Ironman Age Group World Champion – Richard Thompson’s Ironman Triathlon Story

Ironman Age Group World Champion – Richard Thompson’s Ironman Triathlon Story
Ironman Age Group World Champion – Richard Thompson’s Ironman Triathlon Story

Ironman Age Group World Champion – Richard Thompson’s Ironman Triathlon Story

Ironman Age Group World Champion – Richard Thompson’s Ironman Triathlon Story

On this edition of The Kona Edge we catch up with Ironman Age Group World Champion, Richard Thompson. Coming from no sporting background at all, Richard what it takes to become an Ironman Age Group World Champion.

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Transcription:

BRAD BROWN: Welcome onto this edition of The Kona Edge. I’m Brad Brown, awesome to have you with us. Thank you so much for joining us and thanks for downloading and listening to the podcast. It is hugely, hugely appreciated.

If you haven’t checked out our Facebook group yet, there’s some exciting things coming in that group very, very soon. You need to be in it to find out more about it. Just go to thekonaedge.com/facebook. It’s a free, private Facebook group, just go click on it, I’ll add you.

Keep a close eye on that group. We’ve got some very exciting developments coming in that. So, it’s thekonaedge.com/facebook. Enough about me yakking today. Let’s get straight into today’s guest. We head to Australia to catch up with a former Ironman Age Group World Champion. We’ll find out more about his story today on the podcast. It’s time to catch up with Richard Thompson.

You’re listening to The Kona Edge, thank you for joining us. We head to Australia now, and a beautiful part of the world. If you follow the Ironman circuit you would have know that the Ironman 70.3 World Champs was around.

The last one was held in a beautiful part of Australia, Sunshine Coast and that’s where we head to now. Just north of Brisbane, it’s a great pleasure to welcome Richard Thompson onto the podcast. Richard, welcome. Thanks for joining us.

RICHARD THOMPSON: Thanks Brad. Really nice to be here.

BRAD BROWN: It’s a horrible place to live and train, isn’t it? I’m saying that tongue in cheek.

The perfect place for Ironman training

RICHARD THOMPSON: Yea, it’s certainly a beautiful place in the world to train and get very spoilt. I think almost year-round. That’s why I think a lot of really good athletes are based here and training is something dictated by the weather. Certainly beautiful.

BRAD BROWN: It is quite a hotbed for Ironman triathlon. You mention a lot of good athletes base themselves there. There’s a very, very active scene.

RICHARD THOMPSON: Yea and it’s great to see, and it always has been, I think. But there’s 2 sort of pockets. There’s 1 where I’m at, which is south of the river, and then there’s obviously a very big gathering up at Noosa, which is probably about half an hour away.

The thrill of Ironman pro’s training on your doorstep

And then the likes of, in the summertime you get Jan Frodeno, the Bennetts, McKenzie’s, they’re all there. I think Pete Jacobs lives up there as well, and sometimes they train together. But certainly south, where we are, the rule of arts, you don’t get as many celebrities so to speak. Still it’s a brilliant place to train for sure.

BRAD BROWN: Absolutely. Richard, let’s take a step back and figure out how your journey came to where you are now. Where did your exposure to triathlon start, how did you get involved in the sport?

Ironman beckons after passive sports bring boredom

RICHARD THOMPSON: I grew up in Brisbane, about an hour south of where I’m at right now. Through school, and certainly through secondary school, I was never into anything endurance. In fact, I was probably a little bit pudgy to put it nicely.

I was the wicket keeper and the goalkeeper because that involved the least amount of running. It was only in uni-days or college-days, the very first year out of school, that is I went and studied law. I thought I need to lose some weight. Genuinely, that was the reason. I thought I’ve had enough of cricket and soccer and I’ll take up triathlon.

I had a relative who was doing it as well. He was sort of in Ironman territory but I thought I’d just do some short stuff. So, I did my first sprint triathlon in 2001 just before I finished school. It was terrible, to say the least.

