You know Luke McKenzie and Beth Gerdes are fierce triathletes but have you heard they’ve used their industry experience to create a world-class apparel brand WYN Republic? Trizone caught up with Luke to chat about how these athletes became head designers of a disruptive sub-culture sportswear brand.
“I’ve been racing in triathlon for 25 years; that’s a big chunk of my life,” McKenzie told Trizone. “That time has given me a lot of opportunities to help me look at what I might do after my career.”
Standard post-race career not appealing to McKenzie
Unlike so many other world-class triathletes, McKenzie has always known coaching isn’t his future. “I decided a while ago that I wouldn’t go down the traditional role of coaching.” Before young triathletes gasp in dismay, don’t worry, McKenzie will always be around. “I’ll always be available to coach, but I don’t think it’s something I want to do on a daily basis.”
Island House the first product created by the powerful Luke and Beth duo
While Luke is infamous in the tri world for his countless Ironman wins and that infamous second place finish at Kona in 2013, he also has impressive business acumen. “In the back of my mind for ten years was an idea of an invitation-only triathlon in a great location. When I pursued it, my sponsor, the owner of Island House, gave me and Beth the opportunity to run that race,” Luke told Trizone.
While the Island House event was established when Luke was just 33 and in his prime, it did spark his thoughts of the future. “I certainly didn’t think my career was coming to an end, but I also realised there was an opportunity to create something more than just my racing career.”
More than a marriage, Luke and Beth formed their working partnership when they set up the Island House event. Perhaps due to the success they experienced working together, the pair were spurred on to start a new business venture; WYN Republic. “It’s been a pivotal moment for both of us to start establishing ourselves outside our racing careers because realistically it could end at any moment.”
Experience in racewear supercharges new business idea
Looking back, an apparel brand is a natural progression for Luke and Beth. After placing second at Kona in 2013, McKenzie began being approached by countless apparel brands to wear their designs. “Different companies started reaching out to me to develop different race suits and work with different fabrics. I’d go in the wind tunnel and try things out. Beth was really into it too and she’s always had an interest in fashion and design,” McKenzie told Trizone. “It made sense there was a point we needed to take the opportunity and go for it.”
The duo began to focus on their dream of creating their own personal brand; centred around creating a community around the athletes, not the companies. “WYN Republic was born out of our interest and passion to develop these racing suits and products, but mostly around creating a community for athletes like us.”
Far from focusing only on the design though, the pair has designed the gear for the community of athletes they want to encourage and inspire. “The corporations have their issues and it’s the athletes who suffer now. It’s up to our generation to start to create that community feeling,” said McKenzie. “WYN Republic isn’t just an apparel brand, it’s about people meeting up and being part of something inspiring. We want to bring people together in our gear, and in our little community.”
Celebrating the small wins, the start of success
“It’s quite funny being based in our little apartment in Southern California. We just celebrate every order that comes in; whether it’s a couple an hour or not,” Luke said smiling. “It’s all fresh and new and exciting. Just to hear it’s resonated with someone is great.”
While McKenzie is modest about the brand’s early success, it’s clear WYN Republic is set to create worldwide buzz.
Interview: A Look At What it Takes to Train Luke Willian
Luke Willian’s coach Warwick Dalziel has some serious insight into motivating young athletes. After Luke placed 3rd in the U23 ITU World Championships in Rotterdam, Trizone caught up with Dalziel to uncover his coaching secrets.
“Luke was always a fairly uncoordinated kid,” said Dalziel laughing, “but he was always really talented. When he was 13, he already had a talent for endurance sports, and he was naturally good.” When Willian started training with Dalziel, his talent was overshadowed by his inexperience with racing. “We did skills work with him and raced the national series races. He’d never swum in proper races before, so he had to learn how to swim. Yep, really learn how to swim from scratch” said Dalziel.
“There’s plenty of natural strength and some natural development to come.”
Now though, Luke is an impressive athlete, and he still has plenty of room to grow. “Luke grew over one centimetre in Europe,” said Dalziel, “that’s what makes it exciting. There’s lots of scope for him to get faster.
Luke’s brother and his entrance into triathlon
“Luke started triathlon because his younger brother wanted to try it,” said Dalziel. “Even now, they’re very close and very supportive of each other’s goals,” said Dalziel. “When he was waiting for drug test results, Luke called his brother for half an hour. That’s just what they do, and they’re always chatting.”
