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Matt Dixon – The Purple Patch Story

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Coaching at the track at the Purple Patch annual winter Hawaii Training Camp

Matt Dixon is one of the world’s best triathlon coaches, and his squad is only growing. Despite a unique approach, Dixon’s philosophy behind his squad Purple Patch is working. Trizone caught up with Dixon to uncover this sport-changing philosophy.

Matt Dixon didn’t follow his philosophy in his own journey as an athlete, which in itself provided plenty of lessons to him as a coach. “I grew up on the East side of London, in Essex,” Matt told Trizone. “It comes with its reputation, similar to New Jersey’s Jersey Shore,” laughed Dixon.

Learning to swim early starts career

The youngest of three brothers, Dixon grew up being competitive with his siblings who were also athletes. “You get lessons thrown at you without realising,” said Dixon. Matt’s Mum was a ‘learn to swim’ coach who taught Dixon to learn to swim very early in life. “I grew up in the water,” said Matt, “by the time I was twelve, I was going to the national championships for swimming.”

Like so many other young athletes though, when Matt Dixon was a young teenager, he lost interest in elite sport and became more interested in going out with friends. “I didn’t really do anything much, I just played a bit of soccer,” said Matt.

By sixteen though, Matt decided he wasn’t quite finished with swimming. “I got back to swimming but was on a skeleton program relative to my future collegiate program. But I ended up qualifying for the Olympic trials, and getting to the finals at the trials in 1992,” said Matt. Without realising it, Dixon had just experienced the essential elements of the Purple Patch philosophy that he’d come to develop.

Dixon was offered a swimming scholarship in the United States, and since then he’s never looked back. “The opportunity was amazing,” said Matt, “to go to America and have four years of University paid for and to be in in a team environment was amazing. I’d never been to the US before, and I ended up at the University of Cincinnati to study exercise physiology,” said Dixon.

University swim training sparks race career

“At University, I set the goal of going to the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996,” said Dixon. Here the famous coached paused, almost as though the story he was about to tell was life-changing, which it turned out to be. “Our swimming training was huge volumes, around 24-26 hours of swimming each week. That’s about 80-100 thousand yards a week, all to get ready for an event that was four minutes in duration,” said Dixon.

While Matt Dixon was working insanely hard to qualify for the Olympics, the huge mileage was working against him. “I brought a world-class attitude to training,” said Matt, “but the outcome wasn’t world class. I didn’t make the Olympic team in 1996, but I did get a university education with no debt,” smiled Dixon.

After swimming throughout his undergraduate degree, Dixon turned to coaching. “I had a few years coaching swimming then went back to get my Masters in Exercise Physiology,” said Matt. “I got to coach on a great age-group swimming program, then a division one University swimming program.”

Dixon discovers triathlon

During his Masters degree, Dixon discovered triathlon. “I thought I’d give it a go and I did well,” said Dixon, “People said ‘go and give it a crack as a pro,’ and I did, although, in reflection, I am a great example of how to set up a professional career poorly” added Dixon.

After his experience of training for the Olympics, Dixon decided to succeed in Ironman he’d need to increase his mileage even more.

“I thought, if I was training for 26 hours for a four minute event, then I’d need huge volumes to train for a long event like triathlon.”

Without a running background, Matt decided he’d need to run really really long distances to get into shape. “I’m lucky to be pretty injury resistant, but it was almost a curse because I never got injured, I just destroyed my system,” said Dixon. “Despite my education in physiology, I replicated my mistakes and trained myself into the ground.”

Extreme burnout threatens Dixon’s athletic abilities

Three years into his pro triathlon career, Dixon started coaching other triathletes. “I realised ‘what I’m doing is stupid,’ and I ended up with some form of chronic fatigue,” remembered Dixon.

“It was physical, emotional and mental burn out. Just complete burn out.”

“I couldn’t exercise for around 18 months, it was very serious burnout,” said Matt. “Systematically I was not functioning well. It was the best thing that could have happened to me in hindsight. I was coaching then, but it forced me to take a step back,” said Matt. “It ended my triathlon career and I was at a crossroad.”

The time off helped Matt look at triathlon objectively, from afar.

“I looked at age groupers and pros, and realised the validation of success was based almost solely on accumulation of training hours.”

Dixon looked back at his own triathlon career and saw his own faults were important aspects of the sport. “I saw almost everyone was doing a lot of things poorly. Anything related to recovery, nutrition or strength and conditioning wasn’t done well,” said Dixon.

