How Ruth Purbrook won Ironman Exmoor 70.3

I love working with all of our athletes, whether elite or beginner, but I feel a special connection with Team Freespeed’s Ruth Purbrook because her Sweat Test was the first I was involved in. She wasn’t with Freespeed back then but she said she had plans to step up her training and become an elite age-grouper.

I mostly sat back and watched in awe as Jonny took the time to get an understanding of how Ruth trains and competes before combining that with her sweat sodium concentration score (i.e. how salty her sweat is) to really dial in her hydration strategy. I’d been involved with PH for a few months and already knew Andy and JT were the real deal, but I think Ruth’s Sweat Test in Putney was the moment I truly realised how impactful what we do can be to athletes who are working hard to be the best they can be. 

So, I guess maybe I keep an extra eye out for Ruth’s results and that her rapid rise to results like her Age Group Bronze at the 70.3 World Champs last year, or her first Ironman 70.3 win in Exmoor a few weeks back, give me a little bit extra satisfaction. I ask Ruth a few questions about her race at Exmoor and she’s given us the low-down on her bike setup and gear. You can also look back at the last chat we had with her for more insights into her hydration and nutrition strategies.


Ruth, your first overall 70.3 win happened to be the 12th and last 70.3 Exmoor, does that make it sweeter?

I think whatever the race it would have been a pretty awesome feeling - being able to celebrate a champagne podium definitely made it feel like a proper victory. It is a great course and knowing my name will be the final female winner there does feel great! 


Ruth Purbrook Ironman 70.3 Exmoor


You finished 11 minutes faster than Elaine Garvican. At what point did you realise you were so far ahead and what was going through your mind in those last few kms?

I actually had no idea I was that far ahead for the last couple of laps on the run. I knew on the first lap I had at least 8 minutes as there was an out and back bit I timed, however I didn't feel like I was running very fast and it’s always possible for someone to make up that much time with a speedy run!

On the last lap I saw someone quite close who I thought was 2nd so I put everything in to try and pick up the pace! So until I was over the line I wasn't convinced I was going to win! The last few kms were just painful and I was trying to hang in there. 


At last year's race a technical on the bike ruined your day, so do you think you were just more determined to race well this year? How much do you think things like that factor into performances?

I definitely wanted to redeem last years ruined race (completely self inflicted!), and with it being an age group only race I wanted to experience a proper podium.

I think the mental side plays a huge part and whilst it can't necessarily guard against mechanicals, it’s good to know that you have the mental strength to push through when things don't go your way just as well as when they do.


Ruth purbrook riding Giant Liv Avow tri bike


It's been a great year for you. As you've risen in tri has your work and social life suffered at all? How do you maintain a healthy balance?

So, over the last couple of years I have increased my training. I typically do about 15-18 hours a week. Work has its ups and downs in terms of how busy it is but typically I’m doing a 50-60 hour week, so it doesn't leave a huge amount of time for other things.

Generally though I try and make sure there’s one evening a week that is either a date evening with my husband or a night with friends and I’ll do my training in the morning so I have the evening free.

I also made sure I had a good couple of weeks post Ironman Lanzarote to properly relax, including a weekend with my family and a weekend celebrating a friend’s wedding. 


What's the most important thing that you think has enabled you to make such strides in the sport in the last year or so?

I think that having Will as my coach has helped make the biggest improvements - having him set my training sessions for me and also be there to provide lots of general advice and guidance has been invaluable. Also just building up the consistency and getting more experienced has helped.


Ruth purbrook triathlete team freespeed


Can you talk us through your bike setup?

I’m very grateful to have Giant St. Paul's supporting me by providing an amazing Liv Avow for me to race on. The only change I have made is to put on ski bar aerobars, otherwise I have kept the Giant set up with di2 gears, the Giant 50mm tubeless wheels (which roll like a dream), speed play pedals and using the integrated nutrition and hydration systems.

I had a great bike fit with Team Freespeed and have seen in my data - in terms of power output vs times - that I’m more aerodynamic this year, which has made a difference results wise I’m sure.


What shoes do you run in?

I have been running in the Skechers GOmeb Razors, which are a nice lightweight racing shoe. I was a bit worried about the cross country nature of the Exmoor course but fortunately it wasn't too slippy and the trainers handled the terrain very well! 


What watch do you run with?

I use the Garmin 920XT, which has been such a great watch. I love being able to see my pace and heart rate and also enjoy looking through my data after a race or training session.


 Team Freespeed Ruth Purbrook age group triathlete


What's the weirdest/funniest thing that's ever happened to you during a race?

One of the weirdest was the first time I did the Slateman and I was doing the ‘Savage’, so both the Sprint and the Standard distance. For the Sprint race something had messed up on their timing system and when I crossed the finish line I had to have quite a long chat with the organisers as they thought I might have missed some of the course because the time they saw on their system made it look like I had absolutely smashed the time of the fastest man the year before. Turns out I hadn’t…


You took age group bronze at last year's 70.3 Champs, what's your target this year?

My first target was to qualify for Kona, which I managed at IM Lanzarote - so I would just like to see how well I can do out there. It will only be my second full Ironman so I want to have realistic expectations, especially given my first full distance race didn't go to plan! It’ll be great to race the fasted age groupers in such an iconic race. I’m also doing my first reasonably flat half Ironman next weekend in Sweden, so I want to see how fast I can go!  (Ruth got AG Gold and came in 7th female overall in Jonkoping last week…)


Ruth Purbrook's triathlon hydration strategy


Beyond triathlon, have you got any events/races on your bucket list?

There are a number of events and races on my bucket list - Norseman, Challenge Roth and a Swimrun race. There are some countries that I’d like to visit as well, so it depends what races they might be putting on in the future.


Well we look forward to seeing you at a future OTILLO Swimrun! We’re their Official Hydration Supplier so we’ll have you covered with PH out on the course…

You can follow Ruth's rise through the ranks on Twitter and Instagram.

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