TW Interviews: Tom Lowe

Find out how Tom Lowe is keeping a cool head as he prepares for the Ironman World Championships



by Louise Steggals

tom lowe
Credit: 2011 NIGEL FARROW

Most of us are used to going back to our day job after racing in a triathlon. But imagine how you'd feel heading back to the office on the back of a podium finish and new British record at your Ironman debut.

That was the scenario Tom Lowe found himself in after taking third place at Ironman Arizona 2010 with a time of 8:11:44. But faced with the financial uncertainty of becoming a professional athlete, and with the savings from his former Army job dwindling, he instead took a position with sports equipment company TYR.

"Nobody said it at the time, but I could tell people thought I was totally bonkers to do so," recalls Tom, who recently returned to his home in Boulder, Colorado, to begin training in earnest for the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii on October 8.

Taking a chance

While he loved working for TYR, he accepted he had perhaps been a little hasty in writing off the idea of going pro and started training full-time, combined with coaching a handful of athletes.

He narrowly missed out on a podium place at Ironman Austria in early July, but then went on to record the fastest bike split for an iron-distance race (4:21:33) as part of a relay team at The Outlaw Triathlon later that month.

Of course, it would be inaccurate to think of Tom as some previously unknown talent waiting to be discovered. Tom's Ironman success comes following a solid record of top 10 finishes in half-Ironmans throughout 2010 and a bronze medal at the 2007 European Duathlon Championships in Edinburgh.

Injury niggles

Up until now, Tom has had a relatively low profile, due largely to a knee injury following his duathlon success. In fact, it took three years of treatment and then surgery before he could return to competitive sport.

"The first three to six months were really tough," says Tom. "Rather than thinking, 'I want to be training again next week', you start saying to yourself, 'I hope I can do this sport again'."  

Around this time, he started dating Chrissie Wellington, and in her he found the perfect partner to support his return to multi-sport. Relocating to the hallowed training grounds of Boulder with Chrissie helped him get back on track.

"She gives me a lot of advice," he says. "Mentally it is very good to be out here; the combination of the environment and the people makes you want to get out of the front door. After my break with injury, it was certainly much easier to get back into the swing of things here than it would have been at home."

Boulder currently contains what Tom describes as the 'who's who' of long-distance triathlon (besides Tom and Chrissie, it's home to Julie Dibens, and Craig Alexander splits his time between there and his native Australia).

Taking on Kona

But now his training buddies and neighbours are about to become his rivals as they line up together for the biggest race of Tom's career in Kona."Everything is full-steam ahead now. But once you get two to three weeks away from the race, putting in the big miles is useless because your body won't recover."

One key factor in preparation is dealing with the temperature in Kona, which can top 40°C in October."It's hot out here in Boulder at the moment," says Tom. "It's not Hawaii-temperatures but it is hot, so the heat won't be a complete shock."

The difference in humidity can be the real killer, and Tom jokes that setting up a turbo in a steam room in preparation is actually not a crazy idea. "It sounds silly but people actually do that and it's a good idea. You can turn up all the radiators in the house and put an extra layer of clothing on."

Keeping calm under pressure
 
Tom has a realistic view of his prospects at the World Championships, helping him remain calm under pressure.

"Some people get [to Kona] and totally psyche themselves out," he says. "I've got to keep my feet on the ground. There's a little less pressure on me as I'm a second year pro and this is only my third full Ironman.

"That said, anyone who says they don't have a position in mind is lying," he continues. "If I could get top 15 I'd be ecstatic - anything above that would be a bonus."

He will also, of course, be supporting Chrissie, who famously walked away from defending her title at last year's competition due to illness, and Tom is aware that the scrutiny of her will be immense.

"I understand now more that ever what Chrissie has to go through," he says. "I don't have a hundredth of the pressure to perform that Chrissie has to deal with, but she handles it pretty well."

This also has its advantages, Tom admits, as with the spotlight on Chrissie he can focus on his own race, particularly as he has plenty of time to prepare himself.

"Come race week I'm going to have very few commitments, whereas other athletes have to continue with their usual daily duties. It's nice that I can go out there and totally focus on the race."

Tom also has clear plans to build on this year's successes and, if all goes well, he should be all set to break his own record."If I have a good winter, take a couple of minutes off the swim, maintain my bike mojo and keep chipping away at the run, I think going sub-8:00 could be within my grasp."

Tom on...

His army nickname

"My nickname was 'Lung'. As part of an annual medical test, the Army measures your lung volume - and mine went off the top of the graph! It's not a bad nickname and it's the only one I've ever had. There are definitely much worse nicknames out there..."

Life in Boulder

"Boulder is an endurance-sport Mecca. The weather is superb; it's almost guaranteed to be good. The facilities are great, we've got really good coaches, the roads are the best I've ever ridden on and the medical support is second-to-none. There are some good athletes to train with, as well. Life out here really is hard to beat."

His favourite kit

"My TYR wetsuit and race gear. I used to work for them, so I'm obviously a little biased, but having been behind the scenes and seen what goes into it, I can honestly say it really is superb. Hydration is also vital during racing and training, and Fuelbelt's equipment is great for this - I use it twice weekly on my running sessions. Plus, Reynolds wheels are the best I've ever ridden on, and I've ridden plenty of pairs."


Previous article
TW Interviews: Helen Jenkins
Next article
10 Winning Open-Water Tips from Keri-Anne Payne

 
TwitterStumbleUponFacebookDiggRedditGoogle

Discuss this article

We'd love you to add a comment! Please login or take half a minute to register as a free member

Smart Coach
Free, fully-personalized training plans, designed to suit your racing goals and your lifestyle.