“Pros and age groupers were showing up to races fit and fatigued. I always wanted to have athletes be fit and fresh instead.”

It’s this observation that cemented the philosophy of Matt Dixon’s now world-famous Purple Patch triathlon squad. “It was such a dogmatic approach,” said Dixon. “People were taking the approach of pros and watering it down and applying it to amateurs, but ignoring all the other factors in life,” said Dixon.

Participants at Purple Patch Fitness Women Triathlon Training Camp in Marin County, CA. © Vance Jacobs

“Coaches and trainers encouraged poor habits and lacked understanding around fuelling and nutrition. They talked about recovery that never really happened,” said Matt.

Dixon’s philosophy sparks controversy as ‘an easy way out’

“A lot of people really bought into what I was trying to put across, where some others were really put off,” said Dixon.

“Some people thought I was trying to say there was a shortcut to success and that the best path is to always do less, but that’s not it at all.”

Dixon was under fire, but he stuck to the new-found philosophy he’d founded after his own journey in the sport. “I was coaching pros and age groupers and having really good results,” said Dixon.

Pros discover Purple Patch

“I started Purple Patch with some well-known athletes and some not,” said Dixon. “In the early days, one of my amateurs won her age group in Hawaii; she became my first professional Tyler Stewart,” said Matt Dixon. “She went on to become a very successful pro, winning Ironman races while maintaining a day job in San Francisco. That was more than ten years ago,” Dixon told Trizone.

In 2008, Chris Lieto approached Dixon to become a Purple Patch athlete, as his brother Matt was already coached by Purple Patch. “He was already a world-class athlete,” said Dixon, “He asked me ‘why the hell should I be coached by you? I used to beat you every time we raced?’” laughed Matt. With his new-found perspective though, Dixon had the perfect answer.

“That’s exactly why you should be coached by me. I’ve learned from all the mistakes.”

Working with Chris Lieto helped cement Matt Dixon’s new philosophy. “I saw he had the benefits of years of training, but the supportive components of nutrition, fuelling, strength and conditioning and recovery weren’t there,” Dixon told Trizone. “I felt like he was doing way too much for the end of his career.” Dixon’s respect for Lieto is still very apparent even now. “I told him we should be doing things differently and he was amazing. He just jumped in and said ‘yes, let’s do it.’”

Dixon took Lieto’s commitment and made some huge changes. “We radically increased his caloric intake, reduced how often he went hard and reduced his total training hours,” said Dixon. “He ended up really improving as an athlete. He started to be truly able to run off the bike, running a 1:13 off the bike not 1:17,” said Dixon.

In 2009, Lieto finished second at Kona, beaten by well-known Aussie athlete Crowie. “That was a huge moment for me as a coach,” said Dixon, “now ten years later I’m just learning more and more and still trying to work it all out. That was really the start of our now long-standing professional squad,” said Dixon.

Purple Patch isn’t right for everyone

Despite Dixon’s rich history of athlete development, such as Jesse Thomas, Meredith Kessler, Sarah Piampiano, Tim Reed and Sam Appleton, Dixon believes his philosophy isn’t right for every professional athlete. “One of the first things I do when a pro reaches out to me is I make them go and talk to other coaches,” said Dixon. “It’s important the athlete find the right coach for their journey. Too many coaches simply aim to add numbers, but we don’t own the athlete. I want to ensure I am the right coach for each athlete.”

Some of these athletes do choose other coaches, which is what Dixon wants them to do. “Some of them do really well, and that’s great!” said Dixon, “I just want what’s right for them if they weren’t right for Purple Patch.”

“I’m really deliberate about whether I’m going to take on an athlete and help them.”

Dixon likes to assist the journey of a pro

Even though some of his amateur athletes have earned their pro cards, Dixon won’t let them compete in the pros just yet. “Sarah Piampiano had great aspirations,” said Matt, “she was an age grouper and she wanted to be a pro. All the other coaches she interviewed for coaching told her ‘go pro and learn the ropes,’ but I was quite the opposite. I told her if she went pro I wouldn’t coach her, as I didn’t feel she was ready physically or mentally. You can only transition into the pro ranks once, and the timing is really important for long-term development”

Piampiano listened to Dixon, and decided to adopt his long-term approach despite being frustrated with the decision. “She understands the long term, she’s the ultimate ‘Purple Patch’ athlete in a fit way,” said Dixon. “She did two years as an amateur before she went pro but when she did, she was ready to compete and able to grow from within the ranks. This creates the path toward World-Class. Her situation was magnified as it was her swim that was her weakness.”

