Josh Amberger makes some changes and is ready for Ironman 70.3 Geelong

Josh Amberger might win this year’s Ironman 70.3 Geelong thanks to some huge changes made in the last few months. Trizone caught up with Josh to get tips for the race and to see what he’s been up to.

Coaching swaps kickstart major changes

“You can’t move forward without looking back really can you?” Josh told Trizone. “After three years coaching myself and finding the limitations within that, I found Cliff English as a coach. He was a fairly non-involved coach as is the nature of correspondence [but] I got some great benefits from Cliff early on.”

Following a period in which Josh was, in his own words burnt out from training in a squad environment, the athlete opted for a training scenario based on correspondence.

“Having cliff non-involved in a physical sense worked really well at the beginning of our relationship, but after [some] time the correspondence environment became less motivating as the initial gains in performance started to taper,” added Amberger.

Two years into the new coaching relationship, Josh set his sights on trying a full IRONMAN but was disqualified at IRONMAN Port Macquarie. “‘That was really disappointing,” he said. “The rest of my season went well, but it wasn’t quite there. When you do a race like the world championships, the limitations of my running came to the surface.” After the 2016 season, Josh knew something wasn’t right.

Even pros struggle with demotivation

Motivation was waning for Amberger. “Towards the end I wasn’t even following the program with Cliff. I’d get up, and unless I had a race coming up, I’d just keep putting things off. I might not start my first sessions till 10am, and by then it’s getting hot and sometimes I wouldn’t even finish the session.”

Acknowledging his demotivation, Berger became frustrated. “I was getting really slack. It sounds unprofessional to think I was training like that, but sometimes that’s what happens when you do the same thing for so long.”

Amberger was able to reflect on his abilities, though, and realised the only way to unleash his potential was through changing coaches. “I’d had three years with Cliff, but now I’m with Cameron Watt,” he said.

Sometimes a change is as good as a holiday

The new coaching style is a whole new experience and Amberger is loving it. “Having a coach you’re meeting at a certain time of day, it’s just so different. To have to meet someone at the pool at a certain time is so great. I actually have a structured day now!’ Amberger said.

The new coaching relationship started with a bang thanks to Dubai 70.3. “I never had the intention to race Dubai, but I was keen,” he added. “I did well there last year and think the race suits me, so I wanted to do it but I wasn’t sure. I’d never had such a short preparation before a race, especially after coming off three weeks total rest.”

Josh’s new coach has a hands-on approach, and this soon became clear for the athlete. “He follows me on the bike, and he’s pretty into it. He got me training hard from day one, and we sat down before Christmas and talked about doing Dubai.”

After the drastic change to his coaching regime, the decision to race in Dubai kept Amberger grounded. “Knowing I had the race coming up kept me on track over Christmas and into the New Year,” he said.

Amberger to run better than ever for Ironman 70.3 Geelong

One thing that’s not different is that Amberger will be a key contender on the starting line at Geelong 70.3, and he’s in better shape than ever. “My run is already at a different level to last year. I can definitely take a good chuck of time out of that run.”

This year, Amberger is also feeling better thanks to his schedule. “In 2016, Geelong 70.3 was eight days after Dubai,” he said. “I’d never done a 70.3 with such a quick turn around including travel time and fatigue. This year it’s two weeks later so I’ve had an opportunity to expand my fitness a little more.”

When and how to use power

Using power as a guide in training and in races, Amberger is the first to say it’s not always about the data but how you use it. “Not every race is an all-out time trial where your time will reflect how good you rode, or your strategy on the bike, or even your final result,” he added.

If conditions are windy like last year especially, power and race times may not be relevant. “I use power to look back and think how the rest of the race panned out,” said Amberger. ‘Was the swim or run easier or harder off that power? You can choose to use it however you want.”

Amberger always a contender in the swim

Amberger is confident, and his infamous prowess in the water helps to keep his colleagues be aware of him. “Everyone will see me on the start line and know the swim is going to be on!” he said. “They’ll all be saying ‘let’s see if we can catch Jake and Josh on the run!’” Josh entertains the thought of others being top competition, but crushes it just as quickly. “If anyone is able to stay up on the swim, or ride time into us, it could be different, although I don’t really see that happening,” said Josh of himself and Jake Montgomery.

Amberger critiques the field for Ironman 70.3 Geelong

With a fierce field for this Sunday’s race – perhaps the toughest field yet – the men’s pro race will be thrilling. “It’s going to be really competitive,” said Amberger. “Cam Wurf and Matt Burton are amazing cyclists, but their runs aren’t as strong. Appo is a great cyclist and he’s got a killer run so he’ll be strong.”

Jake Montgomery’s number one fan

When it comes down to the starting line, Amberger has drawn his conclusions. “There are three different levels of athletes: super cyclists, good cyclists and really good runners, then me and Jake kind of athletes.”

While Amberger’s confidence is fierce, when it comes to Jake Montgomery, he softens. “Jake really had me going in that ride last year, and his accident was really unfortunate,” he said. “It’s been a really tumultuous time but it’s great to see him back.” Enjoying Montgomery’s return, Amberger is convinced he’ll be a key player on the day. “From the talks I’ve had with him, he’s more than ready and really motivated to execute the type of race he had last year.”

Amberger’s top Age Grouper tips for Ironman 70.3 Geelong

“It’s tougher than you think!” Josh starts. “Geelong is a really good course. It’s deceptively hard though, and the hills on the bike are surprisingly tough.” The weather conditions in Geelong are notoriously hot and windy, so Jake warns age groupers to be prepared. “Given what the conditions have been like in the past, prepare to do it really tough on the bike,” he says.

As it’s one of the first races of the year, Amberger suggests many age groupers can use Geelong as a gauge of their fitness too. “It’s a good course to see where you are at. There are plenty of turn arounds in the different laps to see what position you’re in, and some good opportunities to be tactical too.”

Despite the difficulty of the course, Josh loves the event. “It’s one of my favourite run course in triathlon!” he says, adding “Just be prepared to suffer!”

We’re betting Josh Amberger ends up in the top spot, but check out how other athletes are preparing for the event in Trizone’s Geelong 70.3 lead up.

Shawn Smith

A cyclist and tech geek at heart with a passion for new shiny things and a huge appetite for triathlon. I spend most of my time between managing two of Australia's best triathletes and a traditional corporate life.