How's your Mental toughness? World Top 10 Age Group Iron-woman Meredith Hill, gives a unique perspective.

Al: Today we are talking to Change Chai Ambassador, Meredith. We love Meredith not only for her  can-do attitude (Meredith is a World 10 Top Age Group Iron-woman), but her humility and down to earth approach to living and being herself. Meredith is the last person to mention she is batting with the world's best.

A take home message from this week's One Minute Magic clip is that with a bit of self-belief and hard work, we can achieve some pretty special goals, and have some fun along the way (if you like painful endurance events!)

The above video is 1.42 minutes long.

Watch the full interview below.


We spend 20 minutes with one of the world's top age group Iron-woman, Meredith Hill.  Apart from being very proud of her achievements, as a Change Chai Ambassador, Meredith embodies everything we stand for. She does the hard work, eats a chocolate when she wants and believes in herself enough to have a crack and see what she is capable of. And the result? A top 10 finish in her age group at the World Championship Hawaian Ironman in 51 degree heat. Mental toughness personified.

Meredith has had a great rise to world prominence in the sport of Ironman. Having raced twice at Kona, and recently qualified for the 2016 70.3 World Championships in Australia, Meredith is at the peak of her game. We spoke to Meredith about how she gets the results she does and still has a normal life. The interview a refreshing a down to earth account of a "ordinary" 33 year woman doing extraordinary things.

The simple take home is the mental game and when we manage our thoughts, all sorts of things are possible.

We love what Meredith does, we hope you do too.

Full Interview: Mental toughness in one of the world's toughest arenas, Kona Ironman, Hawaii.


In This Episode:

  • What it takes to get to the world championships of Ironman,
  • How hard Ironman athletes train (very .... hard!),
  • The two sides of our mind and how they work,
  • Mental toughness when it counts,
  • 80/20 rule: Common sense with nutrition and life balance.

Full Transcript:

Al: Hello and today's interview we're talking with Meredith Hill, Change Chai Ambassador and Iron-woman extraordinaire, how are you Meredith?

Meredith: I'm good thank you, how are you doing?

Al: I'm good, thanks for making time. Look firstly, congratulations on your results in Hawaii, are you happy with that?

Meredith: Yeah I was happy with that… surprising considering the times of the day I thought I was probably at 58, so pretty surprised obviously everyone else had a tough day as well.

Al: And so for the layman here, 8th in the world is that right for your category or what did you end up getting?

Meredith: Yes for my category so female it’s 34, I think there was 80 out of us that started the race in Hawaii so I came 8th.

Al: Wow mate that's a pretty amazing result and I guess for people that don't know what's involved to get to Hawaii, that's a pretty big deal. What did you have to do in order to get there, to even just to get into that race?

Meredith: To get a qualifying spot you basically need to, depending on the race, come in the top couple of your age group at an Imen brand race somewhere. So depending on how many slots Imen allocate to that race you might need to win and there might only be one slot in your age division at an Imen race or if there is more slots allocated, but just 3 within that age group might get allocated.

Al: Right and if so what did that mean for you? That was the Port Macquarie race, is that right or…?

Meredith: Yeah, Ironman Australia and there were 2 slots in my age division and so I got pipped by 14 seconds

Al: Wow gosh...

Meredith: I got to the second slot so Jess Richardson came first accepted hers and I accepted mine didn't roll down to anybody else.

Al: Awesome (…) so you came second on that day. 48 seconds in it, from actually winning in Australia is that right?

Meredith: No, that was within the age group.

Al: Okay so that's pretty good I think anyway and I guess just talking about Hawaii, Is it the pinnacle?, Why is it such a big deal? Is it because it's hot or it's the hard course or it's just where everybody goes?

Meredith: I think it's hard, because 35 years ago someone had a crazy idea, I think there was a debate as to when what was the hottest sports whether it was running a marathon or riding long distances on bike or swimming long distances, so there was a bunch of crazy Americans like, decided to put them all together on one day. I think the first event is actually held over on Ohau on one of the other islands, but these guys had no support and 50 dollars in their pockets to pick up supplies, basically just started this race and they did a 3.8 K swim and then a 180 K bike ride and a 42K run and tried to make a decision on which was the hardest.

Al: And that's how it started? Is that what they did?

Meredith: That's right that's how it started, years later it moved over to the world championship of Ironman. This race moved over to the big Island and I think it's well-known, it's guaranteed to be hot. It's always windy and it's quite tough, 22 miles in a lava field, it's just a very difficult marathon as well it's one of the toughest one-day events in the world

Al: So the 3.8 swim and the 180 K ride and a marathon just to tidy it up is that right?

Meredith: Yes

Al: Oh God that's insane really and how hot was it on the day?

Meredith: Forecast wise I think it was just in the 30s, but I've had a few people who drove their cars out a few section of the course and I heard between 47 and 51 deg C just because of the heat coming off the road.

Al: Radiant off the road? 51 degrees?

Meredith: Yes

Al: Wow gosh how do you I mean...

