At age 33, Terenzo Bozzone has been on a streak. Three wins, two seconds and an encouraging best finish yet at Kona late in 2017. After seven weeks off season. Bozzone won his first three races of 2018 – highlighted by a race record, sub-8 hours win on his tenth try at Ironman New Zealand.
Ironically, it started at a low point – ankle pain, missing training, a disappointing 5th at Roth, then catching pneumonia and a virus – which led him to pull out of the ITU long distance Worlds and the Ironman 70.3 Worlds to save himself for Kona.
The streak started September 24 at Ironman 70.3 Cozumel where he won a close duel with Matt Chrabot. At Kona, Bozzone broke a personal Kona curse by finishing an encouraging 6th. Next, Bozzone circled the globe for four races in 21 days.
On November 12, Bozzone prevailed in another duel with Chrabot to win Los Cabos 70.3. On November 17 and 18, Bozzone unleashed early career speed with a sprint finish 2nd at Island House Invitational in the Bahamas. On November 25 at Bahrain 70.3, Bozzone opened a big lead with a 1:57:59 bike leg over ITU heavyweights including Javier Gomez before 2017 WTS World Championship runner-up Kristian Blummenfelt ran him down in the final 2k. On December 4 at Ironman Western Australia, shark sightings canceled the swim as Bozzone overcame a 5 minute deficit at T2 with a race-best 2:53:05 marathon to defend his 2016 title.
On March 3, Bozzone began 2018 with a 2:44:17 marathon to break 8 hours and win 2018 Ironman New Zealand. On March 11, fighting residual fatigue and chilly temps, Bozzone won Bariloche 70.3. On March 18, Bozzone adjusted to tropical heat at Campeche 70.3 for his third win in three weeks.
Slowtwitch: What led to your streak?
Terenzo Bozzone: It has been a great few months of racing for me but I don’t feel it is unusual. All through my career I have done blocks of 3-4 races with good results. The most standout performances at this time were Kona (6th) and IMNZ (sub-8 hours, course record win). I've been trying for 10 years to get this Ironman stuff right and I finally feel my body and my head were in a place to step up. [Bozzone’s wife] Kelly and I also had our 2nd child, Zaya, last year. At the end of the day, my two kids are the most important things in my life and this probably helps put everything in perspective and taught me to have a little more patience
ST: Before the streak began, how bleak did things look?
Terenzo: My first world championship race was the 2001 ITU Junior Elite Worlds at age 15. Since then I had to learn to deal with ups and downs. Some of those down times have been very tough and at times career-threatening – where I really had to believe in myself to get back on top. Fighting through those patches made me into the man I am today.
In 2011, Bozzone had Achilles surgery and recovery took almost a year. Early in 2013, he was injured in a freak accident when someone opened a car door in his path while bike training for the Asia-Pacific Championship in Auckland. Afterwards, an undetected concussion forced another long recovery.
Terenzo: Thankfully I've had a great team in my corner who keep me on track and get the body mended. August and September last year was particularly hard, after dealing with everything in the few months leading into the final Kona preparation I thought I would get a bit of a break. But even then I was dealing with a few issues [pneumonia and a virus] which were extremely tough. I was very lucky to have Kelly and the kids with me while I trained in San Diego and it was probably at this stage that I took a lot of expectation off myself. I just focused on what I could do and didn’t hold it against myself if I couldn’t make a workout and hit the prescribed numbers.
ST: You’ve won 70.3 Worlds and 32 middle distance races. Does that mean that Ironman now takes priority?
Terenzo: I became quite obsessed with Ironman after I won the 2008 Ironman 70.3 World Champs. It has been a massive struggle to keep at it, with results I never thought reflected the Ironman athlete I was. Things seem to be falling into place now and I strongly believe all the trials and tribulations helped teach me the lessons that I needed to be a better athlete at this distance. Succeeding in Kona has always been at the top of my goals and I hope with a bit more work and time I may be able to execute that perfect race on the Big Island.
ST: Kona has been a long string of disappointments. So with your superb record elsewhere – was 6th place at Kona a win for you?
Terenzo: Yup - my performances in Kona have been rough. I was 11th in 2009, 20th in 2010, a big hiatus from the island for a few years, DNFs in 2014 & 2016. But finally last year I managed to have a breakthrough race, which has given me newfound motivation. It has put that question to rest – did I have the ability to be successful in Hawaii? Sixth is definitely not a win. But it is a massive tick [of his life goals box]. Now let’s get the show on the road!
ST: Recently you have often dominated on the bike. What have you done to make the bike such a weapon?
Terenzo: My power has improved over the years but there have been a bunch of 2 hour bike splits along the way. I strongly believe in the importance of aerodynamics on the bike and thankfully have aligned myself with companies who can deliver the best product to me: Argon 18’s E119 Tri Plus took a huge leap forward a couple years back and Vision do an amazing job with the aerodynamics of the wheels. Giro, Sidi, 2XU, Oakley, Aquasphere, Everything that goes on the bike and on me for a race is thought about and placed strategically.
ST: Tell us about your coaches.