Luke Willian and his family are very close, and it’s this support that resonates into his training. “The family aspect of Luke’s training resonates through the family. His loyalty to them also goes through the relationship with me,” said Dalziel.
Exposing Luke to overseas triathlon creates a champion
Exposing a young athlete to the glitter of overseas racing is essential, but it needs to be at the right level and right times. “It was a matter of being slow and steady, and exposing him to European racing slowly,” said Dalziel. “It’s such a different level to Australian racing. There are so many countries and so many people. Exposing young athletes to lots of teaching techniques, race skills and how good and desperate to be good you need to be to have a shot at being an elite triathlete,” said Dalziel.
When Luke was only 16, Dalziel was training Ron Darmon, an Israeli Olympic triathlete in his squad. “Luke saw what Ron was doing, and saw what it takes to be a top athlete. He spent a lot of time learning what it takes to be a top athlete.
“When Courtney Atkinson made his comeback, he did some sessions with our squad and learned of him. He spent time with a French team with Laurent Vidal and also with the Wollongong Wizards and Jamie Turner’s squad exposing to lots of different triathletes,” said Dalziel.
“I just wanted to make sure he had a full-spectrum, worldly view, more than just an Australian view. Not that there’s anything wrong with Australian triathlon,” added Dalziel quickly, “it’s just good to have that international view.”
Seeing the way others train helps young athletes gain an open mind, however, Dalziel is clear not everything in his method can be changed. “There are some non-negotiable things we do,” said Dalziel, “but I want him to learn there is a whole world out there, so he’s not stuck.”
Willian is an incredibly keen athlete
Luke Willian’s motivation to power through a tough training session is impressive. “When I’d decided the guys in the squad could do an easy ride, they all wanted to do a crit [criterium] race instead. So they did!” said Dalziel, “they didn’t even want to have an easy session.”
“It’s so much better that training sessions are athlete-driven rather than coach-imposed.”
Dalziel is still sometimes surprised by how keen Willian can be. “Before Mooloolabah, I was away on holiday with my wife, and Willian was at home training. He had a few 120km hill rides to do,” said Dalziel. “He’d done four of them in just ten days. I was away, so I wasn’t even driving it. I knew we were in for a good season.”
Penalties not enough to ruin on Montreal
Getting stuck with a penalty is frustrating for any athlete, but the experienced junior athlete Willian powered through. “He got a bit tensed and stressed. He took the penalty early on lap three, then recovered. He raced really well. Knowing he raced really well in Montreal was great mentally, even though he finished 17th he was not far off the day .”
How good was Willian’s race in Montreal? It was his first Olympic distance WTS race, he had the 10th fastest 10 km in 32.00 – so he was within 1 min of the best guys in the world on his first go,” Dalziel told Trizone beaming.
Recovery is key to young athlete
After our chat to Matt Dixon of Purple Patch, it’s evident recovery is one of an essentially modern aspect of triathlon training, and Dalziel knows it too. “We’re always adapting our recovery process,” said Dalziel. “Luke is outstanding like that. If work goes up, recovery goes up.”
Instilling the importance of recovery is vital for young athletes, said Dalziel. “Luke was exposed to water running, ice baths and recovery from a young age, so it becomes natural.”
Physical recovery has its place, but mental recovery is just as significant to young athletes. “A lot of young athletes, especially junior guys, find it really hard to turn off,” said Dalziel. “We try and make sure they do something else. We play half-court basketball or bocce. Anything that’s not triathlon. Some of the athletes are studying business, so they study to switch off.”
Some athletes can be switched on 24/7, but some can’t. “Luke needs breaks. He schedules in time to see his girlfriend, to go to the movies and make sure there’s a plan around rest, and a routine.”
“We never train Sunday afternoon so there’s family time,” said Dalziel, “it’s important to do it young so when you’re older it’s part of your daily practice.”
Reserving time for fun and family at a young age helps solidify good habits.
Rotterdam and finishing third
After finishing preparation for Hamburg, Luke Willian moved from 50 small sprints, towards 100. “We zoned in on it after Hamburg,” said Dalziel, “running work went from shorter to longer intervals. Rather than 5km pace, we were running at 10km endurance speed.”
