Voted the 2nd best IRONMAN race venue, as well as the best IRONMAN run course in the world, it’s no wonder that the IRONMAN African Championship is one of the most revered and daunting events on a triathlete’s calendar. Cue Josh Amberger, who in 2017 took it upon himself to take the step-up from the 70.3 race format and start competing in the full distance IRONMAN’s. As if the leap from 70.3 to IRONMAN wasn’t enough, Josh decided that the African Champs in Port Elizabeth was the race to debut in. Leading the pack after the swim leg, a fairy-tale podium finish for his debut was not to be with Josh coming a very respectable 30th in the men’s Pro division.
The 2018 IRONMAN African Champs would see the return of a determined and hungry Josh that resulted in a phenomenal performance with him coming in 2nd place behind the home town favourite, Kyle Buckingham. What’s even more impressive is how Josh managed to slash almost 28 minutes from his 2017 time.
We got in touch with Josh to uncover how an athlete can change up their routine, training methods and mental frame of mind to significantly lift their performance.
Race experience and preparation are massive factors for any athlete. Reviewing his performances in 2017 & 2018 Josh states, “The lead into the race was much more 'wholesome' than it was last year. I started with a new coach four months before the race last year, so I was still adapting to a much more demanding training regime, as well as balancing a race-heavy schedule at the time. So the bottom line is that last year I just simply wasn't prepared for the event. This year however, I was already building on a wealth of experience from last year, as well as much better strength and all-round fitness. The training was much the same, but I was just better adapted to it, and probably had much more confidence and 'know how' this time around.”
Race strategy is another key element that played a big part in cutting 28 minutes off last years’ time for Josh. “The swim is my strongest leg, so I always make sure to push hard and take a few minutes lead which is extremely valuable when hopping onto the saddle. The bike leg this year was very arduous with wind being a huge factor, but I took it upon myself to maintain a challenging pace that saw Cameron Wurf and myself being the first off the bikes going into the run.” Josh’s bike time was 2 minutes slower than last year yet he still managed to keep ahead of the pack overall, which goes to show how experience, focus and strategy helped him the 2nd time around. To Josh’ credit he set his focus and preparation on turning his weakness into a strength, “I really struggled in the run last year so a lot of my training this time around was running focused which paid massive dividends as the result shows”.
Learning from each race is just as important as preparing and strategizing “No matter how much training you do, you can't replicate the chaos, drama and intensity of race day. It's a long time to be on course, and it's extremely rare that everything goes perfectly when you do IRONMAN. Whether it's technical problems with equipment, nutritional issues or mental aptitude, there's always something that happens that will throw you off, and you just have to adapt to deal with things in the moment” Josh stressed.
Looking ahead, we’re excited for Josh as he’ll no doubt be participating again at Kona – the epitome of a Triathletes racing career. To follow him along the way, Bexters will be conducting a #road2kona initiative which will give an insight into Josh’s preparations, training tips, nutritional information and results that amateur and professional triathletes could learn from.
The next race for Josh is his specialty 70.3 event in Switzerland on June 10 where he’ll hope for another podium finish to extend his stellar year so far!