On this edition of The Kona Edge we touch base with multiple Ironman finisher and Kona Qualifier Roger Canham. Roger shares how he tries to make each performance better than the last. He tells us about his dream to make podium at Kona and how he fine tunes his strategies by doing a post-race analysis.
BRAD BROWN: Well, we head to Rutland in the United Kingdom now and we’re joined by Roger Canham. Roger, welcome, thanks for joining us here on The Kona Edge.
ROGER CANHAM: Very good, pleased to be here.
BRAD BROWN: Roger, I came across you, I’m trying to think, it was through Facebook, but I saw the most epic finisher photo from Ironman Texas in 2016, obviously we’ve spoken about it a few times here on the podcast. The weather was ridiculous, but your finisher photo at that race has got to be one of the most epic photos I’ve ever seen.
ROGER CANHAM: Yeah, thanks, it was quite an emotional journey, it was an adventure from start to finish, that race. Three weeks out it looked like they might abandon the whole race and eventually we ended up with a bike course that was 95 miles with effectively 95 turns in it. So that was interesting and two days before the race they changed the swim route because part of it, the water wasn’t deemed to be fit to swim in and then yes, the last two miles of the marathon was Biblical in terms of the conditions that we had and yes, I was desperate to get to the finish line. If only to get out of the hail and the wind and the rain, it was quite something.
BRAD BROWN: What I’m going to do if it’s okay with you, I’m going to nick that photo and pop it into the show notes of this episode because I think it is well worth a share. I love it and it’s races like that that make for the best stories.
ROGER CANHAM: Yeah, absolutely, every Ironman race has its own memories, but this one, I think, will stand out. While not my most competitive performance, it was certainly one that yes, will live with me for a long while. I was absolutely thrilled to get across the line.
BRAD BROWN: I’m sure. Let’s take a step back, where did your journey into triathlon all start?
The encouragement from Ironman athletes got me hooked
ROGER CANHAM: My sporting background, really, was rugby union, that’s really what I played from school and for a few years afterwards and I really got into endurance sports, I guess, having broken a few bones, too many really. I kind of thought, I ought to give up, with a young family, taking time off work through injuries. So, I did a bit of running, did a bit of marathon running, just two or three and then got the inevitable runners knee and so, okay, I want to carry on doing endurance sports. What could I do and just pitched in with, triathlon was quite a new thing in the early 2000’s, had no idea what I was doing, couldn’t swim more than a length without getting out of breath and I didn’t own a bike. So, it was quite a quick learning curve.
I did my first triathlon, I think it was 2001/2002, and I absolutely loved it. I was hooked, not just on the sport, but also the people that were in the sport. Very welcoming, always willing to share their experiences and encourage new people to really engage with the sport and that, to this day really, is something that I love about the sport, just the people in it and also the travel of course.
BRAD BROWN: Let’s touch on the rugby. We’ve got a fairly large international listenership to this podcast, particularly the United States. Rugby is not the biggest of sports and for those who don’t know rugby, it’s 80 minutes, 2 x 40 minute halves, it’s pretty physical, it’s taxing on the body, stop/start, it’s not the endurance, I mean you wouldn’t typically equate an Ironman with a match of rugby. What position did you play in union Roger?
ROGER CANHAM: I was a number 7 which is the guy that spends the whole 80 minutes chasing the ball. So there was a lot of running and I was never the greatest rugby player but I just figured, if I could be the fittest guy on the pitch and keep running in the second 40 minutes, I was going to do a bit better than the other guys who were flagging. I guess that kind of spoke to my sort of endurance part of my physiology really.
BRAD BROWN: I mean for those who don’t know, number 7, a flank, is not the smallest of guys on the pitch at any given time. From a physical frame perspective, you’re not built like a Kenyan, if I can put it that way.
ROGER CANHAM: No, absolutely not. I was a bit heavier back in those days, but even then, in terms of my ability to progress in the sport, it was limited by my size and I am 6.2 and I probably was a couple of stone heavier than I am now, but yes, 10 years of endurance exercise tends to slim you down a little.