“I told her it doesn’t matter how good your running is, it can be career-ending and very deflating if there’s tumble weed going across the race course when you get out of the water.”

A windy and cold day of intervals in the Headlands National Park, San Francisco. Laughing was keeping us all warm.

Another impressive athlete, Meredith Kessler, went through a similar journey with Matt Dixon. “For one and a half years, she raced as an amateur even though she was qualified as a pro,” said Dixon, “when she went pro she could swim, ride and run,” said Dixon.

The admiration Dixon has for his athletes who stick to the Purple Patch plan and work hard through their journey as an amateur is palpable. “Laura Siddall won Ironman Australia this year. She’s had one of the most impressive 2017 of any athlete,” said Dixon. “So many people in her situation would have quit after the mental and physical challenges of her first professional year in the sport. We were trying to get the recipe right,” said Matt.

“She never wondered if she was in the right program. She was confident we’d get the right answer.”

Purple Patch is for everyone

“We’re based in San Francisco, and we offer real squad coaching with cycling, running, swimming and strength on a daily and weekly basis,” said Dixon proudly, “we have a wonderful community here.”

While many of Dixon’s athletes are highly committed professional and amateur triathletes, some of Dixon’s athletes are simply busy working people looking for fitness, while others are trying to get back to activity following suffering chronic fatigue.

“It’s a melting pot of high performance, business and sport,”said Dixon of San Francisco. “That makes for an ego-free environment; everyone is diluted in some way. It’s a really nice culture.”

While Dixon’s Purple Patch coaches people all over the world, Dixon’s approach is far from generic. “When we delivery anything, we never deliver a stock-standard plan,” said Matt, “In support of that, my biggest passion is education and each athlete is different,” said Matt Dixon.

Purple Patch’s Sweet Spot

Dixon is proud to offer a training solution for the very busy athlete; busy people who are trying to integrate triathlon into a really busy life. “It’s for people who want a positive effect on their health, energy at work, and want to bring a better self to their social life and family and friends,” said Matt Dixon.

Rather than asking athletes to work with a pre-designed program and jam it into their already busy lives, Dixon offers a fresh approach. “We offer a distinct philosophical difference.”

Purple Patch has amateur athletes who train as much as they can, which isn’t nearly as much as some, yet they have impressive results. “We have an athlete who became Hawaii World Champion in his age group who never trained more than twelve hours a week,” said Dixon. “He is genetically gifted and has the lungs of an elephant,” laughed Matt, “however, the key takeaway is that if I would have prescribed 16 hours a week, he almost definitely would have failed. He simply had too many other life commitments with his family and being founder and COO of a major tech company. We were optimising the very strict time limits he had available.”

Training CEOs for peak performance

Matt Dixon’s infamous coaching style is beloved by CEOs thanks to his approach. “CEOs are some of the busiest people in the world,” said Dixon.

“The barometer of success for those guys is if they become more successful leaders and if they have more time and energy to bring and enhance critical thinking.”

CEOs want an overall improvement in health, fitness, and performance in all aspects. “The value comes in them becoming a better elite performer in the business world. That’s what they like,” said Dixon.

Purple Patch approaches CEO’s travel the same as pro travel, which helps enhance their performance in the boardroom. “We use the same fuelling habits to make sure their energy levels stay consistent, and that’s just one part of it.”

Why everyday people choose Purple Patch

Plenty of amateurs who train with Dixon are everyday people looking for a competitive path towards wellness. “Sleep and exercise are always the first casualties,” said Dixon. “Then they get over-stressed because they’re not managing all their commitments. Critical thinking is reduced and energy reduces,” said Dixon. “That’s not just me saying that it’s all evidence-based.”

With an iron-clad philosophy, it’s no surprise Matt Dixon has trained some of the world’s most successful triathletes. Check back into Trizone soon to see how you can get your hands on Matt Dixon’s world-class training approach.

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.

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AFL Champ Brent Staker Makes Triathlon Debut at Mooloolaba

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With high profile career with the West Coast Eagles and Brisbane Lions, athletic key position player Brent Staker has experienced the constant physical demands of competition, the resulting injuries and all the highs and lows that cut throat professional sports can deliver. Football was his life and after years of structured training and competition, like many athletes before him, the veteran of 160 AFL games found himself retired far too early and in need of a new sporting outlet.

