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© susiehignett.com
Susie Hignett is moving fast
Posted by: John Levison
Posted on: Thursday 10th January 2013


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The 2013 Ironman 70.3 season kicks off this coming weekend in Pucon, Chile, but as we previewed HERE, for a significant number of British long course athletes 2013 will begin a week later at the Spec Savers Ironman 70.3 South Africa on 20th January.

For British ladies, 2013 was quite a year on the long course scene; the retirement of Chrissie Wellington, the twin World Championship victories of Leanda Cave, Challenge Roth win to Rachel Joyce and the fantastic season of Lucy Gossage just a few highlights - with several others worthy of mention in the same context too (Lidbury, Swallow, Mullan, Abraham...).

For that reason, it's perhaps not surprising that flying a little under those headlines is an athlete who, by normal standards, had a breakthrough year and yet for many, will perhaps be the best British long course athlete you've not heard of. Yet.

And that is why I wanted to speak to Susie Hignett (www.susiehignett.com) - which I managed to do once she had negotiated airport security at Heathrow en route to South Africa for her first race of the season!


Susie who?

Susie Hignett only took part in her first triathlon less than 18 months ago. It was Ironman 70.3 Antwerp 2011, and she finished sixth. Overall that is, not in her age group, 10 minutes behind the winner, Ironman Florida 2010 and Ironman Brasil 2012 champion, Sofie Goos (BEL) - not a bad start. How did that happen?

"My background was as a runner - 5km track and cross country primarily - where I ran internationally at European Under-23 Champs. I was struggling with injuries running and it was getting to the point where I thought I need to 'grow up', move on and get a job, a career etc as I was beginning to think the running could only go so far. And now I've ended up racing as a Pro triathlete!

"Before 'giving up' running I thought I'd do a half marathon and that went quite well (1:15:45 at the EDF Energy Birmingham Half in 2010), but for how I ended up even doing a triathlon I blame my boyfriend. He was racing triathlons as an age group athlete, and yet he was doing more training hours than I was when trying to be an international runner. I was tagging along to events etc...and so I thought with the running 'career' sort of coming to an end, I'd give it a try."

So why the decision to start with a 70.3 distance race - most triathletes would usually start short, and even with your running you were a 5km runner primarily?

"That was really because when I looked at the distances, the swim - and I don't have any swim background - while slightly longer, is a significantly smaller percentage of the overall race than for a Sprint or Standard Distance race, so I thought it would perhaps be better for me. I was used to how to race (generally) from the running, but the biggest obstacle in going from a 15 minute race to approaching five hours is really the nutrition, endurance and the mental aspects - everything, the whole process of triathlon, has been and still is a huge learning curve for me."

An interesting sponsor approach...

On Planet-X ©susiehignett.comSusie had an interesting and successful approach to sponsorship. "I emailed Planet X (www.planet-x-bikes.co.uk) before I did Antwerp in 2011 and sort of said something along the lines of 'I don't suppose you'd like to sponsor me... I haven't actually done a triathlon yet, but I know I can run and I think I'll be able to swim and bike so might have some potential, if you'd consider taking a chance on me?" For some reason they did (!) and it worked out well. They have been really good and have provided me with a road bike, a mountain bike and a time trial bike. With the the weather being bad, being able to use the mountain bike has been fantastic"

The day job

While she may race in the Pro ranks, Susie still works full-time, with a demanding job too.

"I work for Volac a dairy nutrition company which supplies whey protein to the sports nutrition market. One of our brands is The Good Whey Co. (www.thegoodwhey.com) and this year we are releasing a new product to the market which is taking up a lot of my time, as I work as the Brand Manager.

"Trying to fit in training around work, like anyone, is difficult and a lot of that has to be using the time to and from work efficiently - which means logistics (making sure the right kit, clean clothes or food is in the right place!!) is really important. That's a challenge, but using that those hours is quite time efficient."

At least she doesn't have to worry about finding a recovery drink on arrival at the office with her job...

"I tend to be out of the office at other locations every week, and so have to be pretty flexible in terms of training. I do have a plan of what sessions to do, but that has to be quite variable depending on work requirements and so I might often use those out of office times as rest days. The main thing is being consistent overall, not worrying too much about a rigid plan."

Why South Africa?

After winning The Vitruvian in 2011 after that Antwerp debut, Susie started 2012, as she will this year, at Ironman 70.3 South Africa (5th place). Why South Africa, and what do you think of the course?

Well, my boyfriend Rob is South African, and we usually go out there every December or January anyway, so when I heard there was a race there... The course is quite tough - much of the bike course is on a closed main road/motorway and there is a gradual climb to the turnaround. I was expecting it to be much faster on the return than it felt on the way out (!), but that didn't seem to happen. It definitely a course you need to keep your concentration on as it isn't as easy as it seems.

Triathlon Training versus Running training

"Running will always be my favourite, but I actually enjoy all of the disciplines. I wasn't that excited about the thought of swimming, but its actually proven to be enjoyable even though its still somewhat alien.

"I definitely train a lot more hours now than I ever did as a runner. Despite that, staying injury free is much easier - there is less running overall, but it's the reduction in the intense running that has really benefitted me. With 5k running, you really need to do those track sessions, the intense 200m/400m efforts in spikes. With that type of training not essential to a four/five hour race, and without running in spikes, my achilles is so much better."

The Future?

2012 highlights for Susie were fifth places at 70.3 South Africa and 70.3 UK (Wimbleball), followed by second - to Olympic Champion Nicola Spirig - on her return to 70.3 Antwerp, exactly a year after her multisport debut.

For 2013, she'll be sticking primarily to 70.3 events. "With working full-time and being busy with the product launch at work, I'll stick to 70.3 racing. I'll do the UK event again and possibly 5/6 halfs in total in the UK/Europe."

Antwerp 70.3 2012 ©susiehignett.com

How far can she go? 70.3 South Africa on 20th January won't answer that one fully, but it might well give a hint as to whether there is more - and how much more - to come from an athlete who has shown such potential in the 18 months since her debut in the sport. "Past performance is no guarantee of future results" is the usual disclaimer, but there are plenty of people out there who suspect we haven't seen the best of Susie Hignett just yet. Not 27 years of age until February, there is little reason to doubt those suggestions just yet.

Keep an eye out for her during 2013.


You can find out more about Susie via her website (www.susiehignett.com), and also follow her on Twitter @susiehignett.


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