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Profile: Bevan & Vanessa Colless – Kona bound

ironguides Coach Alun ‘Woody’ Woodward:

2013 sept newsletter bevan and vanessaBevan and Vanessa Colless from Australia run a couple of physio clinics in Japan and have recently set up practice in Singapore. They also train and compete at the top of the age group ranks and are both heading to Kona this year. Both athletes are very focused and goal-oriented and have worked hard since taking up triathlon in 2005 to get to this point.



My first race was Phuket Tri in 2005. My first Ironman was Vineman in 2009. I have finished 10 Ironmans, started 13.

My background was in soccer and rugby. I first started with ironguides in 2009 when we signed up for our first Ironman.

I never swam at school but, like all Aussies, I swam in friends’ pools and on family holidays at the beach, and I would body surf a lot on holidays. Never did laps though.

My Dad was/is a bicycle tragic. His house has little model bikes everywhere—people give them to him as presents all the time now. He had a bike printed on his wall for years, cycled to work every day for 30 years and took us all (six kids of which I was the youngest) on bike holidays;  my Mum would drive the wagon and the kids would ride point to point from campsite to campsite. When I was 16, Dad and I did a charity ride from Sydney to Melbourne (1,000km).

I was a cross-country runner at school, top 10 in the state (NSW) for most of my high school years, until I discovered beer, girls, and played soccer and rugby for 20 years.


My first triathlon was in Phuket in 2006. My first Ironman was in Western Australia in 2009.

At school I did mostly gymnastics and diving. I loved doing sport so I participated in many other sports—tennis, water skiing, track & field, netball. After leaving school, I continued some kind of fitness by doing a few weights at the gym and running 20 to 40 minutes twice a week. I had never done any endurance type of sport. The longest run I had pretty much done was 10km.

I started triathlons in mid-2006. This was after I found this email in my inbox saying “Thank you for entering Laguna Phuket triathlon…”

My husband had kindly entered me without my knowledge!

I had seen my husband doing triathlons over the past year, so I knew a little bit about what was involved. I was a little concerned as I had not swam since school sports classes and I did not have a bike. So the next day I went to the pool and swam the distance. My confidence grew.

I thought I will buy a bike and start training, then decide closer to the race if I will do it.

The triathlon came before I knew it; I thought why not give it a go, my husband is doing it.

I really had little idea at this stage, I don’t recall taking any nutrition, I just had a drink bottle. I completed the race with a reasonable place in my age group. This was the beginning of a new lifestyle. I could see there was room for improvement so I wanted to do more triathlons: I loved the idea of doing something healthy, it is a good way to make an excuse for a holiday, and it was also something my husband and I could do together.

2013 sept newsletter bevan and yuki treadyAlso, our dog loves the training: he swims alongside me when I am in open water. He runs with me outside, and on the treadmill next to me when I am biking on the Computrainer.

I did mostly local Olympic-distance triathlons in Japan for the first two years. At this stage I thought Ironman distance was totally amazing—I never thought it would be something I would ever do.

My husband was slowly getting more serious in his training and increasing the distance of his races—and entering me in these races as well so I was also increasing my distances.

Before I knew it, my husband was now thinking of giving the Ironman distance a go. It was around this stage we joined ironguides. ironguides certainly changed our training and improved our performances.  I completed my first Ironman in Western Australia in 2009. It was a big day but not as hard as I imagined.  Since then I have done at least half a dozen Ironmans around the world (Roth, Challenge Copenhagen, Ironman Austria, Ironman WA three times, Ironman  Regensburg twice, Ironman Japan, Kona—wow that’s the first time I have actually put them down and counted, 10!).

I had a hiccup in 2011 when I had a bicycle accident the day before Ironman UK. I had to have a lot of teeth reconstruction work. My confidence to continue in the sport was crushed. I had lost confidence on the bike, I was worried about being hit in the mouth in the swim and I had lost fitness. My coach Woody slowly rebuilt my confidence. I returned to training pretty fast and decided that if I am going to return, I want to return to do well.

My goal to get to Kona only really developed after coming close to qualifying.  When I could see that it was within my reach, my drive to get it developed. I qualified in 2012.



When I started working with Bevan and Ness, it was clear very early they were high performance athletes and willing to work very hard to achieve their goals. While Bevan was quite clear on what this target was, Ness was more reserved in her goals!

As I have found with all such dedicated athletes, they are always wanting to do more and go faster in training: my main challenge as a coach was getting them to train at an appropriate volume for their development and put a program in place that would see them improve year after year and maintain motivation and health so they could achieve their goals.

Also, due to their jobs and a lot of traveling it was important to have a plan that could be flexible around travel but always working on a basic template to ensure development. I think we did a great job of this over the years and avoided injuries and illness.

