Photo Credit: Wagner Araujo
Five years after scooping her first Duathlon World Championship title in 2012, Felicity Sheedy-Ryan clinched the win in Canada this August to add two-time Duathlon World Champion to her CV (the talented Aussie multisport athlete also has several triathlon podiums under her belt this year).
As the off-season approaches, Felicity talks triathlon and duathlon training, must-have kit and stepping it up to 70.3.
Growing up in Australia, I imagine you were pretty active from an early age?
I sure was, it’s the Aussie way! I did gymnastics my whole childhood. Probably explains my height now [Laughs]. I started gym when I was 3 and wanted to go to the Olympics for gymnastics, probably along with every other kid. I also played A-grade netball, some basketball. And was always doing fun runs and body boarding at the beach.
You race both triathlon and duathlon – which one came first?
Triathlon definitely came first… and still does for me. Duathlon is kind of a twist on triathlon that plays to my strengths as a triathlete. Running and biking. In saying that, I actually got into triathlons because my dad needed a swimmer for a work team. I started with just the swim leg. I loved it. Wanted to do the whole thing. Loved that more… and here I am still.
So which do you prefer, duathlon or triathlon?
Ooh tough one. I like them both! But despite my success in duathlons, triathlon would still have to be my favourite. I really like the diversity, the extra challenge it brings to me, and I think it has made me a better all-round athlete by trying to master the discipline of swimming as well.
Congrats on your Duathlon World Championship win in August! You rolled your ankle a month prior. Did this hamper your race prep/training?
Thanks! Haha, yeah being minus a working foot most definitely hampered my prep, no question. This actually made the win somewhat special. Most of the race is running and I was barely able to do any hard running in the lead up. I was nervous about it but I worked pretty hard to stay fit through other ways. Full kudos goes to my coach for keeping me in shape through quite challenging circumstances.
Do you do any strength training alongside your swim, bike and running?
Ha, this is a constant discussion point with my coach! I’ve done much less weight training this year, but I personally really like to add a regular gym component into my training program. Based around strength, but also functional exercises that help my own little quirks to aid keeping me injury-free, and moving well.
What kind of bike sessions do you do in training? Do you train by power?
I do a variety of bike training. Hill reps, interval training, easy spins. I mostly ride outside, but certain sessions or certain rainy days I’m quite happy to jump on a turbo! I think using both [power and feel] is good. I train by feel but got to use power this year for the first time also. I have a really reliable power meter called an Infocrank that I can keep check on my watts and power. It’s been really helpful to me this year. But I listen to my body, too.
Trail or road – what kind of run sessions do you do?
Running outside in the trails is definitely my fave! I love it! I’m happiest running off road in nature, and often like to go off the beaten track into the technical stuff too. I call it my mountain goat running [laughs]. My week is usually a mix of a steady run, maybe 1-2 sessions of some form of intervals, and I like running around hills if I can. Clocking up anywhere between around 70-100 kilometres a week.
What does a standard training week look like for you?
My ‘standard’ training week consists roughly of approximately 25-30 hours of training:
Swimming – I swim about 6 days a week, although recently I’ve done lots of double swim days where I swim twice in a day, so my swim is 6-8 times a week.
I run 5-6 times a week.
Bike around 5 times a week.
And, if possible, gym 1-2 times a week.
When you have a duathlon coming up, do you alter your training to make it run-bike-run specific?
Training for duathlon I change very little in my prep compared to normal training to be honest. I may do a slight increase in bike and run volume for my intervals, or just take the edge off swimming, but essentially I change very little, and that has worked for me so far.
Australia is where you call home, but are you based abroad a lot of the year for training camps? Australia is always home, but I also spend half my year overseas training and racing. I’ve based myself in the south of France for many years, but have also trained in Spain, the USA, and Switzerland. I guess some of my favourite places to train have been in the mountains in both Europe and USA. Some of the riding and run trails there have just left me speechless. In a good way! This year, I was lucky enough to train in the Swiss Alps in St Mortiz, and the running there was amazing.
Do you have any pre-race traditions or rituals?
My pre-race rituals… at the risk of sounding gross, I always cut my toenails! [Laughs] But I don’t really classify this as ‘ritual’, more like preparation to avoid any unnecessary risk of hurting my feet mid-race. I do like to take 5 minutes just to shut my eyes and relax on my bed before I walk out the door to race though. It’s usually the last thing I do before I get up to leave.