Retirement is often very frustrating for elite sportspeople and increasingly, elite athletes from all codes and sports are finding their way to the new sporting challenge of swim/ride/run. On Sunday (11 March) Brent is making his triathlon debut and taking the plunge, joining the more than 3,000 athletes competing at the iconic Mooloolaba Triathlon, racing over the standard distance of 1500m swim/40km ride/10km run.

“This is my first triathlon, my very first one. My plan was to try and squeeze in a few smaller ones in the lead up but unfortunately with work commitments and other things in life getting in the way and I couldn’t get it to work out. I am the assistant coach for the Brisbane Lions women’s team in the AFLW so there is a commitment there and I didn’t have enough time to have the practice run. So this event will be my very first triathlon.”

“I dedicated myself to playing football for 13 years and didn’t really explore any other sports in that time. But I always knew that when I retired I would give something like this a go. Last year I transitioned out of footy and I got to the end of the year and made the commitment to apply myself and have a crack at triathlon. I thought Mooloolaba would be a great one to start with.”

“When you are playing professional sport you get so used to a schedule week in week out that when you do retire you do miss it and sometimes get a bit lost. Although it is not 100 per cent necessary in your life, having a schedule or a fitness regime is great. I developed my own training program and have stuck to it since early December. When you are retired you can sit around and do nothing so it has kept my mind active and all the exercise helps get rid of the negative energy. Staying active it keeps your mind fresh and keeps you positive and gives you a goal. This is my goal to tick off the Mooloolaba Tri and I am working towards that.”

“I have always had a keen interest in triathlon because I like the sport. It is a great challenge. I went to the Accenture Series races many years ago and I watched Courtney Atkinson competing over in Perth and just enjoyed the whole spectacle, the hype and the build up around it. I have watched the Noosa Triathlon, having a few beers in the stands, seeing how hard the competitors work. So there has always been a genuine interest and I have always enjoyed watching it on TV and at the Olympics. It has always been in the back of my mind to have a go at it one day and do it for fun and see what I can get out of it.”

At 196cm and weighing around 100kg, Brent is not the regular build of a triathlete but during his time with the Eagles and the Lions he exhibited amazing athleticism and endurance and he is hoping his big motor and determination will get him across the finish line.

“I have always been an okay swimmer so maybe that was a bit of a fluke. I am good in the pool but putting that into the ocean is going to be the biggest challenge for me. I haven’t done that much open water swimming so my depth perception with the goggles on might throw me a little bit, and obviously adjusting to the waves will be a challenge. I can swim, I am just hoping for a pretty flat day.”

“During my football career I had a couple of knee reconstructions and my rehab involved getting a road bike and I had plenty of time spent out on the bike during what turned to be two years of rehabilitation. I learned the road etiquette, how to ride and enjoy the challenge of that. Cycling is a really good sport and I know sometimes riders get a bad rap but it is a really, really great sport. I really enjoyed it and I have a nice bike that I ride most mornings. So that leg should be okay. I am weighing a bit more than I was when I was playing and that might go against me a bit but the running should be okay.”

Brent has found the transition from being a part of team structure to an individual sport quite challenging but he is slowly coming to terms with the demands of competing for himself.

“It has been different not having a team structure around me. The main thing with a team sport is that when you are hurting you can rely on someone to talk to or push you through. But 95 per cent of my sessions have been done on my own so when I am starting to hurt I am really challenging myself to get through it. That has been a huge change. Especially with sticking to the routine and getting out of bed at 4.30am three or four mornings a week. Doing a ride, doing a swim, fitting in a run and a few strength sessions as well. A lot of kudos goes out to the individual athletes out there that have done it for a long period of time. It is amazing how they stick at it and stay strong.”

“I can already see why people get addicted to it. It keeps you sticking to a routine and it is a great way to meet other people and socialize. All those things are great but clearly there is also an addiction to the challenge and the heat of the moment when your mind is saying no and the body keeps going. That is the challenge that I am looking forward to experiencing and seeing how I push through that. Hopefully I will come out the other side feeling pretty good.

As the forward coach at the Brisbane Lions AFLW team and doing radio commentary in Brisbane and the Gold Coast during the AFL season, Brent still has an active role in football but he is hoping triathlon will become his next passion.

