Tag Archive for Triathlon

Nothing comes between me and my Optimise A.I.R.

Tim Van Berkel (AUS)TRIATHLON - Ironman Cairns 70.3 / Cairns Airport Adventure Festival - Palm Cove - Captain Cook Highway - Cairns Esplanade - Cairns - Queensland - Australia - 2014

I’ve been racing for a few years now (that makes me wise… not old!) and the more you race, in all kinds of conditions, the more you understand what really works for you. That applies to training programs, race tactics and especially to gear.

Challenge Australia Ironman - Melbourne

For example, the ideal triathlon race suit is high-tech, incorporates state-of-the-art fabrics and is designed by the best brains in the business using the latest research. It looks cool and keeps you cool, protects you from the sun, cuts drag and helps you to perform at your best. Ideally, it’s like a second skin – it’s so comfortable, you don’t even notice it’s there.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Scody triathlon race suits. My relationship with Scody goes back a long way. Like their race suits, Scody exists on the cutting edge – of technology, of expertise and of innovation. And that’s allowed me to keep pushing the envelope of performance – competing comfortably and confidently in my custom Optimise A.I.R. Triathlon race suit. It looks good, feels good and gives me the freedom I need to do what I do.

The only difference between Scody and their race suits? Sometimes I forget the race suit is there… but Scody – I’m always aware that they’re in my corner. I’ve appreciated their support in the past and so I’m really excited today to be announcing their continuing sponsorship into the future. Thanks guys!


Even Giant-er!


You may remember, last November, that I was very excited to announce that I’d re-signed with Giant for at least another two years. I had a chuckle when Kelly Minahan (on Facebook) thought that I’d ‘resigned’ not ‘re-signed’. Two very different things! Relax, Kelly, it’s all good!

I’m proud to be associated with Giant, so I was even more excited recently when they sent through a draft of their Press Release. I’ll let you read it for yourself…

Press Release – Tim Berkel

Awesome stuff! In response, I just want to say a public thank you to the team at Giant. Thanks for your continuing support, not to mention the promotion – moving up to global athlete status sounds impressive!

Seriously though, I’m loving the Giant Trinity Advanced SL and I’ve got no hesitation in recommending Giant gear to anyone who is serious about riding the best – you guys are at the cutting-edge. And I know you’re always working hard to stay ahead of the game- doing your best for all your riders, sponsored or not.

I look forward to working with the Giant engineers and designers to see what we can come up with in the future. I know there are already some cool things in the pipeline. Exciting times!

So, go hard… and ride Giant.

Wetter But Better at Challenge Melbourne


Twelve months ago in Melbourne we were swimming in a calm, clear Bay, speeding along picturesque Beach Rd and fighting dehydration. And I finished the day standing on top of the podium. Last Sunday Melbourne showed its ugly side – we slogged through half a metre of chop, raced through heavy rain and gusting winds… and fought hypothermia. Talk about a contrast!

I was disappointed not to have been able to defend my Challenge Melbourne title, but my 2015 result was definitely a step in the right direction and a big step in my preparation for the IM Asia-Pacific Championship back in Melbourne on March 22. Here’s how my race went down…


It was dark, overcast and there was a howling on-shore wind whipping up the chop on the Bay for the start of the swim leg. Conditions were rough and visibility in the water was really low. Obviously it’s hard to maintain good technique when you’re constantly trying to avoid sucking in a mouthful of delicious Port Phillip Bay water. I sat in the main group, coming out not too far behind the three guys in the front – which including Clayton (Fettell) who ended up having great swim and bike legs.


Despite the assurances from the commentator that ‘Things are going to fine up… just wait and see!’, the rain set in and was continual through the ride. The wind was coming off the Bay, swirling around in some places to create a serious headwind at times. The combo of rain and wind certainly took its toll on some of the competitors, with Luke Bell retiring in lap 2 of the bike leg. Spectators said he’d turned blue and was shaking with the cold. The wind chill factor can certainly suck your energy in a big way.

With visibility so limited it was hard to keep track of who was where and how far ahead they were. And I definitely had to keep my wits about me when turning – wet roads and lots of competitors can be a dangerous combination if you’re not onto it all the time.

I didn’t feel like I had a great bike leg (2:13) but entered into T2 around 6th and about 3 minutes off the pace.


Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 4.18.25 pm


After getting buffeted on the bike it was good to get out on the run. I started off well and felt really good. Matt Reed took off hard and then Robbo took off. By the end of the first lap I was still only 3:30 back from Griffo, but starting to drop back.

It’s a tough run course, especially when you’re running through the single-track areas. Fortunately running in the wind didn’t bother me, because it was howling!


The Bottom Line

I finished up coming in 6th with a time of 03:54:06. Of course, I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to defend my title, but in terms of my preparation for IM Melbourne the race has served me very well. Plans for the Asia-Pacific Championship are progressing nicely, but I know there’s still a lot of work to do before then.

Despite the crap weather, Challenge Melbourne was definitely a worthwhile outing. Congratulations to Griffo for a well-deserved win in very trying conditions. And thanks to the Challenge Melbourne team for putting it all together. Good job, guys!

Oh, and a special thank you to the guys from First Off The Bike who tweeted about my ‘coordinated colours’. A bloke’s got to look good out on the bike, right.

Back in Melbourne for some good weather and racing


Sunday is Challenge Melbourne and I’m looking forward to heading south to defend my title. Mind you, you always feel like a bit of a marked man in these situations!

Auckland was a bit of a shocker, but the last few weeks have been really good, getting my head together and just getting back into the routine. I definitely feel a whole lot better prepared than I was for my last race.

The Melbourne course is great – very fast swim and bike legs. Water temp at Brighton will be around 20˚C and the weather prediction is warm but not too hot. Mind you, Melbourne is well known for serving up four seasons in one day. Last year it was really hot. This year – well, we won’t really know until we’re racing and even then it can change. Just got to be prepared for anything.

The ride is three laps along Beach Road – it’s undulating, fast and it’s a classic spot for Melbourne cyclists. The run leg heads out towards Sandringham and is a bit different. Most of the way it sticks pretty close to the beach and it’s a single track, which can make it a little tough when it gets congested.

For all the age-groupers competing – my advice is to keep your wits about you on the run. It’s twisty, there’s some loose dirt, so watch your footing and be careful. Don’t forget to have fun, go hard and I’ll see you at the finish!


Cuba Bound

It's just after 4am and I'm sitting at my gate at DIA for a 5:30 departure.  The dichotomy of where I am and where I'm going is pronounced: It snowed 4 inches last night and is currently 14 degrees outside.  Daily temps in Havana for this time of year are in the mid 80s - though it does cool off to the mid 60s at night.

I peruse Facebook posts from the athletes who left yesterday and briefly chat with another who leaves today.  It seems everyone is getting in earlier than myself as I don't land until 7pm.  A thought enters my head that I haven't seen any posts from anyone since they left and wonder as to the Internet situation there.  I'm not even sure yet if my hotel has wifi.

While this trip is about making history and helping the future of the sport of triathlon in Cuba, I can't help feeling like I'm going back in time.  The embargo went into effect nearly 15 years before I was even born and the recent pictures I can find online show a country that in 2015, still looks like something out of the 50's with the classic cars.

The reality of what I am embarking on finally starts to set in and I am both very nervous and excited.  Few people can say they've truly represented the United States in anything, but the small size of this group (25) and the destination makes this feel even more important than the Olympics - except that no one is watching.

Wrong direction in Auckland


Ironman 70.3 Auckland yesterday and I’ve got to admit that this is a tough report for me to write. Let’s just say… there was good news and there was bad news. I’ll start off with the good news:

The Good News

  • It was a beautiful day for racing in Auckland – the Kiwis lined up some great weather for us. A cool 18˚C for the start of the swim up to a very pleasant 22˚C to finish the run in
  • The swim felt good. Once again, I arrived into T1 with the main group, coming out alongside Crowie and Cam Brown. Definitely happy with the swim leg
  • I was stoked to see two fellow Aussies storm home to take 1 & 2 on the podium. Reedy (Tim Reed) was absolutely flying on the run leg and Griffo (Leon Griffin) was only 30 seconds behind. Well done, fellas!

