Do you think your education or your career has helped to prepare you mentally for racing?
I have been racing professionally since before I even graduated so not really. I think I’ve always had the racing mentality and what place I have to be in figured out from the beginning.
Have you been an athlete all your life or did you have some sort of epiphany that got you into it?
I have been an athlete all my life right from when I began swimming at 7 years old. Now I am 32 and I’ve barely stopped at all with competitive sport.
What do you do when you're not training or racing?
Professional Triathlon is a very busy life and I also coach 10 athletes. So the free time I have left I like to spend time with my young family and go for walks and to cafes and if I have time left from that then I’ll catch up with my friends for a beer in the pub.
Do you behave differently in your life compared to during a race?
You’re always pretty on it because you have to be as focused for training as you do for racing. When I have my training done I like to turn off as much as I can.
How do you normally feel before the start of a race?
I usually go kind of quiet and get in the zone and I get quite apprehensive. I try not to let anything else creep into my head really but you put so much effort in and care about the sport so much that you can’t help but get nervous.
What is your greatest enemy in a competition? What do you want to defeat?
My Time Trialling on the bike is my weakness and that’s what I want to improve a lot this year. I’ve made some changes now and I hope they work out.
What's the most rewarding feeling you have ever had on a race?
It typically comes from Ironman actually, I think because it’s built up over such a long time and so much suffering happens during the race. The satisfying feeling you get when you cross the line and afterwards, especially if you achieved what you wanted can’t be beaten.
What's been your worst moment in a race? How did you overcome this?
Crashes are always the worst moments, I’ve also had many races where I walked away disappointed with the result but at least you still have your health. You have to accept that these things happen and you do everything you can to get back on your horse quickly. You also learn from it and try not to do it again.
What does concentration mean for you? What role does it play when you train or compete?
It means getting in the right frame of mind and committing as best you can to doing your best. It’s definitely a mind set and it has to also be relentless if you want to be successful in sport.
What structure does a race have in terms of the level of sensations? What do you start with, what do you end with, and what do you experience along the way?
You start with a very nervous and focused feeling but that soon disappears as soon as the gun sounds. Then you’re focused on getting the job done and executing. You’ll obviously have good sensations for most of the race because it’s too long to suffer the whole way. The hardest parts typically come towards the end of the bike and the end of the run. Then you’re uncomfortable, tired and sore. If you’re doing well the sensations at the finish line are a mixture of elation, relief and excitement.
Your worst enemy is your mind?
I think for me the greatest enemy is ‘settling’. Sometimes you get to a point in a race where you are thinking. “well, 2nd is a good place, I’ll be happy with that, it’s decent prize money etc”. It takes a really tough competitor and a lot more energy to keep fighting that extra to take the top spot.
Do you have thoughts of escape during a competition? Can you describe them?
In endurance sport I think everyone has that. You get to the hardest part and you’d do anything just to stop, sit down and recover. You always have to battle these thoughts as much as you can and realize that everyone is going through this and that’s the race!
When you feel you can't go any further, when you want to give up, what goes through your mind? What does your body tell you and what does your mind come back with?
The important thing is to turn the negative thoughts around as quickly as possible. When your mind tells you, “I’m so screwed now, I’m so tired”. You have to come back and say, “NO! You’re not, you’re a machine, you’re better then these guys.” What you might see in someone who has let their head get to them is a massive drop off in speed in a short amount of time, that’s not blowing up, that’s giving up.
Tell us the main differences you see between physical and mental strength.
Physical strength. You have some athletes that can’t do both, I have been around long enough to see many people train the house down but when they get to a race they bottle it and can’t get the performance out of themselves. It’s something I think that comes naturally for a lot of people.
What is your mental strength?
My mental strength is that I am a racer, I am able to pull something out of the bag at the right moment in a race and keep believing that anything is possible right to the finish line.
In triathlon is it necessary to have inner strength? Be made of iron maybe?
In Triathlon it’s important to have inner strength in abundance. You have to have that desperation in you if you are to train at the highest level and perform as well. If your mind constantly brings you down and you answer to that then you’ll never make it to a high level in sport.
- WILLIAM CLARKE
- United Kingdom
Raced at Olympics
World Championships 70.3 ITU distance
2nd at Ironman Copenhagen
2nd at Ironman UK
2nd at World Series Hamburg
2011 Under 23 World European Champ 2006