5 Questions with 3Bears Co-Founder & Endurance Athlete, Tim Nichols

Let us introduce you to the ultimate Powered by Porridge athlete, the 3Bears co-founder Tim Nichols! You know your porridge is in good hands when it’s coming from this guy.

By day, Tim ensures the smooth-running of daily business so that the world can enjoy great-tasting porridge. By night, in the morning and on weekends, Tim is a passionate endurance athlete who has completed 7 marathons and goes to bed dreaming about road cycling and bikes. Here’s everything you need to know about Tim’s passion for sports, his most memorable achievements and the role his own porridge plays in his athletic lifestyle. 

 

What sports do you do?

I like to give most things a try but running and cycling are my big favs.

Running will always be the first love. I started running properly after attending the 2006 Amsterdam marathon as a spectator to watch friends take part. I loved the atmosphere and how utterly euphoric runners were when they crossed the finish line and thought I wanted to give it a go myself.

That was 14 years ago and since then I have ran a few thousand kms and a lot of races. I have also ran 7 marathons including 4 of the 6 World Marathon Majors (New York, London, Berlin, Chicago). I only have Boston and Tokyo to go until I complete the set, but that might be a few more years down the line depending on Corona ☹

For me I just love the simplicity of running – all you need is a pair of trainers. It can be as easy or as hard as you like. I have ran all over the World in all different sorts of terrain and I never tire of how close to nature you feel and how it can completely clear your mind and the stresses of the working day.

This year with Corona though has given me an opportunity to really develop my second love of road cycling. So much so that I have now become obsessed to the level where I go to bed dreaming about bikes.

I love the speed, the distances achievable and the technology involved with road cycling. I also love that unlike running where I like to be by myself, I can cycle with friends.

Where we live in South of Germany is an absolute playground for cycling, and with so many great rides on the doorstep and mountains to climb there is plenty to keep me entertained.

 

2. What was your greatest challenge as an athlete? 

Two achievements immediately spring to mind; completing an Ironman Triathlon and running a sub-3hour marathon (unfortunately not in the same event!)

Ironman

I started to take part in triathlons when Caroline (Tim’s wife and 3Bears co-founder) and I lived in London. I was already cycling 30 km each day to and from work and running at lunchtimes, so adding in swimming was relatively easy.

It was my boss at the time who first told me about Ironman. I found the idea of swimming nearly 4km, then cycling 180km and then after all that running a marathon completely unfathomable. However, the more I thought about it the more I couldn’t stop thinking about it, until it was all I thought about. Then I knew I had to try it – at least once in my life.

I applied for the Zurich Ironman 12 months before the event not really thinking I would get a place. But surprisingly I was accepted and it all suddenly became very real.

The actual day of an event like Ironman is tough, but a lot of athletes will tell you that what’s harder is the amount of training and self-discipline that comes beforehand. Each weekday morning I would get up at the crack of dawn to go to the pool, swim for an hour then ride across London to work, run 10km at lunchtime and then ride home. Weekends would always involve a long ride of 100km plus and a long run of at least 21km and the other day spent resting. At the peak this was approx. 15 hours a week of training, which is a big portion of the week, when you also need to go to work too.

However, it was all worth it as the event itself was awesome – all of Zurich goes Ironman mad for a few days and that atmosphere leading up to the race makes you feel like a true athlete.

For the year I did it, there was a huge heatwave across Europe which meant temperatures of 37 degrees on the day. The water in Lake Zurich was so hot that even at the 6am start no one was allowed to wear a wetsuit because of the danger of overheating.

After getting used to being kicked and slapped as you swim alongside everyone else, I got into a rhythm and had a good swim. I then started the 180km on the bike far too fast and as the temperature increased through the day I was just happy to eventually get off and start the run.

However I found I could hardly move my legs. I thought it would get better after a few KMs but it never did and I had the most uncomfortable run of my life.

