Dan Plews was the top age grouper at the 2018 Ironman World Championships in Kona and it looks like he might walk away - content with what he has achieved to date. I sat down with the 36-year old British born New Zealand resident to discuss the 2018 race and what he is up to now.
Slowtwitch: Thank you for your time.
Dan Plews: No worries. You know you’ve made it when you make it onto Slowtwitch!
ST: What have you been up to the last few months?
Dan: In the last few months I’ve just been ticking over with the training and mostly concentrating on work. It’s unlikely I’ll race I 2019. The main thing I’ve been focusing on is building my new company EndureIQ. EndureIQ is a learning community and support for endurance athletes. It’s all about empowering athletes with knowledge, so we’ve been busy building great educational courses and modules to do just that. We’re starting off with a whole suite f course in long distance triathlon, with the first (LDT101), being all about low carbohydrate performance - which encompasses my experiences as sports scientist, coach and athlete.
ST: Ok now, but you better explain that unlikely racing in 2019.
Dan: 2018, was a big year, and with the exception of racing pro, I don’t really have anything else to achieve in Ironman. As I’m 36 now, racing pro and moving up isn’t really a responsible decision to make in my eyes. For 2019, I’m just going to keep fit and see what happens in the future. I’m thinking of doing more destination races, like Roth, Embrun Man, escape from Alcatraz in the future. Who knows I may also return to Kona when I’m 40!
ST: You had a superb day in Kona in 2018 with an age-group course record 8:24:36 and the overall age group title. Would you say this was your best race to date?
Dan: Yes, I would certainly say it was my best race to date. Although I had another great race in Ironman NZ 2018, finishing in 8:35 and that is not a fast course!
ST: What about the years before?
Dan: I’ve only done 6 Ironman races. 2013 Ironman New Zealand in 9:22:22 (3:22:12 run), 2015 Ironman New Zealand 9:08:24 (2:58:31 run), 2015 Ironman World Championships 9:12:00 (3:08:07 run), 2017 Ironman New Zealand 8:54:10 (2:55:11), 2018 Ironman New Zealand 8:35:02 (2:52:20 run) and 2018 Ironman World Championships 8:24:36 (2:50:56 run)
ST: But was there any result you are particularly happy with? And it does not only have to be Ironman events, as hard as that might to be imagine on this site.
Dan: I also went under 3:55 in a half Ironman in NZ that I was happy with in 2016. And last year I ran a 1:13 half marathon during a half Ironman. Pretty happy with that too.
ST: You apparently averaged just under 21-hours of training each week leading up to the race starting in April. Is that fairly typical in terms of time dedicated to training?
Dan: I’ve coached and know a lot of top age-groupers and the 20-hour mark is pretty typical. But personally I will only do that when I’m really going after something. Now I’m more like 10-15 hours per week.
ST: Was anything different in your approach for Kona 2018 when compared to other big events?
Dan: Certainly not. I think this is a mistake many athletes make, consistently trying to change thing. It’s all about using what works and continuously refining thing. My training has been an evolution since 2012, but the core of it has never changed.
ST: When did you start with triathlon?
Dan: I started when I was just 9 years old doing swim runs. I was a British Youth and Junior Champion. I’ve been in the game a long time, but for my late 20’s early 30th I was focused more on career and decided to give Ironman a good crack after 2015 race there. I came 6th in my AG but felt then I could win.
ST: I believe you averaged 336km of cycling each week, and pretty much all of it on Zwift. Is that correct?
Dan: Yes that’s correct, and using rollers as well (Inside Ride, E-motion). I rode my bike once per week on the road.
ST: Why rollers?
Dan: It’s the most specific to the road and requires focus and concentration. This is part of the game in Ironman in my opinion.
ST: Which power meter?
ST: Your bike is a Trek Speed Concept. How exactly is it set up?
Dan: I got the speed concept after Ironman NZ in 2018. I had the pleasure of picking the brains of Xavier Disley for Aero Coach UK, when it comes to the area of aerodynamics, he knows his stuff and I respect his opinion. His data suggests that the Speed Concept is easily one of the fastest bikes out the box. I also coached Hamish Bond right until his bronze medal at the commonwealth games, and he seemed to go pretty well one it (and his CdA was very low, largely thanks to Xav!).
It was set up with Vision 808, Zipp Speed slop tri bars, and Ultregra Di2. I ran ceramic OSPW and chain on race day.
ST: Have you done anything in terms of bike fitting?
Dan: I did, I felt this was a box I just had to tick. I used the services or David Bowden (Speed Theory). Again, super knowledgeable guy in this area. We did some testing indoors and on the outside track and made some adjustment. We shaved off a good bit of time over the Ironman.
