Nick Thomas : 13 x Iron Distance, Double Iron, Triple Iron, Kona racer & Ultra champion!
For many, Nick Thomas will need no introduction.
He has completed no fewer than 13 ‘Iron’ distance triathlons all over the world and boasts an Ironman PB of 9.36.
That PB saw him realising his ultimate dream of racing at the Ironman world championships in Kona.
He later went on to complete both a double iron distance and then a triple.
Most recently he has been racing ultra marathons at both 50 mile, 100 mile and 24 hour races, becoming the England athletics ultra distance champion in 2013.
The man is Hardcore!
Level 3 BTF qualified, he writes bespoke training plans for athletes of all abilities and is lead coach at Manchester triathlon club.
Here is how the interview went….
So Nick, 13 Iron triathlons, Kona, doubles, Triples, Ultras! where did it all start?
I was always into running at school but never particularly good!
I also enjoyed riding my BMX bike!
When I was about 18 I saw an article about the Ironman in a triathlon magazine, as soon as I read it, I was hooked.
I also remember the ITU world championships coming to Manchester, I went to watch it and Loved every second, at that time all of the top athletes were British, I wanted some!
What was your first Triathlon?
It was a sprint distance in Wolverhampton
How Did you get on?
I did better than I expected, I think I finished top 10
Where did you go from there?
I had a lot of fun at sprint and Olympic for a while, qualifying for the ITU world championships before moving up to Ironman
Which was your first Ironman?
The longest day in Wolverhampton (old skool iron distance race)
And your time for your first race?
How many Iron distance races have you done now?
Wow which ones were they
Ironman® UK Dorset, Ironman® Frankfurt x2, Ironman® Lanzarotte x2, Ironman® Lake placid, Ironman® Kona, Challenge Roth x2, Longest Day x 4 (the last 2 are not Ironman® branded events but are the same ‘iron’ distance)
Which one did you PB?
Frankfurt in 9:36
What was the secret to your speed?
By the time I qualified for Kona I had been racing at Iron distance for 6 years so learnt what worked for me and more importantly what didn’t
I learnt to become much more efficient with my training
Which one was your favourite?
Without any shadow of a doubt KONA!
What was Kona like?
Just the most amazing experience in the world with the finest athletes in the world, getting to race at Kona was an absolute dream come true for me, I had the race of my life to qualify for it and when I got there it was everything I imagined it would be and more!
What was your motivation to do the double Iron distance?
I had done 13 Iron distance, I wanted another challenge
And the triple?
Same again, it wasn’t long after I had completed the double and wanted the next challenge – there is only one place you can go from the double!
How were they?
More mentally challenging than anything else, the lack of sleep is the tough one.
What bike did you do your first Ironman on?
An aluminium TT bike
And what bike did you PB the Ironman on?
A fully carbon cervelo TT bike
Having ridden the Ironman on both, what difference does the more expensve bike make?
The early aluminium bikes were a tough ride and you would end up getting off them considerably more fatigued than the modern bikes of today.
As far as the modern carbon road bike verus TT bike debate goes I would say that it depends on the athlete, the course, and the athletes average speed.
If you are averging 16mph lets say for a 100 mile ride, then you are not going fast enough to make the aero gains that a TT bike would give you, so in my opinion you may as well keep the £3,000 in your back pocket.
If however you are racing Olympic distance at 22mph average on a relatively flat course, then maybe it might be worth investing.
But comfort is key.
If you are comfortable then you will go faster.
Not only on the bike, but once you get off it to start the run.
There is no point gaining ten minutes on the bike but then unable to run because your back has gone due to the position you have been sat in for the last 5/6/7 hours!
The course also plays a big part too, in my opinion most age groupers would be better off on a sportive bike at IMUK.
The bike should be fit for purpose!
Nick used the analogy of doing a paper-round on a TT bike and asked – why would you do that?
Do you think bodyweight makes a big difference to Race Times?
Again it depends on the course.
Flat you can get away with it, extra weight can sometimes even help.
Most of the guys at the top of the bike time trails are big lads with huge legs and big lungs, but give them a hill and they don’t like it.
On hilly courses you will notice a big difference at a lower weight.
If your heart has to lug 15 stone up hunters hill then it will require a lot more effort than if it only has to carry 11 stone up there.
