Ryan Bailie is gearing up for a huge 2017, including taking part in the brand new Hamilton Island Super League. Trizone caught up with Bailie to chat about his down time and key goals for the year.
“It’s a different kind of [being] busy to training,” Bailie says, “I’ve been doing some school tours, catching up with sponsors and having tons of meetings. The off-season is tiring in its own way,” Bailie says of his recent down time. Earlier this year, Bailie spent a few short weeks with friends and family, and enjoyed “taking some time to get the mind and body ready for another year.” Now though, it’s business as usual for the young athlete.
Ryan Bailie’s laser focus on his swim
“I’ve been working with Paula Charlton for physio and swim stroke analyst Marc Elipot to see if there’s actually a reason I can’t get my shoulder into a certain position in the water,” Bailie said. “I’ve got some tightness there but we’re working on it.”
“It’s about making sure I’m solid in that front group. Swimming is a hard one to get feedback on if you’re not a natural swimmer.” With this expert duo helping Bailie refine his technique with a fine tooth comb, he’s eager to make as much progress as possible. The AIS have even given Bailie’s team a videocamera to give him real time feedback on his stroke, and his progress.
Like any triathlete, Bailie has his favourite parts of the sport, and he’s the first to say his swim needs more attention. “I’ve proven I can run against the best in the sport, but if I’m given time alone in the water with the top guys, it’s different.”
Not only is the swimming-specific training improving his stroke, Ryan is also enjoying the change to his training. “The analysis makes swim training more interesting,” he says. “It’s great having Jake in the squad working on the same thing.” Bailie isn’t after grand changes, but it’s the little tweaks that make a difference. “We’re not talking about getting a minute, just a few seconds.”
Bailie’s major goals for 2017
Bailie is focused on two things this year: avoiding injury, and becoming a permanent fixture on the podiums of big races like Rotterdam. “Staying injury-free is just so important,” says Ryan. “If you can avoid injury, the chances of medaling or making the podium are so much higher than someone who’s injury prone. I’m learning how to make my body more resilient to cope with the workload as I get older.”
This insight into body mechanics is hard for any athlete to develop but Bailie has been honing his relationship with his body and its warning signs. “It’s about listening to those small warning signs from your body that are precursors to injury,” he says. Even noticing when I’m tired and run down, and not over doing it.”
Despite an incredible calendar of races set for the year ahead, Bailie’s sights are set firmly on 2018. “I’m just looking towards the Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast,” said Bailie. “That’s what I’m aiming for. I want to get Commonwealth Games qualification out of the way early.”
With a team of experts fine-tuning his swim stroke, and an already fierce bike and run in his armoury, Bailie is gearing up for a new kind of racing; the Hamilton island Super League.
Hamilton Island Super League is a brand new race format set to launch in early March. It’s spectator friendly, mixing elimination (think American Ninja Warrior) with the endurance and power of triathlon. Set over three days, the event is truly gruelling, and will favour those athletes who can last the distance and recover well, rather than those who expel their energy in one race. Each race day has a unique name, The Equaliser, Triple Mix and The Eliminator. Check out Trizone later this month for more details on the Super league. All we know now is Bailie is thrilled to be part of this exciting event.
It’s all about the podium for Bailie
Apart from the new Hamilton Island event, Ryan Bailie is already thinking about the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Rotterdam slated for September this year. “I want to get on the podium at Rotterdam this year,” he says. “It’s a target race, like Hamburg and the Gold Coast. These key races are where I’m looking for those podium performances.”
After the pressure of the Olympics last year, Bailie is using 2017 for some reflection, but mostly for digging his heels into his training. “Post Olympics is a year of trying some different things, but not too much. What I’ve been doing has been working, so it’s about building on them and adding little bits and pieces.” Through his current intensive swim coaching program and his usual training schedule with the Wollongong Wizards, Ryan has been refining minute aspects of his racing for those key moments. “It’s all so I know when I’m put in the situation, I’ll be able to do it that bit better. It just gives me the chance to be a better athlete.”
12-Months On – Has Triathlon Australia’s CEO Miles Stewart Made Inroads?
Miles Stewart last spoke to Trizone 12 months ago about the importance of young talent in Australian triathlon, and Commonwealth Games selection shows his mission has continued in a big way. Trizone caught up with Stewart to better understand the choice of youth over experience in Australian triathlon.
