Sunsmart Ironman Western Australia is just one day away, so we spoke to Clayton Fettell about race day strategy and coaching himself.
“For me, triathlon is what I know. It’s what I’ve done my whole life. The training is even enjoyable, the hard part for me is putting it together on race day. But I’m feeling confident.” Clayton Fettell says. The 30-year-old Aussie has been tipped to finish at least fifth at Sunday’s IRONMAN, and his recent move to self-coaching might just give him that extra edge towards a podium finish.
Clayton coaching himself could be deciding factor
“I just always had my own ideas. Whatever my coaches gave me, I’d question them. I felt like I was ripping off my coach, as well as myself, but now it’s not like that,” said Clayton. His wife Kendall planted the seed of self-coaching, and after chatting to infamous Luke Mckenzie, Clayton decided is was the best way to move his career forward.
“I chatted to Luke about it after I’d noticed he didn’t get his big breakthroughs until he started looking after his own program. Luke told me that it would be the best thing I’d ever do. The one piece of advice he said was ‘you’ve got the experience to do it, so if you do it, commit 100% and don’t waver.’ So that’s what I did.”
In the last 12 weeks, Clayton has been training himself, and preparing for his first big race without a coach. “I’d done Noosa without a coach, but this will be the first really big race. I always overtrain and don’t rest enough, so I’ve really educated myself on tapering.”
You can’t be the best by sitting in a coffee shop
In the last week, Clayton has been doing a stock-standard taper, and feeling pretty sh**. “I avoided sickness, but I had every phantom pain you can imagine. I over-diagnosed myself with weird things like iron deficiency. Kendall pulled me back to reality and made me realise I’m ready. So now I’m feeling confident,” he said.
It’s not just this week’s preparation, but the past twelve weeks of incredibly high volume training that will get Clayton the results he wants. “I do a really high volume training program. I know you can’t recreate the same training block for each race, but I have a few key fundamentals:
- Maintain a high volume
- Keep up a solid aerobic phase
- Maintain top end conditioning
I know I can’t be the best by sitting in a coffee shop. At these races there are three or four guys who could win the event. I do’t want to be just one of the numbers. I want to be in the race. I don’t have to win, but I have to be in it.
The key fundamentals of his training have also seen him abandon his prior ritual of sauna cleansing. “I’ve ditched anything that’s considered risky training. Because of my high volume sessions, my sweat loss is huge, so I’m running at a deficit already. There’s no need for the sauna.”
It’s clear Clayton’s mindset is more precise than ever as it covers everything from diet to good sleep and regular massage. “I love clean food. I always have. So much so my mates give me sh** about my diet. I just find my recovery is better, and my clarity during the race is better when I eat well.”
Pre- Race training focuses on post-bike fatigue
Clayton knows how fatigued a race like IRONMAN WA can make an athlete feel, so he’s well prepared for Sunday. “My training has involved real fatigue going into the run. I’d do 180km on the bike, with two to three hours of race specific stuff. Then I’d get off and run 20km at race pace. These sessions were really hard, but I wanted to bike really hard, then train to get off the bike really tired in the run to prepare for Sunday.”
Clayton’s family to add extra motivation
“Once I pick a race I want to do really well at, I like to have a support crew with me. I prefer to share the race with them.” This gushing about his family is not surprising, considering Clayton’s baby Nixon is an incredibly cute little guy, and wife Kendall is a rock solid supporter of Clayton’s triathlon journey.
The trip will be Nixon’s first time to WA, and his in-laws are travelling over to cheer him on too. “Having my kid there is a reality check. He just does his thing and doesn’t know or care about the race. I caught up with Pete Robb today and he’s got a little kid too which is really cool.”
Race day strategy
Clayton’s strategy is clear; he wants to be fast. “It’s a really strong field, so if I push the race and the other guys come with me, that’s great. Andy Potts will probably lead the swim, which is good because I want the swim to be fast. If I can get on someone’s feet, that’s ideal.”
Like so many champion triathletes, Clayton used to love being clear out in front in the bike, but with so more quality competitors around now, he’s used to being surrounded by others. “There are going to be guys out there who are going to be allies, and they’re going to be pushing the pace early.”
Accustomed to intense post-bike fatigue, Clayton will rely heavily on his pre-race training program to get him a fast finish. “If my training gets me across the line in the top three, then that’s great! The big picture is getting to Kona. So many guys nail themselves on the bike and end up having to walk the marathon. That’s definitely not how I race.”
Want to know Clayton’s true race strategy? ”My race plan is pretty simple. I race to win.”