On this edition of The Kona Edge we head back to Melbourne in Australia to catch up with former rugby international turned Ironman Triathlete Jo Coombe to learn what she has done to get better on the bike.


BRAD BROWN: Welcome onto this edition of The Kona Edge, it’s good to have you with us and we’re going to talk some biking now and we head back to Melbourne, Australia, Jo Coombe joins us. Jo, thanks for chatting to us once again. In our first chat you mentioned that you’re not the hugest fan of these long endurance bike rides in the build up to Ironman, has it just gotten worse as your Ironman career has lengthened or has it always been that way?

JO COOMBE: It’s always been like that. I can remember training for my first Ironman and pretty much throwing my bike on the side of the road and sitting down, having a tantrum, just because my legs were tired and I didn’t want to be on the bike anymore, so it’s always been like that, it’s a real hate relationship, but I do love climbing, so if I can get out there in the mountains, with beautiful scenery, then I lose track of time and I can kind of trick myself into the long rides by doing that kind of thing.

BRAD BROWN: You must love climbing because you qualified for your first Kona at Ironman France which if anybody has looked at that bike profile, it’s ridiculous. Then you also won your age group in Malaysia, which is not the easiest of bike courses, again, there’s so many different types of Ironman around the country, Horses for Courses, but Kona is what it is, you’d probably love it if there was more climbing on that course.

Climbing the key to Ironman Kona success

JO COOMBE: Yeah, actually the first time I raced Kona, I got to the top of the Hawi climb and I hadn’t ridden it in advance of the race, we’d just driven it and I was in a really great rhythm and that sort of just nice, oh, I could keep doing this and then lo and behold, there’s the turnaround and I can remember thinking, oh, that wasn’t long enough, I wanted it to be double, the climb to Hawi, so yeah, that 20km climb in France is just beautiful. I got to the top of that and just said, why would you ever want to race a flat Ironman? Yeah, I like the sort of 3-5% climbs that just go on and on and on, where you can just get in a great rhythm and just keep going.

BRAD BROWN: You’re scaring the living daylights out of everyone listening to this Jo, you realise that don’t you?

JO COOMBE: Yeah, I do have my weaknesses and time trialling is one of those.

BRAD BROWN: Let’s talk about that weakness, in our first chat you mentioned that you’ve targeted, your two A races are a lot more time trial focused than climbing, what are you doing at the moment to try and improve that aspect of your biking?

JO COOMBE: I suppose, I think a lot of it comes from positioning on the bike and I’ve never been comfortable in the time trial position. My default thing was always to sit up, well, you know, you see so many people in that second half of the Ironman ride sitting up and pretty much wasting the money they’ve spent on a time trial bike.

So, I guess I’m doing things like, you know, longer extended periods in the time trial position, on my longer rides. Even when I am climbing, and it would be much more comfortable for me to sit up and spin pedals, I’m sitting in the aero position and I might give myself a minute break every now and then, but I’m really focusing on trying to hold that aero position. I guess just, I’ve got some intervals, my coach has given me some five minute interval sessions and I’m really focusing on dialing in those harder efforts in the time trial position.

BRAD BROWN: Are you feeling like you’re making progress on that?

JO COOMBE: Yeah, definitely. I’m holding a better Power number, for longer periods of time. We’ll see in a few weeks in Texas, I suppose, but I’ve done some sprint races and a couple of Olympic distance races this summer and I’ve pushed some really good numbers on the bike, better than I have for a few years. It’s certainly looking positive. How I’ll go against the uber German bikers in Frankfurt, I don’t know, but you know, maybe I’ll be a bit further up the field than I might have been in previous years.

BRAD BROWN: Let’s touch on Power, is it something you live and die by?

JO COOMBE: No, not at all, I like to track how I’m going, I certainly, I know what my FTP is but I don’t do frequent FTP tests or anything like that. My current FTP is from a sprint race where I held my highest ever Power for 20 minutes. So, I just keep a gauge of that and I do have an account with Training Peaks, so I can track what my performance management chart is doing according to my Power numbers. I just keep a watch on it, but no, usually I’ll race by feel because I think if you’re a slave to Power and things go wrong, where do you go from there really.

BRAD BROWN: Jo, favourite workout on the bike, what do you love doing? You mentioned climbing, is it hill sets?

JO COOMBE: I think it would be, yeah, hill repeats, long hill repeats, for France I used to do 3 x 10-12km up a 5% mountain. Big, long sessions, so I’d be on the bike five hours, but I’d pretty much just do three reps of this mountain in that time, so those kind of real, massive hill climbs I love.

BRAD BROWN: Brilliant stuff, Jo, thank you very much for your time once again here on The Kona Edge, we love catching up and we look forward to finding out what you do on the run, next time out.

JO COOMBE: No worries, thanks.

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