Reigning Regent 5150 champion and last year’s runner-up Sam Betten descends on Cebu with an improved, faster run—and offers tips to newbies to boot

By Eric Nicole Salta | Photos by Harry Dennis Photography courtesy of Sam Betten

Speeding into his second race at Ironman 70.3 Cebu, Australia’s Sam Betten is looking to claim a top podium finish that eluded him in his debut race in 2014. This towering triathlete proves he has the goods, and then some: mental toughness, tireless legs, and persistent focus. Above all, Betten showed he has stores of another characteristic, one he has constantly displayed whenever he doesn’t get the results he expects, such as at the recent ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships.

“I am always motivated to push myself harder in training and I believe that when you don’t quite get the results you are after on race day it motivates you even more in training to find that extra level of fitness for that next race.” This kind of attitude goes a long way towards justifying Betten as a strong contender for the Philippines’ premier triathlon race.

Last year, you finished second, do you feel any sort of pressure to do one step better this time around and claim that top spot?

I don’t really feel too much pressure leading into the event after placing second last year. I know that this year it will be very tough to capture that top spot on the podium with the super strong list of athletes racing. Having the opportunity to race with some of the biggest names in the sport of triathlon is something that I see as a big opportunity rather than adding pressure to perform.

I think the biggest thing I see newcomers to the sport make the mistake of is trying something new on race day they haven’t tried in their training. Always use the same hydration or equipment that you use in training and never try anything new

Given that you’ve already had a taste of how the race was last year, did you make any adjustments or tweaks to your training to improve your performance on race day?

Last year’s race was one of the hottest events I have done and I really learned a lot from that race. Last year I choose to wear a sleeveless tri suit however this year I will be wearing my new Scody A.I.R sleeved race suit, which I’ve found keeps me a lot cooler by shielding my upper back and arms from the sun as well as holding some added moisture. Training has stayed relatively the same as last year. I did a half marathon two weeks before Ironman 70.3 Cebu this year to work on my race run speed, which I hope helps on race day.

How do you stay focused in a race like 70.3 Cebu?

Like anyone racing out there whether you are a professional or age-group triathlete, it’s important to just focus on the little things that make up your entire race. For me, in the swim I just focus on my swim stroke and staying calm; on the bike I place a big focus on making sure I am eating and drinking enough; and on the run I think how I can keep cool and run strong.

What do you think is the most crucial for you in order to win?

The run leg will be very important if you are going to win Cebu. Last year, I struggled in the heat during the run however I still managed to cross the line in second place. This year I would like to run better than I did in 2014 and I feel that this will be my key leg of the race if I were to win the event.

Is there a specific part of the Cebu course that you love or hate?

I really love the swim leg as there are so many sea creatures to look under you while you are swimming. I can’t really say I hate any part of the course however I will say that the back end of the run course is very tough!

Your most recent race was at the ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships where you finished 9th. Last year, I believe you placed 8th. From a professional perspective, how do you keep on motivating yourself and competing at a high level when sometimes, you know, you don’t get the results you wanted?

This year’s World Championships had a very strong field as well as a shortened 1.5-kilometer swim (usually four kilometers), which led to a less desired result on race day for me. I’m usually a very strong swimmer so the shortened swim was a disadvantage for me. I’m always motivated to push myself harder in training and I believe that when you don’t quite get the results you are after on race day it motivates you even more in training to find that extra level of fitness for that next race.

I believe that when you don’t quite get the results you are after on race day it motivates you even more in training to find that extra level of fitness for that next race

Which of the three disciplines has been your focus lately?

I’ve been placing a big focus on my run leg, which I feel now is getting very strong. I raced a half marathon on the weekend in which I finished in an hour and 13 minutes.

You’ve mentioned that you are looking to race more in the Philippines. What is the appeal for you of competing in the Philippines?

I really enjoy the support and the vibe at these events. Coming from Australia the travel is pretty easy for the most part, which is always nice as well. The racing is getting very tough and it really pushes me as an athlete racing in the Philippines. The tag line of ‘It’s more fun in the Philippines’ is very true and I really enjoy every race I do in this amazing country.

Can you share three common mistakes that triathletes shouldn’t make or avoid when competing?

I think the biggest thing I see newcomers to the sport make the mistake of is trying something new on race day they haven’t tried in their training. Always use the same hydration or equipment that you use in training and never try anything new.

Secondly, ensure that your bike is working well before you come to the event. Check your tires and gear as well as all the other components to ensure that you minimize the risk of a mechanical breakdown.

Lastly, at a race like Cebu ensure you are drinking enough throughout the race to ensure you are keeping hydrated. This is so important at hot events and really affects your performance.