At the 2017 IRONMAN World Championships most folks expected either Jan Frodeno, Sebastian Kienle or Lionel Sanders to reach T2 first, but it was Cam Wurf who put on quite a show there and broke the bike course record along the way. The Aussie however would have only cared about that number if he had grabbed the win that day too. Wurf started his athletic career in rowing, then moved to cycling and now has found triathlon and it apparently has found him well. He is all in and ready to really throw down.
Slowtwitch: Thank you for your time Cam.
Cam Wurf: No problemo. I’ve heard so much about slowtwitch in the triathlon world that it’s a huge honor I guess to be interviewed.
ST: Is all well in your world?
Cam: All is well in my world thanks Herbert. It’s been an incredible year where I’ve had a huge amount of experiences, and I really feel like I’ve finally found a sport that is driving me to get the very best out of myself. 3rd time lucky I guess.
ST: Leading up to the 2017 IRONMAN World Championships do you think many eyes were on you?
Cam: No not really and I doubt any of the major contenders had any consideration for me. I’ve hardly performed with the consistency this year that would have garnered me any pre race attention. My results have been all over the place. It’s certainly a fact that I relish flying under the radar. I trained very well leading into Kona and I couldn’t wait to get out there and make sure I made an impact on the race. I know how few chances you get to win a world championship so I was only there for one reason, to try and win.
ST: What did you do to prepare for Kona and who helped you along the way?
Cam: I raced a lot. At the start off the year we set the goal simply to qualify for Kona, and it wasn’t easy to finish in the top 50 in the world rankings and even make the start list. I had to race a lot and that gave me a huge amount of invaluable experience to deal with anything. On a training front to ensure I had at least a strong bike leg I trained alongside all my cycling buddies Chris Froome, Richie Porte, Geraint Thomas, Calvin Watson, Ian Boswell etc. I know a strong bike leg would set up my race and give me the only hope for a surprise top result.
ST: When did you arrive?
Cam: I arrived on Tuesday prior to the race
ST: Many Pros stay far away from Lava Java and the other popular hotspots. How did you manage this?
Cam: I stayed up the hill away from all the chaos of Ali Drive on race week, Tim Reed recommended it and we where only 2 miles from transition, its pretty easy for me to avoid people to be honest, nobody knows who I am.
ST: So when you went to the pier to swim no one wanted to pose for pictures?
Cam: Well Tim Reed had a photo with me, but that was about it. I guess I don't go down there dressed top to toe in a billboard of sponsors and as I'm not much to look at physically I definitely don't have people queuing up for a photo with me. I quite like that though to be honest.
ST: What plan did you have for race day?
Cam: I wanted to have a great swim and hadn’t thought past that. What happened during the swim would dictate how the rest of my race went.
ST: Talk about your race.
Cam: I had a terrible swim! I found myself the furthest behind the front of the race I’ve ever been, and I ended up in a pack with the strong cyclists so just floated along there. I decided not to waste energy swimming in no man’s land and just reassess once on the bike.
The bike also started terribly. After 3 miles coming down Palani I dropped my nutrition container with 9 gels and sodium tabs for the race. I just ignored it and had to get coke and Gatorade on the bike. In that position I decided it was best to be conservative and stay with Lionel and Sebi rather than head off on my own in search of glory. I figured they knew what they where doing so I’d just cruise along at there pace.
Once we caught the front I saw all the guys faces and they looked gassed, especially Jan. At that point I decided to throw caution to wind and go for it and try and win the race. It was a big roll of the dice considering the nutrition deficit I was facing having dropped my food. But I decided it was worth the risk.
I felt great the whole bike leg and my average heart rate was 10 beats lower than Cairns and Sweden where I had run 3 hours off the bike. As I dismounted I honestly believed I was going to run like a gazelle and win the race. I thought perhaps the nutrition gods must have been smiling at me and I could do no wrong.
The start of the run I was quickly in to a good rhythm, the most amazing sporting experience ever having so many people cheering my running felt quite bizarre. Unfortunately there was to be no fairytale and after just 5 miles the wheels started falling off. I was cramping, out of fuel, hungry, and the day quickly unraveled after that. Once I was out of the top 5 I decided to just walk/run and get to the finish as healthy as possible. I wasn’t in the fight for the win anymore so I wasn’t going to try and destroy myself to simply finish well. I had learned enough. I spent the second half of the marathon planning and thinking of what we need to do next year to be better prepared for all the crazy things Kona throws at you.
ST: Was there anything that surprised you as the race unfolded?
Cam: Yeah how bad my swim was. That really shocked me, having had mostly front pack swims, was a good kick in the bum of how quickly things can go wrong, but apart from that not really. I was expecting everything I experienced, obviously need to work more on nutrition and hydration and understanding the demands on the body better in the Kona conditions.
