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2013 Ironman World Champion runner up Luke McKenzie Interview with Trizone

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Whilst the Australian male favourite for this year’s Ironman World Championship did not win and another Australia who has won this championship three times did not have the fairy tale ending to his Ironman career, Australian Luke McKenzie stood up, made his a name for himself and will probably be one of the favourites to win in 2014.

Arguably McKenzie had the best all round race in the weekend but unfortunately was passed by the eventual winner at around the 16 mile mark. He hung on however with the belief that something could happen and he needed to be there ready to pounce.

He also dropped the most feared bike rider in the game in the later stages of the bike leg when most thought this would be impossible.

McKenzie has had a great year in 2013 with a win at Ironman Cairns and some other wins over some shorter distances. He puts a lot of his success down to a few changes including racing more shorter distance triathlons.

We spoke to Luke a few days after the his biggest result in his triathlon career and delved in to what made his year so successful.

Luke looked like he had won Kona as he ran past us on Ali'i drive as he approached the finishline

Luke looked like he had won Kona as he ran past us on Ali’i Drive as he approached the finishline

Trizone: Luke, congratulations on a spectacular result at the 2013 Ironman World Championship. This year has seen you produce some great results with a win at Ironman Cairns and now a second at Kona. You are racing a lot faster this year with some really fast run times in your shorter races. What has been behind the jump this year?

Luke McKenzie: I actually started to run less in my training but far more focused. I cut a lot of the slow/junk/filler runs I would do once or twice a week. This in addition to a big focus back on my cycling and building my running around that allowed me to ride well but also run to my potential. I have been working hard to get my speed back that I had as a junior and when I was competing on the ITU circuit in the early 2000’s and it’s definitely getting there again. The addition of the short course racing is something I thought would help my speed over Ironman and so far I am seeing great success from it. You can recover a lot quicker and faster from an Olympic distance race so I see a lot of benefit in racing them over doing more Ironman and 70.3 races.

TZ: You started the year off with three 70.3s with 7th, 9th and an 8th. Even though you didn’t podium you were still racing well and running fast. At Oceanside in particular the field was incredibly deep.  Interesting in this race Frederik Van Lierde finished just 9 seconds ahead of you in 8th place. Where were you at in terms of your plan for the year during these races?

Luke: The race in Oceanside although on paper didn’t look outstanding I walked away from that one very motivated and confident that my training was heading in the right direction. I was up amongst a lot of the guys that do well on the 70.3 circuit and I it was a good stepping stone into the Ironman Cairns preparation. I had a great day in St. George a month later again mixing it with the best 70.3 guys and given how hard that course is I was super happy with my bike and run. These races were really good confidence boosters going into Cairns and ultimately Kona because in both races I was mixing it with guys that are considered top Kona contenders like Freddy, Sebastian, Potts etc.

Luke came in to T2 in second position and set himself up for a podium finish

Luke came in to T2 in second position and set himself up for a podium finish

TZ: You came home to Australia and won Ironman Cairns. How did it feel to win an Ironman in your own country and did that change your outlook for the rest of the year?

Luke: I had an almost flawless build up to Ironman Cairns and I was on a bit of a personal mission to prove to myself I still had what it takes. I hadn’t won an Ironman in Australia and it had been 3 years since my last Ironman win in Brazil. I came to Cairns with a very aggressive mindset and I had a confidence in my ability to race for the win. After the race Chris McCormack said to me that if I raced like that in Kona I could win it and coming from him that is a huge complement. I walked away from Cairns with that belief and I wanted to attack Kona the same way.

TZ: After winning Ironman Cairns you raced the Philippines 5150 two weeks later and won that. You then raced the San Diego International Triathlon a week later and won that also. These were short and fast races. Why did you race these so soon after winning Cairns?

Luke: The Philippines came as a bit of a last minute decision because I had a good chance to qualify for the Hy-Vee Championships in Des Moines after my 4th at the Coral Coast 5150. It worked out well to return home to the US via Philippines so I decided why not? I didn’t do much train post Cairns while I was in Noosa but just kept the motor running. I landed back in San Diego after the Philippines race and a friend mentioned I should race the short San Diego International (1/30/10). I hadn’t trained all week and I was super tired from racing and travel but since I was living so close I thought again, why not? On race morning I rocked up to see Chris Foster and Luke Bell racking their bikes and I was thinking ‘Oh no, I am going to get my butt kicked’. I didn’t expect to see those guys there! I really surprised myself and had a strong race. I think the point-to-point run course worked in my favor there because after leading off the bike they didn’t get a chance to see me on the run.

TZ: You did some Xterra races in August with two 3rds. What is the appeal of these?

