Sunday, 10 May 2009

My first interview...

With the countdown at just over 12 days to go and our next scheduled blog entries due to be written in Lanzarote the night before race week it's all become somewhat real! Things have gone just about as well as could be expected and with just one key session left in each discipline (16 mile Ironman paced run in the morning, Pool Triangle 20k bike TT on Wednesday, some kind of swim test on Friday) I'm feeling confident of a great race on the 23rd.

This weekend we've spent most of our time being motivated by watching other people pushing themselves toward their goals however I'll leave H to talk about that stuff... but well done to everyone and thanks for the inspiration ;)

Today I'm going to introduce a new type of post to our blog and hopefully something I can repeat in the future... my first interview :) I've got loads of ideas for developing our blog but unfortunately time has been at such a premium over the last six months that most of them are still floating around my head waiting to be let loose. Having been there since the beginning of Ian's Ironman journey back in 2005 his amazing performance last month in Ironman Australia where he broke ten hours for the first time and qualified for Hawaii was too good an opportunity to miss... I just had to find out how he did it...


Me - Firstly, congratulations on a great race in Australia and qualifying for the World Ironman Championships in Kona, Hawaii... it must feel pretty amazing?

Ian - It feels truly amazing. Not sure it has properly sunk in yet. It has certainly taken a long time to get there. Much harder than any other distance World Champs.

Me - One of my first triathlon memories is H and I cheering you round Ironman UK in 2005 (I think?) and before that I remember seeing you run your first marathon (I think) in New York... I also remember plenty of partying 'back in the day'... what got you into endurance sport in the first place and why Ironman?

Ian - I was fed up of watching others run the marathon. So decided to stop holding the coats and get out there myself. After running New York I was hooked and have loved travelling the world to race ever since. I still party once in a while just not every weekend.

Me - How did you find making the transition from running to tri? I know you've always ridden a bike but what about the swim?

Ian - A lot of triathletes in Oxford also run with the running club. A couple of mountain bike friends were in the tri club and kept asking me to come along but I never did. Then I used to bug Doctor James about Ironman all the time and just thought it was bonkers and impossible. Then on the New Year of 2004 triathlon was added to the 'to do' list and signed up for a sprint, an Olympic and a half Iron. The swim was certainly tough for me at first. I did four lengths at David Lloyd and knew I needed a lot of help. So I joined the tri club where the coaches taught me to swim. I then went to the pool three to four times a week and worked like crazy to improve. I couldn't have done it without their help. I was awful. I still think there's a great deal for me to learn on the swim front. I have also been lucky in Oz getting some great coaching in both Noosa and Coffs Harbour.

Me - As someone who swims under the hour for an Ironman you've obviously developed into an excellent open water swimmer, were the mass starts and deep water scary at first and do you have any tips for surviving what is perhaps the most intimidating section of triathlon?

Ian - I love the mass starts, always have. They were scary at first but I love them now and almost hate it when there are waves. I feel the most important to thing is to relax and not allow yourself to get too stressed. You will get hit, you might lose your goggles and you may well get kicked. You just need to roll with it, find your own water and a good pair of feet to draft. The important thing is to seed yourself correctly and try to find some space then relax into it. Don't go too hard too soon either otherwise it'll come back and bite you on the arse. I also try to swim open water as much as possible too. It's very different to pool swimming. Being a great pool swimmer is all well and good but triathletes swim outside so we need top work on that. Plus getting used to swimming in a wetsuit will help a great deal come race day.

Me - I bought (on your recommendation) a Blue Seventy Helix last year and absolutely loved it... are you still using the same wetsuit and if so what's so great about it?

Ian - Yep, still using the same wetsuit and love it. It fits a treat and is super comfortable, which is important when you have to splash around in it for an hour. It's super flexible around the shoulders and way quicker to remove than any of the other suits I have used.

Me - Moving on from the swim, would I be right in saying the bike is your strongest triathlon discipline?

Ian - I guess. It's what comes most naturally to me. Having been involved in bike sports all my life has certainly helped. Riding BMX and mountain bikes certainly helped with bike handling. For Oz I did more riding (20-25hr wks) than ever before 'cos I couldn't run very much with my plantar fascia problems. Riding with power has certainly helped to smooth things out.

Me - I was going to ask about power... correct bike pacing is so important (training and racing) yet so many people (myself included) struggle with it... how has riding with a Power meter changed your approach?

