Transitions : For those who don’t know can we have a quick “History of Spot”
SPOT: I surfed the Australian leg of the WTC surf tour as a grommet but didn’t have the confidence to do the full tour. Got into triathlon cause I could run pretty naturally (sub 9 minute 3km on 3 months training as a 16 year old) but more importantly believed I could win!
Later on I got run over & did the Surf -Lifesaving Ironman Series here in Australia for a few years & tried to mix it in with triathons. No surprises I got glandular fever & took up coaching full time (surf & triathlon). Had a few goes at getting into shape but get run down pretty easy! Best results as a Harry Has Been - winning Australian Sprint Tri Age-Group & Masters Division Coolangatta Gold Surf Ironman.
Transitions: You were given a real name at birth but are known pretty much by one name only, so how did the name “Spot” come about?
SPOT: Spot was from a quick witted school teacher who took one look at all my freckles – he was funny! My nickname before that was maggot so it was a step in the right direction!
Transitions : You have excelled at a few sports in your time, why did Triathlon end up being the enduring one?
SPOT: Surfing I competed against Occy & Damien Hardman every weekend as a junior who won world titles so didn’t rate myself as much as I should have.
My 1 regret in life – surfing isn’t always about the best surfer & if I applied myself to surfing with the confidence I took into triathlon I think I could have been a lot more successful! Surf Ironman I started too late & can’t sprint so whilst I tried hard I was a lot better triathlete than surf ironman.
Transitions : You are known to be a bit of a larrikin but you still race pretty hard, is that something you like to keep alive in the sport, a sense of fun along with the competitiveness?
SPOT: Ha yeah I think there is something to be said for light heartedness… I see competition as a stage same as an actor – I’m there to entertain whether making people smile or surprising them with a good swim for an old bloke!
Transitions :Was triathlon as serious at the pointy end back when you frequented it? And have we as triathletes "over thought" the whole thing?
SPOT: It’s funny as I look back & I’ve been at the pointy end of 3 sports as they got more professional – surfing, triathlon & surf-lifesaving!
Overall I think the pros in these sports all have become a lot more professional. For sure the big difference is with age-group triathlon especially Ironman. It attracts a high powered, high achieving corporate type who take it very seriously! The advent of HR monitors, GPS devices & web links like Strava has definitely made it a smorgasbord for “paralysis by analysis”….
Transitions : You are a coach as well, do you have to have a coach persona to get the message across or are you still the same “Spot” even when coaching?
SPOT: I’m a bit of a “tough love” coach – you know the never smiles, you did OK type. 90% seem to like it although I do lose 10% in the first month with this confrontational approach! But I loosen up when they get my respect. I say a good coach is a bit of a psycho so they often don’t know what to expect…
Transitions : You are obviously a gun swimmer, top three tips to go faster (in training)?
SPOT: 1. Swim more – biggest mistake as people head towards Ironman 2. Learn to swim at a more even pace in both training & racing – start intervals/ races at a slower pace. I was 20th after 200 metres at Cairns Ironman but won the swim overall. 3. Swim in the open water.
Transitions : Over the years you have been in various states of “fitness” but have you ever considered giving the competing side of things away?
SPOT: Yeah I had sworn off Ironman but forgot I entered the Ironman Lottery….
Transitions : We have a few guys on the forum dealing with some pretty serious, possibly triathlon ending injuries so this question is pretty relevant, How did you handle the mental side of your accident/injuries and re building of his life post the accident?
SPOT: So funny when I got run over cause I had never been injured. I embraced being hopeless & 100% enjoyed the journey back to fitness.
The real secret is baby steps – I tried to swim with my jaw wired & cause I had skull fractures & snapped my inner ear canal my balance was cactus & I just did barrel rolls. It took me 8 minutes to swim a lap but I never thought I wasn’t going to make it!
So you have to believe, have determination but at the same time be patient! It’s really important to downgrade your goals & you are often shocked at how quickly things return! 9 months after my accident I got my foot to touch my bum (broken knee) & that same day ran a 49 minute City To Surf after only doing a hand full of runs (couldn’t walk for 2 weeks afterwards). Build up your positive bank by doing positive things – it took me 9 months of hard work to get my knee that flexible & look at the reward!
Transitions : Why Kona now?
SPOT: I won a lottery spot! I honestly think I’ll enjoy it a lot more walk/ running the marathon as the sun sets than I would have if I tried to win it!
Transitions :. What do you hope to achieve at Kona? Will you be taking it 100% serious?
SPOT: No not at all – I plan to swim easy to save energy possibly with a Go Pro to get some awesome shots! I don’t even have a nutrition plan. I’ll do my maths & make sure I take enough calories on the bike & run with a few caffeine gels… It sounds really unprofessional as a coach but I l find it very liberating rolling with the punches! Complete opposite to what I tell my athletes!
Transitions : What will you wear at Kona?
SPOT: Definitely zinc spots – Green & Gold! Chicks love boardies so have a great pair with OZ colours for the run with a Bondi Fit singlet! Champion Systems Clothing have made me a tri suit which I’ll wear on the swim & bike – Bondi Fit Colours with Australia green & gold spots…
Transitions : Bondi Roughwater years ago, you looked like a fat bastard, you'd forgotten to bring your goggles, and you swam in boardshorts down to your knees, and you came in the top 3 ... how the fark did you do that!
SPOT: Yeah fat floats so I can usually still knock out a solid swim especially if I’ve been surfing a lot. Over summer each year I do quite a few ocean swims so get into shape as the season progresses. I don’t wear goggles up to 70.3 but will wear goggles in Hawaii to check all the fish out!
Transitions : How long did it take to lose the chaffing from the 2007 City to Surf when you ran as Borat?
SPOT: Fashion comes at a price – yes got a good rash on that one but not nearly as bad as when I got a stress fracture wearing long ugh boots!
Transitions : In 1989 at Avignon ITU world championships you were riding with the lead bunch when you punctured. Got off the bike in ~40th but ran into 9th - with a faster run split than Mark Allen. Questions - how quick were you in changing tyres? Was that something you practiced before the race? Do you think you would have beaten Mark if you didn't puncture? Is it true that you held Miles Stewart under water at the beginning of the swim and then swam over the top of him?
SPOT:May have swam over Miles (old school lessons for young kids were great before the video ref). I learnt early on to start slow in swims & definitely swam over a few in that race to get to the front pack! I was in shock when I flatted & kinda gave up (definitely no speed records on tyre change) but Welchy came by when I was riding along feeling sorry for myself & said “let’s go” which got me pumped again. I ended up dropping him on the run which felt pretty good! Definitely would have come 1st or 2nd but Mark Allen ran 2:40 in Hawaii that year so was in good shape!
Transitions : Should we expect to hear your name mentioned in any stories from the after party?
SPOT:Last time I was in Hawaii I went to the after party & pulled an umbrella out of the table & jumped off a balcony thinking I was Mary Poppins. I ended up in a rose bush scratched from head to toe. It’s going to be hard to outdo that but one can only try…
Big thansk to Spot for taking the time to answer our questions and we wish him the best of luck at Kona, and the after party.
I have promised to chase him up on his return to do a coaching Q and A with Bondifit.
Again good luck SPOT!