Q and A with Els Visser

Last week we were very fortunate to have a chat with female professional triathlete Els Visser, European long course champion, during her preparations for Kona on the island of Guam in the Western Pacific. 

Q. How’s the acclimatisation going as you build up to Kona on 16 October?

Guam has been great as a training base in the build up to Kona. We have done some big training days, for example, today started in the pool with a 2km swim with the pull buoy and paddles to build swim strength, then we did the Jody Swallow turbo set, 3 hours of big gear work, followed by a run on the treadmill. 

I am really excited to test myself against the best girls in the world and really see my level.

Q. The last twelve months have seen your performances constantly improve. Tell us about the big block of training and racing you did in Australia over Christmas and New Year that led to your Ironman win in New Zealand. You raced a lot, especially on the bike.

I raced IM Western Australia in Busselton in December last year, finishing 2nd in a PB of 8 hrs. 50, including a PB for the marathon. Thereafter, I stayed in Perth, preparing for Challenge Wanaka and Ironman Taupo in New Zealand. I raced a lot of local races, including weekly 40km TTs, which were great hit outs and excellent acclimatisation, which ultimately paid off with 2nd place in Challenge Wanaka and taking the win in IM New Zealand.

Q. Brett encourages you to race. How long does the coach give you to recover after a full? 

Well, that can depend on the performance. After IM Vitoria Gasteiz in Spain, my coach Brett Sutton was super unhappy with my performance. After leading the race, with a course record for the bike, I literally lost concentration on the run and effectively gave up for about 5km. Whilst I did manage to run myself back into 3rd place, Brett made me ride the bike course again the following day as a punishment.

After winning Challenge Almere – Amsterdam Brett gave me a full week off to enjoy the win with the family before heading out to Guam.

My advice to Age Groupers is to go out and enjoy racing, have fun and use races to gain fitness and experience, learn how to manage the nerves and then a 70.3 or Ironman just becomes another race. 

Q. Winning Challenge Almere – Amsterdam must have been really special in front of your home Dutch crowd and your family. Looks like you and Renee Kiley (AUS) had a plan to work together in the race and you executed on it.

The previous year I fell sick the night before the race and was unable to compete, so winning this year was extra special. It was 5 weeks before Kona, so there was some risk attached to doing that race. Renee and I know each other from training, so we worked together within the rules to have a strong bike leg. I had a plan and executed it really well and was super happy with the result. 

Q. The PTO race in Singapore wasn’t quite the result you hoped for. What does Brett say to you when things don’t go according to plan?

It depends on the situation. After this race he said that it wasn’t my fitness why I didn’t have a good performance and that we had to get it together for the next fight in Almere. We live one day at a time. Once anything is done, we move on to the next day, free of history. With the motto of what I can do today, that benefits tomorrow. Very simple and keeps the noise of the past out of our minds.

Q. Tell us about your training regime with Brett, the big gear work on the bike and the lack of emphasis on data? Do you think this is a good approach for Age Groupers who often measure their improvement by “the numbers”? Brett has never asked me for a number!

I am a big proponent of training on feel and I believe in it more day by day. For example, I ran on the track some 800ms when I arrived in Guam and they felt slow. When I analysed it, that was because of the vastly different conditions from Europe and not because I was running badly. It becomes all about understanding your body.

There are so many factors, such as sleep, food, weather conditions, work stresses and family issues that impact performance and can influence your numbers. Enjoy – just swim, run or ride, and don’t become obsessed with a particular number or zone.

Thank you for these insights. So onwards and forwards to Kona. Wishing you a great race and all the best of mechanical luck!

Interviews by David Hunt

Posted on 11th Oct 2023