On this edition of The Kona Edge we chat to the European long course triathlon champion Joe Duckworth. Joe set the goal to get his Great Britain colours and shares his journey into the world of triathlon. Joe shares with us what he learned from the mistakes he made on his path to qualifying for the Ironman world championships in Kona.


BRAD BROWN:  Welcome onto this edition of The Kona Edge and we head to Lancashire in the UK right now where Joe Duckworth joins us. Joe, welcome, thanks for joining us on The Kona Edge.

JOE DUCKWORTH:  No problem at all Brad, good to be here.

BRAD BROWN:  Joe, it’s awesome to touch base and you’ve got quite an interesting story because you qualified and raced in Kona back in 2014, 2015 you gave it a break, but you are well and truly focused on getting back there in 2016.

Before we delve into some of your achievements and what got you to Kona essentially. Let’s take a step back and look at how you got into the sport in the first place, where did your triathlon journey begin?

How it all began on the Ironman journey

JOE DUCKWORTH:  It began back in 2010 in the UK. Ironman UK Bolton, but my whole triathlon career started then. I had a chance meeting with an old running partner from back in the day when were at school. We ran as international athletes at school, cross country and I happened to bump into him, believe it, over a beer, and he told me about Ironman, this crazy event he was doing in Bolton and I went and watched it.

This was in 2009, watched the event, thought, I need to have a go at something like this and just basically booked onto 2010 Ironman UK and basically it started from there. Went from that year, in 2010, went from sprint triathlon, pool best to open water Olympic distance, to half Ironman, to Ironman.

Not something I would advise, quite honestly, going from a sprint straight through to Ironman, but yeah, fantastic year. I look forward to every year now.

Joe Duckworth

BRAD BROWN:  Had you entered a triathlon before you entered that first Ironman?

JOE DUCKWORTH:  No, I actually, believe it or not, funny story, this is how little I knew about it, like I said, I won’t advise this really, I didn’t even know there was, believe it or not, there was two Ironman UK’s.

I was in the 70.3 and the Ironman event, so I entered Ironman Wimbleball, thinking, that’s an Ironman, told my friend I’d entered it, to a massive amount of laughter. He said: you’ve entered a half Ironman there, it’s not even the right one. So I had to enter the UK Bolton as well, so it was a good warm-up really, and a good eye opener. I just made a ton of mistakes throughout, you know.

It was all character building, so all good.

BRAD BROWN:  I love it, what a fantastic story. You mentioned about running at school, you were obviously fairly active growing up?

JOE DUCKWORTH:  Yeah, as a school boy, myself and Lee, the guy I mentioned who got me into Ironman, we both ran to quite high standards, schoolboy-wise, we ran for Lancashire, a local team Chorley Harriers and then to Lancashire and then went on to Great Britain, the Catholic school, some European championships, into Maastricht in Holland and yeah, we kind of kept quiet and then we found work and that and all the other stuff that goes together when you’re growing up and we played around and then obviously realized we had to keep fit and I got back into keeping fit, just cycling and running really, just for fun.

So, I’ve always been reasonably active, but not competitively so and open to it until really 2010, when I started back into it in a big way.

BRAD BROWN:  That competitive bug, I get to chat to lots of age groupers who have raced on the Big Island, that competitive bug, like you say, you ran and you cycled a bit, but once that bug bites again and once you’ve got it in you, it’s quite difficult to shake.

JOE DUCKWORTH:  Absolutely, do you know what Brad, I’ve got to say, it’s worse than ever now, if I’m being honest. I started off in 2007 with no real ambitions about Kona and I’ve just explained how green I was, as far as what Kona was and everything and what it was all about.

But obviously being the type of guy that I am, competitive, I started to read up and find out about Kona, thought yeah, let’s see what goes on and then within a couple of years it became quite apparent that if I got my head down and really focused and concentrated on it, I’d have a chance to get in there you know and that kind of went from there.

BRAD BROWN:  As far as the distances, you talk about running competitively, cross country, at school, those distances aren’t terribly long, whereas an Ironman is a huge step up. Do you find the endurance stuff is more your kettle of fish?

