Lizi, you have many strings to your bow! Triathlon coach, Exercise rehab specialist, trainee Osteopath.. and now a Professional Triathlete… tell us your story?!
I used to be a bit of a couch potato and even though I worked in a gym, I’d binge on junk food and drink wine every day because that was my lifestyle, until one day I decided to turn it all around. I was only 25 and didn’t want to live like that. I began the transformation with a year of rowing which was 8-10 hour weeks of training – at the time I considered that a lot. Summer 2016 I was on rowing camp in Spain and day two into the training camp developed a rowing specific injury which Ironically meant I could do anything but row on rowing camp… so I spent the rest of the week running laps of the rowing lake.
A few months later one of my best friends took me out cycling. I was terrified of cars, didn’t have the confidence to ride in cycle shoes and I would get off my bike to walk down hill because I was afraid of descending!!! Despite all this I fell in love with riding because I used to pass people on hills wearing running shoes on my bike!
One day whilst I was working at a clinic I started talking to a 60 year old colleague that had recently done an Ironman. He convinced me that if I trained with volume and a low heart rate I could build my fitness without getting injured so I read a book by a genius called Dr. Maffetone and set off to train for an Ironman.
I met some incredibly inspiring people in the process and grew more and more ambitious.
My first Ironman Summer 2017 during the Frankfurt heatwave was ‘a bit of a flop’. Having never done a marathon before I learnt the hard way that if you are not prepared well, it takes a very long time to walk it (particularly an ironman marathon). Until you get your nutrition strategy right then your body will not forgive you.
I had a complete diet change at the start of 2018 and started eating a lot more veggies and a lot less sugar. Training went back to the basics of just doing low heart rate training and volume. January – the start of the following year, with just over a year of training, I raced my first Duathlon of the year and ended up 2nd place on the podium with a huge 10KM PB. This was the start of my self belief that consistency was paying off and that I could achieve what I set out to do. This consistency continued through to summer hardly thinking about my next Ironman because I was so focused on my exams but come my first 70.3 of the year (Staffordshire 70.3) I ended up 2nd on the podium with the fastest overall female bike split and qualified for 70.3 world championships in South Africa where I ended up coming 12th in the world and 1st in the UK for my age group.
After my exams that summer I was able to focus more on training for the full distance and I raced Ironman Argentina and won my age group taking a Kona slot in my second year of triathlon.
This is when I decided I wanted to go pro. They say it takes a minimum 4 years for someone with the potential, with consistent training for them to earn a pro license so this was my goal and I still had another 2 years. The following year was all about kona. After numerous 180km rides on the indoor turbo, long run builds, heat chamber sessions and my constant slog in the pool in flippers trying to keep up with faster swimmers.
Finally kona came round October 2019… and it was an anti climax!
Don’t get me wrong, I loved every minute of the gruelling course, I loved the vibes and the ironman community. It was so great to be part of it all. but to get a slower marathon time after a whole extra year of training felt very disheartening.
Soon after coming home from hawaii, I went back to off season training, long easy rides, long easy runs, basically a lot of volume but just because I loved the long easy stuff because it allows me to think things through clearly. To my surprise 5 weeks later I received an email from a sponsor offering funding for me to race 10 days later at the South american championship. In most cases it would have been sensible to say no but my gut feeling was fired up with all cylinders and I rang the one friend I knew would tell me to go and ignored everyone else!! ‘do it for networking’ she said!!, this was a great way to take the pressure off! So I went 4 days out from the race, smiling 24 hours a day so happy to be there and to have another opportunity to race again that year in the sunny argentinian vibes whilst it was getting cold and wet in the UK!
Race day comes. Race starts with a rolling start, I see 2 girls who had beaten me in kona enter the water. I wait 5 minutes after all I know that when I catch them on the bike I have a 5 minute lead. At this point I thought this could help prevent them from running me down.
60km into the bike and I pass them both. I enter transition and have a camera interview “how was that windy bike, Elizabeth?” “Brutal but I loved it!”
fastest T2 ever, I threw my trainers on a pelted out a 20 minute 5k flash start to the marathon flying with adrenaline through a tail wind, turn back round the cone into the headwind and counting the time on my watch as to when I see girl in second. She’s 10 minutes back! If we both ran the same speed we did last year she would beat me. Next cone, I see her again and I’ve put more time into her.. I’m running faster! My watch battery dies. I have no clue how fast I’m running but I use distance to measure the gap Im building between us and I use the roar of the crowd to keep my happy hormones alight. I finished the race 1st place. I enjoyed the moment so much that I didn’t even check my times, then finding out 4 hours later that I’d ran a 20minute personal best with a 3.15 marathon and I won by 17minutes. Little did I know that this qualified me for a professional licence.
Off the back of the success from this race my I had another sponsor offering to pay for me to go and race Oman 70.3 in February so I didnt even think twice.
Christmas was a nice time for off season because of the extra time for training easy miles whilst indulging a bit in festive food making the decision to give up alcholol completely from new years day until Oman 70.3 and see what difference it would make to training and recovery. No surprises it changed everything. After 3 years of low HR training I was able to keep my HR low which meant that even going to threshold I was still getting only increasing the HR to the point of most peoples ‘easy pace’ which meant I could train harder still inline with the MAF training but recover even faster because I was keeping my physiology in the best environment possible. That gave me the confidence to know on race day when it all came together I would be able to run the same speed off the bike as I ran in training.
2 days before race day Natasha Badman 6X Kona world Champion shows up to race. She is now in her early 50s which would have slowed her run a bit but she was still known for being a demon on the bike. After hearing people talk about how she was going to win the race I kept my feelings to myself. I knew she’d have a better swim and we should have a pretty similar bike but I was confident my new running speed would be enough to catch her on the run. I was in 2nd place off the bike and started the chase down but it was hot! Once I settled into rhythm feeling pretty overheated looking around for her and finally 8km into the run I saw her. 2km later she was running onto the second lap next the finish line shoot and I hear on the microphone “natasha badman in first place!!! But wait she’s being caught by Lizi Duncombe who’s running much faster”. By the end of the race I had put another 7minutes into her and I’d won Oman 70.3
It’s a big risk going Professional. When you’re used to being on top of the podium as an age grouper and then suddenly your competition can get nearly an hour faster, It’s a bit like starting from scratch again but it only took me 3 years to get here and I think I’ve got what it takes over the next few years to prove myself as a professional. You make your own fate and this is mine!
Virtual races seem to be a theme of 2020 so im digging my teeth in!
My debut race as a professional, was the WTRL Team Timetrial on the virtual London Classics course. I used my social media platform to headhunt the best female time trialists and triathletes I know including Ruth Astle (the girl that won amaetuer in Kona and just turned professional herself). We were up against Lucy Charles and some of the best professional athletes in the world and we won, all down to team overall power and commitment to perform. Not such a bad start to my new career. This is every thursday 6.20pm.
Race the Zwift Tri Pro series and make top 3 (whilst still in lockdown)
Win Alp duez Triathlon (luckily this is only climbing and no descending!)
Get my Ironman Marathon down to 3.05
If you wish to follow my journey on Instagram for my latest updates!