Alice Hector – undefeated in women’s ultra-running, a National Champion amateur triathlete and now performing very impressively in the professional ranks. And she is also a qualified personal trainer.

Sounds like a perfect candidate for being a WatchFit Contributing Expert…which is why we are delighted this successful, busy and supremely knowledgeable athlete has agreed to join the team!

Guy Holland asked Alice a few questions to see what drives such a dedicated athlete and to get an idea of what she will bring to the WatchFit platforms.

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1) When did you first decide to tackle triathlons and, apart from curiosity and interest, was there anything particular that led you down this path?

I swam and ran for the County as a child and wanted to be an elite athlete at distance running and sprint swimming! My coaches tried to get me into triathlon but I thought it sounded like a silly sport so put it off for ages.

When I got to Loughborough University, I approached the swim coach who promptly told me I would only be good for their 4th team, and to go and do triathlon. I could avoid it no longer. Desperate to be an elite at something, the journey started aged 19.

2) You took some time away from from triathlon to very successfully take on ultra-running. Why do that instead of the more mainstream and higher profile Marathon running, which you would presumably be pretty good at?

I fell out of love with triathlon after a few years of tedious training with nothing else in my life. There was no balance and I sunk into depression. So I stopped, got a job and did the ‘living for the weekend’ thing for a while, but there was no real satisfaction in any of that either.

I definitely lost my way for a while – as a lot of 25-year-olds seem to. Ultra-marathon running filled the void perfectly as it was a chance to do something new and achieve good things, but is also a very simple, raw sport, packed with adventure and escapism, which fits my personality perfectly. And as it turns out, I was also very good at it.

I tried one marathon but for me, that was all about personal bests and taking it ever so seriously. At this stage I was about a stone overweight and so was not fast, but I was strong. I also don’t enjoy road running as it is a harsh surface and can be pretty bleak.

I wanted the freedom of the trails and to go as long as humanly possible! The furthest I built to was 100 miles in one day. I haven’t found my limit yet so I will be back to ultra, once triathlon slows down!

3) Who or what influenced you and provides you with continued motivation?

Difficult question. There have been key people throughout my life who have opened doors and allowed me to grow. I can only thank them. I have a small group around me now who have my best interests at heart and they really are the ones making this happen. One of my old coaches has influenced me massively in terms of my training philosophy.

I provide my own motivation. I train primarily alone and I don’t look at anyone and want to be like them. I am just here to get the most out of myself, although I do love winning, and that means beating these people I say I don’t care about beating!

Training-wise, I find it relatively easy to get the work done. I have tried using coaches over the past two years but I am most content coaching myself.

4) Do you have a simple health or fitness tip you can share that will work for anybody and be easy for them to adopt.

Do something most days. If you don’t feel like it, which will happen often, get your kit on and simply make it your mission to get out the door! That bit is often the hardest.

If you really don’t feel like it after that, take it easy, and don’t dwell on thoughts of ‘failure’ too much. Everyone has bad sessions, even the best athletes. Just vow to come back the next day.

5) Out of swimming, cycling, and running, what would your order of preference be? Do you find your least favourite to compete in also the hardest to train for? And following that logic, is it too easy to ‘indulge’ in training for your preferred element?

I would drop the cycling the first, as it was the last one I took up, and it takes the most time in training. But I’m enjoying seeing the progress and would choose it one million percent over a 9-5 office job!

Swimming is greatin the summer I mostly take to the open water and in winter I swim with a club so am pushed and don’t have to self-motivate all the time!!

I wouldn’t want to be a pure swimmer though as the hours they put in, following that black line on the pool floor, are vast. And running is my absolute favourite but I can’t indulge in that too much or I get injured. It’s a balancing act and the three complement each other very well. 

Alice Hector interview_2

6) In triathlon you specialise in three sporting disciplines. If you had to choose just three exercises you could do for the rest of your life, what would they be and why.

I’d keep this simple. Burpees for full body strength and the cardio blast. Press ups for upper body and six pack potential. Multi-directional lunges for nice legs! That lot should hit every key muscle group and keep me fit.

7) Triathlon is still a growing sport but it seems to be gaining momentum all the time with more events, more people taking it up and more TV coverage. Is it possible to make a good living in the pro ranks and is prize money for men and women equal.

It is possible, but it is hard. The aim should be to make a living from the sport through sponsors, media and other related avenues, without dependence on prize money in races, which is essentially professional gambling for most.

Prize money is great when it comes in but unless you win, it’s usually pocket money. Whilst you can’t detract from training and recovery requirements, there is always time in the day to put your brain to good use as well as your body.

I am finding my balanced approach this time around is great, as I am fulfilled rather than bored and I no longer overthink niggles or bad sessions: I don’t have time!

I have a whole host of amazing sponsors who I represent to the best of my ability, both in races and behind the scenes. They make a huge difference to the way I am able to train and compete. Massive thanks to: Gould Publication Papers, CurrexSole, EntryCentral, Evolution Triathlon Club Windsor, Dassi Bikes, Nutrition X, Xterra Wetsuits, Walker Brothers Wheels, Jackoatbar, Zoggs, Bolle Eyewear and my invaluable physio sponsors The Drummond Clinic, Maindenhead and Alex Drummond particularly.

8) You have already achieved many great things and we are sure there is plenty more to come. Is there anything particular you are most proud of?

Thank you! Winning the World Amateur Championships in 2013 was a fantastic day and my only mission for that entire year, so it was great to pull it off in style.

Five months before, I was unfit and told I’d never run again (I didn’t like that answer so I went to see another physio), so it was a quick ascension to the top of the Age Group ranks.

Running 100 miles, plus setting a new course record, was another tick in the ‘moments in life’ box. And last year, when I came back to professional triathlon and won my first 3 events in a row; that felt a bit special and was a great re-introduction for me.

Alice Hector interview_1

9) In the triathlon/ironman world is there anybody who is a particular role model to you and somebody you’d most like to emulate?

Not so much at elite level. The sport is swamped with people over-analysing, over-training and just taking themselves way too seriously: I prefer to keep out of it in my spare time, though I absolutely respect each and every athlete on an Ironman start line.

The best role models for me are the 80-85 year olds doing Ironman with a big grin on their face: I’m a sucker for that stuff! It’s simply amazing. There is an ‘Iron Nun’ who competes in the World Championships every year – Sister Madonna Buder. She is 84. I would love to be like her, Nun bit aside! 

10) You’re a qualified PT, a former triathlon coach, a champion amateur triathlete and an elite professional athlete and you are only 32. What is next for you?

My ideal scenario: once I have won an Ironman and raced in Kona (the Ironman World Championships), I’ll go back to ultra, take on Badwater (135 miles across Death Valley in California) amongst others, and set a Guinness World Record in some kind of ultra running challenge! I also want to get a children’s poetry book published as that is my other passion.

I’m also looking forward to providing material here at WatchFit and developing some training plans for the WatchFit app. These will lean on all my experience coaching and competing in triathlon and be targeted at Beginners, Intermediates and Advanced.

We know that Triathlon is gaining in popularity around the world and your material will be a fantastic benefit, not only to triathletes who want to learn from an elite performer, but also people who want to dip into the sport’s fantastic all round benefits for their general health and fitness.

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