Interview extract from “First of the Bike”
Age Grouper of the Month – Kevin Fergusson (AUS)
When did you first do your triathlon? What was the first triathlon you did?
I told you not to ask me dates.(laughs) It was around beginning of the eighties I think, yeah, early eighties, I did around about 250 swim, 20 bike and five k run.
And from then on, for you, a love affair with the sport or have you come in and out of it?
My brother and me decided to do it together. My brother and I smoked at the time. So we both had played football and it was the thing to try and get fit, and we did that one just before Christmas and we said both of us together will give up smoking and have a go. And I was lucky. It was the first time I have ever beaten my brother at anything. I came out mid field and he came dead last. We were both pretty heavy smokers so it was a bit of a life changing step, that’s for sure.
This is might be a hard question to answer, but did it take you long to figure out that you were actually pretty decent at this sport?
My first race I came mid field and as I say, I was smoking and I thought gee, what happens if I give up smoking? I thoroughly enjoyed it and found a lot of motivation to give up, and it was only two weeks before New Year that we made that resolution, so it didn’t take long. I reckon within the space of 12 months I suppose the effects of smoking started to wear off, and it was approximately three years that I went from racing age group to racing elite in South Australia.
And when you go through that, what were some of the early memories that you like to recall? What were some of the things that stood out about the sport in that time, You would have seen some change?
Definitely, a bit of change over the years. I think the fondest memory then was anybody could have a go and it wasn’t an elitist sport, and even when I did start with racing elite. You’re just a normal person and everyone is approachable. That was the best part I liked about the sport.
And do you think that’s changed now?
To a certain degree. I think more in Ironman sometimes, there’s a bit of segregation there. Obviously it’s different when it comes down to the party afterwards (laughs), but in between times, the elites have their own separate briefings and they treat them differently as the age groups, which I suppose they have to, but there’s definitely that segregation compared to what it was.
Your 2009 was probably one of the best age group seasons I think in the history of the sport, and I don’t think it’s a long bow to draw, you won four different world titles. Talk us through that, and was it your intent at the start of the season to go after all these?
Yes. It’s like what I teach is trying to set goals and that, and over the years, 20 years in the sport, and I was starting to need something to keep me motivated, and something more to achieve, something harder to achieve. So, definitely when I found out that the Worlds were coming to Australia, an opportunity to do three Worlds in Australia, I dived in straight away and thought how many of them I can take out. And I had been racing pretty well and I thought it is possible. It’s not an unrealistic goal.
I buckled down and put some serious training in. The recovery was the hardest part obviously. I have been in that situation before, especially after Hawaii, I only had two weeks before the long course world championships. But it all panned out and the recovery worked well and even at the starting line at Perth, I felt quietly confident, I wasn’t too worn out. And I had one of my best races ever, two weeks after Hawaii. I actually had an outstanding race in Perth, so I was quite surprised.
Your efforts in 2009 Kona were amazing. Obviously it’s a tough race but it suits your ability to go to Kona?
Obviously, as you get older – Ironman suits me, that’s for sure. I can’t match the speed like I used to.
How do you prepare? What do you do during your season and tell us a little bit about your training? What sort of training are you doing in the week in your mileage?
Four different phases. I’ve got Port coming up in seven weeks, so I’ve just starting to come out of my post phase now. I swim four times a week. I ride to work, but I ride five main sessions a week and running is around four main sessions a week. So averaging about 20 ks swimming, 600 on the bike and running around about 70 – running I’ve had to come back a bit on the running than in previous years because of obviously more impact. To reduce injuries I’ve cut the running and increased the cycling.
What’s your favourite leg?
Where do you find you make your gains?
Definitely the bike, definitely.
Is that what you like to do? Do you like to do that the most?
Yeah, it’s the most enjoyable part of training, and on the most part, I think getting into that rhythm and obviously the more you pass the happier you get.
Just back to Kona, what is it about the race that you love, about going to the big island?
It’s the thing everybody sort of dreams of when they first start triathlon. I remember when I first got into it, I saw a video on Hawaii and said one day I’d love to go there, and especially the first time there, it’s an amazing experience and you’re walking around with so many fit people, and the bikes, I wish I could dream about some of the bikes that were there, and just the atmosphere is just incredible. When you go there, you can’t really describe it, I’m sure that everybody dreams of getting there. I know at our club they want to go there and ask lots of questions about it. It’s the pinnacle, that’s for sure.
And your Big Island experiences. What’s your favourite part of the course out there in Kona?
There are three parts that are fantastic. On a nice day in the swim you can see the coral and the fish and scuba divers at 20 metres, bubbles, and big rings coming up. On the bike coming back and coming down the hill and you’re sitting on 80 kilometres an hour which is amazing, and the run, you can’t describe that finish, that’s just added to it. You can always get that extra energy coming down that ride, it’s incredible.
Given that you’re one of the best athletes in the world for your age group, are you aware of the people you have to race and beat? Do you know who in your age group, when you go to Kona and those sorts of races, do you know who you have to beat?
No, I don’t really. I just go out there and I always race against myself. I don’t try and put too much pressure trying to beat other people. I’m aware sometimes people tell you but on the day, it’s myself that I try and beat. Whatever I get at the end of it is a bonus.
A lot of people who read this age group and their first timers going into ironman. What are some of the things that you found worked for you? Give us some of your tips that would help people to go in there in their first ironman?
It’s a big step, racing from [sprint to Olympic] for my first Ironman, I used a coach for three months just to get more outside information and obviously reading as much as you can, and help prepare yourself, especially with nutrition – everybody is different. You’ve got to try in training that’s the main thing and see what bars etc that work for you or ones that make you sick. I used to have some that every time I went out on the bike I used to vomit, so go that way, the hard way. It’s trial and error really, but definitely getting a coach for your first time is a bonus I think. Puts you in the right step to set you up.
And we don’t want to prematurely retire you because your career is sensational, but how long do you reckon you’ll keep cracking on for?
Mate, retirement is for old people (laughs). I’ll be there until I can’t go anymore. It’s part of my life now. It’s a good part of my life, I’ll be still doing triathlons and Ironman. You can put me in a wheelchair and I’ll still be having a go.
I think I saw you in a wheelchair post Port Macquarie last year?
Yes. That was part of the official giving my feet a rest. (laughs) I pushed pretty hard at the time, so I happened to not be too steady on my feet. I recovered pretty quickly after that. Just as a precaution they put me in a wheel chair, even though I may not have looked too good, I was fine.
And one last one, what are the plans for this season? Obviously you’ve just mentioned you’re going to be doing Ironman Australia and then for you is it another tilt at Kona?
No, I’ve been there three times now, and especially doing those four worlds, hit my back pocket pretty hard, so I’ve slowed down a little bit, but I am obviously – the more you achieve, you’ve got to set higher goals. So I want to try something different this year and I’ll be back up to Port in five weeks, the inaugural Challenge Cairns, I’ve signed up for that, and see how it goes. See how I can back up two Ironmans in a row, I’ve never done that before, so it’s something different.
Thanks for spending some time with us.
No problem. I was pretty unfit when I started. I hope people reading this know that anyone can do this.