by Chris Bagg and Josh Amberger

Ed. Note—racing is returning in parts of the world, notably Europe and now Oceania. Wattie Ink. professional Josh Amberger toed the line at Sunshine Coast 70.3 on September 13th and came away on the podium. September offers early-season racing, and Amberger followed up his Sunshine Coast podium with a 3rd place at Ironman Cairns. He shared the above video recapping his return to competition, and then answered some questions for us about his 2020 triathlon plans.

You’ve raced twice now since returning to competition—what have you noticed that would be helpful for other athletes as they also come back to the race course?

It's easy to get caught up in the hype and excitement of races, and consequently it's easy to make some mistakes. For my first race back, I packed the wrong goggles and hadn't laced my running shoes up properly with elastic laces. Just little things like that that ended up bothering me a little bit on race day because I'd forgotten the normal routine. I also went out way too hard on the bike in my first race and kind of tanked, but I was able to fix this for my second race, which was Ironman Cairns last weekend.

Did anything unexpected happen? If so, how did you deal with it?

In Ironman Cairns I ended up getting caught in a bit of a tactical game. There were some tactical aspects I talked about with a competitor prior to the race, and we were in cahoots to work on the bike as we knew the chase pack was highly organized and would be doing the same. The strategy ended up backfiring on me as I ended up doing all the work whilst more or less foiling my own race to make sure he was there with me in the swim. I normally only ever rely on myself to get the job done in races, so despite being frustrated, I was able to refocus and break away on the bike and get back to making my own luck. Lessons learned for the future.  

Have you noticed anything that is different about the quality of the racing?

I think in general, the younger athletes this year across a variety of sports are performing insanely well and winning races. With Ironman last weekend, the winner was only 25 and he won on debut. It's the same in the Pro Tour & UCI MTB recently. The level is always going up, but for whatever reason it's the younger guys really raising the bar in 2020. They are hungry and want success. It's very interesting.

Have you noticed anything different about your attitude in regards to racing?

For sure. I initially found it quite difficult to get motivated to train for my last two races. I was still really enjoying training, but focussing more on details that are often overlooked when you're training for events. I'm an athlete that always needs a lot of technical tuning for biking and running. If I lose focus on these things for just a short while, my biomechanics can fall apart and really throw me off kilter. I was getting a lot out of making improvements in these areas, and hadn't considered at all the prospect of racing a full distance. About three weeks out from Cairns I was forced to come to terms with the fact the race was indeed going ahead, and I'd have to start preparing mentally for a long day of suffering. I guess for the first time in career, I had lost the racing mind. Pretty easy to do with everything going on. But come race week, I was ready, and definitely think I was prepared enough to do battle and to get the best out of myself.