by Andrew Mackay
Paul Amey is relaxed in the afternoon when we catch up, his feet on the chair. He’s just taken his morning medicine of four hours in the saddle on the coastal streets of San Diego, a social ride to get back into the swing of things. He can afford to be relaxed now having just struggled his way through heat and Achilles pain to win the Ironman Texas title.
It was a gutsy effort considering the obstacles, a swim which left him with time to make up, Achilles pain, and an asthma attack.
But Amey (GBR), 39, who has had a host of success in his career, says he is still learning, and that learning has finally brought him his first Ironman win.
“It would have been nice to have a victory a bit earlier in Ironman,” he jokes.
Exiting the water into the first transition, Amey says he thought he was 10 minutes behind but was pleased to find he was not far behind the leaders.
“Something happened at Texas, I was struggling with my breathing. I did breaststroke and slowly started swimming again.”
Entering the bike phase he recovered and at the 90 mile mark, started passing people. From there the temperatures only got hotter and Amey caught and passed the leaders in the run and held them off to take one of his best wins.
“Ironman’s a weird sport. Everyone trains hard. But all the training doesn’t necessarily translate to racing an Ironman.’’
Race day has more to do with nutrition and how you prepared in training, things outside out of the normal swim, bike, run, he says.
So was this the one win he’s been waiting for? Texas confirmed his training is on track but now it’s time to refocus on the next big target, Ironman France. Last year he was second to a charging Belgian, Frederik Van Lierde, the winner of this year’s Abu Dhabi International Triathlon.
Even though he has been doing the sport a long time, compared to a lot of other athletes in the competition, he hasn’t done a lot of Ironman, he says.
“So in a way I’m behind the 8 ball, and still learning, and that could be why it’s taken this long to win one. You can’t really simulate race conditions in training.”
A twinge in the Achilles didn’t help.
“As you get older you learn not to push too hard. You get smarter and you realize an injury could cost you three months. And while that may be ok for a 25-year-old, I don’t necessarily have the luxury of time.”
Amey made the career switch to longer distance events after success in short course, including being a member of the British Olympic team for the 2004 Athens Olympics, winning three ITU World Duathlon Championships, and, later, a record 8 hour and 1 minute Ironman.
“You can have a long career in Ironman,” he says of the change.
“It’s like athletics, you work your way up. As you get older, you get into Ironman.”
It helps if you love what you do and Amey enjoys the hours spent on the bike and in training.
A long day can include 6000 yards of swimming, followed by a 150 mile ride then a 6-8 mile run.
Behind the post-event relaxed state is a bubbling energy that keeps Amey going.
It has served him well in a sport where days begin at 5am and often end at 8pm with a run in the dark.
How is it possible to focus for so long when the race calendar is getting longer and fuller?
Other Ironman events serve as a way of getting in to Kona.
“Kona is the pinnacle of the sport. I want to have a good one. Texas is similar to Kona so this has given me a lot of confidence,” he says.
Other events in the build up are often just a means to an end.
It’s all about Kona it seems.