From the very start, development of strength—not endurance—was my goal. Most athletes think endurance is what they need for Ironman. It was good to start with them early in their triathlon careers and see how well this approach has worked.

Tools of the trade

Bevan and Ness are very different in their approach to training: Ness will follow effort and time and does not use a Garmin, power meter or heart rate monitor, while Bevan likes to see the numbers and uses tools to his advantage—more to stop himself going too hard than as a guide in training!


Racing for Bevan and Ness was about enjoying travel and doing iconic races to start with. They did some great races and when seeing the level of performance they were capable of, the focus moved to looking at qualification races. I think they are both very versatile racers and capable of qualifying in most races but weather was a big factor in performance for them both.

With Ness weighing just 42kg and very little body fat, racing in the cold was just not going to work: this factor has affected many of Ness’s results over the years but a hot race in Kona is perfect for her so I am excited to see what she can do this year!

Bevan on the other hand is a heavier athlete and suffers in the heat so a cooler race, especially on the run, was always going to suit best in order to prevent the big fall-off in pace over the last 20km of the marathon that we typically see in hot races as core temperature just goes too high.

Another factor we had to look at with Bevan was natural speed. He is a fast athlete and it’s too easy for him to go too fast when feeling good, which impacts him later in the race. We use a Garmin on the run to limit the pace, especially over the first 5km of the run—when this plan is followed, a good run and race tend to follow! Using a power meter as a limiter recently has also seen Bevan produce some amazing bike splits.


With the nature of Bevan and Ness’s work we have used training camps a lot over the years. They would typically be 10 days of focused work where life was JUST triathlon—these really worked well for boosting endurance and confidence heading into their main races.

One of my favourite camps was for Bevan in Hawaii last year—he missed qualification in 2012 due to his choice of not carrying tools with him in more than one race, so he was punished when watching Ness race in Hawaii.

This camp was a little harder than sensible for sure but the form Bevan was carrying coming out of the camp was amazing, to the point that he was making some of the pros question their career choice when riding with them!


Ness qualified winning her age group in Ironman WA by an amazing 30 minutes, just a solid performance over the whole day.

Bevan secured his qualification in Canada with a devastating swim and bike performance coming off the bike in 14th place overall and then just needing to cruise around the run to qualify!

Alun ‘Woody’ Woodward, Certified ironguides Coach –

* * * Your best is our business.™ * * *

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What to expect from the new Ironman in Fortaleza, Brazil

Our Head Coach and former professional triathlete Vinnie Santana shares with you the secrets of a course he knows well. While Ironman Fortaleza, Brazil, has only just been announced Vinnie won an Ironman-distance event in Fortaleza back in his professional racing days.




A second Ironman race in Brazil was announced this week: the location is Fortaleza in the north east of the country and the date is November 9, 2014. The new race was announced by Latin Sports and published by Brazilian triathlon website mundotri, the event management company that has been running Ironman Brazil since 2001.

I’ve raced and won an Ironman-distance event (non Ironman brand) back in 2006 and it was to this date the most difficult race I’ve done among some other challenging courses including Kona and Korea. The article below will help you understand what to expect and how to get ready for this brand-new Ironman event.

Unlike the current Ironman in Brazil in Florianopolis, you can expect a palm-tree, hot-weather, tropical-feel type of event. Be aware as well that Fortaleza and its neighbouring towns are known globally as one of the best kite-surfing spots in the world; in other words it translates to possibly the windiest ironman race on the planet.

Wind tunnel conditions with the temperature of a sauna, this is Ironman Fortaleza.

While those conditions may not be appealing for athletes who want to PB over the Ironman distance, if you understand how to make the most of them, you will have a great experience and may place ahead of many of your competitors, especially those who are better suited to cooler climate events in locations that are far less windy.

Experienced Athletes

If you are an experienced ironman triathlete, you can expect a total finish time that is about one hour slower than on the traditional faster courses, where the winners typically come in between 8h10 to 8h30

The race I won in Fortaleza in 2006, I took 9h47 and that was coming off an 8h52 only four months earlier at Ironman Brazil. Be very conservative with your goals regarding time improvements and PBs when coming to Ironman Fortaleza.

Which athletes will do well on this course?

A runner who can handle the heat. This will be the difference between a decent race and a great race. If you can run a fast marathon off the bike in Fortaleza without walking (except through aid stations), you will place you very nicely in your age group.

Being a decent swimmer will also be more relevant here than in other races since the water temperature will likely be too high for a wetsuit swim. On the bike, aerodynamics will be of a great importance due to the wind factor, especially when it comes to bike fit; being able to also generate a high power to weight ratio will be key in this race. Show up lean, fit and ready to handle tough conditions and you will do well.

Let’s look into each discipline in more detail below.

