Lincolnshire triathlete Robbie Whitaker to perform on world stage in Hawaii
TRIATHLETE Robbie Whitaker can't wait for the New Year – when he will take part in the prestigious World Ironman Championships in Hawaii.
The Brocklesby ace booked his place in the showpiece event in Kona with a superb performance at one of the qualifying races in Wales.
Whitaker, 24, is already planning for his biggest test, when he will rub shoulders with the best in the business on the sunshine island.
Ironman triathlon involves completing a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a 26.2-mile (marathon) run.
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Whitaker, who has been competing in triathlons for four years, said: "I am a bit nervous about racing in Hawaii due to the extreme heat.
"I have done races in the heat before and have often struggled with heatstroke and dehydration.
"However, worries aside, I am really looking forward to it as it has been a goal of mine ever since I started the sport."
Whitaker achieved his big target in one of the qualifying races in Wales.
His split times were: swim – one hour and nine seconds; bike – five hours 32 minutes and 39 seconds; run – three hours, two minutes and 58 seconds.
With the time taken in transitions, it amounted to an overall time of nine hours, 46 minutes and one second.
He said: "The race went pretty much exactly to plan.
"I was a bit tired going into the race as it was my third Ironman in three months and I had just raced the Vitruvian Half Ironman the week before, where I came I third overall.
"In Wales I had a really good swim, but struggled to get going on the bike.
"I think I under-performed on the bike, but that allowed me to have a good run.
"I won my age group by about 20 minutes, so was fairly pleased with the outcome."
Whitaker revealed that he got into the sport after an injury prevented him from carrying on with skiing.
He explained: "I decided to do a triathlon at the end of my first year at university.
"After doing fairly well, I was told that maybe I had a little bit of natural talent for them.
"At the time, I was still fairly into freestyle skiing. However, while out training on my bike, I was hit by a car and tore a ligament in my knee which put a stop to my skiing – so I decided to focus on triathlon instead."
Whitaker admits that fitting all the necessary training in around his university studies is a tough task.
"I am currently in my final year of medicine at the University of Manchester," he said.
"Fitting in training this year has been hard with full-day placements and studying for my upcoming finals exams.
"Not being a fan of getting up early, I often do my training late into the evenings. Most of my cycling this year has been done on an indoor turbo trainer.
"I train every day. My training varies depending on what time of year it is. In the winter it's short, sharp sessions during the week and long, steady sessions at the weekend to maintain the endurance.
"It probably totals around 15–20 hours a week.
"In the summer, when its better weather, then I like to build my endurance with much longer sessions, often going for a ride and then a run straight after.
"My swimming is also done outside in open water during the summer to get use to the wetsuit. I do around 25 hours a week in the summer."
Whitaker rates cycling as his best discipline and swimming as his weakest.
He has solid running ability, and away from the triathlon circuit has completed a marathon in under two hours and 40 minutes.
He clocked 2.39.26 in the Preston Guild Marathon earlier this year.
As well as the three disciplines themselves, mastering triathlon also requires athletes to be able to get to grips with refueling and nutritional strategies.
Whitaker said: "The nutrition side is the main issue that has held me back before.
"It caused me to have a bad race in Switzerland at the start of the summer.
"I spent a lot of time over the summer working with my coach coming up with a nutrition plan that worked for me.
"Once we got it right, it made a big difference to my racing – and I posted my fastest Ironman time of 9.02 in Sweden."
Another significant element in races are the transition points between each discipline.
Whitaker explained: "In the longer races, the transitions are less important. However, when I'm doing the shorter races, they can make a big difference.
"I always like to spend a little time practising them the day before a race, just to sharpen up."
Whitaker is a member of the LincsQuad club and will also be competing for the Offthatcouchfitness.co.uk racing team in 2013.