On this edition of The Kona Edge we catch up with Lilian Molesworth to discover more about her journey to racing on the Big Island.
BRAD BROWN: We head to Sydney, Australia now to catch up with age group Lilian Molesworth. Lilian, welcome onto The Kona Edge. Thanks for joining us today.
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: Thank you.
BRAD BROWN: Lilian, let’s take a step back and chat a little bit about your journey into triathlon and particularly the ultra side of things. Where did you start in triathlon, have you always been a triathlete or did you come from another sporting background?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: No, I was a runner before. I started triathlon in 2005, the reason why I started that was because I was getting way too many injuries with the running and then I started doing triathlons.
BRAD BROWN: It’s quite interesting you say you started because of the injuries, it’s so often that’s the case that many age groupers almost stumble into the sport because they are runners and struggle with injury. Was it frustrating as a runner, knowing that you couldn’t always do what you wanted to do? How difficult was it to overcome that?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: It was difficult but at the same time I was enjoying it. I was enjoying cycling and I was enjoying swimming, so it came sort of easy.
BRAD BROWN: Growing up as a kid, were you always active?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: No, not at all, my background is Estonia. I grew up in Estonia and back then we didn’t have computers or anything, so I was mainly always outside, riding my bike, running around.
BRAD BROWN: Do you think kids today miss that? I grew up in the same sort of way. We didn’t have PlayStation. We knew it was time to come home when it was dark.
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: Yes.
BRAD BROWN: Lilian, looking at making the step up to the ultras, from a sporting perspective, running and that, were you doing longer stuff or has that mainly come in triathlon where you’ve moved onto ultras?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: I was running marathons, 10km, that was my favourite distance, ultra marathons, 10kms, marathons.
BRAD BROWN: The decision to make the step up to doing an Ironman?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: When I watched in the video I thought, yes, I would like to do that, give it a go.
BRAD BROWN: Was it as hard or easy as you thought it was going to be?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: I put all the efforts and training in and see how I go.
BRAD BROWN: When did you realise you were pretty good at it?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: It was 2005 and then I just did first, I think I did Carmel race, then I did Nepean race then I went straight one half and then I went straight to full and now I’ve done more full Ironman’s than I done halves.
BRAD BROWN: That’s quite a big jump and quickly, would you advise that for new triathletes or would you advise someone to start slower?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: It depends on what level they want to do it. You’ve got 17 hours, anybody can finish in 17 hours, so it depends what level you want to race. If you want to be quicker, take your time and train for it.
BRAD BROWN: I agree with you, that 17 hour cut off, if you put your mind to it, anyone, like you say, anyone can really do it and I think that’s what makes the sport really amazing.
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: Yes, because 2004 when I started, it was only 15 hours and you had to qualified and back then, that is after you qualified, it was like the field was a lot stronger. Now I find it’s weaker, like anybody can do it.
BRAD BROWN: It’s interesting, we chatted a couple of weeks ago here on the podcast about the qualification and whether people should have to qualify, not necessarily just for Kona, but to do an Ironman –
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: I reckon they should because when I’m looking back now, how many people just jump in and do Ironman, and quite often they’re getting heart attacks, maybe they should qualify first.
BRAD BROWN: It’s interesting, the 3.8 mile swim is a long way to swim and there’s no way really for the organisation to check if someone is competent for that swim. I understand the wave starts and safety, but I agree, I think a qualification process might actually alleviate some of those problems.
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: Yes, definitely.
BRAD BROWN: Lilian, as a kid growing up, were you pretty competitive? You said you were fairly active, did you hate losing?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: I was always good with the longer distance, that’s why I didn’t like the short distance. At school carnivals, always I can defeat other girls without training, which I was loving it, so yeah, I hate losing.
BRAD BROWN: Do you think that’s important to be a good age grouper, is you’ve got to have that competitive streak?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: Yeah, for sure.
BRAD BROWN: Has it gotten worse as you’ve gotten older, do you find you’re more competitive now than you were growing up?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: Yeah, I think because I’ve been getting fitter and I find lots of guys actually trying to beat me and that makes me angry, I don’t like it.
BRAD BROWN: I love that, nothing like a bit of motivation. Obviously that fires you up. Where else do you get inspiration and motivation from?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: I don’t know, just watching the races and watching the results and thinking yes, I can do that level, yeah. My husband races as well and he’s done Kona as well, he did 2012. Our aim was to race there together but we never made it together.
