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Brisbane native Josh Amberger has been one of the most dominant athletes on the Ironman 70.3 circuit over the past four years, earning eight wins and more than a dozen podium finishes. He wrapped up his 2016 campaign with a wire-to-wire win at Xiamen 70.3 in China, and will try his hand at the iron distance this year, with both Ironman South Africa (where he finished 18th) and Cairns on his schedule. When the 27-year-old isn’t busy cramming in three workouts a day, you can find him rocking out to his extensive collection of death metal records or exploring the Australian coast alongside girlfriend and top ITU talent Ashleigh Gentle. Amberger talks switching up coaching styles, sizing up start lists and why the heck he raced 28 half-Ironmans before deciding to tackle the full 140.6.
“I’ve wanted to go longer, but I’ve also had to manage my expectations and realize that there’s an athletic maturity and progression that you have to let take place. For me, it’s unrealistic to think or talk about Kona straightaway. This year I wanted to put myself in two of the Ironman regional championships in the first six months of the year so I can test myself against some of the best guys in the world.”
“I started working with Cliff [English] after being self-coached for three years. I wanted the next closest thing, which is correspondence coaching, and Cliff suited me well because has a very relaxed style of coaching. But as with anything, it has its limitations. After three years of correspondence coaching, you can start making excuses or missing sessions. So I was looking for something different and the opportunity with Cam Watt (of TriSutto) came up. The Sutto style of coaching is very different—it’s scary at times—but I think it fits me as an athlete, and I needed someone here to have eyes on me.”
“I don’t like being the gypsy kind of triathlete. I still travel a lot, but I find that I thrive in my home environment. I guess you could say my home away from home is Bend, Ore. I train really well there. This year I’ll probably be splitting my time between Brisbane and Bend. And since Ashleigh will be racing in Europe a lot this summer, I’m sure I’ll have a stopover there as well.”
“When I look at a start list, it isn’t necessarily the guys who have major titles that scare me. It’s the guys who you know race all out every time they race that make me uneasy. It’s guys like Tim Reed, Sebastian Kienle, Jan Frodeno, Lionel Sanders and Andreas Dreitz. Those are the kind of guys who race to win every time—there’s no messing around and no holding back.”
“[Legendary Aussie triathlete] Craig Walton was a childhood hero of mine. My first race as a professional was his last race as a pro. It’s a bit sentimental. I’ve got this awesome picture of us coming out of the water together at the Noosa Triathlon in 2007. All I wanted to do was beat him out of the water. In the photo, we’re coming out of the water and I’m just a little in front and you can see him looking at the name on my race suit. He was probably thinking, ‘Who the heck is this kid?’”
Music: Heavy metal is a real passion of mine. Right now I’m really into “On Strange Loops” by Mithras.
Recent movie: I don’t get to the movies much, but I really liked Hackshaw Ridge.
Training destination: Bend, for sure. The training is awesome, but I also have friends outside of triathlon there, so I can get away from the sport a bit.
Race destination: Escape from Alcatraz. It’s just an epic, purely fun race.
Vacation (non-training) destination: Either Fraser Island or Moreton Island in Australia. We’ve got a heap of these sand islands in Australia that are pretty unique.
Sport other than triathlon: Definitely rugby.