Courtney Atkinson was a force in triathlon but now he’s captivated by adventure. Trizone caught up with the Red Bull athlete after finishing his recent adventure; running seven peaks in seven days. We chatted about everything from running on a cliff’s edge to peeling leeches off his skin.
“I’ve hung up my boots in triathlon but I’m still moving really well and I’m still competitive, but I don’t get the normal kicks out of normal competition anymore,” Courtney told Trizone. Sponsored by Red Bull, Atkinson is an incredible athlete and always looking for his next project, but he’s incredibly picky. “I get pitched a lot of projects but nine out of ten are pretty boring. Then there are ones like this that tickle my fancy,” said Atkinson.
“There are two things that make a project appealing; It’s got to be pretty athletic. I want to showcase what an Olympic standard athlete can do in the normal world. Secondly, it’s got to have a bit of adrenaline for me.”
Unlike standard triathletes, Atkinson wants that extra edge when he embarks on a new project, and now he seeks more than extreme endurance. “I want to be out of my comfort zone now, like ‘should I really be on this cliff ledge right now?’” laughed Courtney.
Seven mountains in seven days
Atkinson’s latest expedition fulfilled both his criteria; it was athletic, and outside his comfort zone, so he jumped at the chance. “I loved that it encompassed all of Australia in seven days,” Atkinson told Trizone, “through triathlon I’d travelled a lot of Australia, but every mountain except Mount Kosciusko was new to me.”
The mountains Atkinson ran were Mount Zeil, Mt Bartle Frere, Mount Ossa, Mount Bogong, Mount Bimberi, Mount Kosciusko and Mount Meharry.
One of the toughest peaks for Atkinson was Mount Zeil in the Northern Territory. “Mt Zeil was almost impossible to run because of the Spinifex grass and rocks, so what I thought would take three hours, ended up taking six,” Atkinsons told news.com.au.
It wasn’t just physically hard, but mentally tough too, and Atkinsons’s mind played a few tricks on him. “When you Google Mt Zeil, the next things that come up are all about aliens to do with Pine Gap’s facility out there. Once you start reading it, it gets in your head,” said Courtney.
“We were camping in the middle of nowhere; we got told to go to a bore in the middle of a field and camp there. There was a windmill and I heard it creaking in the dark, and I was in my tent just sh**ting myself. I’d never heard anything like it, I was like ‘what the hell is that noise!’ I went out and looked around with my headlamp, and it was the windmill kicking over. I’d been so freaked out, I had to go out and find out where the noise was coming from,” laughed Courtney Atkinson.
Why would you run seven peaks in seven days?
“At the speed I was running, I was probably putting myself in some situations that were a bit precarious,” Atkinsons told Trizone. “I was jumping some of the boulders at Mt Bartle Frere, and that’s dangerous as you could fall down one of the crevasses. I put myself in situations you wouldn’t normally,” said Courtney.
Ditching triathlon for adventure
While the details of the trip are startling, it’s the overall move away from triathlon to adventure running that makes Atkinson’s new projects most interesting. “It’s all about being more free,” said Courtney, “often I’m just carrying around a duffle with a tent I just put next to the car.”
Most poignant is Courtney’s comparison of adventure sport to triathlon. “I’ve learned a lot about freedom that being an elite athlete steals from you,” said Atknson, “I don’t really care if I don’t sleep anymore. When I was racing if I didn’t get eight hours a night, or if I was jet lagged, it would throw everything off. Now all that seem so irrelevant to what matters.”
Courtney is the first to note standard sport isn’t enough to generate spectators in the digital age. “Going for a run just isn’t that interesting. Going for a run and getting bogged in the sand in a four-wheel-drive is much more exciting,” Courtney added with a smile.
While triathlon was Atkinson’s life for twenty years, he’s excited to find fulfilment in the new arena of adventure sport. “Triathlon was my income and my life, but it was never my hobby,” Atkinson told Trizone, “that said though, triathlon made me. It was a massive part of my life, and now I really want to do road marathon. It’s something I’ve never done.”
Atkinson has chosen a unique road after pro triathlon, and his adventures are worth following for any athlete looking for an extra edge.
