SportUNE indoor ironman competition

SportUNE Indoor Ironman with Peter Hancock and Matt Bedford

Competing outdoors can be tricky at the best of times, but throw in the unpredictable nature of Winter with its shorter days and sub-zero mornings, and competitions can become almost impossible. However two local adventure enthusiasts, Peter Hancock and Matt Bedford, have decided to take things into their own hands.

On July 20 2021, Peter and Matt will be participating in an Indoor Ironman inside the warm confines at  SportUNE. This will be an epic 3.86km swim, 180.25km ride and a 42.2km run. It will be physically and mentally challenging, and even tougher indoors without scenery and crowds to distract from the pain. But in the spirit of lockdown, they’re going to give it a go and raise some money for Headspace. Better yet, they are inviting the local community to get involved too!

Their goal is to raise funds for Headspace,a vital service providing mental health support for young people.  More than 75% of mental health issues develop before a person reaches the age of 25. 2020 was a year that nobody expected, and the disruptions and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic were (and still are) particularly hard on young people. Each year, Headspace helps thousands of 12-25 year-olds access vital support through online and phone counselling services and 124 community centres across Australia.

We caught up with Peter and Matt to find out more about their love for endurance sport, what inspired them to initiate this indoor challenge, and how you can get involved!

What inspired you to start/get involved with this challenge?

PH – I was planning a winter ironman length triathlon around Armidale and trying to work out where to swim. Most outdoor places are too cold to swim for more than 20 mins, so my partner said ‘Why not swim at the indoor pool at SportUNE’, and then that turned into ‘Why not do the whole thing inside.’ So it was her idea- I just do what I’m told.

I’m usually an outdoor person, so doing something like this completely inside will be a big mental, as well as physical challenge. It’ll be tough, especially running on a treadmill for so long.

MB – Pete and I are usually throwing around silly ideas, and as we both prefer the cold, this usually ramps up in winter.  When Mel suggested an indoor Ironman, FOMO kicked in and here we are.

Why is fitness important to you?

PH – Having a base level of fitness is great- it means that your body is usually ready for an adventure, or you can train up for an adventure/race with just a little bit of work.  The three disciplines of swimming, riding, and running mean you can cover most bases when you’re out in the field. Add in some strength training to reduce injury, and a heap of endurance work and it’s not too difficult to step up to some great challenges.

When did you compete in your first triathlon?

PH – I’m a swimmer mostly, and have been competing in ocean swims for many years. Then I took up distance runner and have done a few marathons and ultramarathons. Apart from the swim leg in a few workplace challenges, I didn’t do a triathlon until last year. My first triathlon was the Husky Ultimate – a half ironman in Jervis Bay. It was great.  Since then I’ve joined the local Armidale Triathlon Club and done a few more triathlons, including the Tweed Enduro and South West Rocks.

MB – I’ve never especially focused on triathlons either, my background is more in adventure racing and mountaineering, but as Pete said, having the three (or more) disciplines makes training varied and fun. We have such an amazing backyard to play with in here in Armidale, being able to incorporate different skills into an adventure keeps things fresh and exciting.

What do you like the most about endurance events?

PH – They are just plain fun. A lot of the times you get 10 or so hours in and things start to hurt, but usually you can just push through until things get a bit easier again. You learn so much about yourself- what you’re capable of, how you respond when things go wrong, and what it’s like to test yourself. Every adventure is a new experiment.

The atmosphere of organised races is always great, but the thing I like best is getting together with some mates and coming up with our own adventures. Planning 100 km runs, or 200 km rides, or our own ironman, then getting out and following through. You see some awesome things, especially in this area where we’re surrounded by National Parks.