Luke: This was in the middle of my Kona training block in Bend, Oregon and I looked at the Xterra and the trail half marathon as a training weekend and a bit of fun. At this stage I had some aspirations to maybe do the Kona Ironman / Maui Xterra double at the end of the year and I needed a qualifier for it so Portland was an easy trip from Bend. It was a refreshing break from road triathlon and a good way to break up the six weeks of hard training I was in the middle of at altitude.

TZ: Next we saw you race Hy-Vee for 19th and the week later you finished 50th at the Ironman 70.3 World Champs. In both of these races your swim was slightly off. Did you know what was causing this? 

Luke: Good question. I still don’t know! I guess I let my swim slip a little while I was training in Bend because I wasn’t swimming in a squad and I was so bike/run focused in my training for those 6 weeks. I think I was just tired from that training block and combined with the travel from Oregon and then to Des Moines I didn’t feel myself. I just got absolutely beat up in the Des Moines swim and felt like I was swimming through mud. I was happy with my bike and run there but I know I could have done a lot better had I swim to my usual potential. Vegas I know I should never have even lined up. I know I was run down and tired and I really didn’t go to the race with the right mindset. I was really just making up the numbers and you can’t go to a World Championships with that frame of mind.

Along with Bevan Docherty I was the only guy racing the triple crown (Hy-Vee, Vegas, Kona) so I guess that was my motivation to race. It was a miserable morning and a had a bad swim again. I was chasing from the start and blow myself up early trying to get back to the pack. 30km into the ride I was toast, freezing cold (yes, in Vegas) but I didn’t want to pull the pin just because I was having a bad day. I saw Luke Bell and a few other guys behind me after the turn around and decided to make the most of a training day. Unfortunately the exact same thing happened in 2011 but I knew I was able to turn it around for Kona so it was a little bit of de ja vu. It was fun to run with Belly and get the most out of it. Our sponsors and supporters appreciated us not throwing in the towel. That day actually inspired the Go Luke Go Luke trucker hats you saw in Kona!

TZ: After Vegas it was head down and your focus was 100% on Kona. Was there any aspect of your racing that you put more emphasis on initially?

Luke: I got to Kona a few weeks early and I instantly felt like a different athlete. I was waking up fresh every morning and my training started to click. I did a heavy swim block and started to feel stronger in the water and I felt great on my rides and runs. The motivation was back and I was determined to have a big result. I did some training with Crowie and we did a hard bike/run brick two weeks out from race day. I dropped him in the last part of the bike and then we ran off the bike together and I outrun him with a 33.45 10km off the bike (faster than my split in Hy-Vee). When we finished that session he looked me in the eye and said “mate, you can win this”.

I knew on race day my bike leg was going to be my card to play. It was about having the energy in the tank to work the last 60km and then having the mental strength to push hard on the run with a bunch of guys coming at me hard. I don’t think I could have dreamt of a better bike ride as I just got stronger and stronger. In the end I let Andrew Starkyowicz go with about 10km left as he really started pushing a little too hard. He was obviously going for the bike course record but I always had my sights set on the finish.

TZ: At the World Ironman Championship you showed the world that Sebastian Kienle was not unbeatable on the bike. You have always been one of the stronger cyclists in the sport and have ridden at the front in Kona before. Was the race plan to take it to Kienle and make him work as hard as you could on the bike?

Luke: No the race plan was to race to my capabilities. Sebi doesn’t ride to power like I do so he tends to fluctuate his effort a little more than me. I conserved a lot of energy early on the bike which allowed me to go with Seb as we climbed Hawi. We were able to get across to Starky at the Spencer Hill climb (around 120km) but I think the early effort to bridge up the 3 minutes he was down out of the water hurt Sebastian at this point and he wasn’t able to hold on. I still think Starky and Sebi had the most impressive rides of the day for different reasons I just rode it the best tactically. We all basically ended up with a similar time (4.22) even though we all rode it totally different.

TZ: How did your race plan differ from last year?

Luke: Last year I was too aggressive early. I was leading after 10km on the bike and didn’t surrender the lead till about 70km so I wasted a lot of energy early. In hindsight I attacked it too hard and I didn’t make the crucial break up Spencer Hill when Pete, Freddy, Dirk and Faris pulled away and left me in no mans land and 7th off the bike just in front of some strong runners. This year I knew I needed to conserve more and be ready to ride that last 60km the strongest much like I did in 2011 when I was 2nd off the bike.

TZ: During the later stages of the run did you feel you could pull Frederik Van Lierde back?

Luke: I was trying! Crowie physically stopped running and yelled at me “you gotta suffer if you want to win”. I just kept telling myself that as we headed back to town. I held him at 45-60 seconds for a long time but I didn’t have another gear at that point to make time back. I just always told myself to keep the pressure on in case he was vulnerable to a meltdown. You just never know in Kona till you get to the line.

TZ: What did you do training wise to get you to the level you were at last Saturday? Is there anything you can share with the world of age groupers?

