Following a successful career racing the ITU circuit, Liz Blatchford recently turned her attention to long course racing. Just last year Liz missed out on the London Olympic team, perhaps a controversial decision but one that unfortunately accompanies every Olympic campaign across the sweep of sports. Instead of hanging up her shoes and whinging, the incredibly driven athlete set some new goals. The same month of that very Olympics Liz won Ironman 70.3 Boulder against a top class field, the following month (September) she won Ironman 70.3 Cozumel, finished 8th at the Hyvee 5i50 US Championship, and in November finished second at Ironman 70.3 Mandurah and 3rd at the highly contested Noosa Triathlon. It is quite obvious Liz was able to take her frustrations and disappointment and direct them in a positive manner.
Fast forward a year from the London Olympics and Liz has already stamped an Ironman victory to her name; Ironman Cairns, which by the way, was on debut. On track for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas and another crack at the Hyvee 5i50 Championship, that very win in Cairns prompted a change of heart in this British/Australian athlete. Quite simply, the Big Island of Kona came calling. It called so loud that Liz sat down with her team and re-planned the pointy end of the season. As a result we will see Liz racing this weekend in Mt Tremblant, with 4,000 points on offer for both male and female pro’s, in an attempt to seal her ticket to the Ironman World Championship.
We caught up with Liz to see how she has prepared for this weekend’s race, the reason’s behind her desire to race on the big island, her thoughts on the swarm of ITU athletes descending on the 70.3 distance, and a little about the person she is outside of triathlon and racing.
Trizone Women: Liz we see you are racing Ironman Mont-Tremblant this weekend. Where have you been based of late and how has the preparation gone?
Liz: I have been based in Boulder Colorado for the past few months since Ironman Cairns. Its been a really good training block here for me. I took a few weeks after Cairns to recover well before flying to the US and getting back into it over here. There are always plenty of triathletes in Boulder to train with and this year especially I have had a good group of friends to train with. My UK crew of Tim Don and Will Clarke have been out here, the Kiwi boys of Callum Millward, Tommy D and the Bowstead brothers along with Aussies Johnny Polson, Brad Khalefeldt and Emma Moffatt. All have made training that little bit more enjoyable and riding 200K’s with a group of strong boys has been awesome for my Ironman prep.
TZ: We see you are qualified and off to Vegas, but didn’t quite make the cutoff for Kona in the July qualifiers. Is the primary goal of racing in Mont-Tremblant this weekend to gain enough points to qualify for Kona this October?
Liz:Yes the goal of Mont-Tremblant is to qualify for Kona. My original plan was always to race Hy-vee and Vegas, but after Cairns I sat down and had a re think on what I really wanted and getting to Kona was number one. I talked it over with my hubby Glen and coach Mat Steinmetz and we changed the plan to race Ironman Mont-Tremblant and try to get to Kona this year. I want to try and experience the race and get a good feel for it for future years plus the way the KPR is set up racing Kona makes it easier to qualify the following year.
TZ: You raced your first Ironman in Cairns a couple of months back, and won on debut! Was Kona always on the radar this year, or have you had a recent change in plans?
Liz: My plans has been somewhat flexible this year. Originally I’d hoped to race Ironman Melbourne with big points and try to get to Kona off the one Ironman plus good 70.3 points but early season plantar faciitis meant I never got to the start line. So then the plan became doing an Ironman to try it out but no longer thinking about Kona qualification. When Cairns went well it re-planted the Kona seed in my mind… As I mentioned above we changed the plan about 3-4 weeks after Cairns. We looked at the KPR and thought it would be possible to qualify with a top 6 or 7 at Mont-Tremblant.
TZ: Any other specific goals for the weekend? Are you still racing the 70.3 World Champs, and will this be your final hit out before Vegas next month?
Liz: Vegas has now become a back up plan if things go wrong on the weekend. I am also still considering racing Hy-vee 2 weeks after Mont-Tremblant but if I get my Kona points I won’t be racing Vegas. My goal for the weekend is A) get the Kona points I need and B) to try and improve on my overall Cairns performance (handle the bike and first 20k of the run a little better)
TZ: The field has some fair talent lining up, what with Mary Beth Ellis (undefeated outside of Kona) and Rebekah Keat, both experienced Iron distance racers; do you get intimidated by such talent, or rather look forward to having a go at knocking them off one by one? 🙂
Liz: It will be great to race Mary Beth and of course my good friend Bek. Its been quite a while since I last raced these two girls… I think Mary Beth will be the one to beat (if that is possible) in Mont-Tremblant. Bek along with Anja Beranak, Eric Csomor and Sarah Piampiano will also be tough on the weekend, all with lots of IM experience between them. I am a little nervous but I always get like that before any big race, its a good sign. I have prepared well and am exciting to be racing again…
TZ: We saw Daniela Ryf win her first Ironman 70.3 just last weekend, and good friend of yours Annabel Luxford has been a force to deal with over this distance in 2013; not to mention your own switch to the long course scene. What do you believe are the main reasons we’re seeing an increasing number of women switching to long course racing?
Liz: The girls had an awesome race in Wiesbaden. Bella especially has been having a great year which makes me really happy after she has had a lot of injury troubles. The ITU crew swapping over are always going to be tough to beat at the 70.3 distance. Training for ITU is almost the perfect prep for 70.3 and most ITU girls and guys switching over don’t have a real weakness, they are consistent across swim,bike and run. 70.3 Worlds has now become a true World Championship and the athletes are seeing it as that.
Its hard to get sponsorship racing ITU if you’re not finishing on the podium. Even if you’re top 10 out of 60+ girls, sponsors don’t really see that result for what it is. But if you win a few 70.3s and do well at Vegas then the industry wants to know you. ITU is a tough gig. It can make you or break you. If you come out the other end, move to 70.3 and can handle the non draft bike you can do well. These are a few reasons why we are seeing the switch over of some ex ITU athletes, plus some of us are getting older and slower… 🙂
TZ: Ironman Cairns just two months ago was your first attempt at the Iron distance. Any advice for women reading this that may be racing their first Ironman in Mont-Tremblant (or somewhere else in the world) this weekend?
Liz: I’m still an Iron distance rookie and I really shouldn’t be handing out advice. But if there is anything I would say it is to relax and try and enjoy the journey and have a good nutrition plan that you have tested in training.
TZ: Pre race breakfast, what would we find you eating?
Liz: Toast with almond butter, honey and bananas. Plus some 32Gi Endurance electrolyte drink.
TZ: Favorite recovery tool/method post Ironman?
Liz: FOOD, recovery pump boots and being carried up and down stairs by my husband.
TZ: Can you share something with our readers that they may not know about Liz Blatchford?
Liz: I love to go surfing, I have just about finished my science degree that I started 10 years ago (I had 2 exams the week after Cairns) and will have another unit to do when I return to the Gold Coast over summer. And I’ve found my love again for the sport I began at the age of 13 after some hard times during my last few years of ITU racing 🙂