The Bad News

  • Managed to lose the front group going up the Harbour Bridge
  • Rode with TB (Terenzo Bozzone) for about 60km but then lost him
  • Came in 17th and felt very disappointed with the result

Wise Advice

Not much more to say, except to leave you with an important piece of advice… Try NOT to take a wrong turn on the bike leg. You’ll end up riding an extra 3km, it won’t help your time and it’s just really, really embarrassing…

It’s days like these that drive you to refocus on your core values- the stuff that drives you. For me, that’s – strength, persistence, dream. Bring on Challenge Melbourne!

#AskBerks – January 2014


Firstly and huge thanks guys! There’s been an awesome response to the #AskBerks segment. They cover a whole bunch of different topics and I’ve also grabbed Grant my coach to come in on a few questions as well.

I’ve just finished packing to head over the pond to NZ to race in Auckland and as I promised I wanted to get this first round of #AskBerks back to you by the end of the week. So here goes:

Interval training

Simon Hatlee asked:
Q. How many interval sessions do you do on the bike to get your power and speed up?

A. I usually do 2-3 a week, which will include big gearing work on the flats as well as hill work.

Grant: Our programs revolve around “Strength / Endurance” and “Strength / Power”. The intervals themselves are important but they play a secondary role (ie) If there was a choice to made between Strength / Aerobic capacity and top end intervals the Strength would win out every time because it underpins everything. Also able to withstand higher wattages on climbs for a longer period of time without the same level of oxygen cost and I think that’s important.

Gym sessions

Marty McDonald and Craig Guilfoyle asked about gym sessions:
Q. What’s an example of your common gym session? How many sessions a week do you do?

A. Marty, at present I do one gym session a week. I keep it pretty simple, so I’ll do a little bit of work on the legs with some squats and leg press. I’ll also do some strength work on the upper body, with exercises like lat pulldowns and chin-ups.

On top of that I do core work 2-3 times a week. I just do that at home and that’s stuff like push-ups, planks and sit-ups. I also do some very specific work for my dodgy hip, such as 1-leg bridges. Unfortunately, hip problems can be pretty common among triathletes, no matter whether you’re a pro or an age-grouper. For some more info and some great exercises to strengthen your hips, improve your hip drive and prevent injury, click here.

Custom race suits

Marty also had a question about race suits:
Q. Your race suit, the one with the sleeves. I got a quote to get one made for $900. Do you think it would be worth it?

A. My race suit is very specific to me – it’s a one-off custom-made kit from Scody which I really love racing in. Obviously, I’m a little biased here Marty. Scody are great sponsors and I love their gear, which is why I wear it. When I spoke to the guys at Scody they quoted somewhere between $400-$900 for a custom made race kit – really depends on the style you choose. You need to work out if the money is going to be worth it for you. One thing to keep in mind though – the price per suit drops significantly if you’re ordering more than 5. So you could get that cost down if you order as a team or even a bunch of friends. FYI – Scody have got a cool function on their website where you can design your own race suit here.

Swimming in the front pack

Damien Collins asked:
Q. I know you were never a swimmer growing up, nor a front pack swimmer, correct me if I’m wrong. But you did a massive dedicated swim block to turn yourself into a swimmer doing 50k a week? How much of your bike/run had to suffer so you could focus on your swim? How long did you keep those massive swim blocks for before you returned to training as normal? For example, what would you swim in a typical week now?

A. Mate, that was a fairly epic question, but it’s a good one. You’re right, I’ve worked really hard on getting my swim happening. Gilesy and I agreed that there was no point even going to Kona last year if I couldn’t swim with the front pack. So, I was rapt when I came out of the water with them – the hard work paid off.

To strengthen my swim leg I was swimming around 20-25km per week. 50km would have just about killed me! But I was making sure it was really good quality and not taking any shortcuts. I really made an effort to ensure my technique was good.

I did back off my running, by about 30-40km per week, which actually really helped me in the swimming sessions. I’m working on getting my swim km’s back up to around 20km per week, but at present I’m doing 15-20km.

And you’re right, Damien, having a swimming background would have really helped a lot. One athlete that I know well, Clayton Fettell, swims really well and he’ll continue to dominate that leg of the race due to his background in swimming as a junior.

Long ride intensity

Matt Cannizzaro asked:
Q. Hey man! Congrats on a great 2014. I am doing 4 rides a week leading into IM Melbourne: 1x strength (hills), 1x easy, 1x WT tempo set and 1x long ride (approx 6hrs). What intensity do you think I should do my long rides at? I train to HR and power.