ST: How tall and heavy are you and what is your CdA?
Dan: I’m 185 cm, 74 kg race-weight. My CdA is not that great though, and I’ve struggled with it for a long time. It’s ~ 0.26
ST: Can you share what you did swimming wise to get ready.
Dan: I swam 5 times per, week. But I have swum most of my life with a PB of 4:38 for 400 m. My swimming consisted of 1 x 5 km threshold-based swim, 1 x 5 km strength-based session, 1 x 5 km endurance-based session, 1 x 3 km speed-based session and 1 x 2 km of technique – about 20 km per week. I work a few days per above 2 x 50 m pools at AUT University so it’s pretty easy to jump in and get swim in. The swim was super easy in Kona, I really took it easy.
ST: What would you say is the hardest swim set you do and can you break it down?
Dan: Anything swimming with Terenzo Bozzone is always hard! We would always do a set of 8 x 100 on 1:30, 7 x 100 on 1:30, 6 x 100 on 1:25, 5 x 100 on 1:25, 4 x 100 on 1:20, 3 x 100 on 1:20, 2 x 100 on 1:15, 1 x 100 on 1:15 - all with 2 x 50 easy in between. That one always tickled.
ST: Is Terenzo often a training partner?
Dan: I coach him, we’re training partners and we’re also great mates. For Kona 2018 we would do ~80% of our training together. I’m super lucky in that respect. He’s taught me a lot. He lives just 2 bays along from my on the North Shore of Auckland. We’re all really close, we have children of similar age and his wife is good friends with my wife. He’s also the Godfather to my little girl Bella.
Obviously, his accident was a real curve ball last year as we were really locked into that road to Kona together. The way he has come back from that is simply inspirational, he truly is one remarkable human being.
ST: In Kona you ran a 2:50 marathon. Were you pleased with that run?
Dan: Of course. This was my PB marathon. I certainly had good run legs that day.
ST: Did you know where you were compared to the other front running age groupers?
Dan: I knew what position I was in overall, and I also knew Lars Petter Stormo was in my AG. I knew of Lars before the race and knew he would be hard to beat. I also knew I was in pretty good running shape though, so I was looking forward to getting onto the run. From memory I got onto the run in 7th position in the overall AG, about 5 min behind the leader. I took the lead along the Queen K at about km 18.
ST: Looking at your splits, it seems that you managed 4 fairly balanced 10k times.
Dan: yes, 38:50, 41:19, 39:19, 40:36 were my splits.
ST: Talk about your run training.
Dan: I had a lot of quality in my run training. Monday would be an easy day 45 minutes, Wednesday would be long - minimum 90 minutes, maximum 3 hours closer to Ironman, Thursday quality tempo off the bike, Saturday was short tempo of the bike and then Sunday would be a longer aerobic off the bike. Lots of tempo in there, and then I would also do some threshold off the bike closer to racing. I love an ascending pace session where you go out fast and get slower towards Ironman pace.
ST: What is your day job?
Dan: I have a lot of job as I’m contracted. I contract to a company called Performance Lab. We’re working in the area of AI coaching http://arda.ai/, basically putting our coaching minds into a product assessible for everyone. We’re starting in running and moving into cycling/triathlon in the future. I work alongside a great mind and founder Jon Ackland, who used to coach Terenzo Bozzone. We’re doing some exciting things, so watch this space. My other work is Physiologist for Canoe racing NZ women’s program and then post-graduate PhD, MSc supervisor for AUT University. I also obviously have my own start up EndureIQ and coach a number of top professional IM athletes such as Terenzo Bozzone, Jan Van Berkel, Tim Van Berkel and AG athletes as well.
I’m busy! It was funny to read a few forums on Slowtwitch post Kona, about how I shouldn’t be allowed to race AG as I have the ability train full time. It sure made me and those who know me chuckle!
ST: Does reading such forum posts mostly amuse you, or does it also bite?
Dan: It certainly only amuses me. I always think it’s just nice to have done something that other people find it worthwhile to talk about! But as they say, - perception is reality.
ST: You mentioned earlier looking at some other events such as Challenge Roth and Embrunman. What about races like Norseman, Swissman, Celtman, Alaskaman etc?
Dan: Not really that interested at the moment, but never say never. It would be a great challenge.
ST: And is there anything else we should know?
Dan: I guess the only other thing would be for those who are interested in what we’re looking at offering with EndureIQ, please stay tuned and sign up to our social and web platforms. Instagram @theplews1, Twitter @theplews1 and website www.endureiq.com.