Mitch Robins Road Trip To South Australia To Race Murray Man Triathlon
When Steve Stubbs of XcelSports invited me to country South Australia to compete in the Murray Man triathlon I was thrilled. At first I was just super excited at the idea of supporting a local race, and then I heard my friend Anthony Newman (Newmo) was heading to Murray Man to try and secure a spot in the Australian Age Group Team, so I knew I had to go.
Part one: The journey begins
Newmo and I decided to drive down together, from Sydney to Bermera to see some parts of the country we’d never seen, hang out together, have a good time and of course, compete in Murray Man.
Day 1: Wednesday 2nd November
If you’ve seen that video on the internet lately of the bloke getting swooped by a magpie 16 times, that’s Newmo. For those that haven’t seen it, here’s the video – it’s good for a laugh.
I think it clocked up about 18k views on his Instagram page and was freely shared around the web by friends and people who found it funny (it is). Although he posted the clip about two weeks prior, his phone started ringing off the hook on Wednesday from news outlets across Australia and abroad, wanting to get a story or an interview with Newmo. Funnily enough, he went live on 7news Sydney that night, and did a live cross with The Today Show with King Karl Stefanovic and Lisa on Wednesday morning. If you haven’t seen the interview, go and watch it. He got a good giggle out of Karl (and me) when he said
“I’ve been smashed by a few birds in me time.”
But enough about magpies, back to the journey. We didn’t have a plan; we just wanted to explore and have a good time. We were scheduled to leave on Wednesday, which would give us three days and only about 400kms of driving per day, leaving us enough time to do some training on the road and check out anything we fancied. But! Since Newmo was now a social media sensation and had to do interviews, we had to postpone our departure a day.
Day 2: Thursday 3rd November
After Newmo’s 8am interview on Wednesday, we packed the car and headed out of Sydney. The only commitments we’d planned were to get to the Berri Hotel by Friday. We were staring down the barrel of a pretty huge 1165km drive.
First stop was Yass for a coffee and mandatory photo blocking the ‘Y’ on the sign coming into town. I found this funnier than I should, although finding dumb stuff funny is nothing new for me. Newmo’s always up for a laugh too, so by the time we were finished taking 100 photos with different poses and various layers of clothing removed we were crying laughing.
After Yass we rolled into the metropolis of Gundagai, 370km southwest of Sydney. The local swimming pool had just opened for summer and the lovely woman at the pool told us it was 21 degrees (it was actually about four degrees). Ready for some training, we hopped in. I got through 400m before I was shaking with cold. To stay warm, I tried doing dive start max 50m sprints, jumping out at the end and running back to the start to dive in again. But I got into trouble for running on the pool deck so I gave up after 3x50m sprints. At least I got in a little 550m swim set. Newmo was still carrying his winter coat so he made it to 1000m before the pool started getting so cold it felt like ice cubes might form at any moment, so we headed back on the road.
Another 164 km in the car lead us to the the fly capital of NSW, Narrandera. I’ve honestly never seen so many flies in my life. The Fig Tree Hotel was home for the night, but we decided to drag ourselves out for an hour run to see the town and stretch our legs. Through the thick haze of flies, the running was actually really nice as we found a trail running along the Bundidgerry creek. Newmo was running like the tin man after six hours in the car, but it was nice to get outside after a long day of driving.
- 534km driving
- 4500 dead bugs on the windscreen
- 1.4million flies
- 12km running
- 550m swimming
- 2 coffees
- a lot of laughs
Day 3: Friday 4th November
We left sunny Narrandera at 7:30am and headed for Darlington Point. I had planned a bike ride from here to Griffith, but I had no idea how much road rage the drivers along this road have against cyclists. I’ll never understand why some drivers still feel the need to go out of their way to abuse bike riders going in the opposite direction of them and having absolutely no interference with their driving. Maybe I’d be that angry too if had to deal with that many flies everyday. Anyway, the riding was quite enjoyable although I felt the effects of sitting on my glutes for the past eight hrs as the muscles in my legs failed to fire.
Back in the car and on towards the town of Hay on the Murrumbidgee river, we stopped off for a coffee. I think the bug count on the windscreen was up to around 10,000. We decided not to clean the windscreen for the entire drive to see what it would look like by the end. Brilliant idea right?