BRAD BROWN: I feel your pain Roger, I was a prop, so I was definitely not built, I was built to scrum and that’s all I was built to do and yeah, coming into triathlon, it’s challenging to say the least. I’m also pretty tall, I’m 6.6, not the smallest of frames, so I get what you’re saying. It is, it’s an incredible environment to be in. Did you struggle making that transition from an 80 minute rugby game to going up to a however many hour Ironman? It’s a big jump.
ROGER CANHAM: It was, but like most people, I guess, well, probably less so these days, but certainly back then when Ironman was still relatively a small part of the sport, you would do the progression through sprint, through Olympic and I was a dreadful swimmer. So I guess duathlon was probably my favourite sport back at the start and so I guess 2001 my first triathlon, my first Ironman wasn’t until 2004, and that was just won and done, get the box ticked and I think every triathlete secretly harbors an ambition to tick that box. So, yes, endurance was something that I built over a number of years, but yes, you know, trying to stay fit for 80 minutes still required a fair bit of running outside of the game itself.
BRAD BROWN: You mentioned ticking that box and making the decision to do your first one. Can you recall the mental fortitude it took to talk yourself into doing something as crazy as an Ironman?
ROGER CANHAM: I’ve always been keen for a challenge. I’m always willing to get stuck into something that is just a bit more than I’m presently doing, so it very much was there to be done and so I guess I had the opportunity, a bit more time to train and yeah, just took it. I did Austria in 2004 and I think I walked probably half the run, except the parts where my family were watching, when I knew where they were watching I made sure I was running that bit and of course the last kilometer down the finish chute.
BRAD BROWN: As one has to, you can’t walk down that finish chute.
ROGER CANHAM: Absolutely not, no.
BRAD BROWN: Let’s talk about once that block is ticked and you then start thinking, hang on a sec, this was actually quite fun. I want to go back and do another one.
ROGER CANHAM: Well, I’m not quite sure fun was the way I’d necessarily put it. But certainly a challenge that I didn’t think I’d really cracked, but I left it alone for 2-3 years and went back and did Lanzarote in 2007, which is a hot, very hilly course, probably still one of the toughest on the circuit. I think I did well enough there to think, okay, well, my endurance background probably means I’m suited to this distance. Certainly the shorter swim, relative to the bike and the run was something that appealed to me. Racing Olympic distance, obviously swimming is much more important, so definitely, Lanzarote 2007, I thought, okay, I need to have another crack at this. I think I can do okay and that’s when the journey started really.
BRAD BROWN: When did you start harboring Kona ambitions? Did you realize early on in your tri career that hang on a sec, I’m pretty decent within my age group or did that come with time as well?
ROGER CANHAM: I think it’s something I probably fantasized about and dreamed about, but never really thought I’d be a serious contender. Having not really got close to the podium in my races and in 2008 when I did New Zealand, which was a terrific race in Taupo, absolutely beautiful. Of course you race hard and you do your best and you push yourself to the line and I came in 7th. I never really contemplated whether I’d be able to get to Hawaii, so getting that slot in New Zealand was a massive surprise and obviously thrilled. Once you’re thinking about the Big Island, it’s almost all your Christmas’s come at once, it was an absolutely fantastic moment.
Focus, prioritize and balance makes it easier to get to Kona
BRAD BROWN: Let’s touch on just what it takes to get there and yes, it’s a journey, it doesn’t happen overnight, from a work and family perspective, that’s probably the thing that most age groupers struggle with, in my experience. Getting that balance right of being able to juggle the amount of training you need to do, but also to keep things sort of balanced on the home front.
ROGER CANHAM: Yeah, it’s very tough and I think going to the Big Island, in some respects, requires an enormous amount of focus and yeah, a bit selfish sometimes as well, you have to prioritize your sessions, getting the work done. In some respects, I think intrinsically, training for an Ironman and if you want to go to the Big Island, it is fairly clear what you need to do and that’s just work hard. It’s being efficient with your time management, shoehorning the right sessions into your schedule during the week and as you said, not compromising everything. But inevitably the people around you have to understand it’s an important goal for you and they have to be very supportive and also your friends and if you haven’t got that environment, it does make it very tough. If you’re going to prioritize work and family ahead of your training sessions the whole time, then it’s going to be very tough to get to the Big Island, for sure.
BRAD BROWN: Work-wise, what do you do for a living Roger?
