By Karl Hayes
This year Paul Ambrose proved to a lot of people that he can â€˜go the distance’ when he won Ironman Louisville in emphatic fashion. He broke the bike course record and may have gone on to break the race record had he been aware that this was a possibility. On the run with a lead of over 17 minutes Paul was so concerned about one of the other top guys catching him that he walked every aid station to get maximum fluids and fuel so that he could keep going. â€œIt was a shock to win. I went to Louisville to race well and get a podium but I did not expect to win. People started telling me that I had the race at about the half way point in the run. But with 21kms still to run I didn’t want to bank the win until I could see the finish line. I know I surprised a lot of people. The race commentators were saying I had gone too hard on the bike and it wasn’t until I was half way through the run that they started to get positive about my chancesâ€.
For the last half of the run Paul walked every aid station making sure he took in enough nutrition and fluids to enable him to hold the lead he had. It was a great way to prove to everyone he had the maturity for endurance racing, and he now has the confidence to go in to 2011 with grander goals. â€œWinning Louisville was a big thing for me. Winning half ironman races does not seem to quite have the allure for sponsors and it seems that to be a great long distance triathlete you have to have an Ironman win. I have done this now. I do like racing half ironman races though. The recovery is shorter and you can do more races which is really why we are all in the sport. I would rather race more often than train for long periods for one long raceâ€.
The amount of effort that goes in to an Ironman and the payoff, or lack thereof, is something that Trizone is hearing a lot of the pros talking about this year. It seems that a lot of the pro’s would prefer to race 70.3 or Olympic distance and have a lot more fun rather than having to race iron distance races. Additionally many of the Aussie pros would rather live and race in Australia if they could make a reasonable living out of it. The new 5150 series that WTC has launched may help in the regard. Locally USM Events and Elite Energy are both putting on more Olympic distance racing, and the Elite Energy triseries is a huge step forward for the NSW triathlon community. It is also expected that the Challenge series will also shortly announce some half ironman racing in Australia, all of which can only help our sport.
One issue with the plethora of races on the calendar is that you get a dilution of the top pros at each event. If we could get the top long course athletes turning up to each event that would make it a lot more exciting. Australia seems to have a majority of the top triathletes yet we rarely get to see them all racing.
2010 did not start well for Paul. His early season goals were Ironman Australia, Wildflower half ironman in California and a UK half ironman. A chest infection after IM Australia along with trying to race too soon started the year off on the wrong foot. In addition a heavy crash in the UK during a race added to the poor start. â€œI have always raced too soon after an ironman event. I am still working out recovery rates and realising that I need to rest more after an ironman. In addition IM Australia was a disaster. I ended up walking the last 15kms. The UK race and the crash were horrible. The race was one of the worst organised races I have been in. The organisers had great plans but the company that managed the race did a terrible job. We were directed the wrong way coming in to T1 and it lead to more problems which resulted in a crash. I had to run the last mile to transition carrying my broken bikeâ€.
Paul Ambrose got in to triathlons via a well trodden route: swimming. â€œI was a swimmer, or trying to be a swimmer. I used to watch the old St George Triathlon series and the Formula 1 series which is how I got hooked. My swim coach told me about the Cronulla triathlon. I convinced a mate to do it with me and I was hooked! I got smashed in it though but I loved it. I started training with a group in Sutherland and I started getting better and better. I won a few races in my age group and the adrenaline rush I got just kept fuelling my fire. I managed to get a spot in a Bundesliga Triathlon team in Germany and raced a lot and got paid for it. I really grew from thereâ€.
â€œWhen I first started riding I was rubbish on the bike. I couldn’t keep up with the girls in the bunch. I had never run more than 3kms. The thing that I am hooked on, and most people in triathlons are, is the science of improvement. We have three disciplines to do and the focus on improving each one is addictiveâ€.
During our Australian winter Paul lived and trained in Boulder. Like many Aussie’s the pull of Boulder is too strong to ignore. â€œOriginally triathletes went to Boulder for the Altitude training. I don’t believe there is as much benefit in this as some think. You can’t train with the intensity that you need to at altitude. However now Boulder has turned in to this amazing place to live and train. You can go out and run amazing trails, the rides are amazing and there are great swim squads everywhere. There is a really healthy community there and it has a bit of a hippie vibeâ€.
Paul’s primary training partner has been 2010 Hawaii ironman winner Chris McCormack (Macca). Macca got Paul in to the German team and has been a strong mentor for a few years now. â€œI roomed with Macca the first time I went to Boulder. He is an amazing person. There is so much more to him than triathlons. He is incredibly easy to relate to, can talk about a lot of stuff outside of triathlon, which really appeals to me and I have learnt a lot about the business side of sport from him. He has a natural business mind. He taught me not to sell myself short and what you need to do to support your sponsorsâ€.
Triathlon participants fall into one of the highest income levels of any sport. â€œWith sponsors it is incredibly important to use today’s tools to support them. The web, twitter etc are great new tools for an athlete to promote sponsors and their products. Age groupers follow the pros and are influenced by what they are doing. They take an avid interest in all the gear we use which converts to sales. Triathletes are always looking for another 1% so they will try new thingsâ€.
Paul’s raced at Noosa last weekend which he was really looking forward to. A mix of a holiday, a shorter race and a lot of fun. Paul’s girlfriend from Boulder is coming out for a holiday with Noosa being the first stop then they are heading back to Sydney over a couple of weeks and holidaying down the east coast. This is her first time to Australia and Paul is looking forward to showing her this great country.
â€œNoosa is kind of the last iconic pro race left in Australia. We still have the ironman races and halves but Noosa is like the old St George series in a wayâ€.
Paul will be spending most of summer in Australia training apart from a quick visit to Boulder for Christmas before heading back to Boulder at the start of our winter. â€œI would love to permanently base myself here in Australia and only go overseas for each race. It would be more settled and I love training around Cronulla and Sutherlandâ€.
In 2011 Paul is finally going to get to Kona. He didn’t want to go there until he had won an ironman race which he did this year at Louisville in fine fashion. â€œNext year is going to be a great year for me. The two big races will be the 70.3 world championship, which will be 4 weeks before Kona and in Las Vegas and the Ford Ironman World Championship in Kona. In addition I want to do the long distance world champs. My goal is to be successful in three world championship races.
Lake Stevens 70.3 in Washington 2nd
Louisville Ironman 1st
Rhode Island 70.3 3rd
Rhoto 70.3 Boulder 4th
Geelong 70.3 7th
Cancun 70.3 6th
UK 70.3 8th
Ironman Australia 6th