BRAD BROWN: I was about to say, you’re married to an Ironman as well, and a pretty competitive one, do you find that you guys race each other, is it difficult, is it something you have to avoid or do you push each other really hard?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: No, we’re trying separately and even on race day, we stay out of each other’s way. I think we both get nervous and tired so it’s better we stay out of each other’s way because the same thing with work, he can train that time and I can train that time, so even training, we train separately.
BRAD BROWN: Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: I think sometimes maybe bad things because sometimes there’s the complaint, you can fit in all of these training and I can’t! It’s hard.
BRAD BROWN: How do you deal with pre-race with the two of you? It’s something my wife struggles with because I get pretty grumpy in the final week before an Ironman, I get quite nervous as well, how difficult is that to manage where both of you are racing the same race?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: I think because we raced already that many races, we stay pretty much calm or if I can see he’s getting a big agitated, I just stay away and just do my own thing and I pretty much know what is his routine and he knows what is my routine, so we try to not interrupt each other.
BRAD BROWN: Let’s talk about your qualification process and when you decided, you know what, I’m pretty good at this Ironman thing, I want to give it a go to see if I can get to Kona, when did you realise you were pretty good at Ironman?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: I think with my first race! When I did my first race it was [inaudible 0.07.26] and I did 11:47, that was my first Ironman and I didn’t want to [inaudible] Kona, I thought let’s try if I can do it sub 11 hours and then I was training hard and then I thought, I think I can do Western Australia sub 11, so I was training really hard and that was 2007 and yeah, exactly four weeks to go and then I came off the bike pretty bad.
I had fractured ribs, fractured tibia/fibia, sacrum fractured and elbow fractured, so basically I couldn’t do nothing and everybody said, your chances are gone, you can’t do it and the day before I didn’t even want to go and try to swim or run, I knew it’s going to be sore, it’s only been four weeks. On the race day I thought, all right, adrenalin is going to kick in and I’ve just got to go and do it, so on the race day yeah, the adrenalin kicked in and I did it. I did 10:52, but I was sore, I was so sore.
BRAD BROWN: How long after the crash was that?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: Exactly four weeks.
BRAD BROWN: No ways, that is crazy! You’d obviously done lots of hard work in the build up to that, what drives someone to actually go after a crash like that, to go and give it a bash?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: I think inside me I was angry, I was angry because people said: You can’t do it, you’d be lucky to walk it, you’re going to do DNF and inside me I was angry. I thought, why would you say that to me and I felt like I want to prove that I can do it. When I was running I knew I can’t stop, I can’t stop and have a drink, my legs are just going to cramp up so badly, I just have to keep going until I see the finish line and so I did it.
BRAD BROWN: That’s incredible. You’ve obviously got this massive inner strength, but when you’re fit and strong and pushing hard at an Ironman it hurts and you end up in some dark places, but in that situation, you must have been in all sorts of pain. What strategies do you use to push yourself through those times where you’re really struggling in a race?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: I sort of like switch myself off and I just focus, finish-line, finish-line and just take one step after another, focus, okay, I’ve got to get to this point, then to the next aid station. Don’t stop, just have something quickly, an energy gel, Coke, water, keep going, keep going, keep pushing and the only time I’m going to stop is if I cross this finish line. I’m not going to stop until I cross that. Sometimes I even don’t recognize people who are cheering me on because I’m so switched on and just focusing on the finish line.
BRAD BROWN: In the zone, that’s amazing! Lilian, as far as pain in a race, have you been that sore in a race or after a race since then?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: That race I was really sore, like I couldn’t even walk, but the rest of the races, it’s been pretty much all right.
BRAD BROWN: Let’s talk about choosing courses and you mentioned Western Australia, it’s pretty fast and flat, how do you go about picking the courses you want to race? Do you find races that suit you? Do you prefer the faster, flatter ones or do you pretty the hilly harder ones?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: I like the hilly, harder ones because I find for me it was easier to qualify with the hilly courses. I find hills suits me, so everybody can ride flat and fast, if you want a fast time, go Western Australia, but for me, if I wanted to qualify for Kona [inaudible 0.11.14] the way to go.
BRAD BROWN: It’s interesting and people would often think it’s the other way around, that it’ll be easier to qualify on a faster, flat course, but as you say, that’s not necessarily the case.
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: Yeah, hard and hilly ones, best for me.
BRAD BROWN: Lilian, let’s talk about actual qualifying and the first time you qualified for Kona and that feeling? You’ve obviously set goals of what you wanted to do, but when you set the goal that Kona is where I want to get to, how does it feel once you’ve actually done it, where you’ve realised, I’ve booked my ticket, the slot is paid for and I’m going.