Impressive results in the past year create excitement for Commonwealth Games
“Last year we had some of our best results in ten years,” Stewart told Trizone. “We had our first junior world champion in 18 years, and our first mixed team relay champions in the year it was announced it was going to be in the Olympics. We had a duathlon world champion, long course world champion, and a junior world champion,” said Stewart proudly. “We’ve had incredible para results too; world champions, silvers and bronzes.
“Performance wise, I feel like we’ve turned a bit of a corner.”
While Australia’s results in the past year are impressive, Triathlon Australia’s financials have also been a key focus for Miles Stewart. “Like all sports, we’ve experienced a decline in membership. We need to see how we can offer a better service to our members without going broke,” said Stewart.
“No one wants us to be where we were six years ago,” Stewart said. His comments on debt refer to the sorry state Triathlon Australia faced six years ago when it was struggling to make ends meet. Slowly, Miles Stewart and the team have managed to bring TA out of the red and into the positives, a vital element to triathlon’s success in Australia.
Is the Commonwealth Games triathlon team too young?
Last month, the Australian triathletes who qualified for the Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast were announced, with a number of infamous Aussies left off the list.
GOLD COAST 2018 AUSTRALIAN TRIATHLON TEAM (ABLE BODY)
- Jake Birtwhistle (TAS)
- Ashleigh Gentle (QLD)
- Charlotte McShane (NSW)
- Luke Willian (QLD)
- Matt Hauser (QLD)
- Gillian Backhouse(QLD)
Fierce Aussie triathletes Aaron Royle and Ryan Bailie are notably missing from the list, which echoes’s Stewart’s ethos around encouraging your triathletes; a direction he’s been leading since he started at Triathlon Australia. “Are there reasons why Aaron Royle and Ryan Bailie should have made the team? Absolutely,” said Miles Stewart. “Same goes for Emma Jackson and Emma Jeffcoat, but I’m not in charge of selection.”
Experience doesn’t mean what it used to in triathlon
“Just because you’ve done it once, it isn’t an indicator you’re going to do it again,’ Stewart said, referring to Australia’s well-known triathletes left off the qualifying list.
“We haven’t had an individual medal in the last few years, so why not take a chance on a younger group with all eyes on Tokyo?”
If you’re confused by the line up for the Gold Coast, don’t be, as Stewart has always had this approach. He told Trizone last year; “The whole thing revolves around Australians winning medals. The more growth we get out of our coaches, the more access kids will get opportunities, and the more likely we are to get medals,” Stewart said.
Australia’ main team comprised of Junior Champs
Australia’s Commonwealth Games triathlon team is essentially comprised of many junior champions, but Stewart is confident in the selection committees’ decisions. “If you look through the qualifying period, Luke Willian only just missed out on individually qualifying for the Gold Coast by 10 seconds,” said Stewart. “The selection committee see him as someone who could be a force in Tokyo.”
Willian is known as an up-and-comer, but Jake Birtwhistle is already well known.
“He’s with a chance at an individual medal if the planets align.”
“The selection committee sees Luke (Willian) as someone who could help Jake win a medial or go for an individual medal,” said Stewart.
Matt Hauser is another well-known champion who surged to greatness as Junior World Champion in 2017 after a disappointment in Mexico last year. “Sure he’s a young kid, but the mixed team’s relay is probably about promoting younger people,” said Stewart. “If it was an Olympic distance race, it might have been a different team, but because it’s sprint distance it’s opened it up to younger athletes.”
Disappointment stems from depth of field
While some triathlon fans have been surprised with the youthful Commonwealth Games team, Stewart is adamant it’s a positive sign, so many great Aussie athletes have missed out on selection. “We’ve come out of a period where we’ve never talked about who’s missed out as we haven’t had the contenders,” Stewart told Trizone.
“The fact we’re having the conversation shows there’s a depth of talent within Australia.”
While Stewart was very stern when discussing the topic of athlete selection, he did soften when he remembered his past as a professional athlete. “It’s never nice to be that athlete who missed out though,” he added kindly, “I’ve been in those shoes.” Recovering himself, Stewart adds “it’s not an easy decision either. The selection committee has very robust conversations for final selection.”