My legs decided to come alive in the last 5 km though (mind over matter) and I was able to cross the finish line – utterly broken, but deliriously happy 😊

Sub 3-hour marathon

Like the Ironman, when I first heard about running a marathon in under 3-hours it just sounded completely impossible. To run a kilometer in 4 minutes 16 seconds, 42 times in a row sounded mad.

However the more I ran and the faster I got, the more I realized it wasn’t completely unachievable.

Since starting running I had always wanted to run the New York marathon but the difficulties of getting a starting place along with a lot of bad luck meant that I didn’t get an opportunity until 2015. This was the year Caroline and I really started to think 3Bears was a reality so I reduced the amount of time I spent in London and instead based myself in Munich where I spent the time working and running.

I ran a minimum on 10km nearly every day with the sole ambition of going sub-3 in New York. I did this for nearly 10 months, getting faster and faster until I felt ready. And then 3 weeks before New York I injured my knee.

After finally going to see the doctor, they told me what I expected to hear – stop running and rest. I explained I couldn’t and luckily was given a cortisone injection to temporary ease the pain for a few days. It was then I decided to give up on the dream of running sub-3 in New York, but instead focus on trying to do it closer to home.

I hadn’t considered running the Munich marathon as it would involve running parts of the same route I did daily, with no tall building skyline to inspire me and no huge screaming crowd to motivate me. However I realized this that these conditions were probably NOT what I needed.

On the day it was perfect conditions and a perfect run for me. I had told myself I would drop out of the race if I felt I wasn’t going to break the 3-hour mark and save myself for New York a few weeks later but at the 30km mark I was still on track. At 35km I was starting to tire badly, but then running past our house and having Caroline screaming support at me was the boost I needed to get me to the finish.

I finished in 2:58:37 – a time I will never forget. After crossing the finish line my legs gave way and I had to sit down in a crazy euphoric, giggling mess - even after an hour I struggled to climb the steps of the Olympia Stadium to exit. I celebrated with a very big burger and a very big beer. 

3Bears co-founders Caroline and Tim Nichols

3. Do you think being an athlete makes you a better person?

I’m not sure if it makes you a better person but it can certainly make you feel good about yourself. I love that feeling after exercise when the endorphins kick in and you have the lovely post-exercise glow. That glow also means my metabolism is working hard so I get to go crazy and eat my body weight in food.

I also love the discipline and self-determination that sport gives you. It’s not always fun, and it can be hard but that’s kind of the point. Being able to deal with the hard times make the good times feel more worthwhile. Finishing a marathon is always a special feeling as you have had to go through a lot of pain and suffering to get there.

 

4. How do you eat your porridge when preparing for a run/race? 

With a big spoon!

When I am training for a marathon or race and burning 4 - 5000 calories a day, my metabolism goes into overdrive and I am constantly hungry. Porridge is amazing at filling the hole in my stomach; both before training and after it. Oats as a complex carbohydrate are great at releasing their energy slowly which is perfect for endurance sport. And oats are also packed full of natural protein, so a bowl (or two) of porridge afterwards is a great help at repairing tired muscles.

As for toppings etc., I normally just eat our porridge as it is. 3Bears has so many flavours that I am never bored, but if I’m feeling creative (?) I will sometimes have classic, plain with peanut butter, grapes and trail mix – a winning combination!

 

5. Is there any kind of new sport you would like to try out?

I have tried several times to get my paragliding hobby off the ground (excuse the pun) but have failed miserably. I love flying and the idea of being able to drive to a mountain, jump off it and float around for a few hours is just brilliant. I have done a few courses and have my own paraglider, but unfortunately time has not been on my side. The sport requires a lot of patience and waiting for perfect weather conditions, but with starting 3Bears and now the arrival of our first child, it has meant time is at a premium.

But one day I will return to the skys!

Every adventure begins with a bowl of porridge. Share your adventures with us using #PorridgeStories and tagging @3Bears_uk. Gobble up and go get em.

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