DEBUT IRONMAN 70.3 WORLDS SOUTH AFRICA

Becoming a professional athlete, was not something that I ever dreamed of. I loved travelling, the outdoors, hard work and personal challenge. So maybe becoming an athlete was the natural evolution of pursuing all of those elements. In some ways I think racing, or high stress environments is what brings out the strength in me. I still feel the same nerves as anyone else, but at the same time I really enjoy the challenge of overcoming that fear and getting myself in a mental state that allows me to race at my best.

Easy morning session on the bike © Korupt Vision

Ironman 70.3
70.3 is a format of racing I really love, because it’s fast, intense and although you always take the risk of blowing up if you go too hard, it’s always a fun test to see just how hard you can push. Because Kona has been my focus over the last 18 months, I haven’t raced as much 70.3 and I’m really looking forward to this race.

I qualified to race world champs for the last two years, but this year has been the first year that I was determined to make it happen. You have to choose the big ones strategically and I’ve learnt the hard way that you can’t do them all. A big part of my drive to make it to the start line of world champs this year, came from wanting to see South Africa. And the other reason is, that as a professional triathlete, I feel like I am ready for this race. It’s still a relatively new sport for me, but I feel like I have come a long way and I’m excited to race the best in the world at 70.3 distance.

Port Elizabeth
Port Elizabeth is an incredible destination, on so many levels. I am really enjoying the relaxed feel of the city. Having my wife here, ensures that we always find the best places to eat, and see in between race week prep. I’ve had a good chance in the last few days to swim, bike and run most of the course. It’s an epic course and I think the conditions will suit me, especially if the wind comes up.

Run session along the coast of Port Elizabeth © Korupt Vision

The race starts with an exposed open water swim in the bay. Since arriving on Monday, the surf has been on form, with continuous peeling off-shore waves spanning the entire length of the peninsula. If the swell stays on, it will be a solid and challenging swim fro the pros and the age groupers.

The ride is a solid 90km. A lot of it takes place along the coastline with strong exposed areas and lots of cross wind. There is also some rough sections of road, which make me feel like I am on my mountain bike.

The run is a 2 lap course, and like most 70.3 World Champs, I think it’ll come down to an epic battle on foot. The course runs parallel to the coastline and I’m anticipating the locals and supporters alike will pack out both sides of the street on Sunday. There is a strong sporting culture here and its always great to race in a country that loves sport.

I’ve taken a lot of confidence from the last few races, especially in the water. Training with John Rogers for the last few months in Noosa has pushed me harder than ever before. I grew up in rural town with few opportunities to swim in the ocean, so it’s a good feeling to have the confidence that I can now swim well in open ocean with a strong field of athletes. In a field of this calibre, the swim will be of huge importance. It’s a good chance to test myself against some of the fastest 70.3 and ITU athletes in the sport.

Open water swim session in Port Elizabeth © Korupt Vision

Preparation
The trip to South Africa is pretty draining – 3 flights, and about 30 hours total in transit. We arrived 6 days early, and I’ve taken it easy for the last few days to find my legs and let my body clock adjust. I like to give myself this window pre-race so I can fit in a few key sessions in the environment that I’ll be racing in.

The key sessions I use before a 70.3 event are as follows:

SWIM
Session 1: 5 days out
A warm up followed by 16 x 100m at threshold with 50 seconds rest between sets

Session 2: 4 days out
A warm up followed by 6 x 400m sets at race pace, with pull buoy and paddle. I use the pull buoy and paddle to get the feeling of what race will require in terms of strength endurance, and create the sensation of being in open water with a wetsuit on.

Session 3: 3 days out
30 minutes in open water on course if possible. Swim the course – swim same time as race start. Normally the course won’t be marked until 3 days out from the race. I like to swim the course at an easy pace, and take the opportunity to get used to the visibility at the time of day the race is scheduled to start.

BIKE
Session 1: 5 days out
2.5 hour ride with 4 x 8 min sets building up to 70.3 tempo with 4 min recovery in between sets
I’ll usually do this on the Omnium wind trainer so I can guarantee the quality of the session.

Session 2: 3 days out
90 minute ride with 4 x 3 minutes at threshold effort

RUN
The run session in the days leading up to race are dependent on how I’m feeling.

Session 1: 5 days out.
30 minute easy run off the bike. I tend to do a lower tempo run the day after travel for 30 minutes, just to gauge where my legs are at.

Session 2: 3 days out
Monaghetti Fartlek session 30 min off the bike:
– 10 min warm up
– 2 x 90sec on, 90sec off
– 4 x 60sec on, 60sec off
– 4 x 30sec on, 30sec off
– 4 x 15sec on, 15sec off
– 5 min warm down

The day before the race – Brick session
I’ll get up around race start time and do a small brick consisting of a 30 minute easy bike and a 15 minute easy run straight off the bike. Over the course of each discipline I will simulate race efforts leaving plenty of recovery time between each one. After that, it’s time to rest – I’ll stay of my feet as much as I can for the remainder of the day.

Nutrition
The goal of any race week it to find the best locations to eat. Having my wife here has ensure a quick and efficient process of figuring out this part. We have found a vegan cafe called the Kindred Kitchen. Neither of us are vegan, but this cafe is one that could easily convert someone. It’s likely to be our local for the entire week leading into the race. During race week, I try and eat as close to what I eat at home as I can. My diet is almost entirely paleo. I start the day with a smoothie (packed with a few extra goods like MCT oil & raw cacao and pea protein). I normally back this up with a double espresso. Lunch is normally a salad with some type of protein and dinner is normally protein and veggies or salad. It’s a pretty simple regime but it feels good, which makes it easy to stay committed to.

Mental preparation
I make a conscious decision to move into a strong and positive headspace once the race is getting close. It helps when I’m able to take in the destination and enjoy the atmosphere of the event. It’s easy to get wound up before a big race, but I try and maintain a focus on the reason I’m here – I really love this sport. I feel grateful for every opportunity I get to race and for me, the bigger the race, the more exciting it is.

Drone shot of the bike course in Port Elizabeth © Korupt Vision