Aussie athletes must stay on track to access funding
“While athletes continue to deliver, we’re happy to support,” said Stewart of the high-performance division. “We have to look after the funding the sports commission provides us, and there are parameters around that.” In other words? Athletes have to perform well and under approved environments. “If someone jumps in an environment where performance is diminished, we have to decide if we’re going to fund that.”
“High performance is an ugly space where it’s all about how your race.”
Has Stewart delivered what Triathlon Australia needs?
So far, yes. Since our last catch up with Miles Stewart, he’s helped decrease Triathlon Australia’ debt, so it’s now in the clear, plus he has stayed true to his mission of supporting younger athletes. Better yet, he’s encouraging the value-based culture of the business, while continually looking for ways to offer member even more value.
What remains to see is Australia’s performance at The Commonwealth Games and The Multisport World Championships in Copenhagen, where the world will know if it was the right decision to choose youth over experience.
Ironman World Championship: Will Lionel Sanders Achieve His Dream of Whooping Frodeno?
As the World Ironman Championship in Kona approaches, the world has its eyes on 2015 and 2016 winner and German triathlete, Jan Frodeno. This man also claimed a gold medal in the 2008 Summer Olympics. Commentators speculate about who may knock him out of the #1 spot. Many are looking at fellow Germans Patrick Lange and Sebastian Kienle, the 2014 World Champion.
There is one man who doesn’t always make the cut in sports media predictions, but he should. It is Lionel Sanders of Canada.
Records are Made to be Broken
Sanders is the man who broke the Ironman long distance record with a finish time of 7:44:29 at Ironman Arizona 2016. He broke Marino Vanhoenacker’s previous record of 7:45:58, set in Ironman Austria 2011. Tim Don broke Sanders’ record this year with a 7:40:23 at the Ironman South American Championship in Florianopolis, Brazil.
Frodeno still holds the record if you include non-Ironman events. He clocked a 7:35:39 at Germany’s Challenge Roth in July, 2016. In the 2015 and 2016 Ironman World Championships, Sanders trailed the two-time winner at #14 and #29, respectively.
From Drug Addict to Serial Champion
Sanders began his triathlon career much later than Frodeno. While Frodeno made a name for himself during the Beijing Olympics, Sanders was still struggling with long-term cocaine and alcohol habits. It wasn’t until 2013 that he began beating the established pros in triathlons.
On 8th September 2013, Sanders won his first professional race, an Ironman 70.3 event in Muskoka, Ontario. The victory led him to set his sites on beating Frodeno in a fashion you would expect from your New Age, Law of Attraction obsessed aunt with the cylinder-shaped cob house in the backcountry. During his 2015 pieces of training, he stared at a wallpaper on his computer screen that showed him running side by side with Frodeno.
Like Bernie Sanders, He’s an Underdog to Be Reckoned With
This is the time when it’s fair to start comparing him to his namesake, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential primary rival, Senator Bernie Sanders. Between mid-2015 and April 2016, the relatively unknown Vermont Senator managed to close the party’s matriarch’s 60-point lead over him with a populist economic platform.
To the surprise of dismissive U.S. pundits, Bernie and Hillary were neck and neck by the summer. The race was so close that the Democratic National Convention became a war zone with two opposing factions.
In one corner were the mainstream Democrats who had crowned their inevitable winner years earlier. In the other were Bernie fans, who brought attention to voter registration anomalies and uncounted votes in Brooklyn, Arizona, California, and elsewhere.
Sanders Victories, 2013-2017
Lionel Sanders has continued to win competitions, the most recent being the Penticton ITU long distance triathlon world championship in August. He whooped the closest competitor by roughly 1.5 minutes.
Other victories include Ironman 70.3 Oceanside 2016 and 2017, the 2017 Challenge Family’s inaugural world championship race in Slovakia, Ironman Texas 70.3 2016, and Ironman Florida 2014. He claimed 1st place in 11 events in 2013 alone, the same number of events he competed in that year.
Don’t Let the Kona Losses Fool You
Despite making a 14th and 29th place in his two Kona races, it is his continual improvement over time that may make him a dangerous competitor against Frodeno this year. Sanders has become a symbol of self-improvement and the power of will within the past four years.
It seems there is a recipe for Sanders’ rapid advancement. As he states on his website, “From my experience, it appears that there are no limits, other than the self-created and imposed ones that only exist in your mind. I plan on spending my entire triathlon career testing this hypothesis.”
