Elite Focus – Belinda Granger

15x Ironman distance champion and hall-of-famer still on top

At 42 years of age you are racing better than ever. Have you discovered the fountain of youth?

Ahhaa yes how did you guess….but, shhh! don’t tell anyone. It is all about surrounding yourself with people who are younger and making sure you do at least one crazy thing a week (of course I often do more). But honestly, I wish I knew.I would bottle it and make a fortune. What I can say is that the best way to stay young is to lead a healthy and balanced life. I love my life as a professional athlete but I also love going out for dinner, drinking good red wine and eating chocolate. I have never deprived myself of the things I love and I believe this has helped with my longevity in the sport.

Seriously, how do you continue to perform at such as high level?

I believe the number one reason I have been able to perform at such a high level for so many years is because I absolutely love what I do. I get so much enjoyment and fulfillment out of my sport – the training, the travel, the racing – I love it all. And the greatest part is that I get to do it with my best friend, my husband Justin.

How did you get into triathlon?

I actually got into triathlon in the early 1990’s when I was studying at university. I had always been into every kind of sport at school but I had let myself go a bit during uni and I wasn’t happy with the way I felt or looked. I needed a sport that I could do that would not only get me fit again but that I would really enjoy….triathlon seemed to be the prefect fit. I fell in love with it almost immediately.

With 15 Ironman distance wins on your CV, how have you managed to stay motivated?

The funny thing is I still remember telling people when I was in my mid-30’s that I would retire once I turned 40. Well 40 came and went and pretty soon I stopped talking about the ‘R’ word altogether. I honestly thought that by the time I turned 40 I would have had enough of triathlon but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I love the sport more than ever these days.

Do you ever think of retirement?

I used to talk about it quite a bit when I was in my late 30’s as I honestly thought I would retire when I turned 40. I just assumed that once I turned 40 I would be too old and slow to compete as a professional and I would be ready to move onto something else. But 40 came and went and I still love the sport as much as I did when I first started and I still ‘go alright’ against the younger girls. Basically the ‘R’ word doesn’t get mentioned in our household that much these days.

Do you ever get burned out?

I have suffered burnout, not often, but it has happened. In fact I believe I was suffering this at the end of last year. I had raced continually throughout the year and by the time December came around I was physically, but more so, mentally exhausted. But the good thing about being in the sport for so long is your ability to read your body, to see the signs. I knew I needed to take a break and so I did.

How has your training changed over the years?

I feel that since I have turned 40 I don’t need to train quite as much as I used to. I spend more time on my recovery now – getting regular body work and sleep is now one of my key sessions of the day.

What have you learned most about recovery?

Without sufficient recovery you cannot possibly get the best out of every training session. Sleep is my number one recovery tool followed by healthy eating, body work and even an afternoon at the coffee shop with friends.

How long would you like to continue to race?

I will continue to race as long as I am still enjoying it and at this rate I might still be racing when I am 60. I do feel like the longer distances are starting to take their toll. I think once I get to 50 IM distance races I might call it quits and just stick to the shorter distances. But who knows…I never say never anymore.

What’s next?

Well having completed my 10th Challenge Roth in a row (I placed 7th), after ten years I decided that it was a good time to say goodbye to Challenge Roth as an individual athlete. I adore the race but it just felt like it was the right time. I have been treated like a queen here for so many years and the people of Roth have welcomed me with open arms year after year. It truly feels like a home away from home for me. I will be back here for the race next year.