Tim Van Berkel: Reflections on a Triathlon Journey and the Road Ahead

Tim Van Berkel shares his experiences, insights, and aspirations as he approaches his 40th Ironman race and reflects on his remarkable triathlon career.

Tim Van Berkel: Reflections on a Triathlon Journey and the Road Ahead
Will this be the last time with see Tim Van Berkel in Port? Photo: Korupt Vision

As the 37th edition of Ironman Australia approaches, we caught up with seasoned triathlete Tim Van Berkel to discuss his experiences, insights, and aspirations. With an impressive track record that includes five Ironman champion titles and a special connection to the Port Macquarie course, Tim shared his thoughts on the challenges and rewards of his triathlon journey.

When asked about his success at Ironman Australia, Tim attributed his strong performances to his familiarity with the course. "The Ironman Australia course at Port Macquarie is renowned for being a tricky course, especially the bike leg. I think the fact that I have local knowledge of the area and have trained on these roads so much in the past has meant I have a bit of insight into all the tricky sections of the course," he explained.

Tim's passion for triathlon and the Ironman distance, in particular, was sparked by watching the legendary battles between Chris McCormack and Luke Bell when the race was held in Foster. "That was around the time I had been dabbling in triathlon, and it's what motivated me to pursue the Ironman distance specifically," he recalled.

As Tim approaches his 40th Ironman race and his 40th birthday, he reflected on the changes in his training and racing strategies over the years. "Over the years, I think the way we train has changed so much right across the board as the whole sporting world has made advances. As much as you try to keep up with some of the latest sciences etc., sometimes if you dial it back to basics, I have found that has helped me not get bogged down with the saturation of information out there and focus on what has been important to me," he shared.

Recalling last year's closely contested race against Steve McKenna and Sam Appleton, Tim admitted, "In all honesty, at the time, I was absolutely pushed to the limit, so wasn't really strategising, just more surviving, haha! But looking back, it was great to be part of an epic battle, especially for all the spectators and supporters out there; it made the run leg really nail-biting and entertaining to watch."

For first-time competitors, Tim's advice is clear: "Pace yourself on the day - it's not a forgiving course, so I would highly recommend doing some course recon prior, especially riding Matthew Flinders beforehand. Dial in your nutrition and make sure you have enough to get you through the rest of the run leg; it can be a bit lonely out at Settlement Point, so make sure you have something left in the tank to get you home."

When asked about his most memorable racing moments, Tim pointed to his win at the Asia Pacific Champs in Cairns in 2016, where he came back from a 15-minute deficit, and his Top 10 finish at Kona in 2014. He also acknowledged the challenges of balancing training, racing, and personal life, crediting his support system for their understanding and the sacrifices they've made to help him be successful.

Looking ahead, Tim believes that the talent level in triathlon will continue to rise, and athletes will need to minimise weaknesses to remain competitive. "The technology and gear options available have come so far, and I think that this will only continue to improve as more research and scientific approaches are taken, which we are seeing more of, especially in the European athletes," he noted.

For Tim, racing at Ironman Australia in Port Macquarie feels like coming home. "After calling Port Macquarie my home for around 10 years, it always feels like I'm coming home, and the locals are always welcoming me back. The atmosphere on race day is always so supportive, and everyone in the community gets behind it on the day," he said.

As for his plans beyond Ironman Australia, Tim has his sights set on Ironman Cairns in June and a few local events where he'll be working on some behind-the-scenes organising.