Why Young Athlete’s Should Consider Super League in Their Career
Super League is the most lucrative, exclusive league in triathlon, and it’s changing the landscape of the sport. With shorter distances, faster races, harder courses and huge prize money, if you’re not getting into Super League you may be missing out.
Super League pays in prize money, appearances and key moves in races
Chris McCormack, the creator of Super League, told Trizone Super League is where the money’s at. “We want to ensure a solid prize purse which is now moving forward bigger than the WTS,” McCormick (Macca) told Trizone. “All aggressive racing will be rewarded with money, not just crossing the line first.”
Ever heard of MVP (most valuable player)? Macca has, and he wants to find the MVP of triathlon. “There may be other possible primes including ‘fan favourite’ and ‘most aggressive/combative,’ and some who are best in the race, like an MVP,” said Macca.
Super League offers athletes, including those young additions who may not be within the top three at the finish line, the chance to win money thanks to aggressive moves during races, and key stage wins.
Even if you’re not first across the line, you can still make money in Super League.
Being a pro doesn’t pay the bills
Unless you’re Flora Duffy, who’s won every triathlon league in the world last year, being a professional triathlete isn’t a financially rewarding job and is fraught with disaster if injury strikes. Even some of the world’s best pros didn’t earn a huge amount of prize money in 2016 despite fantastic results.
Despite placing third in Kona last year, Heather Jackson finished the year earning just $65,000, with Ben Hoffman finished with a reported $62,000. These amounts don’t include sponsorship deals as those amounts are private, but for two some of the world’s top athletes, you can see the sums aren’t huge.
For those pros who don’t make the podium at Kona, especially those who don’t even finish within the top eight at an Ironman race, they don’t even go home with any cash at all.
Expenses for triathletes are huge and often under-estimated
With plenty of athletes paying for their own plane fares, hotel rooms, physiotherapy appointments and other unforeseen travel and medical costs, being a pro can be tough.
Red Bull athlete Jesse Thomas told triathlete.com he predicts he spends $25,000 USD per year on travel. “This means there are around 400 guys with pro licenses making little to no money from the sport,” said Thomas.
But what if triathletes focused their training solely on short course, sprint events like Super League?
Jess Thomas knows prize money isn’t enough
“Prize money will not pay your living. Unless you place in the top three at a world championship, Hy-Vee or Challenge Bahrain, you can’t survive off of just prize money. As an example, here’s my prize money total for a decent post-injury 2014:
- First place at Wildflower Long Course: $5,000
- First place at Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant: $3,000
- Second place at Ironman 70.3 Princeton: $2,000
- Third place at Ironman 70.3 Buffalo Springs: $1,000
- Fifth place at NYC Triathlon: $750
- Sixth place at Ironman 70.3 Vineman: $1,500
- 12th place at Ironman 70.3 World Championship: $0
Super League has 1.5 Million to give away after just 4 races
With just four championships on the Super League calendar for 2017 and $1.5 million USD up for grabs, Super League might just be the answer to a pro’s desperation for prize money. Only thing is, with short, sharp yet exhausting sprint race formats, many pros gearing up for Ironman aren’t prepared for Super League.
Focusing on Super League means working on sprint-distance
Super League is events between the best triathletes in the world, but it’s the shorter course superstars who do best on the lightning fast courses. In the first Super League event on Hamilton Island, Richard Murray was ranked first, followed by Mario Mola and Kristian Blummenfelt. ITU’s Aussie superstar Jake Birtwhistle made it to fourth place.
We weren’t surprised to see any of these top-ranked athletes on the podium, but it was exciting to see ITU’s newest Aussie superstar Matthew Hauser in 11th place. Hauser’s inclusion in Super League, at only just 19, is an indication Super League may be the future for young triathletes. In Jersey last weekend, Hauser finished Stage three in fourth, even further proof it could be the future for younger athletes.
Focusing on ITU means young athletes can compete for their countries, aim for Olympic prestige, but also look to their own financial futures with Super League.
Earn more by doing Super League
ITU’s overall rankings prize of $755,000 tops the chart, with the Ironman World Championship coming in second at $650,000 and the Island House Invitational coming in third at $500,000. Recently though, Macca has secured more prize money than the WTS, making it the most lucrative racing league in the sport.