A. Matt, you’re right on the money with those rides. Towards the tail end of the long ride, you should add in some IM efforts (goal pace). Keep up the good work, Matt, and I’ll see you in Melbourne on March 22!

Grant: Agreed that is a pretty safe plan. On the long ones you want to make sure you are not sitting those in the grey zone somewhere between easy and hard as it can become junk. The key is just to ride nice even tempo on those rides –keep pedalling and keep it even. You do want to get a sense of your goal pace over the final 6 weeks but if you are pressed for time you could add a few of those to your long ride but keep them realistic. Also good to keep in mind that you build strength and speed from beneath not from above so you want your aerobic speed and strength to be as developed as you can get it so you build that presence and focus over time. Too much over speed won’t work, it simply teaches people how to blow up. So in simple terms build your speed from beneath don’t try to pull it from above pace.

Doing your first triathlon

Travis Hill asked:
Q. I’m about to do my first Triathlon on Sunday. What tips do you have for beginners who are starting out and do you remember your first Tri?

A. Travis, I’m guessing that by the time this blog comes out you will have completed your first triathlon. I hope it was an awesome day for you! I still remember my first tri, although it was a long time ago. I was an 18 year old competing with a bunch of my AFL mates.

My best advice to you and to anyone who’s doing their first triathlon is just – enjoy the day and don’t put any pressure on yourself.

Robyn Winn asked:
Q. Do you believe you should compete in a marathon race prior to your first IM?

A. No, not at the full distance. I’d suggest doing a double run day.

Grant: In my opinion, I think people vastly overestimate what they need to do in terms of run volume. If you think you are going to run 3.7 hours for the marathon I think it’s very counterproductive to train that long, you are essentially teaching your body how to operate with bad form. This also applies to slower athletes. You want to reach the start line health, strong and above all efficient. Strength and Efficiency are the 2 keys to IM racing and people do not need to circumnavigate the globe in training to race well. My advice is to only run to the volume where you feel you can maintain good form, keep that a focus.

In my experience whenever I’ve had someone mix a straight marathon even a training run into an IM prep it has been disastrous. Anything is possible if you reach the start line healthy and strong.

Staying focused in training and on race day

There are a couple of questions relating to this topic. Steve Copelin asked:
Q. I’d like to know with all the volume of training you do, how do you keep focused & energized on each session? Some days the body and the mind just won’t do what is required.

A. Steve, I’m just like anyone else. I suffer from purple patches and you just have to soldier through them. I’ve also got a good bunch of training mates at Aeromax and my coach, Gilesy, helps me keep my head in the game too.

Grant: It’s about being present in the body at each session as much as it is about the mind. A cluttered mind space makes it near impossible to focus. Many people simply can’t turn their minds off. This is where some sensory work can come in handy, simple things like spending 10 mins before a session sensing density and aliveness in the feet and legs-that takes you out of the mind and into the body. The body has its own intelligence and it’s very hard to access changes in form if you are not occupying that space while predisposed with a story your mind is telling you.

Dave Picot asked:
Q. What goes through your mind on the 2+ hours on the run during a race? Surely you can’t be thinking about form that entire time?

A. You’d be surprised just how much there is to think about on the run. Basically, I try to stay in the present moment and focused on the job at hand. Having said that, sometimes there are some distractions to keep you amused. At Kona, I was having quite a battle with Jan Fodeno when he started farting like a champion. It certainly lightened the mood and gave me a good reason to break away from him!

Hot feet on the bike

Ben Bailey asked:
Q. I get hot feet when I ride, which is pretty intense. Kicks in after one to two hours plus. Any remedies?

A. ‘Hot foot’ is a pretty common problem for cyclists. Believe it or not, the issue is not caused by your foot over-heating. It’s actually the result of pressure on the nerves in your foot, just behind your toes (your metatarsal bones). Pressure is generated when your feet expand on a long ride and this gives you that burning sensation in the balls of your feet.

Ben, there are a few things you can do to fix this. You can re-direct the pressure by moving your cleat position back. Your shoes may be too tight – try different shoes with more room in them around your toes. Maybe even consider wider pedals, if they’re too narrow for your foot. For a great article on ‘hot foot’ and some ways to fix it, click here.