Montreal had been a great result mentally, and Dalziel was encouraging Willian to transition from intensity and to come back to volume. “We said – OK, where do we want to be and where do we need to go?”
Willian had a few more rest days leading into his taper for Rotterdam. “We went back into constant pace, had some extra massage, and trained one session a day rather than three. Luke got a few sleep-ins” laughed Dalziel. “We went to our run sets; standard long pace run sets. That’s 14-15km of running. We did them off distance markers, and then we just tried to shut it down.”
After flying up to Rotterdam on Tuesday, the coach and athlete duo snuck out of their hotel and had a look around the course in the middle of the night. “The next day we had lunch with squadmate and fellow U/23 athlete Matt Roberts (trains with us in Warwick Dalziel triathlon coaching) and Mick Delamotte. We laughed. We talked about baseball, state or origin [rugby] just nothing to do with triathlon. Then he went out and raced,” said Dalziel.
“For Luke, if he’s too focused and not relaxed enough it doesn’t work. He knows what he has to do.”
Dalziel’s strategy works, as Willian stormed to the finish of the U23 ITU World Championship. Finishing in third place in 1:51:48, Willian was just 20 seconds behind the leader Rachael Montoya.
Third place is a great result, but when you take away the penalty, it’s world class. “Luke took at 15s time penalty at world championships when his cap was lost off his head – so he would have been much closer,” said Dalziel.
“A 1.51.48 would have been good enough to get into the top 5 of senior men the next day (different conditions but same course), and a 31.25 (no penalty) would have been a top 10 senior men, so his times are already up there,” said Dalziel.
What young athletes do the hour before a big race
Food. Yes, it’s that’s simple, almost. “For Luke, it’s all about the food after the briefing,” said his coach. “As far as what we talk about, we keep it simple. If we’re not clear one month or one week out, I think you get distracted and you panic, so we’re always clear.”
“Some athletes need that rev up before the race – some athletes respond to that. That’s not what works for Luke.”
Dalziel customises his approach to each athlete. “If the athletes need to listen to Eye of the Tiger before the race – that’s what they do. If they need to be quiet and calm before the race, that’s what they do,” said Dalziel.
Noosa and Bribie Island to be Willian’s final 2017 races
“He’s done Noosa twice, and he’s keen to go with the big boys like Aaron, Ryan and Dan,” said Dalziel. “It’s an iconic race and has a lot of prestige. It’s one of the races Luke has on his bucket list that he’d like to do well in.”
To prepare for the infamous Aussie race, Willian will be going over the course details with Dalziel, preparing for the temperatures on the day, and getting ready for the U-turns and technical elements on the bike. “Triathlon Australia with Jamie Turner ran some bike sessions and we did some of those with fellow Waz squad member and U/23 rep Matt Roberts, Matt Hauser, Ryan Bailie, Brandon Copeland and a team of athletes to get used to the course,” said Dalziel.
Two weeks before Noosa, Willian will race at Bribie Island, a fun Queensland race. “He likes local races where he can have a good meal before, and get out there,” said Dalziel.
After Noosa, there’s not a tremendous amount of rest time for Willian. “We don’t have a huge offseason,” said Dalziel, “some sessions might be easy though, like going to Burleigh Beach and having a run and a swim, without me there.”
Once the squad is mentally recovered, it will be back to work for 2018.
“With young athletes, I find if they have a big off season, they go back into load too quickly,” said Dalziel. “They end up injured, it doesn’t work.”
With incredible insight into the psyche and needs of young, developing athletes, it’s clear Luke Willian and coach Warwick Dalziel are a fierce team. All eyes will be on Willian at Noosa to see how he does in a strong field, with fingers crossed for a solid 2018.
Matt Hauser: What it takes to be the ITU World Junior Champion
Matthew Hauser is the new ITU Junior World Champion, finishing the Rotterdam course in just 55:54 and finishing fourth at Super League Jersey only one week later. After a brutal year, Trizone asked the 19-year-old what makes him the world’s best junior triathlete.
“I sat down with Dan, and we decided Rotterdam was going to be the main focus of the year,” Hauser told Trizone. “I said I didn’t want to talk about it until a month before the race. I wanted to focus on developing as an athlete. It was going to be an exploration year, and I’d try WTS, Super League and I planned to do Hamburg,” said Hauser.
