We caught up with Sam just after she finished the London-to-Cannes Cycle to MIPIM.
Sam McClary came to serious cycling relatively late. The
35-year old first started cycling ‘properly’ about six years ago.
She explains: “I’d always wanted to cycle to Paris and one day just signed up to a charity ride, bought a bike – which at £750, I thought was ridiculously expensive – and rode the event.
“I loved it. After that I got involved with the Cycle to MIPIM and through that met Lil Houghton, who’s at Carter Jonas, and instantly clicked with her. She introduced me to a start-up triathlon club and it all kind of escalated from there.”
Fast forward to last year when she came sixth in her age group at the Duathlon World Championships in Ottawa. Duathlons are run-cycle-run events which usually see the competitors running 10km then cycling 40km and finishing off with another 5km run.
“My goal last year was to break into the top 10 in my age group in the duathlon world rankings and it was very satisfying to achieve sixth – 10 places higher than in 2012.”
That kind of achievement requires commitment and not surprisingly training is the envelope that contains the rest of her life.
“I tend to cycle 40 minutes each way to and from work. I’ll spend about an hour in the gym before work and about the same in the evening. I teach a couple of spin classes during the week and will tend to get in a long run and/or ride at the weekend.
“Not all of this is running and cycling. I have a great strength and conditioning coach who makes sure I work on being strong and stable as well as fast!”
Although she has competed successfully in triathlons, she rates herself a “terribly poor” swimmer.
“I call myself a vertical swimmer as my legs drag so badly. It’s where I could make the greatest improvement, but I struggle to get motivated with swimming. I find very little joy in it.
“My cycling is average. I’ve got a good endurance engine and the odd spurt of power but need to work on my speed more. Running is my best of the three disciplines. I’ve definitely upped my game with my running strength and speed over the last two years.”
Like most serious athletes, McClary always talks about goals not dreams. This year will see a change in focus for those goals.
“I’ve pre-qualified for May’s duathlon world championships in Spain, but don’t expect to do quite so well given my change of focus.”
That change will see her focus on events involving even greater endurance. In addition to the Cycle to MIPIM and doing the London marathon, she will be doing an ‘ultra challenge’ of her own devising.
In October she will embark on an odyssey through Scotland and England which was launched under the nicely self-deprecating title: 1100 miles, 15 days, 13 cities, 1 nutter.
“The challenge will see me run and cycle around 1,100 miles, visiting 13 cities in the UK in 15 days.”
Any leg of the trip which is less than 50 miles she will run, and anything over that distance she’ll cycle. The challenge begins on October 1st when she departs Edinburgh on the 43-mile run to Glasgow. In addition to completing this remarkable journey, she is also trying to raise as much money as possible for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
The challenge will undoubtedly attract great interest and support from the property business where cycling is probably now the most popular recreational sport. McClary is delighted about how the business of her ‘day job’ has embraced her great passion.
“It’s great – especially as I get to take part in a lot of the events in the course of ‘work’. Property can be a pretty unhealthy industry with lots of boozy lunches (we are back in a boom!) so anything that gets people moving and thinking a little bit more about their health and fitness can only be a positive.”
Cycling and triathlons are essentially ‘democratic’ pursuits where, more often than not, people are either doing it just for the pure enjoyment of it or are trying to improve their personal best rather than competing with the person alongside them.
McClary retains a sense of proportion about the sport she loves.
“I think all sport should be fun. Yes, you take it seriously when you compete but let’s remember that I’m just an amateur and overall it doesn’t matter whether I win or lose. It’s about whether I’ve done my best.
“Success is extremely personal. I think for me it’s about being better than I was before or at least the best that I can be in the given situation. Medals are great but they are just bits of metal. The greatest prize I could ever get is someone seeing what I do or hearing about it and getting inspired to give it a go themselves.”
In terms of who has inspired McClary, she does not have a single hero but takes inspiration from various sources.
“Paula Radcliffe and Kelly Holmes were great inspirations to me, mainly due to their determination. I think sportswomen such as Jess Ennis, Katarina Johnson Thompson, Vicky Pendleton, and Laura Trott are all great role models for young women today.
“My teammates and competitors are my heroes too. They inspire me to push harder.
“How far you can push yourself? It’s always further than you think and the feeling you get when you achieve that is priceless.”
Dedicated, driven, focused? Yes. A “nutter”? Definitely not.
If you’d like to sponsor Sam on her ‘1100 miles, 15 days, 13 cities’ Challenge, please go to www.virginmoneygiving.com/1100miles1nutter or email firstname.lastname@example.org for corporate sponsorship opportunities.