The key is to lose the weight but maintain your strength.
How have you got on with injuries?
I very rarely get injured and I never become ill
What do you put that down to?
Training right and more than anything else – Luck!
How do you balnce the family with all your training?
My wife runs so she understands
But its about being efficient with your time
Most of my clients are very busy people with demanding jobs and families like everybody else, but they have learnt to be very effiecent with their time.
There are lots of very early starts and plenty of late finishes.
Usually, their partners will be supportive of their Ironman journey because they like the person that they become when they train for it and the many positive things that brings.
But at the end of the day if they are not supportive, something has to give and that can only be one of two things, either the training or the relationship and I have seen the latter give way many times.
Are you a member of a triathlon club?
Nick is one of the lead coaches at Manchester Triathlon Club
What is the funniest thing you have seen on your journey?
I have seen people racing at events with cone hats on the wrong way round
If a marathon sits above a 20k and an Iron triathlon sits above a marathon, where does an ultra sit in relation to an Iron distance tri?
It depends how hard you race them
What tips do you have for first timers?
Question why you have entered it
Question what you want to get out of it
And ask yourself is entering an Ironman the right thing to do in the first place
What makes you say that?
As Ironman has become more popular and more fashionable more people want to do it.
A lot of people now enter Ironman because they feel they need to prove something – their brother in law has done it or some guy at work has done it so they feel they have to do it too.
But they don’t enjoy the process of becoming one.
They don’t enjoy training for it.
They don’t enjoy swimming, they don’t enjoy cycling and they don’t enjoy running.
And they don’t enjoy race day.
So I would question why you would want to dedicate 6 months of your life to something that you don’t enjoy doing.!
If you would rather be playing golf – go and do that instead!
life is too short!
Becoming an Ironman is not so much about the actual race day.
Becoming an Ironman is all about the training.
And you have got to enjoy it and want to do it, otherwise what’s the point of entering in the first place?
Do you enjoy swimming cycling and running?
If the answer is no then go and find something that you enjoy doing instead!!
Any other top tips for first timers?
If you are working, you haven’t got enough time to train properly for 3 sports at the same time.
If You haven’t got enough time for good training, you certainly haven’t got enough time for bad training.
So what you have to do, Is make the best of a bad situation.
The training that you do has to be as specific and effective as possible.
(also see tip about bike for IMUK Bolton as above)
What Is the biggest thing you have learnt on your journey?
You need to be excited about the event that you have entered in order to be motivated to train properly for it.
What do you know now that you wish you knew before your first ‘Iron’ Distance?
Compared to the training that I was doing for my first Ironman, the training needs to be either much easier or much harder with less of the slogging away in the middle zone.
With that, it was time for us to pack up our things and make our way down to 3 sisters for the open water TT.
I had spent an hour with Nick but felt I had barely scratched the surface with him.
Nick is one of those ‘proper’ old skool Ironmen.
Nothing illustrates this more than our conversation on the way back to the car…
‘In the old days, Ironman was a sport for people who loved training for it and were prepared to suffer, they battered themselves in training and same again on race day’
‘They didn’t just enter one Ironman, they entered lots, it was their chosen sport – entering just one would be like a footballer playing one football match and then quitting football, but look at the start line of an Ironman today and you will see that a large percentage will be first timers – not only that, but their first Ironman will be their only Ironman and i’m not convinced most people are there because they want to be there’
I couldn’t help but detect a little hint of sadness in Nicks voice about what has happened to the sport that he adores so much as it has become more and more popular over the years.
Make no mistake, there are still thousands of hardcore Ironmen around today, exactly like the ones that Nick describes….
And, should I manage to get my hands on the sacred medal this July, you won’t find anyone that has enjoyed the process of becoming an Ironman more than Iron Rookie….
But whether or not my first Ironman will be my only Ironman….
Well that is a different matter entirely!!
To your amazing journey!
Readers should not be under the illusion that I am going into this 28 week Ironman plan straight ‘off the bat’ as it is not the case.
Full details of my journey, together with the exact daily training plans that I followed for each race and of course the secrets from the Iron men themselves will be revealed in my book, which will be available to download soon.
You can be notified when the book is ready for instant download and qualify for a 25% discount off the launch price by registering your interest using the box below: