Road to Rio

Road to Rio - Abu Dhabi


I travelled to Abu Dhabi for the opening race of the ITU World Series last weekend.  Winter training has gone exceptionally well, with me showing much improved strength on the bike and the speediest swimming I've ever been clocking. Unfortunately for me, none of this reflected in my race on the day. You can train as well as you like but it's the performance on race day that matters. So what went wrong? I initially thought I'd just not been aggressive enough to the first buoy. However, after doing some post race analysis and watching the swim footage, it seemed that I'd decided to follow the girl in front of me at the first buoy, making a sharp turn in the wrong direction. We both corrected ourselves but, in turn, losing quite a few positions and instead of being in a nice top 20 position come the proper turn buoy, I was caught amongst the back swimmers. Not ideal! I missed the main pack, race over!

I spent the next few days feeling very frustrated with myself. However, the positive is that what I did is easily fixable - be more aware! I'm super excited to race again soon and to really go out there and put in a performance reflective of all the hard winter training. The funny thing too, is that this 'blip' has made me much more motivated than ever and I know that I am dangerous when optimally motivated and stimulated. They say everything happens for a reason huh!

Apart from the race itself, I had a wonderful time in Abu Dhabi. I am part of the Alameda O.N Triathlon team. One of our aims is to increase awareness and promote growth of triathlon in the Middle East & Africa. It was amazing seeing so many age groupers competing as well as junior athletes. We also had some of our own Alameda O.N development athletes racing and they managed quite a few podium spots between them, which is just fabulous.

Congrats must also go to my fellow countryman and woman - Rich Murray on his 2nd place, what a season opener....& Mari Rabie finishing well up the field, wonderful to have Mari back racing in strong form. Hopefully it will be a successful year for all of us South Africans.

It was sad to leave the beautiful sunny weather of Abu Dhabi but I was also glad to return to my training base in London to get some perspective and put my head down again for my next race. I'm excited to see what that will bring...time for me to unleash myself into 2016!

By Gillian Sanders

Road to Rio - Training Camp


After having to clean my bike one too many times after mucky, cold, winter riding, I was more than happy to escape to Spain for a lovely, sunny training camp. The aim of the camp for me was to get a solid two week training block in before my racing starts (Abu Dhabi World Series next weekend). This was to involve 1 week with a small group of training partners from Optima Racing Team and then a second week with a larger group including some of the Triathlon England London Academy. The Rio Olympics is my main aim for the year and everything is geared toward that race in August. I am in a good position qualification wise but just need to cement my position with a few early qualification races between now and May. After riding in freezing cold weather with layer upon layer of clothes, it was bliss to be able to cycle around the amazingly quiet and sunny roads of southern Spain.

The camp was probably more swim and ride focused for me as these are the two disciplines we've been aiming to strengthen over the winter. After 5 years as an elite athlete you'd think we had it all sussed, but no no no, there are always areas to improve in and get better and faster. It was great having some really strong junior boys to train with, they make great training partners. One of my favourite sessions was a race simulation bike session over a very technical, 4-5km circuit. The boys pushed me to my absolute limit on this which was perfect. James & I have worked really hard on my swim over winter and have seen some huge improvements time wise in the pool. I just need to now translate this into open water and racing. To be able to get a few open water swims in and have the boys push me in the pool was perfect training for me and I've come away from the camp confident and happy with the way I'm swimming.

So just over a week until my first race of the season! I am extremely excited and need to calm myself down from getting too excited! Things are on track for Rio 2016 and I can't wait to experience these next few months lead up. Thanks to James, my training mates at Optima Racing Team and the London Academy juniors for a wonderful camp in Spain. There are some speedy little youths and juniors coming through and I wish them all a successful season.

By: Gillian Sanders

Turkish Delight


After my disappointing race in Chicago, I was adamant that I wasn’t going to end the season then and there. I had, in any event, planned to do a World Cup in Cozumel but binned that idea, recovered for a week and then put my head down for a last little effort at a World Cup in Alanya, Turkey. My running was feeling a lot better in the lead up and I decided to go and run a Surrey Cross Country league race the week before to test my legs out and hopefully get a bit of a confidence boost. I love cross country. It is brutal but there is something about it that I really relish. I ran neck and neck with another girl the whole way, with her just out sprinting me at the end. I knew I had my run mojo back!

