Ironman Jeremy Riggall
Photos & Interview by Mark Boskell
Jeremy Riggall is a Margaret River local and Ironman triathlete. When I first caught up with him in December last year, he’d just completed the Busselton Ironman event – 3.9km swim, 180km ride & 42.2km run! It was his second full Ironman event, and his time of 10 hrs 50 mins was an hour quicker than the previous year. Recently I caught up with him as he prepared for the half Ironman in Busselton.
Firstly and simply, why?
It all started 5 years ago when I did my first half Ironman. A work-mate in Perth had done it previously, and loved it. So I watched him do it one year, and I thought ‘that looks pretty cool’. I went and bought a bike, and the next year we did it together. Then he kept saying to me ‘you’ve got to do an Ironman’, and then in 2011, I did my first one, and really enjoyed it. After my first half Ironman, I thought I’d never do it again it was such a struggle, but then the more I did it, the better it felt. It was a physical challenge. Now I just do it for myself and for the personal challenge. Last year was amazing. I took a whole hour off the previous years Ironman time and really enjoyed the day. I’m not going to do it again this year because I want to work towards different things. It’s a personal challenge to see how far I can push my body.
How much of it is a mental challenge?
I’ll definitely be trying the mental approach this time because I’ve had a very disrupted preparation! I’d say it’s 50% mental. This year’s been a bit more challenging with viruses and injuries. I’ll be needing to use the mental side to push myself on the weekend.
How do you prepare?
It’s easy to get up and go training, but it can be hard to find the time. I work away, so I don’t get to do any long sessions for two weeks. Then I have to cram it into the one week when I’m at home. Every day before the Ironman I was doing a lot of long sessions. I’d ride three days in a row followed by runs then swims. But then when I go away to work I’ve only got 40 minutes to an hour max in the gym where you can do a short run and a little bit of bike riding. If you’re lucky you can squeeze in a swim every now and then. But generally for two weeks I’m just maintaining my fitness, and then I come home and try and build on that fitness. It’s a good challenge to fit it all in like that. A friend up there was asking about training for a marathon, and I said I only run 30kms a week max at work because there’s just not the time, and then you come home and do all the long runs. Because I’ve been doing it now for 5 or 6 years, my fitness is pretty good. I can maintain it for two weeks at work, and then build on my one week off. It seems to work for me. I push myself hard for a week and then I’ve kind of got two weeks of recovery.
The local Trail Running Club has been really good for ongoing training. Unfortunately I miss a lot of the weekly runs because I’m away for work. The runs are always different and I enjoy getting out with the group because I do my swimming and cycle training by myself. It’s a good group atmosphere, and getting off the road is more enjoyable, and better on the legs. There’s some really great trails around Margaret River. People keep coming up with new and interesting trails every week that you’ve never run before.
What’s the toughest part of competing in an event like this?
Personally for me it’s the swimming. I’m comfortable swimming now, but I always remember when I first started, I’d get about 200m out and I’d be looking around and thinking ‘what am I doing?’ I’d be struggling for breath, but the longer it went the more relaxed I’d feel. The start is always a bit of a nightmare. Everyone’s trying to swim over the top of each-other.
I’m generally at the back of the pack, but once I’ve got the swim over with, I’m alright on the bike, so I can cruise along doing that, but then I love the run leg.
In saying that, in my first ever triathlon the run was probably the hardest thing to do, because by the time I got to that stage I was absolutely worn out physically, and I walked most of it. Now I’ve got to the stage where I can comfortably do the run. Overall I’d say the swim is the hardest part of the day.
Tell us a little about the Busselton course. What’s that like?
The Busselton race is great for me living in Margaret River. I can just drive up there and don’t have to worry about flights and transporting my bike. It’s an awesome swim along the jetty, although in the 2011 Half Ironman the swim was changed because of the fear of sharks and we had to swim along the edge of the beach. Swimming alongside the jetty, and in the full Ironman, swimming around the jetty, is an awesome feeling. You get to the end of the jetty, and you think ‘yep I’ve done it, I’m half-way there, it’s just swim straight back home now’. It’s an amazing feeling. You start at the beach and it might be flat. Then it’s 2kms to the end of the jetty, and by the time you get out, there’s usually a bit of swell around.
The bike ride is a nice flat course, although it can get very windy. It’s what a lot of people don’t understand, they think because it’s a dead flat course it’s going to be easy, but then they hit those head-winds and maybe struggle a little.
Same thing with the run. It’s a nice flat run. You can do good quick times. We got a really great running tip in the race briefing before the Ironman. Never look at the jetty. It just doesn’t seem to get any closer no matter how far you run. It can make the day feel like a long struggle, and mentally wear you out quicker. Just focus on the road up ahead.
Any recovery tips?
The best things I’ve ever done is wear compression pants. After each Ironman I’ve worn compression pants for 3 days straight, and I’ve had no sore legs and pulled up pretty well. I’ve been able to start running again a week later. The longer I do it the better it gets. As far as muscle fatigue goes, the compression pants work well. And then I just rest and eat well. I’ve changed my diet a lot since I’ve started doing these events. I try and eat a lot more natural food and cut the sugars out.
How important is the specific gear for each leg?
The main thing is to make sure you’re comfortable with everything you’re using. Especially the wet suit. It’s not something you’d normally swim in. The first time you wear a wet suit for swimming it can be very restrictive. It squeezes your chest and it’s a bit harder to breathe initially. Although it’s quicker swimming in a wet suit because you have more buoyancy.
With your bike make sure it’s well maintained. You see a lot of problems on the course with flat tyres and chains. It’s often said ‘don’t try anything new on race day’ and this is very true. It can be a trap to visit all the expo stalls on race day and see lots of great new shoes and stuff, and then be tempted to try it out on race day.
Also it’s really important to make sure your gear is well set out on race day or it can get confusing in the transitions. Just make sure you’ve tried everything in the conditions before the day, right down to your swim goggles. Leaking goggles will ruin your day right from the start.
Have you had much instruction in the different disciplines?
I’ve got a few swim tips from triathlon magazines but otherwise make it up as I go along. It’s probably the one thing I should get some instruction as it’s my weakest leg. With cycling, I just make sure the bike is set up best for me so that I’m cycling at my most efficient. I’ve probably worked the hardest on my running because I enjoy it the most. My brother-in-law, Greg Knuckey, was a really good runner in his youth, and has really instilled in me the need to do the miles and run the hills. It’s been good to have someone like that to push me in my running and help take me to the next level.
You mentioned you want to try some new events…
I’d like to keep doing the triathlons, but keen to try some new events.
I want to do an ultra-marathon in Tassie. 82km running from one side of Cradle Mountain to the other. They only take 60 people each year so it’s a bit of a lottery to gain entry. I’m hopeful of securing a spot in that. To qualify you have to have completed an ultra-marathon over 60kms, or have finished a full Ironman in the allocated time.
Greg and I are doing the Cape-to-Cape 4-day Mountain Bike Ride later this year, and just recently I did the Dunsborough X-Adventure cross-country triathlon which was really good. I’m looking at some similar events in the mountains of NZ which sound pretty interesting.
(All triathlon images taken at the 2012 Busselton Ironman)