Luke: I feel I trained a lot smarter this season and with more purpose. I didn’t mindlessly do any training just because I thought I needed it. I was a lot better prepared and planned my training with the mindset to be on form in Kona. I paid of lot more attention to the little 2% this year too. I ate well, I did my strength training in the gym without fail and with more conviction than ever before. I sacrificed a lot of my social life and made sure I was getting good recovery. I looked at the technical side of things a lot closer and refined my aero position, worked on a skin suit (which you saw me race in) and that all added up on Saturday.

TZ: What does this second place at Hawaii mean for you?

Luke: It means the years of sacrifice and hard work are paying off. I always said I haven’t raced to my potential in Hawaii and it feels good to have a race I knew I was capable of producing. You have to keep believing you have the ability to win it. I showed myself that on Saturday.

TZ: You base yourself in San Diego when not in Australia. How did you end up there in the first place and what is the appeal of living and training there?

Luke: Moving to the US full time was something I always wanted to do. At the beginning of the year Amanda and I separated and she moved back to Sydney and so much of my life in Noosa was connected to us living there so I wanted a change. I applied for my Visa to live in the states and choose San Diego because I feel more at home there than anywhere else in the states. I found a place just across the road from the beach so I can still jump in the ocean when I want which is important to me. I have a lot of friends and sponsors there so it affords me a great support network. Being single at the time that really helped. Living in the US is going to allow me to work closer with my sponsors and means less travel. Australia will always be home and I will always come home to do a few races but right now I am enjoying the change in lifestyle and pursuing opportunities in the USA.

TZ: Do you have an idea of what races you will do in 2014?

Luke: I had dinner with Crowie last night and talked about how to approach 2014. Coming 2nd in Kona allows me to break the cycle of doing multiple Ironman races in a year to qualify for Kona. I haven’t really thought about which Ironman I will do but I know I will race less as I know the work load with sponsorship commitments is bound to increase. It’s going to be about arriving back in Kona in a years time fresh, prepared and ready. Much like this year I think the bulk of my racing will be Olympic distance events.

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

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.

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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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Interview

Nick Kastelein: Moving Out of the Shadows

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Nick Kastelein has emerged as triathlon’s next Aussie to watch, thanks to his recent second place at Barcelona 70.3, and a remarkably clever training schedule. Trizone caught up with Kastelein to talk about his amazing result, and to find out what he’s learned from training with world champion Jan Frodeno.

ITU just didn’t work for Kastelein

“I started short course triathlon and ITU when I was younger but it just never clicked, I probably never knew how to train hard enough,” Kastelein told Trizone. “I was trying to travel and race and chase ITU points. I’d be racing so hard for 200 Euro, thinking I had sponsors because I got free shoe.”

Lacking the love for ITU, Nick figured he’d get some motivation by joining a team. “I was lucky to join the VIS (Victorian Institute of Sport, Australia) for a bit, but I just hated it,” he said.

The new format was the opposite of what Nick had hoped. “I hated the training methods, the way they trained and coached. They drove me out of the state and out of short course. I’ve definitely come out the other side stronger, but it was an environment where I was trying to please everyone, and it was never enough.”

Nick felt the weight of the world on his shoulders, but he was working incredibly hard, and with little reward. “I was travelling around, racing continental cups everywhere, spending 1000 Euro and going nowhere,” he added. “The time and money other people had invested in me, and the pressure I’d put on myself was just massive. I didn’t mind roughing it because I saw it as an apprenticeship, and it’s something I think everyone should do.”

While Kastelein is modest in his recollection of this period in his career, it’s clear it was a tough grind, and the pressure he felt from family and friends to ‘make it’ was immense.

The turning point: To leave the sport or stay?

“There comes a point where you have to take a step back from your own body and look in and say ‘is this going somewhere? Am I being unrealistic?’ It’s about giving yourself a proper reality check,” said Kastelein.

This mindset and mentality was key for the Australian athlete, and he could have gone one of two ways. “I didn’t see myself moving forward in ITU,” Nick noted. “You see so many triathletes and they’re in the same position I was in, and constantly fighting for it. I had some product deals and I was grateful for any help I could get, but I was far from making it.”

With a decision to make between leaving triathlon or digging his heels in as hard as he could, Kastelein chose to work harder than he ever had before. “I gave myself two years in long course to make the transition, and I’d decided if I wasn’t getting the results, I’d change careers,” he recalled. “You have to commit 100% to the sport so I did and luckily, I didn’t have to make that choice.”

With a background in Exercise Science, Kastelein could have chosen to work in triathlon in a difference capacity, but he knew he could get more out of the sport as an athlete for years to come.

