Runner's Web Interview with Lynne Bermel - October, 1999

Lynne Bermel
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Lynne Bermel was a world ranked Ironman Triathlete for 3 years with her best performances coming at the Australian Ironman where she finished second in a time of 9 hours and 21 minutes. She has 15 Ironmans to her credit, including top 5 finishes at the Japan Ironman, New Zealand, Australia, Germany and Canada. She was also one of the most consistent Ironman performers on the circuit, finishing the majority under 10 hours.

Her progression to the Ironman from a track 800M and 1500M runner was a long one. Lynne ran her first 10K road race only because she wanted to go to an Avon 10K race in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and her coach told her she had to qualify by running a 10K in Ottawa if she wanted to go.

Lynne currently works as as Public Relations and Marketing Consultant in Ottawa. She is an original member of the Ottawa Athletic Club Racing Team, having joined the club in 1981. Now that Lynne has put the Ironman behind her and is competing as a hobby - winning her age group in the Canadian Championships for Triathlon and Duathlon and recently running a 17:13 5K - the Runner's Web asked her for a perspective on her Ironman days.

1. When and where did you start competing in the triathlon?

I started triathlons in Toronto in the late 80s after being sidelined by a running injury. The triathlon craze was just starting to hit Canada and my physiotherapist suggested I train multi-sport to get over the injury. I used to run with a girl named Beth Primrose who was one of the best triathletes in Canada at the time. She made the training and the races sound like so much fun!

2. When did you make the decision to compete in the Ironman?

I did my first Ironman in August 1992. By this time, I had been racing for about 8 years at the Olympic distance. I fell in love with the Ironman right away and decided that I might do OK at the international level if I trained properly for it.

3. Describe your first Ironman competition, the good and the bad.

It was at Ironman Canada in Penticton in l992. I felt I had done the right training going into the race. What I wasn't prepared for were the little things that became monumental obstacles in something as long as the Ironman. Like what you wear. It was a hot day so I just wore my bathing suit for the race. I had forgotten to put vaseline on my bike seat. Two hours into the race, my legs were so chaffed, I wondered if I would even be able to finish.

And getting enough liquid and calories... Before the race, I had worked out my liquid/fuel intake with the precision of a scientist. I had 3 bottles of some carbo/protein mixture on my bike and had planned to pick up a fourth at the Special Needs Station. That all went out the window within the first hour of the bike when I threw up half the bottle and couldn't bear to drink anymore of that yucky mixture. From then on, I decided to rely on the aid stations instead.

There were a lot of highs and lows in that first Ironman. I cursed the wind, then I loved the wind. I loved Richter Pass; I cursed Yellow Lake. I got onto the run. I was so happy to get off the bike. Ten miles into the run, I wanted back onto my bike.

What kept me going, and did for every Ironman I did since that one, was the thinking that "It will get better around the corner." And it always did.

4. List some of the major Ironmans in which you competed?

Hawaii Ironman (3 times); Ironman Canada (4 times); Ironman Australia (4 times); New Zealand Ironman (once); Japan Ironman (twice); Ironman Germany (once)

5. Could you describe a "typical" training week in terms of mileage and workouts while you were competing in the Ironman?

Hmm. It's been a while. You know, if you look at athletes profiles in Runners World or Triathlete magazine, their "typical" week is usually their best week of here goes mine.

Swim: 3-4 times a week. Longer intervals. Anywhere from 3-5 kms per session (Weekly Total: 9-15 kms a week)

Bike: 5-6 times a week. One long tempo ride (2-3 hours) at Ironman race pace. One interval session (say 5X5 kms) or hills/mountain ride with hard spurts thrown in. One long ride (building from 3 to 5 hours) with Ironman race pace in the middle. Other two rides were 100% recovery. Easy, easy spinning. (Weekly Total: 350-500kms)

Run: 4-5 times a week. One interval session per week (longer intervals- mile repeats) One moderate tempo run. One long run. Rest easy, recovery runs. We'd build into combining the long bike/long run (say 4 hour ride followed by 2 hour run) (Weekly Total: 80-100 kms)

6. What do you consider your best race and why?

Ironman Australia l993. I was so focussed throughout the entire race. I raced entirely within, staying within each moment, concentrating on staying in my proper heart rate zone and thinking about maintaining proper technique throughout. I had no idea what place I was in getting off the bike and was shocked when I heard I was in fourth place. I just started running within myself and moved into third. A couple of kms later, I moved into second. I didn't catch the first woman, Thea Sybesma of Holland, but I finished that race thinking: "From a mental and physiological perspective, I couldn't have done any better."

7. Drafting in ITU races is seen by non pro triathletes as changing the sport. It certainly does do that but is that necessarily a bad thing? What are your feelings regarding drafting?

Oh boy. This is quite a controversial issue these days. I'm not sure I want to join in the fray. Hmm. Let me just say this. From a spectator's perspective, drafting has made the sport more exciting and was one of the factors in getting triathlon into the Olympics. From an athlete's perspective, I think it takes the biking virtually right out of the race. It has now become a strong swimmer/strong runners race. BD (Before Drafting), strong cyclists could use their strength and pull away from the field. They can no longer do so. I imagine it must be frustrating for them.

8. You were (and are today) an accomplished road race before moving up to the Ironman. What are your PBs for the following distances:
i) 800M - 2:11.8
ii)1500M - 4:29
iii) 5,000M - 17:13
iv) 10,000M - 34:56
v) Marathon - 2:56
Fastest Marathon in an Ironman - 3:18
Fastest Ironman - 9 hrs 21 mins 15 secs

9. You qualified for both the Age Group World Championships in triathlon and duathlon this year. How difficult do you find trying while working full-time as compared to your Ironman days when you trained full-time?

Working full-time, you have to be a better time manager. You have to be willing to get workouts in when you can. As a full-time athlete, you have more time to rest and recover between hard workouts. There is much less pressure on you to perform as a recreational athlete. As a professional athlete, your body is your livelihood (I mean this is the most virtuous sense). You can't afford to get sick, overtired and overtrained. You give up much more in the way of socializing as a professional.

10. What are your competition goals for the next few years?

Mainly to enjoy training and racing. I'd like to improve on some of my road race times. I'd like to try a marathon again if I can avoid injuries long enough to get in the mileage. Eventually, I'd like to work with others to help them achieve their goals.

11. How long do you think you will continue to compete and in what events?

It's hard to say. We hear of so many inspirational stories of people competing well into their 60s.

12. What do you consider is the best thing that sport has done for you?

The wonderful people I've met all over the world. The opportunities to travel, to experience different cultures. The discipline to train and overcome obstacles.

13. Any other comments you would like to make....

I'll let you know.

Stay tuned for more comments from Lynne...

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