Oscar Mendez asked:
Q. Supplements: which ones do you trust and use? Thanks for this initiative and for the chance you gave to all age groupers, average Joe triathletes, and fans, to get in touch with you. I wish all pro triathletes could do this.

A. Thanks for the kind words, Oscar. Glad to be giving something back.
As far as supplements go, I’m a sponsored athlete with Endura, which enables me to also have access to Ethical Nutrients and Metagenics. I’ve found them to be very beneficial and I haven’t had any issues with them. I currently use:

  • Fish Oil
  • Zinc
  • Q10
  • Vitamin C
  • Immune boosters
  • Iron (for when at Altitude)
  • Probiotic (Inner Health Plus)


This topic is a big one, so it was no surprise to see a whole bunch of questions that related to diet and nutrition – before and during a race. So, here we go…

Andrew Garwood asked:
Q. Do you follow a special diet?

A. I try to eat clean and well, but will indulge sometimes. (hahaha… most of the time!) Which leads to this question from Garry Stevens:

Q. Is it true you drank an entire bottle of champagne in a 10 min drive on a bus at Great Keppel? And then threw up all night?

A. Maybe all night…. But I’m sure I was still out all night though. (Note to readers – This is not part of my regular training program, so don’t try this at home… save it for Great Keppel)

Nicole Smyth asked:
Q. Do you include wheat, dairy and processed sugar in your diet or are you pretty strict about what you eat?

A. I’m not too strict, but I certainly reduce my dairy intake during race week.

Thanks to James Berry, Mark Firth, Matthew Roberts and Valerie Koroneos for your questions about nutrition and hydration on race day. Here’s a quick rundown for you:

Before an event

A. The night before an event I’ll just have a standard meal. The morning of the event I have Endura Optimizer and some banana and I’m good to go.

During the race

A. As far as carbs intake during an IM race, I’ll take 2-3g per hour via gels and drinks. When it comes to hydration, it’s recommended that you have your body weight (in kgs) in mls per hour at least. I use the Endura ReHydration Bottle plus one extra in my special needs bag.

To all the triathletes out there, let me say it’s so important to get your nutrition and hydration right on race day. Plus it’s not simply about hydration, you need to manage your blood sodium levels as well so you avoid hyponatremia, which can seriously kick your butt. My advice is – don’t leave it to race day to sort this stuff out. Experiment with nutrition and hydration on your longer training sessions, so you’ve got a solid plan in place before you hit race day.

Thanks to everyone for your questions this month. Sorry to all those who missed out on an answer this time round. But, keep sending those questions in to #AskBerks.

Rested, revved up and ready to go in Auckland

IM 70.3 Auckland swim

I’ve had a good break since Bahrain – I really felt liked I’d earned it after a big 2014. Definitely time to slow down, chill out and rest, physically and mentally.

For those of you reading this in other parts of the world, Christmas in Oz is pretty unique. For me it was all about enjoying the warmer weather (no white Christmases here, that’s for sure), watching the cricket, spending time at home with my wife, Bel, and enjoying some great Aussie food on Christmas Day with my folks.

As far as my training load went, it was definitely lighter over Chrissie and the New Year. I deliberately kept it fairly unstructured and also fairly minimal, which was great. Of course, as a full-time athlete, competing across the world, my competition year doesn’t ever really stop. And so neither does the training.

At the start of the year, the first target in my sights is IM 70.3 Auckland. So, over the last few weeks I’ve put my head down and started to kick things along in the training department a lot more. With this first race, I’m trying not to over-complicate things and just use it as a guide to see how my body feels and where my focus needs to be for the first few months.

I’ve got to say, I love racing in Asia-Pacific and there are more and more quality races happening in this part of the world. IM 70.3 Auckland is a ripper event, for a whole bunch of reasons and I’m really looking forward to kicking off my year there.

Although Auckland’s only a short flight over the pond, weather conditions in New Zealand can be colder than I’m used to at this time of the year, especially coming from an Aussie summer in northern New South Wales.

The swim leg (1.9km) is fairly sheltered, so hopefully it’s going to be pretty smooth. It’s a great course, which begins with a deep-water start in the harbour and we finish up swimming under the Te Whero Foot Bridge (which should be packed with spectators) into Viaduct Harbour.

