Liz Blatchford on training, mental strength and the transition from Olympic to longer distances.
Elite triathlete Liz Blatchford triumphed at Ironman Cairns 2014, finishing the epic race in just over 9 hours – an effort that earned her first place, defending her 2013 title.
We had a chat with Liz about what it’s like to transition from the Olympic distance to longer course events, how her body have coped with the increased load, and her best advice for triathletes.
How have you found the shift to longer distances?
Aside from the success, which is always a bonus, it’s really refreshing for me. I did ITU triathlons for a long time and I loved every minute of it, but it was almost getting to that point where it was a bit of the sameness. The long course is refreshing: new faces, new destinations, totally different races. The training is different as well and I’m really enjoying it.
How does the training for the longer events compare?
I wouldn’t say that one is harder than the other; it’s less of the high end intensity, but more hours out there. Either way at the end of the day, you’re exhausted! I think it’s a lot of mental strength for the long course and believing in yourself and pushing through when everyone else is feeling as bad as you are but you’ve got to keep moving forward.
Is there any specific training you can do for the mental side, or is it just evolving with experience?
I think it’s just evolved. With Cairns being my first Ironman last year, I just remember looking at my watch every three minutes saying, “I can’t believe I’m still going, I’m still in the race and it’s six hours, seven hours,” and then each one since. It’s about getting out there and doing it and finding ways to trick the mind about not getting too far ahead.
Training aside, how else do you prepare for a big event like Cairns?
One thing I like to do is go through the race in my head completely, put aside 15 minutes to just think about that maybe two days out from the race. Then after that I try not to think about the race because it can be wasted energy. It’s hard not to be nervous but to be continually going over the same things in your head is a waste of energy. Do it once and then try and relax and enjoy things.
What race-day advice can you share?
Stay calm and focus on yourself. Obviously there will be people in the race who will go past you at points, and although it’s tempting to try and go with them, it’s probably best to stay focused on what you can achieve. Try and enjoy the experience, it’s really special. Whether you achieve the time you want to or not, it’s still a special experience and just completing one of these things is an amazing achievement.
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Check out more Ironman and triathlon advice from Courtney Atkinson.