The Super League Inside Track – Jonny Brownlee & His Love For The Unexpected

“Super League Jersey took quite a lot out of me” –  Jonny Brownlee

These were the first words spoken by Jonny Brownlee when we caught up a week after the Jersey race, he’d just left the pool at the beginning of what was to be a packed training day starting the build for the next race in Malta.

Jonny is one of the most well-known triathletes on the planet and had come into Jersey looking to make an impression, he’s had what he calls a disappointing season and is looking to stamp some authority on Super League Triathlon (SLT) – not to prove a point to anyone else but to prove a point to himself.

So how are things, how are you feeling post Jersey?

“So I’ve had a relaxed week and now getting back on it for Malta, a recovery week but that still involves around four hours training a day. It’s quite a strange phase at the moment as I normally stop racing about this time of year and I’m generally in off season mode which involves doing some normal things and having a bit of a standard life for a while. But as we have the next two SLT races it’s all a bit strange but I’m really looking forward to racing. It’s good.

How does it feel having SLT extending your season – what drives you to carry on racing?

“What drives me this year is I feel my season has not been that great, so I want the next few races to prove a point – not to anyone else but just to me – I’ve had a lot of injury, illness and a lot of little things go wrong alongside lots of bad luck so I’d like to finish the season well. Also, SLT is just fun, exciting and different. I have raced a lot of the same races now for so long that throwing in SLT, which is so so different, makes it exciting.

4th in the Triple Mix, 5th in the Enduro, you had an overall 5th place and you got the Red Jersey for the best runner of the weekend. What did you take away from the two days racing and your final finishing position?

“Well for me personally and my performance I was a bit upset with it really, I’d have liked to have done better as I’d like to think that the SLT format should suit me. My main strength as a triathlete is that I’m good at all three and I have not really got a standout weakness across the three. In the SLT format you need that.

“But the overall event – as far as the SLT weekend goes – I thought it was absolutely brilliant. I think Jersey is a beautiful place and the whole island got behind us. Whether it was getting off the plane and being greeted by school kids, visiting schools later in the week or the entire weekends racing with Junior and Age Groupers competing alongside the Pros. A fantastic weekend of triathlon.

“We race lots of World Series where you feel that you’re not part of the place you’re visiting, it feels like you’re alongside the city sometimes, whereas in Jersey it really felt like Jersey shut down for the weekend for triathlon.

So what do you think went well for you and what do you think you have to work on going into Malta?

“I felt the Triple Mix went well and I performed well across all disciplines but what I think let me down on the second day were my transitions. Changing from one discipline to the other I messed up a few times –  in this format you can’t afford that. You mess up a transition, the group gets away from you and that’s it, game over.”

“Richard Murray was unbelievable in transition, I don’t know how he does it, I really don’t, there is only so much you can do to go faster……I think maybe I need to go slower to go faster and not to panic.

 What did you think of the Short Chute?

“I love how SLT mixes things up but when it came to the Short Chute I felt it gave too much of an advantage, I’m a big fan of pure racing – whoever crosses the finish line first is the one who has done the course the fastest. The best athlete wins – but then that’s probably because I never took a short chute so maybe if I had taken one I’d like it a lot more!

“Saying that Luis still won, and he’d have won anyway, Short Chute or no Short Chute.

Were there any particular surprises when it came to your rivals?

“Luis was amazingly good but honestly Henri Schoeman’s swimming, I knew he was good but I didn’t know he was that good. Henri was great at the second swim after the first leg, diving back in with tired arms and legs.

“I really enjoyed the surprise element – stood on that start line thinking I really don’t know what is going to happen here, which is great because so many times I’ve raced the same races and I can kind of tell what’s going to happen in the race. Whereas in this I had no idea who was going to be good and who was going to be bad.

Who do you think are the ones to watch going into Malta with a hillier course?

“I think Malta is going to be very swimming biased so the front two, Luis and Schoeman are going to be very very hard to beat. I like to think my performance will be better as the hilly course should suit me more.

Do you have any specific plans that you want to share with us to beat your rivals?

“I haven’t really got any, I used them all up last time you know, like three different pairs of shoes in the Enduro because they’re easier to get on dry so I’ll do that again. I have changed my training a little bit this time so I’m using this period to do some more specific SLT training. I’m hoping that going into Malta then Mallorca with less travelling than I had been doing last time I’ll be better. Before Jersey I’d raced in Beijing the week before and Australia the week before that so I’m hoping to hit Malta a little bit fresher.

We hear jet lag is something you hate dealing with, any tips for our audience on how to cope?

“Yea, change your clock and don’t think about it – eat at the right time, go to bed at the right time and train at the right time, and if you wake up in the night whatever you do don’t touch your phone!

Does SLT require a different mindset than your standard triathlon?

“Yea it does, I was a bit more relaxed in some ways as it’s not the World Series and I didn’t have ten coaches travelling with me and the social element helps too. All the athletes go for meals together beforehand which takes some of the pressure off, but then at the same time because it is the unknown the nerves are there. For me though it’s just enjoyment, I’m on the start line thinking this is why I do all this training. This is why I’m here – I enjoy racing and I enjoy hurting myself. That is what SLT is.

So you mentioned more specific SLT training, what does that involve, how do you change things up to suit the SLT brand?

“Basically I take out all the real long cycling and long running because you don’t need any of that. Then I put a lot more intensity in and make the shorter sessions a lot more sprint focused. For example, my bike to run sessions are a lot shorter and faster.

Malta will be a bit warmer than Jersey how does that fit with you?

“Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing – I like it when it’s cold because no one else likes it. When it’s raining everyone hates it, I just hate it less.

Have you been to Malta before?

“No I haven’t so it’s going to be exciting – I’m really looking forward to going. I saw it on The Apprentice the other day and it looks gorgeous. It seems like there are lots of beautiful small towns and nice buildings.

What difference do you think the back to back weekends will make?

“I don’t think it’ll make much difference to the Malta race as we’re triathletes, we’re used to racing back to back weekends and from an athlete’s point of view it’s better. You race hard and then you just recover without having to do any training in-between then you race hard again. If anything, a weekend off in the middle is worse as you need to train and prepare again.

How do you process the relative unknowns going into a SLT weekend? Possible race changes, tweaks and last min additions?

“Ummm I used to like having everything set in stone and knowing exactly what I was doing, some races are very laid out and you know exactly what is going to happen and I needed that. Now I don’t, I like the SLT approach of just deal with it, as I think it’s really important sometimes as an athlete to be able to cope with that because when you go into a race it very very rarely goes to plan. There is always some unknown and it’s important to be able to adapt. You can sit there an hour before the race and still not be sure if something might be changed and that uncertainty on a bigger scale can be used to help cope with smaller unknowns that could crop up mid race. I enjoy that.

“Racing is unpredictable so if you can’t cope with unpredictably then you won’t do well.

You told us some time ago that you hate spending money, can you tell us of any big purchases you have made recently?

“Hmmmm, well a scooter was the last big thing I bought but before that it was two shotguns…….a present for me and my brother for when we fight! Haha no joking, it’s because we like to clay pigeon shoot in our field. I’m not very good but getting better.

Malta is coming up fast on 27th and 28th October followed by Mallorca a week later on 3rd and 4th November and it sounds like Jonny is determined to up his game and take on the competition across the back to back weekends. Can he rise to the occasion and take on those leading the series, or will he be left wanting as the precedent set in Jersey continues? The pace will get faster and the racing more frantic as the athletes dial in to the SLT format. Come join us!

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