Dispatch: The Indomitable Cam Brown

Cam Brown’s decisive victory at Ironman Cairns made him the oldest Ironman winner in the sport’s history.

On the heels of Cam Brown’s decisive victory at Ironman Cairns–where he became the oldest Ironman winner in the sport’s history, just 12 days shy of his 42nd birthday–I caught up with the inspirational, soft-spoken and always humble Kiwi to glean some insight into what keeps this living legend ticking along at top speed. Can we talk about your Cairns run? 2:44:54–that’s impressive, the fastest marathon of the day. And your bike wasn’t shabby either–4:36:20, second only to Matt Burton [an elite cyclist as well as a pro triathlete] by seven seconds. Most people slow down with age, but you seem to be an exception to that rule. Can you pinpoint anything specific in your training that helps you maintain your speed?

Brown: Yes, I had a great run in Cairns. I try and do a lot of tempo work in my training and hardly ever do any really hard intervals at max heart rate. I did that when I was racing ITU, lots of steady solid brick sessions off the bike and 1-2-3-km efforts, normally around 9-10-km of intervals running. The same goes with my biking–lots of steady state stuff, but I can usually push the pace a little harder and it’s not so demanding on my recovery. I have to try and have more easier days in between my hard sessions now that I’m over 40. I can still do the distance, but my recovery isn’t as good as it was when I was in my 30’s, that’s for sure. I also had a massive break last year (7 weeks totally off) and it did me a world of good as I was really struggling to hold any form last year. I hadn’t had a big break in over 10 years, as I would always get injured after having two weeks off, so I was scared of having time off. You’re proof positive that 40 is the new 30. But as you’ve said, recovery doesn’t come as easily as it once did, and probably requires more attention. What are a few of your tried and true recovery tools?

Brown: Recovery is a major factor now and I have to be careful not to get too excited in my training. Sometimes you still think you’re 30 and try and keep doing more like the old days! Also I try and get in one or two massages a week. Right now my legs are shattered after Cairns, so I plan on taking a short break (10 days) before I get back into full training again and I’ll get my legs all sorted before I start running. I’ll get in some very easy swim and bike sessions first before I put on my running shoes. What keeps you going in the sport? Are you just as passionate as ever about racing? 

CB: I love my training and racing and just have a real passion for this sport. That’s why I’ve been in it for 28 years! I always make sure I have some goals set down and hopefully get close to them. Cairns was one of those, and trying to win an Ironman as a 40 year-old! What’s next on your schedule? Challenge Roth? Another shot at Kona? 

Brown: Next up I have Ironman 70.3 Philippines in August and then Ironman Langkawi. Hopefully I can get back to Roth again sometime soon and there’s no Hawaii for me this year–well, not at the moment! I’m looking at just racing around the Asia-Pacific region for 2014. We have so many races now and I want to do some of the new up and coming races. Any fun plans to celebrate your birthday?

Brown: I think I will have a post-race Ironman Cairns celebration and combine it with my 42nd birthday. It’s not every day you win an Ironman 12 days out from your 42nd birthday!

RELATED PHOTOS: 2014 Ironman Cairns