The heat suits me.
Is there a distance you prefer?
On the run side I really like Olympic distance because I have one speed with running really and it’s quite a good speed – but it’s better over 10K whereas at 5K the girls go off so fast and I struggle! But I’m working on that.
We heard you like eating sweets…
I do allow myself to have sweets! We are very lucky in that the amount of training we do we can eat what we want really but you have to make sure you’re sensible, especially after a hard run when I’ll have a recovery drink or some milk to get the calcium in for my bones. Also on bike rides I do take carb drinks because you can be riding for three or four hours and you can forget to eat, but you’ll have your drink without thinking and get the right calories in.
We’re on the Orca product launch in Playitas. How do you find the new wetsuits?
The new wetsuit is really good. We’ve been testing them all week and the new Alpha is my preferred wetsuit because of the arms – they’re so flexible it’s like you haven’t got a suit on. It’s like swimming in a costume! So hopefully in some of the wetsuit swims I’ll be swimming to my best advantage with it on!
You were studying to be a nurse – what are your tips for time-crunched athletes?
I’ve taken a year out this year because it was quite hard. You have to find that balance – just be sensible. One of the main things athletes forget about is recovery and for us it’s like the fourth discipline. Without recovery you’re not going to gain anything from the hard sessions. Nutrition and rest!
See Heather racing in Abu Dhabi this Saturday live at 11am on http://triathlon.org/tv or repeated on the BBC red button at 12pm. The men’s race is live on the red button at 1pm. We’ll also be following both races online and via @220triathlon on Twitter.