Ian - Most importantly it has taught me consistency. I ride hard when I should and easy when I should. I used to kill it flying up hills but have learned to go steady up them now, then go hard when descending to keep things even. It stops me from slowing when my mind starts to wander after a few hours in the saddle. It has also helped me to ignore HR and speed, which really don't matter and to understand my perceived effort a lot more rather than worrying about HR, which is just the way your body is reacting to the work load rather than the work you're actually doing.

Me - Any idea what sort of wattage you'd ride an Ironman at?

Ian - I aimed to ride Oz around the 180-200 mark and managed to pull it off.

Me - it was a pretty tough course I heard? did your power drop off much toward the end?

Ian - It's rolling with a few hills. Not Lanza or France tough but certainly not a flat easy one. It didn't help that it was windy and wet at times. My power dropped a couple of watts on the third lap. To be honest I felt really strong on the bike and it was my back that was hurting in the last 10k rather than my legs.

Me - I think you started the run with about 6.12 on the clock? Although you're a great runner (sub 80 half and sub 3 full marathon) the third tri discipline hasn't always gone to plan for you... what was going through your mind in the first couple of miles?

Ian - I figured that I could make the sub ten top goal with a steady run and I was in a great place mentally having had such a good swim and run. My legs have never felt this good at the end of the bike so that was a huge bonus. My crazy bike weeks were paying off. I was also very aware of the fact that anything can wrong on the run, especially when it comes to nutrition and keeping my stomach contents in, so tried not to get too overexcited. I also had the added worry of not running anywhere near enough in the previous two months. Since Geelong 70.3 at the start of Feb I'd run less than 10 hours in total. Oddly none of these negatives bothered me and I just focused on the job in hand. I was so chilled and happy to be doing the event after the plantar fascia problems, floods and talk of cancelling the swim (I would have been gutted had this happened). Nothing seemed to be too much of a problem or concern. It helped having so many new friends from Coffs Harbour Tri Club, Sam's friend Shelley and EK out there out there giving me the love. This makes such a massive difference and I went bounding out on lap one feeling pretty positive. The plan was to use the first of the three laps to find my run legs. I also knew that if I could run 1:10 laps 3:30 was on the cards. I'd been to Port about a month before and ran a sub hour lap, which was hard but I knew roughly a minute a mile slower shouldn't be too hard, which I certainly did until I hit the hills on the latter part of the lap. My left ankle decided that it didn't want to bend like normal. So when I tried to run uphill I suffered such excruciating pain I had no choice but to walk. I was gutted because my legs felt pretty strong. At the end of lap one sub 10 was still on the cards.

Me - It’s interesting that you say felt you hadn’t run ‘enough’ in the build up… has that feeling changed since finishing the race? Obviously you’d have liked to run a little more but looking back on not only a overall pb but a run pb is Lance Armstrong right when he says ‘It’s all about the bike’?

Ian - Mentally I felt I hadn't done enough running because it was way less than what I'd always done in the past. That said I knew that plenty of biking offsets my lack of running well. When I ran the London marathon and broke sub three I was running twice maybe three times a week but I'd done masses of biking a couple of months before and continued to ride while I trained for it. Because I was unable to run very often or far for IM Oz I put more hours in on the bike and hoped it would pay off. I also didn't let the lack of run training get under my skin. I just thought lets run this until the wheels fall off. It was a risk trying to run hard rather than safe but I am always one to take a chance. Sometimes it goes belly up but more often than not it's what gets PBs. I have to say it's all about the bike. Not necessarily about doing a super quick time but doing a solid time and getting off so your legs aren't completely spent. It makes a massive difference. Anyone can do a quick bike but Ironman isn't a bike race. Using power really helped me keep my race pace in check and not go too hard or slack off either.

Me - So that’s the swim, bike and run dealt with… but as we all know there’s a forth discipline in Ironman, a 10,000 calorie day requires plenty of eating, but that’s easier said than done. You seem to have got it right on the day, what was your strategy (from the day before to crossing the finish line if poss?)???

