The Liz Blatchford Story
THE BIG ISLAND
You podiumed at Kona once again – congratulations! What was your plan going into the race this time? My plan was basically the same as previous years. To swim with the front group, ride strong with the front group as long as it was within a reasonable range for me and then to run with whatever I had left with our going too hard early in the marathon. No special tactics and this is what I did. All was going to plan and I was nicely planted in the front group until around 80km on the bike when Daniela was on the front and pushing the pace. I made the decision to drop off the group and ride a more controlled pace within my own limits. After 20 – 30 km of solo riding, I began hearing the time gaps and started regretting that decision, thinking I should have hung in the group for longer. I got off the bike in 9th with some big gaps to the girl in front and thought I was out of contention. It was the hottest Kona of the three I’ve raced and a lot of the girls up front who had taken the decision to ride hard ended up paying for it on the run. I stayed super steady, not trusting myself to push too much in such crazy heat but still managed to move into 3rd before half way on the marathon. From there on it was all about hanging tough and getting home in one piece. I was slowly catching Rachel (Joyce) in 2nd but never got close enough to have a real crack.
We now know you were experiencing Plantar Fasciitis issues going into the race – how concerned were you and your team that this would effect your race? I’d been struggling with it for months leading in but it had been manageable. Taping, icing, anti-inflammatories, massage and needling were keeping it bearable and I was able to do most of my normal run load. However 12 days before the race I did my last hard interval run session. By this point, I’d already started to freshen up so the faster running came easily to me that day. I could feel my foot throughout the session but thought it just the same as the past few months. However, as my body cooled down my foot got so sore I couldn’t walk for the rest of the day. I took some painkillers and kept it iced for the next three days without running. I was worried by this point but also knew how focused I was on getting though Kona and would probably race if there was any physical way! From that point on I managed 3 x 30 min runs until race day, each very painful but enough to assure myself I’d get through. And I did. I’m almost certain that I tore my plantar in that run session but I don’t have any regrets.
On race day do you just block any concerns like that or is it a constant thing in your mind (especially throughout the marathon?) It did enter my mind a few times. For example when I was suffering in the last hour of the bike. I thought, “I better be able to finish this thing, I’m not going though this much hell to not finish!” But ultimately I would just push it out of my mind and stay focused on the present.
Three races on the Big Island, two podiums and a tenth is a seriously impressive CV – what do you think about the race suits you? I’ve always said that if I could design an Ironman course to suit my strengths, Kona would pretty much be it. Non-wetsuit, warm ocean swim, rolling bike and run plus the extreme heat and humidity all suit me. That coupled with it always having a strong field brings out the best in my performance.
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
You started out doing triathlon at a very young age. How did you get into it and what about the sport appealed to you? I started out doing nippers (surf club) and Little Athletics so I had the swim and run part covered. I did my first tri at age 14 and had success. I think ultimately most kids like winning (well I did!) so once I became better at triathlon, it took over!
You turned pro at a young age and headed off on the road – was that a scary prospect? What did your parents think? I turned “pro” at 21. I think at that time I wasn’t so scared, just excited. I moved from Perth to the Gold Coast with three of my best friends from school so it was all a big adventure. I’d told them I wanted to move to Queensland to train and they all decided to join me. They weren’t into triathlon at all so it was a funny household, balancing four 21-year old girls, who wanted to party all week, with my training. I was also studying at uni so it was all just fun and not scary at all. Mum and Dad were great, they’ve always been big believers of us learning by our own mistakes.
Who were your role models then and now? Back then I would say the older Aussie girls who were racing well at the time – Loretta Harrop, and Nicole Hackett. As I moved up the ranks some of my training partners and best friends became my role models in a way – Emma Snowsill and Emma Moffat for sure.
You started university, but decided to pursue triathlon full time. What were your motivations back then? Did you ever imagine now in your 30s you would still be making a living off this sport? To be honest in my 20s I didn’t really give much thought to the future. I very much lived in the present. When I began training under Brett Sutton and spending half the year overseas my uni studies had to take a back seat. I recently managed to finish that degree; I think it took 13 years or something ridiculous! But no, if I had taken the time to stop and think, I probably wouldn’t have imagined I’d still be going. I didn’t even know what Ironman was back then!
