The recent Aussie Long Course Champion reflects on his 2016, and his career to this point
I could write a whole other blog on how we are going to modify my training for continued improvement but to give an express overview; My swim over 3.8kms needs to improve. From when I started swimming I’ve always done 3-5km swim sessions with a main set totaling intervals typically of 1.5-2kms. The result is that in Ironman events, I’m overexerting in the final 1-2kms starting the ride with the swim having too much of a toll. I don’t necessarily need to be swimming much faster but I need to be getting out with the front guys with much less effort. My cycling tends to be very strong after a break, when my run milage is not high. The challenge for us is ensuring that I can do the required mileage to be strong after 120km on the bike without the training having zapped me of my top end intensity. It’s difficult to do but implementing a proper break throughout for 3-4 weeks after Ironman Australia should allow a reset and keep me on track for my bike power to be on track in September/October.
For 2017 to be a successful year we’ve also decided to chase the events that genuinely get me excited. As a current world champion, its very easy to simply chase an appearance fee and prize money despite the actual race not evoking too much emotion. I’m an emotional racer and I like to have an emotional connection to the event I’m competing in. Prize money of course plays a role but there are several other factors that can really motivate me to be on an event’s start line. The first is the history of the race. I like races that have been around a long time. It’s cool to be able to scroll through years of results and feel like you’re not just racing alongside the one thousand competitors or so that are racing that day but the tens of thousands of competitors that have raced there over the previous decades. The history of a race like Ironman Australia really gets me pumped up. Watching Chris McCormack win there when I was 16 was my first introduction to the sport so when I race there this year as the defending champion there is a much deeper feeling toward the race then just 2017.
My ego is as healthy as most professionals and if a race has championship title up for grabs that will also get me competitive juices flowing. Hence why we’ve chosen to kick of the year at the Australian Long Course Championships in Goondiwindi’s notorious ‘Hell of the West Tri’ and why this year again the ultimate focus will be on both the Ironman 70.3 and Ironman World Championships later in the year. With championship races typically comes the chance to line up against the best athletes and I think most top athletes want to duke it out with the best guys at least a couple of times each year.
I also find it hard to turn down competing at races engulfed in an incredible atmosphere. There are some events I’ll keep going back to like Ironman 70.3 Cebu, because the atmosphere from the thousands of spectators is such a buzz.
A final factor that influences my race choices and direction for 2017 is wanting to move triathlon forward in a positive direction. I’m a big fan of the extension of the space between riders to 20 metres in the pro field for non-drafting events. In support of the rule I signed on to Challenge Melbourne where the 20 metre rule will be implemented. I should mention I would also welcome the idea of some long course events being changed to draft-legal over a course with suitably tough terrain to make for a very exciting and different style of racing but strongly feel that non-drafting should be actual non-drafting and not 10 metres or less between bikes. I also had the pleasure of racing the Island House Triathlon last year. I absolutely loved the concept and the racing and feel that this format fills a much needed space for a highly exciting televised style of triathlon racing that could be taken to a much broader audience. I love Ironman 70.3 and Ironman 70.3 racing and am very aware of how much the brand has done for triathlon globally and me personally. I also feel that growth in interest in triathlon at any level equals a growth in participation at all levels and I really hope to be involved in this super sprint style of racing going forward as well as continuing to focus on Ironman events.
To wrap up with some Byron Bay hippy dribble, my final thought is on the attitude I had when racing well in 2016 and how to carry this across to the most important races of 2017. Suffering debilitating pre-race anxiety in 2015 I worked really hard on trying to take on a sense of gratitude pre and during events instead of focusing on the consequences of a race result. Focusing instead on how lucky I was to be racing for a living and what an awesome opportunity each event was. Ironman Australia in particular was the first time I’ve ever gone into an Ironman event without feeling the immense pressure of potential failure. On that day, the only outcome I deemed failure was if I gave up mentally. With this attitude at no point did I falter mentally, it wouldn’t have mattered if I was in 100th place or 1st place I know that on that day, racing for someone else who was forced to suffer far more than most ever will, that my mind was never going to be a limiting factor. To replicate that attitude is not easy, and I definitely faltered mentally in races following that one however I know if I can find that mental state combined with peak physical condition that anything is possible in 2017.