Tom Rodgers won the age group only race, IRONMAN 70.3 Western Australia last Sunday by a startling fifteen minutes. We chatted to Tom about ditching the Pro field for age group racing.
Transitioning from Pro to Age Grouper 18-24
“I just couldn’t swim fast enough to make it in the pros. If you’re not in that front swim group, it’s becoming harder and harder to be competitive in the race. That front group becomes a pack,” Tom told Trizone, three days after his victory in WA.
Tom raced 70.3 triathlons professionally for the past three years, obtaining his pro licence around the same time as his good mate Lachie Kerin. “I’d decided I’d give it a crack for three years and see what happened,” said Tom. He was extremely fast, but felt he just wasn’t fast enough. “I was coming around 6th and 7th consistently in the pro races. I just wasn’t competitive enough to make money from it, and I wasn’t enjoying racing anymore, so I decided to get a job.”
The difficult decision to embrace daily life and let his pro licence expire in 2016 was a conscious one. “I spoke to my coach and I told her I’d stopped enjoying the sport, and I’d decided it was time to move on. So we both agreed that stepping back to my age group may get that enjoyment back,” Tom said.
His results had pushed him towards age group racing, but a broken collar bone was the last straw. “I broke it last year, which also contributed to my transition into age group racing. I was doing motor pacing out the back of Geelong and hit a pothole and crashed.” A battered and bruised Tom took some time off racing, settled into work as a railway PSO. This year though, Tom’s love of racing returned, and he started competing in his age group. “Last weekend was my first proper age group race,” Tom said happily, thrilled with his victory.
IRONMAN 70.3 WA preparation
With his sites set on a win in WA, Tom sat down with his coach and mapped out a plan.
I told my coach what I wanted to achieve and what times I wanted. We looked a my work schedule and decided how we could optimise my time for training We changed some things, like cut down swim time as driving to the pool uses up precious time I could be training.
With a gruelling training schedule paired with shift work that sees Tom working 4pm-2am some days, Tom was working hard to prepare. “The last few weeks were a bit stressful,” Tom said. “Work was intense and a few things went wrong with my bike.” Despite the tough lead up, Tom felt ready for the race, and journeyed to WA last Wednesday with friends. “This gave me some time to get there and see the start line. We even did some training on the actual course.”
Race Day with Tom Rodgers
IRONMAN 70.3 WA Age Group Swim
Tom knew the race started by jumping off the picturesque Busselton jetty, so rather than take 20 minutes to walk its length, he laced on his running shoes and jogged to the end. “It was part of my warm up, which worked really well,” Tom said.
Unlike the madness of most triathlon starts, the IRONMAN 70.3 WA race starts with the age groupers jumping into the water in pairs (a rolling start) “It was quite nice compared to the usual swim start. Less crowded,” Tom said.
As the swim got underway, Tom was out in front, and maintain his impressive lead until the last 100 metres. “I led until the last bit when someone took over. It was a fast swim. The water was pretty flat and there were no turns which made it even quicker.” As the swimmers surged towards the shore, Tom maintain his second place position.
IRONMAN 70.3 WA Age Group Bike
“That bike course is probably one of the fastest bike courses out there,” Tom said, reliving his lightning fast bike leg last Sunday. “The wind picked up a little bit on the way back in, but the course is dead flat so it’s super quick.”
After narrowly losing his lead at the end of the swim, Tom dug deep and regained his lead early in the bike. “I had around 10 minutes on some of the other guys. Since the swim is a rolling start, it’s hard to compare who’s winning, but I had a fairly good idea. Tom fought hard on the bike, maintaining 303 watts throughout.
IRONMAN 70.3 WA Age Group Run
As the bike race transitioned into the run, Tom was thankful for the keen crowd. “There’s lots of support on the course, which is really good at these events,” he said gratefully. Tom started the run with ferocious power, but it was a little too much. “I went out a bit too hard as I was having a crack at a certain time I wanted to achieve. I couldn’t maintain the pace I started with, but I was glad to run 1:20. Luckily, the weather conditions couldn’t have been better, and the 5:30am start meant the athletes were running at 8am, “so it was still pretty cool,” said Tom.
Tom Rodgers reached the finish line in the lightning fast time of 3:55:36, a startling 15 minutes ahead of Duncan Matthew who finished in second place in the 18-24 age group, in 4:10:52.
With such an impressive time in his first big age group race, we wondered if Tom will consider re-joining the pro circuit.
Rejoining the Pros
“I definitely think I might give pro racing a crack in the future, but while I’m finding my place at work, I’m happy to compete in my age group,” said the 24-year-old. “I’m going to do a few more races at the start of next year, and if I’m performing well and enjoying it, I might go back late next year.”
A huge congratulations to Tom on an impressive finish, and a brave transition from pros to age group racing.