“The place is relaxed yet dangerous. I like it.”
Eighteen months ago, 30-year-old Angus McGilvray, a money market broker who enjoys living and training in Sydney, Australia’s Northern Beaches area, never expected to one day compete in the Ironman World Championships. As he recovered from knee reconstruction surgery, he simply wanted to try a bit more of the sport he had dabbled in briefly prior to going under the knife. Yet six months later he raced a half iron-distance event, and spurred by a strong result and his good friend (and last year’s 2nd place pro finisher) Pete Jacobs’ urging, McGilvray signed up for the inaugural Ironman Melbourne in March 2012. His Ironman debut was nothing short of stellar, posting a time of 9:15:14 and earning a trip to Kona. I sat down for a chat with McGilvray to hear about his first impressions of the Big Island, the insight he’s gleaned in preparing for the race, his fundraising effort for Bear Cottage (a children’s hospice providing care for terminally ill children and their families) and the Australian sporting and fashion heritage that he eagerly upholds.
Triathlete.com: What are your first impressions of Kona?
AM: You can see that it’s just sort of a sleepy laid back place, but then with all the Ironman people walking around and the expo being set up, that adds teeth to it. It’s this sleepy relaxed place, but I can tell that something’s waiting. It’s going to wake up, and it’s going to have teeth, and it’s going to test everyone here. It’s a great juxtaposition between the two. The place is relaxed yet dangerous. I like it. The vibe is so cool.
On the ride we did today I really noticed the starkness of it. The lava is just so black and so dark. And then we’ve had clouds hanging around up there in the hills looking like it’s raining and cool, but it’s really hot down where we are. I imagine it can get pretty hot and pretty lonely out there on race day. We drove out this morning and did a run into the Energy Lab. The heat just sits in there. And there’s an abalone farm and some sort of weird military thing down at the end. You’re like: What is this place? It’s like something from when the war began. It’s foreboding, like it’s going to get real nasty out there! I don’t think you could script it any better in terms of what the island has to offer.
Triathlete.com: How long did it take you to travel to Hawaii from Sydney?
AM: It was a 9-½ hour flight to Honolulu. Someone at work sent out an email sending me off, talking about how I was going to do the Ironman World Champs and how amazing my commitment was to do this. He said, “Just to put it in perspective, Gus will be racing for approximately the time it will take him to fly to Hawaii!” That’s an interesting concept. Fortunately the flight didn’t seem that long because I actually slept, so it’s not too daunting!
Triathlete.com: When you qualified, did you have any second thoughts about entering the race?
AM: Absolutely none, only because I was surrounded by people who had either been here before or who dreamed of going and who were instantly so excited. When they put up the list of people who had qualified, the energy was electric. Everyone was so excited to see whether they’d made it, and then the ones that found out they were going were so happy, it was an obvious answer: this has to be done.
Triathlete.com: You’re good mates and training partners with pro Pete Jacobs. What’s some advice he’s given you during your metamorphosis into an Ironman that has really stuck with you?
AM: A big part of it has been on the nutrition front. The owner of Shotz, Pete’s nutrition sponsor, has been great and the information that he’s given Pete has filtered through to me. The hours and hours we’ve spent next to each other on the trainer have basically been like a crash course in race nutrition. I’m sure that can take most people race after race, stuffing it up and finally getting it right. I’ve sort of been accelerated on that front, which I think has helped massively.
But I’ve also learned from the way Pete approaches training and resting and recovery. You can really look at this whole thing and get panicked and worked up over it all, but he’s quite a relaxed person. I’ve come from a background of competitive soccer, and then I got into gym work, which is quite intense. I’ve had three knee reconstruction surgeries! And the gym work is very different. From the time I started training for triathlon until now I’ve lost about 20 kilos. But I had no body fat – it’s been a reduction this way [he gestures to his shoulders shrinking down]. I’m slowly becoming a skinny little triathlete! So being able to apply that – a smart approach to training and the mindset that a rest day is good or a massage is good – has been good for me.
Triathlete.com: I noticed that you’re raising money in conjunction with your race. Why did you choose Bear Cottage?
AM: I work for ICAP and we have an annual charity day where we donate all the money we make and our day’s salaries. It’s a global initiative and it’s amazing how much is donated. On that day everyone in the office gets fully dressed up in costumes and it’s great fun. Each year the company selects which charities they’ll donate to. One year they chose Bear Cottage and they brought a child as a guest to the office. I remember how much he was smiling – he was a terminally ill child, just smiling so much and amazed by everything going on. Bear Cottage happens to be in the Northern Beaches area, and I remember hearing a story about it and how they’re run completely on donations and struggle to raise funds. So about four weeks before I raced Melbourne I decided to create an Everyday Hero fundraiser. I put it out to a few people at work and friends and family and suddenly I had raised $3,500. I noted on my fundraising page that there’s another event toward the end of the year in a little place called Hawaii, and if I happened to qualify somehow, I would keep the fundraiser open. And sure enough that’s what happened, so I did more of a push this time and I’ve raised nearly $10,000. Bear Cottage invited me up and it was awesome! It’s a hospital where terminally ill kids can go for a few weeks each year to have a chance to be with other kids in similar circumstances and where they can have some fun and be entertained. Also their families have a chance to feel that support and a bit of respite from their situation. It was pretty awesome to visit in person and really understand the work they do. It put things in perspective.
Triathlete.com: Many would argue that you Aussies are the most dominant force in triathlon on the planet. Why do you think that is?
AM: We’re convicts! Look at how Australia was founded. We were a penal colony for the British. Criminals, bad people and anyone who was not wanted in the UK was put on a ship and sent to Australia. They were put on an island 22,000-kilometers away that apparently had nothing. They settled there and had to set up farms and try and farm land that was crap. They had to get through the mountains to get to the good land. They were fighters! Everyone had to fight to survive, and that’s carried through.
Also, there’s just a lot of coastal activity. Where I live out in Manly, you’ll see people that move there from the U.K. that might have zero experience with fitness. But they land and on day one they go down to Manly Beach and see everyone swimming, running, surfing – everyone’s doing something. The next day they get up and go for a walk. A week later they’re running. Six months later they’ve got a bike. A year later they’ve got a surfboard as well. Suddenly you look in their garage and there’s a surfboard, a bike, a kayak, a stand up paddleboard and all sorts of gear. And then human nature is that once you run 10km you want to run 20km. Once you run 20 you want to run 40. Then you want to run faster. And then if you run you may as well ride. And then triathlon’s kind of in your face, so you think: Why not give that a go? And then it’s got you, hook, line and bloody sinker!
Triathlete.com: Aussies are known for certain fashion fixations, particularly in terms of old-school style swimwear. So the final thing I want to talk about is what you will wear on race day. To budgy smuggle or not to budgy smuggle, that is the question?
AM: I love my smugglers!! I won’t be budgy smuggling on race day however, purely for logistical reasons – and maybe to save the crowds that visual nightmare. I’ll be budgy smuggling a great deal the week before – during all my swims and of course at the real race here, the Undie Run. But on Saturday I’ll wear my race kit, only because on my shorts I have little pockets. Otherwise I wouldn’t have anywhere to carry my pop-top bottles!
Anyone wishing to learn more about Bear Cottage or to donate to McGilvray’s fundraising effort may visit http://www.everydayhero.com.au/angus_mcgilvray.
Anyone wishing to acquire their own budgy smugglers may visit www.budgysmuggler.com.au.