Ian - made a point of not eating too much the day before, at least no more than usual. I had a carbohydrate heavy meal with some BBQ chicken quite early around 4.30pm. This meant my main meal was in and digesting early so I could get up at 3.30 am and eat breakfast without it feeling like I was stuffing food in an already full belly. As for breakfast I had a several slices of toast with jam and coffee to help with the morning movement. When I can't cook porridge this is what I go for. Then sipped water until just before I started the swim and enjoyed my first SIS gel of the day. I'm not one to eat too much or swig a zillion energy drinks or just end up feeling sick.
On the bike I had a mixture of bars, gels and Gatorade drinks. I'd tried to get in a bar and two gels on each lap. I was alternating between water and Gatorade as necessary. Then on the run I was on SIS gels. I had six with me in a hope that I might get them all down. This was a big hope since at IM France I managed two in the first half before I was at the point of puking. I figure the cooler weather helped my stomach because I had sucked down all six after just two laps. This certainly helped with energy levels both mentally and physically. On the final lap I hit the coke. I guess knowing I had one lap to go and sub ten was more than doable I was in a good place anyway. I just kept telling myself “it's my day” and it was up to me how I spent the next hour and fifteen. I could either hurt and do it or let it slip and go into that world of true hell. Having all the nutrition in and hitting the coke helped me stay out of that bad place I've been in before in the previous three IM races. It makes a huge difference. I've never had that much energy in me on the run before and it changed everything.

Me - So, that brings us nicely to the Hawaii ceremony the following day? How did the legs feel and did they feel any better after you’d picked up your slot?

Ian - had a bad night in that I kept waking up from sore legs so didn't sleep too well even though I was totally knackered. My legs were really painful the day after but I like that feeling - a badge of having worked properly hard. I was so stoked with getting sub ten that getting a slot for Hawaii didn't really both me one way or the other. Then when I got a slot it was a different story. It was the absolute icing on the cake. I was completely overwhelmed. I could barely sign my name. It was a real ceremony with loud music, a kiss from some chick who put a lei round my neck as well as a qualifiers tee shirt and hat. It was a real hold back the tears moment. It took a while to sink in that I was going to Kona. What made it even better was the fact a few friends I'd trained with got slots too. I guess at this point I wasn't thinking too much about my legs.

Me - It’s been a five year (I think) Ironman journey to get to this stage, now you’re finally on the ‘real’ road Kona what are your plans for the next six months leading up to Hawaii?

Ian - I have taken a few weeks off and done absolutely nothing. I caught a cold on the way home from Oz and felt pretty crappy, which sidelined me anyway. I went out on a bike for the first time on my birthday and it was ace. EK and I hit the hills and there was no backing off. She's so competitive and I couldn't let her spank me, so by the end we were both toast. It felt good to be back in the saddle even if it was really strange riding a road bike after only riding a TT bike since Christmas. I'll ease back into training over the weekend and next week. I am off to Lanza in May for a week of hard biking and swimming and to watch you guys kill it and qualify. As for racing I am doing UK 70.3 and a European Xterra yet to be decided. I want to have real fun racing this summer and not get too consumed by the Kona thing. I will probably start more specific stuff for it in July though.

Me - And finally, treading water amongst the worlds greatest endurance athletes at the most prestigious triathlon start in history on October the 10th what will be going through your mind?... and what are your goals for the race?

Ian - Probably someone's foot, ha ha. I just feel lucky to have got there. I can't wait to race at the daddy of triathlon events. I'm told there's a pretty special atmosphere and aura there. I'm sure I will just have a big grin on my face and be pinching myself that it's all real. That water looks so blue and clear. My only goal is to enjoy every minute of that day whether it's splashing about in the non-wetsuit swim, cruisin' up the Queen K, seeing the Natural Energy Lab or finishing on Ali'i Drive. I will train and race hard but I have no goal other than to do myself justice and love every second.


So there you go, hope you enjoyed the read and thanks Ian.

We'll hopefully be posting regularly from Lanzarote, although that will most likely be through our Twitter accounts... I'll let you know next Sunday.

See you soon,



Jevon said...

great interview mate. really interesting. did you have to transcribe all that? must have taken ages! keep up the good work. rest rest rest. YOu'll mash lanza.

Anonymous said...

He talks a lot of sense when he's not drunk. Nice work.

Khara Mills said...

Great interview Tom, really enjoyed the read, thanks.

In case you don't post here and therefore I forget before Lanza...

I really can't offer you any advice for the big day. I just hope you have the brilliant race you deserve which I know means being the best you can be on the day. You've done absolutely everything you can and I hope you get that tiny bit of luck we can all do with. We'll all be thinking of you and if you get chance, do keep us up to date in the week leading up to it. Have a great trip, know that we're all behind you (literally! ;-) ) and can't wait to hear all about it.

Thanks for the inspiration Tom
Khara x

Tom said...


Thanks :) We tried loads of different ways of doing it, starting with a Facebook online chat which we then cut and pasted into Word but it was difficult time wise as it was quite a slow process and we both had to be there at the same time. In the end we emailed questions back and forward until job done then just pasted into blog ;)

Ady... LOL :)

Khara... thanks for everything, it's been a great journey and not quite over yet ;)