Claire Cashmore MBE and Dave Ellis are a paralympic sports power couple.
Claire's got 8 Paralympic swimming medals, 11 from the World Champs, 12 European Champs podiums, an MBE and, since switching to triathlon a few years a go, she's bagged multiple medals including a 🥈at the European Paratriathlon Champs in Estonia in July 2018 and another 🥈at the World Triathlon Champs
Meanwhile Dave represented Great Britain in swimming at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, coming sixth place in the 200m Individual Medley. More recently, he became World Champion in the PTVI Category at the World Triathlon Champs, his 2nd World Title and that win was his 8th consecutive win in the ITU series.
A few weeks ago, Dave got his tri season going with a 🥈at the WTS Paratriathlon race in Milan and Claire started her own season well with a 🥈in her category at WTS Yokohoma. Then, last weekend they both took 🥇in their categories at the British Triathlon Paratriathlon National Championships.
Brad interviewed them earlier this week ahead of their upcoming heat training camp in Florida...
So, guys, coming off of your recent training camp out in Portugal, how big of a boost was that to your fitness? Can you explain a bit about why an early season training camp is crucial to your season?
Claire: It was a huge boost. Going away early season and nailing a solid block of training with no distractions is crucial for me to set me up for the year.
Being able to be outside on the road with the sun on your back instead of stuck indoors on the turbo also makes a huge difference.
Last year I ended up coming home early from our winter training camp as I pushed too hard, too early and ended up having a stress response in both my shins - so this year I was much more conscious of building on what I had done and by then end of the camp I was in a really good place.
For Dave and I it also came at the perfect time as we had a lot of stress at home with moving house etc so it was great to get away!
Dave: Unfortunately I got really ill on the camp. I had a great couple of weeks and was getting into great shape and then on the Monday morning of the 3rd week, I woke up feeling awful.
I wasn't able to get out of bed for 2 days and then spent the rest of the camp doing very little.
I think that's pushed my fitness back a little as I'm not quite in the same shape as I was at this time last year. However you can't rush things and staying patient and not over doing it has helped me keep progressing...
You’ve both recently had success with your early season races (WTS Milan & WTS Yokohama), landing on the podium in 2nd, how did these races go for the both of you?
Claire: It was the first series race of the season, so it’s always a really good test to see where you are actually at.
It was great to see some big improvements on the bike and I got pretty excited when I was in the lead and managed to carry this through onto the run.
Unfortunately Grace (Paralympic champion) managed to catch me on the second lap, we then ran the rest of the race stride for stride until 500 metres from the finish when she picked up the pace, I tried to go with her but annoyingly I got a really bad stitch which meant I struggled to keep with the pace.
I was really happy to still pick up the silver and I am really looking forward to the rest of the season.
Dave: Well I knew I was a little short on form being a few weeks behind and having to recover from being ill. But I still thought I could put in a good performance at the race.
The swim was solid, not too far off, and we started the bike really well. But coming through a slow section and changing up the gears, the chain managed to slip off the chain ring and get jammed, we tried pedalling it back on but had to stop and - thankfully - after a minute of messing, managed to fix it and get going again.
The rest of the bike was pretty good, but I think my fitness showed on the run and Hector (the winner) went really well on the run and pulled away, I was happy to finish 2nd at one point when the chain was all wrapped around I thought we might be done!
We hear that you’ll be doing some heat acclimation training, what is this in prep for?
Claire: Tokyo 2020!
We have a test event there in August, when it’s going to be absolutely scorching and very humid, so we want to be as well acclimatised as possible.
Tell us a bit about your heat acclimation training?
Claire: We are very lucky to have access to the heat chambers at Loughborough University and will have exposure a few times a week to ensure that when we arrive in Clermont, Florida for our heat training camp it won’t be a complete shock to the system!
We are off to Clermont for just under 2 weeks and then we will head straight over to Montreal WTS for the first qualification race.
Have you done heat acclimation training in the past and how do you feel it has benefited you?
Dave: Well, spending lots of time on the turbo tends to make me fairly good at coping with the heat!
But we did trial a heat protocol last year into Iseo WPS and that worked really well as I felt very strong on the run, which is probably the place where the heat can cause the most issues.
The plan this year is to build on that with something similar into Montreal and hopefully we'll be all set on the protocol for the test event in Tokyo.
Claire: Yes we did a little bit last year and the more acclimatised I can get the more comfortable it will be racing in these conditions.
As an arm amputee, the heat can have a bigger effect on me due to the fact we don’t have the extra surface area to lose the heat from and plus prosthetics are very hot and get super sweaty!
So, how do you adapt your hydration & nutrition strategy for the heat?
Claire: Staying hydrated with Precision Hydration tabs in my bottle is essential to be able to maintain training after the heat exposure.
Our sweat losses will be measured regularly so we can prioritise replacing fluids as soon as possible to ensure readiness for the next session.
We are currently in discussion with our nutritionist around how to manage appetite and maintain our body weight in and around the heat exposure to ensure there’s no impact on our fuel supplies.
With 2020 being a Paralympic year, we know you have some big races coming up this season. Can you explain briefly about the qualification process and what you can do to secure a spot to Tokyo 2020, earlier rather than later?
Claire: It’s quite complicated, but without going into too many technicalities, it is based on our best 3 races from June 2019 to June 2020 - where you have to be ranked in the top 8.
For an automatic spot, we have to medal at Montreal and the test event in Tokyo.
We've got our fingers crossed for you! Ok, lastly, if you could give our readers one piece of pre-race advice, what would it be?
Dave: Don't try something new in a race, if you always use a certain nutrition product like PH for example, and you always train with it, feel good and don't have any stomach issues, don't suddenly use something different on race day! The free sample gel/hydro tab in your race pack isn't worth risking...
Claire: Have a clear process to follow and don’t get caught up in worrying about the outcome (to which we have no control).
If you have worked hard and you follow your process, the rest will take care of itself...