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The Flying Blonde Dutch Girl Yvonne van Vlerken talks to Trizone on the Eve of Ironman Melbourne

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One woman racing on Sunday at Ironman Melbourne is the Netherland’s Yvonne van Vlerken. With one of the most impressive resumes in the sport, along with the three world records that she has held during her career this is one woman who is going to be pushing, not just for a podium but for a win.

Her most recent Ironman victory was in Florida last year. van Vlerken broke the course record and with three wins last year, two seconds and a third in major races she is the one that the faster swimmers will be nervously looking over their shoulders for.

We had a chance to catch up with Yvonne during the week. The flying blonde Dutch woman loves to chat below is a great insight in to what makes her tick.

We wish her all the best on Sunday and look forward to seeing her on the podium.

Trizone: Yvonne, you have one of the most impressive resumes in the sport. Your first triathlon was in 2000. What drew you to the sport of triathlon?

Yvonne van Vlerken: Before Triathlon I played soccer at a high level in the Netherlands. I’m not that much of a team player (I get very grumpy when people don’t give it 100%) I decided I wanted to do a sport on my own. Something where only I was to blame if I didn’t win. I found this racing triathlon. I started out with many Duathlon and Powerman races, as my swim was pretty bad…
I remember my first triathlon, I swam 21min for a 1km swim… Now I manage to do 1.5km in that time now, but I still have to count on my bike and run to back it up.

Yvonne with Mr T

Yvonne with Mr T

With my swim being my weakness I found duathlons and was pretty successful. I won a World Championship and several European titles in this discipline I decided I wanted to make the switch to Ironman racing. Learning to swim at this level was a struggle and I could only start racing at a higher level in triathlon once I got this sorted. Since that first triathlon in 2000, 13 years have passed… where does the time go!

Trizone: Who were your early influencers in triathlon?

Yvonne van Vlerken: I didn’t really have anyone with in this sport, my big example was Leontien van Moorsel, she was a Dutch cyclist that has won every single race in the world and was almost unbeatable! She’s an amazing athlete and for me, she always has been my role model.

TZ: What are your most memorable triathlon moments?

Yvonne: Definitely braking the 14 year old World record from Paula Newby Fraser. Not everybody knows, but I used to have 3 world records, the IM 70.3 Distance, Ironman and Powerman. I only have one left now, but that’s fine with me. I was very focussed and highly motivated to brake that world record and I still see it as my best performance in my career.

If you want to swim like a leading pro then you have to act like one!

If you want to swim like a leading pro then you have to act like one!

Challenge Roth is one of a kind and this race for me has a lot of good memories. Thinking back of the year 2008 where I had that amazing race, I still get emotional.

Besides this I love thinking back to my first Hawaii race also in the year 2008, my 2nd place and rookie of the year. It was an amazing experience!

TZ: Who do you see as the main title contenders at Ironman Melbourne this year? (apart from yourself)

Yvonne: Caroline Steffen, Meredith Kessler, Sarah Piampiano, Lisa Marangon, Natascha Badmann & Gina Crawford.

TZ: Do you have a race strategy for Sunday that you can tell us a about?

Yvonne: No, I’m just going to let all the “fish” girls fight it out in the front and I’m just going to do my own thing in the back, when somebody makes a mistake in the front, then this little one will grab her chance.

TZ: Tell us about your coach Siri Lindley. What sort of an influence has she been for you?

Yvonne: Siri, well this is a long story, there’s so much to say about this special lady. I just love her energy and her way of looking at things. She has a very positive influence on all her athletes. I love her approach to training and I think the way she adjusts the training on her feeling is just one part that makes her so successful with her athlete’s. I like training with her group as well. My preparation for last year’s Ironman Florida was in Santa Monica where Siri is based. It was great to train with the squad and have her with us every single day. I can’t wait to get back to there.

One of Skinfit's longest standing sponsored athletes.

One of Skinfit’s longest standing sponsored athletes.

TZ: What is your favourite training session in each of the three disciplines?

Yvonne: It maybe sounds strange from a person that’s not known for her swimming abilities, but I love swimming almost every day. It doesn’t matter what kind of swim session, since I’m not going backwards anymore while kicking, I like this part:-) For the bike and run I would say it’s the long and easy sessions that I prefer. I love just being on the bike for 6 hours, being outside and being happy with what I’m doing. Isn’t this the best job in the world? Every session is fun and as long as I feel like this, I will be doing this and enjoy every second of it. I do love to go hard on the track, but prefer to do this session with a group.

TZ: After Melbourne what are your main races for 2013?

Yvonne: I have several. A lot of IM 70.3 races are on the schedule as well as Challenge Roth. That last one definitely has a big priority. I do hope to be back in Hawaii as well. I need some more points for that though so let’s hope I’m going to get them this Sunday.

TZ: What advice do you have for young and emerging professional triathletes? Are there things you would have done differently?

Yvonne: I would definitely have invested more time in swimming and way earlier as well. To get out there in the front is such a big advantage. I still blame my parents for not putting me in swim squads 🙂

I would also say, enjoy every minute of what you are doing, be thankful for being able to do this amazing sport and don’t forget this, listen to your body, your training schedule and your coach. Your coach and other key advisers know what to do, but the only one that can feel what you really need and what your body wants, is you.

You can read all about Yvonne’s career on her website

Follow Yvonne on Twitter

 

Karl is a keen age group triathlete who races more than he trains. Good life balance! Karl works in the media industry in Australia and is passionate about the sport of triathlon.

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Interview

Jared Simons: Chef Turns Plants into Ironman Power

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Jared Simons is the plant-based chef with a love of Ironman. Trizone caught up with the American athlete to chat about everything from food to weight gain and the alpha types who love 70.3.

One sport ends, another door opens

“I was a wrestler, I didn’t grow up doing swim, bike, and run,” Simons told Trizone. He had a talent for his sport, but his body wasn’t so sure it was for him. “I was getting recruitment letters for college, but into my senior season I was having nerve issues with my neck.”

“My parents had taken me to see so many different doctors and they all said I had traumatic neck damage,” said Simons. After years enjoying playing American football when he was young, plus his chosen sport of wrestling, Jared Simons’ neck was giving out. “The doctors told me I shouldn’t be playing contact sports, so my parents pulled me out of wrestling,” said Simons.

College dreams replaced by cooking school

With his future college pursuit off the table, Simons turned to the other aspects of his life. “I’d been working as a dishwasher at a restaurant, and since I was quite a heavy kid, I enjoyed being around food,” Simons said. “My dream of going to college and wrestling was over, and I was so intrigued by everything that surrounded me at the restaurant.”

Simons was convinced of his new path, but his parents weren’t yet onboard. “Being a chef definitely wasn’t glamorous at the time. The Food Network had only just launched and they were all famous chefs!” laughed Simons. “I told my parents I’d applied to college, but I had only contacted a culinary school in San Francisco. It was tough to convince them, but finally, I did and I went off to the California Culinary Academy.”

King oyster mushrooms, farrotto, spring peas.

Over the next four years, Simons worked exceptionally hard at culinary school and then in restaurants, but like many chefs, the long hours and stress took their toll. “I opened a restaurant when I was 22, then another when I was 26, so I was super busy. My extracurricular activities were very limited,” Simons told Trizone. “I was working a lot, eating poorly and drinking a lot socially. As the years went on I started ballooning up. When I was around 29, I was just over 205 pounds and I felt horrible.”

Fast-paced and stressful, the culinary business had been both wonderful and taxing for Simons, but a friend came to his rescue. “I had a customer who was gorgeous and she was my ‘trainer’ but we really just walked and talked!” laughed Simons. “One of my friends opened a gym and offered to train me and I took the leap.”

“He asked me what my goals were, and I said I wanted to look like Brad Pitt in Fight Club.”

In exchange for training the young chef, Simons gave his friend credit at the restaurant. “I got one hour of weight training with him, and I did one hour of cardio by myself every day,” said Simons. Summoning the fierce work ethic that had helped Simons reap the success of his cooking talents, Jared Simons was on his way to becoming an extremely driven athlete.

Turning plant-based

“In 2015 I jumped onto Vice’s food portal, Munchies, and I saw an episode titled the “Vegan Ironman”. It featured John Joseph from the New York hardcore band, The Cro-mags ,” said Simons. “I was intrigued by the endurance aspect and his diet and when I got home I told my wife I wanted to do a triathlon. I’d grown up surfing but if you took that board away, I hadn’t done structured swimming since high school,” Simons told Trizone.

Even while training prior to triathlon, Simons wasn’t healthy. “I was doing high-intensity training 70% of the week. I’d eat fairly clean, but every Saturday night I’d have junk food and I had high cholesterol. On the outside, I looked good, but on the inside, I wasn’t healthy.”

Living in the city of countless diets and health fads, Los Angeles, Simons had heard of plant-based diets, but he never thought he’d make it a long-term change. “I cut out one kind of animal product each week and by week six I was eating completely plant-based,” remembers Simons.

The hardest part of going plant-based for the chef? Cutting out dairy, especially butter.

“Every month I’d continue to fine tune the diet,” said Simons. “People around me started to see a physical and mental change. From a sustainability and health standpoint, it made sense.”

Not just influencing his own personal diet, Simons’ new-found love of plant-based foods influenced his restaurants too. “Ultimately I started a plant-based series at the restaurant.”

If you are looking for some food inspiration, then jump over to some of Jared’s favorites;

Walking a marathon isn’t what Simmons is about

Jared Simons isn’t just another age grouper who likes to finish a race, he’s ferociously competitive. “I’m not going to be a pro, but Ironman races are definitely not just a bucket list thing,” said Simons. “I don’t want to just get through it. Seeing people walk the marathon to me blows my mind, it just doesn’t make sense! I’m not that guy.”

Now Simons has far surpassed his days of spending one-hour doing cardio on his own, and he works with two different coaches. “One coaches me overall with all the facets of triathlon, and I do regular lactate testing with him,” said Jared. “I’m a data guy, if I see the numbers it makes sense to me.” Simons has another coach for swimming, and he’s confident he receives huge benefits from both.

Alpha athletes in 70.3 make Ironman better

“I found my first Ironman easier than 70.3,” said Simons, “at that distance, the effort is dialed back just slightly. Yes, it’s longer, but it’s different.”