Meredith: Yeah, 51 degrees C but people's cars were reading and a bunch of people were saying their cars were saying 49 to 51.

Al: How do you.... you're in the middle of that doing something pretty excessive, how do you manage, did you just get in the zone or what's it like for you when you're in the middle of a race?

Meredith: I knew it was hot I couldn't keep my tail of as far as I normally would and I was going through more waters than I planned, so I usually have an alarm set on my bike and every 15 minutes it reminds me to drink (00:05:01) and usually in Ironman, I get so carried away so I need to be reminded probably every 3 or 4 minutes. I was thirsty and when you're thirsty it's too late, you're already getting dehydrated. Every eat station I was picking up bottles of water and just dripping it through my helmet and just trying to get myself as wet as possible and going through so much more fluid than I expected so I knew it was pretty hot.

Al: How much would you go through like in a race? You said you planned for a bit of water, what do need to get through a race like that?

Meredith: I would though over the 5 hours, 40 hours on the bike I would've probably gone through 10 L of fluid.

Al: 10 L of water?

Meredith: Yes.

Al: Well I guess it's electrolytes is it? Or what are you drinking?

Meredith: Yeah I go half half electrolytes with me and then bottles of water that I pick up along the way.

Al: And the same for the run do you find you need a bit more fuel with the run is it the same situation or do you hydrate more in that ?

Meredith: I never get in as much on the run because I don't take any bottles with me so every 1.6 km there is an eat station and the US do it really well there is Gatorade, water, Coke, red bull and they’ve got sweets as well there is fruits and pretzels. You pretty much, it's whatever you can get so you're pretty much grabbing cups of ice and cups of water and Gatorade and through that 200m or maybe even 80 m stretch, you’re just trying to get as much down as far as you can without vomiting.

Al: Sounds very enjoyable, is it that well-planned, your day? One thing I want to ask you is how do you prepare for a day like this? Is it nutrition or you've got to make sure you feed obviously. From a nutrition side, do you eat a particular way leading up to a race, do you manage that sort of thing?

Meredith: I don't do an extreme of anything I believe in moderation, so I do eat probably more carbs when I'm training than I would otherwise just because otherwise I wouldn't want to take up too much, but I'm about moderation. I have McDonald's when I feel like and I don't deprive myself of anything, but you know we eat pretty healthy and I try and get high proportion of protein in my diet deliberately each day, carbs if I know I've got 140 K ride the next day. I'll deliberately have sushi for lunch or something like that but I’m in no extreme, you know high-fat low-carb or anything.

Al: Yeah, you hear about it a lot of people taking it that way, but it's nice to hear a little voice of reason sometime, but as far as the physical side of getting ready, do you find is it more a physical battle or a mental battle when you’re actually out there racing or even preparing?. What do you feel is the big part for you, or does it just go hand-in-hand.

Meredith: On race they it's 95% mentally, I mean you're as good as you're going to get, I mean it's really just where your headspace is today, so unless you're sick or anything like or some reason cramping that you hadn't expected, but generally if you follow your nutrition plan and you've done the training the day is 10 hours in your own head and that's a mental battle.

Al: Because I hear this… You hear people… I actually talked to a guy he was a marathon runner and he says you're in your head, you're talking to yourself and that's really what it's about. You've got to be prepared to sit there and actually just have this great day with yourself.

Meredith: Yeah, two versions of you as well, because I find when things get really tough I've got the version of me that says, “you know you've already done really well and where you're coming in maybe 5th, but that's better than you expected so just ease up a little bit it's okay to have a quick walk” and then there's other version of you that's like, “don't be ridiculous, you don't walk, there's no reason why you should walk, just ignore the pain keep going, there is a plan” and then back to the other side that says, “it's okay slow down a little bit, it hurts” so it's a constant battle with like an angel and the demon on your shoulders.

Al: And who is the Angel, the one it's looking out for you?

Meredith: The Angel is the one that wants me to keep going and the demon is the one that says it's okay to stop and walk for 15 minutes.

Al: Right and you're just constantly having that battle and do you think that that's… because I mean your operating on the top level Meredith, do you think that's the difference when somebody actually gets to that point, that high-performance thing, is it the mental battle? I've often heard it is that ability to actually manage that self-talk, is that right?

Meredith: There's a lot of athletes at the top of their game who are just brilliant natural athletes and they are the Chrissie Wellington's (00:10:01) of our sports and the Pete Jacobs and then there's the other athletes who are just so focused and mental tenacity and they might not have enough talent as the others, but they make up for it with just that mental toughness and they're the ones that do better when things aren't going right on the day rather than the ones who have a natural talent.

Al: Good, well what do you think the hardest part? Do you find it hard doing the training or is it that something you really enjoy doing? Because there's a lot of training obviously. How long would it take to prepare for race like this?

Meredith: I think it depends where your fitness starts. If I starting from scratch I probably wouldn't prepare for an Ironman in any shorter time frame than about 14 weeks if I'm starting from scratch

Al: Okay

Meredith: If you're hovering around a Half Ironman fitness level, I usually think that you can ride for 3 hours and you know go through a 20 K run and it doesn't kill you then you know 10 to 12 weeks you can build up...

