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Stories about the final preparation for the world’s most famous triathlon

“I used to think that doing an Ironman was crazy and couldn’t understand the motivation of the people who did it. I guess you first have to complete an Ironman to understand why people are doing this. Somehow the only difference between doing it in world record time or just before the cut-off is the length of suffering but at the end of the day, everyone suffers. This is kind of what unites everyone completing an Ironman.” Former ITU racer Annabel on her transfer to long course racing and finding out what makes Ironman so unique. 

“I never thought I would do Ironman. You can ask my coach, he always struggled to get me to ride more than two hours.”

“I don’t think Melbourne is known as a Mecca of Triathlon for professionals. There are really only a few of them based here. On the other hand there’s a huge community of age group athletes. I live in Melbourne because I have a great job here, I have wonderful friends and I love the city. Ten years ago I probably wouldn’t have picked Melbourne as a home base but today I make it work. There are some beautiful spots for training and during the summer months the city is just fantastic. There’s a huge passion for sport from the people that live here.” 

“I’ve been racing professionally since I was 20 years old and I’ve always needed balance. In my twenties I spent a lot of time at university. I think working part time in the business world allows me to stay fresh mentally for triathlon. I relish every moment I get to train, and never take it for granted. Ultimately, I think this will allow me to enjoy the sport for longer.”

“Working aside from triathlon is certainly not without its challenges. There are some nights after long days at work where you have to get a session done knowing the next morning you have to get up early for a swim and straight after you have to be back in the office. I sometimes miss the old days where I could just crawl back into bed after a morning swim,” Annabel about the struggles age groupers know so well.

Melbourne can be a bit of a challenge for bike riding as it’s a big city. “There is the famous beach road which you can access pretty quickly from the center of Melbourne. On there, motorists are quite understanding of cyclists and you can access the coastal roads all the way down along Port Philipp Bay. I do long rides down there fairly regularly.” 

“In the summer months, I often ride in the Dandenongs as well. The area is beautiful and pretty hilly.” 

“To be honest I don’t love the weather aspect of Melbourne. I’m a Queenslander and I’m used to very hot summers and very mild winters. I had to get used to the conditions down here in Melbourne but as my coach often says, there’s no bad weather, there’s just bad clothing. In winter it’s never below zero, the ground is not covered in snow so you can get out there and do your training. You might just have to get used to the fact that there can be four seasons in one day during winter in Melbourne.”  

“The temperature differences between Melbourne in the winter and the tropical Big Island is the toughest part of preparing for Kona.

The fact that the temperatures of my training environment and those that I face in Kona are poles apart, mean that I have to get creative in Melbourne. Some of the things I do to get accustomed to the heat are sauna sessions, riding on a turbo in a heated room, running in a lot of clothes or Bikram yoga.” 

Annabel running on the beach trails from Port Melbourne down through St. Kilda to Brighton. A route she often choses for her long runs. Ironman training requires a high running volume which bears the risk of injuries.“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learnt to listen to my body better. That helps me minimize injuries. I also try and run on trails when possible- it strengthens the legs. If I feel like I need more aerobic work- I’ll always pick the bike over running as it’s a safer option- easier on bones and joints,” Annabel says.

One can see that Luxford was competing in ITU racing before moving to long distance triathlon. Her running technique is excellent. “I think running form is just as important for long distance racing as it is in short distance racing. Hill running is great for technique as is gym work,” Annabel says.

“I ride a lot more than I used to, and swim less. Because I balance part time work with training, I probably don’t train any more hours than I used to when I raced ITU,” Annabel explains. Still, she remains one of the fastest swimmers in the sport.

“During about five months I usually swim once a week in the bay which is just a 100 meters from where I live. In the winter months I only train in the pool at the Melbourne Acquatic center which is perfect for training,” Annabel sums up her swim training. The Melbourne Aquatic Center is located only a couple of hundred meters away from her home too. The facility consists of one indoor and one outdoor 50m pool and two 25m indoor pools- a paradise for swimmers and triathletes. 

“In racing, I tend to not focus on results, the podium or a specific position but rather on getting the best out of myself. I feel like in Ironman I haven’t got the best out of myself yet managing nutrition, pacing myself right and putting together a race across all three disciplines that I’m really proud of. I’ve yet to have a race that I can walk away from and think- that was the best I could do,” Annabel on her next Kona campaign.