“I do miss the footy. I miss the physicality and the highs and lows. One of the best things you can do is run out on game day, through the banner and hearing the crowd. That is something I really miss and is something you can’t replace. It is such a unique thing that is hard to describe what it is like in those moments. I don’t think I will ever be able to describe it perfectly but it is a real buzz being out there. I do miss it. I have sort of been visualizing what the triathlon will be like, as silly as that sounds. The swim, the bike or the run and pushing through the pain but I hadn’t taken into account the crowd and how much their support might help. Hopefully they can give me a lift,” Brent said.

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Pre Wedding Nerves? Mooloolaba Triathlon Perfect Solution

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When Kristy Dobson and fiancé Jordan Miller, line up for the Mooloolaba Triathlon (11 March) there will be ‘no quarter given and no quarter asked’ and not too much loving or cherishing, as they strive to get to the finish line first.

Six days later the happy Mackay couple will be putting all their on course rivalry aside when they take their wedding vows (with a triathlon exemption) and from that day forward, it will be for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.

Kristy and Jordan met at work dinner six years ago but it is only more recently that they have shared their love of triathlon.

“I started triathlons about two and a half years years ago, when I completed a six week training program to compete in a Women’s Only Triathlon (200m swim, 8km bike, 2km run) in Mackay. I was very hesitant to sign up for the program, but needed something aside from work, as I was doing nothing else and unfit.”

“My partner, Jordan, who had done triathlons all through high school and even in recent years, convinced me to sign up for the program. I finished the Women’s Only Race, and surprised myself at how much I enjoyed it and the love has grown from there.”

Like many athletes before her, Kristy’s passion for triathlon has taken over and gradually the race distances have creeped up.

“We do a few big races each year and last year I completed my first IRONMAN 70.3 in Cairns, we also did the Olympic distance races at Yeppoon, Mackay and Noosa.”

“We have done Noosa now for the past two years and this year I wanted to try a different race and Mooloolaba worked out to be the week prior to our wedding. We figured we would be down that way for the wedding, so why not just extend our leave a little, and do Mooloolaba Triathlon while we were there.”

“The wedding is in Toowoomba the Saturday following the Mooloolaba Triathlon in my parent’s backyard, with the reception to follow there as well with a 100 of our nearest and dearest. There is no honeymoon immediately afterwards, but we are taking a week to relax before travelling home from Mooloolaba to Mackay.”

Kristy and Jordan are all fired up for a fun day out but given their normal preparation has been overtaken by wedding plans they are expecting a little bit of hurt from the hills on the ride and run.

“Our preparation is not probably not where we would want to be, Christmas took its toll, and fitting in training between wedding planning and an already busy life has been tough. We’re both keen to have a super fun race, and enjoy the celebrations afterwards.”

“But there is definitely a rivalry between us. At our last race hit out, I beat Jordan by 27 seconds, so it is game on to see who comes out victorious at Mooloolaba,” Kristy said.

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Age No Barrier for Mooloolaba Legends Gale and Ross

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Brisbane couple Gale and Ross Rogers are living proof that the sport of triathlon has something for everyone and it is never too late to get involved, no matter your age or sporting background.

This weekend 68 year old Gale and 70 year old husband Ross are making their annual pilgrimage to Mooloolaba Triathlon (11 March) to build on their “legend” status at this iconic Sunshine Coast event and once again lay it on the line over the standard distance of 1500m swim, 40km bike and 10km run.

Raising a family on the Gold Coast hinterland didn’t give them much time for “sporty stuff” but later moving back to Brisbane they began a search for a pastime they could do together in retirement. They tinkered with road cycling for a short time but it was a chance meeting with an old school colleague at Noosa that kick started the couple’s love affair with triathlon that has now lasted two decades.

“The year before we started triathlon I accidently ran into an old school colleague at Noosa and he was a little bit weight challenged,” Ross said. “I thought, well, if he can do triathlon, we can do it,”

The couple’s first foray into triathlon was in a team but they quickly graduated in the entry level events, very popular in South East Queensland, before beginning their love affair with both the Mooloolaba and Noosa triathlons. Having competed in the individual triathlon more than ten years, Gale and Ross are now members of the Mooloolaba Triathlon Legends Club and they can’t wait to get back racing on the Sunshine Coast.