“2017 was about getting into the groove of being an elite athlete.”
The Junior World Title marks the end of Hauser’s preparation for 2017 and signifies the start of his career as a full-grown pro.
How Hauser prepares the night before a race
Like any athlete, Matt Hauser has a routine the night before a big race, but it’s not a superstitious one. “Dan gets me to write an hour-by-hour checklist for race day. I send it to him, and he checks it over and gives me feedback,” said Matt. Here at Trizone, we weren’t quite sure exactly what that meant, so Hauser explained.
“My to-do list says things like when to leave the hotel, when to get out of T2. It’s so I don’t have to think about organisation on the morning of.”
Organisation the night before is always a good idea, especially in Rotterdam when Hauser had to wake up at 5 am. “It’s about mentally preparing the night before. So you go to bed and wake up with it still in my head.”
On the morning of an event, Hauser listens to Led Zeppelin and gets in the mode. “Things slightly depend on how I’m feeling, but I know what works for me,” said Hauser.
The Rotterdam Race
“From the very start I was telling myself to stay in the moment,” said Hauser, a tactic he learned after his disappointment at Cozumel.
After diving into the water, Hauser kept thinking of just one word: Kick! “I know when I get a kick, my rhythm and my stroke is set. Kick was my keyword,” Hauser told Trizone. “I knew if I had a good start, I’d have a good mindset. But, I was also prepared for a crappy start too.”
Luckily, Matt Hauser had a positive start, and it evolved into a natural race. “It felt like I was in control throughout the whole race.”
The bike leg wasn’t as hard as expected
“The first bit of the bike was critical,” said Hauser. “I had to split up the guys who are excellent runners.” Hauser had his sights on Great Britain’s Ben Dijkstra who is known for his tough running. “I knew I had to stay up in the top three to make sure I wasn’t vulnerable to any crashes.”
For a Junior World Championship, Hauser was pleasantly surprised to find the bike wasn’t too challenging.
“It was quite easy compared to other races”
“That was thanks to Spain [when Hauser trained in Vittoria with Jamie Turner’s squad]. When I was in Spain, we’d go to a car park and practice critical race work, like attacking tight corners.”
After training in Girona, Hauser’s bike skills improved a lot thanks to a friendly rivalry with Ryan Bailie. “We pushed each other,” said Hauser.
“Those corners we practised made Rotterdam seem easier, and I’d exceeded the demand in training.”
Super League more fun than WTS
Super League has offered all the athletes involved the chance to push their bodies to the limit, and Hauser got his chance again in Jersey a week after Rotterdam. After astounding the spectators with his strong swim skills, Hauser finished Super League Jersey in fourth place despite still being a junior.
“Everyone is there as a family, together,” said Hauser of Super League. “You get to socialise with the locals and give back to the community you’re racing in. In ITU, you’re so caught up in the federation, and there are so many rules and regulations.”
“There are so many KPIs to meet in WTS races. Super League washes that all away. It focuses on the athletes, not the federation.”
Super League prides itself on its entertainment value, and Hauser is quick to point out it’s the athletes that create this. “We’re the ones pushing our bodies. We’re the ones creating the entertainment,” said Hauser. “We’re all racing to broadcast triathlon to the wider community and share our passion and love for the sport of Super League. It’s a fantastic platform for that.”
Despite racing for Australia on the world stage in WTS, Hauser does prefer WTS over Super League. “I’d probably choose WTS because of the points, but I’d prefer to do Super League.”
It isn’t just about Super League
It’s clear that Super League is an important piece of the jigsaw for Hauser, however, he makes the very strong point that his large goals are the Olympics and Commonwealth Games, and to do this it’s a process – which is part of the WTS. So whilst he loves the lesser pressure of Super League, WTS really is the benchmark events.
What does the future hold for Hauser?
Hauser is an undeniable talent in triathlon, and he has a bright future, but what about the rest of 2017? “I’ll be doing the Noosa triathlon,” Hauser told Trizone. After Noosa, that’s a wrap for Hauser, and when it comes to next year seeing Hauser racing against the top pros, we’ll just have to wait and see!
Jared Simons: Chef Turns Plants into Ironman Power
Jared Simons is the plant-based chef with a love of Ironman. Trizone caught up with the American athlete to chat about everything from food to weight gain and the alpha types who love Ironman 70.3.