Two guys one car
Fuelled up on coffee, we continued driving west to the tunes of “Who Can it Be Now” by Men At Work and “Meet me Halfway” by the Black Eyes Peas. I reckon between us, we didn’t hit one note right the whole time. I actually got a text from one of my friends asking me to stop uploading Instagram stories of me singing. A fair call but sorry, not gonna happen mate!
Somewhere close to the middle of nowhere we spotted a group of Emus right by the road. Newmo slammed on the brakes and chased them through the desert before one of them turned around and started chasing him. He broke his Adidas sandals and almost pulled a hammy in the retreat. It was the best thing I’d ever seen, I was crying laughing.
Mildura was the next stop, located just across the border into Victoria and only about 80km from the South Australian border. We sampled some of the local Thai cuisine (It actually wasn’t too bad, who knew!) Then we enjoyed the endless nothingness, a commodity that’s plentiful in Mildura.
An hour later at the South Australian Border, Newmo was taking a photo of me at the Welcome to South Australia sign when a border official, or some sort of cop in a car with flashing lights, gave me an absolute earful for ‘being a hooligan,’ Welcome to South Australia!
We arrived at the Berri Hotel about 9pm that night, the legs were feeling pretty stiff after two days of 15 hours of driving. It was definitely worth it though, as I got to spend some quality time with my mate, and since we both work away most of the time, that was pretty special.
- 631km driving
- 74km cycling
- 17,000 dead bugs on windscreen
- 34 emus
- 1 x Australia’s angriest truck driver
- 1 x road train
- 2 coffees
Part 2: Murray Man Triathlon
My mindset was out of whack
Hindsight is always 20/20 right? Upon reflection I was in no shape (mostly mentally) to race. I should have listened to my gut earlier but I was looking forward to catching up with my mate and supporting a regional event in South Australia, the only Australian state I hadn’t been to before, so I entered the race anyway.
I was optimistic about my form. I hadn’t been breaking any records lately and I’d only been doing about 15 hours of training per week. This amount of training doesn’t help me improve, but it does help me enjoy my fitness and workouts without getting too wrecked. I had a niggling feeling that I hadn’t given myself enough of a break after Ironman 70.3 World Championships, and my head just wasn’t up for racing.
Remembering IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships
I’d put a huge amount of focus on the Ironman 70.3 World Championships. I’d had a specific eight week training plan, and it took a lot of mental effort; both the training and the event. For those who don’t know, I actually had a pretty decent race. I was in the front group in the swim, and sat towards the back of the main group on the bike until about 70km, where a positioning error cost me my chance at fulfilling my potential on the day. I was sitting last wheel in a group of about 20 guys when we went past a penalty tent.
The four guys in front of me pulled up at the tent, leaving a gap of about 50-100m between me and the rest of the field. I panicked and went full gas to get across the gap on a really tough part of the course and when I got there, I just exploded. Between that point and T2, I lost just over five minutes to the leaders. I ran a solid half marathon, picking up a couple of guys but not making any time on the leaders (actually losing time to some). 1:13++ is nothing to be ashamed about but the truth was I knew I wasn’t in the real race anymore and that was hard to swallow at the time. I finished in 17th place in 3:53, but was totally devastated with the outcome.
I actually won Challenge Vietnam seven days after the Ironman 70.3 World Championships, but I was mentally burnt to a crisp. You’ll see why I’m telling you about 70.3 World Championships when we get to the Murray Man race.
The day before Murray Man triathlon
Now back to Murray Man. The Saturday before race day, I did my usual pre-race preparation. Usually this involves a bike ride on the course (if possible), a swim in my wetsuit or speed suit depending on what I’ll use on race day, and an easy jog in the evening. To be honest, after all the driving I was feeling pretty ordinary and super unmotivated, but I persisted with my routine anyway.
That night there was a great turnout for dinner at the Berri Hotel, the title sponsor of the race. A big thanks to the Adelaide Triathlon Club and all the crew who were so welcoming on the night. I was honoured to have a chat on the mic with everyone about some of my experiences throughout my career, good and bad.
Murray Man – race day
On race day, I started the swim and after about ten strokes, I knew it wasn’t happening. Not physically but mentally. It’s amazing to experience the power of the mind, for better or for worse in these situations. I (just) made it through the 1.9km swim, coming out miles behind, and jumped on my bike, but 20km later I was back at the car getting changed and feeling pretty sh**ty.