ROGER CANHAM: I’ve got a property business and two or three other things so I’m lucky that two or three days a week I can work from home and a couple of days a week I tend to be working away. But the great thing with running is, you can throw a pair of shoes in the bag and wherever you are, you can get out the door, even if it’s at 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning, you can get out there and get that run session in. Again, it’s being smart with your diary and scheduling and the workouts so that they fit around that diary, from a practical perspective.
BRAD BROWN: It’s funny you say that and you mention the word ‘diary’, it was a couple of weeks ago I had a chat with Natalie Gaskin who is from New Zealand and she was saying just how important the time management side of things are for her and that was one thing she said, it was just getting those priorities right. Are you that sort of, I don’t want to use the word ‘pedantic’ but that’s probably the word I should use. Do you sit down once a week and go, okay, this is what I need to do from a training perspective, this is what I need to do from a work perspective and this is what I need to do from a family perspective and have your week planned out and then during the week you just work that plan?
ROGER CANHAM: Yeah, absolutely, yes, it goes much further than that Brad. Rather than even just on a weekly basis. I know, I’m going on holiday for a couple of weeks in July with the family, so that’s going to be a swimming and a run block because I know I won’t have access to my bike. So the two weeks before is going to be a big bike block, so it’s almost also periodising your training with those sorts of commitments. You’re going to go away with the family, you’re going to go on holiday and so you just have to figure out how that works with the overall training plan. But also on a week to week basis, you’re right, it’s always a long bike ride on a Saturday, it’s always the run on the Sunday. But then if there are two or three key sessions, where are they going to fit so that you can execute them well and then if you like, the other stuff, how does that fit around your diary, definitely. They say, if you want something done, give it to a busy person.
BRAD BROWN: It’s so true that, so, so true and it’s funny Roger, you say that, with what I’m doing here on The Kona Edge, I get to chat to so many great athletes and one thing that I’m finding is they’re not just great athletes, they’re great people. They’ve got a pretty successful life outside of triathlon as well. Very few of them are, I say very well, are sort of run of the mill, ordinary, average everyday people, they are succeeding in every aspect of their life. Do you think that’s a pre-requisite and that helps?
ROGER CANHAM: I think you’d have to be somebody that’s very focused and very organized to get it done. It does take a lot of time, it does impinge in other areas of your life and actually to get that balance right is really tough. You have to be organized, you have to be focused and every second of every day counts to do all the different things that we’re required to do, not just in training, but work-wise and with the family. So yeah, I think there are people that are very driven to a goal, but if you’re not driven to get it done, you start to miss those sessions and whilst you can miss one or two, accumulatively you start to get behind the curve, you start to cram and guess what? You get injured, so you do need to be very organized, that’s for sure.
BRAD BROWN: Absolutely, you mentioned the travelling side of it is quite a big plus and a huge upside, you’ve raced around the planet, we mentioned Texas, you mentioned New Zealand, Lanzarote. Races, how many do you tend to do, I’m talking full Ironman’s, a year?
ROGER CANHAM: I guess 2-3, there’s no rule of thumb. I guess this year will just be two, I think I did three last year and that was throwing in Roth as well. Again, a Bucket List race, so I tend to plan, if I can, an early season Ironman and I attempt to qualify early in the season, it helps me just plan the rest of the year. I’ve been fortunate to have been to Hawaii for the last few years in October, so kind of the year is set already. Once you figured you want to qualify early and then if you’re lucky enough to get to Hawaii, that goes in the dairy. And then I guess it’s a Bucket List race for the travel, sort of in the middle of the year, but sufficiently early so that it doesn’t impact your training for Hawaii.
BRAD BROWN: I need some advice here. I’m planning a holiday and I’m trying to convince my wife we need to plan it around an Ironman. You’ve obviously got this down pat, give me some advice that I can run this by my wife?
ROGER CANHAM: Yeah, find a nice hotel and lots to do and don’t be too anal about your training when you’re out there, that’s for sure.
BRAD BROWN: I love it. Roth, you mentioned Bucket List race. You must have a few and there are, there’s some incredible races around the planet, what’s still on the list of races that you want to do?
