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WORLD CLASS PROFESSIONAL TRIATHLETE AND AUSSIE LARRIKIN TIM BERKEL STEPS UP TO GLOBAL STAGE IN KONA, HAWAII

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With a handful of major Ironman and Ironman 70.3 wins over the past few years, Berkel sets his sights on more than just finishing Kona

Top Australian triathlete and self-confessed Aussie larrikin, Tim Van Berkel, will be matching it with the world’s best athletes on Sunday when he competes in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. The race is considered to be the ultimate test of endurance as the triathletes swim 3.8km, ride 180km and then finish by running a full marathon (42km) all in the extreme Hawaiian conditions.

Van Berkel, or Berks as he is known, is in top racing condition after three months spent altitude training in Boulder, Colorado. He recently finished second at Ironman 70.3 Philippines in Cebu and then blitzed a very strong field to win his final preparation race, Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast, at Moolooba in September. Elite Strength and Conditioning coach, Kriss Hendy, commented after the race, “Tim made it look easy out there. He’s at his peak for Kona. Physiologically speaking, he’s a specimen right now!”

Tim finishing 2nd at Cairns in 2013

Tim finishing 2nd at Cairns in 2013

Last year, in his debut at Kona, Van Berkel ran into 4th place only to be hit by severe cramps in the harsh Energy Lab section of the course. He finished the race in 7th place, but grabbed the attention of the world’s triathlon community. This year he is returning to Kona, stronger, fitter and better prepared. He is considered by commentators and other competitors to be a serious contender for the 2015 Hawaiian Ironman title.

As a teenager, Van Berkel was captivated by Hawaiian Ironmen when he first saw the race on television. “As a kid, I saw these guys competing at Kona and thought, ‘I want to do that!’ and I’ve been working towards that ever since.” Van Berkel said. Now, at 31, Van Berkel is heading back to Hawaii to take on the world’s best in the world’s toughest endurance race.

ABOUT TIM VAN BERKEL

Tim Van Berkel was born in 1984, in the Australian rural city of Albury, New South Wales. He grew up playing Australian Rules football (AFL), a sport known for hard tackles, no protective padding and plenty of running. He took up triathlon with his footy teammates at the age of 18 as a way of staying fit in the off-season. As a younger teenager, he remembers watching Hawaiian Ironmen on television and thinking, “That’s cool… I want to do that!” Tim’s early racing form showed a great deal of promise and he quickly grew to love this new sport.

From 2004 – 2006 Tim, or Berks as he is known, notched up a string of impressive results in triathlons at Olympic and half-Ironman distances across Australia and internationally. He turned professional at the age of 21. In 2007, Berks debuted at Ironman distance in the Australian Triathlon Championships at Port Macquarie. He finished 7th, qualifying him for the World Championship. Unlike most ambitious young athletes, Tim decided not to immediately book his ticket for Kona. As he said in a later interview: “There’s no way I was ready to go to Kona and mix it with the world’s best. I thought, ‘Let’s not rush it… let’s develop it… and that’s what I’ve been doing.’”

2008 saw Berks competing successfully in 70.3 races in the USA and Singapore and winning his first race at Ironman distance (3.8km Swim, 180km Bike, 42km Run) at Ironman Western Australia in Busselton. At the time he was just eight days shy of being the world’s youngest Ironman Champion.

After winning again at Ironman distance at Challenge Copenhagen in 2010, Tim’s third Ironman win came the following year when he returned to Denmark to defend his title against Europe’s best triathletes. Despite a 4-minute drafting penalty, Berks pulled away from local favourite, Jimmy Johnsen, on the run and produced a powerful finish, which thrilled the 100,000-strong crowd. At 27, this win made Berks the youngest 3-time Ironman distance champion in the sport’s history – a title that he still holds.

He has continued to race across the world at both 70.3 and Ironman distances. He was the Ironman Australia 70.3 champion in 2012 and came second in the championship race the following year.