A DNF turns into a great day on the microphone
Instead of racing, I spent the morning on the microphone with Pete Nolan, sharing some of my limited knowledge and ‘harassing’ those athletes I knew with some cheeky remarks. I actually had a really good time chatting and playing a positive role in the event. In hindsight, I should have done a teams event or maybe the short distance event, but oh well, I had a good time anyway.
Newmo has a great race
Newmo had a great day out, knocking 19 minutes off his best time, coming in at 4:54. He was over the moon and so was I, because he spends most of his time working in the mines and barely gets any time to train. I was really proud as he must have listened to some of the tips I gave him in the car on the way there. He even said they really helped him in some areas. I love seeing people achieve their goals and be happy. His success was just what I needed after I’d had such a crappy race.
Murray Man – a quality triathlon
At the end of the day, I’m glad I made the trip to be a part of this fast growing event. Steve and his team at XcelSports should be commended for putting on a quality event for South Australian athletes that’s safe and relaxed, yet challenging and well thought out. Barmera is a top spot for a triathlon and well worth the effort to get there. Plus! I had a great time with Newmo on the road. I’d definitely recommend Murray Man to anyone keen on doing a brilliant country triathlon next year.
Kangaroo Island Sufferfest Multisport Festival & Iron Distance Triathlon
Event People is excited have announced the Kangaroo Island Sufferfest Multisport Festival including Australia’s newest Iron Distance Race (3.8km Swim, 180km Cycle and 42.2km Run)
For the very first time, we are offering a unique event in multisport racing in Australia – the location is the 2016 South Australia’s tourism award winning Kangaroo Island! Athletes of all ages and all abilities will have the chance to race on one of the most scenic and fastest courses in the world.
IronFest – 3.8km Swim/180km Bike/42.2km Run
Half IronFest – 1.9km Swim/90km Bike/21.1km Run
OlyFest – 1.5km Swim/40km Bike/10km Run
SprintFest – 500m Swim/20km Bike/5km Run
EnticerFest – 150m Swim/10km Bike/2.5km Run
KidsFest – 75m Swim/5km Bike/1km Run
5km and 10km Fun run
600m and 1.2km Swim
Swim/Run Event done in Pairs over 10km
The event is now on sale with limited numbers per event.
Sufferfest Triathlon Series
In just over two years the Sufferfest Triathlon Series has grown from our first event in Mt Martha Victoria in 2015 to include nine races across Australia in 2017. We have 3 Events in Western Australia including – Albany, Rottnest Island and Cottesloe. Kangaroo Island will make 2 events in South Australia with the other event being held in Murray Bridge. We also 4 races in Victoria which includes Mt Martha, Martha Cove, Nagambie and Warrnambool.
Each event has a range of triathlon distances for all abilities and all ages including:
IronFest, Half IronFest, OlyFest, SprintFest, EnticerFest, and KidsFest
About Kangaroo Island
Think of an island with 509km of Coastline & 155km from the East Coast to the West Coast. With native bushland, abundant wildlife, adventure & exploring. Where pristine beaches, local wines, seasonal produce & stunning sunsets are on your doorstep. You’ll need longer than you think!
Kangaroo Island lies off the mainland of South Australia, southwest of Adelaide. Over a third of the island is protected in nature reserves, home to wildlife like sea lions, koalas, kangaroos and diverse bird species. In the west, Flinders Chase National Park is known for seal colonies and striking coastal rock formations, like the sculpted Remarkable Rocks and the stalactite-covered Admirals Arch. Visitors come from all over the world to experience Kangaroo Island.
Tourism Kangaroo Island is enthusiastic about the triathlon and looks forward to the potential benefits flowing from the event. The Chairman of Tourism Kangaroo Island, Pierre Gregor said, “I see the triathlon as an opportunity to further enhance the profile of Kangaroo Island as a destination and in particular to strengthen its calendar of events. It is an exciting opportunity and we look forward to supporting the advent of the inaugural triathlon in November 2017 and its subsequent conduct in future years”.
About Event People
Event People have now been involved in all sides of multisport for over 15 years, including event management, retail and distribution, coaching, competing, and sponsorship.
