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Nina interviews Elinor Thorogood
Posted by: Ninam91
Posted on: Friday 20th April 2012


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We recently brought you the first installment of our new series from Nina McArthur. Nina recently launched launched her own blog (www.sinkorswimnina.blogspot.com) to track her progress after returning to the sport, three years after losing her motivation and health as a 17 year old elite junior triathlete. Alongside her own blog, Nina will be contributing to Tri247 regularly on...whatever she wants!

In this piece Nina interviews Elinor Thorogood, a young athlete who has managed to balance sporting excellence with a positive and fun attitude, something Nina looks up to - and thinks plenty of us could learn from.


Elinor Thorogood is a twenty year old from the lovely town of Aberystwyth, currently studying for a degree in Sports Science with Management at Loughborough University. She's also a member of the Loughborough Triathlon Performance squad (LTPS) and aims to become a professional senior triathlete. LTPS is a squad of around 10 athletes, sponsored by Speedo, who train and race together be it domestic or international competitions.

I asked to interview Eli because after racing with her as a youngster and then following her updates ever since, I feel she is an athlete with an attitude and morals to be aspired to. Everything she does is done with a smile; she is a role model for the sport and highlights how you can compete at the highest level whilst not losing the passion and fun side of things like I did. So I endeavoured to find out how she managed this ultimate combination of passion, smiles and success.

So Eli, give us a bit of background as to when you started triathlon & why?

Elinor ThorogoodI did my first triathlon when I was about 12 years old. I'm still not convinced you can really call drowning over 100m, struggling to get round 8km on a rusty old mountain bike and plodding two laps of a running track a triathlon, but in my mind I'd done it, and from then on I was completely hooked.

I started to take it more seriously when I was 15, where I met my first coach Rick Velati. Rick put a lot of time and effort into helping me reach my first goal of getting onto the British Triathlon Youth Development Programme [although] spending my 16th birthday doing swim and run trials was not ideal. This move was to become pretty significant as it really kick-started my love for triathlon both training and competing and since then my love keeps on growing and growing,.

I suppose I would probably say now I am most definitely addicted to triathlon.

Can you pinpoint what you love most about the sport?

The thing I love the most about triathlon how much it can make me smile. There are tough times, when training isn't going to plan or when racing doesn't turn out the way you hoped, but through it all I think you just have to smile. Be it at the coffee and cake stops on long Winter bike rides, I'm addicted to a chocolate brownie, or watching younger athletes follow in your footsteps and dedicate themselves to the sport which you love so much.

Elinor ThorogoodI'm glad we share the same love for coffee & cake Eli! But what have you found to be the hardest parts of competing and how do you manage to motivate yourself through those?

Last year was probably the hardest year of my triathlon career. I had three stress fractures in the space of five months. This doesn't occur very often, and having to watch the National Duathlon Championships on crutches with my leg in a boot really brought home how much I needed to come back from the injuries.

When I was diagnosed with my second lot of stress fractures, one in each leg, I did start thinking about how I could perhaps pimp up a wheelchair in the same way as we triathletes like to have these swish bikes of ours. But the thought of recovering and getting back to any kind of form and fitness was what really kept me going. Having my family, friends and in particular my coach stand by me to tell me that I would be able to come back from it really helped me to stay focused on the recovery.

Triathlon is such a demanding sport, and there are so many things you have to give up to make time for the sport. But I've come to the realisation that making these sacrifices is what it is all about, and the buzz I get from finishing a tough day of training makes all those 5am starts worthwhile.

Elinor Thorogood

Since I returned to triathlon, I've been determined to make it social & fun but obviously that's more difficult when you're competing at a high level. What is your social triathlon life like?

The triathlon community is really incredible. Some of my best friends are those in my LTPS training group, they even get the privilege of seeing me at my best at 5.30am! The social aspect is hugely important to me. As a squad we went on a two week training camp to Fuerteventura in January. The training was intense, I don't think I've ever done a two week block quite like it, but what really got me through it was the constant gossiping and giggles we all shared. Most of the laughing was actually at my expense but hey, there's always someone who managed to get some terrible tan lines. The Loughborough University Triathlon Club is a brilliant squad to be a part of, and events such as the BUCS Triathlon and Duathlon really do bring the club together.