Terenzo: My whole career I have worked very closely with Jon Ackland. He is a great friend and mentor and always tried to ingrain in me to never make compromises when wanting to achieve something. He has an amazing temperament and is my son’s Godfather. We still chat about training and ideas on a weekly basis. At the end of last year I started working with another good friend and training partner (unfortunately only weekends as he has a full time job and family as well) Dan Plews. Dan is an amazing athlete and has his PhD in performance science. The new stimulus and slightly altered approach has been an exciting change. Being able to train together and discuss the joys and struggles we are both going through as new parents is definitely relevant to day to day monitoring of fatigue and performance. Being at similar points in our lives, both trying to be good athletes, along with our wives getting along and our love for coffee means we mesh quite well.
ST: You and Ben Kanute wrote some triathlon history with your duel at Island House. What was your late race strategy?
Terenzo: I have the video of the finish saved on my desktop and replay it daily to remind myself of the importance of never leaving a stone unturned. It had been a while since I was in a sprint finish which very rarely happens in a long course race. After a shocking swim in the final stage at the Island House Invitational, I slowly gained momentum on the bike and was able to pass Henri Schoeman and Aaron Royal. My goal for the race was just to redline as hard as I could for as long as possible and see what happened. I think with all the strength work through the year it allowed me to get way more than expected out of my body into the run. With only a handful of seconds on Schoeman I thought it was only a matter of minutes before the Olympic bronze medalist came flashing past. But before I knew it I was holding my own and then slowly pulling away. I caught Kanute with about 2ks to go and had no strategy to unleash. I thought Ben had kicked too early and had cracked but there was no shaking him off. Before I knew it I was trying to process different plans to get the win. I got close but couldn’t execute. It’s been a long time since I have had such fun racing.
ST: What is the biggest thing you take from that – disappointment for the loss or elation at the duel?
Terenzo: I am definitely taking elation from that one. But when you get that close you always question your judgments and how things could’ve unraveled differently. Maybe drifting wider around the last corner, maybe attacking him once I had closed the gap. I only hope I will be in that situation again to see if I have learnt from the experience
ST: After years of focusing on long course, why did you do so well at a sprint event – albeit one that played out over two days?
Terenzo: I called upon my younger and faster self… haha. I knew my training was good, my fitness was amazing but revving that hard was going to be a huge unknown. I think the strength in the legs did allow me to go hard without blowing up but I have no idea where the turnover came from. I guess it was just such a great environment that brought out the best athlete in me. That and a non-drafting bike course!
ST: Your still-standing race record at 2006 Wildflower is a huge achievement. So is your 2008 Ironman 70.3 World Championship. Does your win over 12-time champ Cam Brown and race record 7:59 finish at Taupo belong in your personal triple crown?
Terenzo: Yeah, those three will always be huge points in my career. If I could add a fourth it would be my first Ironman win at Western Australia in 2016 going 7:51:26 - that got the monkey off my back.
ST: Why did you come so close so often at Taupo and how did you break through so spectacularly?
Terenzo: Pressure, not enough pressure. Too fit, not fit enough. Concussion. Maturity - physically and emotionally. Plenty of excuses… I believe the learning over the years, being in my 30s now and a new perspective are all to credit for this year’s performance in Taupo.
ST: Going back in history, I have two questions that might have been keys to your development:
A - You told me a famous tri star casually dismissed your 3rd place effort at Wildflower in 2005. Then you trained like a madman for months before the 2006 Wildflower race to avenge that insult. Did anger fuel a great effort?
Terenzo: Anger fueled the preparation for that one. Simon Lessing wound me up a little at the finish the year before (Lessing won 3:59:33 to Bozzone’s 3rd place 4:04:16). Being a 22-year-old kid with nothing but admiration for the Legend and total awe to be racing alongside him did press my buttons. I couldn’t wait to have a showdown with him the following year (Bozzone’s 3:53:43 crushed Lessing’s course record). We did become friends and I slowly understood his sarcastic nature which explained a lot. But a big thanks to him for unleashing my inner beast!
B - Several people have opined that your early workouts with Chris McCormack before Kona let Macca get inside your head, Any truth?
Terenzo: Pffft, Chris has been nothing but a good friend and mentor to me along my Ironman journey. He opened his house to me and my family and has always looked out for me. After he won in 2010 he even took my parents out for dinner to celebrate with him. He does a great job for the development of the sport and there was never a dull moment hanging out with him.
ST: Where have you been based these last few years?
Terenzo: Los Angeles was a great place because we had our US family, the Talberts, who always looked after us well. Training was good, weather reliable, easy flight between there and NZ. The last couple years I have done a few blocks in Girona [Spain] with Jan Frodeno and Nick Kastelein. probably one of the best places I have ever trained and some of the toughest training I have ever done. Those two are pretty inspiring.
ST: How does your wife Kelly and your children inspire you?
Terenzo: Every day Kelly inspires and gives me strength be the best person I can be. She always worked and supported me and this lifestyle. While it has been tough at times she has always encouraged me to go after my goals, even if that means spending months away from her and the family. Her ability to raise a family, grow a business (Bo and Bala is Kelly’s young girls jewelry brand and doing great) and give me the support I need to compete - is incredible. And my kids, Cavallo and Zaya, motivate me every day to lead by example and try make this world a better place. I thank God every day for blessing me with these two angels.