In 2014 Berks finally headed to Kona, Hawaii, for the World Triathlon Championships. After running into 4th place he was hit by severe cramps coming out of the Energy Lab. He finished his debut race in 7th place. His teenage dream had been fulfilled – Berks was now a Hawaiian Ironman.

Tim has performed well in 2015 in the lead-up to his second appearance at Kona. He came 2nd in the Asia-Pacific Ironman Championships in Melbourne, 4th in the IM 70.3 Cairns, 2nd in a tight finish in IM 70.3 Philippines and finished decisively in 1st place in the IM 70.3 Sunshine Coast in Mooloolaba, Australia.

Tim is now coached by Dr Daniel Plews, after enjoying a long and productive coaching relationship (7 years) with Grant Giles. Tim divides his time between his farm in Ballina, New South Wales, racing nationally and internationally, and altitude training in Boulder, Colorado.

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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News & Racing

Luke Bell and Tim Van Berkel go head to head again

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Two of the biggest names in IRONMAN racing, aussies Luke Bell and Tim van Berkel are returning to IRONMAN 70.3 Sunshine Coast to headline the pro field and test themselves on the tough 2016 World Championships course.

The veteran Bell is set to re-invigorate his racing season that stalled with an uncharacteristic and almost unbelievable DNF at IRONMAN Cairns, while Van Berkel is using the Sunshine Coast race as a tune up for his assault on the IRONMAN World Championships in Kona.

Bell’s IRONMAN Cairns was one of the shortest on record, when he was pulled out of the water by the rubber ducky (IRB) no more than fifty metres off shore.

“The main challenge of the first half of the year was supposed to be IRONMAN Cairns but unfortunately when the gun went off and I dived in the water, I dived onto the feet of a couple of guys in front of me and cracked a rib within the first few strokes. So that ended that goal. It was a very quick trip.”

“That is the nature of IRONMAN, you spend a lot of time and effort hoping everything is going to be good on one day. It is either good or it is not, but that is the way it is and we are all used to it. You just put it behind you and move on. I rested up fully for about three weeks and did what I could that was pain bearable, but it took me 4-5 weeks all up to recover.”

Back in peak fitness Bell is keen to leave Melbourne and head north to the warmth the Sunshine Coast and show everyone that at 38, he is still a force in the world of IRONMAN 70.3.

“It has been a couple of years since I have actually raced on the Sunshine Coast so I am happy to hear that they are using the 2016 World Championship course. A challenging bike course is always better than an out and back on a freeway. It keeps it honest and makes sure that someone who is good over all three disciplines wins the race.”

“The Sunshine Coast is one of those places that everyone in Australia likes to race. Whether it is the 70.3, or Mooloolaba. Over the years coming up through the juniors and all the age groupers racing Moooloolaba and the ITU events, it is a place that everyone is very familiar with. You look forward to getting up there hanging out on the beach and spending a few days in an enjoyable family oriented location.”

“Sunshine Coast 70.3 is great preparation for the guys heading over to Kona because it is about four weeks out and you also have the young guys trying to make their mark on the 70.3 world coming up through. It is a great opportunity for them and it gets everyone in the one spot at the one time and we try and belt the hell out of each other,” he said.

One of those athletes looking for a last minute tune up for the IRONMAN World Championships in Kona is Tim Van Berkel who has done IRONMAN 70.3 Sunshine Coast twice with mixed results.

“I DNF’d the first time but the second time I won in 2015, so I have good memories there and I am looking forward to having another crack at it.”

“The bike is changed from the year I won it but the swim and the run are the same. It is awesome that they are keeping the World Championship course from last year because it has a harder ride that goes out into the hinterland. Being a smaller guy and it being pretty hilly I think it will suit me. When the bike is hard, packs split up a bit and it takes the sting out of some of the faster runner’s legs. I think the new bike course is the way to go.”