Through the vineyards Ironman Santa Rosa 2017

It’s not just the distance that makes these races different, it’s the competitors too. “70.3 is a lot more competitive than Olympic distance and Ironman, there are a lot of A-type personalities out there. At the full distance, everyone in the race is like ‘you’re doing it and that’s cool.” During the race, lots of people were like ‘I know you from Instagram, with the beard and the kit and the tattoos! It’s fun!”

Modelling for LA Apparel brand Love The Pain

“I bought a hat from them and took a pic running in it, and they reached out to me. I’m a style guy so I think most of the gear in triathlon blows,” laughed Simons. “These guys though, their aesthetic was great and the product is good, so I bought a lot of it!”

Unlike some athletes who reserve their stylish kits for race day, Simons trains in his Love The Pain kit too. “They decided I was a great customer and I love their stuff, so eventually they asked me to model some kits for the company,” said Simons.

Love The Pain is the answer to daggy racewear, and it’s no surprise people with a foot in the door of the latest lifestyle, food, and fitness trends like Simons are keen supporters.

Check out Jared’s inspiring Instagram feed. After hearing Simons’ powerful story, would you turn plant-based if it meant you were healthier?

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Interview

Matt Dixon – The Purple Patch Story

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Coaching at the track at the Purple Patch annual winter Hawaii Training Camp

Matt Dixon is one of the world’s best triathlon coaches, and his squad is only growing. Despite a unique approach, Dixon’s philosophy behind his squad Purple Patch is working. Trizone caught up with Dixon to uncover this sport-changing philosophy.

Matt Dixon didn’t follow his philosophy in his own journey as an athlete, which in itself provided plenty of lessons to him as a coach. “I grew up on the East side of London, in Essex,” Matt told Trizone. “It comes with its reputation, similar to New Jersey’s Jersey Shore,” laughed Dixon.

Learning to swim early starts career

The youngest of three brothers, Dixon grew up being competitive with his siblings who were also athletes. “You get lessons thrown at you without realising,” said Dixon. Matt’s Mum was a ‘learn to swim’ coach who taught Dixon to learn to swim very early in life. “I grew up in the water,” said Matt, “by the time I was twelve, I was going to the national championships for swimming.”

Like so many other young athletes though, when Matt Dixon was a young teenager, he lost interest in elite sport and became more interested in going out with friends. “I didn’t really do anything much, I just played a bit of soccer,” said Matt.

By sixteen though, Matt decided he wasn’t quite finished with swimming. “I got back to swimming but was on a skeleton program relative to my future collegiate program. But I ended up qualifying for the Olympic trials, and getting to the finals at the trials in 1992,” said Matt. Without realising it, Dixon had just experienced the essential elements of the Purple Patch philosophy that he’d come to develop.

Dixon was offered a swimming scholarship in the United States, and since then he’s never looked back. “The opportunity was amazing,” said Matt, “to go to America and have four years of University paid for and to be in in a team environment was amazing. I’d never been to the US before, and I ended up at the University of Cincinnati to study exercise physiology,” said Dixon.

University swim training sparks race career

“At University, I set the goal of going to the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996,” said Dixon. Here the famous coached paused, almost as though the story he was about to tell was life-changing, which it turned out to be. “Our swimming training was huge volumes, around 24-26 hours of swimming each week. That’s about 80-100 thousand yards a week, all to get ready for an event that was four minutes in duration,” said Dixon.

While Matt Dixon was working insanely hard to qualify for the Olympics, the huge mileage was working against him. “I brought a world-class attitude to training,” said Matt, “but the outcome wasn’t world class. I didn’t make the Olympic team in 1996, but I did get a university education with no debt,” smiled Dixon.

After swimming throughout his undergraduate degree, Dixon turned to coaching. “I had a few years coaching swimming then went back to get my Masters in Exercise Physiology,” said Matt. “I got to coach on a great age-group swimming program, then a division one University swimming program.”

Dixon discovers triathlon

During his Masters degree, Dixon discovered triathlon. “I thought I’d give it a go and I did well,” said Dixon, “People said ‘go and give it a crack as a pro,’ and I did, although, in reflection, I am a great example of how to set up a professional career poorly” added Dixon.

After his experience of training for the Olympics, Dixon decided to succeed in Ironman he’d need to increase his mileage even more.

“I thought, if I was training for 26 hours for a four minute event, then I’d need huge volumes to train for a long event like triathlon.”

Without a running background, Matt decided he’d need to run really really long distances to get into shape. “I’m lucky to be pretty injury resistant, but it was almost a curse because I never got injured, I just destroyed my system,” said Dixon. “Despite my education in physiology, I replicated my mistakes and trained myself into the ground.”

Extreme burnout threatens Dixon’s athletic abilities

Three years into his pro triathlon career, Dixon started coaching other triathletes. “I realised ‘what I’m doing is stupid,’ and I ended up with some form of chronic fatigue,” remembered Dixon.

“It was physical, emotional and mental burn out. Just complete burn out.”

“I couldn’t exercise for around 18 months, it was very serious burnout,” said Matt. “Systematically I was not functioning well. It was the best thing that could have happened to me in hindsight. I was coaching then, but it forced me to take a step back,” said Matt. “It ended my triathlon career and I was at a crossroad.”

The time off helped Matt look at triathlon objectively, from afar.

“I looked at age groupers and pros, and realised the validation of success was based almost solely on accumulation of training hours.”

Dixon looked back at his own triathlon career and saw his own faults were important aspects of the sport. “I saw almost everyone was doing a lot of things poorly. Anything related to recovery, nutrition or strength and conditioning wasn’t done well,” said Dixon.

“Pros and age groupers were showing up to races fit and fatigued. I always wanted to have athletes be fit and fresh instead.”

It’s this observation that cemented the philosophy of Matt Dixon’s now world-famous Purple Patch triathlon squad. “It was such a dogmatic approach,” said Dixon. “People were taking the approach of pros and watering it down and applying it to amateurs, but ignoring all the other factors in life,” said Dixon.

Participants at Purple Patch Fitness Women Triathlon Training Camp in Marin County, CA. © Vance Jacobs

“Coaches and trainers encouraged poor habits and lacked understanding around fuelling and nutrition. They talked about recovery that never really happened,” said Matt.

Dixon’s philosophy sparks controversy as ‘an easy way out’

“A lot of people really bought into what I was trying to put across, where some others were really put off,” said Dixon.

“Some people thought I was trying to say there was a shortcut to success and that the best path is to always do less, but that’s not it at all.”

Dixon was under fire, but he stuck to the new-found philosophy he’d founded after his own journey in the sport. “I was coaching pros and age groupers and having really good results,” said Dixon.

Pros discover Purple Patch

“I started Purple Patch with some well-known athletes and some not,” said Dixon. “In the early days, one of my amateurs won her age group in Hawaii; she became my first professional Tyler Stewart,” said Matt Dixon. “She went on to become a very successful pro, winning Ironman races while maintaining a day job in San Francisco. That was more than ten years ago,” Dixon told Trizone.

In 2008, Chris Lieto approached Dixon to become a Purple Patch athlete, as his brother Matt was already coached by Purple Patch. “He was already a world-class athlete,” said Dixon, “He asked me ‘why the hell should I be coached by you? I used to beat you every time we raced?’” laughed Matt. With his new-found perspective though, Dixon had the perfect answer.

“That’s exactly why you should be coached by me. I’ve learned from all the mistakes.”

Working with Chris Lieto helped cement Matt Dixon’s new philosophy. “I saw he had the benefits of years of training, but the supportive components of nutrition, fuelling, strength and conditioning and recovery weren’t there,” Dixon told Trizone. “I felt like he was doing way too much for the end of his career.” Dixon’s respect for Lieto is still very apparent even now. “I told him we should be doing things differently and he was amazing. He just jumped in and said ‘yes, let’s do it.’”

Dixon took Lieto’s commitment and made some huge changes. “We radically increased his caloric intake, reduced how often he went hard and reduced his total training hours,” said Dixon. “He ended up really improving as an athlete. He started to be truly able to run off the bike, running a 1:13 off the bike not 1:17,” said Dixon.

In 2009, Lieto finished second at Kona, beaten by well-known Aussie athlete Crowie. “That was a huge moment for me as a coach,” said Dixon, “now ten years later I’m just learning more and more and still trying to work it all out. That was really the start of our now long-standing professional squad,” said Dixon.

Purple Patch isn’t right for everyone

Despite Dixon’s rich history of athlete development, such as Jesse Thomas, Meredith Kessler, Sarah Piampiano, Tim Reed and Sam Appleton, Dixon believes his philosophy isn’t right for every professional athlete. “One of the first things I do when a pro reaches out to me is I make them go and talk to other coaches,” said Dixon. “It’s important the athlete find the right coach for their journey. Too many coaches simply aim to add numbers, but we don’t own the athlete. I want to ensure I am the right coach for each athlete.”

Some of these athletes do choose other coaches, which is what Dixon wants them to do. “Some of them do really well, and that’s great!” said Dixon, “I just want what’s right for them if they weren’t right for Purple Patch.”

“I’m really deliberate about whether I’m going to take on an athlete and help them.”

Dixon likes to assist the journey of a pro

Even though some of his amateur athletes have earned their pro cards, Dixon won’t let them compete in the pros just yet. “Sarah Piampiano had great aspirations,” said Matt, “she was an age grouper and she wanted to be a pro. All the other coaches she interviewed for coaching told her ‘go pro and learn the ropes,’ but I was quite the opposite. I told her if she went pro I wouldn’t coach her, as I didn’t feel she was ready physically or mentally. You can only transition into the pro ranks once, and the timing is really important for long-term development”

Piampiano listened to Dixon, and decided to adopt his long-term approach despite being frustrated with the decision. “She understands the long term, she’s the ultimate ‘Purple Patch’ athlete in a fit way,” said Dixon. “She did two years as an amateur before she went pro but when she did, she was ready to compete and able to grow from within the ranks. This creates the path toward World-Class. Her situation was magnified as it was her swim that was her weakness.”

“I told her it doesn’t matter how good your running is, it can be career-ending and very deflating if there’s tumble weed going across the race course when you get out of the water.”

A windy and cold day of intervals in the Headlands National Park, San Francisco. Laughing was keeping us all warm.

Another impressive athlete, Meredith Kessler, went through a similar journey with Matt Dixon. “For one and a half years, she raced as an amateur even though she was qualified as a pro,” said Dixon, “when she went pro she could swim, ride and run,” said Dixon.

