Interview with Pro Triathlete Emma Kate Kidbury

Emma Kate Lidbury recently made the move from the UK to California, and with 4th place at Escape from Alcatraz and 1st at IM 70.3 Texas, her season is off to a fantastic start.  Emma Kate is a very talented athlete and a great person, and we had the chance to sit down and ask her a few questions about her recent win in Texas. 

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Tell us about your decision to come over to the states and base yourself here

As I see it, I have a finite amount of time in which to achieve my potential as a professional triathlete and in that time I want to maximize every training and racing opportunity. Since teaming up with Matt Dixon and purplepatch in December 2011, we have both been acutely aware that me being Stateside would greatly enhance those opportunities. I had been doing the majority of my training alone in the UK and we felt this was limiting my performance and development. I spent time in Santa Monica last summer and instantly felt at home. The training set-up is superb and wherever I turn I have great people to train with. Matt works closely with swim coach Gerry Rodrigues who runs the Tower 26 swim program here. It's awesome and I'm extremely happy here.

What's the biggest difference between living and training in the US vs. the UK?

The weather is a major factor. Southern California enjoys a somewhat different climate to the UK! Anyone who's ever spent extended time in the UK will know it is usually cold, wet and miserable. When your livelihood depends on being able to train outdoors, this doesn't make life as easy as it could be. I am someone who functions optimally in sunshine!

Tell us a little bit about your dislocated shoulder and what you've done over the past 2 weeks to deal with the physical injury?

I dislocated my right shoulder about a fortnight ago right after swim practice. I was doing some fairly benign shoulder stretching when I suffered a posterior dislocation. This has happened in the past but it has been several years since it last occurred and I had no warning signs whatsoever. Gerry very kindly took me to the ER where they were able to put me back together quickly and I think that made a huge difference to recovery time. They advised six weeks of immobilization but Gerry and I both scoffed at that! Within two days Gerry had me swimming one-armed and my range of movement came back remarkably quickly. Two days after that I rejoined the regular Tower 26 swim program and was amazed I was able to swim OK. My shoulder/right arm was weaker but improved with every workout. I also began some intensive PT with a guy called Chris Pogson in Santa Monica and he has been terrific. He is, for sure, one of the main reasons I have been back in the water and swimming so strongly again so soon. We are continuing to work together on strength and stabilization to prevent future occurrences.

Did you do anything to focus on mental recovery?

I ploughed a lot of energy into staying positive and focusing on the things I could control and continue to do (shoulder rehab; riding; running; limited swimming). I was initially very frustrated as I felt so ready for Oceanside. I am extremely fortunate to be surrounded by so many positive people. Matt and Gerry were superb at keeping me on track and I have some great friends here who really helped me – special mention to fellow purplepatcher and CycleOps sponsored athlete Sarah Piampiano. She is awesome!

What was your strategy coming into the race?

Both Matt and I knew the bike was going to be where I could potentially win this race, so that was a big focus. Shoulder permitting, we wanted me to be front pack coming out of the swim and then ride away from the field so I had a comfortable buffer running out of T2. I knew I would have some of the fastest runners in the sport chasing me down so it was the only way to approach this race for me.

Was part of your strategy to ride as hard/fast as you went? Do you stick with a race plan or improvise based on competition and race dynamics?

I usually have a race plan but caveat it with the fact that all good racers have to be able to adapt and manage any situation which unfolds. My strategy was not to ride as hard or as fast as I could, as I knew I still needed to be a "complete" triathlete, run strongly off the bike and reach the finish line first. Riding way above race pace power would have likely been run suicide! My PowerTap was a key part of my race strategy: I would usually ride at around 240w (normalized power) for a 70.3 but try not to pay too close attention to the figures during a race. I often use it as a guide rather than be ruled by it in a race. However, in Texas, I relied on it more heavily and tried to hold 250w in the earlier miles in a bid to get some daylight between me and the others right from the outset.

Your cycling was really impressive (with only Jessica being remotely close to your time)…have you always been a strong cyclist, and what is your cycling background?

When I first took up triathlon in 2005, cycling was the discipline I had the least experience of. I had been a competitive swimmer as a kid and had always done some running to keep fit. I had never ridden a road bike and, funny as it sounds now, it took me a long time to master clipping into pedals! Some of the guys I went on my first training camp with back then can tell you some funny tales! However, I surrounded myself with strong riders and from '06 onwards spent a lot of time cycling with people who were far fitter and more experienced than me. I would just work my butt off to try to hold their back wheel. I also spent a lot of time riding in the Canary Islands (Spanish islands off the coast of Africa) where the winds are notoriously harsh (think Kona on a crazy day) and it forces you to become a strong rider.

A lot of people were commenting on the cross winds on the Texas race course but I barely noticed them! I recently signed with Smart ENVE wheels and I'm not just saying this to please sponsors, I am genuinely blown away by their wheelsets. Simon Smart is an ex-Formula 1 aerodynamics engineer and he and ENVE have something pretty special going on. I raced the 6.7 carbon clinchers (60mm front + 70mm rear) in Texas and their handling is sublime: stiff, stable, extremely fast. Part of my deal with them also includes working with Simon's company, Drag2Zero, in the wind tunnel back in the UK. This is an area I've never explored before, so those bike splits could be getting faster! It was also the first time I'd raced in the Rudy Project Wingspan TT helmet and I was impressed with that.

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Looking at your power file, your race was very steady (Emma Kate averaged 233 watts with an NP of 237), with almost no spikes in wattage in the beginning of the ride, and almost no drop-off in the 2nd half. What was the your plan leaving T1?

We all left T1 within a few seconds of each other and the minute my feet hit the pedals I was off. I didn't burn any matches but I definitely put in a concerted effort to get away right from mile one.

I wasn't worried about a certain pace as I knew the wind could affect that greatly but I was keeping half an eye on my Joule so I knew what my power output was. I didn't want to ride too hard and then fade away, but equally I wanted to ensure I was riding as strongly as I could.

What's next on the calendar for you, and what are your big objectives for the remainder of the year?

Next up is 70.3 St George which is going to be epic! It's a stacked field so I'm excited to get in the mix and have another strong race. After that, I will likely race another couple 70.3s in June before doing Vineman in July. And then preparation for 70.3 Worlds begins! That's one of my major goals for the season – to be a real contender in Vegas.

Congrats again on a remarkable comeback and a great race. We're already looking forward to St. Geroge!

Thanks! I am excited about what I can achieve this season and am hugely grateful to all of my sponsors: Morris Owen Accountants, Virtua, Smart ENVE, Rudy Project, High5 Nutrition, Huub, ISM Saddles, Speedfil, Compressport, Zoot Sports and, of course, CycleOps.

I am still on the lookout for a bike sponsor this season, so if there are any bike brands out there who might be interested then please get in touch – I promise to ride their bikes FAST and at the front of races at all times.