At just 24 years of age Great Britain’s Nick Baldwin is relatively young when it comes to Ironman racing. He already has eight Ironman finishes under his belt including three finishes at the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. He has finished 10th in 2010 and second in both 2011 and 2012 in the 18-24 age group category. He is also the current 18-24 Ironman 70.3 world champion and has a string of top results under his belt. Despite his young age, he is a genuinely talented long distance triathlete, who spent 2012 training full-time to see if he had what it takes to turn professional. Following a successful year he plans to turn pro in 2013. We caught up with the determined and talented youngster to find out more
Tell us about your 2012 season?
I had a consistent year. I raced eight events and won my age group six times, along with a second and third place finish. We targeted some of the biggest triathlon events on the calendar including the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon, the Ironman 70.3 World Championships and the Ironman World Championships. I was fortunate to spend half of the year training in the US. I spent time training in Boulder, Colorado and in Tucson and Phoenix in Arizona.
What were your best races?
I’d rate Kona as my best race even though I finished second in the age group. I had a personal best time on the run (3:09:47) and finished 40th overall. This was a big step up from last year when I finished 1 08th. It’s also hard to look past my day at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas, where I won my first world championship title.
When did you do your first tri and how did it go?
My first triathlon was a local Sprint in 2007. The 400-metre pool swim took nearly eight minutes and the rest of the day didn’t get much better, but I somehow got through and finished. Triathlon wasn’t something that came naturally to me, so I’ve had to work hard to improve.
Were you hooked from the start?
Completely! Even though my early results weren’t remotely competitive, I loved the challenge of racing and knew that I’d be involved in the sport for a long time. The notion of being successful or treating it as more than a hobby didn’t occur to me until some years later.
Do you have a job?
My degree in Business Economics and French hasn’t been called into action yet. In 2012 I trained full-time to see if my results would justify pursuing a career as a professional triathlete. I proved to myself that I have the desire and potential to succeed, and have the will to win.
How many hours do you train each week?
During this season I trained 20-25 hours per week. It’s less than this in the winter and more in the build up to key races.
How is that split across the sports?
This year’s training was bike and run dominant. In May I was hit by a car and separated my shoulder, which impacted on the amount of swimming I could do. During the summer an average week was 15K of swimming, 500K of riding and 80K of running.
How hard is it to motivate yourself to train and keep improving?
Training has become so ingrained into me that it’s second nature. I’m fortunate to have the support of family, friends and fantastic companies that have put their faith in me as an athlete. This gives me added motivation to push myself in training and racing.
Which result are you most proud of?
Probably Ironman 70.3 UK this year, which came less than a month after my accident. I got through the swim on adrenaline and every single step of the run hurt my shoulder, so it was a case of gritting my teeth and seeing what I was made of. I won my age group with what was undoubtedly my gutsiest performance to date.
Why do you think you have progressed so quickly?
Each year I’ve increased the quality and quantity of training, which along with a smart racing strategy and disciplined race execution, has led to improved results. Now that I’ve been in the sport for six years the improvement curve is flattening out, but I still have a lot of room to develop as an athlete, which is exciting for the future.
What sports did you do before you started triathlon?
I played team sports in school although I never favoured any one sport. After two inactive years in college I stumbled across triathlon and the rest, as they say, is history.
What does it take to be a good Ironman triathlete?
Sometimes it’s the simple things that are overlooked. Having the self-discipline to stick to your race strategy can be challenging for many athletes. Many get carried away in the moment and pay the price later in the race. Having the confidence to race within yourself at the start is crucial and will pay dividends.
Tell us about your plans to turn pro?
The 2012 season has given me the confidence in my ability to be competitive in the pro field, so the time is right to make the jump. As a graduate I did consider turning to the corporate world, but essentially the decision to turn pro was an easy one. I’m infatuated by the sport and want to dedicate myself fully to being the best that I can be. No compromises.
What will you do to step up to the next level?
Address my weaknesses and build on my strengths. I’m always looking for that extra edge and recently had a complete analysis of my biomechanics, sport specific strength, flexibility and metabolic profile at Cyclologic in Arizona. Using the most sophisticated fitting technology available, the most minute details of my fit were addressed and I came away more comfortable and powerful than before. A physical therapist then analysed my injury risk, gait and sport specific strengths and weaknesses. The metabolic analysis revealed some race strategy opportunities that I’ll explore with my coach.
What’s your ultimate dream in triathlon?
Whilst it may be clichéd to say Kona is the ultimate goal, long distance triathletes are remembered by their performances on the Big Island, so naturally performing at Kona is the biggest goal of my career. I may come across as reserved, but I have immense self- confidence and truly believe that in time I will be competitive amongst the best athletes.