Inside Sport - - INSIDER -

SU­PER­CARS DRIVER Will Dav­i­son (left) had al­ready com­peted in a hand­ful of triathlons, but the Sun­shine Coast 70.3 Half-Ironman was next-level, ex­tra-cur­ric­u­lar pur­suit for even a fit­ness fa­natic like the 34-year-old two-time win­ner of Bathurst. To say he en­gaged the right man to help him pre­pare is an un­der­state­ment of epic pro­por­tions. En­ter Court­ney Atkin­son, Olympian, six-time Aus­tralian triathlon cham­pion and elite-level tri com­peti­tor across 15 years. To­gether, the Po­lar am­bas­sadors worked to get Dav­i­son to the start­ing line of his first-ever Half-Ironman, with Atkin­son – these days a pro­fes­sional in­spirer and mo­ti­va­tor – play­ing the role of men­tor. Dav­i­son’s 70.3 chal­lenge was a 1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21.1km run. This cal­i­bre of triathlon takes ath­letes to all sorts of strange, deep, per­sonal places in the minds and bod­ies of com­peti­tors. Atkin­son, 38, won five of the seven 70.3 events he en­tered dur­ing the last two rac­ing years of his ca­reer, mean­ing Dav­i­son was well and truly in safe hands. Here’s how they pre­pared Will for the hard­est slog of his pro­fes­sional sport­ing ca­reer.


COURT­NEY: “I’ve known Will for years through my as­so­ci­a­tions with Red Bull. So many of the Su­per­cars driv­ers and mo­tor­cy­cle riders live on the Gold Coast and all need to be fit. As far as mo­tor­sport ath­letes go, they’re prob­a­bly the clos­est peo­ple I’ve seen to triathletes and cy­clists in a sense of fit­ness. These guys are al­ready su­per-fit for what’s phys­i­cally re­quired of them.

“Re­al­is­ti­cally – and I’ve seen the data – they’re going around these race tracks with their heartrate at the equiv­a­lent or higher than what we race at. Al­though there’s not that same phys­i­cal im­pact, their heart is see­ing the same strain which triathletes ex­pe­ri­ence in races.” WILL: “Dur­ing our prep I cer­tainly asked Court­ney some silly ques­tions, the an­swers to which might seem so sim­ple to him. Stuff about how to best pre­pare your tran­si­tion. Or when do you push on the bike and the run? There are so many lit­tle tech­niques he helped me with. Even get­ting your wet­suit on and off, hav­ing ev­ery­thing laid out per­fectly just to set up for that tran­si­tion. Whether it’s ta­per­ing tech­niques, strength tech­niques, stretch­ing ... It’s not just about run­ning and rid­ing, there’s so much other stuff you have to make sure you keep an eye on in or­der to get your body per­form­ing bet­ter.”


COURT­NEY: “Com­ing from my back­ground, ob­vi­ously be­ing an Olympic triath­lete and pro­fes­sional ath­lete, mine is more of a men­tor­ing role. I do see my­self more as a men­tor; al­though, even that term mightn’t be the best way to put it. I’m more like a bank of knowledge, if you like. I like to im­part on peo­ple who are highly tal­ented in their own dif­fer­ent ar­eas, but want to get into en­durance sport for ei­ther fit­ness or fun, or have other per­sonal goals. If I can help make that a lit­tle bit eas­ier for them through my 20 years of ex­pe­ri­ence at the top level, then that’s my def­i­ni­tion of be­ing a ‘coach’, I guess.” WILL: “I’m so far out of my com­fort zone with triathlon. I’ve done be­tween seven-eight Olympicdis­tance triathlons now, and quite a few sprint ones. I’m fa­mil­iar with the way it all works, but I’ve taken it up an­other level now. This was the most se­ri­ous I’ve treated a triathlon, while still com­pet­ing at a rea­son­ably low level. But I en­joyed the process of im­prov­ing my fit­ness and with that, I’d no­ticed all these other lit­tle de­tails which I needed to make sure were crossed and dot­ted. You


can over­look a lot of them and maybe do an in­jury or some­thing silly.”


COURT­NEY: “The num­ber-one thing that zaps your en­ergy in the triathlon swim is fight­ing peo­ple. Ob­vi­ously you’re bunched to­gether and have to get to one buoy. You’re al­ready in the open wa­ter, so that cre­ates a lit­tle bit of anx­i­ety for peo­ple. The sec­ond thing is, if you’re ac­tu­ally get­ting knocked and hit by peo­ple, it cre­ates a lot of adren­a­line. Your heartrate sky­rock­ets and when that hap­pens, ob­vi­ously you’re zap­ping all the en­ergy you want to use later in the race on your legs.

“On the bike, the main goal is to keep aer­o­bic. It’s a 90km leg. You want to be burn­ing a ma­jor­ity of fats more than burn­ing up all those fast sug­ars. You want to be keep­ing your heartrate steady, to be keep­ing the watts steady and be mak­ing an even ef­fort right through­out the whole 90km.