ROGER CANHAM: Well, actually Texas interested me enough, it was one that was on my list. There’s a new one springing up every year, I guess. I’ve done 2-3 in the States, Arizona, Florida, Texas now, Utah when it was around. I guess some of the old school ones, I’d love to do Lake Placid, Coeur-d’Alene. It’s a shame Penticton is obviously going by the wayside now, because that’s an iconic race and then you get to places like Wanaka, some of the really beautiful locations that I know isn’t a difficult race, but nevertheless is long distance. Yes, there are a few more to do, maybe get down to Brazil, do one of the races down there. There’s lots of lovely places to go, that’s for sure.
BRAD BROWN: Absolutely. Can you remember your first one clearly? Does it stick out in your mind still?
ROGER CANHAM: They’re all very memorable, there are elements that you can remember. In Austria, swimming down the canal, it was fantastic. Going up the hills on the bike course when it was a different route to what it is now. So every one is very memorable but I guess when you’re getting very focused on an outcome, you tend to spend less time looking around and enjoying the countryside and more about just getting the job done, which is a shame. So, the buildup to race is more important in terms of enjoying the area you’re in and they’ve all been fantastic. I mean even a race I did in China, maybe 6 years ago now, that was memorable but for lots of different reasons. It was a very challenging course. Utah was beautiful, South Africa of course, I’ve done that a couple of times now and Port Elizabeth is fantastic, I love that course.
BRAD BROWN: Yeah it is, I’ve been lucky enough to race in Europe as well, but I love PE and I’m probably biased because it’s my home race, but it is absolutely spectacular. As far as Kona goes, that’s also a very unique experience. It must be pretty surreal the first time you arrive on the Big Island, after you’ve qualified and you’re there with the best in the world. What goes through your mind?
ROGER CANHAM: Yeah, it’s interesting, the first time on the Big Island. I guess having then fought to qualify and then for the next two or three years being very anxious to qualify because my first experience was so good, in an odd sort of way, it’s quite stressful trying to qualify for that race. You’re very anxious about your performance on the day, where you are in the field, how you’re doing, but actually, once you get to the Big Island for your first race, it’s almost a lack of honour. I’d almost encourage people to look, relax, you’re not trying to qualify for anything, you’re not trying to gun for a time, that is the moment. I guess, in any career where you can just suck it up, just enjoy the atmosphere, enjoy cycling down the Queen K, have a look around and think wow, this is the World Championships. This is really cool and I guess I’m still a bit goofy when it comes to going to Hawaii. It is a really special experience and I must say, I’ve been lucky enough to go a few times now. It’s fantastic every time I go, it is a wonderful opportunity.
BRAD BROWN: Never gets old.
ROGER CANHAM: Absolutely not, no, it never does, no. I missed 2013 and I very clearly remember in 2014, on my first training ride down the Queen K and looking around and thinking, wow, I know why I think this is such good fun. I know why I keep coming back because it is just an amazing feeling.
BRAD BROWN: As far as ambitions on Kona, you mentioned the first one for people who go the first time and an Ironman is an interesting race Roger, I’m sure you’d agree that I think it’s difficult to have the perfect race. There’s always something in that race where you think, you know what, I could have done something slightly different or slightly better there. I don’t know, I’ve never had a perfect race, I don’t know if you have, but do you think that’s one of the things that keeps you coming back to Kona too? Knowing that you’re on that stage with the best triathletes in the world, on the same day, on the same course and things don’t always go according to plan and you want to come back and see if you can, maybe that little stretch go a little bit quicker or change things up slightly here. Is that what keeps you coming back?
ROGER CANHAM: Yeah, definitely, it is trying to finally crack the perfect performance there and after every race, not just in Kona actually. But I always write very detailed reports, a list of things that I could do better and we’re always in that world of okay, well, can we fine-tune here or fine-tune there? And I’ve had some performance where I’ve been very close to getting that elusive podium in Hawaii and maybe two minutes, three minutes and you look back and people say, surely you could have found two or three minutes. But you know what, when I’ve crossed that line and I’ve sat in the recovery area, there are not two minutes there that I could have got. You’ve raced yourself into the ground, but inevitably you do look back and think, okay, can I sharpen up on the bike, what can I change in my nutrition, did I run the splits right? Coming down the Queen K on the way back, there are always things that you question, but absolutely, on the day, in the moment, if somebody comes up to you as you’re going up Palani, can you go a bit harder? Absolutely not, you’re all in, but when you look back, when you’re on the plane flying back, yes, you are frustrated that you couldn’t have squeezed that little bit extra out. Yes, it’s a constant challenge, absolutely.