The admiration Dixon has for his athletes who stick to the Purple Patch plan and work hard through their journey as an amateur is palpable. “Laura Siddall won Ironman Australia this year. She’s had one of the most impressive 2017 of any athlete,” said Dixon. “So many people in her situation would have quit after the mental and physical challenges of her first professional year in the sport. We were trying to get the recipe right,” said Matt.

“She never wondered if she was in the right program. She was confident we’d get the right answer.”

Purple Patch is for everyone

“We’re based in San Francisco, and we offer real squad coaching with cycling, running, swimming and strength on a daily and weekly basis,” said Dixon proudly, “we have a wonderful community here.”

While many of Dixon’s athletes are highly committed professional and amateur triathletes, some of Dixon’s athletes are simply busy working people looking for fitness, while others are trying to get back to activity following suffering chronic fatigue.

“It’s a melting pot of high performance, business and sport,”said Dixon of San Francisco. “That makes for an ego-free environment; everyone is diluted in some way. It’s a really nice culture.”

While Dixon’s Purple Patch coaches people all over the world, Dixon’s approach is far from generic. “When we delivery anything, we never deliver a stock-standard plan,” said Matt, “In support of that, my biggest passion is education and each athlete is different,” said Matt Dixon.

Purple Patch’s Sweet Spot

Dixon is proud to offer a training solution for the very busy athlete; busy people who are trying to integrate triathlon into a really busy life. “It’s for people who want a positive effect on their health, energy at work, and want to bring a better self to their social life and family and friends,” said Matt Dixon.

Rather than asking athletes to work with a pre-designed program and jam it into their already busy lives, Dixon offers a fresh approach. “We offer a distinct philosophical difference.”

Purple Patch has amateur athletes who train as much as they can, which isn’t nearly as much as some, yet they have impressive results. “We have an athlete who became Hawaii World Champion in his age group who never trained more than twelve hours a week,” said Dixon. “He is genetically gifted and has the lungs of an elephant,” laughed Matt, “however, the key takeaway is that if I would have prescribed 16 hours a week, he almost definitely would have failed. He simply had too many other life commitments with his family and being founder and COO of a major tech company. We were optimising the very strict time limits he had available.”

Training CEOs for peak performance

Matt Dixon’s infamous coaching style is beloved by CEOs thanks to his approach. “CEOs are some of the busiest people in the world,” said Dixon.

“The barometer of success for those guys is if they become more successful leaders and if they have more time and energy to bring and enhance critical thinking.”

CEOs want an overall improvement in health, fitness, and performance in all aspects. “The value comes in them becoming a better elite performer in the business world. That’s what they like,” said Dixon.

Purple Patch approaches CEO’s travel the same as pro travel, which helps enhance their performance in the boardroom. “We use the same fuelling habits to make sure their energy levels stay consistent, and that’s just one part of it.”

Why everyday people choose Purple Patch

Plenty of amateurs who train with Dixon are everyday people looking for a competitive path towards wellness. “Sleep and exercise are always the first casualties,” said Dixon. “Then they get over-stressed because they’re not managing all their commitments. Critical thinking is reduced and energy reduces,” said Dixon. “That’s not just me saying that it’s all evidence-based.”

With an iron-clad philosophy, it’s no surprise Matt Dixon has trained some of the world’s most successful triathletes. Check back into Trizone soon to see how you can get your hands on Matt Dixon’s world-class training approach.

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Interview

Rebekah Keat: There’s Another Chapter After Sport

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Rebekah Keat's last win - 2015 Challenge Shepparton

Rebekah Keat is the fourth fastest female Ironman in the world, and one of the most sought-after coaches alongside long-term partner Siri Lindley. Trizone caught up with Bek to chat about retirement from triathlon and the importance of giving back.

“For me, I wanted to do something outside myself,” Keat told Trizone, “you have to be so selfish as an athlete, anyone does if they want to be the best. Now, it’s my chance to give back.”

When Keat retired from racing as a pro, she was at a loss of what to do with her time. “Triathlon was my identity, it’s what I’ve had in my life forever, I never really thought about what’s next.” said Bek.

Constant calf tears end Keat’s stellar career

Now 39 years old, Keat has been involved in swim, bike and run for 23 years, but her last two years in competition were brutal on her body. “In the last few years, I always had gastroc and soleus tears in my calf, but I kept pushing through.”

A bad race for Keat was finishing off the podium, but calf tears were ruining her impressive record of results. “My mind wanted to be doing it, but my body was saying ‘you’re done’” laughed Keat. It was her body that eventually gave in, with Keat tearing both calf muscles in her left leg during Ironman Cairns at only the 3km mark. “Straight away, I knew it would be my last one.”

Uncertainty leads to a new clarity

After crossing the finish line though, Keat became overwhelmed with the unknown. “I felt like retiring from triathlon was one of the biggest tragedies of my life. I was like ‘what’s next?’” said Keat.

While floundering in the unknown, Bek’s partner and revered coach Siri Lindley urged her to attend one of Tony Robbins seminars; Unleash the Power Within. I was definitely a skeptic, said Keat, I walked out of there a new person no longer terrified but excited  and I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to stay in the sport.  I also realised I wanted to give back and contribute to something much bigger than myself and that was saving animals”  …triathlon will give me the financial freedom to create a comfortable future but also be the platform to help save the lives of innocent animals.

Joining Siri to coach everyone – Yep, everyone

I decided to immerse myself in the coaching, Siri and I formed Team Sirius Tri Club in January 2017 and now our triathlon club is ranked one of the top clubs in the world so we’re very proud of that” said Keat. We have over 140 members, but we really wanted the training to be accessible to everyone.

Regular coaching is a hefty investment though, and for age groupers starting out in triathlon it can be far too out of reach, but Keat and Siri are changing all that. “We found out the club was regarded as too intimidating for beginners, but we’re turning that on it’s head by offering a triclub hangout group.

Keat cheering on fellow athlete Hilary Schmidt while wining her age at Ironman 70.3 Boulder

“Every week, we offer a free live chat where athletes can ask Siri any question, for a whole hour!” said Keat.

“There’s also video of the pros training everyday in a live session. We really offer a lot now, we give a lot” added Keat happily. “We want our coaching to be available to everyone.”

“Together we have 45 years of combined experience, and we have a great team. We do want to try and get more men on board as we attract a lot of women at the moment,” said Keat.

Believe Ranch and Rescue; Another dream realised

A portion of all the proceeds of the Team Sirius TriClub go to Siri and Bek’s other passion project; Believe Ranch and Rescue. “I’ve loved animals my whole life,” Keat told Trizone.

“Siri and I have always loved horses, and we’ve always had the dream of saving horses from abusive homes and kill shelters.”

This dream has become a reality, with Siri and Bek saving nine horses from one auction alone, with countless others being adopted from the ranch regularly. “We really want to take on more horses, give them the medical attention they need, then adopt them out to forever families,” Keat said, “all the services and care we give the animals we adopt is free of charge. We rely on donations to operate. Tony Robbins has been a big help; he’s donated a lot of money to save these horses.”

“This incredible sport of triathlon has given me the life tools to be able to contribute in a much bigger and deeper way than I ever thought possible.”

With her impressive 23 years of experience in the triathlon world, Bek Keat lost herself for a moment after retirement, but has found her feet in a big way. Coaching others who love her sport, plus working with animals to help them experience a new lease on life after trauma, Keat is settled into her post-pro life and loving every minute. “We have an awesome team, and awesome culture, and Siri and I have always had the dream of working with animals.” Keat has now realised these dreams in a big way, and with Siri, is encouraging you to realise yours too.

For further information and donations, you can head over to the website. www.believeranchandrescue.org

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Interview

Lucy Charles: The Rise of British Ironman Talent

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Lucy Charles at Ironman Lanzarote. Photo: James Mitchell

“The whole year has gone better than expected, so I’m very happy with how it’s been going to be honest,” beamed Lucy. The British athlete’s trajectory in the past twelve months has been huge thanks to an ironclad mindset and a turning point in her mental approach to racing. Before the success though, Charles was a ferocious age grouper on a mission.

“I swam a lot at school, then I decided to take a break from swimming and do a marketing job,” Charles told Trizone. “At the end of that year, I decided I wanted to do an Ironman. I’d never done triathlon before but I did Ironman UK in 2014.” In her casual English accent, it’s almost as though Lucy doesn’t realise deciding to do a triathlon is one thing, but entering into Ironman UK and actually finishing it is another thing altogether! “I got a buzz from Ironman and I wanted to keep doing it,” said Lucy.

Kona age group champion in 2015

“In 2015 I decided I wanted to take triathlon more seriously and go to Kona. I went back to Ironman UK and won my age group there, and I’d also won my age group at UK 70.3, and qualified for the 70.3 worlds. I won my age group there, so that was a huge step up.”

After qualifying for her age group (F18-24) at Kona, Charles decided she’d just keep her cool and go and soak up the atmosphere, but the athlete was too competitive. “Once I started training I decided I wanted to be a contender,” said Charles.

With her fierce swimming prowess, Charles set a ridiculously fast swim pace motivated by the aim of setting a new swim record. She may not have set a record, but her time of 52:20 was 2.5 minutes faster than the fastest female pro Jodie Swallow (55:04) and was equal to the fourth fastest pro male.

In just one year Lucy Charles progressed from considering doing an Ironman while at her marketing desk, to winning her age group at Ironman UK. Amazing.

2017 – Challenge Gran Canaria Lucy Charles’ Breakthrough

“I raced in Dubai in January and finished tenth,” Charles told Trizone. “I felt like that was how the season might go. I might just be at the bottom end of the top ten and I’d just be building all year.” Thanks to her hard work and determination though, luckily her predication wasn’t correct.

Lucy Charles finished Gran Canaria in second place just six seconds behind Emma Pallant! “The race gave me the confidence to believe I had the ability to bike, and I could run strong off the bike,” Lucy told Trizone. “I hadn’t run off the bike since the year before, and that hadn’t been great as I had a stress fracture at the time. I’d done a big block of training, so it was good to see that training had worked.”

Every athlete has their breakthrough event, and for Lucy Charles, Gran Canaria 2017 was it. “That race was a big break for me in my confidence, to see where I was at.”

Losing a bike sponsor gaining a new partnership

If you saw Lucy Charles riding around on a bike covered in tape at IM Lanzarote, with writing saying ‘lucycharles.co.uk’ it was in the midst of a sponsorship change over for the athlete. “At the end of 2016, Boardman said they wouldn’t continue to sponsor me, so I didn’t want to give them free coverage and hence I wrote my name over where the branding was,” laughed Charles.