One sport ends, another door opens
“I was a wrestler, I didn’t grow up doing swim, bike, and run,” Simons told Trizone. He had a talent for his sport, but his body wasn’t so sure it was for him. “I was getting recruitment letters for college, but into my senior season I was having nerve issues with my neck.”
“My parents had taken me to see so many different doctors and they all said I had traumatic neck damage,” said Simons. After years enjoying playing American football when he was young, plus his chosen sport of wrestling, Jared Simons’ neck was giving out. “The doctors told me I shouldn’t be playing contact sports, so my parents pulled me out of wrestling,” said Simons.
College dreams replaced by cooking school
With his future college pursuit off the table, Simons turned to the other aspects of his life. “I’d been working as a dishwasher at a restaurant, and since I was quite a heavy kid, I enjoyed being around food,” Simons said. “My dream of going to college and wrestling was over, and I was so intrigued by everything that surrounded me at the restaurant.”
Simons was convinced of his new path, but his parents weren’t yet onboard. “Being a chef definitely wasn’t glamorous at the time. The Food Network had only just launched and they were all famous chefs!” laughed Simons. “I told my parents I’d applied to college, but I had only contacted a culinary school in San Francisco. It was tough to convince them, but finally, I did and I went off to the California Culinary Academy.”
Over the next four years, Simons worked exceptionally hard at culinary school and then in restaurants, but like many chefs, the long hours and stress took their toll. “I opened a restaurant when I was 22, then another when I was 26, so I was super busy. My extracurricular activities were very limited,” Simons told Trizone. “I was working a lot, eating poorly and drinking a lot socially. As the years went on I started ballooning up. When I was around 29, I was just over 205 pounds and I felt horrible.”
Fast-paced and stressful, the culinary business had been both wonderful and taxing for Simons, but a friend came to his rescue. “I had a customer who was gorgeous and she was my ‘trainer’ but we really just walked and talked!” laughed Simons. “One of my friends opened a gym and offered to train me and I took the leap.”
“He asked me what my goals were, and I said I wanted to look like Brad Pitt in Fight Club.”
In exchange for training the young chef, Simons gave his friend credit at the restaurant. “I got one hour of weight training with him, and I did one hour of cardio by myself every day,” said Simons. Summoning the fierce work ethic that had helped Simons reap the success of his cooking talents, Jared Simons was on his way to becoming an extremely driven athlete.
“In 2015 I jumped onto Vice’s food portal, Munchies, and I saw an episode titled the “Vegan Ironman”. It featured John Joseph from the New York hardcore band, The Cro-mags ,” said Simons. “I was intrigued by the endurance aspect and his diet and when I got home I told my wife I wanted to do a triathlon. I’d grown up surfing but if you took that board away, I hadn’t done structured swimming since high school,” Simons told Trizone.
Even while training prior to triathlon, Simons wasn’t healthy. “I was doing high-intensity training 70% of the week. I’d eat fairly clean, but every Saturday night I’d have junk food and I had high cholesterol. On the outside, I looked good, but on the inside, I wasn’t healthy.”
Living in the city of countless diets and health fads, Los Angeles, Simons had heard of plant-based diets, but he never thought he’d make it a long-term change. “I cut out one kind of animal product each week and by week six I was eating completely plant-based,” remembers Simons.
The hardest part of going plant-based for the chef? Cutting out dairy, especially butter.
“Every month I’d continue to fine tune the diet,” said Simons. “People around me started to see a physical and mental change. From a sustainability and health standpoint, it made sense.”
Not just influencing his own personal diet, Simons’ new-found love of plant-based foods influenced his restaurants too. “Ultimately I started a plant-based series at the restaurant.”
If you are looking for some food inspiration, then jump over to some of Jared’s favorites;
- Recovery Smoothie – So yum!
- Vegan BLT – No rubbish found in these
- The best Tacos on the planet – so good
Walking a marathon isn’t what Simons is about
Jared Simons isn’t just another age grouper who likes to finish a race, he’s ferociously competitive. “I’m not going to be a pro, but Ironman races are definitely not just a bucket list thing,” said Simons. “I don’t want to just get through it. Seeing people walk the marathon to me blows my mind, it just doesn’t make sense! I’m not that guy.”