BRAD BROWN: What’s the biggest life lesson Ironman has taught you?
ROGER CANHAM: I’ve been surprised sometimes at how I’ve managed just to keep going and keep pushing and we all have those moments. A friend of mine was doing Ironman France this weekend and he ran a 3:07. I congratulated him and he said, look, he said I had a real meltdown on that run and I think I could have gone better. I said look, I have a meltdown just about every time I do an Ironman run. But I guess I’ve drawn confidence from the last two or three that I’ve done, that I’ve managed to get through that and end up with a reasonable performance. And I’ve reflected on that and thought, actually, that takes a bit of doing and very much Ironman, I guess, is about problem management and the mental side of it. The physical side of it actually is, there’s a stack of books and websites that will tell you how to physically prepare for an Ironman and that’s pretty well understood these days. The difference is how you cope mentally with the situations as they arise, how you problem solve, how you get yourself through those dark moments. I guess that’s the difference between the people that perform at the top level and the people that are still trying to break through.
BRAD BROWN: And that’s an experience thing Roger, I’m sure you agree. The more you put yourself in those positions and in those moments, the better you react to them. What are some of the things that you’ve done and changed from a mental perspective in your triathlon career, that you feel has benefited you over the years?
ROGER CANHAM: Yes, when I first started, to get me through a race it was more blood and guts. Just okay, keep pushing, just sort of shut down mentally and just keeping pushing and pushing and it hurts, but okay, you’ll get through it. I guess it is much more thinking about problem solving now. When I feel that I’m distracted or I’m not focused or the pace is dropping, I guess stop and start to think why that is. What it is about how I’m feeling right now, that I can change. Do I need to eat something, do I need to slow down, do I need to get more aero, do I need to drink something, do I need some caffeine? It’s more approaching it as a problem solving exercise and necessarily just forcing the body through the moment you’re in. You need to do that at times, of course you do, but I guess it’s starting to understand that there are different parameters that you can change that will put you in a better place.
BRAD BROWN: Do you approach your entire Ironman, I don’t want to say training regime, but the training around a race, in that sort of way as well? Where if you look at a race and go, well, maybe I can go two minutes faster on the run or five minutes on the bike, do you go as a problem, like where did it go wrong? How can I fix that in the next one? Is that how you approach things?
If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got
ROGER CANHAM: Yes, it’s always important to do the analysis post-race and just figure out, if things haven’t gone as you wanted them to, okay, well why might that be? What was it at that time and that’s why post-race it’s important. Just to do that brain dump as close to the race as possible. What was I thinking at that point, what was going through my brain, how was my body reacting, what was I drinking, what was I eating? And are there any correlations then with performance that I can then think about the next time around. So yeah, I’ve changed the way I eat on the run, quite a lot. Quite early on I managed to get a formula on the bike that worked, but yes, you’re constantly thinking, okay, could I push harder on the bike, well, you know what, I’m going to try that next time and see what happens and then sort of measure the success of that particular strategy. I’ve been horribly consistent in Hawaii, in a way and I need to do something different to really start to push through. There’s a good thing about having a race plan, I guess the important thing is to change it up and try different things.
BRAD BROWN: Let’s talk about age, unfortunately we’re all getting older, day by day, how do you counteract the effects of aging on your performance? Is it something that bugs you or is it, you know what, it is what it is and we’ll just keep on keeping on?
ROGER CANHAM: Yeah, I guess I still consider myself new to endurance sports, I mean I’ve been doing it ten years now, but I still think that I can get quicker, I can do better, at least I have to keep kidding myself that’s the case anyway. So, I don’t necessarily have strategies to combatting my age, I’m still working hard to get faster on the run. I’m still working hard to figure out how to bike well and clearly there’s a huge opportunity to swim better and that takes multiple years, I guess, to get better at swimming. I just see it as opportunities to continue to improve, I don’t see age as something that’s going to slow me down as such.
