One woman racing on Sunday at Ironman Melbourne is the Netherland’s Yvonne van Vlerken. With one of the most impressive resumes in the sport, along with the three world records that she has held during her career this is one woman who is going to be pushing, not just for a podium but for a win.
Her most recent Ironman victory was in Florida last year. van Vlerken broke the course record and with three wins last year, two seconds and a third in major races she is the one that the faster swimmers will be nervously looking over their shoulders for.
We had a chance to catch up with Yvonne during the week. The flying blonde Dutch woman loves to chat below is a great insight in to what makes her tick.
We wish her all the best on Sunday and look forward to seeing her on the podium.
Trizone: Yvonne, you have one of the most impressive resumes in the sport. Your first triathlon was in 2000. What drew you to the sport of triathlon?
Yvonne van Vlerken: Before Triathlon I played soccer at a high level in the Netherlands. I’m not that much of a team player (I get very grumpy when people don’t give it 100%) I decided I wanted to do a sport on my own. Something where only I was to blame if I didn’t win. I found this racing triathlon. I started out with many Duathlon and Powerman races, as my swim was pretty bad…
I remember my first triathlon, I swam 21min for a 1km swim… Now I manage to do 1.5km in that time now, but I still have to count on my bike and run to back it up.
With my swim being my weakness I found duathlons and was pretty successful. I won a World Championship and several European titles in this discipline I decided I wanted to make the switch to Ironman racing. Learning to swim at this level was a struggle and I could only start racing at a higher level in triathlon once I got this sorted. Since that first triathlon in 2000, 13 years have passed… where does the time go!
Trizone: Who were your early influencers in triathlon?
Yvonne van Vlerken: I didn’t really have anyone with in this sport, my big example was Leontien van Moorsel, she was a Dutch cyclist that has won every single race in the world and was almost unbeatable! She’s an amazing athlete and for me, she always has been my role model.
TZ: What are your most memorable triathlon moments?
Yvonne: Definitely braking the 14 year old World record from Paula Newby Fraser. Not everybody knows, but I used to have 3 world records, the IM 70.3 Distance, Ironman and Powerman. I only have one left now, but that’s fine with me. I was very focussed and highly motivated to brake that world record and I still see it as my best performance in my career.
Challenge Roth is one of a kind and this race for me has a lot of good memories. Thinking back of the year 2008 where I had that amazing race, I still get emotional.
Besides this I love thinking back to my first Hawaii race also in the year 2008, my 2nd place and rookie of the year. It was an amazing experience!
TZ: Who do you see as the main title contenders at Ironman Melbourne this year? (apart from yourself)
Yvonne: Caroline Steffen, Meredith Kessler, Sarah Piampiano, Lisa Marangon, Natascha Badmann & Gina Crawford.
TZ: Do you have a race strategy for Sunday that you can tell us a about?
Yvonne: No, I’m just going to let all the “fish” girls fight it out in the front and I’m just going to do my own thing in the back, when somebody makes a mistake in the front, then this little one will grab her chance.
TZ: Tell us about your coach Siri Lindley. What sort of an influence has she been for you?
Yvonne: Siri, well this is a long story, there’s so much to say about this special lady. I just love her energy and her way of looking at things. She has a very positive influence on all her athletes. I love her approach to training and I think the way she adjusts the training on her feeling is just one part that makes her so successful with her athlete’s. I like training with her group as well. My preparation for last year’s Ironman Florida was in Santa Monica where Siri is based. It was great to train with the squad and have her with us every single day. I can’t wait to get back to there.
TZ: What is your favourite training session in each of the three disciplines?
Yvonne: It maybe sounds strange from a person that’s not known for her swimming abilities, but I love swimming almost every day. It doesn’t matter what kind of swim session, since I’m not going backwards anymore while kicking, I like this part:-) For the bike and run I would say it’s the long and easy sessions that I prefer. I love just being on the bike for 6 hours, being outside and being happy with what I’m doing. Isn’t this the best job in the world? Every session is fun and as long as I feel like this, I will be doing this and enjoy every second of it. I do love to go hard on the track, but prefer to do this session with a group.
TZ: After Melbourne what are your main races for 2013?
Yvonne: I have several. A lot of IM 70.3 races are on the schedule as well as Challenge Roth. That last one definitely has a big priority. I do hope to be back in Hawaii as well. I need some more points for that though so let’s hope I’m going to get them this Sunday.
TZ: What advice do you have for young and emerging professional triathletes? Are there things you would have done differently?
Yvonne: I would definitely have invested more time in swimming and way earlier as well. To get out there in the front is such a big advantage. I still blame my parents for not putting me in swim squads 🙂
I would also say, enjoy every minute of what you are doing, be thankful for being able to do this amazing sport and don’t forget this, listen to your body, your training schedule and your coach. Your coach and other key advisers know what to do, but the only one that can feel what you really need and what your body wants, is you.