The race was a huge victory for Charles who claimed her first pro win while setting the bike record on the notoriously difficult bike course. The race was hugely exciting, and by T2, Lucy had an impressive lead of almost 20 minutes ahead of Lucy Gossage. During the run course, Corinne Abraham worked hard to make up the distance, but Charles was too strong, and won in just 09:35:40, almost 10 minutes ahead of Abraham.

“I have no words for how it ended, it was absolutely amazing! I was quite surprised how well the bike course went, but I had a big focus on that during my training so it’s was definitely worth it. I knew I wouldn’t like the run anyway so gave it a go on the bike course,” said Lucy.

It’s no surprise after Lanzarote, that Lucy caught the attention of the team at BPM Sport Athlete Management who manage the likes of world champions Tim Reed, Holly Lawrence and Flora Duffy. Working with BPM’s UK representative saw a strategic shift in how Lucy interacted with sponsors and take a bigger picture approach. Soon after bike sponsors jumped at the chance of working with Charles, and the decision was made to focus on trialing the best possible brands for Charles to gain additional competitive edge for the long term. This lead to Specialized providing her a new bike set up however  it was just one week before Frankfurt – clearly not ideal.

Lucy Charles getting dialled in on her new Specalized Shiv. Photo: Richard Melik / Freespeed Bike Fit

Luckily through very specific bike fits and measurements with Freespeed in London, the changeover was an easier process. “I had a fit session with Richard at Freespeed on Wednesday the week before, then on the Saturday I took it out for a ride on the road, just over 100km. We had a few teething issues like any bike, and we adjusted it, then I flew to Frankfurt and raced on it straight away,” said Charles.

“My management team were a bit nervous I was on a new bike for the race, but it went well. I have to commend BPM, Specialized and Freespeed for that, it was just professionalism at another level” said Charles.

Recovery is key for Charles in 2017

Two Ironman events before Kona may seem like a lot for some, but for Lucy Charles it’s all in her stride. “Last year, two Ironman’s before Kona would have been a lot. In the past, I was at transition once and went to get my bike and passed out. This was after completing Kona in 2015, after the race I went to collect my bike and passed out. “Now, I take everything from the aid station if it’s a hot day. In Frankfurt I took water, and ice, and anything that was available. If you can cross the line without falling in a heap and you can have a few days rest and get back to training afterwards, then why not.”

Ironman Lanzarote. Photo: James Mitchell

Lucy Charles has been focusing on getting her recovery just right to enable her to get the most out of racing this year. “I’ve been working on three things,” said Charles, “I’ve been working on getting my nutrition right, staying hydrated and keeping cool if it’s a hot race.”

Unlike her early Ironman races, Lucy Charles is much better at post-race relaxation than before. “When I did my first few Ironman races, I couldn’t stomach anything afterwards I felt so sick. Now I can sit down and eat something, and I always have a protein shake in my recovery bag so I can start the recovery process instantly,” Lucy told Trizone.

Winning partnership with Reece helps motivate Charles’ racing

Lucy Charles and her fiancé Reece met six years ago when he was studying sports science, and they were both on the elite swim squad. “We both decided we’d had enough of swimming at the same time,” said Charles. “Reece’s knowledge of sports science was really helpful especially when we started Ironman. There’s no way we could have completed it all without it.”

Lucy and Reece train together, live together and work together as they have an online triathlon business, along with a personal training business. While the pair used to work with a number of personal training clients, now they do almost all online training. One of the things the pair prescribes a lot is indoor training, something Lucy Charles knows a lot about.

Zwift rescues Charles from boredom in crappy UK weather

“I live really near London so the roads are manic and the weather is rarely good enough to ride outside,” Charles told Trizone. “Most of my rides are indoors, and they’re really long rides so I input sessions into Zwift. It gives you that environment where you feel like you’re riding with other people,” said Lucy.

Technology like Zwift has transformed Lucy’s workouts, but it wasn’t always so engaging. “The longest indoor training I’d done leading into Kona as an age grouper was a five hour Turbo session. I felt like I was going mad. I had six bottles around me, and one iPhone died and one iPad died. I used to just follow my little numbers on the Garmin screen,” said Charles. “Zwift really is a blessing,”

Lucy Charles is Ironman’s biggest new talent and she’s one to watch at Kona this year. Get ready, Charles is coming.

 

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Interview

Elena Goodall – There’s No Stopping Her

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Elena Goodall has undergone the most impressive transformation over the past year, from turning her back on food addiction to completing numerous triathlons and training for an Ironman. Trizone followed up our last meeting with Elena to check in and see how she’s going.

“I applied to be on the [This Time Next Year] but I’d never even done a triathlon when I applied. I thought I’d just see what happens, I never really thought they’d want to tell my story,” Goodall told Trizone, smiling. “They called me the day after I applied and said they wanted me to be on the show. I wasn’t allowed to talk about it to anyone though, that was hard!”

On the This Time Next Year episode, Elena Goodall pledged ‘this time next year I will compete in a triathlon,’ a feat she’s already successfully completed. The show was filmed last year and since then, Elena has completed Cairns Ironman 70.3 and is training harder than ever with her sights set on Sunsmart Ironman Busselton. “I had to get up at 3am to do a two hour ride before I flew out for filming,” Elena said of her recent trip to Sydney. While she’s enjoying sharing her story to motivate others, Elena’s focus is unwavering.

120km destroyed Goodall in 2016, but this year it’s different

“I did a 210 kilometre ride the other week,”Goodall told Trizone, “last year I did a 120 kilometre bike ride and couldn’t walk afterwards, literally,” laughed Elena. “For three or four days after a 120km ride I did last year, my partner Aaron had to pretty much carry me to the toilet!”

This year, Elena is in a completely different place, both mentally and physically. “This year after doing the whole ride, I hopped off the bike and felt like I could run, my legs weren’t sore at all!” said Goodall. “The only thing that was sore were my feet and that’s because I have wide feet and don’t think my cleats on my pedals are wide enough.”

This huge change in Elena’s ability, endurance and fitness on the bike is just one part of her impressive transformation over the past few years. After reaching the lowest point in her life, weighing 184kg and addicted to fast food, Elena decided to try one last thing and undergo gastric sleeve surgery. Not everyone sees the incredible work she’s put in as the most important aspect of Elena’s story though, some ignorant people are criticising her decision to pursue surgery.

Triathlon, not weight loss is Elena’s pact on the show

“Since the This Time Next Year episode came out, I’ve had a bit of backlash about my surgery,” said Goodall, “some people are saying the show doesn’t show an honest representation of my weight loss, but my section on the show was never meant to be about weight loss at all. I actually talked about it and my surgery, but they cut it out,” said Elena.

Goodall was chosen by the show for her inspiring dedication to her dream of triathlon, not because of her weight loss. “The focus of the show is on my pledge ‘this time next year i will compete in a triathlon’, not on my weight loss, even though I did talk about it. I don’t want people to think I’m lying to them,” added Elena solemnly, “I’m quite open about the surgery and talking about it.”

Public criticism of Elena’s portrayal shows ignorance

During a heart-wrenching discussion with Trizone a few months ago, Goodall divulged every aspect of her weight loss and addiction journey. Now it’s disappointing there are still people out there who criticise Goodall on her choice to pursue surgery.

“Someone commented on a Facebook post that it was ‘disappointing the show didn’t mention the surgery,’ as though I’d tried to hide it. I explained to her they only gave me a certain amount of air time, and they cut out my explanation of my surgery. But yeah, some people do give me some backlash,” Goodall told Trizone.

Those who criticise Goodall’s choice to undergo lifesaving surgery clearly don’t understand the black hole of addiction she was in, and her inability to pull herself out. This ignorance does bother Goodall, but she’s always eager to focus on her goals rather than the backlash.

Moving to Brisbane for regular training

“I decided to move towns right in the middle of training for an Ironman, which is a lot to manage!” said Elena. “All my friends want to catch up before I leave. It’s hard finding the energy to get through my training sessions and get everything done, but I’ve not got too long to go. I have my last day of work on September first, then I move to Brisbane on the 10th,” Goodall told Trizone happily.

Once Goodall moves to Brisbane, she’s confident she’ll be able to focus 100% on her training. “When I have to film something, or a project comes up, my coach is great and she just changes my program around,” said Elena. “I do get pretty upset when my Training Peaks has a lot of red in it. I get a bit down on myself, and makes me doubt myself thinking – am I going to be ready for Busso?”

Despite a few reds on her Training Peaks, we have no doubt Elena will be a fierce competitor at Ironman Western Australia (Busselton) on 3rd, 2017.

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Interview

Will Clarke: The Englishman with an appetite for winning

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Photo by James Mitchell

Will Clarke is one of the UK’s most impressive triathletes, and he has a few things to say about incompetent referees, motivation and holidays in Greece. Trizone caught up with the British athlete.

School starts Clarke’s journey towards triathlon

“When I was sprinting at school, I started watching the middle distance guys and decided endurance was probably more my game,” Clarke told Trizone. “I started jumping in with them in the 800-1500 metres, and that’s how it stayed throughout high school.”

Modestly, Will Clarke added “my swimming has plateaued since I was about 11 or 12 until now!” On a more serious note though, Clarke remembers his start in triathlon. “When I was 16, I started doing the odd triathlon, junior race. Then I was selected by a World Class Start Program talent spotter,” said Clarke. “They looked after me and helped me have money for things like inner tubes and other stuff like sweets and chocolates,” laughed Clarke.

That talent scout began Clarke’s triathlon journey, and he’s never looked back. “I trained quite hard when I was a junior,” remembers Clarke, “I was third at the World Junior Championships, and second at the European Juniors.”

Will Clarke competed in triathlon at his University where there were plenty of incredible triathletes and swimmers. The squad was training exceptionally hard, with only a few weekly trips to the student union pub, so we’re told.

By the time Clarke was in his third year at University, his focus was solely on triathlon. “I was doing sports science and sports management, but in my last year I was making money off the sport and I’d qualified for the Commonwealth Games.” With his eyes set on his sport, Clarke decided University wasn’t his main focus. “After qualifying for the Commonwealth Games, I found it hard to get back into uni after that. I didn’t finish my degree,” said Clarke.

Is desperation the key to success in triathlon?

Will Clarke may have insight into the key to success in sport; desperation. “In 2010, I no longer had the support of UK triathlon. That was the first time I wasn’t getting financial support for my mortgage and travel and I had to think ‘shi*, what do I do now?’ I was on my own for the first time. I had to be smart and make good decisions,” Clarke told Trizone.