BRAD BROWN: Are you self-coached or have you gone out and got some help Roger?
ROGER CANHAM: The last three or four years I’ve been self-coached but this year I’m working with Jim Vance to see if he can get me on the podium in Hawaii. We’re three or four months into that relationship and it’s great, really challenging me. Really getting me to do different stuff, which is the object of the exercise. Inevitably, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got and I’ve absolutely recognized that I need to change things up. Take some risks, try some new things, some new methodologies and it’s really interesting and really challenging and I’m loving it.
BRAD BROWN: As far as racing around the plan, you obviously get to race in different conditions. One thing that a lot of athletes, particularly from the UK struggle with is the change in heat, is that something that you struggle with, racing in Kona or are you quite comfortable racing in those conditions?
ROGER CANHAM: I’m fortunate in probably the Ironman’s that I do now, tend to be in hot places. This year Arizona, last year South Africa, obviously Hawaii and so I guess whilst I wouldn’t consider myself good at racing in the heat, I’ve figure out how to deal with it. And I have a strategy, a protocol I use when I’m racing in those conditions and like most things, if you’ve got a formula that’s working, then stick to it, refine it, of course. And so whilst I love racing in the UK and I’ve done that a couple of times at Ironman, racing abroad in the heat, I guess, because I’ve figured out how I deal with it, it gives me a slight advantage when racing other athletes that perhaps aren’t quite as well prepared.
BRAD BROWN: Do you like mixing things up from a type of race perspective, as far as terrain goes or do you tend to find one that suits you? I don’t know if you like fast and flat or if you like pretty hilly or slightly undulating and then you pick races on those criteria? Or do you just go, you know what, that looks like a cool place, I want to go do that race, we’re not too fazed about what we’re going to be doing on the day.
ROGER CANHAM: I guess I favour hilly courses, if I can find them, I just think it’s a real leveler for the bike actually. On flat courses, it’s difficult with a number of people on some of these race courses now. It’s hard for the draft busters to control what everybody is doing and I get very downhearted when I see packs of people riding along and ostensibly don’t seem to be too worried about the fact that they’re sitting on each other’s wheel and it’s very difficult for the guides. You can’t get enough marshals out to sort that sort of thing out and if athletes are of a mind that they’re willing to do that, then there’s little you can do to combat that, as an athlete trying to race in the right way. The other thing you can do is just race hilly courses, which actually breaks all of that up and makes it a much fairer race. Just from a racing perspective, I guess hilly courses and if it’s tough, great to have more of a challenge, so I tend to race hilly courses because it’s both challenging and a much fairer test of each athletes abilities.
BRAD BROWN: Let’s talk about PB’s, are you one that chases times or is it a case of, you know what, I’m chasing a qualification spot? I need to make sure I win my age group or at least finish second, however many spots there are, and you do what needs to be done from that perspective on race day? Or do you go in there and go, this is what I’m chasing today and make sure you hit the time and if that’s good enough to qualify, then so be it?
ROGER CANHAM: Yeah, you figure out what needs to be done and whilst I’d never predetermine what sort of time I’m going to aim for on a particular course, of course in your head you’ve got some idea. But time and time again I’ve sort of had benchmark times for a particular course and felt I’m behind and it’s not going as well as it should do and guess what, the end of the race you realize everybody’s having a tough time. It’s particularly windy or particularly hot and so it’s very difficult to take those sorts of numbers into a race and use them usefully because there’s so many different parameters that can impact you. Hawaii this year was my slowest time and I was 7th and I’ve only ever been 7th once before and that was with a time 20 minutes quicker. Just the conditions are so variable that I think it’s dangerous sometimes, from a mental perspective, to go in with too many ideas about what sort of times going to make it. You’ve just got to get in there and just race as hard as you can.
BRAD BROWN: Let’s talk about racing as hard as you can. One thing I’ve picked up with age groupers who qualify for Kona is their mindset of how they approach a race is very different to the guys and girls who aren’t chasing spots in Kona. How do you approach a race? Is it a case of, you know what, we’re going to go as hard as we can and we literally can’t go any harder or do you manage yourself and at times in that race push hard and then back off? How do you approach a race Roger?