It was my second time racing in Alanya. The weather and the sea are always incredible there, a beautiful, dry heat and warm, clear waters. I was really excited to race. I had one aim for the race – to finish my season on a high.

I had a bit of a poor swim which included a spectacular wipe out on the beach after the first lap and some carpet burn, it must’ve looked hilarious. However, I managed to make the main bike pack. We quickly caught a few leaders out front and I knew it would be down to a run race. I had a very slow T2 but made a decision once on the run not to go out too hard. My legs felt a bit sluggish and there is a steep hill to run up 4 times. I think I was 12th going up the hill for the first time and made my way through the field to finish 6th. I didn’t feel great at all and gave everything I could at the end. I was satisfied. Obviously I’d liked to have podiumed but 6th would do, mission accomplished – season finished on a high!

It was then all about having a big glass of wine, a juicy burger and watching the Springboks beat Wales in the Rugby World Cup quarter finals. Season over, time to relax and have a bit of fun.

After a day back home it was off to Bahrain, for sun, sand and heat. Blog to follow on that next….until then,


Chicagoland: Tall Buildings, Deep dish pizza & a big race


I was delighted to get the hell out of freezing Edmonton and to lovely warm Chicago. There were 11 days between racing in Edmonton and then kicking off the grand final of the World Tri series in Chicago. I spent a week about an hour outside Chicago in a town called Naperville (ranked one of the best places to live in the USA in 2006). It was lovely. Massive wooden houses, perfectly painted with their manicured lawns and standard American flag on the porch. The Fox River ran through the town and the centre had some lovely little shops and cafes which I unfortunately didn’t have too much time to frequent.

The very kind folk at Lifetime Fitness Gym in Warrenville gave me free access to their facility for the week and I was able to put in some very good training (maybe a bit too much, but we’ll get back to that ;-)).

Three days before the race I moved into the South African team hotel in downtown Chicago. Chicago is a wonderful city. It’s one of those places that you think, ‘Hey I could live here.’. Well maybe not when Lake Michigan freezes over in winter, brrrrrr. It’s got lovely beaches and parks and some fantastic cafes and restaurants. The architecture is pretty impressive and the people are pretty laid back and very friendly.

It was very humid and as a result, the place is known for its epic summer thunderstorms. They had to move our race forward by 4 hours to avoid us being frazzled by lightning in the lake. The organisers & ITU did an amazing job making some pretty substantial last minute changes and we had a very smoothly organised race.

That’s where any ‘smoothness’ ended, as my race felt far from smooth. I had an average swim and was in the chase bike pack 30 secs adrift. We didn’t lose any time but I felt absolutely dreadful the whole race, my legs had no power and I was hanging on for a lot of that bike. My run was even worse and it was just survival, finishing a disappointing 41st from 75 starters.


I think I knew a few days before the race that something wasn’t quite right, my body just felt like it didn’t have any energy. I hardly had energy for my bike pick ups the day before the race. I think I may have over done it between Edmonton and Chicago. I was on my own and wanted to try and nail some hard run sessions after my calf injury but ended up nailing myself into the ground instead.

Never mind, that was that, I couldn’t have given more on the day. Knowing that, I made myself feel better by doing some touristy things. Scaling the tallest building in North America, going on an architecture tour, eating hot dogs and deep dish pizza and taking in a Chicago Bears football game. Great to just relax and let my hair down.


I decided against racing Cozumel, instead electing to recover and then get some good training in before I tackle my last race, a world cup in Turkey, where I’m amped to finish the season on a high. Energy levels feel back up and I’m ready for action!

Jetset Gill


If you'd told me 10 days ago that I would be racing in Edmonton this weekend, I probably wouldn't have believed you. Yet, here I sit, in Chicago airport, munching on a huge salad (USA portion sizes never cease to amaze me) , waiting for my connecting flight to Canada. Dan, my massage therapist and Matt, my physio, worked wonders on my calf & I was back on track (literally) with minimal time off. I'm extremely grateful to have an amazing support network & a very healthy body capable of repairing itself quickly.

So its Edmonton up this weekend and then the World Triathlon Grand Final 2 weeks later in Chicago. I'll be basing myself just outside of Chicago after Edmonton for training. Its extremely humid here right now so it will be great acclimatization.

Not being able to run for a few days has made me that much more grateful for what I do & to make the most of every moment & every race.

I'm really excited for this weekend & will check back in next week with some news & how the road to Rio is progressing.