Scott Hollow (General Manager at Events People) commented on the future,
“We have conducted extensive research and determined what we think the multisport athlete in the future is looking for including new locations, new experiences for the athlete and their families and reintroducing old race formats but in a more exciting way. Kangaroo Island Sufferfest won’t be just a race, but a destination race for athletes and their families to enjoy not just a great course but one of Australia’s great holidays location.”
Mitch Robins takes the long way to Murray Man
Mitch Robins talks about his outlook on life, how he overcame injury and his mission to turn around stereotypes about triathletes as well as his preparation for the upcoming Murray Man Triathlon.
“It’s like an adventure with your bike” says Mitch Robins. “It’s not just about the race. It’s about what you eat, what you do to prepare, what you get to see. It’s a racing adventure!”
Mitch Robins is about to pack up his car and drive for three days from New South Wales to Berri, the site of the Murray Man Triathlon. It’s not all about the race, though, for Mitch – far from it. It’s about blending his sport with having a good time, going on an adventure and meeting interesting people along the way.
“People think triathletes are all the same kind of people, like we’re all boring. But we’re not,” Mitch says brightly from his home in NSW. “Everyone just assumes they know what I’m like. They say ‘oh you don’t drink right?’ and ‘so you don’t eat Maccas,’ when I’m not like that.” Determined to turn around the boring stereotype of the narrow-focused athlete, Mitch Robins is embarking on a mission to enjoy the journey, not just win the race.
“You can have a really high performance element in the same breath as fun and adventure,” says Mitch. And he should know. This adventure to South Australia’s Murray man race isn’t his first time blending sport with discovery.
Mitch Robins – Adventure Triathlete
Throughout the past three years, Mitch Robins has raced throughout Asia, splitting his time between Asia and Australia. He does it to discover new places, to learn new things and meet new people, leaving a legacy wherever he goes.
“The locals in some of these places really have nothing,” he says. “You can give them your time and encouragement, and their kids get so excited to meet you and see what you’re doing. I make friends and immerse myself in the local culture.”
Mitch’s easy-going chatter and laid back outlook is surprising for such a successful athlete. But it’s also the secret to his success in Asia and Australia, as he’s happy to deal with whatever’s thrown at him. This attitude is lucky since the last few years have certainly thrown a lot at him.
Perspective through injury
“It smacks you in the face, really,” Mitch says earnestly. “You have to decide; do I want to keep doing this? Where will I go next?” The Aussie is chatting about his brush with a serious foot injury in 2012. The keen triathlete with immense natural talent and tons of enthusiasm turned his back on competition from April 2012 until November 2014. During this time he achieved other goals; he finished his university degree and started working as a casual teacher.
Then one day in November 2014, the racing bug came back. “I felt like I had something left to prove to myself,” he adds. “It was very clear I had to get better and have another crack.”
In a spectacular comeback, Mitch braved the Challenge Foster race and won, with a solid minute gap between himself and second place. “All that self doubt just fades away when you get a result like that,” he says.
Mitch Robins version 2.0 is how the athlete nicknamed himself since his injury in November 2014, and version 2.0 is completely different. “I discovered I couldn’t rely on natural talent anymore,” he says. “I was always good a sport, but I had to work everyday to manage my injury and stay fit and healthy.”
An injury that creates a significant setback gives an athlete a unique perspective and Mitch Robins is no different. “That’s why I keep enjoying it so much these days,” he explains. “If I hadn’t had such a setback, I might have given it all up. I wouldn’t have appreciated it like I do now since the injury.”
Murray Man Looms on 6th November
Stronger than ever and with the drive to enjoy every minute of the journey, Mitch is gearing up for the full Murray Man race; 1.9km swim, 90km bike, 21.1km run. He’s a top contender for the win and his mindset may just be what keeps him achieving great results.
“There’s more to triathlon than just the race, there’s so much cool stuff to explore and amazing people to meet,” Mitch says eagerly. “So many people travel with sport and just pass through a place. They miss it all! I don’t want to look back and realise I missed so much of the good stuff.”
#FollowMitch to meet outback legends and discover the triathlon adventure
Mitch will be taking over the Trizone Twitter account from the 26th, so if you want to see the amazing fun, laughs and weird and wonderful people he meets along the way, simply check in with these hashtags; #tzadventure and #followmitch. You’ll have tons of laughs as you follow Aussie Mitch Robins on his triathlon adventures.
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