Interview with Sophie Kirk, Team GB Age-Group Triathlete

This week on the blog we sat down with GB triathlete Sophie Kirk to discuss her career in triathlon so far as well as some tips for anyone looking to take up the sport!

Sophie's career so far: At 25, Sophie is in her second year of triathlon. In 2016 she won the London Triathlon, and  was selected for the GB Duathlon and Triathlon age group teams where she won a Silver medal in the World Duathlon Championships (10k run, 40k bike, 5k run) and came 5th at the World Standard Championships (1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run) in Mexico!

M27: Thanks for taking the time out of the training schedule to chat to us! What are your future aspirations in triathlon?

This year I'm taking on my first half ironman race (1.9k swim, 90k bike, 21k run) as well as competing at the World and European Championships for standard distance again.

I hope to make it to the World 70.3 Ironman Championships in the future with an ultimate goal of making it into the professional field!

M27: What do you love about the sport of triathlon and are you excited to have seen it grow over the past 10 years?

SK: 3 reasons, the people, the places and the variety. In a previous life I was GB orienteer. I hated training and would find any excuse not to train. Now I live for the training plan and love triathlon so much! My coaches from back then are so surprised. The triathlon world is full of super friendly people all throwing themselves into 3 crazy sports because 1 just didn't seem hard enough. It creates a great supportive network mainly because we are all totally mad.

I've also been lucky enough to travel to some awesome places in the 2 short years I've been doing triathlon. From Mexico to Thailand and everywhere in between. I have seen some beautiful and hot(!) places and made so many new friends from across the world.

And thirdly every race is different. Triathlon is unpredictable even those who you think are fit can have a bad day, and on the flip side people can surprise you with outstanding races. You can even surprise yourself. Ultimately you never quite know how your run legs are going to be after the bike!

M27: Which aspect of your training, lifestyle, kit, physical and mental preparation gives you the edge?

SK: Getting a coach was the best decision I have ever made. Its so helpful having someone to talk through training with and seek advice from on the tough days. Also without boring those 'normal' people who don't do triathlon! Imogen, my coach is a constant inspiration not only with her approach to setting my schedule but also as an athlete herself. Its hard to not go out and focus on training when she is smashing it in the pro field!

It would be rude not to mention nutrition at this point. More recently I have been working with Matt to nail down nutrition on and off the field. I'm hoping to see some real gains over the next few months and years!

M27: What is one of the biggest mistakes you have learnt from and come back stronger from during your training or racing?

SK: Early in this years season I developed a habit of face planting in transitions. Either by trying to get on or off my bike too quickly! Always a good idea to practice these before race day!!

Also running through injuries. It's so tempting to keep training despite a small niggle. This is probably one of the worst mistakes I have made which meant I couldn't run for the first 4 months of 2016! Lesson learnt!

M27: What is your goal with the sport and where do you want to take your career?

SK: My goal this year is to get sub 5 hours for my first half irnoman in Vichy, France.

The future goal is to get through to the World Half Ironman Championships in 2018/9.

My Ultimate goal could be to break into the professional field, but lets just see how the race goes this year!?

M27: Who are your inspirations?

My coach Imogen Simmonds (check her out, she's a little bit awesome!), The Brownlees (obviously) and Chrissie Wellington is a legend within triathlon. Check out her book!

From a different angle, my family are also my inspiration. My mum has always said there is no such word as can't and she is living proof. Running every week at the age of 69. Also the 'squad' who come out and train with me every week. Tackling some brutal interval sets oout on the bike at 6am every week!

M27: What would you say to anyone who is a competent runner, cyclist and swimmer who is on the fence in terms of trying a triathlon?

SK: Just give it a go! You don't need a fancy bike or a snazzy wetsuit. I did my first triathlon on a basic road bike and qualified for the World Duathlon champs! If you really want to do well and you have done the training you'll get the result you have dreamed of. You don't really need that extra speedy pair of trainers. Get a group of friends together and enter a super sprint triathlon, its short and will give you the perfect taste of triathlon.

M27: Who do you seek advice from and where which areas do you think triathletes should educate themselves in?

SK: Balance is a key thing with triathlon. Knowing which parts are weaker and focusing on those more will help you in the long run. The two main people I seek advice from are my coach and Matt at the moment! Instagram is also a great place to source advice about triathlon, I have met and started training with people I got in contact with through instagram.

M27: Is it all about the expensive kit / what do you use to train and compete in on race day?

SK: Absolutely not, the big things that you might think you need are a bike and wetsuit. But there are indoor swim triathlons and you can hire bikes for a season before you decide if you love triathlon or not! Also ask around, the triathlon world is full of people with spares of everything.

My current race kit, which I have built up over time, consists of:

Swim: Huub wetsuit, speedo goggles, trisuit (various brands), bodyglide

Bike: Racebelt, Specialized Aero helmet, Cervelo P3 bike, Fizick Triathlon shoes, Oakley sunglasses, Tribe bars, Active Root energy drink, X-Lab hydration system

Run: Mizuno Wave Rider trainers, elastic laces, Stance socks, High5 energy gels

To keep updated on Sophie's progress, follow here on Instagram and at her blog