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: The goal for it was pretty hard because all the rest of the races I came pretty close and I missed twice, I missed by one, missed by one and that day was just my lucky day.
BRAD BROWN: How much luck does come into it? We know how much hard work goes in, but how much do you need things to align and go your way?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: It just has to be a perfect day and I had a perfect day, so I can say yes, just luck and it really depends on who turns up.
BRAD BROWN: Let’s talk about the buildup from qualifying to Kona, do you change much, do you try and keep things much the same or do you change things up and head into Kona slightly different?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: I changed everything around, I used to cycle heaps, I used to do like 500km a week and I used to run a lot as well, 100km+ and then I thought no, I’m going to cut off all these junk miles and I’m just going to focus on speed and that’s what I did. My cycling, if I tell the people how much I cycled they think you’re crazy. My longest ride was only 3 hours, but I train only on the wind trainer and if I do three hours, it’s flat on, three hours on the wind trainer and that’s it. The same with running, I didn’t run more than 30km, but the 30km that would be like, I did 2:12 and that’s it, I won’t run anymore. I was purely focusing on speed, so I cut off all the junk miles and that got me where I wanted to be.
BRAD BROWN: It’s interesting, what made you make that switch? Talk to me about the thinking behind making that switch.
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: I found when I was training before, I struggled with the time, like quality time. Spending time with my husband and family and I was drawn away from that, especially from friends as well doing that long and then I thought, no, I think I can change it around. I don’t need to necessarily do these long rides all the time because losing endurance will take 6 months for me to lose endurance, if I don’t do anything. But losing speed will take 2 weeks, so I thought, well, I’m going to focus only on speed and that’s what I did.
BRAD BROWN: Do you think that would apply to most age groupers or is it a case of each to their own, they need to figure out what works for them?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: If they’ve been in the sport for long, like me, I reckon they only need to focus on speed. They don’t necessarily need to go and ride all these long rides all the time. Even my last Ironman, I did faster than the year before and my longest ride, the same thing, 3 hours only and that’s got me through.
BRAD BROWN: That’s amazing.
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: The same still, my longest ride was 3 hours and I still run off the bike marathon, I did 3:36. I knocked another two minutes off my marathon time and my longest run was only once 30km, that’s it.
BRAD BROWN: Wow, talk to me about your experience on the Big Island, the feeling of hopping on the plane, it’s a long way to go, but once you arrived there, what’s going through your mind?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: A lot because I lost my bike!
BRAD BROWN: Oh no!
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: I put my bike on in Sydney airport and airline company lost it somewhere. So I was pretty nervous, I didn’t have my bike for five days. All I was able to do was run and swim and then two days before the race I got my bike. It wasn’t a nice feeling.
BRAD BROWN: That must be pretty stressful.
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: It was very stressful.
BRAD BROWN: I had a similar experience although didn’t lose the bike, I lost the bolt for my seat post on my bike when I did Ironman Zurich a couple of years ago. And I say I lost it, I left it at home and it’s quite a unique little fitting thing and we could not find one. So we had to jimmy the thing, but I know, it’s pretty stressful not having the gear that you’re used to when you arrive at race day. The buildup to that Kona, the time that you spent on the Big Island before you raced, were you pretty comfortable that you had spent enough time, you’d acclimatized, what did you do to make yourself feel at home?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: I usually race pretty well with the race. So I went there 7 days before the race and I run and I was able to hold the times what I wanted to hold with my training runs. Swim, I swum and I was feeling good, so I was happy. I love running in the heat and usually I train in the heat anyway because the only time I can train is middle of the day, so it’s the heat, it didn’t really bother me. But what really killed me was the wind because on the race day, I was only 52kg and with my bike, I was still under 60kg, so the wind absolutely destroyed me.
On top of that as well, I didn’t get the sunscreen because when they put my number they said, they said: Don’t put on any sunscreen until you’re coming out of the water. So I came out of the water, I was looking for the sunscreen, no sunscreen, I’m already hot on the bike and no sunscreen and I didn’t get sunscreen until, what was it, 120-130km. I stopped at three of the aid stations and they didn’t have until another guy saw me at the aid station, how red I was and he just grabbed sunscreen out of his own bag and he just sprayed it on. But I was already so cooked at that stage, it was just, yeah, I was like a lobster. I blistered up and was in so much pain.