With so many pro triathletes struggling to make a decent living, Super League might just be the answers to many triathletes’ struggles. What do you think? Is Super League the answer?
Being a Professional Triathlete – All cards are on the table
Three months ago I quit my job and my partner and I moved to Phuket, Thailand. Like a lot of professional triathletes, sometimes the career path goes a little bit like this – sometimes you have the support and the means to train and compete ‘full time’ as opposed to working and racing on the side. I didn’t actually have the sponsors or income required to justify leaving the safety net of a job, but whatever.
I’ve been registered as a professional triathlete for 7 years now and have had many stints as a professional and also periods of not racing at all while I was doing other things with my life. Earlier this year, my girlfriend and I decided I would commit to being a real professional athlete for 2-3 years and leave no stone unturned.
I’d had enough of half-ass attempts and always having an excuse. I was just sick of being mediocre. I’d always have people telling me I was so talented, but talented is something people use to describe someone who hasn’t done anything. So here we go, my savings account, credit card, no job and my best attempt at putting everything I had into being the best triathlete I can be.
When you’re really committed to something and put absolutely everything into it and you fall on your face, it really sucks. That’s why it was so devastating last week.
Ironman 70.3 Cebu – That Race That Wasn’t
Earlier this month I had the worse race I’ve ever had. I didn’t finish (DNF) at Ironman 70.3 Cebu following the best training block I’ve had in years. I was feeling my best ten days out, I really believed I was going to win this race. I really believe I left a race winning performance on the training pitch 2 weeks before the race.
Leading up to Cebu, I was enjoying coaching myself. I still talk to Grant Giles weekly and he tells me my ideas are stupid and I do them anyway. Not exactly, but he is the guy I turn to for advice. He has coached me for years and knows me better then anyone. I should have been more honest with him and with myself.
Ten days before the race my body and my mind said it was enough, and I needed recovery but my plan was to finish the week off and do the taper the same as I had previously. It’s a bit of human nature to self sabotage I guess, but I went with my plan.
If I had someone else monitoring the signs day to day, it was probably quite clear. But that’s the beauty of hindsight. I went overboard and got excited. It’s normal and I believe we all have the tendency to keep reaching – more is better. Just push a little bit harder, go further.
The week before the race I made myself believe I had recovered and was fresh and excited and ready to race anyone. The current 70.3 World Champion Tim Reed was racing, but Tim and I have been close friends for a long time and although he is the World Champion, I was ready to race him or anyone else. Deep down I knew I would be overdone and tired on race day but you really have to make yourself believe you will be right, otherwise its not worth starting. The mind is very powerful and I almost brainwashed myself to forget what I knew would be the case.
On race day, it quickly became obvious that things weren’t quite right. I was working really hard in the swim, too hard. I knew I wasn’t ‘on’, but nothing is ever perfect so you try and deal with it at the time. I wasn’t in a bad position after the swim, maybe 1 minute behind the 6 leaders, and they are good swimmers. It’s never over until its over, particularly in long course triathlons.
The bike is when it becomes more objective. You can see the data on the bike and you think ‘oh shit, I’m not playing mind games, this is actually happening.’ I was with Tim Berkel and Callum Millward for the first 30km and I was already suffering so bad.
I was thinking everything was terrible, and we weren’t even riding that fast.
We were riding within a power zone that’s certainly within my reach, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was sad really. I knew at that point, that the last two months of work were going down the drain. Not totally, but at this moment it was useless. My heart rate was flat but I felt like I was pushing 1000 watts.
I finished the swim in 28:14 and the bike in 2:16:05 but I couldn’t keep going. I didn’t even make it until 1km of the run. It’s a hard decision to pull out. Some days the decision is made for you.
I always feel an obligation to organisers and the people who invite me to show up and work hard, so it’s really sucks to DNF.
Upon reflection, it’s not a waste of fitness. Training is an investment, and the reward for your effort can be seen on race day but only when the timing is right. I have learnt so much in the past few days and weeks when going back through everything to figure out exactly why.
Win or Learn.
Nic Beveridge: Finding Strength and Powering to the Top
“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.”
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.
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.
Elena Goodall: The Journey Has Only Begun
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.”
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.”
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.
“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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