Now Simons has far surpassed his days of spending one-hour doing cardio on his own, and he works with two different coaches. “One coaches me overall with all the facets of triathlon, and I do regular lactate testing with him,” said Jared. “I’m a data guy, if I see the numbers it makes sense to me.” Simons has another coach for swimming, and he’s confident he receives huge benefits from both.
Alpha athletes in 70.3 make Ironman better
“I found my first Ironman easier than 70.3,” said Simons, “at that distance, the effort is dialed back just slightly. Yes, it’s longer, but it’s different.”
It’s not just the distance that makes these races different, it’s the competitors too. “70.3 is a lot more competitive than Olympic distance and Ironman, there are a lot of A-type personalities out there. At the full distance, everyone in the race is like ‘you’re doing it and that’s cool.” During the race, lots of people were like ‘I know you from Instagram, with the beard and the kit and the tattoos! It’s fun!”
Modelling for LA Apparel brand Love The Pain
“I bought a hat from them and took a pic running in it, and they reached out to me. I’m a style guy so I think most of the gear in triathlon blows,” laughed Simons. “These guys though, their aesthetic was great and the product is good, so I bought a lot of it!”
Unlike some athletes who reserve their stylish kits for race day, Simons trains in his Love The Pain kit too. “They decided I was a great customer and I love their stuff, so eventually they asked me to model some kits for the company,” said Simons.
Love The Pain is the answer to daggy racewear, and it’s no surprise people with a foot in the door of the latest lifestyle, food, and fitness trends like Simons are keen supporters.
Check out Jared’s inspiring Instagram feed. After hearing Simons’ powerful story, would you turn plant-based if it meant you were healthier?
Matt Dixon – The Purple Patch Story
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.
“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.”
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.
Rebekah Keat: There’s Another Chapter After Sport
Rebekah Keat is the fourth fastest female Ironman in the world, and one of the most sought-after coaches alongside long-term partner Siri Lindley. Trizone caught up with Bek to chat about retirement from triathlon and the importance of giving back.
“For me, I wanted to do something outside myself,” Keat told Trizone, “you have to be so selfish as an athlete, anyone does if they want to be the best. Now, it’s my chance to give back.”
When Keat retired from racing as a pro, she was at a loss of what to do with her time. “Triathlon was my identity, it’s what I’ve had in my life forever, I never really thought about what’s next.” said Bek.
Constant calf tears end Keat’s stellar career
Now 39 years old, Keat has been involved in swim, bike and run for 23 years, but her last two years in competition were brutal on her body. “In the last few years, I always had gastroc and soleus tears in my calf, but I kept pushing through.”
A bad race for Keat was finishing off the podium, but calf tears were ruining her impressive record of results. “My mind wanted to be doing it, but my body was saying ‘you’re done’” laughed Keat. It was her body that eventually gave in, with Keat tearing both calf muscles in her left leg during Ironman Cairns at only the 3km mark. “Straight away, I knew it would be my last one.”
Uncertainty leads to a new clarity
After crossing the finish line though, Keat became overwhelmed with the unknown. “I felt like retiring from triathlon was one of the biggest tragedies of my life. I was like ‘what’s next?’” said Keat.
While floundering in the unknown, Bek’s partner and revered coach Siri Lindley urged her to attend one of Tony Robbins seminars; Unleash the Power Within. I was definitely a skeptic, said Keat, I walked out of there a new person no longer terrified but excited and I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to stay in the sport. I also realised I wanted to give back and contribute to something much bigger than myself and that was saving animals” …triathlon will give me the financial freedom to create a comfortable future but also be the platform to help save the lives of innocent animals.
Joining Siri to coach everyone – Yep, everyone
I decided to immerse myself in the coaching, Siri and I formed Team Sirius Tri Club in January 2017 and now our triathlon club is ranked one of the top clubs in the world so we’re very proud of that” said Keat. We have over 140 members, but we really wanted the training to be accessible to everyone.
Regular coaching is a hefty investment though, and for age groupers starting out in triathlon it can be far too out of reach, but Keat and Siri are changing all that. “We found out the club was regarded as too intimidating for beginners, but we’re turning that on it’s head by offering a triclub hangout group.
“Every week, we offer a free live chat where athletes can ask Siri any question, for a whole hour!” said Keat.