JOE DUCKWORTH:  Absolutely. I love shorter events, don’t get me wrong, the sprint events and Olympic distance. I find that as I’ve got older, like I said, I’m 45 now, so I don’t have that turn of speed and I’d probably have the same power output as the young guys who are coming out on the bike and they just, it’s not long enough for me to catch up, but what I lose in the swim, I fight and fight and fight until I get it back.

It’s just, for me personally, it’s impossible, quite honestly, to get right up there, whereas over 10 hours, you can keep chipping away and chipping away and I find, I personally believe that if you look at some of age group champions from Ironman events, a lot of the 40, the 40 categories and 45, they’re very competitive and quick compared to the younger lads and girls. So yeah, I just think it suits me more being out there for longer, war of attrition if you will.

Ironman training will reward you at Kona

BRAD BROWN:  Joe, what do you love about Ironman as an event? You’ve obviously done lots of triathlon and duathlon’s now, but what makes Ironman special?

JOE DUCKWORTH:  Well, for me, it starts with the process of the training. I think the training is special. The way I always look at it, if I’m starting a swim, I know we do the rolling starts now, but for instance a lot of the mass starts, I always find that if I’ve trained hard enough, the race is my reward.

I aim to get there with a smile on my face and I kind of look around the swim, look at the people and for whatever reason, just cause of nerves or maybe not training enough or it’s the first one etc, you know. I’ve trained through winter, I’ve gone through the process, I’ve dedicated myself to it. I like the sacrifices you have to make and what you’ve got to put into it just to get there in one piece really, without even having a good race.

I just find that, I love the training side of things, believe it or not, I really do. Like I say, I find the race is the reward. When you start on the start line with 2 000 other people, that’s the reward for me, that’s why I do it, it’s just a process, the whole process, the nutrition, the training, the discipline and obviously the reward being the race.

BRAD BROWN:  Do you miss the mass starts in the swim?

Mass start vs rolling start in your Kona swim?

JOE DUCKWORTH:  No, not at all. It’s a funny one mass starts, I’ve had Ironman events where I’ve not been touched for the whole 3.8km. And then I’ve had other ones where I’ve got in the water and thought there was nobody around me and absolutely fought for an hour and just never had a clear water.

I still feel, even with the rolling start, if you get in with a group of swimmers who are slightly faster than you, trying to jump on people’s feet, you’re going to get hit and punched and kicked, once you get people around you, so I like the mass starts. I’ve only done one rolling start, it was okay, so I’m not really fussed either way, quite honestly.

BRAD BROWN:  It’s interesting. I’m doing my first rolling start in three weeks from now, so it’s going to be interesting to see how that goes. I’ve only ever done mass, so it’s going to be interesting.

Joe, talk to me a little bit about, you talk about that you went into triathlon and particularly Ironman very green. Talk me through your first experience of the half and the build-up to your first full Ironman. Did you seek help immediately, or did you try and wing it and do things on your own to that first one?

When should you seek help in your Ironman training?

JOE DUCKWORTH:  I’m quite lucky. Well firstly, I talk a lot, as you can probably guess, so I have no problem contacting people and touching base with people. We’ve got quite a good community around here in Lancashire, especially locally. We have a guy called Matt Leslie where he runs out with local triathlons at the event, so he kind of runs all the local events.

We’ve got quite a good community, so there’s always people to reach out to, which I did a lot of that. Coaching-wise, no. I didn’t get a coach until three years ago, which is a big thing, but on the actual first, yeah, it was more a case of reading.

For instance I got advice to read the Triathletes Training Bible, by Joe Friel, so I kind of trained out to that, without really understanding the periodization and what muscular endurance was and all that kind of thing. I thought, well, it’s more a case of, get fit, lose weight and get to the start line in one piece, cause I read so much about over-training and not resting properly. It was basically reading Tri-Plus, Tri-20 books and speaking to people.

Then my first race was Buttermere Triathlon, which is a brute of a race, albeit just a sprint and I thought, right, I have no idea about pacing, what I’m going to eat or drink really. It was just a case of learning that, ready for the big day of Ironman UK, obviously, and trying to take nutrition in while I was running hard and racing hard and seeing how I reacted and I reacted all right.

