This time last year, I was quoting an ancient Greek dude (Socrates, who said “The unexamined life is not worth living”) while I looked back on an epic 2014 and looked forward to 2015, wondering what it would hold. Fast-forward 12 months, and 2015 is pretty much over. As Queen would say, “Another one bites the dust!”
Rather than give you a blow-by-blow account of the year that’s been, I thought this time round I’d give you some selected snapshots, mainly because I reckon that’s the way memories work. When you look back, it’s not like watching a movie with the story unfolding in order. I find it’s more like a collection of photos, sounds, and feelings – highs, lows, places, and people – that you sort through, look at, learn from, and then file away in the Experience folder.
If you know anything about me, you’ll know that I’m not a great one for reflection. Usually, I’m too busy moving on to the next thing. But, it’s good to stop every now and then to look back. Maybe Socrates was right after all. So, here it is, warts and all… 2015 – my year in review.
The High Points
What were the highlights of 2015? There are a bunch of memories that stand out:
- Winning on the Sunny Coast in September, the last race before Kona, was good. I’d had a massive week travelling back from the USA. I was coming off some really solid IM-specific training, and I didn’t have any huge expectations. Storming home in the run was a great feeling. Sometimes it’s just hard work, but that day felt almost cruisy. And it really boosted my confidence going into Kona.
- Launching the new bike with Giant was a huge buzz. After stepping up to Global Athlete status in February, it was an honour to be chosen by Giant to be the face of their new Trinity Advanced SL TT bike. We had a blast at the launch in Hawaii, and being the first triathlete to race one was a real privilege.
- Believe it or not, just chilling out, sitting on the deck at home after a big race or a solid training session, and enjoying a refreshing beverage (thanks Scott and Cellarbrations… you guys are awesome!), those moments definitely fit into the ‘life is bloody good’ category. Thankfully, I enjoyed a few of those during 2015. As much as I love to travel, it’s also fantastic to get home.
The Low Points
There’s no doubt that the lowest point for me this year was Kona. I put so much time, effort, and energy into that race. It was my main focus for 2015. And not just me, everyone around me in my circle, including my sponsors and my support crew. At about the 120 km mark of the bike leg, I knew my shot at the World Championship was over, and that was just a massive kick in the guts.
On the plus side, I’m thankful I finished the race. Mentally and emotionally, it was something I had to do, just for myself. But that was really tough. Normally I don’t get disappointed with races, but I definitely did with that one.
There’s no point in beating yourself up about the past, so I’ve drawn a line in the sand and moved on. It still stings a bit, though. On the plus side, you live and learn… and there’s always next year.
The Races and Places
It’s a privilege to travel and compete as an elite athlete. I get to visit some of the most beautiful and challenging places on the globe and mix it with the world’s best. I love to race, and 2015 gave me plenty of opportunities to do that. Here are some snapshots that stick in my memory:
- Crossing the line at Challenge Melbourne. I’d just slogged through half a metre of chop on the bay, ridden and run through heavy rain and gusting winds, and battled hypothermia. And I still came in 6th.
- A month and a half later and I’m back in Melbourne for the Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship against a tough field. Despite some back issues, the race finished with an epic run leg. I remember going past a shattered Luke Bell, reeling in Nils Frommhold, and then spending the last 10 km battling it out with Jeff Symonds. A tough day in the office and a spot on the podium – 2nd place.
- Speaking of epic finishes, the all-time close finish of the season was in the steamy heat of Cebu in the Philippines for the Cobra Ironman 70.3. Good memories! The organisers put together an awesome event. The hotel was beautiful, the spectators were absolutely crazy, and we were treated like rock stars. On the day, it came right down to the wire – Reedy and I sprinting to the finish. In the end he took it by just 2 seconds. Not only did I get to fight it out with a good mate and come in second against one of the top 70.3 specialists, but I got to watch Tim Reed face-plant on the ramp at the finish and go A over T. Priceless!
- When it comes to beautiful places, it’s hard to go past Boulder. My time there was really special. Memories of getting up into the Rockies – running the Magnolia Trail, riding along Peak to Peak to Brainard Lake, Loveland Pass, clear air, amazing scenery. And the bonus was getting to spend two weeks up in Breckenridge with my old mate, Aussie pro cyclist, Lachie Morton. Good times!
At one level, triathlon is a solitary sport. On race day, you’re out there on your own. But beyond the races and places, it’s the people who really stick in your mind when you look back on a year.
- Training with the boys is always a blast. We work hard, but we definitely have fun. I can’t count the number of times I’ve totally lost it. There’s always something funny going on, and you never know what these guys are going to come out with next. Thanks fellas for making hard work fun – you know who you are.
- I had the great pleasure of working with Glenn from Korrupt Vision putting together the Who is Tim Berkel series of videos. Whether we were in Boulder or in Kona, Glen was awesome to work with. The guy’s a total professional, and he did a great job. And we got to hang out heaps. Thanks for making me look good, mate!
- Doing shots with the big boss at the Giant bike launch in Noosa was hilarious. And such an enjoyable night. Seriously though, the Giant guys have been behind me 100% this year – Ruddy, Marty, and Al from Giant Oz and An, Andrew, and Doug from Giant Global. It’s a privilege to work with you and to enjoy your support – something I never take for granted.
- ‘The Plews’ – that’s what I call him. Dan Plews stepped into the coaching role this year. Not only is he a serious triathlete, so he understands athletes from the inside out, but he’s changing the way I think about training, nutrition, racing – the whole deal. Sure, he plugs me into machines and tortures me, all in the name of science, but I think that a more analytical approach is what I need. That’s certainly why I’m with him and backing what he says. It’s good to have you on-board, Dan!
When I look back on 2015, I feel thankful for a whole bunch of different people. Some I’ve already mentioned, and some I need to mention by name now. In every case, they’re people who have believed in me, supported me, encouraged me, or added something positive to my life. Let me start with my sponsors:
- Giant – What can I say? Thanks for putting me on the world’s best bike. I’m proud to ride Giant.
- Scody – It’s true, nothing comes between me and my Optimise A.I.R triathlon race suit!
- Alaska Milk – To Fred and the crew, it’s great to be onboard, and I’m looking forward to working with you and racing in Asia a whole lot more in 2016.
- Endura – Thanks for fuelling my success in 2015. I promise I won’t tape my gels to the top tube again…
- Roka – Speed is the name of the game in the water, and these guys make it happen.
- Newton Running – Sunday morning LSD run, Magnolia Trail, Newtons on my feet – a magic combination. Thanks guys!
- Cellarbrations – Scott and the team have ensured that I remained hydrated and happy. Cheers!
- Shimano – Dura-Ace gear brings my bike to life. Quite simply, there is no other choice!
- Oakley – Do I look cool in these glasses, or what???
- Garmin – When you’re training and competing, it’s easy to lose track of time. Now, thanks to the Garmin, I don’t lose track of anything.
- Lifespan Fitness – Reece and the team have provided me the strength to get my body into shape at home. Couldn’t have asked for a better team to assist.
- Pioneer – Couldn’t get my numbers without it. Thanks Darren and Russell.
As a sport, triathlon is lucky to have great support in the media – good coverage, quality journalism, and the occasional probing question and kick in the backside when needed. A big thank you to Phil Wrochna and the crew at First Off The Bike, Trent at 220 Triathlon, and Rob Hay at Triathlon and Multi Sport Magazine. Keep up the good work, and keep telling it like it is.
I guess all of us have an inner circle – the people we depend on to keep us going through the good and the bad. I’m fortunate, and thankful, to have good people around me.
- Grant ‘Gilesy’ Giles – Thanks for getting me to where I am today. I appreciate all you’ve done for me, mate!
- Dan ‘The Plews’ Plews – It’s the start of what I hope is going to be a really productive partnership.
- Kriss Hendy – I think the physio, the training, and the pain is working. Thanks!
- Shawn Smith – Looks like I’ve got a celebrity manager now! Seriously though, thanks for telling me the truth and having my back. You’re a good man and a good mate.
- To my wife, Belinda – It’s not always easy being married to a triathlete, let alone being married to me! Thanks for your understanding, support, and love. I probably don’t tell you enough, but it means the world to me.
One final thank you is in order, and that’s to the fans. By that I don’t just mean people who take an interest in my progress in triathlon – although I appreciate you guys especially. I mean anyone who is a fan of triathlon – whether you’re an age grouper, an occasional competitor, or a spectator. At the end of the day, you’re the ones who give life to the sport and make it possible for me, and the rest of the elite crew, to do what we love doing.
2015 was certainly a year of change for me. It had its ups and downs, that’s for sure. As I head into 2016, my plan is to keep chipping away at things. Often that’s the way improvement happens – you review where you are, refocus on where you want to get to, and then start working at it, step by step.
I wish you all the best for 2016. Go hard and enjoy the journey!