“Ross started doing triathlon as a team when he was around fifty. I had one go in a team in Noosa and found it so stressful that I thought I would be better off doing it on my own. That was twenty years ago and we have been doing it ever since. We used to do a lot of the smaller Bribie Tri Series and the smaller sprint distance ones but for the last number of years we have just focused purely on Mooloolaba and Noosa and loved doing those two events.”

“Once we started racing at Mooloolaba and Noosa we haven’t stopped. We love the buzz from being at the events with a whole lot of likeminded and fit people. The races are in such beautiful locations and we have never done an Olympic distance anywhere else, these races are so well run, you can’t fault them.”

“Being legends is just an extra little icing on the cake and there are a lot of bragging rights in that. We have missed a couple, so this will be my 13th Mooloolaba but we haven’t missed too many Noosa Tris. We often are overseas cycling in Europe but we try to make sure we are back in time for six weeks preparation for Noosa,” Gale said.

Married for 47 years, Gale and Ross love the opportunity to get out together every day in the superb training environment of Brisbane’s CBD.

“We cycle together with a group every day but none of them are triathletes. We live in an apartment building with an indoor 25 metre pool so we swim there. Living in the City of Brisbane we run over to South Bank or down along the river to New Farm which is very pleasant training environment. It is not a hardship running along there in the morning.”

“Ross turned 70 just recently and I am 68, while there are a lot of older men competing, we haven’t come across many couples racing at our age. It is such a buzz doing the training and getting motivated to do something every day and then there is the satisfaction of actually completing an Olympic distance race at our age. It keeps us going.”

Their preparation for Mooloolaba is on track and Gale is looking forward to bettering her time from last year.

“As I say to anyone who cares to listen that it is an advantage being older and female, because there are fewer competitors in my age group. There are no 70 year old women competing in Mooloolaba but there are seven in my age group. Whereas the males just keep going on and on and they don’t give it away. So it is a bit tougher for Ross.”

“My times are quite constant, in fact I improved my time in Noosa last year and did the best time I have done in ages and was pleasantly surprised. Training has been going well for Mooloolaba but that course is a bit more challenging with the hill on the run. But you just put your head down and do it. The real satisfaction is crossing the finish line but I have checked out my previous Mooloolaba times so I will keep them in mind this year. But you never know on the day,” she said.

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Wilson Family Embraces the Challenge at Mooloolaba Triathlon

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Angus Wilson, wife Sandie and grown up ‘kids’ Bianca, Callum and Dodie from “Nungwai” a farming property, up Goondiwindi way, are the perfect example of a family that plays together, stays together.

This weekend the entire Wilson clan is hitting the road and looking for a change of scenery, making the 1,000km round trip to the Sunshine Coast for some swim/ride/run and family fun at the Mooloolaba Triathlon Festival (9-11 March).

If you hail from Goondiwindi it is hard not to be involved in triathlon, as the iconic border town on the Macintyre River is heavily into its multisport and the home of the iconic long course event the Hell of the West.

The Wilson’s involvement in triathlon goes back to 2004 when parents Angus and Sandie first joined with the Goodiwindi Triathlon Club and since then the sport has become an integral part of their family life.

“Sandie and I have always enjoyed sport, being fit, along with socializing in the community, so when triathlons started up in Goondiwindi this seemed a logical activity to get involved in.”

“We have always been an athletic family, participating in rugby, rowing, touch, squash, water skiing, snow-skiing and many more sports and we have been doing mini-tris (300m swim, 12km ride and 2.5 km run) in town on Sunday mornings since the club’s beginning.”

“Callum, Bianca and Dodie started participating in these mini-tris when they were home for school holidays. Since being out of school, Bianca has done a couple of Olympic distance triathlons, Callum a single one, however Mooloolaba is Dodie’s first time over this distance.”

“The family has also been involved with Goondiwindi’s Hell of the West for several years, volunteering as well as competing. This year Bianca completed the individual, while Dodie did the swim, and Sandie, Callum and myself completed the bike leg.”

“Sandie and I are usually compete in local triathlon events, including ‘Torture on the Border’ at Texas, ‘Battle on the Balonne’ in St George, and this year we are heading to the coast for the Coffs Harbour and of course to the Mooloolaba triathlon.”

“This year we are motivated to do Mooloolaba Triathlon to maintain fitness, enjoy the family challenge, and for the kids to embrace a friendly rivalry. We are driven to be a close knit family after our daughter Paris was killed in a boating accident in 2011. Triathlons have encouraged us to develop strength and perseverance, not only physically, but emotionally,” Angus said.