Photo: James Mitchell

Like almost every professional triathlete, Clarke was at the crossroads of deciding whether pursuing triathlon could be a long term career. “I think you need to have that desperate attitude. It’s something Alistair [Brownlee] has. He’s so competitive and he’s so desperate to do well all the time,” Clarke said of his fellow UK triathlete.

A baby helps and hinders training

While making the most of his period of desperation and amidst the exciting news he had a son on the way, Clarke was picked up by the BMC Etixx team. “As soon as I announced I was going from ITU to long course, I had zero sponsors and it was the year my baby was coming, Freddy. I got a call from Bob de Wolf straight away and he wanted to do some testing and have some chats. It’s been amazing with the team every since.”

Having Freddy was a big shock to the system for my wife and I and it took us a long time to figure it all out. He was a really terrible sleeper and he also had a lot of energy. I think in my first year of long course racing we managed it really well, my wife did all the hard work so I could focus on my job and he wasn’t walking yet so the main damage was loss of sleep.

The following year I cracked. It all got too much for me. Mentally and physically I was completely burnt out and the psychologist that I was working with Rudy told me I needed 10 weeks off to recover otherwise he was afraid my career would be coming to an end. So that put an end to the year.

After taking 13 weeks off at the end of the season, Ben De Wolf encouraged me to team up with Luc Van Lierde. This is where I learnt so much about how to prepare for Ironman and I made a big leap in progress.

Quality not quantity the key to Clarke’s training success

“I’m training less now then I have my whole career, perhaps even 6/7hrs less most weeks. Luc doesn’t think I’m an athlete who needs huge volumes,” said Clarke. Most of my career I trained very hard. I think in the UK we seem to be stuck on the constant high volume, high intensity method, rather then trusting our talent perhaps. Luc Van Lierde is the perfect fit for the UK athlete. “When I started our sessions weren’t ever wiping me out, and there were less of them, but at the start of the season I was racing better than ever. He gives you what you need to improve, he doesn’t just throw everything at you”

Many triathletes complain the time they have with their families is coloured with the haze of exhaustion, and they’re not able to excel in being a parent and partner. Athletes like Clarke with young families need coaches who understand the importance of their other priorities.

Photo: James Mitchell

“He keeps you happy as you have plenty of time with your family and you’re not completely exhausted all the time” said Clarke of his esteemed coach.

It’s not just the training load that works for Clarke, but the data-driven precision. “Luc Van Lierde is very strategic and precise,” said Clarke. “We’ll have a steady week, ticking away nice and consistently and then he’ll chuck in one or two big weeks where we get the 200km rides done to overload us. It’s all very measured,” Clarke told Trizone. The English triathlete’s admiration for his coach is apparent. “You can take advice of what he’s doing as he’s been there and done it himself at that very high level,” gushed Clarke about Van Lierde, “He’s won Kona. I just trust him and get on with it,” said Clarke, sounding the epitome of an Englishman.

Taking time off more important than getting worn out

Will Clarke had booked a week off in the middle of the season to go to a friend’s wedding in Santorini. “The trip came at a great time as it was enforced rest.” After Ironman Texas, Clarke had reached a slump. “I felt very tired for a while and that obviously impacts your motivation. I could have pressed on and kept flogging myself like I did in the old days but now it just doesn’t work for me now.”

“By the time I raced in Bolton I felt super fresh, and put my head down and a did a really good race,” Clarke told Trizone. “I think it’s better to be 90 percent fit and fresh and motivated than firing on all cylinders,” said Clarke.

“I’ve always said to myself it’s the most important thing to feel motivated.”

Clarke wants referees to use more discretion

The most passion Clarke summoned was when talking about referees and penalties. “I’ve had a few penalties now. I got a five minute penalty for drafting, as did twenty or so other guys in Kona last year,” said Clarke. “In Texas, I was given a one minute penalty for dropping my energy bar. As if I wanted to drop my nutrition!” Clarke added incredulously. “I pleaded with the guy in the penalty box saying ‘please! You need to use some discretion, I’ve got a kid to feed!’ so 50 seconds into the penalty he realised he was being ridiculous and he let me go.”

Luckily for Clarke, the referee’s leniency allowed him to get back in the pack and resume the race, but he was frustrated again in Bolton. “It was a really tough course, and it’s not the course for drafting, but I got a five minute penalty, there as well which seemed particularly harsh, especially as he wasn’t even following the race’

Clarke may belong to the prestigious BMC Etixx team, but he’s aware of the huge toll a penalty can take on those new to pro racing. “Imagine you spend £5,000+ getting to Kona and everything is going amazingly well for you and for one moment you lose concentration and drift into the draft zone’ If the referee sees that in a race like Kona that’s it, it’s really going to hurt your chances of a result. It’s too harsh I think. Perhaps they need to give you a warning each or perhaps something different level penalties based on the extremity of the offence.

Will wishes referees would watch greater chunks of races before handing out huge penalties, rather than making judgements on just a few short moments.

Moto drafting Clarke’s pet peeve

Clarke is also keen to voice his opinions about the effect of drafting behind motorbikes. “It’s one of the biggest problems facing Professional Triathlon right now. In too many races motorbikes are completely influencing the result and it’s just not fair. You’ve not got a chance against the leader getting motorpaced.” said Clarke.

Photo: James Mitchell

“The reason these guys are running so fast off the bike is they’re not working any harder than me on the bike. Of course they get off and can run fast,” Clarke told Trizone passionately.

You look at Starky and he’s completely gone when he gets off the bike. That’s what should happen when someone rides sub 4:10. They should be completely cooked.

Despite some frustrations with penalties and drafting, Will Clarke loves his sport and is thrilled with the support of BMC Etixx, Bob and the whole team, and he says he realises he’s one of the lucky ones. “We’re paid a salary, and we have many of our expenses paid for. It alleviates a lot of stress to just get on with my job, train as hard as I can and not be under any financial stress.”

While Clarke may come across as a pretty serious guy, he has his fun. If you scroll through his Instagram feed you’ll find photos of Clarke and a friend in fluffy bathrobes. “It’s called Ragdale Hall Spa, and somehow, they let me and my idiot mates come and use the place for free,” said Clarke laughing. “I invited my friend who has a lot of spare time, so we went down there and played some croquet and hung out in the Spa. I am pretty sure it’s very, very unusual to get two lads rocking up to Ragdale Hall, most of their clientele are groups of women or a mother and daughter treat but it’s still bloody good place to go and freshen up” said Will Clarke.

With impressive Ironman races under his belt for this year, we’ll look forward to seeing how Clarke performs in Kona.

Finally, here’s some tunes that Will enjoys while training and travelling.

https://open.spotify.com/user/spotify/playlist/37i9dQZF1DX5uokaTN4FTR

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Editors' Picks

Nic Beveridge: Finding Strength and Powering to the Top

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2015 World Championships. Photo: Delly Carr

“All of a sudden, I found it really hard to breathe,” Nic Beveridge, one of Australia’s best paratriathletes told Trizone. “It was term three and I was in year 12. I was on the phone to my mate from water polo and we were bantering when I just started having trouble talking, so I hung up the phone.”

The chatty Beveridge stopped here, remembering the moment with a calm reverence. “I got down the stairs to my parents and my body started spasming,” recalled Nic. “My parents were watching me but I was struggling to talk and breathe, and I was having trouble standing.” With a laugh, Nic shakes off the weight of the memory, adding “it’s a weird sensation when your muscles are spasming against your will.”

Ushered into the car by his parents who were frantic with fear, Beveridge’s memory becomes clouded at this point. His Mum remembers it well though, and told him many years later the one thing he’d said to her during this tortuous car ride; was

“Mum, I think I’m dying.”

Once in hospital, things only got worse. “The spasms had intensified a lot. I had an excruciating pain in my head; like someone was dropping bricks on it. It all started to get a bit too much. I spasmed so much, both my legs shot up in the air and I passed out.”

Waking up with no movement in his legs

Nic’s memory is extremely detailed about the moment his life changed forever, but he wasn’t sad or frustrated as he recalled the first morning in hospital. His voice was calm and measured. “There was a bit of light coming in the room,” remembered Nic, “I was lying a bit skew whiff [an Australian phrase for off-centre] and I tried to straighten up in my bed, but I couldn’t.”

“I went to put my head up, but nothing else was moving with it. I went to put a leg out.” Nic’s analytical mind remembered the confusion of that moment; an alien experience; “Within your mind you can say ‘straighten your leg out’ and without looking, you think you’ve done it. When you look down though, nothing has happened.”

In a haze of confusion, Beveridge tried to shout to a nurse he could see through the doorway. “I tried to call out for help, but my diaphragm was affected so I couldn’t yell either.”

Breezing past this memory, you can’t help but consider the gravity of that moment for the keen athlete who’d had his heart set on representing Australia in field hockey. Moving on with a smile though, Nic summed up the 24 hours that changed his life with; “long story short, I was completely paralysed from T4, just below the chest. I’d lost control of my whole abdomen and legs.”

After a brief pause, Nic smiled and added, “that’s how I acquired my disability and how my whole second life started.”

The beginning of that second life was a plunge into an unknown world of tests and confusion. “In the first week, no one could tell me what was going on and why I was suddenly paralysed.” After eight weeks in hospital though, his medical team started to get to the root of his body’s sudden change.

Nic Beveridge’s sudden paralysis was due to transverse myelitis, a condition involving inflammation of the spinal cord caused by a dysfunction in his immune system. “Yeah it’s rare, but it’s not contagious or inherited. It causes fluid in your spinal canal to swell and put pressure on your spinal cord. It’s like you’ve broken your spine but you haven’t,” said Nic. “You have to wait for a few months for the swelling to go down and see what kind of damage was done.”

Confusion and a lack of control

“I was definitely upset,” said Beveridge, “It was the surprise as much as anything. I was scared too.” Nic stopped and took a breath, “the most upsetting part was I hadn’t done anything to contribute or cause it, it was fully out of my control.”

Nic’s honesty was palpable, and his ability to reflect on his past so clearly shows maturity far beyond his 30 years. “Before it happened to me, I thought ‘how do you even deal with something like that?’ Now though, I realise when anyone is thrown in that situation, you just deal with it. You don’t really have a chance to choose,” said Nic. “The choice is taken away and you just have to go through the process and work out what you’re dealing with and what the next steps are.”