Kona Slots

If you are chasing an opportunity to qualify for Kona, and you fit the description above, this could be your ticket. Unlike most other, faster races where any mistake or mishap can cost you that Kona slot, in a race like Fortaleza this is more unlikely to happen since it’s not so much a matter of “racing the man” but more a “racing the course” type of event. You may have a slow swim, get a flat on the bike, but if you can pull out a fast marathon, you are still very well in contention for a Kona slot, especially as — typically — age group triathletes aren’t fast runners.

If your goal is a Kona slot, I suggest you ignore what your competition is doing and face this as an individual time trial. Take all decisions based on the goal of getting to the finish line as fast as possible, and be patient if you need to give up a few minutes at various points during the race if that means you will save another dozen later on.

Getting used to the heat  

Be careful when trying heat acclimation techniques. Understand that your main goal in training for this event is to be consistent — doing things like running at the hottest time of the day, or training indoors in cold-weather clothes may hurt your ability to stay consistent for days.

Also, your ability to handle heat is something that you don’t fully control. Some athletes are genetically gifted to handle the heat better than others, regardless of where you come from or train at.


If you are coming from overseas, there are a limited number of direct flights to Fortaleza but they are worth it, since flying from Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo can be challenging as you will need to stop in Brasilia and there are only so many flights at reasonable hours. It’s not uncommon to board flights in the very early morning hours (1-2am) in São Paulo to make it to Brasilia before you get to Fortaleza. Study your itinerary and options carefully.

When in Fortaleza, make sure your accommodation provides you air conditioning in all rooms as some of the hotels can be basic. Stay out of the sun and avoid running between 9am-5pm at all costs as that it will take a lot out of you. Instead, stay in the AC and run early or late in the day.


Likely a non-wetsuit swim, with very choppy waters. You may want to train specifically for those conditions both in terms of technique and fitness. We like to use traditional pull gear such as paddles, pullbuoy and ankle bands to add a higher strength load to swim training.

Technique wise, aim for a higher stroke rate and higher hands on your recovery, because this is the most efficient way to swim in choppy waters.


While the specific course hasn’t been announced, we can expect a lot of wind — it will be strong regardless of the direction. In terms of the course profile, it will be relatively flat with some rolling hills thrown into the mix but no major climbs.

I remember from the race I did back in 2006 that the last 40km were brutal with a very strong head wind and smaller climbs, — you want to be ready for all sort of conditions, ready to tap into your strength when the legs are already deeply fatigued.

Pacing also becomes an important part of the equation. If this will be a two-loop course, it’s unlikely the wind direction will change, so pay attention to what you deal with on the first lap and expect the effort to increase on the second lap.

In training, you will need to do a lot of strength work pushing big gears, both at the end of your long sessions and also throwing in smaller sets in the middle of your rides, to simulate the conditions of the race.

It’s important to learn how to ride with all cadences since you want to maintain a good momentum both in a tailwind and headwind situation.

Road conditions can be very, very rough!

Choose your equipment carefully, especially those that can impact you negatively in windy conditions, such as disc wheels. I wouldn’t be surprised if the organizers decide to ban the use of discs on race day. I would also recommend you ignore all wind tunnel recommendations when it comes to hydration and go with what will allow to best stay fueled: I used a Camelbak in 2006 and it was a great choice!


Your goal for this marathon is to slow down the least! Your training and race day strategy should be based on that.

Walk every aid station to make sure you get enough fuel and electrolytes — a few seconds lost in each of those stations may save you several minutes if it helps you avoid bonking.

Aim to run with a faster stride rate, a more efficient technique in warmer conditions that will bring slower marathon times. If you can do a quick shuffle, you will build a “bonk-proof” run style.

Be also careful with your run training: doing a lot of speed work, while it does build general fitness, is not too specific and won’t help much on race day, the priority of your training should go to where it really matters for this day, as listed in this article.

And finally, be very patient on race day: while the course conditions will be extremely challenging, this also creates a great opportunity for those that can understand and play with it!

Vinnie Santana
Vinnie Santana, Head Coach
* * * Your best is our business.™ * *

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From broken kneecap to Sub-10 Ironman debut

Rodrigo TostaBy Rodrigo Tosta, ironguides Coach

When we pull the trigger and sign up for an Ironman race, we know planning and dedication will be crucial in the preparation for this lengthy race distance of an 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42km run. Having a background across various types of sports such as mountain biking, adventure racing, boxing and rowing is a great start: not only because that means discipline has been part of your life, but also because your aerobic system is developed to a decent level.

This was the scenario of Bruno Simao, who registered for Ironman Brazil in May 2012 in the M25-29 age group. Once we started working together and I got some training splits, I realized he had good potential for a first-time ironman performance.

While planning his long term strategy, I made sure he would spend a lot of time training next to other, more experienced ironguides athletes in his home town of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, as Bruno—being a young, fast and inexperienced triathlete—had his issues with pacing. I knew the veteran ironguides athletes could teach him a few lessons during the training sessions as these guys collected several Ironman titles and Kona qualifying slots.

