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Interview

New Zealand’s Debbie Tanner on this weekend’s Auckland ITU World Triathlon Series

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By Anna Cleaver

Widely known as one of New Zealand’s greatest female triathlete Debbie Tanner talks to us about this weekend’s ITU World Triathlon Series round in Auckland, New Zealand.

Debbie Tanner racing against some tough competition - Photo Credit: Spomedis

Debbie Tanner racing against some tough competition – Photo Credit: Spomedis

After announcing her retirement last year, New Zealand will miss seeing Debbie toe the start line at events like this weekend’s Auckland WTS. However, she remains heavily involved with the sport that has been such a large part of her life for so long, so we will continue to see her friendly face at many triathlon events.

Known for being strong across all 3 disciplines and having a long history in the sport, Debbie is the ideal person to talk to about Saturday’s event, and we were fortunate enough to catch up with her.

 

Anna: Debbie, firstly congratulations on an incredibly successful and inspiring triathlon career. You finished this career racing in Auckland last year. What does it feel like to not be on the start line this weekend?

Debbie Tanner: Wow what an introduction! Honestly it feels great. It was my decision to retire, I was not forced due to injury, age etc so I am completely happy to be on the side lines this year watching the race here in Auckland and cheering on the Kiwi team!

Anna: Auckland is the first event in the ITU World Triathlon Series, which takes athletes right up to September. What shape will competitors be in this weekend, given it is the start of a long season of racing?

Debbie Tanner: The first race of the season is always hard, mentally and physically. The athletes will have spent the last few months in base phase, doing a lot of miles and gaining a lot of strength, some if not most would come into Auckland without a huge taper. It is a strength based course, so it really fits in perfectly to start the season. Getting your head around racing after having 4+ months off is also challenging but a lot of athletes use shorter races to prep or training sessions to get ready.

Anna: The Auckland course is a challenging one. Is it likely to lead to breakaways on the bike in the both male and female fields? Or should we expect the race to largely start in the run?

Debbie: You are absolutely right, in both the men’s and women’s field I would expect some of the lead swimmers to really push the bike and try to break from the start, there is no hiding on this course, it is not your typical ITU WCS race with three hills per lap, one very steep and also technical which makes for some great racing

Anna: Gomez has been described as “Triathlon Royalty”. Will anyone be able to challenge him this weekend?

Debbie: He absolutely is! He currently sits second overall in the list of ITU world cup winners to Brad Beven, followed closely by Simon W. When he toes any start line he is there to win, he is such a classy racer and likes to race hard, I am unsure if anyone will be able to come close to him this weekend. However Jan is lining up in his first race in awhile and when he is on form you can never count him out. Along side Jan is his German team mate Steffen Justus and from France Laurent Vidal are always challenging for the podium, and of course there are the Kiwi boys who love racing on hard course so look out for Ryan Sissons, Tony Dodds and Clark Ellice to be throwing out some attacks.

Anna: Names like Anne Haug, Andrea Hewitt, Barbara Riveros and Gwen Jorgensen are likely favourites for Saturday’s event. Who are your podium picks and can we expect any surprises from other athletes?

Debbie: Anne Haug is definitely on form at the moment and there is no denying how good she is, she is almost in a class of her own. Her weak point is the swim but she has an incredible tenacity to ride the shit out of the bike and get to the front group. However I am picking Kate McIlroy and Andrea Hewitt to be dominating on the bike and they will try and put substantial time into the chasing groups and go for the podium

Anna: For many of the athletes racing this weekend the next Olympics is their main goal. Whereas for non-drafting athletes, their ‘world championship’ event occurs on a yearly basis. How do the ITU athletes stay focused on a goal that is over 3 years away?

Debbie: The Olympics happens once every four years but it is not just what happens in that year that will make them an Olympic champion, it is the preparation that goes on the years before, everything is purposeful. Even if it is not the year of the Olympics there are still goals to be achieved, Commonwealth and World champion titles (if that means accumulating the most points over the ITU race season ) are still up for grabs

Anna: New Zealand has loved following your very successful triathlon career. What have you been up to since announcing your retirement from the sport?

Debbie: Well since I have retired I got married in Fiji which was just incredible, we spent a week with family and friends over on Mana Island. After that I really just started ‘tidying up’ if that’s what I can call it. As an athlete you are constantly making sure your life is focused about what will make you a better athlete so a lot of stuff gets thrown on the back burner (or in the attic) so there was a lot of stuff to clear up. It is a pretty big lifestyle change but I am really enjoying it. I have spent a lot of time catching up with friends and trying out new sports like surfing and spending my time with my hubby!

I now have new job, which I can’t disclose too much about yet but is very exciting and very passionate about!

Anna: ITU athletes typically spend half the year training and racing in Europe. This will be your first winter in NZ for quite some time. What are your plans for the coming 6 months, a time that you usually spend overseas?

Debbie:The summer to summer dream! I will miss that! I am looking forward to going skiing this winter and rugging up in front of a fire with a hot choc sounds just delightful

 

Debbie will be in Auckland this weekend supporting her friends and previous team mates. For those who are coming to downtown Auckland to watch and cheer for their favorite athletes, details can be found at auckland.triathlon.org/

Follow Debbie on twitter

 

Anna Cleaver is a former New Zealand champion swimmer and now professional triathlete who has just stepped up to Long Course.

Find out more about Anna by clicking here or follow Anna 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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