Nic Beveridge handcycling on the Coast. Photo: Jaz Hedgeland

Powerfully mature for his 30 years, Nic Beveridge finally added “you’ve gotta do what you gotta do, you’ve gotta let them do the tests.”

To add to the confusion of his life-changing illness, Nic was suddenly lonely. “It was years before everyone had cell phones. You had to find a computer and email,” laughed Nic. “Once I was transferred to Townsville Hospital and the spinal unit in Brisbane, I didn’t have daily visitors anymore. Some people would call the nurse’s desk and they’d transfer it to my bedside phone. It was hard,” said Nic quietly, adding “I credit it to toughening me up early in my life, much more than if I’d just progressed along the same track I was on.”

Nic wasn’t into parasport – not even a bit

“They told me swimming was good for rehab, so I started going to the pool but it was so different. How I floated was different, three quarters of my body didn’t even float initially,” said Nic. “Your mindset is so different, you’re so used to being good at something and knowing the basics of how to do it. Starting over was overwhelming.”

Nic moved back to Mackay after finishing school to adjust to his new body. “I trained with an assistant swimming coach who worked with me one on one. He helped me get a grip on not being good,” said Nic. His mindset though, had completely changed.

“I enjoyed the fitness aspect once I learned how to float, but the hunger and passion to want to beat other people, and more importantly find out how good you can be and beat yourself, wasn’t there anymore.”

“To have that desire gone; all of a sudden sport was different, I just wasn’t interested anymore,” said Nic. “I played two games of wheelchair basketball and didn’t enjoy it at all.

“I decided parasport was not for me.”

“I kept swimming for fitness, but I didn’t compete,” said Beveridge.

Surgery and bed rest – Nic Beveridge’s powerful turning point

By 2012, a few years later, Nic Beveridge’s health had deteriorated due to his disability. “There was nothing I could have done. I had to have invasive surgery to correct the problem, and the recovery was three months of bed rest,” said Beveridge, “they took tissue from my other organs to rebuild some of my insides. Modern medicine is amazing!” laughed Nic.

Confined to his bed with nothing to motivate him to recover, Beveridge watched hours of TV day after day and the London Olympics happened to be on. “I’d never watched the Paralympic Games before. Being stuck in bed though, I thought – why not?”

In the gaps between the events, the TV coverage highlighted the profiles of some of the athletes, and one caught Nic’s eye. “This person had lost their leg to cancer, and however many months later, they’d climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.” That inspiring story was a monumental moment for Nic, and his voice became slow and strong as he recalled it.

Something inside me clicked. It’s the most memorable time in my life that I was inspired.

This one powerful story of an athlete gave Nic a jolt of hope he’d been missing. “I remembered I still had full use of my upper body and I’d not made the most of it,” Nic told Trizone defiantly. “I decided if I recover from the surgery I wanted to make the most of it. I wanted to see what I was capable of.”

While stuck in bed, Nic spent hours on Google. “I typed in something strange like ‘extreme endurance parasport’” smiled Nic. “I wanted something that would test my limits I didn’t think a lot of people would be capable of doing.”

Google’s top result was an article about Bill Chaffey, the then three time world paratriathlon champion (now five time) who was training for Ironman Hawaii, and Nic was hooked. “I read the article about Bill and was so excited to hear about paratriathlon! I decided this was it, I’ve gotta get into this.”

Starting the journey from bed to triathlon

“While I couldn’t get out of bed, I got in touch with Triathlon Queensland and they gave me Bill’s email address. I still have that first email I sent him and his reply,” said Nic. “

To send that first email, and to change his mindset and decide to optimise his physical ability in the face of adversity showed more mental strength than most people are able to summon in a lifetime. The huge importance of this transformation isn’t lost on Beveridge either. “I’m a sentimental type, so the fact Bill and I both went to Rio together with the sport’s Paralympic debut was quite special to me,” Nic told Trizone.

Nic Beveridge doing some strength and conditioning work in the gym. Photo: Jaz Hedgeland

Once he’d recovered from his surgery, Nic dug deep and searched for a hand cycle and racing wheelchair. “Those things aren’t cheep, but I networked and spoke to Triathlon Queensland and Bill, plus Sporting Wheelies to get the right equipment. I loaned a recreational hand cycle and a very old racing wheelchair and that’s how I got started in the sport,” said Nic happily.

Making the team for Rio

Working incredibly hard to get into the brand new paratriathlon world, Nic made huge progress and by 2016 he’d “scraped into the Australian paralympic team for Rio,”although we doubt it was really a scrape as he told us.

In 2015, Nic had reached a plateau in his results,. “Being fresh to hand cycling, using a racing wheelchair and high performance sport, I decided I needed to spend time working with a specialist to learn how to use my equipment before anyone else can help me.”

Fiercely driven, Nic Beveridge relocated to Canberra. “I’d never lived outside Queensland my entire life, but I knew I needed to learn how to be a paratriathlete.” After two years, Nic had learned as much as he possibly could about being a paratriathlete and he headed to Rio where he placed ninth.

Paralympian not the title Nic thought it was

“When I got back from Rio, I felt dry and unfulfilled,” said Beveridge, “I had the titles of Paratriathlete and Paralympian, but I didn’t feel like I’d filled them with the meaning they should carry.” Unlike many athletes who would simply revel in the glory of getting to the Games, Beveridge felt he owed it to himself, and to the legacy of the Games, to do better. “I just felt like there was so much more I could do in training, and within myself as an athlete, but I didn’t know what that was,” said Nic.

“Two weeks after I got back, I reached out to Dan Atkins; I knew he was a great guy and a tough coach,” Beveridge told Trizone. “I told him what I wanted to achieve.”

“When my event got added to the Commonwealth Games list I told Dan I wanted to know if I’m capable of fulfilling the title of Paralympian with meaning,” said Nic Beveridge.”

“I wanted to make sure I’d done everything possible, so if my career ended the next day I’d be 100 percent satisfied I’d made the most of it and pushed myself as hard as I could,” Beveridge told Trizone.

Dan Atkins proved to be everything Nic Beveridge needed

“Training with Dan and the squad, it’s everything I needed without knowing I needed it. It was the fulfilment I was looking for,” said Nic. “The training is tough; it really makes you earn your place and keep it.”

Learning from the entire squad is what keeps Beveridge motivated. “I couldn’t be happier with the training environment I’m in, also learning from the able bodied athletes who are younger than me, but they’ve been in the sport a lot longer,” said Nic.

Listening to Nic Beveridge chat about his training colleagues, you can’t help but smile at the admiration and respect the paratriathlete has for his friends. “It blows my mind, the level of commitment they have at that age. Their drive and the support they have for one another, even though they’re in direct competition with each other, there’s just no animosity. Learning that training ethic has taken me to another level,” said Nic.

High performance training gives Nic the edge he needs

“It’s more about just showing up; what I love is when I turn up, everyone is there and everyone’s getting ready. No one says they don’t want to be there, they’re all really positive,” said Nic purposefully.

“When Dan says what we’re going to do, you can think ‘wow what a set,’ but no one complains. There’s no one who brings the squad down. You don’t want to be that person who doesn’t contribute to the squad in training,” Nic told Trizone, his commitment to his sport and his squad shining through his words.

Commonwealth Games on the horizon for Beveridge

“My results this season have gone up and up. I finished within 47 seconds of Bill Chaffy in Yokohama which is a big accomplishment,” said Nic, adding Chaffy had beaten him by nine minutes at Rio.

“Now, none of us in the squad fear racing. The training we do is much harder than racing. When you get to the racing, you know your job. I’m very happy and comfortable that we’re on a good path towards doing the best we can to earn selection for the Commonwealth Games.”

Nic’s eyes are set fully on the future and just listening to him discuss what’s on his horizon is inspiring. “If we are selected for the Games, we’ll be in a really good position to get a medal as well,” Beveridge told Trizone. Unfortunately the day we spoke, Nic was very unwell and had been unable to travel to Edmonton for the third round of the World Paratriathlon Series.

Nic Beveridge’s journey, like any athlete, has been in fierce pursuit of constant improvement, but that’s just the half of it. His mind-blowing transformation from being frustrated after his surgery and having his back turned on professional sport to becoming one of Australia’s top Paralympic triathletes is beyond inspiring. Now all eyes are on Beveridge to see how he goes for Commonwealth Games selection.

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Interview

Laura Siddall: Taking it to the Top Pro’s

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Laura Siddall is triathlon’s most nomadic pro, but her mobile lifestyle might just be the key to her recent success including her second place finish at Challenge Roth. Trizone caught up with Siddall to chat San Francisco, risk aversion and the qualification for Kona she’s already locked in.

“I’d always done athletics and played netball at a junior level, but the emphasis was always on corporate life and education,” said Siddall. “When I started triathlon, I found I was naturally quite strong on the bike for whatever reason. I just loved it,” Siddall chatted happily, her genuine passion emanating from her words. “It all developed from there. We just found a good formula and built that strength on the bike, then played to my strength when racing,” said Siddall.

Laura Siddall entered triathlon slightly later in life than some other athletes, but her passion for the sport has overcome any deficit this may have created. “I was training at Bondi Fit with Spot Anderson, and it was my social circle and just a great environment. Every session was fun, and I just loved it.” remembers Siddall.

Corporate life vs. triathlon

Working hard at both her day job, and her new found sport of triathlon in Sydney, Siddall was spreading her energy thin. “I wasn’t enjoying my corporate job,” Siddall told Trizone, “there’s only so far you can succeed in the corporate world, or the sporting world, while you’re trying to do both. When I was sitting at my desk everyday, more and more of my thoughts were about my next training session or my next race,” said Siddall.

To choose work or sport?

Like every triathlete, Siddall had reached the turning point where she had to decide to pursue her sporting career, or let it fall by the wayside. “It was a now or never decision,” remember Siddall, “I wasn’t getting any younger since I had started triathlon at a slightly older age. I didn’t want to look back in ten or twenty years and think ‘what if?’” Siddall told Trizone.

Siddall’s tone turned strong and defiant at this point, and the power of the decision she’d faced all those years ago had bubbled back to the surface. Enviably logical and self reflective, Siddall is clear about the key elements of the huge decision she faced. “There were a few things holding me back,” Siddall told Trizone. “I’m sometimes a bit risk averse and I didn’t feel like I knew enough to be a pro.” Racing at Olympic distance wasn’t for her, and she knew it. “It wasn’t the right distance for me, but I knew there were other options out there.”

