In 2013 Great Britain’s Tim Don quit the fast pace of ITU Olympic distance racing to concentrate on middle distance event. The 2006 ITU world champion took to the distance quickly and proved he was a force to be reckoned with when he finished third at Ironman 70.3 South Africa. Don, who recently relocated to Boulder, Colorado with his family, continued the good results with a second at Ironman 70.3 UK and fifth at Ironman 70.3 Vineman. He proved he had the distance wired when he beat a quality field at Ironman 70.3 Calgary in the build up to the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, a mechanical put an end to his world championship dreams and he ended up pulling out of the event. Don recovered well and returned to 70.3 racing with a sixth place finish in Cozumel before finishing the season on a high when he won 70.3 Augusta just one week later.
How easy has it been to make the cross over into middle distance racing?
I have found it quite easy to move up to the distance. I put that down to the help and support I’ve had from my coach Julie Dibens.
How has your training changed since you moved over from ITU racing?
The big difference from my ITU training is that I have cut down on the intensity and put more volume in, especially on the bike. The thing we have found important is getting the right amount of volume and intensity.
How did you feel about your performance when came second at 70.3 UK?
I was super chuffed with my performance at 70.3 UK. The one thing I am not good at is racing in the cold, and it was freezing that day.
I had a good swim and bike along with Fraser Cartmell and Ritchie Nicholls. On the run I just got colder and slower. I ended up in the medical tent after the race. I plan to go back next year and hope for warmer weather.
Were you happy with fifth at 70.3 Vineman?
Again Vineman was another good performance for me. At the Rev3 race Joe Gambles had put about six minutes into me on the run, whereas at Vineman he only ran 60 seconds quicker than me, so I was moving in the right direction. I also changed my fuelling strategy and that worked well. I was third out of the swim and rode comfortably with the lead group. This was a good sign that all was progressing nicely towards the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.
Did you feel that things were coming together when you won 70.3 Calgary?
In Calgary I was happy to win. It was good and to do it in my first year racing the distance was cool. I had a good swim and rode for 65K on my own. Tyler Butterfield and Trevor Wurtele caught me and we rode the last 25K together. Out on the run I pulled away quickly and was in control until about 8K when I pulled my calf. I had to stop to stretch it a few times. I was lucky no one caught me.
How did you feel going into the Ironman 70.3 World Championships?
I couldn’t complain about my prep. I felt I was swimming, riding and running the best I had since moving up to the distance. I knew the Vegas course because I had been there to check it out with Julie (Dibens) a few weeks before. I was relaxed, ready to race and get the best performance I could.
What happened during the swim?
The swim was good. I had an average start but got in a small group with some of the contenders, so I was happy.
How did things pan out on the bike?
The bike was crazy because everyone was expecting it to be hot but it was cool and wet. Once I was in the pace line it was quite easy. I moved up to fourth in the group and was waiting for the run. Then disaster struck at 83K when I got a front puncture. The tube was rubbing on my folk so badly I was riding my highest watts of the day but moving really slowly. I lost about five minutes and was on my own. I was gutted.
What about the run?
I felt okay running out of T2 but I was a bit deflated. Then I saw everyone running back towards me and realised how far I was behind the top 20. I decided to stop because I knew I had two back-to-back 70.3 races a couple of weeks later and wanted to race well at them.
You returned to your winning ways three weeks later in Augusta. Tell us about your race?
Augusta was an important race for me because I was so gutted after the worlds. I needed to have a good performance there. I had a very fast swim (19:10) down the river. Three of us got away on the bike and rode hard for the first 20K opening a gap. The run was a fast flat course so I quickly got into my own rhythm and just ran my own race. It was similar to Calgary without the calf problem.
Has this season been a good learning experience for you?
It has been good because I have improved at every race, or tried something new and learnt along the way.
Was 70.3 racing easier or harder than you expected?
In some ways it was easier but it’s harder to stay focused for four hours.
What have been the biggest differences from your ITU racing?
The intensity in the swim has gone and you need to hold high pace on the bike for longer periods. In ITU you could smash it on the bike and then sit back in the pack to recover.
Are you going to move on to Ironman next season or stick with 70.3?
My main goal next year is most likely going to be the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Mont Tremblant, Canada. I might do a late season Ironman with a view to Kona 2015.