“Everything is about Kona for me I am hoping to get back in the top ten like I did in 2014 and that is the big goal. The last two years I have been really disappointed with my results there and I want a top ten and I am putting all my eggs into that basket.”

“IRONMAN 70.3 Sunshine Coast is five weeks out from Hawaii and it is my last solid hit out. It is perfect for me because all I have to do is jump in the car and head three hours north and I am there.”

“I love racing up that way and I am expecting a very strong field to turn up. It is a triathlon Mecca up there in Mooloolaba and Maroochydore with the ITU and the 70.3 racing and the 70.3 Worlds last year. I love racing in Australia and I like to come home in good form so I am really looking forward to it,” he said.

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Training

Triathlon: Changing your life one hour at a time

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Triathlon requires proficiency in three separate disciplines. However, finding the time to train is a challenge for anyone, never mind someone who works full time while juggling family commitments. But that extra hour in your day can be found more easily than you think. I’m going to show you how to overcome some popular excuses that stop people from changing their life one hour at a time.

No Time for Triathlon

I used to laugh at people who’d get up at 4:30am to go training. “You’re insane”, is a phrase that regularly popped out of my mouth. Yet I was also trotting out this little chestnut: “With work and kids, I just don’t have the time to do anything”.

So, how do all these other people do it? Are they all without kids, a demanding job, a house that needs cleaning and a family that’s high maintenance? Are they blessed with an extra 2 hours every day that I don’t know about? Do they also know where to find platform 9 3/4 to Hogwarts?

Every day as we go to work, walk the dog (which is exercise by the way), pass people in the street or sit next to people on the train we are inevitably seeing individuals who do in fact experience all these issues and many more on a daily basis. Yet some of them look really fit. How is this possible?

The answer is surprisingly simple

They set themselves a goal, and make the time.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “yeah sure, how do you just make the time?  It’s easier for them because ……. but but but ……..” Well, hold that thought and let me answer the question with another question:

“Could you find an extra 1 hour each day if your life depended on it?”

Ironically, in some cases this is exactly the scenario. You just need to tune into the Biggest Loser to see people who are inevitably saving their lives by doing just that. Of course this is an extreme example, but don’t underestimate the power that one hour each day can make to your life and wellbeing.

I recently met a single mum with 4 kids that trained for and completed an Ironman. An Ironman !!!! That’s a 3.8km swim, 180km ride and 42km run. And let me be very clear that the event in itself was actually the easiest part of this whole equation. Training for something like that takes hours and hours out of every week just to get to the start line. Take a few seconds to think about the logistics she faces every day. I know I did.

So how do YOU do it?

In a lot of cases, it all happens in the wee hours of the morning before the rest of the world awakens. I personally exercise in the morning as I find it an amazing way to start the day. Despite getting out of bed at “insane o’clock”, it jump-starts my day by giving me a sense of achievement before most people have even opened their eyes.

Of course, that doesn’t always suit everyone’s circumstances. But luckily, there is more than one way to skin a cat.

Excuse Busting – Breaking down the Fortress

Success is often guarded by a fortress of excuses.

He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else. – Benjamin Franklin

How we overcome these excuses defines how we live our life. Getting started isn’t easy, and it takes commitment and perseverance to develop habits. So to help you get started I offer you the following ways to overcome the top 4 excuses that hold people back from changing their life one hour at a time.

#1: Work is too busy

Excuse busting tips:

  • Block out specific times during the day for exercise
  • Prioritise your work and ask yourself “will any small children die if I went for a run instead of doing this other task right now?” How important is it really?
  • Renegotiate delivery times
  • Even on the busiest days you can still aid recovery by stretching regularly, wearing compression socks under your trousers and using a spikey rolling ball on your feet under the desk
  • Schedule walking meetings instead of sitting meetings
  • If you’re the boss:
    • learn to delegate and empower your team
    • ask your PA to keep these times free
    • set a healthy example for your team

#2: There are just not enough hours in the day

Excuse busting tips:

  • Incorporate exercise into your commute to and from work. Drive part of the way and ride or run the other part. Park near a train or bus station so you can get back to your car in the afternoon
  • Go for a run or a swim during your lunch break
  • Go to bed one hour earlier and wake up one hour earlier
  • Do something immediately after work before you settle in to watching the next episode of Game of Thrones
  • Schedule time on your weekends – do something with the kids or put aside one or two hours just for yourself. My introduction to running was Parkrun every Saturday morning.

