Former world sevens player of the year and Arctic adventurer Ollie Phillips is aiming to become an Olympic-distance triathlete this year – with Aropec as his training partner.
Once the best sevens rugby player on the planet, today, former England, Gloucester, Stade Francais and Newcastle Falcons winger Ollie Phillips combines a full-time job at PWC with motivational speaking, commentating, charity work and taking on arduous challenges including a 100-mile trek across the Arctic. Now, with Aropec as a training partner, he’s taking on triathlon. With a super sprint under his belt, he’s now set his next goal – an Olympic distance. He spoke to Aropec.co.uk about his goals for the triathlon season ahead...
Why did you decide to give triathlon a go?
I've been meaning to do a triathlon for a long time but kept procrastinating for one reason or another. Then, two weeks ago, on the Tuesday, I signed up for a triathlon sprint and then did the race on the Friday.
Wow, quick turnaround. How was it?
It was brilliant! There were 250 people racing, I didn’t realise it would be that big actually, but, yeah, it was good. I like the short bursts of different challenges, and I enjoyed the change overs between the tasks, and the people – they were great!
Loads of people were chatting before the race, and then after, about the experience. Because it was a sprint you more or less cycled with the same group. It was competitive, don’t get me wrong, but people still talked to each other.
Which discipline did you find hardest?
I’m awful at swimming. I was like a stone in the pool and it felt like I was going to sink to the bottom. My strongest bit was the running. I didn’t really have an expectations in the race, I just thought, ‘why not just dive in and give it a go?’ In the end, I’m just happy that I completed it. The hardest part was to actually do it.
What’s next for you and triathlon?
I’m now building on this. I will train more, focus more, and find more races to compete in. I will try to not work on the things I am already good at, and instead work on becoming better. I’m working towards being able to do the Olympic distance.
And then an Ironman?
Maybe, the time commitment is just too big at the moment. That’s what I like about the Olympic distance and the sprints, I can break them down to fit into everything else that is going on.
A full-time job, charity work, triathlon, and now a dad with Lillie-Mae born earlier this month – how are going to do it all?
Thanks, she's amazing! Triathlon is good because you can always fit in two of the three sports during the day. For example, I’d go to the swimming pool in the morning and then cycle or run to work, which is 3.5 miles, and, there, I have already ticked two off. It doesn’t take that much to have a successful session, that’s why I'm looking forward to it.
Did you get any advice before your first triathlon?
My fiancé has done a bit of triathlon, but hasn’t been able to work out since she got pregnant. Although, she has been able to swim, so we have been doing that together, and she has been coaching me a bit. Then, bizarrely, I found out one of the guys at PWC is a triathlon coach at GB national team level, so I’ll have to try to reach a level where he can coach me.
And now with little Lillie-Mae – think you’ll be able to copy?
Yes, I think so. The biggest challenge is time managing. You’re maximising your time and you can’t get distracted. It is the hardest challenge, but the crucial part. I have this dream of the baby sleeping through the night, but that obviously won’t happen. I also don’t want to leave my partner and I know she wants to train too, so I have to prioritise.
What would you say is your biggest achievement?Becoming a father. I’m excited, nervous, scared, all of it. But it will be brilliant. Then, of course, it’s the rugby, being named the best player in the world, and that I have been able to travel the world.
What has been your greatest adventure?
Probably cycling across America, I got to do that with Lucy, my fiancé. I had no idea that the landscape would be that beautiful. That is the best one I’ve done. I have a whole bucket list of things to do, and triathlon is now right on there.
What else is on the list?
I want to do Everest at some point. I’m climbing Kilimanjaro this autumn and then I’m arranging the world’s highest game of rugby next summer, at the Everest base camp. It will be like the Arctic one, in partnership with Wooden Spoons.
You are also highly involved in charity, how come this is so important for you?
The community within the rugby has been very kind and given a lot to me, and I want to give back.
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Keep track with Ollie’s triathlon challenge on Twitter @aropec & @olliephillips11 and via Instagram @aropecsports & @olliephillips11