Ben is a duathlete who recently stepped up from age group level to race for the GB elite team in St Wendel where he placed 15th at the European Middle Distance Duathlon Champs.
Ben is going to contribute more to Tri Radar over the coming months and here, we find out a little more about the man behind the words. Including his results, aims, training ideas, sporting heroes and among other things, his food-based guilty pleasures!
Tell us a bit about your background
I was born in Bristol (1981) but spent all my formative life in Cornwall so consider myself Cornish. I went to University in Bristol then got a job at Dean Close School in Cheltenham teaching Geography. I am still there now, teaching geography and I’m housemaster of a day house. I live in Cheltenham with my wife Rachael and two irrepressible children, Barney (7) and Kiki (5).
Have you always been an endurance athlete?
No. I was into all sports growing up, but mainly cricket and rugby. I played cricket to a fairly decent level*. I was always one of the fittest in the team but never into fitness itself. It was only when injury and work stopped me playing cricket that I got into running and cycling properly – mainly because I have always loved the outdoors. I soon realised I was quite good and became even more motivated and started racing. Racing is great, but I will never lose the joy of why I started in the first place. I am happiest on those easy runs/rides out in the countryside.
*Ben played over 50 minor counties matches for Cornwall
What are your best results in duathlon?
I have won quite a few duathlons including Storm the Castle and The Kinetic One Duathlon Series but 15th at the recent European Middle Distance Champs in St Wendel in Germany has to be up there. I’ve also placed, 15th, 11th and 10th in the British Elite Champs and 3rd overall in the British Age Group Champs a few years ago.
What are your aims in the sport?
I am way better than I ever thought I could be when I first started out in my late 20s so anything is a bonus! I’m still motivated though. I haven’t run an official sub 15 min 5k yet and would also like to run a sub 31 min 10k in the future, hopefully in 2018. It’s my bike that needs more work though and with a real focus on that over the winter I hope to place higher in next year’s European Elite Duathlon Champs.
Do you have any advice to share about training?
I’m no expert on this – I leave it to my coach, Dave Newport, to tell me what to do. Though the key in my view is progression. Your sessions week on week, month on month and year on year need to progress, or you just stay where you are. I follow the 80:20 rule with the majority of my training done at an easy pace, making sure the hard session are HARD. Over a 2-week period I will do 2 interval sessions and 1 tempo session for both bike and run (6 key sessions over the two weeks). The other sessions are easier with some moderate efforts thrown in now and again if I’m feeling OK (which I’m usually not)!
Who are your sporting heroes?
When I was young it was Gary Linekar. Then it was Jonny Wilkinson but I also loved Christian Cullen who was an incredible full-back. These days it’s Alistair Brownlee. I love how hard he pushes himself in races, the fact he is more at home in the rain of the Yorkshire Dales than in Lanzarote, as well as how down to earth he is. Both brothers are a real inspiration and wonderful role models for any sportsperson.
Are you part of a tri-club?
No. I never swam much as a boy and my swimming is very average. I’ve done a few triathlons but my passion is running and cycling. I run for Cheltenham Harriers and cycle with the best cyclists in the area when I can.
What brand of bike do you ride?
For duathlon and TTs I’m on a custom made Kinetic-One and for draft legal races I’m on a Giant Propel (with Di2… it’s so good!)
Tell us a bit about your sponsorship deals
I am sponsored by Kinetic One Wheels who are an artisan bike wheel builder based in Stroud. They have been my one and only sponsor since my results started showing promise in my late 20s. The wheels are awesome and Andy – who runs the show – is always there to sort my bike out for me. I’ve become quite dependent on him so am pretty woeful at bike mechanics. On several occasions in the last year I’ve phoned him up last minute before a race and he’s sorted my bike out for me, working late into the night. He’s a legend and I highly recommend Kinetic One Wheels!
How do you balance work, training and family?
With difficulty! Early mornings and late evenings are a common feature to try and train as much as possible when the kids are asleep. After a few weeks I get pretty tired and collapse into bed at 9 ish.
Favourite training destination?
Domestically you can’t beat running anywhere on the Cornish Coast Path. The Chapel Porth area on the north coast is my go-to spot when I’m back in Kernow. Cycling in the Cotswolds is pretty damn good and very hard to beat for a combination of challenge and beauty.
Abroad, I loved Majorca in April. It was my first time there. The Sa Calobra climb is awesome. I’ve also spent a fair bit of time camping in Provence near Mount Ventoux. One of the best things about these places is the sheer number of cyclists on the road, and the respect the locals have for cyclists. I wish road users were less anti-cyclist in the UK. In general, I find running in these areas far less enjoyable than in England because there are no 1:25000 maps (which I love!) and the trails are always so rock hard. You can’t beat the softer ground conditions of the UK. But that obviously comes at a meteorological cost!
What’s your favourite endurance event?
Tough one! I’m going to cop out and say the best thing is the variety. I enjoy the low-key nature of a local 10-mile TT in which you sign in at the local village hall, as well as the excitement of an international event like Powerman St Wendel that I did recently. Storm the Castle is an awesome duathlon so that needs a mention.
What’s your favourite music to train to?
Any dance music really. Though for the final few horrendous intervals on the turbo I go for ‘Read all about it’ by Professor Green (normal version and/or instrumental), and ‘Let’s Go’ by Calvin Harris. Massive tunes.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Mine is food based. I’m addicted to Philadelphia cream cheese and peanut butter. I get a teaspoon and scoop out a dollop of cream cheese then dip that straight in the peanut butter jar and scrape a load out. The combination is amazing. Together they create some weird chemical reaction in my brain which means I can’t actually stop eating it.
Are you on social media?
You can read Ben’s race report from the European Middle Distance Duathlon Champs here.