I learnt a lot from that first race and from races leading up and just from reading books and being a bit of a bookworm you know.

Joe Duckworth

BRAD BROWN:  Looking at that first one and the reason I ask this is cause going in green, often people under-think it, they think it’s going to be a lot easier than what it actually is. Did you find that or were you pretty spot on with the way you thought it was going to be?

JOE DUCKWORTH:  I knew it was going to be tough cause the actual bike course is right on my doorstep, so I know the terrain, I know how the bike and the run was.

What I didn’t estimate was how tough the swim would be. It was an 800m swim and I don’t think I realized, although I’d swum 800m in training and stuff, the actual extra effort on race day, getting all excited, being in my first race, I swam way too hard. Got out of the swim, struggled to run to the bike, so I was thinking, if this is happening to me now, what’s going to happen when I get off my bike, although I’d done break sessions.

So I pottered to the bike, settled in on the bike okay, thinking, okay, the runs my strength, the runs my strength and it didn’t happen like that! I kind of got off the bike thinking, why can’t I run, you know and it was, I underestimated how tough it was.

I mean I don’t think I trained, that was on the Sunday, I don’t think I trained until about the Thursday because my legs were shot to pieces, I was just generally beaten up.

That was an eye-opener, thinking, well, that took me 2 hours 10 minutes, I think it was, the race, and I made the top twenty, which was a great achievement for me, but it’s like, what’s going to happen to me when I do a half and a full Ironman. What are the effects on my body going to be now if this has done this to me? So it was a real, real shock.

BRAD BROWN:  Did it spur you into more action? Did you realize hang on, we’ve got to do a lot more work here?

JOE DUCKWORTH:  It made me realize you had to work on, the nutrition was a big thing and also pacing, if I got the pacing wrong over two hours, then to get it wrong over, at that time I was thinking, if I could get it in twelve and a half hours, I would have been happy.

I thought, what’s going to happen if I get it wrong in the first two or three hours of a 12 hour race, I’m going to end up in the ambulance tent basically, in the paramedics tent. It made me realize that I had to train a lot more specific leading up to UK.

Slow things down a little bit, get the distance in and make sure I can complete it without over-eating basically and that’s what I learnt in the nutrition.

Joe Duckworth

BRAD BROWN:  Joe, that Ironman UK, both the one in Bolton and the one in Whales, the Ironman Whales as well, both of those races are really tough. Do you think that gives you a bit of an advantage going to race in a place like Kona? Although the conditions are very different, course-wise I think the two in the UK are probably a little bit harder than Kona.

Racing tough courses can stand you in good stead at Kona

JOE DUCKWORTH:  Yeah, I’ve got to agree there to it Brad, the thing in Kona, and it’s no secret, everybody who has seen the footage from CNN or read about it, it is the winds, it is the heat and the humidity definitely. I’m quite lucky in that I’ve raced in Mexico, I’ve raced in Las Vegas and I’ve obviously raced Kona, and I’ve kind of gotten the heat thing dialed in how I deal with it, so I’m quite lucky.

I don’t seem to get too badly affected cause of things I take and stuff and the way I race, but the course-wise, yeah, I actually said, compared to UK in terms of the course, it’s much easier, the bike’s a lot quicker and I’m just going off my times and stuff and the runs an easier run.

It is the heat and the humidity, but as far as courses go, yeah, I think we are quite lucky because the guys I know have always enjoyed the bike course, have always gone quick on the bike. It’s just how they handle the heat once they come out, I mean I find the worst part about Kona was the actual T2 transition tent.

I got in there, dumped my bike, got in the T2 tent and thought, I couldn’t believe how hot it was and I actually wanted to get out on the run because the tent was so hot it was ridiculous. That’s kind of what, when you’re heading out of T2, you’ve got a marathon to run, you’re not sure how you’re going to react perhaps.

Yeah, I think the courses are definitely tougher here than Kona, I got to say.

BRAD BROWN:  Talk me through your first full Ironman in, was it 2010? 2011? That you did that first one?

JOE DUCKWORTH:  2010, yeah, it was a great day.  I’ve got so many fond memories from the whole day, it was amazing. It was a cold morning and Pennington Flash isn’t the nicest lake in the world, I’ll be honest with you. It’s a bit green, it has some funny smells and tastes, I must say, it’s not like swimming in the Pacific or whatever.

Nice, calm swim, I started off near the back of the pack rather than trying to get excited and beaten up for an hour. Came out in about 1:20 I think the swim was, I’m not a great swimmer, obviously, got on the bike. I rode on a road bike cause I’d bought a time trial bike, obviously I didn’t know if I’d ever, ever do one again, depends on how I felt.

The bike went really well. The problem with the bike, for me, was my nutrition again. I didn’t eat enough. I took the wrong stuff, I took way too many sugars in which upset my stomach something shocking for the run. I did the bike, got over the climbs, tons and tons of support, which was fantastic – being a local guy as well – I live on the bike course basically. I had loads of friends and family out there which was fantastic and you can’t underestimate how big that is.

Then yeah, just got onto, just tapped it out, I walked through the aid stations, I walked the uphills just to make sure I could maintain a bit of a run on the flats and the down hills and I came in in 11:24 I think it was, my first one. That course was made up on, they used to have a thing in the UK, I don’t know if it’s around the world with Ironman events, but if you were in the top 250 you got a cap, an Ironman finishers cap as well as your medal. They stopped that now, so I got a finishers cap which was great. I came in the top 150 and that just, it was an awesome day.

I had blisters the size of wales on my feet. I ran with no socks on, which was a ridiculous mistake! I trashed my feet, ended up in the paramedics tent all bandaged up and interestingly, I couldn’t eat for a day or two after because my throat was so sore with the gels and stuff and all the things I’d been taken. I really struggled to eat and swallow for a couple of days after, it was quite a painful after-effect, to be honest with you, but an unbelievable day and something I’ll never forget and obviously kept me going. I just wanted to do it again.

BRAD BROWN:  I was going to say, obviously sucked in good and proper after that first one.

JOE DUCKWORTH:  Yeah, I booked onto UK again within about a week, I think. They opened the slots up and I was straight back on it and yeah, that was it. I went to Mexico the year after, my friend Lee, and we raced Cozumel as well, so that was superb. I got the bug no end.

BRAD BROWN:  Joe, looking at that first one, did you go in with any sort of expectations? For a lot of people their first Ironman is the longest they’ve ever gone, did you go in there with specific goals or did you just want to go, you know what, let me see how I feel and we’ll take it as it comes.

JOE DUCKWORTH:  Yeah, I mean I’ve done Wimbleball previously and I’ve done five, I think like 5:25 at Wimbleball, which is a tough course again. I had no idea what I could achieve. I had some training in doing the long runs and the long bikes and swims, I had an idea of what my body was capable of doing.

The only thing that was worrying me was my nutrition and I wanted to basically come in in 12 hours and then get a cap. I wanted a top 250 cap and I think that was about that competitive thing you were saying before. I’ve never been one to just be a completer, you know, I want to try and compete the best I can and me training reflected that, I think.

I did put a lot of hours in. Some of them junk miles, as I said, I’ve got quite a few junk miles through being not very knowledgeable about what was going on and stuff and definitely not enough rest and recovery.

Yeah, I had no idea and I think looking back, knowing what I know now, I would have done it a whole lot different, but that’s how you learn, you learn from making mistakes and getting things wrong and that’s what happened.

BRAD BROWN:  You said you read up a bit and then, by that time, discovered what Kona was all about and you thought, hey, I’d like to do that. When did that thought really, or that seed really get planted where you decided, I’m working towards a Kona slot, I want to get there.

JOE DUCKWORTH:  It happened, to be honest with you Brad, I went to Cozumel believe it or not a year later. It sounds really crass and probably a little bit big-headed, I don’t know, it’ll probably come across, but I raced with my friend Lee, I did UK the year after, knocked 45 minutes off my time cause I had a bit of knowledge and then I went to Cozumel in the November with my friend Lee and Lee ran a 9:57 and I ran a 10:06 and I thought, that’s interesting, a flatter, faster, hot course and I obviously knew about Kona by then, did a lot of reading.

I basically enrolled a coach and I thought, if I can get a coach, but I’d read so many things by the pros saying the best thing you can do is get a coach and the extra knowledge and stuff. So that was it really, so 2011 I started looking towards, let’s see how we go and then I went to Roth in 2013 and I had a great race there and that was it.

We sort of looked towards Tenby and then UK for ’13 and ’14, so it was Tenby 2013, was my first real crack at it, after getting Ian as a coach and doing Roth and doing quite well at Roth. That was where I went to really.

BRAD BROWN:  Talk to me about the process of getting a coach. That’s one thing I’ve picked up with age groupers and world class age groupers is the vast majority of them, at some stage, have picked up a coach. Would you say that’s been one of the biggest decisions that you’ve made that’s helped your performance over the years?

JOE DUCKWORTH:  It’s been THE biggest, if I’m being honest. I mean you can take yourself so far in training yourself and if you’ve got like a sport science degree and all this kind of stuff, and that’s your background, then great, you’ve no problem having an understanding of it. I’m not, I haven’t got that sort of a background.

I think it’s two-fold for me. Firstly, he has the understanding of what needs to be done to get to a certain position and Ian, who I’ve got to coach me, he’s had good success with age groupers before, ITU and ETU and world level and sporting background, which was good. I think the thing is with coaches, obviously look them up, make sure you get on with them, make sure they understand what you want to do and be honest, honesty is the biggest thing.

Also, besides their knowledge, I look at my plan and training peaks every week and I don’t think I would push myself as hard. If it was left down to me individually, I think some of the sets he sets me, through me being maybe not confident enough or just not wanting to put myself into that dark place training-wise, I wouldn’t set them sets for myself. Therefore I don’t think I’d get the adaptation and the actual growth as an athlete that I’ve got off Ian.

I think yeah, as long as you trust them and you look them up and they’re the right people for you, I think it’s one of the most important things as an age grouper. With ambition to getting to Kona and that, and ITU or whatever, then I think it’s a massive thing. It’s instrumental in what you’ll do.

BRAD BROWN:  Where there times where you thought your coach was trying to kill you?

JOE DUCKWORTH:  Yeah, I’ve actually sent him a message saying: you’ve not done this set have you, and he’s just sent back LOL, cause I know he’s not done it, cause if he’d done it, he wouldn’t set it for me.

I keep threatening to take him out on the bike and say, you can come and do some of these sessions with me and see how you feel! I think it takes going to that uncomfortable place and pushing yourself cause I find that every single Ironman I’ve done, at some point, I’ve been in that horrible dark place thinking, I know it’s not going to last forever, but I’ve got to make this next 20 minutes to half an hour count and turn it around. Now whether that’s just me or whether that’s everybody, but I definitely have dark times during races, definitely.


 BRAD BROWN:  Let’s talk about those dark places. Do you enjoy hanging out in those dark places?

Those dark places in Kona not all evil

JOE DUCKWORTH:  Absolutely, yeah, why wouldn’t you? I have quite a reputation from my friends, they think I’m a bit sick in the head with some of the things we put ourselves through, but I think, naivety is one thing, and so you do your first Ironman, you don’t really know what to expect. I think once you’ve done one, you kind of know what’s coming and you’ve got to embrace it cause it’s going to happen to you at some point, but yeah, I think if you’re coming back and coming back and coming back after 10/11 Ironmen, then you must enjoy being there at some point, or else you wouldn’t keep doing it.

Yeah, I definitely enjoy it, it’s the whole process, it’s part of the game isn’t it?

BRAD BROWN:  Strategies to sort of dig yourself out of a hole, we all get it on race day at some point, whether it’s on the bike or whether it’s on the run and like you say, they don’t last forever, that’s the good news. The bad news is that the good patches don’t last forever either, what do you do? Have you got any specific strategies you use on race day to dig yourself out of those holes?

JOE DUCKWORTH:  Absolutely. To me, we have a saying in my job: don’t push a bad situation and unfortunately, if you’re in that bad situation, there’s no point trying to push harder, push extra watts, run a bit faster cause it’s just going to creep up and get worse. For me personally, if it’s the bike or the run, and it depends on what it is, if it’s feeling bloated or your legs are shot for a bit, I just ease back. I ease back the pace a bit, re-gather my thoughts, think what I’ve done up to now, have I missed any food, is some of the food upsetting my stomach, do I need to change my plan a little bit, what I’ve been drinking, have I taken an aid station bottle for instance, on the bike, was it really strong, as they can be.

I just look at what I’ve done up to that point, dial the pace back a bit and just settle in and just don’t try and push it. If it’s really that bad, just ease back and try and push through that a little bit and when you start to feel better, which you generally do, or I generally do, then I start to work again.

I think it’s about dialing back a bit, gathering your thoughts, thinking where you are with things and just working from there. You’ve just got to work through the situation for however long it takes.

BRAD BROWN:  Joe, talk to me about the balance and getting balance right as an age grouper. You’ve mentioned your job, I know you’re married as well, it’s difficult. It’s something a lot of age groupers struggle with, getting the amount of time they need to train, but also keeping the rest of their life in check. Is it something you battle with as well?

JOE DUCKWORTH:  Absolutely. Firstly, from an age group point of view, I don’t think you get anywhere in this sport without family backing and friends as well. Your circle of friends is massively important. I’m quite lucky, I’ve got a bunch of guys I train with and we’re all into Ironman or Olympic distance triathlons etc, so we’ve got a good circle of friends.

For me, I have sessions planned by my coach. If I have a particularly heavy week at work and I miss a couple of sessions, I think the biggest thing I found from the balance is obviously if family life is busy and you drop a couple of sessions, don’t try and catch those sessions up.

If you’ve got a network turbo session on a Wednesday and Wednesday night you’ve been at work for 13 hours, you’ve got family commitments and you miss the session, don’t move it onto Thursday’s sessions, so then obviously you’ve got a swim, a bike and a run maybe, all tough sessions. I think it’s accepting that when a session is gone through family and work commitment, it’s gone.  I don’t try and catch it up, I don’t try and postpone it and think I’ll move it to Sunday afternoon, big ride, I’ll go for a swim if I need to, just accept it’s gone.

I do believe that you can do more damage by trying to catch sessions up and playing catch-up than just taking it as a forced rest, accept it and move onto the next day and just be strong on the next day. It is difficult to balance with shifts and stuff and family, but you know what, that’s why we’re age groupers. We accept that when we go in there, so it’s just a case of managing it the best you can.

BRAD BROWN:  Do you kind of wish you got into Ironman a bit younger?

JOE DUCKWORTH:  My word, it’s funny that. I was with one of my friends yesterday having a look at my bike and he said: I bet I wish you’d done this when you were 25 and yes, I do. Having said that, I don’t think, knowing how my body feels now, I appreciate I’m 45, but I don’t know how my body would feel after 20 years of this, to be quite honest with you.

Maybe it’s not a bad thing that I’ve not done tons and tons of heavy grafting and heavy training right up to this point and that’s maybe why I’m doing okay in the age group and when I say okay, because there’s some fantastic age groupers out there, 40-44 and 45-49 and you’ve got to work extremely hard to get anywhere near a qualifying slot.

In one respect, yes, I do, looking back with life itself and kids growing up, I probably wouldn’t have had the time to devote anyway and I certainly don’t think, because I would have had the success I’ve had recently in my age group, so it would have been nice to have done that, but I certainly don’t regret anything.

I’m doing it now, I’m loving every minute of it and I have goals every year, so it’s great, it’s all good.

BRAD BROWN:  You qualified for Kona in the 40-44 age category, 2016 you’re in a different category, you’re now in the 45-49, does that excite you, that you’re on the young end of that category now?

JOE DUCKWORTH:  Absolutely and it should do, shouldn’t it really? I look at how I qualified in the 40-44 at the wrong end of the category, so I took last year to race for Great Britain at the ETU Europeans, so I wasn’t, Kona wasn’t so much on my radar last year.

Joe Duckworth

I said early on to you, chatted before we started, but if I’d have qualified at Lanzarote last year, then I definitely would have gone for it. I went to Lanzarote just because it’s one of my iconic events, not as big as Kona, but it’s renowned for being super-tough.

I wanted to test myself, see how I was getting on, but yeah, I’m really excited about this year and I’ve had some good results already, late last year in that category and the first couple of races this season have gone really well in that category.

Yeah, I’m stoked that I’m in that category, quite honestly, absolutely.

Be confident your Ironman race plan works for you

BRAD BROWN:  Let’s talk 2016, what’s the plan? Obviously to make this thing work you’ve got a race plan in place, what’s the goal and how are you getting to Kona this year?

JOE DUCKWORTH:  My qualifying race this year, I’ve kind of put my eggs all in one basket and that’s mainly due to finance and stuff, obviously not the cheapest thing to enter, so I’ve put all my eggs in one basket as far as Ironman UK, at Bolton, simply because it’s logistically easy for me.

I live on the bike course, I know every hole in the road, so I can kind of, not so much throw caution to the wind, but I know where I can push and where I shouldn’t push, where the bad bits of road are etc. The climate obviously suits me cause I live here, but leading up to it, I’ll do a number of 70.3 races just to sharpen up and rightly or wrongly, and a lot of pros will probably cringe at this. I like to, 5 weeks and 4 weeks out, I tend to do two 70.3’s back to back, but I don’t take them too seriously. I’ll do one on the Sunday, one the following Sunday.

I just use this real, real hard training sessions, where I put all the three disciplines together, race really hard and have good recoveries in between and during the week. And just try and do the best I can and that works for me as far as, just before my three week taper starts.

I found that when I didn’t do that, when I just tapered right down, I was very lethargic, especially the week before the race and it just wasn’t working for me. I didn’t feel sharp at all on race day. I’ve done that the last two years now and obviously I’ve qualified, granted for the same race, but I qualified for Kona twice doing that.

I’m going to stick with that again this year and do the same thing, that’s the plan really and then go from there.

BRAD BROWN:  Talk to me about what Kona means to you now. Now that you’ve qualified, you’ve raced there, if I say the word ‘Kona’, what do you think?

Nigh on feeling like royalty when you get to Kona

JOE DUCKWORTH:  I get goose bumps, for a kick off. I look back to what I did there and how amazing it was. I look at how many of my friends would love to go there and they were rooting for me to get there every year, which is great.

I just think it’s, from a triathlon point of view, from Ironman or a long course, triathlon point of view, it’s like the World Cup, isn’t it? I mean the people you meet, everybody’s at the top of their game, you’re racing with the pros, just seeing the pros is a big thing for me. Chatting to them, they’re accessible, just running there makes you feel like one of the pros coming to the way, as you train and the build-up to it is fantastic.

You get treated like royalty, I’ve never been treated so well anywhere in the world, racing-wise, I mean going to the swim down at Kamakahonu Beach, for the swim practice and coming away with liters and liters of nutrition and just, it’s walking the walk isn’t it? You train all year, you’re looking to qualify and you’re at the shore and I just loved it.

I can honestly say it’s probably the least nerves I’ve been before any race because I thought, well, I might never ever get back here, so I’ve got to relish every minute of it and the finish chute, to be honest with you, I didn’t know whether to cry or laugh or what to do with myself.

I was a mess on the finish chute, it was just amazing, an amazing experience and amazing place with amazing people, it’s brilliant.

BRAD BROWN:  I love that. Joe, as far as your Kona expectations going into that race, did you go into there wanting to achieve something or was it a case of, you know what, I’m here, I’m just going to go and soak it all up and whatever happens on the day happens.

JOE DUCKWORTH:  So you’re poking that competitive thing again aren’t you? Yeah, of course I had expectations. I never said it to anybody and people who have beat me from the UK probably think, you had no chance, which is fine, but I wanted to try and be the first UK age grouper in my age category. So I wanted to be as high up the UK standing as I could be and I think I was 6th finisher in my age cat from the UK, which I was really happy with.