ROGER CANHAM: Yeah, I guess for me I’ve always sort of advocated that the race doesn’t really start until probably 25km in the run. So up until that point in time, holding back sounds a bit, you know, holding back in an Ironman race, but nevertheless, you are managing your effort. So, racing with a Power meter is great on the bike. I know very clearly what is within me and what is beyond me and so you’ll race to parameters and I think most people understand that in terms of floors and ceilings on Power ranges on a course and just managing your effort. So, I guess the first half of the run, the first half marathon is just chugging out your normal sort of pace and then the back half is when you would race and run. Unfortunately the rolling stars have taken away a bit of the racing, but if I’m able to race and see where other people in my age group are, then the back half of the run is probably where I decide whether I’m going to bury myself or just run it out and it’s a balance between the two. You’ll run it out if you know you’re in a good position to qualify. But then there’s something else that says, you know what, I wonder how high up the field I can get, overall and that’s often a challenge I’ll take on as well.
Dream it – then do it
BRAD BROWN: That’s, I think, one of the things that keeps us coming back and doing these sort of races is the what-if and how far can we push ourselves. What’s still on the list of things that you want to achieve in this sport Roger?
ROGER CANHAM: Right now I’m focused on Hawaii, to get a podium. I’ve been there seven times now and five top ten’s, 7th twice, 8th, 9th, frustratingly close to that podium. So, there are five podium spots in Hawaii, so to sneak onto the stage would just be wonderful and so right now, that’s something I’ve got to tick. Whether I’ll be fortunate enough, I don’t know, but I’ll give it a good go anyway and that’s the objective for this year.
BRAD BROWN: How frustrating is that and not that there’s anything wrong with a top ten finish in Kona, I mean that’s pretty amazing, but you’ve come close so many times, it must drive you dilly?
ROGER CANHAM: Yeah, it’s very frustrating. You have to be very careful as well with certain goals. I know in 2009, I think it was, where I was 7th and I came away from the race disappointed and I looked back a couple of weeks later and thought, you know, what a jerk. You’re 7th in the World Championships, enjoy it. Enjoy that sort of experience and that achievement and I think sometimes we can all get a bit too wound up, a bit too focused on a particular goal and it takes away from the moment and joy of a particular performance. Whilst it’s important and I’ll give it my best shot, I won’t let it spoil my day if it doesn’t quite turn out.
BRAD BROWN: We’ve got a lot of listeners who have qualified and raced on the Big Island, but the vast majority of the people who listen to this podcast are people who want to go and want to race in Kona. What’s special to you about that race? What’s the attraction that keeps you coming back?
ROGER CANHAM: It’s just, it is the top of the sport, there’s no doubt about it, it’s the Blue Ribbon event and there’s an element of kudos that comes with that, but the people you meet. You’ll sit at a breakfast table and you’ll be sitting around a table with like-minded people who think the same way as you. Whether that’s a good way to think or not is another question, but nevertheless, the whole vibe, the whole energy of the place and the friendliness of the people is something else, it is unique. It’s a bit corny, people say it’s a unique race and unique place, but it really is. The people you meet, the energy, the environment, you go past some of the big triathlon landmarks, whether it’s swimming off the beach, cycling down the Queen K, going up to Hawi, the Energy Lab, we all know some of these iconic landmarks in Kailua Kona and yeah, it’s kind of cool. Every time you go and you meet other athletes, whether they’re first-timers or been there a few times before. We’re all just as goofy about it as if it’s the first time, it really is quite something and it doesn’t feel particularly elitist. Of course, you get those people there who are strutting up and down, Ali’i Drive, but most people are goofy and actually really good, fun people.
BRAD BROWN: Roger, best of luck in your final preparations, I say final, it’s still a way to go when we record this, to Kona 2016. It’s been awesome catching up, I look forward to getting you on just to chat a little bit about the swim/bike/run and nutrition and some of the things you’ve done there. But thank you for sharing your story with us and I can’t wait to share that photo again, of Texas, with our audience, cause that has got to be my photo so far of 2016. I get to see lots of Ironman photos and that one takes the cake, it is brilliant.
ROGER CANHAM: That’s very kind Brad, thank you very much.