Short-course star Greg Bennett will be giving his first shot at the Ironman distance this Saturday in Melbourne at the Ironman Asia-Pacific Championships. Thanks to some new rules from WTC, the 2011 Hy-Vee Champion will simply need to finish the race to validate a spot to the 2012 Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona. Bennett opens up about a recent injury and gives a candid assessment of his strengths and weaknesses heading into the race.
Triathlete.com: You suffered a bout of bursitis in your knee that derailed your training for nearly two weeks. In a sense, you’ve had a “reverse taper”, in that you had time off with the injury and now will be training almost right up to race day. How has this affected your race strategy? Is your plan to go as hard as possible, or will you simply aim to complete the full distance in order to validate your qualification for Kona?
Bennett: Having the bursitis in the knee was obviously not ideal leading up to my first Ironman. I was told in mid-January that I would have a start for Kona but would need to validate that start by finishing another Ironman. I decided I would race the inaugural Asia-Pacific Ironman in Melbourne even though I would have just eight weeks to train and a two-week taper. The knee took me out for 10 days and I had already started planning another Ironman for later in the year. But then I started training again and felt pretty good for 10 days and decided to put Melbourne back on the table.
If you asked me has my prep been everything I could want in order to win Melbourne, the answer in short is no. My time has been limited, the injury was not a positive and my focus for the year is to be in peak shape in six-seven months. My goal for Melbourne is to try and put myself in the race, to feel the pace, to watch and learn and get a great sense of how I feel. Melbourne will give me an opportunity to learn more about my body and nutrition, my mind and my pacing. I will race, but I will always have validation and the rest of the season in the back of my mind.
Triathlete.com: You lived and trained with Mirinda Carfrae and Tim O’Donnell, as well as Belinda and Justin Granger and Luke McKenzie, for the past several months in Noosa. There’s a lot of Ironman experience and numerous titles in that crowd. What are a few lessons you learned from these training partners?
Bennett: We’ve had a great crew up in Noosa. We’ve all swum, done numerous bikes and spent many social hours together. Once I first decided to race Melbourne I think I was like an excitable kid. I asked all the stupid questions concerning special needs bags, wearing socks, toilet breaks etc., etc. Rinny, T.O., B.G., Jussie and Luke all put up with my non-stop questioning. All of them have been great friends and I’ve been very fortunate to have them around.
When I first found out I was racing I went straight to Crowie to pick his brains. I figured he’s the best in the world and would know the most. He was heading out of town and we decided we’d chat when he got back. I started writing some questions down – and I kept writing! I thought to myself that this was insane and would be an abuse of our friendship. I decided I had to do my own homework. The biggest move I made was to contact an old sponsor of mine and a good friend, Robert Kunz from First Endurance, to help me with nutrition. He has been simply brilliant and his products have made the summer of training here in Australia very smooth.
Triathlete.com: What are you most and least confident about in terms of your preparation?
I have good swim speed and endurance.
I have great bike power, speed and okay endurance.
I have good run speed and endurance.
I’m pretty confident about my race nutrition. I’m just not sure about the intensity of the race with this nutrition plan.
My endurance to put the whole race together.
The intensity of racing and trying to keep in calories.
Being comfortable in the TT position for 180km.
The off-camber portion of the run from 5k to 19k.
The concrete path tearing at the legs from 20k to the finish.
I’ll be really analyzing myself constantly, making sure I stay fueled and making sure I’m not pushing too hard. I’ll race in my light training shoes with proper laces for the off-camber road and to have more protection against the concrete path. Therefore expect a slow T2.
For more on Greg Bennett and his wife, Laura, pick up the latest issue of Inside Triathlon on newsstands now.