Michael Fox: Nearing the podium and what it takes to get there

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Michael Fox is making his mark on triathlon, and his sights are set on the podium at this weekend’s Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship in Cairns. Trizone caught up with the athlete to chat about balancing full-time work with training, goals for Ironman Cairns, and taking advice from Craig Alexander (Crowie).

Swim star turns triathlete

“I was always involved in some sort of competitive sport when I was younger,” Fox told Trizone. “First it was lifesaving, that’s where my swimming background came from.” At 18-years-old Fox started triathlon after a few people had seen his prowess in the pool. “They told me I just had to learn how to ride, they knew I could swim and run,” said Fox.

Crowie’s advice keeps Fox in the sport

Under the watchful eye of a local coach in Sydney, Fox began building up the basics, learning how to ride, and in 2016 he made a bold move. “I came back from overseas in 2015 and I decided I might quit triathlon,” said Fox. “I felt I’d plateaued and I needed a shift.” Almost on the brink of leaving the sport, Fox consulted with the legend Crowie for advice. “He suggested I work with Matt, who is my coach now, I was about to quit but I just got a new coach,” said Fox.

Now coached by Matt Koorey, Fox has a different training regime that involves a lot more indoor bike than ever before and it’s all about strength. “Matt knows the trainer encourages a bit more strength and he knows I have to work on my bike,” said Fox. “I used to hate it. I’d only last 40 minutes, but now I’ve grown to love it. I know the benefits now of doing it,” Fox told Trizone, “I put my phone next to me with my Training Peaks open, and off I go,” said Fox.

Training for Fox used to be a group activity, training at 6pm at night and getting up at 4:30am to do a bunch ride and he was exhausted. “I was working full time while I was doing that. Now the biggest difference with my new coach is around the training. It’s mostly by myself now. I’m in bed by 9pm and up at 5am. Sleep is a big thing for me.”

Juggling teaching work and full-time training is all about organisation

While most professional triathletes manage battle with hours of fatigue maintaining their jam-packed schedule, Fox balances all his training plus a full-time job as a teacher. “I can do my marking at night after training. My new training schedule gives me more flexibility and peace of mind,” said Fox. “I do 30 hours of face-to-face teaching, and 30 hours of training per week. That all sounds pretty straight forward, but it’s the marking and extra work at home I have to do that makes me really busy,” Fox told Trizone.

 

It’s not just Fox who is juggling a lot, his fiancé (soon to be wife in October) has her own Physiotherapy practice. “In our household it’s all about being organised. My partner and I prepare lunches on the weekends and freeze them to make it easier,” said Fox.

Balancing a full-time job, full-time training load and the fatigue involved in triathlon is tough, but Fox is used to it. “I’m at a certain level of fatigue all the time,” said Fox. “Leading up to Ironman Australia I had school holidays where I could train, then go back to sleep, then train in the afternoon. It made me realise how much stress and fatigue I usually have while I’m working and training,”

Ironman Australia sees Fox challenged on the bike

Michael Fox placed fourth at the recent Ironman Australia, finishing in 08:32:15, which was a good result but the race didn’t quite go to plan. “I was able to get away early in the swim with Clayton Fettell. We had about a 3:40 lead getting out of the water,” said Fox. “My strategy was to use the swim to my advantage, then sit steady on the bike while I got my nutrition and had a bit of a break. I planned to have the energy I needed to make moves when I needed to. I wanted to race my own race,” said Fox.

Unfortunately for Michael Fox, the bike saw the field making bold moves early. “I ended up riding a lot by myself and doing a lot of work, which wasn’t quite my plan. I was just trying to minimise the damage.”

In the run, Michael Fox was incredibly strong but by the 30km mark he had a small dip in performance. “I struggled a bit at 30kms, and I think it gave Clayton the confidence to maintain his lead for the 7kms. If I hadn’t had the drop, it might have brought us closer to the finish, closer to the wire. But that’s racing you know?” said Fox humbly.

A possible podium on the horizon at Cairns

“I’ve still got a bit to prove to myself. Racing at Cairns as the Asia-pacific Championships is gonna give me way more experience pacing an Ironman, which works toward my ultimate goal which is Kona,” Fox told Trizone. “Cairns is a good investment for me to get experience against the top athletes.”

While Fox is looking toward qualifying for Kona, he’s mindful that he’s got to make it worth his while. “If you get to Kona without the ability to race up against the best, it’s a little bit wasted. Add that to the cost to get yourself there and it doesn’t seem worth it. I’ve got to be at my best.”

Fox’s goals for 2017

With Cairns looming in just a few days, Fox has his eyes set on a spot on the podium. “I haven’t quite landed an Ironman podium yet, and from my point of view, that’s what it’s about. If I happen to land a Kona spot, I wouldn’t turn the opportunity down,” Fox told Trizone.

While he’s used to juggling multiple commitments, he knows it comes down to race day. “We all know things change on the day. No matter what you’ve done to lead into it, something can always go wrong and throw me a curve ball. That’s probably what keeps bringing us back.”

With a sunny attitude and a rock-solid goal, Fox looks set to run his best race yet at Cairns Ironman, the Asia-Pacific Championships in 2017.

Trizone wishes Michael and all the competing athletes good luck for this weekend’s huge championship.

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