“I decided to jump ship and go to Gerona and I met Jan (Frodeno) out of pure coincidence,” said Kastelein. “I relocated and wanted to start new. Luckily, we got on really well. You have to get on with the person you spend so many hours with.”

Training with Jan Frodeno

The Aussie from Mudgee, a tiny country town in Australia, now trains daily with world champion Jan Frodeno, and he couldn’t be happier. “When we’re out training, I just see him as a mate; someone I’ve got to get the day done with. We’ve had some sh**ty times on rainy, cold mornings, but we just do it,” he said.
Jan’s personality perfectly complements Nick’s, and the training partnership works better than Nick could have hoped.

“He’s outspoken and confident and just took me under his wing. I was willing to learn, ask questions, and he’s taken on that role as a sort of mentor. I just show up everyday consistently without complaint, and I get the work done,” he said.

Like any good partnership, the duo give each other feedback after each session. “We say things like ‘how are you feeling? how did you find that session?’ We give each other constant feedback on every session everyday. We also don’t have negativity in our sessions, its just counter productive,” said Kastelein.

Aussie attitude motivates the pair

Nick’s Aussie ‘she’ll be right’ attitude is now a part of Jan’s vocabulary, thanks to an incident while in Noosa. “Were were riding in Noosa and I was right on his wheel when he crashed. Cars stopped to see if he was OK, and I was saying ‘yeah, yeah, he’s fine thanks.’ His seat was snapped off but he seemed pretty good, I just said ‘yeah, she’ll be right mate,’ and we headed off again. He rode 5kms out of the saddle back into town, but we found out later that day he’d fractured a vertebrae and two ribs at the time!”

After that day, when anything in their training goes awry; from the weather to an injury, they remember that bike ride in Noosa. “It’s one of the jokes now, so any little scratch we have, we both just say ‘no worries mate, she’ll be right,’” Nick said.

Runner up in Ironman 70.3 Barcelona

Kastelein made it to second place behind Frodeno at 70.3 Barcelona this year in May, but it wasn’t the win the pair cared about – it was Nick’s second place.

“Jan and I talk about different hypotheticals in training, like how great it would be to have a sprint finish between us in a race. Recently in Barcelona, it wasn’t a sprint finish, but I knew Jan had just finished and I was in second. To see Jan waiting for me at the finish line like that, and to have a celebration like that with your mate you’ve shared so many hours of training with is pretty cool,” said Kastelein.

The scene at the finish line in Barcelona is one of those moments that make you love this sport; to see the world champion waiting for Kastelein with open arms cheering him on, was heart warming. Then, to see the support they offer each other on Frodeno’s Instagram account just made the whole event even better.

“This will go down as one of my all time favourite pics of my career. We’ve been training together for a few years and it’s a beautiful thing to see it all come together for your mate and being there to share the moment!” Frodeno said on Instagram.

Kastelein was thrilled with the support from Frodeno. “He’d won the race, but all he was talking about was me,” he said. “That’s just him, he’s happier for me than about his own race. That’s pretty great…what more can you say?”

While the Aussie was thrilled to have his training partner waiting for him on the line, he pleaded with him not to hug him as he’d fractured his collarbone during the race. “The last 3kms are pretty tricky in Barcelona. I thought we could bring back the time the lead guy had, I just didn’t anticipate a corner properly, there was sand on the crossing and the bike went out from under me,” said Kastelein.

Tough as nails, the Aussie ran the entire half marathon with a separated collarbone, so severe it required surgery a few days later. “Yeah I have some rehab ahead of me. When Jan found out it was broken I think he was pretty impressed! He’s a tough guy!” said Nick.

It’s all about Kona for Kastelein

To say Kastelein has come a long way from three years ago when he nearly left triathlon is an understatement, he’s now well and truly one of the world’s top pros. “This is the first year I’m making a living from triathlon and that’s a big thing!” Nick added. “I’ve been married for two years to a wonderful English girl who always supports me, and now having a wage from the sport is just a big relief for both of us.”

While he trains incredibly hard, Kastelein draws his edge from something few athletes consider; the psychology of sport. “I used to rely heavily on training for performance and improvement, but I’m starting to learn it comes down to every aspect of your life; from nutrition to recovery, or pushing through the threshold and racing guys better than you,” he said. “Everything you do though, comes down to psychology.”

Having the world champ at his fingertips is handy too, as he sees that extra edge Frodeno can summon to win. “Jan always has an extra gear when it comes to racing and I believe it’s psychological. That’s what I want to get to,” said Kastelein.

With Ironman Austria on the horizon, Kastelein will soon be looking to Kona. “If we could repeat what happened at Barcelona in Hawaii, that would be great. I don’t know if it will happen, but is’ all about motivation,” he said.

With his collarbone well on the mend and his training schedule jam-packed as usual, Nick Kastelein is no longer one to watch; he’s made it, and he’s coming for you.

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