BRAD BROWN: I have to laugh. Instead of taking up running or cycling, it’s like you know what, let’s go do all 3. Do you think that’s what it takes to be successful in a sport like triathlon? To become anIronman Age Group World Champion? You have to go full on? That it’s you can’t do things in half measure if you want to be successful?

Dead last to Ironman Age Group World Champion

RICHARD THOMPSON: I think so. I think that’s a lesson that you sort of need to come to your own time. It took me a number of years of training to realise that I had any sort of talent in it. Because the first triathlon that I did I was dead last in the age group. I went in there with my ambitious self, thinking that I’d get a top spot in the 16-19 age group. And I came dead last.

But I was a poor swimmer. I think I went to swim school for about 2 weeks when I was 6 and I hated it. My mum pulled me out. I never outlived that day. So, I was a poor swimmer. The strength came from the bike, I suppose relative strength back then. A half Ironman certainly appealed to me. It wasn’t much more swimming, and certainly a lot more running and riding.

Podgy wicket keeper turns Age Group World Champion - Richard Thompson's Ironman Story

Tame that competitive edge within you

So, I did my first half Ironman in 2003 and enjoyed that a lot more I guess. And that was the path that led towards thinking about doing an Ironman.

BRAD BROWN: As a kid, you mentioned that you were slightly overweight. Always played wicket keeper and that sort of thing. Were you competitive as a youngster? Even though you were overweight, did you have that competitive streak in you?

RICHARD THOMPSON: Yea definitely. I was very good at, as best as you can be as a podgy sort of….

BRAD BROWN: You’re a great wicket keeper!

17 Years of Ironman training and still going strong

RICHARD THOMPSON: I was one of the world’s best Brad. Overlooked too many times. But no, truthfully, it was always making the best team I could and improving working on skills. Certainly, looking back, I didn’t think that overall fitness would have improved my ability as a wicketkeeper or goal keeper. I thought it was just skills. It certainly would have helped had I run a bit more in both of those sports.

But certainly, loved those 2 sports, cricket and soccer. Often these days I think what would have happened had I kept trying at it but it was always competitive. Always, always.

BRAD BROWN: And if it wasn’t for Adam Gilchrist you would have been a shoo in to start for Australia.

RICHARD THOMPSON: Yea, exactly. But very happy. I think this is my 17th year in the sport, or thereabouts. It’s given me a lot. That’s an understatement as to how much it’s given back to me. I wouldn’t have changed it had I had another chance.

Swimming is like riding a bicycle – or is it?

BRAD BROWN: I find it interesting that you did swim squad when you were very young and hated it. What was the reason for not enjoying it? You say you haven’t let your mum live that down? It must be frustrating now because it’s exactly that. Swimming is like riding a bicycle. If you can get that technique early on, you almost don’t have to think twice about it. When you pick it up later in life it becomes quite difficult.

RICHARD THOMPSON: Yea exactly. I don’t necessarily know the reason, but I think it was just on top of the cricket season or something. I just thought ah, it’s a Friday night and I just didn’t really enjoy it. Saying that tongue in cheek about mum. Because you know, when you’re that young you should just be doing things that you enjoy, really.

Laying your Ironman swim as child

Often, I’m told that these days you see some really competitive parents, unfortunately. Not forcing, but really making sure their kids swim a lot. Whether or not that’s to their benefit, is I suppose another question. But I certainly didn’t take to it, let’s put it that way. I could always swim, don’t get me wrong. But the idea of initially swimming 1500m was a long way, and certainly 3.8km when I first did my Ironman. That was something I had to get my head around.

BRAD BROWN: Richard, tell me a little bit about when you started thinking hey, I’m actually pretty good at this. Because as you said you finished last in your age group in your first try. I don’t want to say it’s difficult to come back from that. But when do you start believing that you’ve actually got some ability, and if you put some work in, and focus a bit, you could actually be quite good at this?

The secret to becoming an Ironman Age Group World Champion

RICHARD THOMPSON: I suppose in terms of that question Brad, it takes you to the first Ironman, I think. The first half Ironman I did, was on the Gold Coast, and it was the first time that I obviously did the 90k. 21k off it and I got 4th I think in the age group.