MB – Endurance events are a great leveller too.  It’s not so much about how fast you can go, or how strong you are, but about breaking personal barriers, and exploration.  I also love creating beautiful challenges.  My year 7 maths teacher, Mr Tonkin, used to talk about elegant maths equations.  I like to create the same thing in adventures, which is why DIY adventures are so appealing. For example, each year, we do a Winter Solstice challenge from the top of Cathedral Rock National Park near Ebor to the coast. We watch the sunrise and then try to get to the coast, sometimes on foot, sometimes with a bike, to watch it set.  So far, no one has ever made it in time.

Over the years – you’ve competed in a range of different adventures, which three have stood out to you and why?

PH – Without doubt my favourite was Swimrun Wanaka.  Swimrun is a cool concept where you run in a wetsuit and swim in shoes. Matt and I did the one around Lake Wanaka in New Zealand. You do it in pairs and swim tethered to each other. The legs are interspersed so you run a bit, swim across to an island, run across the island, swim to shore, run a bit more, then swim across a bay etc. It’s crazy – but heaps of fun.

Matt and I also did the Duval Dambuster Trail Run last year. It’s a great event, but we decided to make it a bit more challenging by adding an extra running loop of Mount Duval, a 4 km swim in Dumaresq Dam, and a 180 km ride.

MB – The Dam Buster Ironman last year, Busterman if you will, was great fun.  Having such great energy from what I think is one of the best trail running events in the country, and then to add our own twist, it was a great day.

Some of my most memorable days out have been in training. We’ve run the New England Wilderness Trail in both directions down from Point Lookout to the Bellinger River and back.  We’ve also done a few moonlit ultra runs out and over Mt Duval and back, often unplanned until an hour before we leave.  Sometimes the unexpected ones are the most memorable.

Do you have any up and coming events?

MB – We add and subtract things all the time to our calendars. We’re always coming up with good ideas. Some ideas we’re rolling around at the moment are a 400 km ride, a 30 km swim in Copeton Dam, and an ultra-ironman event around the New England region. As far as organise races go, we’ll do the Dambuster, Pete is signed up to Tarawerra 100 mile (160 km) run in New Zealand next year, and I will compete some gravel races later in the year. Pete sometimes posts to Instagram, and most of our activities go on Strava.

What does a regular day look like for you? How do you manage your work + training (+study) + life balance?

PH – I usually do most of my training early in the morning, then back home to take kids to school, then off to work. Sometimes I’ll do a lunch ride or run. I usually save the afternoon for family. Though sometimes that’s a sneaky bike ride, run, or swim with one or three of the kids.

MB – It’s mostly the same for me.  Kids, family, work, and study give me plenty of reasons to skip a session – some of those moonlit runs I mentioned have been mid-week, after the kids are in bed, between workdays. But basically, when I have the flexibility to skip the 5am starts and train later in the day I do, otherwise, it’s cold dark mornings and beautiful sunrises. Win win really.

Whats the biggest challenge you’ve ever competed in?

PH – The biggest one I’ve done would be the Husky Ultimate. It had elite-level competitors and Australian champions in it. It’s one of the biggest long-distance triathlons in Australia, and has hundreds of competitors.

MB – I try to avoid the crowds mostly, but last month I did race in the Grafton to Inverell cycling classic, which is considered Australia’s toughest one-day race and attracts a fairly competitive field.

Which skills do you need to compete in a long-distance triathlon?

PH – You need to be committed to training, but also be flexible in the type of training you do which allows you to modify training as needed to fit with family and work demands.

MB – To me, consistency in training is like the ticket to a whole bunch of adventures.  If you can learn to enjoy training, then you’ll enjoy racing or any other challenges you’re interested in.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to anyone wanting to get into triathlons or endurance sport?

PH – Keep it fun and challenging.

MB – Love sleep, but love it slightly less than a 5 am start on a cold winter morning!

Thanks, Peter and Matt! We wish you the best of luck in the lead up to the event and look forward to supporting you both compete on the day.

There are many ways you can support Peter and Matt’s event on July 20, 2021! Check out our online Facebook event to find out more here.

To learn more about fitness and wellbeing on or off season visit the Wellness Hub.