It is an exciting time, heading off to the World Championships, the Sprint and Olympic distances have a uniqueness about them. You are an official member of an Australian Team that is competing internationally, how do you feel about the lead up?

Lisa Macfarlane3

The training has been building, along with the excitement. Getting the uniform and seeing my name on the Australian suit was pretty amazing. Triathlon Australia created a closed group on FB for all the Australian age group athletes, and it’s been interesting to read what other age groupers are feeling and how they’re managing everything.

My only lead up race was the duathlon in Richmond on 18 Aug. My main aim was to get the mount and dismount right; the secondary aims were to do the second run leg at a quicker pace than the first, and make sure that the new race suit worked ok. That all worked fine – coming 2nd in my age group was a bonus!

How has your training been so far?

My swim training has boiled down to survival of 750m. I’ve only been allowed/able to swim in the past 2-3 weeks, so any thoughts that I had when I was announced in the team about me being competitive in the swim have gone out the window.

The plus side is that I’ve had almost uninterrupted focus on the ride and run, and I’m happy where I’m at in those disciplines. The two TA training camps (Lorne in June, Apollo Bay in August) have also helped consolidate my training in those areas.

How much extra planning have you had to put into your preparation given you are racing overseas?

Not too much. We’re flying out a week before the event to give us time to get over jet lag and acclimatise to the London autumn (which I suspect isn’t going to be too different from the current Melbourne climate). The main thing is the cost, of course. I’d love to be one of those age group athletes who compete every year at the world champs, but I doubt the finances would manage (that’s assuming I’d qualify each year!)Lisa Macfarlane2

What have you found has been the most valuable lesson from the training regime and the decision to race at this level?

Consistency, absolutely. Having the mental focus to follow your own program which may be very different from everyone else’s, especially if you’re used to group training. Listening to your body and undertaking regular body maintenance sessions (physio, myotherapy) even if nothing is wrong, just to stay on top of things.
I guess it’s a pretty major goal, and that focuses you to do what’s required for the result you want. Of course I’ve been fortunate in that Paddy (Fitzgerald – my husband for those who don’t know) also qualified, so we’ve been able to support each other through some of the training sessions over winter. I’ve certainly missed training with some of my Tri Alliance buddies, but they’re all aware of what I’m focused on.

How has your motivation been training over winter and what’s motivated you?

See answer above! I want to do as well as I can in London, and that has been my motivation. I’m not under any illusions regarding my ability – I’m not going to finish on the podium but I want to come away from the race knowing I did as well as I could. There are nearly 100 people in my age group competing in the Sprint in London – of course I want to finish higher up the ranking than lower (top 50 would be fantastic), but if I do my best on the day, knowing that I’ve trained as well as I could, then wherever I finish is what it is.Lisa Macfarlane4

How important has the support network of Coaches and other athletes been to you?

Incredibly important. Everyone in Tri Alliance has been so supportive and encouraging. Head Coach Ollie developed a specific program for London-bound athletes outside of the normal training program, and its been good talking to Coaches Emma-Lise and Greg who have represented Australia at an age-group athlete previously, and to talk to them about their experiences. I think it’s one of the major benefits of being part of Tri Alliance – the knowledge base and support you receive in unbelievable.

A couple of questions around the race,

Why have you chosen to race Sprint Distance at this level?

I did my first full season of triathlon racing over the 2010-11 Gatorade season, and finished 3rd in the series in the Athena category. That showed me that regular training and racing could bring some rewards. The following season I thought I’d step up to the Olympic Distance and didn’t particularly enjoy the distance plus I got some injuries. The idea to qualify for the Australian age group team in the Sprint came during that time. I did some research online looking at the times that other females in my age group were doing to qualify, and I realised that with a bit of training (a 5min improvement over the 3 disciplines) I could be a serious contender. I had a one-on-one consult with Coach Ollie and we planned what I needed to focus on over the 2012 winter, and so for the 2012-13 season. And that plan and my commitment landed me where I am – heading to the worlds!

I like the red-line approach to sprint racing – go hard for 70-odd minutes then finish. I’ve done 3 OD events (Sandringham/Noosa/Newcastle) and for various reasons haven’t enjoyed any of them. The lovely thing about sprint training and racing is that you’re not spending hours on the bike and run every weekend.

What has been your biggest challenge leading up to the race?

Staying relatively injury-free. I’d love to tell my younger self to look after our body better.

What do you think your biggest challenge will be during the race?

Trying not to drink too much Serpentine water!

Of course, making the team is one thing; you have to qualify, what advice do you have for those attempting to qualify in Edmonton, Canada 2014?

Be strategic about the races that you chose (within financial constraints) – the smaller the field, the more likely you are to finish higher up the placings. This is one time where your finish time (to a certain extent) is irrelevant – it’s all about the placing. So do your research. Definitely do the double-points race (Elwood for the Sprint, Devonport for the OD). A couple of years ago, lots of people in the Australian team qualified on the strength of one qualifying race only. It’s becoming more popular now and if you’re keen to qualify I’d do at least 3 races, keeping a 4th in reserve if the placings aren’t favourable.
Also chat to other athletes who have qualified, as everyone may have a different story and each with their own experience. If you’re particular focused (like I was), look at the last few races that you did and see if you competed against anyone who made the age group team (lists are available on the Triathlon Australia website). Have a look at their times compared to yours – it will give you a good gauge of what and how you might improve.

Will you be racing in an aero helmet? If not, why not? 😉

Yes – on loan from Evalin Ling. Anything to shave off the seconds!

What are your plans post Age Group World Championships?

We’re having a week off to celebrate and relax after the race, and I’ll probably take another week off training when we get back to Melbourne. I’m enjoying not being an Athena anymore, so I won’t stop training for too long! 🙂

I’m one of those people who find it difficult to train for training’s sake though, so I’ve already got a couple of races/goals lined up. One is the Sussan Half Marathon in St Kilda in December (hoping to do sub-2hr), and the other is the OD in St Kilda in January (hoping to do sub-3hr).

Lisa MacFarlane

One word association:

Swim – pain
Bike – fun
Run – fast
Gel – caffeine
Wax or Shave – wax
London – calling
Wetsuit – definitely
Pool or Ocean – ocean

Final words…….

Once upon a time I thought that only elite athletes could represent their country in their sport. Triathlon gives the age group athlete that wonderful opportunity – you don’t have to be the best in your age group, as long as you’re committed enough to be top 20. I hope that there are other people out there who will look at me wearing the green and gold and think “wow, if she can do it, I could give it a go”. I’m certainly not the fastest in the squad in any discipline, but for a 40+ year old female, I do ok.

Thank you for taking the time in your busy schedule to sit down and share your experience with us Lisa and good luck for your big race!

Until next time, Coach Zoolander….

Coaches Ollie and Greg


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