ST: Did you feel pressure from Kienle and Sanders on the bike?
Cam: No not at all, if I needed to I was able to ride away from them. I waited for Sebi after the decent from Hawi as I saw him alone and figured he knew more than I what he was doing. I have a huge amount of respect for Sebi, and I always enjoy watching him the most out of the big Kona favorites as he races with so much passion. Lionel really impressed me too, he maintained a strong rhythm almost all day. It’s a shame he fades toward the end of the bike, that additional 90 seconds he could’ve had may have been enough to get him the win. I tried to encourage him as I went past to maintain the pace as he was visibly slowing, unfortunately when I looked back he’d dropped off, that could have been the difference between winning and coming 2nd at the end of the day for him.
ST: What power numbers were you trying to hold and what did you actually do?
Cam: I sit on or around 290-320 watts I guess, depends on the course, flat, rolling, technical. I’ve averaged somewhere in that range in every race this year except Zurich where I was sick and could only manage 260. I’ve also worked hard on my position in the with tunnel with Aaron Ross and FASTER in Scottsdale, AZ. I now go a lot faster for the same amount of effort, and we are constantly working on that.
ST: Among the men at the front of the race you had one of the shallowest front wheels. How did you decide on that setup?
Cam: We tested it extensively in the wind tunnel.There are barely any instances where you’ll find those super deep front wheels to be advantageous and certainly never in Kona. Choosing the front wheel was a common sense decision to us.
ST: You managed the course record bike split that day. How important is that to you?
Cam: It’s of no importance, I was there to win the race. If I’d wanted the bike course record I would’ve ridden a lot faster than I did. When Norman set the bike course record he won the race, that to me make his bike performance still the benchmark.
ST: Did you hear from Normann Stadler?
Cam: I did. He actually introduced himself to me on the Queen K during the run. I stopped and chatted to him briefly and I was really honored he even knew who I was. He was the one who told me I rode faster than he did. I had no idea, I wasn’t even aware of what his bike course record was.
ST: What did Kienle and Sanders say to you after the race?
Cam: Nothing. I didn’t see either of them but I doubt I’m overly popular with them, I probably suckered them into riding a pace they where not overly comfortable with and then I went nowhere during the run. Also they paid dearly on the run, if either of them had of been within 5 minutes of their marathon personal bests they would have won the race. I would have really loved to see one of them win the race once I knew my chances where shot. They really put there balls on the line, and I really respect that.
ST: No risk no gain, right?
Cam: I'll always go for victory even if it means taking a greater risk in failing. We are there to entertain after all.
ST: What have you been up to since Kona?
Cam: Been training my ass off. I didn’t run in Kona so I wasn’t fatigued after the race. I’ve run more miles weekly than ever before, and I will race IM Busselton to wrap up the 2017 season then I’ll take a break.
ST: How often do you go to motorsports events?
Cam: As much as possible. I actually attended the NASCAR over the weekend to support my close friend Jimmie Johnson. Froomie also came along with me and they made him the grand marshal and we got to ride in the safety car and everything. Jimmie always looks after me but with Chris NASCAR took it to the next level, it was great. I love motorsport of all types and many off them live cycling, so it is pretty easy to get along with any type of motorsport paddock.
ST: What is the fastest you have gone in or on any motorized vehicle?
Cam: Umm an airplane I guess, but on land I've been 200 mile/hr in a Porsche LeMans car.
ST: If you had the opportunity to actually compete in motorsports, what kind of series would you want to race?
Cam: For sure NASCAR, I love how old school it is and how crucial the pit crew and entire team staff are, the gains are made as much off the track at on it. The pit stops are fascinating, changing 5 wheel nuts, using an old fashioned Jack, refilling using a giant fuel drum, it's really exciting to watch when your down there in the pit box. Definitely would want to be in a NASCAR. Who knows perhaps when Jimmie Johnson is ready to hand over the keys to 4th year #48 I might put my hand up.
ST: Meanwhile, which triathlons are on your calendar for 2018?
Cam: Kona, and I don’t have any plans to race anything else on the tri side between Busselton and Kona, but that can obviously change.
ST: Back to Kona then, what was the most important lesson you learned in Kona this year?
Cam: To be calm and patient, it’s a really long day. I should have taken my special needs bag and reloaded my fuel, instead I pushed the pace from the turnaround, that split second decision was a crucial mistake. Being so far behind out of the water and seeing how composed Sebi was the biggest lesson I’ll take from the race.
ST: Is there anything else we should know?
Cam: Thanks to all the age group athletes for giving us a sport. Without you guys we wouldn’t be able to do it professionally. I promise I’ll do everything I can going forward to make the races I’m in as exciting to follow as possible.
You can follow Cam Wurf on Instagram via @cjwurf