“Ironman isn’t just a walk in the park. Everyone that enters a race these days is a huge challenger. On top of that, everyone that is at the start line in Kona has aimed to be at their peak on that day.” — Tim Van Berkel, Strava Pro
Running on the moon is a common description of Kona. The landscape is barren and oppressive. The iconic heat shimmering off Queen K Highway suggests it’s pretty hot. The infamous current on the return leg of the swim is a killer. Pros and age groupers get to share the same water and roads — this doesn’t happen in other sports.
For the Australian triathlete Tim Van Berkel it really started when he was a kid. Triathlon in Australia was well represented in the media and he would find himself glued to the TV when there were races. Now, at age 30, many years after he first watched the Hawaii Ironman on TV he is realizing his dream of racing. On Saturday October 11, 2014 he will compete on the biggest triathlon stage in the world and couldn’t be happier to do so. We caught up with Tim this week to see how he got into triathlon, how he’s been preparing for Ironman World Championships and what he expects on the big day.
Tim Van Berkel Athlete Diary: Make no mistake, this is the ultimate test. This is the reason we all train so hard and put in such long hours. It’s the pinnacle of triathlon. Nothing compares to this.
This is my first Kona and hopefully not my last race here in Hawaii. It’s an amazing location and the toughest athletes come together to race in a very tough location. It’s certainly going to be a test for me.
The 2014 season has gone well. I’ve stayed relatively healthy and have stuck to my game plan – which is really important.
In terms of my best results this year, the two wins came from Challenge Melbourne and the Busselton 70.3 where I also now hold the course record. At a more macro view, over the last 2 years I’ve raced 17 races across the shorter Ironman distance (70.3) and Ironman distance, and on average, my placing would be 3.6. So not too bad. I’ve felt that I’ve been fairly consistent over this time but I’m under no illusion though that Kona is another level again. From where I sit today, come race day, the conditions will be brutal.
For training I’ve taken a structured approach with a large amount of time in Boulder this year as my altitude block. Riding is certainly my favourite followed by running with swimming being something that I’ve been working on over the last year or so.
My coach Grant Giles has been the biggest positive influence on my achievements throughout my career. Everything from pushing me to get the most out of me to just having a good chat about my next race. He’s always been there when I need him, which is something I can’t see changing.
From my coach Grant Giles: As far as this prep goes I don’t think I’ve seen Tim in better form going into an Ironman, we have his swimming under control and he is a far better swimmer than he was 6 months ago. I think he’s also underrated, I mean he has 3 sub 8:10 Ironman wins to his name. Going forward always means taking some backward steps and Tim has the necessary talent to become a major Kona player. When he fires he gets stronger when everyone else wilts, those performances don’t and can’t happen every day.
Although this is the first outing It’s important that he is open to any possibility for this race, if he hits the tarmac in good position you can bet your life he’s as much a runner for this course as anyone else out there but the first focus is get through it solid and learn.
Tim VB: Strava is also awesome. It’s beautifully simple interface really helps me to find and analyze the key numbers quickly. No other platform does this. Then also add in the social elements and I think this has all the great makings of a really powerful system. And let’s be honest, I’ve had the odd go at beating a certain KOM.
I also use it to share my data, be it riding or running, with everyone. For too long data has been seen as a secret and should never be shared but I feel that it should be available to all to view and review.
Check out Tim’s training and give him some kudos for his seventh place finish in Kona: strava.com/pros/992564