Things were going well a few months into the training program and he was achieving his training goals and improving his pacing strategy. Then, I got a very emotional email from Bruno as per below:

“It was my last hard session one week out before the Caioba Half Ironman, which is 8 weeks from Ironman Brazil. I had 10 laps of 14km to do that day and when I was closing the 9th lap, a car made a sudden left turn into a smaller road without seeing me, as I was riding fast and on the aerobars. There was nothing I could do, all I remember was flying over my bike and the car, and hearing all sort of noises from breaking glass to loud snapping, and I almost could hear something breaking inside my knee as I hit it very hard against the car.

“The MRI results came back: I had a cracked kneecap. The initial diagnosis was 10 weeks with no cycling or running, and my Ironman Brazil dream was over. It was depressing and hard to accept, I wanted to quit triathlon. However I got so much support from my friends and family that something strange happened: I grew a lot stronger and I was able to learn several different lessons with that accident.”

Since finishing Ironman Brazil was out of the question, we decided to start the race and do a Swim+Bike brick, doing only the first 90km loop of the bike course. With that in mind and considering the no-run and no-bike training for a while, it was a good opportunity to work on his weakness: the swim. I got him on a swim plan, sessions every day of the week with a lot of pull work (using the pull-buoy to avoid kicking). That was how we maintained his aerobic fitness while letting the kneecap heal.

Two weeks from Ironman Brazil we shifted the focus to the bike, and his plan had several double-bike days. Since his legs were not fit enough to push hard for too long, the double bikes were a great way to build bike fitness without stressing the kneecap, and it would be just enough to provide him the endurance needed to last the 90km of the bike course.

Race day came and along with it a lot question marks in Bruno’s mind. We weren’t sure if his knee could handle the swim and the first half of the bike without pain. Our idea with this race was to provide him the experience of being a first-timer in an Ironman event, but without pressure to finish the race or achieve a good result. Before the crash, we had a goal of swimming around one hour, to ride the 180km in about five hours, which makes it 2-1/2 hours per lap.

We were happy that on race day he managed not only to finish the swim+bike combo, but also within all the target splits.

During this Ironman trial, he could also learn a few race-day strategy tricks: we aimed for a fast swim start to get away from the crowd, and he would benefit from fewer people on the bike course, while those that were around him were experienced and fit athletes.

But the key learning experience was being able to watch the rest of the race. Some of his friends or training partners went out a bit too fast on the bike and ended up paying the price during the last half of the marathon. Bruno has always been an over-confident person and that lesson was crucial for his success in his first proper Ironman race.

The day after the race, our excitement about the success of Bruno’s trial Ironman was huge. We agreed we would find another Ironman in the 2012 season so he could finish the whole event and achieve his dream of being an Ironman finisher. Ironman Florida was a good opportunity for him, as it has a similar course profile as Florianopolis and, held late in the year, it would also provide us time to get him fit enough after a full healing process.

From that day we had 22 weeks of planning, I aimed to boost his confidence by setting him up on a bike-oriented training plan while doing some solid maintenance work in the swim and slowly building the run training to the point where he was back on target for our original goals.

The hardest part was that he spent the whole year, instead of the usual half year, in Ironman training mode. That can be difficult for a young professional like him but making a successful debut was a top priority for Bruno, who to break 10 hours, so there wasn’t an easy option.

The big day arrived and he mentioned being surprised about how relaxed he felt, smiling during the event and high-fiving the spectators on the course. Bruno said he felt he was “floating” during the whole race, and that it was one of his happiest moments of his life.

We had built a race-day strategy in which he would swim as fast as possible, considering we massive work in the pool for a year, and that would set him up among the top competitors on the bike. It worked well and he finished the swim in 61 minutes and top 20 in his age group.

bruno_florida_finishOn the bike our goal was a moderate approach as we wanted to make sure he would have something left in the tank for the run. Even then he rode 4h59, moving up seven places in his age group. Out on the run we planned for a conservative strategy, in normal conditions we aimed to hold about 3h30 marathon pace, which would get him to the finish line within the 10-hour mark.

Nine hours and 42 minutes after the start, he heard, “Bruno, you are an Ironman!” It was a very well executed race and that got him 6th place in his age group.

With the race done and dusted, the question now is “What’s next?” He understands what it takes to perform at a very high level in ironman and we agreed we would get on a two-year maintenance plan so he could focus on his newly-launched construction business. We will schedule short-course races to keep him honest and focused, and that will also build towards his next ironman race. When the right time comes, he will be a much faster and strong athlete. Once we add some volume on that newly gained speed, he will be on fire!

Congratulations Bruno on your dedication and setting an example to all of us. You can be sure many other achievements are on the way.


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