This article is an interview with long distance athlete and all round crazy lady, Fiona Hoare. I chose Fiona as she has had more setbacks than your average athlete, yet has managed to cram so much into her lifetime . . . and she’s not done yet! Here’s her view on her life so far and what her experiences have taught her now that she has reached 50.
Sarah: For those readers who don’t know you, can you tell people who you are and what you do?
Fiona: My name is Fiona Hoare, I’m a triathlon coach and endurance athlete. I mainly specialise in long distance triathlons (on or off road), distance swimming, cycle touring, and any interesting challenges.
Sarah: What types of events have you done in your lifetime and what are your achievements to date?
Fiona: In my 20s and early 30s I was a competitive racing cyclist with some good results to my name. I was fortunate enough to race abroad a couple of times in stage races. I also dabbled at competitive horse riding. After cycling I took up multi day adventure racing which was great fun although very hard on my body. During this phase I had a couple of nasty injuries to my shoulders following some falls. The adventure racing then lead back into triathlon but the longer distance stuff. I have raced at the world championships in Half and Full Ironman as well as qualifying at Olympic Distance.
More recently I have cycled across the Pyrenees, Lands End to John O’Groats, and completed the Marathon des Sables.
Sarah: Can you describe the injuries you have sustained and anything they might have taught you?
Fiona: Throughout my competitive career I have had a few health and injury issues which have made my life interesting and at times pretty challenging. In my 20s I had a couple of bad horse riding accidents – one of which resulted in a broken neck, luckily nothing serious long term apart from stiffness and a bit grumbly from time to time. Also in my 20s I had some bones removed from my right foot as a result of Freiberg Disease, the 2nd and 3rd metatarsal heads have been removed and I have an arthritic big toe and joint. The result of which was to be told that I’d never run again.
Again in my 20s, I suffered a prolapsed disc in my back which has left some permanent nerve damage to the right glute, leg and foot. In my late 30’s I went down with a chronic fatigue syndrome which lasted a few years and has changed the way I live my life. I get tired more easily, recovery takes longer, and I avoid too much high intensity training. If I need to sleep… I just have to sleep whether it be at 2pm for 20 minutes or 4 hours, or just sleeping ‘til lunchtime. It has impacted upon my life but it hasn’t stopped me, I’m just much more specific with my training and life in general. I have also learnt that rest and relaxation is GOOD.
I have overcome these setbacks with positive thinking and with the help of some very special people.
Sarah: What has been your most challenging event so far?
Fiona: Last year I entered the Marathon des Sables 2015. This is a long foot race, a 6 day self-sufficient in the Sahara Desert, Morocco, covering a very challenging 156miles. Although this is technically a race, I, like many people treated this more as a challenge and a matter of survival. For me the main challenge of this event was not the distance or severity but the impact of my right foot would have upon my movement patterns for the prolonged period of walking / running. Over the years this has caused me many issues and even running a marathon at the end of a long distance triathlon has been challenging enough.
Sarah: What was your preparation for the race?
Fiona: My plan was basically to rely upon the 30 years of endurance training that I have gained, to avoid doing too much running and walking, and what I did had to be specific, incorporating some specific conditioning and movement work. The maximum time that I spent on my feet was nearly 7 hours usually as a walk / run practice. I also did 3-4 walks or runs of up to 2 hours. The rest of the training involved swimming and some cycling.
Sarah: Did you enlist the help of anyone else and if so, how did they help?
Fiona: Yes, you! In the run up to the race we spent time mobilising and strengthening my foot, helping the rest of my body also cope with the new and improved movement pattern. In effect I had to learn to walk and run properly all over again in such a way that allowed me to maintain the duration of effort beyond a couple of hours. To complement this you also produced a number of exercises to strengthen my body and increase the range of movement of my joints. Some of these exercises I also took with me to the desert to try and keep myself mobile.
Although my foot was very painful during the race, I wouldn’t even have got to the start line without your help, let alone the finish line!
Sarah: How did you feel after the race and how are you feeling now you’ve had time to recover properly?
Fiona: 37 miles in, my right foot became too painful to walk properly so I spent 119 miles limping. Naturally, the first job post-race was for you to work on the foot to get it moving again and in just 1 month my body felt recovered enough that I managed my first gentle run. This was more than I had hoped for as one of the side effects of having the chronic fatigue has been my body’s inability to cope with pain. Overall my body has held up well, recovery will take a while and my body will let me know when it’s ready to train again properly.
Sarah: Knowing you, you won’t be able to do nothing now, so what’s next on the horizon?
Fiona: Next in my diary is Ironman Mallorca in September with possibly a run/swim event in August.
Sarah: What have been your favourite exercises that you did leading up to and during the race?
Fiona: The exercises that have helped me the most are; hanging, which has helped stretch out the whole of my body, kneeling quad and hip flexor stretches, and simple step over hip rotations which have helped ease my hip tightness and protect my knees.
Sarah: Well, it’s been a pleasure talking to you, thanks for your time and good luck with the rest of your season.
If you would like to follow Fiona online then please take a look at the links below: