What it takes to be an Ironman – Meg Radcliffe

Have you ever wondered what the world of Iroman Triathlon racing is like? I have been lucky enough to pick the brain of A Squad team member Meg Radcliffe to bring you the ultimate inside experience.

Fun Facts!
Q. What is your fave Amanzi suit? 
A. Watermelons!

Q. Are you a tie back or a fixed back gal? 
A. Fixed back kinda gal 

Q. What is your fave swim location? 
A. Swimming in Hawaii was pretty special! Tropical fish, turtles and dolphins make it even better!

Q. Do you prefer open water or the pool?
A.  I would have to say open water! There is something about the ocean- find it calming but it can also be unpredictable/challenging

Q. What is your fave swim session? 
A. I love a pool session with all the toys! But I also love my social Friday morning open water swim sets.

What drew you to Ironman racing and how did you know that you were ready for an Ironman?

I got into triathlon by volunteering at Ironman Cairns when I lived there. I thought everyone racing was just amazing and it really inspired me to do the 70.3 race the year following. I’d done 3 x 70.3’s before deciding to go to the full Ironman distance. There had always been a desire to race the full but before that it just seemed like such a long distance and day (which it is!!) But there was just something that clicked and I had the respect of the distance and the amount of training that would need to happen for me to consider racing it. I had a chat with my coach and then it all went from there.

How many Ironman (or Ironman type) races have you done? Do you have a fave race location? 

I’ve now done 2 and was supposed to do number 3 back in may but that will happen when it does 🙂 I’ve raced in Port Mac in NSW where I then qualified for the Ironman World Champs in Kona Hawaii. I absolutely loved racing in both Port Mac and Kona. Kona is something else though. The experience, environment, atmosphere is electric and like nothing I had ever experienced plus to be surrounded by the worlds best Pro and age group triathletes is pretty incredible too. 

What goes into training for an Ironman? Distance wise, time wise, and mentally how do you keep up? 

There is a large amount for training to race an Ironman. As it is a lot to put the body through but with planning it is manageable.  So in total an Ironman is 140.6 miles (226.3km) and is made up of a 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42.2km run! Most races a competitor has up to 16-17hours to complete the total distance with each leg having a particular course cut off time. Training wise when in a build for an ironman I train anywhere from 15-18 hours of training a week. The weekends are biggest session with your long rides and runs taking place. I have a great coach who helps me manage everything so I don’t get too overwhelmed with training plus life. There is also a lot of planning and organisation, you have to be organised whether that with your meals and snacks (because you are always eating haha!), what your plan is for the day and be prepared the night before morning training. It just makes life much easier especially when you’re tired! There are also a lot of naps that occur with me. I love naps and they definitely help!

How do you balance training, socalising and studying? 

This one can be hard especially when you’re deep into a build. You have to prioritise what is important to you during this time. For me that making sure I have my training sessions done, seeing and having the support from my friends and family and staying on top of study and due dates.  I have all my study dates written on a board so I stay on top of it all and plan social time (even better if thats with friends you train with or can tag along with your training!)

How did it feel to qualify for World Championships, was it expected? And how did it feel to be there and finish such a bucket list race? 

It was insane! I knew that there was a chance. There always is. but it wasn’t my goal. My goal was to complete my first Ironman and just see how I went. During the race I knew I was sitting in first place and had friends, coach and parents give me the occasional update. I remember crossing the finish line and just being so so excited. Stoked with what I had achieved and the thought of accepting my slot felt like a dream until I actually did. Unfortunately my lead up and build fro Kona wasn’t what I hoped for due to an injury that took a long time to find the cause. So for the race I was grateful to be there and to be able to race. The race itself was hard but that was expected because it was world champs. The environment of Hawaii makes it hard, its hot, there are crazy crosswinds on the bike and the heat from the Queen K highway is nuts. Getting to the finish line was incredible, the feeling of running down the finish shoot is like nothing else in a normal ironman let alone in Kona. I was very pleased to be on that finish line so I could finally sit down haha! I hope that I can qualify and go back one day to experience it all again and prove to myself once again I can race in that environment.

Do you have any advice for people thinking about starting in triathlon or thinking about doing thier first Ironman? 

Just do it, don’t think to much. Its such a fun sport and you meet some of the most amazing people. Some of my best friends I met through triathlon. The feeing you get when you cross you finish like is such a feeling of accomplishment- something that will  never get old. If your’e thinking about doing your first Ironman, make sure you respect the distance, what is going to be involved, what you will have to sacrifice to get to that finish line. Don’t let the deter you though, it is life changing and is something you can brag about for the rest of life!