#3: It’s so hard to get out of bed in the morning

Excuse busting tips:

  • Take a long hard look at your habits and identify trade-offs.
  • I was a TV addict. I used to watch every series, every night and regularly stay up late. I decided that my health was more important than knowing whether the Mentalist eventually caught Red John. I started reducing the amount of TV I watched and began waking up one hour earlier. Initially this was just for 2 days a week, but over time this became a daily habit.

#4: It’s difficult to keep motivated

Excuse busting tips:

  • I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. I encourage you to join a group, a club, a team or exercise with a friend, your wife or the kids. We all need help to keep motivated and nothing does that better than introducing “obligation”
  • Pay your coaching fees up front. I don’t know about you but the thought of wasting my money is a huge motivator
  • Schedule a future event. Nothing keeps you honest like an impending deadline
  • Keep your shoes next to your bed so they’re the first things you see in the morning
  • My first running group was a free group of people that met twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:30am for an hour. If I didn’t turn up I felt like I was letting other members of the group down

Above all, start slow and work towards developing habits. Try Parkrun once a week for the first few months while you get used to running and building your fitness. Begin by walking most of it, then slowly build up the distance you’re able to run each week. Once you’re running the whole way you might even consider riding instead of driving to the start line.

Triathlon is about changing your life one hour at a time and overcoming excuses. It’s about commitment and developing lifelong habits that will not only make you healthier, but also happier.

So take that first step and offer no excuses. A one hour workout is only 4% of your day. Set your alarm for one hour earlier tomorrow morning and go for a walk. Once you give it a go you’ll be surprised at what you can achieve. Maybe one day we might even be on the start line of an ironman together.

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Gear & Tech

Suunto Introduces Compact, Lightweight Spartan Trainer Wrist HR GPS Watch

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The Suunto Spartan family of sports watches grows today with the launch of Spartan Trainer Wrist HR, the slim and lightweight multisport GPS watch for active sports enthusiast. The Spartan Trainer is considerably smaller in size than its older siblings, yet delivers great, versatile training features, daily activity tracking, as well as wrist heart rate measurement by best-in-class biometrics supplier Valencell.

“With Spartan Trainer we are reaching out to active sports enthusiasts who want the features and sport expertise the Spartan family offers, but prefer a smaller, lighter watch. At a suggested retail price from $279, this is a lightweight that delivers a solid, feature-packed punch,” says Daniela Tjeder, Suunto’s commercial marketing manager.

Spartan Trainer keeps up with you every day

Clear, easy-to-follow color graphs provide 24/7 feedback and summaries, while daily targets for steps and calories help you stay active and fit. With heart rate and motion sensing on the wrist, customizable watch faces, and training features for all kinds of sports, Spartan Trainer is ready to take you places.

Weighing only 56 grams (66g with metal bezel), Spartan Trainer is hardly noticeable on the wrist. The well-honed design fits slimmer wrists, too.

The compact yet robust watch is water resistant to 50 meters, so take it for a swim without worry. Ten hours of battery life (up to 30 hours with power saving options) provide plenty of training time. Use Spartan Trainer as a day-to-day timepiece with activity tracking for up to 14 days before needing a recharge.

