Rachel Cadman interview

The first woman to complete the Arch 2 Arc challenge, Rachel Cadman, on the demands of swimming the channel, the benefits of Pepperami on endurance athletes and what she made of John Bishop’s Paris to London experience…

Rachel Cadman is one of the UK’s foremost ultra triathletes. After completing the Enduroman Double Ironman UK in 2010 she signed up for the Enduroman Arch 2 Arc, where she became the first woman to complete the London to Paris challenge.
Here she opens up to 220 on the mental and physical demands of swimming the channel, the benefits of Pepperami on endurance athletes and what she made of John Bishop’s Paris to London experience…
For people that don’t know, tell us what the Arch to Arc challenge is…
The Enduroman Arch 2 Arc is an ultra-distance triathlon. It involves running from Marble Arch, London the 87miles to Dover, swimming the English Channel and then cycling from Calais, the 185miles to L’Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
How did you train alongside your work in the RAF?
I’d built up a good level of fitness from completing the Enduroman Double Ironman UK in 2010 where I was first female in 32hrs. As I’d a good cycling base I concentrated mainly on long runs and outdoor swims. During the week I’d concentrate on shorter sessions supplemented by strength training and yoga to help support my body under stress; then the weekends saw the monster sessions! My longest run was about 50miles and my longest swim was 10hours off the Lincolnshire Coast.
What sort of support team did you have?
For the event itself I had a three man support team consisting of the Enduroman director (and first person to complete the Arch 2 Arc), Eddie Ette, plus my fiancé and father-in-law to be. They were absolutely fantastic and supported me brilliantly despite them getting more and more tired and feeling terrible during a very turbulent Channel crossing. Watching them, I was actually glad I was swimming and not on the boat!
The RAF were a wonderful support and my sponsor Herbalife did an amazing job and I truly couldn’t have completed the challenge without them. Finally, I was supported mentally throughout the challenge by the goodwill and donations of those who gave to my two charities, Help for Heroes and Shelter Box.
How did you cope with the accumulated fatigue?
I’d some experience of racing while deeply fatigued after completing the Double Ironman and actually enjoyed racing at night. The biggest difficulty with accumulated fatigue is that it wears down your mental strength so little difficulties can mount up. During that time it’s so important to have a great support crew who knows exactly what to say when – when to make you laugh, when to give you a hug and when to give you a stern talking to!
And what was your nutrition plan?
It’s difficult to rely solely on sports products over such a long time, to get the extreme levels of calories through sports drinks or gels alone would probably lead to intestinal problems. For the run I ate a lot of Pepperami as I tend to prefer fatty, salty foods when I’m running.
At the end of the run, I replenished with a Herbalife Formula 1 shake while in my ice-bath followed by a Subway sandwich. It sounds terrible but the junk food I wouldn’t normally eat seemed to work really well – high in calories and easy to digest. After the swim, the only thing that would be high in calories and nice on my throat was, I’m ashamed to say, a McDonalds McFlurry!
What’s your tri background?
I was a swimmer from an early age but in 2004 I also joined the Serpentine running club, which was just introducing a triathlon arm. My first Olympic distance was at the South Coast triathlon where I won my age group (because there was no-one else in it!) but I was so slow that the announcer read out my time and then, over the loud-speaker, proclaimed there must have been a mistake as ‘no-one could have won their age-group with such a slow time’! I was mortified!
In 2006 I completed IM Germany and realised my future lay in long-distance. I joined the RAF in 2007 and had almost three years out from the sport. I was supporting a friend at her first Olympic distance in 2009 and realised how much I missed tri. I promptly signed up for Ironman Switzerland 2010 followed two weeks later by the Enduroman Double Ironman UK 2010. I then booked my Enduroman Arch 2 Arc slot – nothing like jumping back in with both feet!
Chrissie Wellington is famous for using mottos to keep her motivation up. Were there any psychological techniques you utilised?
I have only one motto that I use whenever training gets monotonous or boring or when racing gets uncomfortable – ‘This too shall pass’ – it apparently comes from a proverb first used by medieval Persian Sufis or mystics. It helps me understand that however difficult something seems, it will at some point end and I will move on from it. In terms of inspiration, I’m naturally in awe of what Chrissie Wellington has managed to achieve and I also seek inspiration from other ultra-athletes such as my good friend Mimi Anderson who is setting world records left, right and centre despite only starting running in her 40s!
Did you follow John Bishop’s progress in his Paris to London challenge?
I did and I wrote specifically to his team sending my support and offering my help if they wanted advice on any part of it. The money John raised for Sport Relief, and all the wonderful causes it supports, was staggering and I hope he’s extremely proud of completing the challenge. So few of us have completed anything like this (there are only nine other Enduroman Arch 2 Arc finishers) that it’d be great to sit down and chat it all through and compare experiences.

Rachel was speaking on behalf of Herbalife (www.herbalife.co.uk).