Cody Beals is now a three time full-distance IRONMAN Champion. Three starts, three wins. Including two course records, breaking his own in Mont Tremblant. To say he is on a roll would be an understatement. However, with success and momentum comes expectation.
So, we sat down with Cody to discuss his repeat win at IRONMAN Mont Tremblant, his Ventum One set-up, his history of racing against Lionel Sanders, and much more.
Ventum: You just won IRONMAN Mont Tremblant for a second year in a row, and won it by breaking your own course record, congratulations! Were any of these two feats a hard and fast expectation of yours?
CB: I’d be lying to say that winning isn’t a motivation. However, I often have to remind myself that focusing on outcome-oriented goals isn’t conducive to my success or enjoyment of this career. I’m at my best when I’m absorbed in my process and much more humble day-to-day goals than fixating on wins. Last year was my best season to date, but it really struck me that the extrinsic rewards weren’t enough to sustain my passion for the sport. I had to do some soul-searching this year to reacquaint myself with my intrinsic motivations. I made a point of enjoying my repeat IMMT win even more than last year. My first win was such a surreal experience that I barely felt present. That said, I do my best to move on from any performance—brilliant or disappointing—as quickly as possible. I allow myself to pout for no more than 24 hours after a tough race and celebrate for no more than a week after a breakthrough. These experiences are two sides of the same coin, so a consistent approach is important to me.
Ventum: During the race you must have gone through some ups and downs, having won the year before there must have been determination to win again. However, you spent a large part of the day chasing — how did you overcome any complacency in accepting 2nd place? What mental approaches do you use during a race to fight back?
CB: Lionel Sanders and I have a long history of racing each other, going all the way back to our varsity running days. He’s beaten me on more occasions than I care to count and I’ve openly admitted that he’s the most intimidating athlete I’ve faced. Not surprisingly, he caught me early in the bike, riding like a madman! I shadowed him until about 130 km, at which point I had to make a strategic decision to let him go or I’d risk jeopardizing my run. Lionel put 5 minutes into me over the last 50 km as I faded hard. I began to believe that the race was lost. I continued to feel dejected through the first lap of the run as I barely made up any time. In all three of my IRONMAN wins, the late stages of the ride and early part of the run have been the lowest point of my day. As my mind wandered and negativity crept in, I continually dragged my focus back to the present, controlling the variables I could (e.g., fueling, pacing, technique, positive self-talk, visualization) and ignoring all else. I registered the fact that I split the half marathon in 1:19 while feeling strong, which was objectively a good sign. Once I spotted Lionel ahead with 10 km to go, the real mental bargaining began. I knew it would take a big effort to overtake him. I had already almost convinced myself that a conservative finish for 2nd was smarter with Kona on the horizon. However, it was as if my legs picked up the pace without any input from my already defeated mind! Evidently, some small but tenacious shred of my mind hadn’t given up on the win.
Ventum: How do you feel the bike gives you an advantage, in both riding and coming off the bike? How did the One preserve its advantages specifically to a course like Mont Tremblant?
CB: After two trips to the wind tunnel and countless Virtual Wind Tunnel scans with STAC Performance, I’m confident that my Ventum One setup is among the most aero in the pro field. This is reflected in my bike course records and the fact that I typically push significantly lower power than other athletes of my size and ability. Being able to ride at a relatively lower intensity set me up for a personal best run at IMMT. This course also has some screaming fast descents and exposed, windy sections where aerodynamics are critical. I’ve also found that the absence of a downtube produces more stable handling characteristics in crosswinds, which is a huge plus for Kona. Another one of my favourite features of the Ventum One is the integrated hydration reservoice and rear bottle mount. With this reservoir, plus bottles between my arms and behind my saddle, I can carry almost everything I need for the entire ride without an aerodynamic penalty. No other bike offers such a functional and aerodynamic solution for hydration needs. I can largely avoid the uncertainty, slow downs and safety risks of aid stations. At IMMT, I was entirely self-sufficient other than a few quick sips of water at aid stations.
Ventum: Does Kona require you to alter your approach at all? Mentally or physically?
CB: I hear athletes speak of Kona with such reverence. Many seem to ascribe near mystical significance to the race. Speaking with complete ignorance as a Kona rookie, I don’t buy into the idea that the race is particularly special. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I’m trying to analyze the race and break it down into variables I can understand. The course isn’t that remarkable: it’s brutally hot, humid, and windy at times, and also monotonous. These are all variables I understand, have experienced elsewhere and can prepare for. The one thing that I don’t have a good grasp on are the dynamics of a World Championship race. World class athletes, who are otherwise disciplined and rational racers, will behave erratically on the Queen K. Many Athletes seem to make impulsive decisions, sometimes abandoning carefully crafted race plans in favor of gambling for the podium. The race plays out in a manner unlike any other. It’s the race dynamics, not the place, that intrigue and mystify me the most. My coach and I are working on dissecting the race, hashing out different scenarios, and refining my physical and mental prep for this unique race.
Ventum: You mentioned having nagging injuries during your run training — can you talk about this more specifically? How did this bleed into other facets of your training?
CB: The year got off to a rough start. I struggled during the off-season with anxiety, inappropriate training load and generally feeling run down. I arrived at 70.3 Taiwan in March to defend my title feeling very depleted, both physically and mentally. Not surprisingly, I picked up a brutal stomach flu and lost a lot of weight. Returning to training, I foolishly tried to make up for lost time and developed a minor foot injury. This exacerbated an already present Achilles tendinopathy, which in turn led to ITB friction syndrome due to compensatory changes in my form. As a result, my run training was very erratic for three months and I was unfortunately unable to start Challenge Roth. I’ve enjoyed a remarkably injury-free career up until this point. Now, pushing 30 years old, my laissez-faire practices around body maintenance, conditioning and injury management started to catch up with me. This string of illness and injuries was a wake up call to reevaluate my approach. I surprised myself by running a personal best 2:42 marathon at IMMT despite only averaging about 50 kilometers per week during the 3 month prior—a fraction of my typical volume. This demonstrated that biasing my training towards swimming and cycling has much less impact on my running than I would have assumed.
Ventum: What are you most looking forward to for the remainder of the season?
CB: I’m looking forward to a generous period of downtime after my season wraps up. As someone with a compulsive streak and a regrettable history of overtraining, I’ve tended to struggle with taking enough time off. This year in particular, I’ve embraced the need for proper recovery time and even made strides towards enjoying it a little! I’m going to challenge myself to take some time completely off triathlon and pursue other interests. Unlike early 2019, I want to enter the new year bursting with energy and enthusiasm for the sport as I gear up for an ambitious 2020.