Probably more of a reflection of the limited depth of that field on the day, but it certainly felt a lot better. It could have been out of 5. I don’t remember. But instead of thinking that it’s 2nd last, it was 4th.

And it’s certainly a lot better than doing a 2:55 triathlon and coming 58th in the age group or something, that I did 2 years before that race. I just enjoyed it and I think that was the biggest thing for me.

To do a race that I actually felt like I enjoyed, being out there a bit longer than 2 and a half hours for my big distance. And back then in 2005, you had to qualify for Ironman Australia. You couldn’t just enter, which is probably showing how long I’ve been in this sport.

So, I qualified for Ironman Australia at Macquarie, and then just proceeded to do 12 months of training for the first Ironman. It was probably a year or two, maybe a year after that, that I realised I actually had some talent. But it was just a progression since 2001 when I started.

There’s no magic to your Ironman success – Consistency pulls you through

I just never stopped training. I never overtrained, sort of obviously pushed the envelope, but it was just consistent. Without even realising it. Consistent. Years. Which sort of caught up to me to my benefit in 2007 and 2008.

BRAD BROWN: It’s funny that you say that. I know your coach as well, and we’ll chat a little bit about that too. But unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet or magic about this sport. You mention consistency, and if you want to be an Ironman Age Group World Champion, that’s the thing that probably separates the good from the great.

Podgy wicket keeper turns Age Group World Champion - Richard Thompson's Ironman Story

RICHARD THOMPSON: Yea 100%. I’ve chatted to a lot of athletes in my time. Successful ones,  Ironman Age Group World Champion, professional triathletes as well, and you don’t find too many with really good results, and consistent results without years of bashing it.

So, I think it’s one thing to think this is my goal. I really want to qualify for Hawaii or I want to a place on the podium or I want to become an Ironman Age Group World Champion. But that’s almost putting the cart before the horse. Because the primary goal must be consistency. It’s funny because it wasn’t even on my mind in 2003 to 2005 or 2006 even, that I wanted to necessarily go to Ironman Kona. But it was just that I really enjoyed the sport and I was enjoying just training.

Consistency brings you Ironman rewards

At the end of the day it’s a hobby, and it’s a lot of people’s hobbies. There’s a fortunate or unfortunate number of people that do this for a job but for a lot of us age groupers it’s a hobby and they keep one eye on that and that should be enjoyable.

And if it’s enjoyable, consistency shouldn’t be a problem. Obviously, illness and injury aside, a lot of people get wrapped up in the seriousness of age group racing. But at the end of the day this sport is beautiful, because it more often than not, rewards the consistency. If you’ve done the work, the results will come. It may not come today, it may not come tomorrow but it will absolutely come at some point.

BRAD BROWN: You talk about that enjoyment. It’s something that’s popped up for the last few weeks here on the podcast, is that enjoyment and avoiding burnout. Because so often you see someone burst onto the scene. They put in a year or two of solid performances, and then they disappear.

You mentioned you’ve been around the sport for a long time, you’ve been pretty lucky that you’ve remained injury free, and you’ve been able to train consistently. But that is a fine line, and it’s a difficult balance to get right. Doing enough to be competitive, but not doing too much that you get to a point where you go stuff it, I hate this sport, in 2 or 3 years’ time.

Focus on what you can control in your Ironman performance

RICHARD THOMPSON: Yea, absolutely. And I think the person, or particular athletes view of their raw goal, whatever that is, I think certainly has the courage if their goal is materialistic. Like a time, or like a qualification. Or like a becoming an Ironman Age Group World Champion.

That becomes really stressful because a lot of those are out of the athletes control. What is in the athlete’s control is consistency, is turning up. Is doing all the things that they can do to keep themselves healthy. Obviously, swimming and riding are less prone to injury I guess, and running’s the big one.

A lot of people struggle with putting together years of consistent running. I guess the Type-A personality is to keep pushing that envelope, and going right if I can handle 50km a week, I can handle 60km a week.

I’ll try to handle 70, and it keeps going until you pull up short, I guess. I think that’s natural and that’s probably a good thing to do. That consistency is king and however which way you can do that, it will give you the results you’re after in the end.

Consistency is King in your Ironman career

BRAD BROWN: Richard, that first Ironman, the full distance, Ironman Port Macquarie. You mentioned having to qualify for it. Going into that race, did you go in there with specific goals? Or was it a case of, I just want to survive this thing? I just want to make sure I don’t die and get through it in one piece?

Or did you go in there thinking, maybe if I’m quick enough I could grab myself an Ironman  Kona slot? What was the mindset going into it?

RICHARD THOMPSON: Absolutely just finishing it, 100%. My family came down from Sydney. It was about a 7-hour drive, and a lot of my family came down to watch. I didn’t know, but they had all pre-printed like Aloha regarding to Hawaii banners….

BRAD BROWN: No pressure….

Emotions surrounding your first Ironman

RICHARD THOMPSON:  No but they didn’t tell me. They had that in a suitcase ready to pull out on the Monday after the race. But Ironman Kona was never in my mindset in 2006, and it was just to experience what the race had to offer.

I couldn’t even believe that I was doing something like that. It was only 5 or 4 years ago, that I was keeping wickets and a little bit overweight. So, it certainly was surreal to be there and to be doing it and was certainly emotional. There’s something very special about your first Ironman and something that you’d never forget.

But to be honest, on a result level, I did 9:44 and it was good enough for 5th in the 18-24 age group. I was 21 and there were 2 spots. At that time, I think in 2007, that was the only Ironman in Australia, and there were 2 spots in the age group. And it rolled to 4th, and the guy who beat me there, beat me by about 2 minutes or something.

So, I had to go back from the roll down ceremony and, not that I was disappointed, because I knew that I’d got 5th spot, and that was fine. I didn’t realise somebody could roll down as low as 5, and I saw the guy who was 4th and accepted it. We’re still mates now, and he had a good race in Hawaii that year. But I certainly didn’t invite the relatives to the next race.

BRAD BROWN: How much of a fire that did light under you though? Coming so close but not getting that spot?

Changes when you’re not reaching the Ironman podium

RICHARD THOMPSON: Actually, it wasn’t as much as I thought. I stayed in the sport and again the following year went back to Ironman Australia, when I changed coaches. I was self-coached for a little while and doing quite well in the age group for the half Ironman. After that, the next season was based on basically 12 months of Ironman training. And again, more of a reflection is the lack of depth in the 18-24 age group I’m sure.

Then I wasn’t getting to the podium, or winning these age group races in the Ironman races, or the 3 series in Australia for the age group. I wasn’t improving in my times in training or in racing really.

Podgy wicket keeper turns Age Group World Champion - Richard Thompson's Ironman Story

Missing an Ironman Kona spot will put the fire under you

So, I moved coaches, I got another coach and we went to Ironman Port Macquarie again. And I suppose Ironman Kona wasn’t necessarily the goal either. It was just more about being a better athlete. More of a complete performance.

Then in 2007, I did 9:30, so a steady improvement. Got 3rd, the 2 athletes that beat me are probably the most, I reckon, probably the most underrated athletes of all time in Australia. But they just never went professional. They both took their spots to Ironman Kona. So, I missed that again by a spot, and that put the fire beneath me, for sure.

BRAD BROWN: Absolutely. That’s got to hurt. Coming so close once, but twice is definitely going to provide some motivation. Before we get onto the next time around when you did qualify, talk to me about that first one. We’ve got a lot of athletes who listen to The Kona Edge, who are just starting out on their journey, and are trying to wrap their head around doing a full distance, Ironman race.

Can you remember the mindset going in? Not quite sure if you can go that far? Because it is a big step up and as much as we do the training, there’s always that doubt. That seed of doubt in our minds that think well, maybe I can’t do it?

Focus on the moment – not the whole day ahead

RICHARD THOMPSON: Yea, I think that is quite normal. I think looking back on it, on my first Ironman especially. You can’t, even any Ironman, now or subsequent, you can’t be treading water at the start, and think about the day ahead. It’s far too big. Even in training, you can’t think it’s a 10-hour, 11-hour, 15-hour day.

You just have to concentrate on your own square meter around you and what you’re doing right now. And if you can swim, swim 100m, let’s keep swimming, let’s keep swimming, that’s right, that’s 3.8 done. Get out. Hop in on the bike. This is it for race day. Staying in the moment is so important, whether it be your first or last Ironman.

You really shouldn’t be thinking about the entire race, as a whole till the finishing chute. That’s where it becomes an emotional area. As soon as you think about how long that day is, or what you’ve got ahead of you, it’s not good for you. It’s not good for your head at all. So, I would suggest that you keep it in perspective.

You just deal with the minute you have at this time, and just tick away. The human body is an amazing thing. If you’ve done the work, and you have that consistency, and you have the right mindset, for the first timers, it’s a brilliant experience, it really is.

The build-up to qualifying – do the post mortem

BRAD BROWN: Absolutely. Let’s talk about finally qualifying, and the build up to that. What did you do differently? Going back and reassessing, what happened in that second race, where you probably went in with higher expectations than the first one. And then going back and doing the post-mortem on this thing. What went right, what went wrong, what do we change?

What did you change, what did you think you were doing right, what did you think you were doing wrong, in the build up to when you finally qualified?

The Ironman Kona burn after being beaten

RICHARD THOMPSON: I think in the second Ironman Australia I was handsomely beaten by those 2 guys. I think Tim, who won, he did sub-9. He got top 10 overall and Benny got 9:10. So I was 20 minutes behind them. So, we went back and thought right, we need to do, I suppose the right result verified that I really wanted to get to Ironman Kona in Hawaii.

And that was the first time that I really had that feeling. And then secondly, it was to have the chance to qualify. I don’t want to roll down, I want to ensure that I guarantee that spot, and a lot of work needs to get done.

So, to answer your question. Up until that point I had been studying full time, so I moved to part time. The overall training load was much more, and I think I have every diary session I’ve ever done, handwritten into diaries, but the overall volume of the work increased. I think we added in, one specific level, we added in a second long ride mid-week. Which I don’t think I’ve ever left since then.

When you need to improve your Ironman endurance level

We had a training camp down at Victoria for two weeks. My running improved but I think that was again, that was just really good timing. Not significant improvement but just overall improve the endurance level of it all.

Then we decided to go to Ironman Western Australia, Busselton, that year. So only about 7 or 8 months between Ironman Australia and the December Ironman in Busselton which was only I think 3 or 4 years old. My coach, who was racing as well, we joked that we’d go close to sub-9, and that was at the time I remember that was certainly a tongue in cheek suggestion. Because that was back then, Ironman Busselton is a fast course relative to Ironman Port Macquarie but the sub-9 group of athletes in the age group was far less than what it is these days, certainly.

BRAD BROWN: Talk to me a little bit about the age group, and I want to bring in, you’ve been to Kona a couple of times. You qualified then at that big race in 2008 you went to the Ironman World Championships in Kona.

I’m guessing Ironman Busselton was December, so it was the following year you went to Ironman Kona. Then there’s been a fairly big gap, I think it’s 8 years if my math serves me correct, from your first to your second visit to Ironman Kona, and you mention the strength in that 18-24 age group. Obviously, age grouping up and the older you get to that 35-40; 40-45, it gets extremely competitive in there. Big gap, that must take some doing to almost have a gap like that and then go and re-qualify. It’s almost like you’re doing it again from scratch.

Don’t give up when Ironman is tugging the heartstrings

RICHARD THOMPSON: Yea I guess the double ride went very well. I was able to win that and get a sub-9 and qualify for Ironman Kona. Hawaii went very, very well. I was able to settle in the wind, the age group then. And then I turned professional straight away at 23 and did 3 years of professional racing and threw everything at it as I could and it was at the same time of finally graduating and becoming a lawyer and having an up and down season, that last one. A few Ironman 70.3 podiums but my heart was Ironman and I wasn’t getting the Ironman results, or at least an indication of what I was doing in training.

Selling all your Ironman gear

It was in 2011 that I thought I’m settling down as a professional. I’m all done as an age grouper so I sold everything. I think I kept my running shoes and always just kept running. But for 3 years I had absolutely not a swim, not a stroke in the pool and not a pedal push. Then it was 2014 a friend of mine got us over to Ironman Kona to watch him race; an age grouper.

He did very well that day and it sort of irked at me a little bit and I had to sit down with my wife who thought that triathlon was an old chapter and we thought right, let’s try for Ironman Kona in2016. That was back in 2014.

BRAD BROWN: She thought you were making a comeback as a podgy wicket keeper.

RICHARD THOMPSON: Well actually, funnily enough, she’s very supportive of that. The hours of Ironman training have upgraded for a podgy wicket keeper, what he could do these days!

BRAD BROWN: I’ll talk about that comeback to Ironman Kona in 2016 but talk to me about the balance and the family life balance because that’s another thing that age groupers do struggle with.

Having, and I use air quotes for normal, because I think as a triathlete, particularly if you’re a very competitive one, there is no such thing as normal; but having that balance, family balance right, and work balance, and getting that the way it should be. And then also putting in enough time that you can be competitive. How do you deal with that? What are some of the strategies and things that you do to get that balance right?

Keep a balance on your Ironman aspirations and life

RICHARD THOMPSON: My wife was my girlfriend back in 2008, in 2007, and so she understood what it took, and obviously throughout my professional stints. So, when I said to her I’m wanting to qualify for the Ironman world champs and get back to Ironman Kona she knew what that meant.

The difference was that we now have a boy, a son, as well as her working almost full time and I was a full-time lawyer. And she runs and she does sports running for her own sanity. It was a bit of different circumstances presented to us.

I think for anyone juggling that with priorities, you’ve got to understand first where those priorities lie, first and foremost. Family for us was always first and you had to be very sensitive to working out if that was getting jeopardized. You couldn’t just be right well we’ll train for 4 weeks and put your head up. Always being really mindful of that.

Find your Ironman balance

Then work, you know you’ve got to be able to do your work otherwise the bills wouldn’t be paid so that’s second, and the training’s third. And the way that looks on a weekly schedule it comes back to that consistency and if that allows you 10 hours a week to have a really happy environment at home and at work and you can smash 10 hours a week of training, then I think you’re better, as longevity, you’re far better to do that than to try to get 18 hours and your home life goes south and your work gets the shits and then it all crumbles.

Then you start resenting the sport and it doesn’t work. So, we certainly, on a practical level it meant 3am pushups on the bike and certainly getting the sleep, certainly getting the hours of sleep reduced to allow Ironman training to get done.

Missing a session for commitments is okay

I think as long as everyone’s on board and supportive and you treat everyone with a lot of respect, and you come back to that idea that it’s a hobby. You’re not vying for sheep stations and you’re not trying to make a living out of it. So, if you miss a session because your family would rather have you be home for a Saturday morning, for one particular morning or whatever, or you have to stay back at work because there’s a project due, then that’s fine. It’s a hobby.  I think a lot of people generally need to treat it as such and not as seriously as some do.

BRAD BROWN: Absolutely. Richard, that coming back after a bit of hiatus and making the decision that you wanted to qualify again, was it harder a second time round to qualify or did the experience of having done it before help you out and you feel it was easier second time round?

How to work on your weakest Ironman discipline

RICHARD THOMPSON: I must admit, I went to Busselton again to qualify because I do like the idea of qualifying very early in the season. There’s a lot of Ironmans to choose from now in Australia and New Zealand but I do like the idea of getting that qualification done. So, getting back to training and qualifying, I didn’t think it was going to be a problem and I was very lucky that I got 4th in the age group in Busselton.

There were 4 spots so I was very lucky that I was able to qualify there without an issue. Certainly, it was a less than perfect day as I guess most Ironmans are. Training wise, I kept running as I said, a few ultra runs in between that 3-year gap, so my running never, it dropped as trail running makes you go a bit slower but my joints and my bones and my tendons weren’t a problem. So when I wanted to run sort of 60 or 70k a week, I didn’t have any injury issues.

Stay in the pool and improve your overall Ironman performance

Riding on the other hand, was a really hard slog to get back into shape and swimming was unfathomable work. It took almost 18 months to get back to where I was comfortable in swimming more. Happily swimming. The times that I was capable of. If I was to do it again, if I could take some time off I would stay in the pool, 100%.

BRAD BROWN: Looking at the Big Island itself and that race, if I say the word Kona, what do you think?

Memories of Kona stir up a passion

RICHARD THOMPSON: It’s a magical place. It’s in the heart of a lot of Ironman athletes and it’s certainly a special place for us and I didn’t want to go back there after 2008. Having such an amazing experience there, I didn’t even want to go back to holiday. We’ve been to Hawaii to holiday in the Big Island but then went back to Hawaii, the Big Islands, that was in 2004 and as I said I didn’t even want to go back. If the visas allowed, I’d live there. It’s an awesome place. I get caught up with the whole iron gods and all of that. I think it’s brilliant, I think it’s pleasant and the whole town, it’s awesome.

BRAD BROWN: I mentioned we’ve got a lot of newbie triathletes who listen to the podcast but we’ve also got a lot of hopefuls, Kona sort of, who’ve got major Ironman Age Group World Champion aspirations. If you had to sum it up, what does it take to get to Kona. If somebody sat you down and said, Richard, I want to go, what do I need to do? What would you tell them?

Podgy wicket keeper turns Age Group World Champion - Richard Thompson's Ironman Story

The support structure of an Ironman Age Group World Champion

RICHARD THOMPSON: I think the first point is you need to have a good team around you, first and foremost. That allows consistency to occur. So, you need to have the appropriate environment. From home life to work life, to everything so that your life is consistent. That is a huge importance I think that if you’ve got a really, there’s obviously a lot of people out there whose work is variable, or their stress levels are variable with work or cyclical, or it’s not super consistent at home, not impossible hurdles to jump over, but certainly a hindrance.

Acknowledge the ‘Why’ in your Ironman goal

You need a really consistent wife, I think, to be able to handle the improvements you need. On a mental level, also, I touched on this before, realizing that qualification is out of your control. So, you could go into an Ironman and have the most amazing race of your life, and still miss out on Hawaii qualification because x number of people just better than you, turned up. You sort of have to shrug your shoulders and say well, I did a great race, that’s all I can do. that’s the only thing in my control.

So, as soon as you start putting pressure on yourself to go like I’m here to qualify, then it becomes really hard because that’s all you’re thinking about. Whereas if you’re just thinking about I’m just getting the most out of myself on a good day, on today, this race day, then that’s the focus. And if you get a qualification spot then that’s brilliant. If you don’t, there’s always another time to do it.

Consistency is key to your Ironman success

And then finally I think, is the training consistency we’ve talked about, but you need to understand your why. I’m a huge believer in that because you need to go deep. You’re not just ‘I want to qualify’. I’m doing this race because the reason why, is I want to go to Hawaii. But there’s a deeper, more subconscious level of reasoning as to why you’re out here for 15, 20, 25, 30 hours a week. And why you’re choosing to ride 180 kilos on a Saturday and not spend it with your family. And if you can dig deep enough, and it might be because you want to show your family what you can do. Or personally, you want to see how fast you can go, you know as a podgy wicket keeper.

But you need to, and I think it is so key, when times get really hard in training or otherwise, if you’re not getting the gains that you’re after you can fall back on that line and it’s always there for you. Especially in a race when things aren’t going to plan or it’s getting really difficult. Having a really clear why, is crucial.

