The multi-talented Anna McKay is the UK Lead for Athlete Lab, when she’s not running the lab she can be found coaching Windrush Triathlon Club, coaching friends through extreme endurance challenges, or taking on challenges of her own.
We met up with her to get to know her better.
A Brief Intro to Anna
After a 6am alarm call its straight out of bed and on with the trainers or into the pool with no breakfast for Anna. After early morning training it’s into work and ready for a large and rather unusual breakfast: porridge with mincemeat (the Christmassey sort that you find in mincepies).
A keen athlete from the word go, Anna played netball at school and was consistently amongst the top 5 teams in the country. Progressing to University she discovered athletics and rowing before settling on an absolute passion: ultra long distance running. Picture running 20 miles after work on a Wednesday, then consider that as a standard week. Tiring thinking about it!
Not many people take on Ultra-Marathons, and even fewer finish on their first attempt. Instead of simply running a marathon, try running three, on consecutive days! Anna puts her success in her first ultra-marathon down to the ‘beautifully distracting Cornish coastal paths’ and an atmosphere that was so friendly that it really carried you along.
Progressing from ultra long distance running Anna was introduced to triathlon and found the time commitments a lot more manageable around her work. A long shot from her first ever bike, ‘an amazing chocolate brown chopper’, she picked up a Focus Culebro Tria and started going fast on two wheels too.
How often do you train?
Usually around 6 times a week, totaling around 12 hours on the three disciplines: running, swimming and cycling. In addition to that at least one hot yoga session and a strength and conditioning session.
What’s your favourite food?
I feel like I should say something super healthy and savoury but it’s got to be apple crumble with custard!
Anna’s 3 tips for busy Londoners to get in top shape
1. Make your low intensity training session part of your commute or daily routine. The more routine it is, the more likely you are to get it done.
2. Don’t underestimate the power of yoga. Many people don’t like yoga or stretching sessions as it isn’t cardio and feels like ‘dead time’, but a regular weekly yoga session will give you a core strength that will benefit all of your racing and the deep stretching will help reduce your injury risk.
3. At least once a week do a session for the love of it! We can get so obsessed by our training data and always pushing ourselves that it’s easy to stall because of mental fatigue. Once a week I try to do a session where I run off-road, cycle to a favourite coffee shop or swim somewhere I love, like an open air lido and my Garmin is banned! I go at a pace based on how good I feel, I people watch or appreciate the sun (if I’m lucky!) or the view, and it’s often one of my best training sessions of the week!
3 things you would never guess about Anna
1. She has helped organise the official Sierra Leone Marathon
2. She once swam from Asia to Europe in the Bosphorous Cross-Continental race
3. She was Race Director for a one-off point-to-point charity Triathlon called ‘Race to Midnight’. It involved a 2 mile swim from the Isle of Wight to Lymington, then 100 miles on the bike to Richmond Park and a half-marathon to central London. The competitors were not finished there, however, as to finish they had to be on the dance floor of the charity ball at midnight! All the competitors finished and they raised over £25,000 for charity
Do you have a motto that you live by?
“Do the best you can with what you have” – This is something my coach once told me and I think of this when I’m feeling like I’m having a bad training day or I’m being out-classed in a race – it keeps me training as it reminds me that even if you’re not ‘feeling it’, the session is worth finishing as it can still have value.
“Don’t think, just do!”: This was the other thing he told me to get me through my first half-Ironman. Sometimes I definitely get distracted trying to calculate my pacing, finish times, solving all of the world’s problems! etc that I completely fall off pace!
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