I didn’t have the perfect race, I didn’t, by any stretch of the imagination have a bad race, I had a fantastic run and I just wanted to be as high up my age cat GB-wise as possible. Apart from that, no expectations cause I didn’t know, again, I’d raced in Vegas and stuff, but this was Kona.

I didn’t know if the nerves would get me, how rough the sea would be, what it would be like in the cross winds, you hear all these things about the course and I’d no idea what to expect from any of it. I had to be a bit cautious, you know, but I was more than happy with what I did out there, more than happy.

BRAD BROWN:  Let’s poke that competitiveness in you once again. You’re the current European long course champion, that was your focus in 2015, you’ve set your sights on Kona, obviously you’re wanting to go to Kona with big goals. Best case scenario, what do you want to achieve at Kona 2016?

JOE DUCKWORTH:  Firstly it’s the time and I know times are dangerous with conditions and stuff, but 2014 the commentary and other people that watched it, obviously in the race you don’t see this, I just thought, this is Kona, this is what Kona is like. We have big seas, we have strong winds, but when I watched the commentary back they were saying it’s horrific.

Some of the worst seas they’d seen for years, some of the toughest winds, so I thought that was good and I managed to come in in 10:08, so I’d love to bust that 10 hour barrier, that’s my first one.

Again, i don’t like to hear people like to trash talk and that, saying I’m going to do this and I’m going to do that, I’m going to beat this person, this is what I’m going to do, but again, it’s just a case of finish as high up the stand as I can from a GB point of view. I know there are some fantastic athletes in the UK in my age category, but just try and be that first UK finisher again, if I can. And then after that I’ll rest and relax but like I say, it’s incredible, everybody is in great shape there. The top athletes really are top athletes, so you’ve got to give them respect and just try and do the best that you can.

Basically, the way that I look at triathlon of any distance, I’m doing three individual time trials, so I can’t, nothing what anybody else does is going to affect me. I’ve just got to try and do the best that I can and be as fit as I can if I get there, if I’m lucky enough to qualify.

Joe Duckworth

BRAD BROWN:  Joe, you’ve been able to do some amazing races around the world, you’ve been to Kona. You mentioned that you’ve raced Challenge Roth as well, Cozumel you’ve raced in the UK extensively. What are some of the other races that are on your Bucket List?

Dig into your bucket list to help Ironman training

JOE DUCKWORTH:  Well, one of them actually is London Marathon, which is in five weeks, I think, so 24th of April, so I’m doing that this year. I’ve got what they call, good for age entry for that after doing a double marathon last year.

I love running and quite a few of my friends have started doing quite a bit of ultra running and multiple day events and stuff. Not in the immediate future, but in the years to come I’d love to do the Marathon Des Sables, I’d love to do that. I’ve got a friend Martin who has done that and loved it. That’s something I’d like to do.

I’d love to go to some more racing from an Ironman point of view. I’d love to do Arizona and Texas. One that I missed out on where my actual mate Lee qualified, the guy who got me into it, he qualified at the New York Ironman, the one year that they had it, and the way that worked we was both going to go and try to qualify there and he actually managed to get a slot. We were both on the computer, he lives in Florida, he got a slot, I didn’t.

So, I’d love to do more racing at this stage and that and I’d love to go back to Roth, but I think the Bucket List is a running event, it’s the Marathon Des Sables, I’d love to do that.

 BRAD BROWN:  Well, if you ever get the opportunity to come and run the little ultra here in South Africa, you need to, the Comrades Marathon, I don’t know if you know much about it?

 JOE DUCKWORTH:  Yeah, yeah.

BRAD BROWN:  That’s one you need to put on your Bucket List as well if you’re into running some crazy races. That one is absolutely incredible.

JOE DUCKWORTH:  Fantastic.

BRAD BROWN:  Joe, thank you so much for your time here on The Kona Edge. I look forward to chatting to you again and I want to delve into what you’ve done from a swim perspective, on the bike and on the run and then touch on nutrition as well, but we’ll save that for another time.

Thanks for your time today and we look forward to caching up again soon.

JOE DUCKWORTH:  No problem, thank you very much.

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