Indoor and outdoor sports

Exercising with Spartan Trainer is simple and enjoyable. It uses GPS to measure speed, pace, distance and altitude. With 80 sport modes pre-installed, it is ready for nearly any sport, right out of the box. Sport-specific displays for running, cycling and swimming display relevant, real-time information. True to Suunto’s outdoor and adventure heritage, the Spartan Trainer comes with GPS route navigation with breadcrumb view, making it easy to discover new routes and places and always find the way back home. With the Spartan Trainer, Suunto encourages everyone to explore their urban environment. Push the city limits—and go beyond your own.

Wrist heart rate by Valencell

The new Spartan Trainer uses world-leading optical heart rate measurement technology by Valencell, also featured in the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR. In addition to the wrist heart rate measurement, Spartan Trainer can be used with compatible chest heart rate sensors such as the optional Suunto Smart Sensor.

 

Five vibrant designs

The Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR comes in five distinctive models: Gold and Steel boast an elegant, urban feel with prominent stainless steel elements at $329 MSRP, while Ocean, Blue and Black offer a fresh, sporty look and retail at $279. The Spartan Trainer in Ocean, Blue and Black variants will be available beginning August 31, while the Spartan Trainer Gold and Steel will start with limited availability in September.

Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR range of watches

Specifications

Glass: Mineral Crystal
Bezel: Polyamide/Stainless Steel
Case: Polyamide
Strap: Silicone
Battery Life: Up to 10 hours in training mode (up to 30 hours with power save options)
Navigation: GPS
Water Resistance: 50m
Weight: 56g
Width: 46mm
Thickness: 14.9mm

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News & Racing

Community-inspired “Small Batch” Collection launches with Cola Me-Happy Energy Gel

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Last fall, GU Energy Labs turned to its community of athletes to nominate and vote for the next great Energy Gel flavor. After the votes were tallied, GU’s innovation team hit the kitchen to bring the voter’s choice flavor to fruition. The company announced the launch of “Cola Me-Happy” Energy Gel, the first in a series of special-made “Small Batch” flavors made at their headquarters in Berkeley, CA..

“Our community of athletes constantly inspires and challenges us to come up with new flavors, and some of their ideas can be unique,” said Magda Boulet, vice president of innovation, research and development, GU Energy Labs. “Our innovation team loves tinkering in the kitchen. We love creating flavors that will satisfy our athletes’ taste buds while training and racing. It’s the best part of our job.”

The family owned company has been manufacturing all GU Energy Gel flavors at its headquarters in Berkeley, Calif., since, 1983. GU currently has 27 vibrant flavors of Energy Gels in its line, joined by Cola Me-Happy, which is available now for a limited time. All “Small Batch” Collection flavors will be sold in 8-packs only, exclusively through www.guenergylabs.com.

Cola Me-Happy, box of 8 MSRP $12.00

Cola Me-Happy Energy Gel packs a light sweetness, and it is a refreshing and tasty take on a classic aid-station favorite. Created for daily training, the Cola Me-Happy Gel packs energy-dense calories in a portable 100-calorie packet to keep athletes light on their feet and flying past the competition.

Cola Me-Happy Energy Gel provides carbohydrates that use non-competing pathways to help maximize absorption and utilization while diminishing stomach distress. As well as providing the optimal level of sodium, the primary electrolyte lost in sweat, to ensure hydration by maintaining water balance while branched-chain amino acids reduce mental fatigue and decrease muscle damage.

Melissa Bodeau, who nominated the winning flavor, said she is extremely excited to see Cola Me-Happy be brought to life. “The packaging is absolutely perfect, and it’s so neat to have the opportunity to train with a flavor that I dreamt up,” Bodeau said.

The packaging on the Cola Me-Happy Gel was inspired by a piece of art commissioned by GU from California artist and trail runner Maggie Tides, titled “Places We Play,” which celebrates the beautiful trails, hills, roads and water in the Bay Area of Northern California.

For more information about the “Small Batch” Collection, or to purchase the new flavor, visit www.guenergy.com/small-batch. To learn how to incorporate this flavor into a nutrition plan for a race or training session, visit www.guenergy.com/nutrition-plan.

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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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