I notice from your Twitter updates that you have some interesting combinations of pre and post training food. What is your favourite recovery snack and have you got any special recipes you could share with us?

My favourite recovery food is really boring; cereal. I eat tonnes of it every day, my Weetabix record hit six in one go this week. I could eat any cereal I'm given but my absolute favourite is soggy Branflakes. At the end of the day another of my favourite foods, especially after one of those days that never seems to end, is a nutella mug cake that you can make in three minutes. Here's the recipe. It's quite shocking when you realise just how much you put into it but it tastes absolutely positively incredible.

Eli's Nutella Mug Cake
4 tablespoons self rising flour
4 tablespoons white granulated sugar
1 egg
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons Nutella
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

Put all of these ingredients into a large mug, whisk them all together and place in the microwave for 1.5-3 minutes. And voila, the most amazing 3-minute cake you will ever have tasted.

What are your training & racing plans for 2012?

My plans for this year mainly revolve around getting fit again. Having such extensive injuries and a fairly impressive bike crash last year really set me back a bit from my early days as a international junior and it was pretty tough to swallow when I realised how far it put me back. I have already started my season with a seventh place at the National Duathlon Champs, a result I was not particularly happy with but a performance I should be content with and know that I can learn so much from. Initially I was just pleased to have got through it without any injuries and no signs of a bike crash whatsoever. I also ran quite strongly off the bike, which has always been one of my weaknesses. I want to race this year and that's all I want to do. I'm planning on racing all the Super Series races, and a couple of European Cup races including Holten [the World U23 qualifiers]. I'm just going to go into the race and attack it like I would any other race and see what happens.

Elinor ThorogoodDo you have a quote that you stand by both in triathlon and everyday life?

"Never tell me the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the moon2.

My aim in life is to be the best I can be at whatever I choose to do. If I can't reach my potential in the triathlon world then I want to be the best at something else. I am naturally a driven person and this is really quite obvious in my personality and I think this quote really sums up the way I think and the way I act.

For one last question, I find you quite an inspirational athlete following my own difficulties over the past three years and my sudden loss of passion whilst you have maintained both good performance and a love for the sport. Do you have a role model who has particularly inspired you?

My role model is a friend of mine from my local triathlon club, Kevin Hamilton. Kev has been a family friend for a number of years after going to the World Age Group Championships with my Dad in Cancun in 2002. A few years back, Kev was involved in a horrific accident where he was knocked off his bike and it really was touch and go for a while. He was in hospital for a number of months and visiting him a few weeks after the accident broke my heart. To see a man who had been so active be stuck in a hospital bed was just wrong. But I remember how positive Kev was and it made me realise that there are so many trivial things going on in my life that I make a big deal out of and really have no reason too. Seeing Kev cross the finishing line of a triathlon a few years later after completing it in quite a competitive time brought tears to my eyes and this is why Kev is my hero. He came back to the sport he and I both love after such a horrendous accident and it was a moment I will never forget.


As you will have realised by now, my blog (www.sinkorswimnina.blogspot.com) is centred on my return to triathlon, whilst relating back to the point at which I suddenly realised I'd lost my passion for the sport at seventeen years old.

After three years of battling with ups and downs stemming from struggles in my last year of competition, at twenty-one I have re-kindled both my health and my triathlon spirit. My experiences have made me realise how important it is to have an attitude like Eli's and to enjoy every single opportunity that you are given. There will always be those painful run sessions where you feel like your lungs are about to explode and can feel the lactic acid seeping into your muscles, but as long as you end the day with a satisfied smile you know it's worth it.

Sinking under pressure is an experience that I would never like to revisit and one that I feel elite athletes with an approach like Eli can avoid. One of my most recent blogs is entitled ‘You are Braver than you Believe, Smarter than you Seem, and Stronger than you Think' and this draws on my last year of triathlon and the tough three years to follow. It emphasises that that there is a great positive within every negative and I truly hope that some you budding athletes out there be you amateur (like me!) or elite (like Eli) will remember this throughout the trials and tribulations of the sport that is triathlon.


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