First Ironman for Olympian Will Clarke
For almost a decade, Will Clarke was a regular contender at the highest level on the ITU circuit. After competing in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and finishing second in a World Cup race in 2011 he transitioned his focus to longer distance races. This Sunday he will finally have his eagerly anticipated Ironman debut. Find out more about this friendly, Cambridge-born member of the Uplace-BMC Pro Tri Team in our Q&A session.
1. Will, last season you joined the Uplace-BMC Tri team. What are the advantages of beginning part of a team in triathlon?
This team in particular is special; there isn’t anything else like it in Triathlon. We are very well looked after. We have the best kit available from great sponsors; we have access to sports science support from Bakala Academy. Medical, Physiotherapy and strength and conditioning. Top level mechanical support on training camps and races from our partner BMC/Shimano. All organised by two great team managers / directors who are also very happy to talk things through and help with our development. My coach Mark is also funded through the programme and works closely with the team. Really all we have to concentrate on is getting fit from the training and then executing the best we can on race day.
2. How did you change your training to be ready for the new challenge?
Things didn’t change that much. I think it’s important to keep some speed in your legs to keep up with the best in the sport and it’s also not like I can train any more then I used to anyway. In fact I am doing less because otherwise I get too tired! One big difference is the key sessions are a lot longer and harder and that type of training takes a long time to recover from so you actually end up taking more recovery in the end.
3. What do you think will be the biggest challenge at your first Ironman?
I think the biggest challenge will be to keep your head in the game. With correct nutrition and the right training in the legs it shouldn’t be a problem to last the distance at a good speed. However if you start getting negative thoughts or if you ignore your race plan and start taking off too fast then I think eventually you’ll suffer!
4. In 2012 you missed the Olympic at “home” despite belonging to the top 10 athletes worldwide. Did this disappointment made it easier to you to switch to the longer distance, where you have a clear qualification criterion?
Absolutely. It was an easy decision for me in the end. I was pretty much at the best level I could get to. I had a 2nd in a World Series and I still couldn’t grab the 3rd spot on the Olympic Team. It’s the same for Rio. Top 3 athletes in the World otherwise you won’t get selected. I wasn’t going to wait another 4 years to see if I could do that. I’d rather try a new sport where I’m in charge of my own destiny.
5. The Half Ironman distances gets more and more popular and the prize purse increased significantly in the last years on this distance: Why are you doing now the switch?
I’ll still compete in 1/2 distance most of the time. I don’t really want to do more then 2x Ironmans a year. One to qualify for Hawaii and one at Hawaii! All the rest of the time I’ll be making the most of the 1/2 Ironmans which also enables me to keep my power and race more frequently.
6. What makes triathlon so special in your opinion?
It’s the ultimate test of endurance and you can never stop improving! The races are so varied and so long that anything can happen and because of that you walk away with such a great experience and so many stories that you’ll talk about forever. I also love the events, they always have a fantastic buzz around them. We complete the same races as thousands of other age group athletes so there are heaps of people on the course all going through the same experience.
7. What kind of advice would you give someone who wants to do his first triathlon?
One of the great things is Triathlon is really for everybody. Don’t feel out of place, just enter a competition and prepare the best you can and I guarantee you’ll have a great day.
8. You are British; does this mean you are drinking your morning tea with milk and start the day with bacon and eggs?What is really British about you and what not?
That is exactly how I am. Apart from I also like Heinz baked beans with my breakfast as well. One of the only things that’s not British about my right now is that I currently have a tan :)
9. If you could pick one ability of a team mate, what would it be and from who?
I think I would like the ability to wake up smiling like Romain. He’s a very positive and happy guy and when you are training very hard and constantly tired it’s really hard to be happy all the time.
10. Which holiday would you choose? Tandem bike tour with Romain in the Provence, Fishing with Dirk in Florida or Surfing with Liz Blatchford in Australia?
I think I’d like to go fishing with Dirk. He’s got a nice boat I think over there in Florida. I think that riding a tandem with Romain would be too exhausting and he’d probably want to go swimming and running as well and I’ve already been surfing with Liz quite a few times!
11. What would you do today if you would not have become a pro triathlete?
Hard question but I think I’d have worked harder at University and got myself a normal job. Really though I’ve been doing sport all my life so if I never started sport at age 6 then I’d be a whole different person. I think I’m always going to be involved in sport for the rest of my life now.
12. What is your biggest weakness and what your biggest strength?
I’m certainly a very impatient guy but I’m also a very friendly person!
13. Who will be the biggest surprise of the Uplace-BMC Team in 2014?
I don’t know because everyone is an established athlete in their own right, they’ll all get good results but in terms of a surprise… I know Romain has something big in store and I think that Bart is probably the most talented guy on the team so I also expect big from him. Of course I hope to make myself that surprise as well!
14. Which are the goals of the season for you?
My first priority is to try to come as close to winning Lanzarote on my debut Ironman, then I want to make sure I first qualify for Kona and then make a good start there, to be honest I’d be disappointed if I couldn’t come top 10 there but I also know that many things can happen there.
15. Do you have a passion also for another sport?
Not really, I like watching my 3 sports, swimming, cycling and athletics but I honestly don’t have much time for other sports. Family comes as next most important. It’s amazing how much of my time is filled.