703 auckland swim map

Bike leg is 90km and it’s fast and hilly (up to 70m) and travels through the centre of Auckland. If you’ve got time to lift your head up and look around there’s some beautiful scenery as it travels along the harbour front. There’s also the potential for thrills and spills, as riders have to negotiate ‘judderbars’ (Kiwi for speed bumps) and cross over tram tracks.

703 auckland bike map

The 21.1km run leg is dead flat and it is going to be super fast. It’s winding and so it gives you plenty of opportunities to check out where everyone else is- who’s chasing you and who you need to catch. Which brings me to the field for Auckland. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on Reedy, Crowie and Terenzo (finished 3rd last year). Of course, Cameron Brown’s always a threat, especially on his home turf. It should be a great race!

Speaking of Cam, you can check out a cool course preview video (from 2013), which features Cam’s commentary. There are a few minor changes to this year’s course, but the vid is an awesome way of checking out the course and it gives you a really good feel for what it’s like.

I’m counting down to the 18th January, IM 70.3 Auckland. Good luck to everyone who’s competing. I’ll see you at the finish!

Oh, and thanks to everyone who’s sent in questions to #AskBerks. Great questions! Keep ‘em coming!

Your chance to ask me something #AskBerks


One thing I always enjoy is reading your comments and feedback, whether that’s on Facebook, Twitter or here on the blog. Since it’s the beginning of 2015, I thought it’s time to introduce a new feature to make things even more interactive.

Over the last year I’ve been interviewed by First Off The Bike and ATTV, I’ve bared my soul on Fat Black and been probed by The Real Starky. I even had the privilege of being the first guest on Cupcakes With Cal (still waiting to see the cupcakes, mate!).

Now, I’d like to give you an opportunity to satisfy your curiosity and be the one asking the questions. Just to be really creative, I’ve called this new segment – Ask Berks! The way it works is pretty simple. Come up with your question or questions and then post them on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #AskBerks. At the end of each month I’ll take a bunch of the most interesting questions and answer them in a special Ask Tim edition of the blog.

What kind of questions? Whatever you like! I probably don’t have the answers to Life, the Universe and everything (try @DalaiLama or @StephenHawking for those) but I’m happy to answer anything else. If I don’t know, I’ll run it past the experts who work for my sponsors and track down an answer for you.

So, whether it’s training tips you’re after, insights into race tactics, questions about diet or gear, or even Bel’s cupcake recipe (they’re bloody beautiful)… just Ask Tim. I’m looking forward to hearing from you, so send in those questions and keep ‘em coming.


PS. Don’t forget to check out my article in the first edition of 220 Triathlon magazine coming out soon.

Welcome to 2015


Hey guys! Happy New Year and welcome back to the blog. Hope you’ve had a great break and, like me, done some serious eating over the holiday period. But, it’s time to put the beer and Xmas pudding away and get back on the bike for 2015!

The big news is that the crew at 220 Triathlon mag have asked me to put together a series of articles on a bunch of different topics. I’m excited to have this opportunity and the articles will be appearing in the mag over the next few issues. So, keep an eye out for them.

To give you a bit of a heads-up, the first topic I’ll be looking at is a big one for all athletes – the relationship that they have with their coach. The research, and my own experience, shows that a strong athlete/coach relationship can be one of the keys, if not THE key factor when it comes to getting great results and lifting your game. I’m going to explore five different aspects of this relationship to see just what makes it tick and how to make it strong and productive. So, as I said, look out for that in 220 Triathlon.

As a bonus for you guys, I’ll also be posting some additional material on the topic here on the blog. Because I’m not limited by the magazine format, I can give you a little more background and a few more personal insights into the topics. For example, the blog article on the athlete/coach relationship is going to include a great little question and answer session with Gilesy (my coach Grant Giles). I’m going to ask him some probing questions and he’s going to lift the lid on what, how and why he does what he does when he trains me. Fascinating stuff!

So, that’s what’s coming up. Of course, there will be the usual blogs covering races, training and other interesting things that come to mind. Thanks again for your support in 2014 and I look forward to sharing 2015 with you. It’s going to be an awesome year!