Starting the sport slightly later than some other athletes, plus having a slower swim, Siddall was hesitant to commit to the sport full time. “All these things in my mind delayed my progress a bit until I moved up to 70.3. Then I won the age group race that qualified me for worlds in Las Vegas. I was the fastest female amateur,” Siddall said casually, “then I made that step up to half distance racing,” said Siddall, “and started to think that perhaps things were possible!”

While Spot had helped Siddall become one of the top age groupers, she knew she wanted more. “I looked into Matt Dixon’s and his approach and style appealed to me. I also knew that if I was going to go Pro, I needed to commit full time. The Sydney environment wasn’t going to be right for that, I knew I needed to train with other better pros, and under Matt, who had so much experience at that next level.”

First pro race at Noosa cements Siddall’s love of the sport

Laura Siddall secured her pro tickets after becoming the world’s fastest amateur female. Of all the places to start a pro career, Noosa has to be the most motivational, buzzing and fun races around. “It was my first pro race, and Kim Coogan’s (nee Jaenke) too. We’d both been age groupers and won our age group in 70.3 World Champs that year,” said Siddall.

“It was so daunting, we were racing against the speedy short distance athletes. I knew my swim was never going to cut it, but since it was non drafting it evened things out on the bike a bit,” remembered Siddall.

While plenty of athletes would choke under the pressure, Siddall kept her cool by diffusing her own expectations and just enjoying Noosa’s infamous fun vibe. “It’s a great race, and a fantastic atmosphere. Going in with no pressure on the back of the 70.3 world championships in Vegas was perfect. I knew it was an amazing opportunity for me to go in and stand on the start line with some incredible women and race against them. It was so great,” remembered Siddall.

Siddall is happy without a home base

While most people on her old corporate career path are constantly worrying about setting up a home at her age, Siddall couldn’t be more different, and her racing is benefitting from it. “I don’t have a home base anymore as such,” Siddall told Trizone. “I first started with Matt Dixon in San Francisco as I needed to be training in front of him, but in the two years I was in the USA, something wasn’t quite right,” remembered Siddall.

After spending seven years in Sydney, Siddall missed the pace and weather of the southern hemisphere, so she headed back down, this time to New Zealand. “I spent time in Christchurch in New Zealand where Paul Buick works. He’s works closely with Matt, particularly around our cycling” said Siddall. In summer, Laura Siddall worked hard on her cycling fitness in Christchurch’s monstrous hills, but in winter the city was too far from the action. “I didn’t want to be in NZ during winter as it’s too cold, and races are all going on in the USA and Europe.”

Girona hooks another pro

After racing in Europe, Siddall looked for a somewhere to train in the Northern Hemisphere, searching from Morzine to Vittoria, and she found Girona. “Jan Frodeno thinks it’s alright, and I had the idea of training there from a friend in NZ. I just made the decision and booked it, and I’m so glad. There are tons of triathletes and cyclists, and it’s so easy to get around,” Siddall said eagerly.

After finishing in second place in 09:21:53 at Ironman New Zealand earlier this year, then with winning Ironman Australia, Siddall already has a Kona ticket locked in, giving her the chance to focus on the European Challenge series. “Fortunately it worked out, and my main goal for this year is just having lots of fun doing the races I want to do. And a second goal to go to Kona, which I’ve now got the points for!”

Chatting to Siddall, you can’t help but think she’s got it all figured out. With her measured tone and enthusiastic yet thoughtful comments, it’s no wonder she’s been able to keep her cool and get the results she’s aimed for. We’re betting she gets the results she wants in Kona too, but we’ll have to wait and see.

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Interview

Holly Lawrence: The Best and it’s No Surprise Why

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Holly Lawrence is the current Ironman 70.3 world champion and one of the public’s favourite triathletes, and it’s no surprise why. Trizone caught up with Holly to see how the smiley world champion is enjoying her year on top.

“My first race at Oceanside was a relief,” Holly told Trizone, “I realised last year wasn’t a fluke and everything was OK.” The first half of 2017 has seen Holly remain undefeated at Ironman 70.3 races, adding the North American Pro Championships in Utah to her CV of stylish domination.

Lawrence digs deep to stay in the sport

This season is a huge year for Holly as she’s not only on top of her game, but she’s also got bigger, better sponsors than ever before. Like so many triathletes though, Holly hasn’t always had so much support behind her. “I had no salaries,” remembers Holly. “I was going for the biggest races with the biggest payouts just to make money; I needed to pay for my car and rent. Positions meant money and survival for me in the sport.”

With bills looming, it was do or die for the British athlete training in the USA. “I only had an infinite amount of time before I had to decide to go back to the UK and move back in with Mum and Dad!”

In 2017 though, things couldn’t be more different, and her devoted parents at home in the UK won’t be seeing Holly move home anytime soon; she’s on top of her game and even has her own manager now. “I have great sponsors now, and the support and financial security that comes with that is amazing,” said Lawrence. “I’ve got my dream bike sponsor, Trek, and a mechanic who comes with me to races.” With support from all sides, Lawrence also feels more pressure than ever before. “Now there are more people to disappoint too. It’s not like I can go home and forget about it if I have a bad race now,” said Holly.

Training in Santa Monica is ideal for the Brit

“I’ve suffered in the UK with bad weather for so long, it’s awesome here!” said Holly happily. With excruciatingly long hours of training and long rides in the outdoors, it’s no wonder the world champ favours the climate of the Californian city. “I have a swim club I swim with, and we do one ocean swim every week that you’d never get the chance to do in the UK,” said Holly. “I ride in the Santa Monica mountains, and I run with my boyfriend who is also my run coach, plus I have my bike trainer with Zwift all organised at home, it’s a pretty sweet set up.”

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Moving to the USA has been perfect from the start, though it’s had its funny moments for Lawrence. “When I came to my first swim workout I expected it to be like the UK where no one really talks, you just do it and that’s it. Here though, everyone was high five-ing me and cheering me on saying ‘go for it, one left!’ when I had one lap to go. I was like ‘are these people serious?’” laughs Holly. After the initial culture shock though, she’s settled in nicely and feels more at home training in the climate and happy vibe in the USA.

Holly Lawrence signing a card for a beloved fan.

Data matters to Lawrence

Holly experienced huge improvement under coach Matt Dixon, but has since moved to Train Sharp coaching as she prefers to work with numbers. “Going into Oceanside last year, I was having the same injury issues I’d had for a while with my ITB; it was like history repeating itself,” said Holly. “If you’re so run down, something is going to go, and for me it’s anything along my right side from my hip. I was just sick of having the same problems. I decided to leave Matt and go with Train Sharp that’s all data driven and power based.”

While the numbers are key to Lawrence’s training, she’s also mindful of staying injury free. “I have to keep up with my re-hab and glute exercises. I’m pretty resilient, but getting enough recovery is important for me,” Lawrence told Trizone.

Lawrence prances down the stairs to win Beijing in 2016

“So much happened in a short race,” said Holly laughing. “There were stray dogs everywhere, and at one point, one just come out on the road and I crashed. There’s a photo somewhere of me scraped and bloody, with the local police officers helping me put my chain back on,” remembers Lawrence. “There’s a video of me getting back up and apparently I said ‘are you fu**ing kidding me?’ it was pretty crazy.”

With her head down, Lawrence powered on and made it to the run in front. “There are these big stairs, and I was jumping them by three’s to get to the bottom. I didn’t realise until I watched the race afterwards, that I was prancing and leaping with my hands in the air as I ran down the stairs. It looked terrible!” laughed Lawrence.

 

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By prancing, Holly increased the gap between herself and Australia’s Ashleigh Gentle behind her, making it safely to first place last September. “I almost didn’t enjoy the finish chute because I just wanted to get to the end. It was only six days after Mooloolaba (world champs) and long haul flights really take it out of me,” said Lawrence.

Now she’s on top of her game, we had to wonder, does Lawrence know when she’s a shoe in? Far from it. “I never feel like ‘yeah! I’ve got this!’” said Holly, “I’ve never felt like that. The minute I do, I’ll probably lose!”

Not being fast enough to be doping

“To the people who have accused me of doping, it’s just so ridiculous,” said Holly, “I’m not at my best yet, I’m not nearly where I could be. That’s why it just doesn’t make sense!” said Holly.

Unfortunately for Lawrence, she has been confronted by a few loud-mouth media types who have accused her of doping after her impressive results in the past twelve months.

“They’d be better off spending their money testing people outside of events to catch the real cheaters,” said Lawrence, who absolutely detests poor sportsmanship and cheating. “I think there should be life time bans. That would actually work as a better deterrent,” said Holly passionately.

Holly loves trashy things

“Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and 50 Shades of Grey, I love them! I used to read 50 Shades on the plane and have to cover it with a magazine so no one could tell,” laughed Lawrence.

Women in sport is about people in sport

“As soon as you start making women out to be some sort of charity, that’s when equality doesn’t work,” said Holly. “Having 50 women to Kona doesn’t feel right to me. I’d rather see the best women go to Kona and it should be super elite. Or better still, make a cut-off for 35 men and women.”

Lawrence is keen to point out triathlon is one of the best sports to be part of thanks to equality, “We’re lucky in our sport – women and men do get the same deal, it is equal. Compared to cycling where men are getting millions and women are sharing a few thousands, I mean that’s ridiculous!”

Sponsored by Trek, Lawrence’s bike colours have been selling in Trek’s online stores like hot cakes to both men and women. “It’s not just women who are buying them, I hope I’m contributing to both women and men’s sport. And to sport in general,” said Lawrence.

Current Ironman 70.3 World Champion’s Holly Lawrence and Tim Reed show off their personalised shoes.

Like any world champion, it’s not what she says, but what she does that makes Lawrence so good, and she’s the first to realise that. “There are these women who are begging for equality, but aren’t doing anything themselves. There are weak fields in some races. I say to those people – you need to show the worth you can offer sponsors.”

Holly Lawrence is on top of her game, and keen to have a laugh along the way. Now our eyes are peeled to see how she fares at the 70.3 World Champs in Chattanooga. Our guess is she’ll be on top, again.

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Elena Goodall: The Journey Has Only Begun

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Elena Goodall weighed 184kg just two years ago, now she’s lost the weight and recently finished Ironman 70.3 Cairns and has a full Ironman in her sights. Trizone caught up with Goodall to hear her story of fast food addiction, and her inspiring journey toward recovery.

“As a kid I was always really into swimming. I was so headstrong I used to look over at the big kids doing laps and want to be with them. I was training twice a day doing competitive swimming,” Goodall told Trizone.

