Longtime friends and Australian pro triathletes Matty White and Tim Berkel recently sat down with LAVA Magazine for our August 2013 issue to talk about everything from the rise of ITU athletes in the Ironman 70.3 racing scene to the rapid increase in Australian long course races. If you read some of their conversation in our August Last Word column but were left wanting more, here’s the entire conversation—including the explanation of why Matty White really wants to go to the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Las Vegas.
Matty White: 2013 has brought about a lot of changes with a lot of new guys coming up to race the 70.3 distance from the ITU circuit.
Tim Berkel: Yeah, there are a lot of new guys coming through, it’s making it a lot tougher out there. A lot of gun swimmers from the ITU especially, so I know I’m finding it very hard this year.
MW: It’s changing the sport isn’t it? There are just a lot more guys in that front pack now. Where you and I usually end up out of the water, in that second pack, there’s a larger gap to fill now once we’re on the bike.
TB: Even on the run it’s harder. It used to be, you could go 1:13 and be going good but now that’s nothing, these guys are going 1:10 no problem.
MW: That’s the scary thing, even if you work hard to stay close to that front pack, knowing those guys can pull out 1:10s on you on the run is not a good feeling.
TB: You used to be able to run a 1:15 and still podium and now that’s nothing.
MW: So you decided recently swap over and race Ironman Cairns instead of the Ironman Cairns 70.3 race, and I did as well. What made you decide to do that late in the game and how do you feel about it?
TB: Well, I did it because you did [laughs]! I’m looking forward to it It should be a tough day. How about you?
MW: Yeah I think it was a good move. My season has kind of been like a Kevin Costner movie I reckon. It started out good, stayed solid in the middle and now it’s sort of gone to rubbish at the end; so I’m looking to make amends here in Cairns. Who do you feel are going to be the guys to beat?
TB: Look, you can never discount Macca [Chris McCormack], and Brownie [Cameron Brown] is having a bit of a tough year, a Barry Crocket year I call it, and he will be looking for a win here in Cairns, He was supposed to race here a few years ago and he didn’t get to race so he’s been keen to go at it for a while now. I’ve had a bit of a Crocker year myself.
MW: Why do you say you’ve had a tough year?
TB: My year is not going as planned as well. I didn’t race Auckland because I was cooked, had a sixth-place at Geelong 70.3, DNF’d in Melbourne, and had some more bad luck. Then I had a little stint in the states and ended up second at Texas and so I felt a little bit better. Now I’m here and hopefully I can get a good result.
MW: Melbourne was just a really tough race for a lot of guys, including me. The conditions were hard, the swim was shortened and the ride was just brutal. I think you had a lot of the same problems as me out there, we both changed our bike set-ups quite a lot very close to that race and we should know better than that. But you learn from those mistakes, eh?
TB: Yeah, absolutely you do. I had a really brutal day out there. And it was a rookie error with my bike. I had a new bike and I didn’t get it dialed up right. I normally go to Colorado and get a Retul fit done but I didn’t have time to do it and l probably just shouldn’t have raced on it. But the winds and the field together made it just an absolutely brutal day.
MW: It’s pretty hard to think that there are still a lot of the top Ironman guys out there in their 40s, but when you think about it that means you have a lot of time to improve. You can hopefully be like Jason Shortis and still have a crack at the Ironman circuit when your 45.
TB: If I’m still racing when I’m that age and I’ve done 100 Ironmans or whatever I’ll be lucky. Either that or you can just shoot me [laughs].
MW: So you’ve got a few tattoos there Timmy. Is there an Ironman tattoo I see there?
TB: No Ironman tatties I’m afraid. None for me. I hear you’ve got an Ironman tattoo though.
MW: That’s a secret where that one is [he laughs]. So are you going to the states after this?
TB: Yeah, I’ll be flying back to America after this. I actually don’t want to go there, but I’m racing Ironman Lake Placid. I’m not doing Kona I don’t think, I’ll pass it again one more year. I’m going to do the MetaMan in Indonesia.
MW: Yeah I was thinking about doing that one as well. I would also like to go to the states as well, but I’m a father now, so I have to stay home and be a responsible adult. Obviously I work full time as well so it’s hard to get that time off, but something like MetaMan might be easier for me to get to than races in the states.
I’d like to do another Ironman, but I need some time off first. That’s actually why I switched to the Ironman race here because I want to be lazy and have four or so weeks off, which I think is good.
TB: Didn’t you just have a holiday?
MW: Not really, it was only about 12 days. I really think you need four weeks after an Ironman. Ever since I went over to the States in 2010 I feel it’s really been full on for me. So that’s three years without a real solid, four-to-six week break.
TB: I think this time of year down in Australia, if your not going to the states by July, then there’s just not much happening. You can get that time off, get that time at home. Are you doing Vegas?
MW: For racing or to see a buff show?
TB: [Laughs] For racing. Do you have enough points?
MW: I don’t think I’m racing it, but I’m doing pretty well with my points this year actually. If I do well here [in Cairns] hopefully I’ll get enough points for a Kona spot and I would do that. If I do MetaMan, that will be my next Ironman. Are you going to defend your 70.3 title in Mandurah?
TB: Yeah I’m definitely going to give that a crack. That’s the only thing that I am really focused on right now is my Australian 70.3 title.
MW: So who do you think is going to win the 70.3 this weekend?
TB: I would love to see my training partner, Joey Lampe, get up there. It will be hard to go past Brad Kahlefeldt in that race.
MW: Yeah it’s going to be a fast race with Courtney Atkinson in there as well.
TB: There are a lot of really fast guys doing that race.
MW: The sport I think is going to change a lot in the next year, or maybe more like in the next two years. I think we will continue to see more guys from the ITU come up to the 70.3 distance and it will just continue to get faster.
TB: Who’s your pick for the Ironman this weekend?
MW: Let’s have a battle you and me, one-two what do you think? We can go across the line holding hands and split the prize money. Just like in Port Douglas a few years ago.
TB: Yeah, that would be nice. I really don’t think that’s going to happen with this talented field though. You never know what’s going to go down when you have guys like Macca in the field.
MW: Yeah, that’s for sure.