2013 Ironman UK champion Dan Halksworth talks to TriRadar in advance of his first outing at Ironman Hawaii
Double Ironman UK winner and TeamTBB athlete Dan Halksworth is on his way to Kona to compete in his first Ironman World Championships – one of only two Brits to make the pro grade. He chatted exclusively to TriRadar about getting to Kona, his aspirations for race day, the shape of Ironman’s pro ranks and being the first Jersey-born pro triathlete. Here are his thoughts.
Dan Halksworth on his path to Kona:
“I think I’d probably heard about Kona and Ironman before I’d really even heard about triathlon. Originally I thought ‘Wow, that’s crazy, who would do that?’ but now I’m doing it, so I guess I’m crazy!
“I was a long-distance swimmer – 400m, 1500m – so I think I’m always going to be a distance athlete, so it makes sense for me to race Ironman, but I never thought I’d be doing it at such a young age. I’m only 27 still, so it’s nice that I’ve still got a few years ahead of me if my body stays in one piece.
“I was lucky enough to get the break with Brett [Sutton] and it’s meant that I’ve moved into the longer-distance stuff earlier, so I feel really thankful for that opportunity and I’m looking forward to going out there and racing as well as I can.
“I wanted to go to Kona last year, but Brett said it wasn’t the right time to go. I would’ve had to chase points like I did this year and was going to head to [the Ironman US Championships in] New York, but I was looking at the trip and it was going to cost a couple of grand to get there. Then I’d have to come back before going to Kona and it was just going to be so expensive that we decided against it.
“I’m kind of glad, because I had a bad end of the season last year – I think I was totally worn out after doing quite a few races to gain experience – but I think I’ve benefited from that this year, so I can’t really complain.
“We sat down at the start of this season and I said that I wanted to go to Kona. Brett wasn’t really sure but eventually we decided that we would go.
“I had a really bad day in Frankfurt [the Ironman European Championships]. It wasn’t that I hadn’t prepared well for it and it wasn’t that I wasn’t fit; it was just that I struggled with the heat on the day.
“I think I lost 10-15 minutes on the run and I really started to struggle on the second lap. You know when you’re suffering with dehydration because your body is cold and I was freezing, zipping up my top and it was 37˚C.
“I don’t think Brett was too happy with my result and thought that possibly I hadn’t been training hard enough back home in Jersey, but I knew that I’d been training hard and I believe in myself. Some days you just have a bad day and unfortunately it was Frankfurt this year. It’s how you pick yourself up after those bad races that matters.
“After Frankfurt Brett wasn’t sure about Kona again and I said, ‘I’ve got to go to Bolton and get first there and then I’ve got to get a top-seven in Mont Tremblant.’ I said, ‘Look I think I can do it, I want to give it a go.’ So that was my plan.
“Once I set a goal I don’t like to not achieve it, so I’m really, really glad. It was a big relief to be honest; I was watching the KPR rankings on the last day of qualification and I started to worry a little bit about who was going to make it!”
On his chances in Kona:
“I’m not expecting to go to the race and be top five – I’m going there to get experience this year and get a good result for next season.
“I think the swim’s key. Look at Mont Tremblant – the swim was fast and the fast runners behind had a lot to catch up and finished in seventh, eighth, ninth, whereas at Ironman Canada they were maybe two minutes closer to the lead pack out of the swim and were third, fourth and fifth. So I think if the swim is really fast, it’ll play into the hands of the weaker runners – and I see myself as a weaker runner – so I’m just going to be there and make sure it is fast. Then I think I’ll be in the mix on the bike and put in a solid run.
“I definitely want to be top-20. Top-15 would be awesome, top-10 would be amazing and anything more than that would be incredible. I know that you can’t go to your first big event and expect a good race and I know that I personally haven’t always raced well in the heat, so that’s why I’m down here in Cozumel trying to get used to the weather and hopefully that’ll pay off.
“I’ve got nothing to lose, so it’s a bit of fun. I can just go out there and learn and enjoy the experience.
On being Jersey’s only pro triathlete
Jersey’s only a small island – nine miles by five – but I think we’ve produced some good athletes and to be the first Ironman and triathlete from the island is a very proud feeling.
We’ve had a few guys go for age-group and when I first started the sport they were there to help me and guide me so now I’m coming through the pro ranks, it’s quite a cool feeling.
Nick Saunders, who used to race for Zimbabwe, lives in Jersey and he only retired last year. He’s been there for seven or eight years now and he’s married a Jersey girl, but he used to race pro and went to Kona whilst he was living on the island too. Technically-speaking though,
I’m the only Jersey-born athlete to ever go to Kona, which is a pretty cool feeling. I just hope that a Jersey company will notice me now and want to support me next season!
On the Kona Points Ranking system
The WTC set out what points are what and what money is where, it’s just one of those things.
I think they should have some kind of ranking regarding how hard a race is because Ironman UK, Ironman Wales and Ironman Lanzarote are all hard, hard races. You go out there and have to put your body through a lot more to get very few points and it’s quite frustrating for a professional to race really hard for eight and a half hours and only receive $5000; it’s not a lot of money and it doesn’t go very far for the season.
For the 2014 KPR, the points aren’t going down as far and the money’s not going down as far. It’s nice to have a few more points for the win, but it just means that those who are having good races but being pipped for the top five don’t get any points at all. To race nine hours killing yourself to not receive anything is really not fair. They’re helping in one area but killing it in the other.
If you look at all the athletes on the KPR and you take how many pro women there are and add up the pro men, times by $750 US, it’s a lot of money and they’re just the people who’ve actually scored points.
I’ve not been racing long enough to really think of what the best option is to help everyone out. We pay a lot of money to be pros and it’s a bit unfair that we have to work so hard to get to Kona now and I certainly think you need to be there. If you finish even relatively well, you still get good points for next season so you’re one step ahead of the game effectively.
See the rest of our 2013 Ironman World Championship coverage here. We’ll be updating regularly in the run up to Kona.