BRAD BROWN:  And then just finally, what is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from the sport? What is the biggest lesson Ironman has taught you?

Ironman lessons on what you put in

RICHARD THOMPSON: I think for me, you get out what you put in. I know that’s quite a cliché, but it can be applied in life as well and the better person that you are, the general person, the more you give back the more you will invariably receive. And with training the more you give and not expect as much, the more will come back to you. So, as I said, it’s been a long time since my first triathlon and certainly a long time since my first Ironman.

Podgy wicket keeper turns Age Group World Champion - Richard Thompson's Ironman Story

Ten years since my first Ironman in fact, but I think if you can focus. It’s such a selfish sport. When you have a team around you and they would like to see you succeed and do your best. But when it comes down to it, it’s a lot of time by yourself. If you can help others, then repay that selfishness. I think you’ll go a long way in the sport, and certainly in life.

BRAD BROWN: Richard, you’ve done lots. You’ve raced on the Big Island twice at the Ironman world championships, you won your age group there to become an Ironman Age Group World Champion. You’ve also turned pro and comeback to the age group ranks. What’s still left to achieve in the sport for you? What keeps you going?

Taking a break from Ironman training can benefit you

RICHARD THOMPSON: Last year, 2016, that was the push to see how fast I could go in the 31 year olds. Thinking that the endurance improves, like a bottle of wine. I thought I’d be this amazing athlete and much better than I was when I was 22 or 23 which proved more difficult applying that on race day. It proved more difficult than I thought. But, it comes down to this year I guess.

My wife’s doing Sum BT in France as an ultra race in August. Ironman Kona won’t be on the agenda. But I’m excited to having been accepted into Ultraman Australia in May. So, a 3-day stage triathlon I guess, of sorts. Doing something a little bit different this year and it’s exciting. It makes me feel like I’m back in competition, but I have no idea how I’m going to go.

BRAD BROWN: You’re also coaching a little bit as well. Just to wrap up, if we want to find out more about your coaching, what you do and your philosophies, where can they get more info from?

RICHARD THOMPSON: I’m one of the coaches at tzeromultisport.com.au. A strand based coaching company. We do a lot of correspondence programs for training. Main philosophy really is essentially a completely customised approach of training. We have athlete caps so that our coaches don’t open the flood gates and let anyone in. Or the more athletes the better. Because the quality of the coaching and the direction of what we do becomes jeopardized.

Find a coach who understands your worth

So, we focus on part-time man, Ironman, Triathletes, predominantly. That’s what we do. We stay clear of the short stuff. With the effect that if someone has an epic goal of trying to qualify, or trying to become and Ironman Age Group World Champion, or even just trying to beat a certain time, sub-12-hours let’s say, and some 14-hours. Or just want to do their first Ironman, that’s what we’re all about.

My experience is certainly bringing in that whole aspect of understanding your worth. And understanding things outside of the sport so that the coach can get a far greater understanding of how your life operates. They can then from that platform, allow you to program that session, or program that block or build, season upon season, much better. If they know exactly what’s going on, as against just bumping out a standardised program.

So, it’s a really good bunch of coaches and a great bunch of athletes and everyone’s living their potential. It’s great to see.

BRAD BROWN: Awesome. Well Richard what I’m going to do is I’m going to pop that link into the show notes. If you want to check it out or check you out they’re more than willing to do that. All they have to do is head over to thekonaedge.com. Check out the show notes for this episode.

Richard,  we look forward to getting you on next time out. We’ll talk a little bit about your swim to find out some of the things you’ve done over the years to get better. But we’ll save that for another day. Thanks so much for your time today.

RICHARD THOMPSON: Thanks so much Brad.

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About Us

Brad Brown is a 40 something age grouper that dreams of one day qualifying for and racing on the big island (He may have to outlive everyone in his age group though).

Morbidly obese in 2009, Brad clocked in at 165kgs (363lbs) at his heaviest.

He's subsequently lost a third of his body weight on the way to a half Ironman pb of 5:06 and a full Ironman pb of 12:21.

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