Earlier this year an airline lost your bike and you had to borrow one for your race. How did you manage to compose yourself and get in the zone for the race?
Oh my god, I was fuming when my bike didn’t arrive in time to race. It was pretty hard to maintain focus not knowing what was going on. The morning of the race I still didn’t know if I would, or could, race. I was lying in bed and thought: “This is so ridiculous I can’t race like this, I’m out.” Then five minutes later I told myself: “You get up, go down try the bike. You came here to race and you do the best with whatever you’ve got.” Which wasn’t a lot [Laughs]. You just play the cards you’ve been dealt the best you can. So I refocused then and there, and went through my pre-race routine, and just took note to be very cautious on the bike leg. I had no time to try the bike, the set-up was all wrong, the brakes were back to front, I was riding in someone else’s shoes, and more than anything I was terrified of crashing or bringing other people down!
Do you have any strategies for when things are getting difficult in training or during a race?
When I’m starting to struggle in training or races, I often start breaking things down more into smaller segments. Focus on one rep at a time, get through that, then focus on getting through the next one. Catch one person, then focus on the next one. I usually end up having more self-talk in my head and try and stay positive. I also try and focus on something I can do better in my technique – when you are that tired, form is usually starting to go too which can make you feel worse. So I might try and focus on one thing I can do and push hard again.
What does a typical day in your life look like?
A typical day for me probably differs when I’m in Europe compared to when I’m at home. I’m not an early morning person, so I usually have to drag myself out of bed in the morning. I like to sleep in to get a good night’s sleep; I get up at a reasonable hour – 7.30/8am. I have breakfast and then usually roll on my roller for 5 minutes to stretch out my back before I head to session number one: often a 90 minute-2-hour swim.
10.30am I come back from swimming, usually eat again, and do a social media and Instagram scroll [Laughs].
11am-12 – Leave to go and do session number two. It might be a hard bike of 2-3 hours.
2.30pm – Late lunch
3/3.30pm – Nap time! I’ll probably have a nap for an hour or so.
4.30pm – I’ll maybe go do some grocery shopping, have a snack.
5.30pm – I get ready for session number three. If it’s a run, I might do a little stretch or work on some tight spots on roller if I’m tight after the bike, to help run form.
7pm – Get home, shower up, make some dinner.
8pm – Emails, watch TV, chat to my friends
Photo Credit: Danik Seifert
What’s a typical race morning breakfast for you? What do you use to fuel your duathlons and triathlons?
I nearly always have oats with some sultanas, banana, nuts, berries, and soy milk for my race breakfast. If I find it hard to eat for some reason, bananas are my go-to food. Outside of racing I try and eat real food, but in a race I use Shotz Sports Nutrition Gels.
When it comes to setting goals, do you do this yourself or work with your coach?
Goal setting for me is both [something I do as an] individual and with a coach, though I believe it mostly it comes from me with the guidance of a coach. It’s a collaboration of whether I’m being realistic in my goals and time frames, and then setting me targets. Ultimately, I set my long-term goals – I’m pretty stubborn, so it’s important I align my goal setting with someone who will back me 100% to go after it.
Tell us about your kit – what items can’t you live without for training and for racing?
My training kit is simple. I don’t use too many fancy gadgets. I’m old school like that. Though I love my power meter. I run with a simple stop watch only. Start and stop! But I couldn’t live training without that.
My top 5 essential training tools would be:
1: Stop watch
4: Foam roller
5: My Tennis balls for my back
Photo Credit: Thierry Sourbier
What’s on the horizon for you for the rest of 2017/ beginning of 2018?
I have a few races left for 2017. I will do some big Aussie races, finishing off with Noosa Triathlon and the Oceania champs 70.3 Half Ironman.
Next year, I’ll race some of the ITU World Series but may even try for my first 70.3 world champs! I think it will be an exciting year ahead.
Keep up to date with Felicity’s triathlon and duathlon training by following her social media accounts: www.facebook.com/felicitysheedyryan, www.twitter.com/flicksheedyryan and www.instagram.com/sheedyryan, and by visiting her website www.felicitysheedy-ryan.com