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Born in the United Kingdom, Liz Blatchford spent most of her childhood in Australia and, as a dual citizen, has represented both countries in her professional triathlon career. With an Olympic dream that never came to fruition, Blatchford’s focus is now set on owning arguably the most prestigious title in the sport: Ironman world champion. In her rookie Kona experience in 2013, she surprised everyone—herself included—with a third-place finish. Her sophomore race on the Big Island was less spectacular, as she struggled throughout the day and squeezed into the top 10. The 35-year-old admits the hype of race week on the Big Island was more than she had prepared for, calling her return as a previous podium finisher “a different ball game.” Now, armed with a strong group around her and a calm attitude, she’s ready to weather the pressure in pursuit of her first world title. *Editor’s note: This was originally published prior to the 2015 Ironman World Championship. Blatchford finished third with a time of 9:14:52.
I did my first triathlon at the age of 14. I went to university and studied marine biology for a couple of years, but I ended up leaving my studies when I was 20 to race full time as a professional, and I haven’t looked back.
Going to the Olympic Games was always my dream. I missed out in 2008 and I knew that 2012 would be my last attempt. I was in the running and Great Britain had a policy that unless you got podium finishes at specific World Triathlon Series events, then they were going to take domestiques to work for others. I don’t necessarily agree with that tactic. I think that Olympics should feature the best athletes. They chose others, but I have no regrets. I’m glad I did everything to try to fulfill that lifelong dream. If I hadn’t given it my all, I’d always be wondering, ‘What if?’
My first attempt at long-course racing was in 2012 immediately off the back of the Olympic disappointment. I ended up doing my first 70.3 on the same day the women were competing in the London Olympics. I couldn’t watch the race, which was probably meant to be. I so badly wanted to be there, but instead I ended up winning Ironman 70.3 Boulder. It inspired me to realize that it didn’t have to be all about the Olympics and ITU.
The last few years—[knock on] wood—have been the least injured I’ve been in my career. I had to deal with a lot of bad injuries throughout my ITU racing. I’ve had nine surgeries and nearly that many stress fractures, so the last few years have been pretty good. The more injuries you get, the more you learn to deal with them. I try to keep it real. It’s just an injury, it will pass and obviously there are people in the world dealing with much bigger problems and plenty of people who don’t have the opportunities that we have. A little injury in the big span of things is not a big deal.
My husband [Glen Murray] and I have a funny relationship. At times we argue a little bit. I have to remind him that he’s not my coach. He sees everything I do, he knows my strengths and weaknesses, and he usually knows what’s best for me. He plants ideas in my head. I may initially reject them, but sometimes he steers me on the right path. He pushed me to do my first Ironman [Cairns] and to go for Kona in 2013.
Kona is my favorite place to race. I love the conditions in Hawaii—the heat and humidity—the swim is beautiful and the isolation is so unique. If you go to Kona at any other time, it’s such a quiet little place and then all of a sudden thousands of people descend on the island for the world championship.
I’ve been with the Uplace-BMC Pro Triathlon Team since 2014, and it’s the most looked after I’ve been as a triathlete. I feel like a true professional athlete. They do everything really well—every athlete will attest to the fact that sometimes sponsors will get you something you need the week after you needed it—but with this team that’s not how things are done. I get to focus on Kona. I don’t have to run around trying to chase the money or worrying about my gear.
My coach Mat Steinmentz and I work well together because we have a similar mindset. We pay attention to details, but we’re not crazy intense. I think that benefits both of us. He’s not that ‘rah-rah’ coach that’s going to be at every session, but I’ve realized that’s what I need out of a coach at this point in my career. I’m pretty self-motivated. I wouldn’t still be racing if I weren’t.
I had some pretty intense years in the sport. I trained under Brett Sutton, where I’d spend most of the year away from home, living out of a suitcase and doing every last thing that the coach would tell me. I don’t regret that and I got really great results out of that, but I also think at this age and with how long I’ve been in the sport I need some sort of lifestyle outside of the training and the racing. It’s important to enjoy other aspects of your life as well.
I still want to race for a few years, but I’ve started to think about what I want to do when I retire. Glen’s business [Korupt Vision] is getting bigger and bigger, so there’s potential for me to help with that. I do want to have children at some point, and I’ve thought about becoming a school teacher. But for now the focus is on racing.
Liz’s Fit Tips
Don’t diet. Blatchford thinks dieting is one of the biggest mistakes triathletes make. “People are trying to get lean to race,” she says. “Starving yourself and not fueling properly for sessions is not the way to do it. I’ve never been on a diet, and I think that’s key for longevity. Apart from not performing in your training sessions, under-eating can do long-term damage with metabolism and bone density.”
Fuel at the right times. It’s not just what you eat but when you eat that can ultimately affect how fit you are and in turn how well you perform. “I make an effort to never go too calorie-deficient at any point during my sessions,” she says. “It can take your body a lot of time to get that energy back. And then I eat as soon as possible after a training session. Sometimes it takes a lot of planning and organization, but it’s key.”
Work to achieve optimal physiology. Every two months, Blatchford works with Garret Rock of Phuel (Gophuel.com) to get her blood analyzed and address any micronutrient flags. “It’s a way to make sure you’re healthy and ready to perform,” she says. In addition to looking for nutritional deficiencies, she’ll use the test after a big race—like an Ironman—to make sure she’s properly recovered and ready to go hard in training again.