I‘m reading 2016 IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion Tim Reed’s latest blog entry on his website timreed.com.au entitled War On Dehydration — it offers some chilling reading.
In his post, Reed, from Byron Bay on the beautiful north coast of New South Wales in Australia, explains that for someone of his physical stature (he stands at 172cm), he has very high sweat and sodium losses. In very warm conditions, he can lose four to five kilograms in a two-hour run — a 7% drop in his body weight just through fluid loss.
In another post from last year, Reed, also the 2016 IRONMAN Australia Champion and two-time IRONMAN 70.3 Asia-Pacific Champion, reflects on his race at the IRONMAN 70.3 at Port Macquarie in Australia, which started with a 3am pre-race alarm.
“I lie awake and waiting for the alarm to break the tense silence from about 1.30am on an IRONMAN race morning…the alarm sound is relief comparable to crossing the finish line. Finally, no more sitting around resting and waiting. No more questioning last minute equipment choices, race tactics or whether I’ve done enough in my training preparation. It’s all done now. Time to go and enjoy the mental clarity and peace that suffering in a race seems to provide.”
That last sentence sums up the type of mindset a triathlete like 33-year-old Reed has. For a beginner like me, a 1.9km ocean swim, followed by a 90km bike leg and capped with a half-marathon (21km) in biting heat is a harrowing thought. For Reed, it’s where he finds peace. Go figure.
So how does he do it, and perhaps the most pressing question, why?
Reed generously gave up some of his valuable rest time between races recently to help The Bureau understand what makes champion triathletes like him, tick.
B: What kind of athlete or sportsperson were you before you became a professional triathlete in 2010?
TR: I’ve always been ultra competitive at whatever sport I’ve participated in, but definitely not elite at anything prior to triathlon. I played a lot of team sports up until I was about 20 years-old — basketball, rugby, touch football, tennis, etc. My best attribute in all the team sports I played was always my fitness, so I had an inkling I would be okay at endurance sports.
B: How did you get into triathlons?
TR: I got sick of being the smallest and shortest person on the rugby field and basketball court. I loved the whole concept of triathlon. I met some great people who were involved and gradually I got more and more into it over several years. Early on, my favourite discipline was running because I was running at quite a high level very quickly and I didn’t have enough money to get the good cycling gear, which I always found frustrating. I didn’t like swimming at all, I still don’t enjoy swim training after the first 15-20 minutes, but I love triathlon enough to put up with it. Now by far, my greatest love is cycling. Even on my days off training, I find it really hard not to take the cyclocross or MTB (mountain bike) out for a spin. It helps to have a garage full of Trek bikes begging to be ridden!
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B: What kind of personality do you have? Is there a certain kind of personality suited to what you do?
TR: I’m highly competitive and driven, I get anxious with periods of extreme confidence polarised by periods of an extreme lack of confidence. Yes, all the personality traits that tend to be involved with high performance.
B: How do you deal with anxiety and nervousness the night before a race?
TR: Not very well. I’m much better with it the more frequently I race. I just remind myself that not many athletes are sleeping well before the event and that I don’t need to sleep to do well. If I start worrying about my inability to sleep I have absolutely no chance of falling asleep. On race morning, I never feel any nerves for some strange reason. Just a lot of excitement to race.
B: What’s your advice for the weekend warriors like us at the start of the swim leg?
TR: If you’re not used to the claustrophobic feeling of people swimming all over you, start wide in clear water and take your time to build into the swim. The swim start can be an overwhelming sensation if you have placed yourself in the wrong start position.
B: Is it better to under-train or over-train leading up to a race?
TR: Absolutely it’s better to be undertrained. An undertrained athlete can still race incredibly well, while an overtrained athlete struggles though the entire event.
B: What’s one sacrifice you’ve made that best sums up your commitment to being a pro-triathlete?
TR: I have to spend a lot of time away from my family, which is the hardest part of my job. At times we travel together, but it’s becoming less frequent now that my boys are getting older. If there is one aspect of the job that I really dislike and could lead to retirement, it’s the time away from family.
B: What’s your diet like?
TR: At times my diet is incredibly strict, while at other times, you would hardly believe I’m an athlete. I tend to be strict for weeks leading into races and then after a race, I really let things go and get the junk food eating out of my system. It’s not great for recovery, but I feel that the mental relief of not having to think about being healthy for a while is worth it. I love beer. It’s a real weakness. From November through to March, I’ll enjoy a beer or two a day, but after March through to October, I try to eliminate drinking, except for a couple on weekends.
B: Do you have any tips on recovery, especially for older people like us at The Bureau?!
TR: There are so many gadgets and tips out there that it can be mind boggling. 95% of recovery comes down to one thing — sleep! If you can get adequate sleep so the body can repair and replenish, you’re ticking the right box to absorb your training and consistently improve.
B: Where’s your favourite destination for triathlons?
TR: My favourite cultural destination is IRONMAN 70.3 Vietnam in Danang, but my favourite overall event is IRONMAN 70.3 Cebu in The Philippines.
B: How was your experience in Vietnam?
TR: I came to Vietnam once as a 20 year-old backpacking, and I’ve raced twice in the IRONMAN 70.3 Vietnam. The overall experience each time has been absolutely terrific. The race is hard, but manageable if you’re mentally prepared for the heat. I love Danang and how easy it is to spend time in old and modern Vietnam. Vietnamese food in my opinion is undisputedly the best in Asia, closely ahead of Thai food. Even the coffee is great in Vietnam!
B: How do you see the future of triathlon as a hobby, sport or lifestyle in Vietnam?
TR: I think like most of Asia, triathlon will continue to grow steadily as more people around the world are taken out of manual labour employment. As a result, there will be a growing need to exercise, to stay active, and triathlon certainly provides that opportunity!
The Bureau wishes to thank Tim Reed for taking time out of his busy schedule for an interview, and Glen Murray at Korupt Vision for kindly providing all of the photos.
For more information about IRONMAN 70.3 Vietnam, click here