New Zealand’s Bevan Docherty will be racing in only his second Ironman on Saturday. If his first go at the distance is any indication—he torched the field en route to a new course record at Ironman New Zealand in March—don’t count out this first timer. We sat down with the Docherty as soon as he arrived on the Big Island to talk race strategy, tactics and whether or not he actually has a shot for the overall win.

LAVA: Last time we talked it was early spring and you were just getting into this Ironman thing. You’re self-coached and you’ve sort of been doing this on your own. How do you feel about how things have gone this summer and how do you feel heading into Saturday’s race?

Bevan Docherty:
It’s been a great summer. I’ve had a couple wins at the 70.3 distance and the thing I like about those wins is the way I won them. I could’ve stayed in my comfort zone—just stayed in the pack, knowing that I’m one of the stronger runners—but to actually ride off the front, and basically take control of the race early on, it gives me a lot of confidence and it’s how I wanted to set myself up for an event like this. Having won my first Ironman race getting away from the field—against an admittedly weak field—I know it’s going to be a very different story this time. So to use those 70.3 races to push myself and go beyond my comfort zone is something I really needed. I think I set myself up well. Vegas didn’t go according to plan, but in hindsight, it’s very hard to peak for this race and to want to do well in Vegas. I was in a bit of a training hole through that race, and to be honest, I wanted to be in that hole. Once I got myself out of it, I found myself in very good shape. I’m in the shape I want to be heading into this race.

LAVA: What are the biggest question marks for you having never done this race before?

BD: There’s a million question marks mate.

Fair enough, but if you had to narrow it down—between the swim, the bike, the run, the heat, nutrition—what has you most concerned?

BD: It’s just the training in general, you know? Have I done too much, have I done too little? It’s all about trying to find that balance. To be honest, I’m at that point where I’m worried that I’ve maybe done too much or I’ve maybe done too little, and I think that’s a good place to be. I guess we’ll find out on Saturday if I’ve done enough or if I’ve done too much. I think historically I’ve seen a lot of guys go into this race cooked. I don’t think I’m there, but I’m very happy with how things have gone. My major question is the nutrition side. For me, the swim, bike and run comes easy. Nutrition didn’t come easy in Taupo and I think I’ve learned from that—hopefully I’ve learned from that.

LAVA: Who have you sought ought for advice on this race? You’ve got guys like Crowie and Macca on the Specialized team and you live in the same town as Mark Allen. Have you hit any of them up for advice on how to win this race?

BD: I didn’t seek anyone out. It’s just who I am. I think everybody has different philosophies and different ideas about how to do things and I wanted to go into this race doing things my way. Maybe it’ll turn out to be a bad move, because, like you said, I have plenty of resources out there. Crowie is a good mate, and he’d certainly be willing to give me some advice, but I’m happy with where I’m at. I think I’m onto a formula and we’ll see how it goes.

LAVA: You spent your entire career on a road bike and now you’re adjusting to racing on a TT bike. How are you adjusting to putting in these huge miles on a TT bike and how much of a help has it been to be living just a few miles away from Specialized HQ when it comes to getting you dialed on a new bike?

It’s been a huge advantage to have Specialized right over the hill from where I live [in Santa Cruz]. That was one of the reasons I sought out a partnership with them. Not only are they a leading brand, but I knew I had their engineers and their wind tunnel just down the road. Coming into long-course racing, I knew all that stuff would be very crucial. There’s been a real evolution on my bike fit this year thanks to them. From my first race of the year—at Auckland 70.3—I was basically in a road-bike position. You look at it now—I cringe looking at the position—but the thing I’ve noticed is that it takes a period of time to get into a truly aero position. Where I’m at right now; I’m very happy with my position. It’s certainly a position that I couldn’t have put myself in at the start of this year. It’s driven me nuts—the amount of times I’ve wanted to rip people a new one for commenting on my position on online forums—when they have no idea about where I’m at and my history and what I’m aiming for. It’s not something you can go straight to. I’m sure many age-groupers try it and then they end up injured. It’s something that takes time. The results that we’ve gotten from my most recent fit in Specialized’s wind tunnel have been very good. I know my position isn’t perfect, but I’m coming from an ITU background, where I’ve been sitting on the hoods all day. I think we’ve made some very big gains.

LAVA: So how fast do you think you can run?

BD: I think the most important thing for the marathon is what you do on the bike. I’m a confidant runner. I know I can do the distance no problem. I basically want to be in the best possible position—in terms of how I feel—coming off the bike. I see this race as a bit of a waiting game in terms of when to play your cards. I’m just going to try to protect myself throughout the day. That said, if I’m feeling fantastic and I feel like I can go with one of the über-bikers, then I’m going to do it. But I feel like this is a game of patience.