Aussie triathlete Alex Polizzi has been gearing up for Challenge Shepparton after a busy few weeks travelling from Asia to Augusta. Trizone chats to Alex to learn about his transition from adventure racing to professional triathlon.
Alex Polizzi has been an incredible swimmer since he was 14, but he’s only transitioned into becoming a professional triathlete in the past year. Due to a swimming injury, his career as an athlete almost didn’t happen. “After I injured my shoulder when I was 18, I stopped swimming. I just put on a bit of weight and enjoyed Uni,” says Alex.
A bet with a mate kicks off Alex’s racing career
“I made a bet with my mate that I could finish this adventure race called Lorne Anaconda,” Alex says coyly, adding “that was the beginning.”
“I spent a few years doing adventure races and ultra marathons and I loved it because I never got bored,” he adds. After racing for a number of years, Alex tore his Achilles and spent an entire year resting. Twelve months later, he resumed his racing career, this time taking up kayak racing. He then met his current coach Matt Tippert at an ETPA event. “That’s when I started getting into triathlon and I did my first race in the Gold Coast at the end of 2014,” says Alex.
“Then I wanted to see what it would be like to be professional,’ Alex notes casually. “So that’s what I’m doing now and I’m having a lot of fun doing it.”
Alex heads to Asia to start his new life as a racing pro
On the 8th of July this year, Alex joined the Cebu 70.3 in the Philippines. “I knew I’d struggle with so many quality athletes in my field but I really wanted to see Cebu,” he says. “I ended up getting a double flat and a DNF.”
Despite not finishing the race, the seed of triathlon training in Asia had been planted. “I decided I wanted to stay in the warmer climate instead of suffering through the Melbourne winter,” Alex laughs.
“There was never a plan to stay in Asia but an opportunity arose and I went with it.”
Since then, Alex has been training at Thanyapura; an incredible state-of-the-art health and fitness facility in Phuket, Thailand. “I’ve never seen facilities like this before and you have such easy access to all of them,” he adds. “There’s a weights gym, cardio gym, 25m and 50m pools and a 500m running track, which we think was made extra long to fit a rugby pitch in the centre.” Deliberate or not, the 500m track is perfect for Alex and his fellow triathletes who run sets of 1 km at almost every training session.
Life as a pro isn’t easy, though, and Alex finds training in Asia to be a good way to balance finances and training. “Being able to live more cheaply I have less mental stress, which means I can train better,” he notes. The close expat community of Thanyapura is an added bonus for the 28-year-old who is still finding his feet as a triathlete. “I’m meeting people who will be my friends for many years. It’s a great way to build community within the sport.”
Alex Polizzi preps for Challenge Shepparton 2016
While most athletes were preparing their tapering regimens Alex was flying around the country. “I left Thailand and went to Beechworth in Victoria to train but it was too cold,” he says. “I went for a ride down Mount Buffalo and had to stop halfway down and curl into a ball to warm up. My hands were so cold I couldn’t hold my brakes!”
Deciding Beechworth was far too chilly for training, Alex headed home to Melbourne for a few training sessions. Shortly afterwards, though, Luke Bell was hit by a car, deemed unable to race at the Interstate Cup in Augusta. So they called Alex. “I jumped on a flight to do the swim leg, so it wasn’t too strenuous,” he says lightly. After all this, Alex is in Shepparton to ready himself for the race. “The past few weeks have definitely taught me how to adapt training when you’re moving around a lot,” he says.
Alex Polizzi’s pre-race planning
“Some people taper for way too long and their bodies think they’re on holiday,” says Alex. “My taper for 70.3 is really only three days.” Alex gauges his racing fitness by how he performs on the Friday prior to the event. “If I can hold one kilometre running repeats well, maintaining speed without too much effort I know I’ve balanced my taper well,” he adds. “Sometimes I’m tired in the week leading up to a race but if I’m still making the times I need, I know I’m in great shape.”
Alex Polizzi’s dynamic end of year plans
After Challenge Shepparton, Alex will head up to join Dan Wilson and the other pros at Western Sydney. Shortly afterwards, he will travel to Ballarat for the 70.3 on 11 December. “I’d love to get into the top 10. I finished 11th last year, so it’d be nice to beat that,” he says. While everyone else will be gorging themselves on cold ham and seafood during the Australian Christmas season, Alex will be maintaining his training intensity, with plans to fly to Tauranga for the Tauranga Half on January 7th.
Finally, after New Zealand it will be time for a rest and Alex will return to Asia for a well-deserved three or four week holiday. “It’ll give me time to look at what I’ve gone through, and assess the next stages,” he concludes with a smile.