The family has always done pool swims, group rides and park runs together when they are all home but with the ‘kids’ all grown up and with lives of their own, group training is not always easy to co-ordinate as it once was.

The Mooloolaba Triathlon is a definite family favourite with Sandie and Angus having participated in either individual or team for the past eight years, Bianca and Callum competing six times, and Dodie three times.

“Dodie has returned to university to complete her studies, Callum works away on our farm, and Bianca is a full-time teacher coordinating sport at her school and because we have many other commitments, the training for Mooloolaba has not been as consistent as we would have liked.”

“Sandie and I are certainly not competitive, just to finish an Olympic distance triathlon is our triumph. But despite the restrictions to training, Callum and Bianca have been training hard individually, to be the ’better’ sibling. As the older brother, Callum would like to think he can beat his sister, but ‘Times’ will tell,” Angus said.

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Alf Is an Inspiration at 77 Years Young

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The Gold Coast is home to some outstanding triathletes but none more inspiring than 77-year-old rookie Alf Lakin who is all fired up to do his thing at the Gold Coast Triathlon – Luke Harrop Memorial on 25 February.

Alf lives and breathes triathlon and 2018 is a very special year for him as a competitor and a spectator with three world-class events – Gold Coast Triathlon Luke Harrop Memorial, the Commonwealth Games triathlon (April) and ITU Grand Final (September) literally on his doorstep.

Alf was a typical kid growing up in post-war Sydney, he was firmly indoctrinated into the world of Rugby League, playing for his school De La Salle Ashfield, doing a bit of inter-club running in the offseason and using his bike to get around on.

His passion for running saw him tinker in the world ‘professional’ handicap racing for many years before he joined the Master’s Athletics ranks in 1980 at age 40. Then 22 years ago, Alf made a life-changing decision to move to the Gold Coast.

“My wife Karen and I literally met on the track. When I got up here I formed the Gold Coast Masters Athletic Club and she just rang up one day. So I met her down the track and that was it. It was October 1998 and she got me hook, line and sinker.”

Alf was a hardcore runner and competed in Master’s Athletics for 35 years and then two years ago, at the age of 75, he had a sporting epiphany.

“I was down at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre and they opened up a gym so we went down there the first day and there was a lady called Julie Hall and she was talking about triathlon and running a tri-class there. I said, ‘I am going to try this’.”

“I was just sitting on a stationary bike and swimming in a pool so how could it be embarrassing? I had no swimming whatsoever and Julie said all dive into the water and I had to stop halfway up the pool. I just couldn’t do it. I hadn’t been on a bike for 60 years so that was a bit strange. But I went two to three times a week and thought ‘This is not bad’. From there I couldn’t get enough of it.”

Bitten by the triathlon bug Alf decided to train for his first triathlon, a race in Robina in September 2015 and it was a day that changed his life.

“I remember my first triathlon. My wife was screaming at me, ‘Hey you have gone past your bike’. So I had to go back and get my bike. Karen is always there and so supportive.”

Since then Alf has medalled in two Australian titles, won a few age group races and represented Australia at two triathlon world championships, Cozumel in 2016 and Rotterdam in 2017, and has qualified for the ITU Grand Final on the Gold Coast in September.

“When I got to Cozumel walking around and seeing all these triathletes was fantastic. It was a wonderful atmosphere and Rotterdam was the same. Unfortunately, I got an arthritic problem a day before the race in Holland and I was advised not to race and make it worse. It was just one of those things because I was back into training soon after I returned. We think it was the long flight and the change of weather.”

Alf is a member of the very supportive T-Rex Triathlon Club but he said he mostly trains by himself and sets his own program.

“Some days I do two exercise sessions, morning and afternoon. Other days it is one session and I always have one day a week off. I try and do my longer stuff on the weekend rather than during the week. It is just a matter of planning. I love the sport, I love getting up and getting ready to train. If it is raining it won’t stop me.”

Alf has his triathlon and Karen is an active Masters runner and both are determined to not let the grass grow under their feet.

“People say to me that it is too late but I always say to them that too late is when you are dead. You might as well make the most of it while you are still going. I might be slow but I get there and at 77 what else would I want to do?”

“I love it when the young ones come flying past me on the bike “whoosh” and they are gone. I don’t care, I am happy with what I am doing and if I am only doing 25kmh and they are doing 60kmh good luck to them. I am not a legend, I just enjoy what I do and if I can inspire just a few people to get out there and do something I think that is great.”

