An interview with 8x Paralympic medalist Claire Cashmore MBE
Claire Cashmore has got 8 Paralympic swimming medals, 11 from the World Champs, 12 European Champs podiums, an MBE...and now she's got Precision Hydration in her bottles.
She recently switched to triathlon and - guess what - she's already winning medals, bagging a 🥈at the European Paratriathlon Champs in Estonia back in July.
Now she's got her sights set on the Para-Triathlon World Championships in Australia in September and we've been helping her perfect her hydration plan for the Gold Coast.
We caught up with Claire to chew that fat on everything from the challenge of transitioning to a new sport to what a typical training week looks like for her in the run up to a key event...
So Claire, what's your favourite memory from your swimming days?
That’s such a hard question, everything about London 2012 was very special and the feeling of walking out in front of 17,000 people and seeing all those red, white and blue flags and feeling like the roof was going to lift off because of the noise was incredible.
However, winning my first Gold medal at the World Championships and breaking the world record in the 100m was such a special memory. To top it off, my room mate and one of my closest friends Kate Grey got the Silver medal.
We were so excited to stand on that medal podium and sing our hearts out but the medal ceremony got cancelled due to a thunderstorm. I was pretty gutted to say the least!
Outside of racing, there are again so many special memories. The closing ceremony in Rio was definitely very memorable. Mid way through the party the heavens opened but myself and teammates Charlotte Henshaw, Susie Rodgers, Ellie Simmonds and Amy Marren decided that we wanted to soak it all up, whilst everyone else went home.
After the ceremony we walked back to the bus (what felt like miles), the rain was torrential, we were dripping, we all had blisters, our paper bags with our dinner in had ripped but no rain or storm could dampen our absolute high!
We were so happy and carefree as we serenaded all the other athletes with ‘It’s raining men’, I think they thought we were crazy!
That ultimate high you get after competing at the biggest Games of your life and finally being able to let your hair down after 4 years and celebrate with your closest friends is very special.
No doubt! Ok, so now that you're focused on triathlon, how much less are you swimming per week?
I only swim ~4-5 sessions a week, consisting of between 1-1.5 hours in comparison to 9 x 2 hour sessions when I was a swimmer.
When I was training at Leeds I was doing 50-60k a week in the pool for a 100m breaststroke! I very rarely get over 20k a week nowadays.
Have you had any setbacks from the move from swimming to triathlon? Is there anything that's more challenging than you expected?
Definitely, but these setbacks are there to challenge you and for you to learn more about yourself.
One of the biggest problems transitioning from another sport is the expectation you put on yourself. I want to run before I can walk and get frustrated when new skills take a long time to learn.
Although my heart and lungs are fit enough, my joints and bones are not used to the impact and therefore you have to be very careful with increasing the run and bike volume.
I learnt that very quickly this winter when I decided to up my training which resulted in a little injury in both my shins.
I think when you come in at a high level it's quite easy to neglect the foundation and basic skills.
As you're an 8x Paralympic medalist, do you feel like other athletes are keeping a closer eye on you?
I'm not sure to be honest. Swimming is such a small part of the triathlon, plus I was a breaststroker who really didn’t like doing long distance freestyle 😬, so it wasn’t a strength of mine. I like to think I'm just chipping away under the radar!
How nervous were you a few weeks ago in anticipation of the announcement of what categories would be included at Tokyo 2020?
I felt physically sick and very emotional waiting for the link to load. It’s crazy to think that all your dreams were going to be determined by that one email.
I think it was especially stressful for me as myself and my boyfriend, Dave Ellis were both in the same position.
Unfortunately Dave's class didn’t go through last time and I was dreading the same thing would happen again. It was really hard to watch somebody you care about so disappointed.
Thankfully this time it was good news for both Dave and I. It was such a relief that I would have the opportunity to try and qualify for a 5th Paralympic Games and he would for a 2nd Games.
But it was a very bitter sweet day as you're over the moon that your category is going forward, but at the same time absolutely distraught for those that aren't going to have the opportunity to race at the pinnacle of their sporting career.
I'm hoping in the future as the sport grows this won’t happen and everyone will have the opportunity to compete.
So, what does a typical training week look like for you a few months out from a major event?
Ok, so I'll share this week's training plan as an example...
As we're a few weeks out from the World Championships and have no more races, we had a race simulation day on Monday at the Mallory Park circuit. It’s a great opportunity to practice the transitions and race elements on a closed road circuit.
Monday: Race simulation day
Race 1: Swim-Bike (400m, 6k)
Race 2: Bike-run (6k, 1k)
Break for lunch
Race 3: mini triathlon - 400 swim, 8k bike, 2k run
Tuesday: Easier day after racing
4000m swim - longer aerobic
1 hour in the gym
2 hour aerobic ride
30 min aerobic run
1.5 hour 4-4.5km with 2000m @ threshold swim
90 min ride with short efforts
30 min run drills
1 hour gym
45 min reformer session before swimming (Core activation).
90 min swim (speed endurance)
40 min run session 10x90 second efforts (smaller session as Max efforts on Monday)
1 hour Yoga
3 hour long aerobic ride
Swim 1-11/2 hours (recovery)
Nice! What's the training session you dread the most when you get your schedule?!
In all honesty there's not any sessions that I dread in triathlon.
I generally enjoy all the hard sessions. In swimming we used to do 16 x 100s breaststroke best average (so pretty much max) with a short rest. This used to give me nightmares, I absolutely dreaded it. There were many times where someone was in tears over that session!
I feel like triathlon training is much nicer. Maybe I need to ask my coach to be a bit more brutal! Haha.
Let's hope they don't read this interview! 😜
What are you looking forward to most about your upcoming trip to Australia for the Para-Triathlon World Champs? Any big plans after the race?
I can’t wait to race on the big stage! I have always been a racer and love the adrenaline rush.
After racing myself and Dave will take a few weeks to mentally and physically recharge the batteries whilst seeing a few places in Australia.
Well, everyone in Team PH will be cheering you on that's for sure! Good luck and enjoy some well earned downtime after you've got what you went out there to do done!
You can follow Claire's progress in triathlon on Twitter.