“And then the run, I mean, that’s where it all hap­pens, right? By that stage you’re tired, you’ve just rid­den 90km; your legs are bug­gered. If any­one’s run off a bike, af­ter they’ve been rid­ing hard, run­ning is a whole dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence off a bike. What hap­pens in the run off the bike is that peo­ple get sloppy and tired and start hav­ing a lot of lat­eral mo­tion. The prob­lem with that, is your en­ergy is going up and down and to the side, when you want to be mov­ing for­ward in the most ef­fec­tive way pos­si­ble.” WILL: “As part of my prepa­ra­tion for the 70.3, I’d ac­tu­ally been learn­ing about the art of the tran­si­tion with a new squad of peo­ple I was train­ing with. I’ve def­i­nitely spo­ken to Court­ney about how triathlon is dif­fer­ent to just going for a run or a ride. It’s about things like bike po­si­tion; on a time trial or triathlon bike, mak­ing sure you’re sit­ting slightly dif­fer­ent and work­ing a dif­fer­ent mus­cle set on your legs so you don’t use up your run­ning mus­cles. There are so many things that are far be­yond what I’ve ever had ac­cess to. I didn’t take it too se­ri­ously. That was the beauty of it. It’s a new world for me.”


COURT­NEY: “You can train some­one phys­i­cally, but there’s noth­ing you can do repet­i­tively to train them to be men­tally tougher in the race ... You just have to ac­tu­ally be­come men­tally tougher. You can, how­ever, give your ath­letes cues to help them be­come stronger in that depart­ment. That can be ei­ther through trig­ger­ing your mind to think about cer­tain things, which then cre­ates an en­vi­ron­ment for you as an ath­lete in the race that makes it more com­fort­able or more de­sir­able to chase your per­sonal goal. For example, it might be a reward at the end of a race. Or you might be aim­ing for a set time and you want to beat that ... or a mate’s time.” WILL: “I love push­ing the mind fur­ther than 


what you think it can do. There’s no hid­ing out there. If you haven’t pre­pared, and you haven’t done your work, you’re going to be in trou­ble.

“Triathlons have taken me to some pretty unique places dur­ing a race. I love that; I don’t get scared by that. I come from a sport where you need to be head­strong any­way. It’s good to get out of your com­fort zone. When I’m out on the course and I’m not fit enough, in the mid­dle of a triathlon, and I’m in that place where I want to stop, I thrive on get­ting my­self out of that po­si­tion. I like the mind games that you play with your­self, mak­ing sure you push the bound­aries and that you keep going.”


COURT­NEY: “As far as Will was con­cerned, he al­ready had a very well-struc­tured train­ing program that keeps him fit for driv­ing. I didn’t want to im­pact on that. The last thing you want to do is be mak­ing changes in anything be­cause that’s ob­vi­ously when in­juries and all these other things oc­cur. In the end, al­though he was train­ing for a triathlon, I can’t speak for him, but his pri­or­ity is win­ning driv­ing races, right? So the num­ber-one pri­or­ity for him was still to be in the best con­di­tion to drive a Su­per­car each week that he could be in and to use his triathlon goals as mo­ti­va­tion for him to keep fit. For me, it was more about mak­ing the process of do­ing the triathlon eas­ier for him and more en­joy­able.” WILL: “I’m just con­stantly fas­ci­nated by ath­letes like Court­ney who are al­ways find­ing new means and ways to keep their train­ing in­ter­est­ing – not mak­ing it reg­i­mented, too mo­not­o­nous. Can you imag­ine the amount of hours he’s put into train­ing over the course of his life? It fas­ci­nates me how he spices things up in his work­outs. His is a very in­di­vid­ual sport. As ath­letes, we can all draw upon each other to try and make our­selves bet­ter, even when we’re from com­pletely dif­fer­ent sport­ing codes. You can al­ways pick some­thing up from peo­ple like Court­ney; the way they struc­ture their lives. He’s a pretty in­spir­ing type of guy. The work­load of a triath­lete, to him, is the norm, be­cause it’s all he knows, and the way I op­er­ate is nor­mal for me.”


COURT­NEY: “One of my – and I shared this with Will – per­sonal cues, and this goes for any level of ath­lete, whether you’re rac­ing at the Olympic Games right through to walk­ing your first 5km fun run ... This was given to me as ad­vice a long time ago: if you’re re­ally stuffed, you just need to con­cen­trate on the small­est por­tion of what you’re do­ing. I do some­thing as sim­ple as count­ing ten steps on my left leg, and then ten steps on my right leg. I just do that over and over again. What that does is it tricks your mind into con­cen­trat­ing on some­thing spe­cific for a re­ally short pe­riod of time. Do­ing that well will get your mind off the big­ger

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