You were a successful short course triathlete. Why did you feel the need to switch to long course? Do you think it’s a natural progression with age to have to switch to long course to extend your career? I did 11 years of ITU racing and went through three unsuccessful Olympic cycles. I was chosen as alternate twice. That coupled with the politics involved with federation racing, meant by 2012, I really needed a big change to stay in the sport. I do think there is definitely a natural progression into LC with age. The strength endurance comes on with years of training plus the mental side.
You didn’t get selected for the Great Britain team for the 2012 London Olympics. What impact did that have on your career and you as a person and athlete? I was left pretty bitter after that process. I felt it was unfair at the time and still believe the Olympics is no place for domestiques, given the spots are so limited and coveted. This accelerated my move to long course. Perhaps if I’d been to the Games in 2012 I may have felt fulfilled and retired then and there. However I didn’t want to finish on a low and still loved the pure racing and training outside of the politics. So I gave long course a shot. And here I am still going and still loving it.
Your first ever Ironman (Cairns 2013) came with a win, a feat very few in the sport achieve – did you have any doubts ahead of that race that IM racing may not be for you? Yeah sure I had big doubts and I don’t think you would be human if you didn’t! Ironman is very daunting no matter who you are. I knew I was a good all round triathlete but having seen so many great athletes before me crumble over Ironman was enough to instill some serious respect.
If so, that result must have thrown any doubts out the window? Somewhat. It for sure surprised me but also motivated me to chase a Kona spot that year which I’m very glad I did.
Do you go into different races with a base strategy or do you wing it? Each race’s strategy is slightly different depending on fitness, field and importance of the race. But definitely some winging or adapting goes on too.
You’re one of those athletes who is seriously solid over all three disciplines, as opposed to those who are clearly dominant over one leg to the others and can then blow up. Have you always felt that was an advantage? Yes for sure. I’m grateful of that strength and I believe it comes from my years of ITU racing. You cannot afford to have a weakness in that style of racing. Having said that it would also be cool to be known as a super fish, uber biker or crazy fast runner!
What is your favourite place to race and why? I love racing in my home state – Queensland. I raced Mooloolaba 11 times as an ITU race and obviously love Cairns. I also love Kona. Anywhere warm and tropical does fine!
You’ve been a triathlete for almost 20 years now – what is the secret to the longevity of your career? Learning from my mistakes. It took me a while but knowing your own body’s capabilities and working to your own best potential. For years I tried to do the run training of Emma (Snowy) and while she excelled I spent more time injured than running. Finding a good life balance is also imperative. My husband Glen aka Korupt Vision has thankfully made a career that complements what I do, meaning we can travel together for the most part.
OFF THE TRI TRACK
You’ve mentioned in other interviews that you’d like to eventually be a schoolteacher and start a family (aside from fur baby Buttons!). Is this on the cards still? Well I wouldn’t mind a family of doggies but that would make travelling even more difficult! Yes I am looking at doing my teaching diploma part-time so I have something to go to post Tri. And yes, a non-fur family at some point for sure!
As a female athlete having a family (or not) is something you have to consider (over the male athletes). How have you managed the competing goals and the athletic progress vs desire to have a family balance? It is definitely on my mind. Both of those “competing goals” as you say have time limits. It is fantastic seeing some of the pro triathlete mothers in our sport doing so well. Gina Crawford always inspires me. No nonsense, just gets on with it and obviously does a great job at both racing and being a mother. To this point I have always been fully tri focused but i think in the next few years my focus will change.
Your husband Glen Murray aka Korupt Vision is fast becoming one of the premier photographer/videographers in the sport. How great is to have your number one able to work in the same sport and travel with you around the world? It’s really fantastic. Without sounding too soppy I’m super proud of him and he constantly amazes me with his creativity and work ethic. The fact it enables us to do our things together is even better. I doubt I would still be competing if Glen and I couldn’t do it all together.
What’s your favourite food to eat while training, and your favourite off training? Carrot cake ticks both of these boxes. Some of my favourite long rides, both at home and in Boulder include carrot cake stops. In fact now that I think about it, that may be why those rides are my faves! But carrot cake goes down well anytime. So does pizza, good crusty bread, banana bread, croissants -basically I love gluten!
Aside from triathlon, what does Lizzy B do to chill out? Anything beach related – surfing, SUPing, taking Buttons down to play. I also love reading, cooking and eating.
What’s left on the bucket list? So much! Get way better at surfing, have kids as mentioned, swim to Rottnest, live sustainably, lots more travel – Africa, South America, more of Indonesia and India. Foster lots of dogs. Obviously these things complement each other so well…eeek haha.