“There’s also video of the pros training everyday in a live session. We really offer a lot now, we give a lot” added Keat happily. “We want our coaching to be available to everyone.”
“Together we have 45 years of combined experience, and we have a great team. We do want to try and get more men on board as we attract a lot of women at the moment,” said Keat.
Believe Ranch and Rescue; Another dream realised
A portion of all the proceeds of the Team Sirius TriClub go to Siri and Bek’s other passion project; Believe Ranch and Rescue. “I’ve loved animals my whole life,” Keat told Trizone.
“Siri and I have always loved horses, and we’ve always had the dream of saving horses from abusive homes and kill shelters.”
This dream has become a reality, with Siri and Bek saving nine horses from one auction alone, with countless others being adopted from the ranch regularly. “We really want to take on more horses, give them the medical attention they need, then adopt them out to forever families,” Keat said, “all the services and care we give the animals we adopt is free of charge. We rely on donations to operate. Tony Robbins has been a big help; he’s donated a lot of money to save these horses.”
“This incredible sport of triathlon has given me the life tools to be able to contribute in a much bigger and deeper way than I ever thought possible.”
With her impressive 23 years of experience in the triathlon world, Bek Keat lost herself for a moment after retirement, but has found her feet in a big way. Coaching others who love her sport, plus working with animals to help them experience a new lease on life after trauma, Keat is settled into her post-pro life and loving every minute. “We have an awesome team, and awesome culture, and Siri and I have always had the dream of working with animals.” Keat has now realised these dreams in a big way, and with Siri, is encouraging you to realise yours too.
Lucy Charles: The Rise of British Ironman Talent
“The whole year has gone better than expected, so I’m very happy with how it’s been going to be honest,” beamed Lucy. The British athlete’s trajectory in the past twelve months has been huge thanks to an ironclad mindset and a turning point in her mental approach to racing. Before the success though, Charles was a ferocious age grouper on a mission.
“I swam a lot at school, then I decided to take a break from swimming and do a marketing job,” Charles told Trizone. “At the end of that year, I decided I wanted to do an Ironman. I’d never done triathlon before but I did Ironman UK in 2014.” In her casual English accent, it’s almost as though Lucy doesn’t realise deciding to do a triathlon is one thing, but entering into Ironman UK and actually finishing it is another thing altogether! “I got a buzz from Ironman and I wanted to keep doing it,” said Lucy.
Kona age group champion in 2015
“In 2015 I decided I wanted to take triathlon more seriously and go to Kona. I went back to Ironman UK and won my age group there, and I’d also won my age group at UK 70.3, and qualified for the 70.3 worlds. I won my age group there, so that was a huge step up.”
After qualifying for her age group (F18-24) at Kona, Charles decided she’d just keep her cool and go and soak up the atmosphere, but the athlete was too competitive. “Once I started training I decided I wanted to be a contender,” said Charles.
With her fierce swimming prowess, Charles set a ridiculously fast swim pace motivated by the aim of setting a new swim record. She may not have set a record, but her time of 52:20 was 2.5 minutes faster than the fastest female pro Jodie Swallow (55:04) and was equal to the fourth fastest pro male.
In just one year Lucy Charles progressed from considering doing an Ironman while at her marketing desk, to winning her age group at Ironman UK. Amazing.
2017 – Challenge Gran Canaria Lucy Charles’ Breakthrough
“I raced in Dubai in January and finished tenth,” Charles told Trizone. “I felt like that was how the season might go. I might just be at the bottom end of the top ten and I’d just be building all year.” Thanks to her hard work and determination though, luckily her predication wasn’t correct.
Lucy Charles finished Gran Canaria in second place just six seconds behind Emma Pallant! “The race gave me the confidence to believe I had the ability to bike, and I could run strong off the bike,” Lucy told Trizone. “I hadn’t run off the bike since the year before, and that hadn’t been great as I had a stress fracture at the time. I’d done a big block of training, so it was good to see that training had worked.”
Every athlete has their breakthrough event, and for Lucy Charles, Gran Canaria 2017 was it. “That race was a big break for me in my confidence, to see where I was at.”
Losing a bike sponsor gaining a new partnership
If you saw Lucy Charles riding around on a bike covered in tape at IM Lanzarote, with writing saying ‘lucycharles.co.uk’ it was in the midst of a sponsorship change over for the athlete. “At the end of 2016, Boardman said they wouldn’t continue to sponsor me, so I didn’t want to give them free coverage and hence I wrote my name over where the branding was,” laughed Charles.