After the ITU Grand Final, Alf is hoping to step up his distance and make his IRONMAN 70.3 debut at Western Sydney in November.

“If my training goes alright, I will see how I am going around July or August. My tri club mates tried to talk me out of it and that is the worst thing that could do. My doctor’s attitude is if you train hard enough you are good enough,” he said.

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Vanessa Vacirca To Prove Anything Is Possible at Ironman 70.3 Geelong

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Since leaving high school Melbourne’s Vanessa Vacirca has been on a roller coaster ride with her health, lifestyle and weight and four years ago at 123 kg felt like anything but a triathlete. When Vanessa lines up at IRONMAN 70.3 Geelong on 18 February, she will be one step closer to her ultimate goal of racing a full IRONMAN and proving that ‘Anything is Possible’.

A keen tennis player from the age of four Vanessa was very active until she finished high school but like many, at that age, she got a little sidetracked, chose a different lifestyle and took a long break from sport.

“I went the opposite way from a healthy life, started smoking and went off the rails a little. I realized this life was not making me happy so I decided to try and get fit.  I went to the gym and religiously attended aerobic classes. I quit smoking, I lost some weight and felt great, fit, and happy. Someone mentioned that if I really enjoyed training that I should give triathlons a go. So, in 2003 I did, and I signed up for the BRW Corporate Triathlon.”

“I loved it, so I did a few other short sprint triathlons that season.  During that time, I happened to catch a documentary on TV that was following some Aussies competing in IRONMAN (when it was held in Foster-Tuncurry, NSW). Their stories were all different and so inspiring and I thought, ‘I’d like to do that. I’d like to see how far I can go’.

“Then slowly my priority and desire to train, keep fit and healthy did a complete U-turn. I was still playing some tennis here and there, but as the weight piled on, activity became harder on the body. With small bursts of effort to try and lose weight and regain a healthy lifestyle, it seemed like I’d take one step forward and three steps back. I did this for years until my steps backwards became leaps.”

“Four years ago, I hit my lowest point. I remember thinking to myself that the idea to do an IRONMAN was well and truly gone.  I felt trapped in my body, smothered by 123kg. I didn’t have the energy to even want to get up in the morning, let alone try and train. I was sad, desperate, and needed help. So I decided to look into weight loss surgery. At first, I hated this idea. I felt like a failure like I was taking the easy way out but I didn’t care anymore. I didn’t want to feel the way I did and needed help to be pulled out of the hole I was in.”

Vanessa was desperate to change her life but knew that if she could get over her weight issue, she could do anything.

“I remember trying to decide which type of surgery to have and asking the doctor, ‘What’s the best option for me if I’d like to one day participate in an endurance event?’  This is when that spark of hope came back for me. What if I could lose enough weight to train for an IRONMAN?” Vanessa said.

“From the first day after the surgery, walking around the hospital ward, to my slow walks around my neighbourhood, then a slow jog, a four km fun run, a 10km fun run, sprint triathlons, a half marathon, an Olympic distance triathlon, a marathon, a 70.3 and lots of training in between, competing in Geelong will be another step towards a full IRONMAN.”

“Competing in an event such as IRONMAN 70.3 or the full IRONMAN offers people a chance to regain or cement their belief in themselves, as it has for me. So much inspiration and motivation comes from this. I’d always driven through Geelong on the way to the Surf Coast but never spent time there. When I participated in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, I thought Geelong would be a beautiful place to do an IRONMAN 70.3. And here we are,” she said.

Vanessa’s training is on track and while she is looking forward to a great race, she only has three expectations of herself – to make it to the start line, to get to the finish and improve on her last performance.

“I love the swim because it’s such a challenge for me. It’s so technical and there’s so much to learn. The bike is fun and is my best leg. Running isn’t easy for me, it’s a grind but I love the intimate moments inside my head where I dig deep and find ways to keep going. Every time I run, I find my inner strength. You discover a lot about yourself, and I like that. The finish line represents another milestone in my journey and it will look like a reflection of hard work, pride, and success.”

Vanessa’s family and friends support her in everything she does and they will be in Geelong to see her take her next step on her IRONMAN journey.

“My partner is very supportive given all the hours I spend training. I’m very thankful and grateful for that. My parents are proud and so happy that I’m living a positive and healthy lifestyle after seeing the way I used to be,” she said.

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