Photo courtesy of Paul Higgins
by Chris Bagg and Joe Gambles
Ed. Note—we take a slight detour from our regularly scheduled swim program today to bring you some questions and answers from Wattie Ink. pro Joe Gambles' "best race of 2019" at Indian Wells 70.3 last month. The Tasmanian native, Boulder transplant, new father, and coach to Heather Jackson answered some of our questions about preparing for a race so deep into the year. Joe took second place after a hard-fought battle with Lionel Sanders all race long, distancing the rest of the field.
1) you raced very late this year, going all the way until December. What practices do to follow to stay fresh and hungry through a long triathlon season?
It was definitely a long year this year, opening with Oceanside 70.3 in April and finishing with Indian Wells in the middle of December. I prepped for three Ironman races this year, which, in the end, enabled me to race longer into the year because I had such a strong base behind me. Over the last twelve weeks of the season I actually cut my volume and did a lot of high intensity specific race prep sessions to get me race-ready as my base dwindled.
2) where is your focus during a race? What do you find yourself thinking about?
My focus during a race changes depending on what type of race. Over a 70.3 distance I'm able to stay in the moment throughout the whole race, whereas in an Ironman—double the distance and more than double the time—the mind tends to wander. What I've figured out this year is that a lot of that has to do with nutrition; When you don't have enough calories and sugar going to the brain, you can't concentrate. That's something I've corrected this year and it's made a big difference in not only my racing, but also in my training.
But I try to break the race down into small, achievable parts, and then complete that part and move forward whether I completed it well or did it poorly. That way I can keep my mind on the job and on the task at hand.
3) how much analysis do you do during the race?
The amount of analysis I do during a race gets determined by how well the particular race is actually going. If it's going poorly, then a lot of analysis is taking place, because you're working out why things are going wrong. When things are going right, you generally just switch off and get in that zone where you keep pushing, and it's a good pain because you're going fast—it's a lot easier to concentrate in that context.
4) what was challenging about Indian Wells in a way you didn’t expect? How did you deal with that challenge?
There were two main challenges about Indian Wells. The first was the water temperature. I didn't actually didn't do very well with this, even though I went with a thermal wetsuit which helped a little bit. I didn't get in and do a warmup, which I regret now, because when the gun went off I couldn't control my breathing and I hyperventilated and couldn't make that front pack. The next challenge was all the corners over the course of the 56 miles. That technical nature created a bit of a pack dynamic, with athletes I'd normally be able to get away from being able to keep me in sight.
I do want to say I was really impressed with this first-year event and will definitely go back. The backdrop of this area is stunning, and the expo, inside the Indian Wells tennis center, was really easy to navigate and made for a great race atmosphere. The place is built for world class athletics, and it certainly feels that way.
5) was there a particular workout or period of training you thought about during the race that helped through a difficult patch?
As I mentioned earlier, the preparation into Indian Wells was a lot of high intensity and race-specific work. I did a lot of threshold and VO2 max work on the bike, so during the race, when Lionel Sanders put the pressure on and tried to drop us, I thought back to some of the really good sessions I'd done in my basement, suffering alone in silence, and that helped me get through the tough bits.
6) what are you taking—wins or opportunities for improvement—from the race?
I think I got a lot of things right in my preparation for this race. My bike didn't leave the trainer in the five weeks leading up to the event, so I think that really helped with the dead flat course. What I'd like to do differently in preparation for next year is to do a little bit more hill-specific work. The first two miles of the run are pretty smooth with not too much undulation, but the four miles around the golf course is really difficult and hard on the legs, because you can never find your momentum with all the twists and turns and ups and downs. So I think if you can have a little more power in your stride to get you over those tough bits you'd end up with a really good run here.