Passionate about sport and very competitive, Elena used to swim in events around Queensland until she finished high school and joined the workforce. “I worked on the dive boats doing really physical work, and I got my coxswain ticket. I was always outside and I loved it. Then I moved to the Whitsundays and worked on a few islands as a water sports attendant doing jetski tours and all that fun stuff,” said Elena.

Financial crisis threatens Goodall’s industry and wellbeing

When 2009 hit, though, the tourism industry skidded to a halt in Queensland and Goodall couldn’t find work. Deflated and disappointed, she relocated back to her home town of Cairns and resigned herself to working indoors at an office job, something she’d never wanted.

“I worked in payroll for Queensland Health. Our office was directly above a chocolate factory and I’d have chocolate, chocolate milk and all that sugary stuff everyday. It was pretty much all I ate,” said Goodall.

The downward spiral begins

Goodall met her partner, now her husband, while back in Cairns. But this milestone wasn’t enough to stop her downward spiral. “I was eating at my desk at lunchtime, and getting snacks from the chocolate factory. I was putting on a lot of weight really quickly,” she remembers.

It’s this early period that Goodall reflects on solemnly; the turning point where everything started spiralling out of her control. “I didn’t want people to stop me eating the food I wanted, I just craved fast food all the time. Cyclone Yasi went through Cairns and my partner lost his job. We moved to Mount Isa and there were so many fast food chains everywhere,” said Elena. “You’d go to the shops and see a pie for $2, and a sandwich for $7. It was just cheaper to eat unhealthy stuff.”

After moving to Mount Isa, Elena found solace in food.

Waves of motivation ruined by fad diets

To those who criticise people with rapid weight gain and food addiction, Goodall is quick to say she did have periods of motivation. “I’d join the gym and buy the shakes. I’d get waves where I’d decide I wanted to get healthy and I’d look for a pill I could take.”

While buried in the midst of her addiction, like so many others, Goodall would turn back to where she found the most comfort. “After a week of motivation, I’d be starving and decide I’d rather be on the couch eating McDonalds, so that’s what I’d do. I had no desire to exercise at all,” she explained.

Trapped in a cycle of deriving comfort from a life-threatening diet of deep fried foods, Goodall was unaware of how desperate her situation had become.

I ate the food because it gave me satisfaction. It made me feel fulfilled.

Health results shock Elena to the core

Genuinely unaware how out of control her addiction had become, Goodall received a frightening wake-up call during a routine visit to the doctor. “He asked me to get on the scales in his room and there was a red error message,” she said. “I was too heavy for the scales. In my head all I could think was ‘I’m not that heavy, what’s the issue?’

He took me into the nurse’s office where there was an industrial scale and it read 184kg.

Elena paused here in our discussion, and the weight of this memory was palpable. “I was in tears,” she continued, “[As] I was just so shocked [because] I didn’t think I’d let it get that bad. [You see] I used to see really big girls and always thought there’s no way I could ever let myself get to that point. [Because] I always thought ‘that poor person, she must be so unhappy!’”

Elena Goodall remembers this doctor’s visit as her rock bottom and the moment she realised her addiction. “The doctor took me to do all the tests for diabetes and everything else. They didn’t come back great; I had really bad type two diabetes and they put me on the registry.”

It wasn’t just diabetes that was threatening Goodall’s life though. “I had such bad sleep apnoea, my oxygen levels in my blood were dropping to really dangerous levels during sleep.”

Elena Goodall now finds time for the simple, healthy foods and time to herself.

Gym proves repellant rather than motivating

After developing two life-threatening conditions through her food addiction, Goodall’s doctor broached the subject of surgery. “I was terrified,” said Elena, “I’d never had surgery in my life.”

Harnessing glimpses of determination she’d remembered from her days as a competitive swimmer, Goodall tried everything to avoid going under the knife. “I took the threat of surgery really seriously [and] took up a gym membership again, and tried fad diets to help me loose weight quickly so I could actually exercise. [By then] I was so big, even walking 100m was tiring. It was so hard for me to exercise,”

Despite the struggle, Elena powerfully dragged herself to the gym to start her long journey towards health. Stuck in the lonely, self-esteem rut of addiction, the gym was more repellant than inviting.

“It was so confronting at the gym, it felt like everyone was looking at me. Everyone was skinny in short shorts. I was in baggy clothes with holes in them [and] lasted about a week or two.” Boldly honest, Elena added:

I decided I didn’t have it in me [and] couldn’t do it. [The fact was] I didn’t know what to do [as] I was lost.

Back to the comfort zone

Feeling like she’d failed, and seeing no escape, Elena turned to the only place she found comfort.

I turned back to fast food. Even though I knew it was what got me to that point, I couldn’t stop. It really is like a drug. I knew I shouldn’t be doing it, but I couldn’t help it.

Elena Goodall had hit rock bottom number two, but this time she saw no way out. She was still putting on weight and her addiction was out of control again. Yet amidst it all, Elena remembered there was an exit strategy she’d been offered, and she started researching the gastric sleeve surgery.

“After four months I went back to the doctor. I said I didn’t want to be operated on, but had realised there was nothing else I could do. So I started to get really excited about the stuff I could do after the surgery,” said Elena.

I still see the surgery as something that saved my life.

Having been through the journey of addiction, Elena knows those who haven’t walked in her shoes are always quick to criticise. “A lot of people who have never had weight issues think it’s cheating and it’s the easy way. It’s not. I truly had no other option,” she said earnestly. In November 2015, Elena Goodall underwent gastric sleeve surgery.

A fellow food addict creates the turning point for Elena

While Elena was preparing for her surgery, she met a woman who had undergone the exact same procedure. “She’d had the surgery, but put all the weight back on, and more! She was buying Mcdonalds and putting it in a blender so she could still have it during the four weeks you’re on a liquid diet after the procedure. She was scheduled to get another surgery. I just couldn’t believe what she was doing. Meeting her made something click inside me,” said Elena.

I realised, that is not going to be me.

Knowing it takes four weeks to break a habit, Elena used the four weeks of liquid diet post-surgery to crush her fast food addiction through an intellectual approach. “It used it wean myself off the crap I’d been eating by learning what bad food does to your body,” she added.

Elena pulls herself out of addiction

Like any addict, going cold turkey was tough on both her, and the people around her. “I wasn’t a fun person to be around in those four weeks, but I was just so determined,” remembered Goodall. “When I was really craving something from Maccas, I’d try and have a pumpkin soup I’d made myself so I’d know exactly what was in it.”

Elena Goodall had summoned every inch of her resolve and used her intellect to help change her addiction by learning about food. “I became really aware of processed food and I was just so shocked to see what gets put in food to make it taste better,” she said.

Two months after her surgery, doctors found Elena’s sleep apnea had resolved and her diabetes had disappeared. “The nurse even mentioned how rare it was to see a resting heart so low, as none of their follow up patients are so fit” she said, with a hearty laugh.

The daily battle continues for Elena

The battle is still far from over for Elena, and like any addict it may stay with her forever but she’s learned how to manage it.

Everyday I have a fight in my head. My brain says ‘you need that hot chip. Everyone else is eating them, just have one. Then I convince myself having a few is OK, then I worry I’ll go back to what I was. It’s a constant battle.

Goodall discovers triathlon

Five weeks after surgery, Goodall met up with friends including some who had just finished a training session at the local triathlon club. “They told me about triathlon and I said it was something I’d like to do one day. There was a personal trainer and life coach among them, her name was Vicky. She said ‘you could do a triathlon in five weeks, even two if you really wanted.’”

Hearing one person’s belief in her ability was all it took to kickstart Goodall’s fitness journey to triathlon. “It planted a seed that it could be possible, and it would happen. I met her on a Saturday, and by Monday I started training. We went to an oval and I learned how to run, and we formulated a plan,” remembers Goodall fondly.

Buoyed by a new sense of purpose she hadn’t felt in over a decade, Elena set strict goals for herself. One of the toughest triathlons near Mount Isa is the Julia Creek sprint distance tri, and Goodall set her sights on it. “I focused really heavily on my training, and when race day came, the swim was no problem for me thanks to my background. The bike was tough and I walked a few sections on the run, but I made it to the finish line,” she said.

At this point, most people would stop after having achieved their goal, but Elena’s fierce competitive nature was reawakened and she set more goals. “I finished 16th in my age group, and I decided I wanted a podium finish the next year. Plus, I set my sights on Noosa.”

Laser focus leads to success in Cairns

After running her first 5km non-stop during training, Elena was ready for Noosa. “The buzz was incredible at the event. I ran the whole 10kms and didn’t stop once,” she said.

“I went back to Julia Creek and got my podium finish; [coming] third. I set my goals and I achieve them, there’s no longer any option to fail,”  said Goodall fiercely. Feeling lost after the race with no other goal, Goodall decided Ironman 70.3 Cairns was next.

After going through the tumultuous ride of addiction, Goodall is eager to motivate others to get out there and start exercising while ditching the junk. “I blogged from transition. And I wanted to bring people along with me in the hope I can inspire others to get out there and do the same thing,” she said.

Elena Goodall’s body transformation is nothing short of amazing. She’s dedicated all her energy to become healthy and remain active.

“I was most nervous about the swim, I think because I expect myself to do well as it’s my thing. It felt really good getting out of the swim and felt incredibly strong on the bike. And, I struggled a little bit on the run and I had to use the bathrooms a lot – it could have been my nutrition,” said Goodall.

Elena decimated her goal of finishing under the cut-off at Cairns, but she felt more than just achievement.

That feeling of pride in myself and what I’d just achieved – thinking back to where I was two years ago – there’s no way I could have even dreamed of doing something like that. I was just incredibly proud.

What’s next for Goodall

Elena Goodall has achieved every goal she’s set for herself and now armed with new coach, Emma Quinn from T:Zero Multisport, she’s aiming to finish Ironman Busselton under the cut-off time this year. “I want to prove to myself I can do it. Then focus on 70.3 again,” she said.

After her wild ride of addiction and recovery, Elena acknowledges it’s all about timing.

You have to be ready for change. If you’re not ready, you’re not going to change.

“If you’re at that point where you are ready and you’re willing to put in the hard work. I recommend setting goals. Once you’ve achieved those goals, set more big goals – that’s how you progress. If you feel out of control, now’s the time to make a difference as it will become an issue.”

Trizone wishes to congratulate Elena Goodall on her incredible recovery from food addiction, and her courage in sharing her story.

What do you think about Elena’s journey?

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