Al: Obviously....that's amazing! You can just go for a ride and then just go for a 20 K run and you should be fine! It's a crazy language! I guess you're just operating at that level you know, why was it triathlon for you? Why did you think… did it just feel good or is it just something that naturally comes to you or do you love this challenge, the whole mental toughness thing, is that what it's about?

Meredith: It didn't start that way, but that's where it's gone I started triathlon… Well I actually started running more just to neutralize all the bourbon and hot cross buns I was consuming!

Al: Perfect!

Meredith: Going through Uni I started putting on weight and I thought I have to do something about this so I started jogging. And because my form was terrible and I started getting injured and my brother said "why don't you get a bike and you can come riding with me?". So I got the cheapest road bike I could find and I started riding and then cross-training with running and that way, I didn't get injured quite so much. And then I saw there were these in Melbourne, the Gatorade Triathlon Series and someone I knew was doing one and I thought, I liked the way they are and I'm kind of up for it, I'll just have a crack. So I just signed up and I almost drowned I had to call for help, because I just got anxious and I hadn't swum in open water and elbowed in the face. So I thought that was pretty ordinary, I better do another one and do a better job, so each time I've done one I just increased the distance and ultimately you get to Ironman.

Al: When did you sort of kick off? Like how long have you been at it for now, a while or…?

Meredith: Well not very seriously, I think I started in about 2006 with one of the triathlon that takes 35 minutes, the Gatorade in Melbourne. So I started just with those Sprint series on and off for a little while and I think about 2007, I had a crack at a Olympic distance and I thought that was huge and then 2 years later I went for Half Ironman and then 2 years later I got a crack at the full Ironman and I’ve stuck with Ironman, now I love it.

AL: It's just amazing I mean,I don't even know how must feel like knowing that you’ve got 10 hours to go. I mean for most of us it's 16 hours, just grind your way through it. Does it really hurts, like is it bloody painful... what do you think?

Meredith: Yeah it does hurt, you can get through it and it hurts, but I'm going to be okay. And  then you can get to the point where at Hawaii this year, I didn't even look for my family or my partner at the finish, because I was actually worried I was going to pass out and not make the finish line. I was just so focused, so that really hurt. I basically finished and I could barely speak, whereas 2 years ago I had some bike problems I just cruised it. I just got it done I just really wanted to finish and I knew I wasn't going to place well, so I just enjoyed the day at that stage at the finish line I soaked it all up and I tuned in to everyone. I was fine the next day, and rode up a volcano 2 days later, so it's how hard you push. You can get through it with this level of fitness without too much damage or you can go a bit harder and really hurt yourself.

Al: I guess it's just a decision on the day. So what's next? Is this the pinnacle for you or what do you really want to have a crack at now? Because it sounds like the world is yours really...

Meredith: I'm still at very much just an amateur level. I mean the gap between myself and the top of the league girls is huge. So I'd love to close that a little bit. I never expect or never wanted to become top level professional, but I like the idea of closing that gap between myself and some of the elites a little bit. So next year I’d like to do the Half Ironman World Championships they are being held in (00:15:01) the Sunshine Coast. They are usually in Austria, but since they’re here I’m going to go. They’re just down the road, so let me get to Ballarat and qualify in December and hopefully that will get me a spot for next September at the world's. Otherwise next year is just about doing cool races So I'm not trying to get focused, I'm just going to Germany to do a Challenge in July.

Al: Oh are you? So the one in Germany, we had a quick chat about that, that's down sort of around Munich is it? And that's a full triathlon is it not or is that a half or…?

Meredith: Yes it's a Ironman distance triathlon run by Challenge rather than being run by Ironman but it's the same, 140.6 miles...

Al: And you're going to race that one or that's just the let's go and enjoy yourself, the one in Munich...

Meredith: No actually no I'm going to trying to a speedy time on that one.

Al: And then...

Meredith: And then in February I'm going to head over to New Zealand I think and that's definitely not a speedy race It’s pretty hilly, but it's a Challenge race like, so that's just for the scenery and the spectacular run, half the run I think is on trails. It's going to be beautiful but hard Ironman distance race so I want to do that just because…

Al: Because you can, because you're unbelievably fit and unbelievably talented! Blood hell! Mate I won’t keep you. Thanks very much well done again. I don't know what to say I just think it's amazing what you do and you say you’re not at the top level, but top 10 in the world for me, I just don't even know how I fathom that. But you make so real, you sound like you're just somebody who can still eat McDonald's and still do your bits and pieces and just quietly become top 10 in the world. I just think that's pretty cool.

Meredith: Well thank you it's a lot of 4am start.

Al: I know I was going to say it's come from a long way, but hey you're really inspirational and thank you for chatting with us and hopefully we'll catch up soon

Meredith: Thanks for that

Alistair Schuback
Alistair Schuback