The race was a huge victory for Charles who claimed her first pro win while setting the bike record on the notoriously difficult bike course. The race was hugely exciting, and by T2, Lucy had an impressive lead of almost 20 minutes ahead of Lucy Gossage. During the run course, Corinne Abraham worked hard to make up the distance, but Charles was too strong, and won in just 09:35:40, almost 10 minutes ahead of Abraham.
“I have no words for how it ended, it was absolutely amazing! I was quite surprised how well the bike course went, but I had a big focus on that during my training so it’s was definitely worth it. I knew I wouldn’t like the run anyway so gave it a go on the bike course,” said Lucy.
It’s no surprise after Lanzarote, that Lucy caught the attention of the team at BPM Sport Athlete Management who manage the likes of world champions Tim Reed, Holly Lawrence and Flora Duffy. Working with BPM’s UK representative saw a strategic shift in how Lucy interacted with sponsors and take a bigger picture approach. Soon after bike sponsors jumped at the chance of working with Charles, and the decision was made to focus on trialing the best possible brands for Charles to gain additional competitive edge for the long term. This lead to Specialized providing her a new bike set up however it was just one week before Frankfurt – clearly not ideal.
Luckily through very specific bike fits and measurements with Freespeed in London, the changeover was an easier process. “I had a fit session with Richard at Freespeed on Wednesday the week before, then on the Saturday I took it out for a ride on the road, just over 100km. We had a few teething issues like any bike, and we adjusted it, then I flew to Frankfurt and raced on it straight away,” said Charles.
“My management team were a bit nervous I was on a new bike for the race, but it went well. I have to commend BPM, Specialized and Freespeed for that, it was just professionalism at another level” said Charles.
Recovery is key for Charles in 2017
Two Ironman events before Kona may seem like a lot for some, but for Lucy Charles it’s all in her stride. “Last year, two Ironman’s before Kona would have been a lot. In the past, I was at transition once and went to get my bike and passed out. This was after completing Kona in 2015, after the race I went to collect my bike and passed out. “Now, I take everything from the aid station if it’s a hot day. In Frankfurt I took water, and ice, and anything that was available. If you can cross the line without falling in a heap and you can have a few days rest and get back to training afterwards, then why not.”
Lucy Charles has been focusing on getting her recovery just right to enable her to get the most out of racing this year. “I’ve been working on three things,” said Charles, “I’ve been working on getting my nutrition right, staying hydrated and keeping cool if it’s a hot race.”
Unlike her early Ironman races, Lucy Charles is much better at post-race relaxation than before. “When I did my first few Ironman races, I couldn’t stomach anything afterwards I felt so sick. Now I can sit down and eat something, and I always have a protein shake in my recovery bag so I can start the recovery process instantly,” Lucy told Trizone.
Winning partnership with Reece helps motivate Charles’ racing
Lucy Charles and her fiancé Reece met six years ago when he was studying sports science, and they were both on the elite swim squad. “We both decided we’d had enough of swimming at the same time,” said Charles. “Reece’s knowledge of sports science was really helpful especially when we started Ironman. There’s no way we could have completed it all without it.”
Lucy and Reece train together, live together and work together as they have an online triathlon business, along with a personal training business. While the pair used to work with a number of personal training clients, now they do almost all online training. One of the things the pair prescribes a lot is indoor training, something Lucy Charles knows a lot about.
Zwift rescues Charles from boredom in crappy UK weather
“I live really near London so the roads are manic and the weather is rarely good enough to ride outside,” Charles told Trizone. “Most of my rides are indoors, and they’re really long rides so I input sessions into Zwift. It gives you that environment where you feel like you’re riding with other people,” said Lucy.
Technology like Zwift has transformed Lucy’s workouts, but it wasn’t always so engaging. “The longest indoor training I’d done leading into Kona as an age grouper was a five hour Turbo session. I felt like I was going mad. I had six bottles around me, and one iPhone died and one iPad died. I used to just follow my little numbers on the Garmin screen,” said Charles. “Zwift really is a blessing,”
Lucy Charles is Ironman’s biggest new talent and she’s one to watch at Kona this year. Get ready, Charles is coming.
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