Issue ID: October 2013
Having qualified for the Ironman Hawaii/Kona finals this October, London-based project manager Liz Pinches shares her tri background, how she balances training with work and family, and her preparations for next month’s world championship.
How, why and when did you first get into tri?
I turned to triathlon in 2003 originally when I had been rowing for about 12 years and had a stress fracture in my ribs. The rehab that was recommended was doing the same aerobic workouts but swimming, cycling and running.
Having put in a few weeks of this at the end of a season I thought I should have a go at a pool-based tri on the Isle of Wight, and enjoyed it.
I went back to rowing until 2004, but I already had the taste for a new sport. From 2004 onwards, I left rowing behind completely and swapped the carbon boat for a bike, the neon lycra for bib shorts and swimsuits but I kept my 80s style wraparound Oakley M-frames.
So I suppose you could say that I was always an endurance junkie, but my endurance went upwards from 2k races to 140.6km.
When did you join your tri club?
I joined Thames Turbo in 2005, having done a year first with BADTri in Bristol.
How do you balance work/training/racing?
Well, over the years I have burned the candle at every end, so this year I took a new approach, as I’m not getting any younger and I need my rest and recovery.
For the winter season and race season I have worked three days a week, training for the other four. This gives me the ability to be flexible, using some weeks to work midweek and race in Europe and overseas using long weekends for the flights.
Other weeks I get some high quality training in the daytime, avoiding the winter dark nights. It also means I don’t begrudge long hours in the office on the days that I do work, as that is my commitment to make sure the job gets done as well.
The way I see it, I’m doing a real ‘work hard, play hard’ approach. When I’m at work I’m 100% focused, and when I’m training I’m also treating it like my ‘other job’.
When did you make the move to Ironman and why?
I resisted it for 8 whole years actually, and finally succumbed for Challenge (now KMD Ironman) Copenhagen in 2011.
We have always had a lot of long course athletes at Thames Turbo and they used to write these inspirational race reports of Iron distance racing: the idea of being out on the course for so long, in so much pain, initially intimidated me.
But finally, I realised that when the going gets really tough, I seem to find some new resources from somewhere.
Races over 5 hours seem to be something that my physiology is well adapted for – I discovered this doing multistage adventure races and Ultramarathons as a break from triathlon, so I suppose Ironman was a natural next step.
I still don’t think its necessarily a healthy pastime though, as it does put your body through a lot of damage, although I’m pleased to say my recovery is getting better now I’ve done 3 of them!
What was the most noticeable difference in your training?
The biggest change was that I lost any kind of social life I once had!! I went from probably 12 hours training a week up to 17 for my first ironman.
My body managed it quite well, but I distinctly remember asking my coach a few times ‘when do I get a day off?’
It was always very hard to explain to friends and family that the next chance they might have to see me was about a month away!
What aspect of the move up in distance did you find most difficult/easy?
Increasing the training wasn’t too difficult, but accepting that you will feel necessarily tired all the time was a hard concept.
I think that I feel motivated by achieving my goals in training, so knowing that when you start a workout feeling less than 100% and its just about getting the training ‘in the bank’ will always make it difficult to find the positives.
Ultimately, I’ve had to learn to enjoy the journey as much as the destination and just accept that part of the process is becoming resilient to pushing yourself even when you don’t feel like it.
What’s your ultimate goal in tri?
This is a tricky one. I am not sure if I have one. I’ve been first amateur at Ironman and I’ve got top 10 at 70.3 World Champs in Vegas plus an overall podium at a WCS race in Washington DC, and I have completed many of the ‘bucket list’ races I had, such as Escape from Alcatraz, although new ones get added each year of course.
I am not really interested in chasing times but it was a big goal to stay out of the medical tent for my last ironman (my Mum was a big fan of this goal) and I’m pleased to say I achieved it.
I would really like to see WTC World rankings taking off this year – I think that’s probably what would mean the most to me, a world No 1 amateur ranking, since it recognises consistency in a number of races.
To read more about Liz Pinches and see what advice Ironman legend Chrissie Wellington had for her, pick up a copy of issue 291 (October 2013) of 220 Triathlon magazine, on sale now…