BRAD BROWN: I was going to say, that’s good motivation to get off the bike and off the run as quick as possible, but sometimes that’s not possible.
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: Yeah.
BRAD BROWN: Lilian, your experience of that race, when you line up, when you get in that water and you look around and it’s the best in the world. It’s the who’s who as far as the pros go, but it’s also the who’s who as far as age groupers go. What does that feel like? Knowing that you’ve done the work to get here. You’re with the best in the world and you are one of the best in the world and you get to test yourself against them on such an incredible course.
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: It’s a great feeling. Definitely I will do it again if I can and I will be more smart.
BRAD BROWN: What would you change if you go back –
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: Sunscreen! Sunscreen! I will put sunscreen in my own swim bag, like in the bike bag when I come out the water. I will have my own sunscreen and I will put in the bike bag as well. When I hop on the bike that I have it in my pockets as well.
BRAD BROWN: Racing, what would you change?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: I will keep everything the same. Training for Kona, for qualifying race, my longest ride was 3 hours. Training for Kona my longest ride was 5 hours, so I will keep it the same.
BRAD BROWN: That’s interesting and your race itself, other than the sunscreen issue, are you pretty satisfied that you did all you could? You left it all out there, there’s no regrets?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: I was hoping maybe a quicker time, but it was my first experience and I thought I’d be happy to finish. I finished in 12:12 and I knew I couldn’t go any quicker. But then I’m thinking, well, if I had sunscreen on, maybe I would have find somewhere another hour. I don’t know, I think I would like to go back and find out about that.
BRAD BROWN: I guess that’s one of the things about Ironman. Because it’s such a long race, there’s always things that you think and it’s not necessarily major things, but there’s always things that you think can go better. It’s very difficult to have the perfect race where everything goes according to plan.
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: I think for my sake, the wind, I looked at people who went past me and they’re like a lot bigger built than me. And I’m thinking, maybe that’s why I struggled so much as well because riding against the wind, the wind was 60km per hour and then you’ve got the heat in the lava fields. My Garmin said 48 degrees, how much better I can get to racing that conditions, so I’m just happy to finish.
BRAD BROWN: Aren’t you glad you get to train in Australia as well. Imagine the guys and girls who have to train through pretty cold conditions and aren’t used to that sort of heat. It does definitely help, coming from a warmer country.
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: Yeah, definitely.
BRAD BROWN: Lilian, as far as the quest to go back, now that you’ve experience it and you’ve raced on the Big Island, how much does that eat at you that you know, every time you race, you know what the prize is at the end of the day and how hard it is to qualify. Is it difficult or is that what motivates you?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: I think it motivates me. When I’m looking, like now, what race to do next season, I pretty much look and think I can do it. The training I’m doing, yeah, I can get through. Before I was looking like, to training how much optimum training I can do. How much training I can do, but now I’m focusing on the minimum. The minimum amount of training I can do to get through that race or get the fastest bid?
BRAD BROWN: What’s the biggest life lesson Ironman triathlon has taught you?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: For me, definitely it’s sunscreen. If I missed the sunscreen, the race is going to be no good. I think because I’m so fair skinned and the sun can burn me, it’s just bad. But I know I can cope through the distance, but the sun burns me, the blisters, yeah, sunscreen, definitely.
BRAD BROWN: It’s interesting you say that because people would think that something like sunscreen is such a small thing, but if you don’t take care of the small things, the big things don’t take care of themselves.
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: Yeah, definitely.
BRAD BROWN: If you could go back and give yourself advice, starting out on this triathlon journey, knowing what you know now, what would you tell yourself?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: I’m not sure. I’m just enjoying it and yeah, just everybody, go for it, go and get the experience.
BRAD BROWN: It’s an incredible sport Lilian and it’s growing and that’s one of the things that I’ve noticed is that the sport is just really exploding. If you could give new people advice about doing their first Ironman because there’s two separate audiences that listen to the podcast, it’s the guys and girls who have qualified and are really trying to qualify, but then we’ve got a lot of novices and people starting out in the sport. What advice would you give to newbies about doing their first Ironman?
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: Probably the training, the consistency, you have to be consistent with your training, it all adds up, even if you can’t fit in a 4km swim set, do 1.5. It’s better than nothing. Just consistency.
BRAD BROWN: I love that. Lilian, we’re going to get you back on to talk about the different disciplines and what you’ve done to improve on each one of them, but we’ll save that for another time.
Thank you for your time here on The Kona Edge.
LILIAN MOLESWORTH: Thank you.