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Issy Coombes

‘To whom this may concern’

That’s how the story begins.

A few months ago we got an email from a former pro NZ footballer, she’s swapped footballs for goggles, a bike and a pair of running shoes -she’s a triathlete now, and damn she’s started strong.

With such a rapid transition from the pitch to the course, and so much potential yet to be unlocked, we can’t help but dream of a future champion –in sport, in life. Now taking a break from being a part time triathlete, she’s focusing in enjoying the sport.

She’s a Negative Split Brand Ambassador, an extension of our DNA, someone that reminds us that when you combine belief and hard work, you’re unstoppable.

Her name is Isabelle.

1997, Hamilton (New Zealand).

NS: So Issy, first things first, why Negative Split?

IC: I had been interested in getting some carbon wheels for a while… but since I have a philosophy that it’s the person on the bike that produces a good time not the bike or equipment itself I had been putting it off.

The more races I did the more I realised you need all the marginal gains you can get and carbon wheels could really make a difference to my riding especially in non-drafting races. A few of my friends through triathlon had mentioned a new company NS carbon offered high quality wheels at an affordable price so I checked them out, got in contact and bamb here we are now!

NS: You mentioned that you competed in Triathlon throughout your High School years, to then dedicate most of your recent life to football (or soccer) -sorry I’m European I had to change the order ;), and now you’re back in the #swimbikerun life, and what a start you’re having!

And so I have to ask, from a football to triathlon transition perspective, what are the advantages and disadvantages?

IC: I really enjoyed the 15 years I played soccer, the beautiful game really doesn’t compare to anything else but I just felt I had done my dash, had some amazing achievements, visited some awesome countries but now it was time to try something new.

I always had an interest in triathlon as a youngster and just like most kiwi kids I played every sport under the sun. I would compete at the interschool and national events most years and managed to do pretty well with very limited training so thought surely if I trained a bit more and started to take things seriously I could do quite well in this sport.

Coming from soccer you have that team sport background which I think is really good coming into an individual sport as you have that general body strength from years of multidirectional training that a lot of triathletes don’t have.

The mental fatigue is actually a lot more challenging than expected. The key to cope?, positivism -look forward to the learning from every training session.

NS: To be a triathlon champion you need to be (very) fit –physically, but also have quite a strong mentality. Which one in your opinion is more important, and why?

IC: You definitely have to be fit that’s for sure!

When I started competing in triathlon I knew that I would have to do more training than I did with football and realised that would be tough physically but the mental fatigue is actually a lot more challenging than expected.

I wasn’t used to all the early swim starts, multiple sessions a day and constantly having to push yourself into that uncomfortable zone when training. So I definitely think that the mental toughness is more important especially when you don’t have your team mates around you like you do in soccer.

Saying that, I believe that you enjoy training a lot more when you’re having fun and it really takes the mental pressure off. So I’m having a bad day or just feeling pretty tired from uni then I’ll usually look to do a session I enjoy with maybe a couple of mates and just go and have some fun.

NS: Any tips to share around how to build mental strength?

IC: In terms of mental strength I’d say I'm still learning the ropes on how to cope with this but positivity definitely makes a difference. I think if you can be positive going into a tough session -or find the positives in a session, even when it doesn’t go the way you wanted, you'll definitely see improvements.

Nutrition during sessions is also important to ensure you can put out maximal effort when needed.

NS: Could you give us a snapshot of how the life of a 21 year old student and triathlete looks like?

IC: On most week days I get up around 6:00 for swimming or an ealry run or gym session that usually lasts about an hour. Head home for a solid breakfast with some good sources of protein to start the muscle repair and recovery. I study 3 papers per semester at the moment so will spend the morning and early afternoon focusing on my studies.

Most days I’ll usually have two sessions so this would likely include a bike or a run in the afternoon which could be anywhere from 40 minutes to 2 hours so nutrition during sessions is also important to ensure you can put out maximal effort when needed. When I get home I’ll usually have a smoothie or recovery shake whilst warming down.

If I have more uni things to get done I’ll spend some time in the evenings working on that, otherwise I’ll enjoy some downtime, catch up with friends and have a good dinner.

2-3hrs/day ~15-20hrs/week training.

NS: I’m sure keeping yourself sane while choreographing life and triathlon must be quite a challenge... What’s the hardest part?

IC: As someone who needs their sleep I think the early mornings are pretty tough as if you’re tired to start the day it’s tough to stay motivated and get everything done.

It’s all about that life balance so as someone who’s not competing at the elite level anymore I put a bit more focus on the other aspects of my life (study and work) so when I do train, I try and stay focused and put in a good effort for the entire session.

NS: Well, so far it seems you’re doing all right!

Hey, let’s talk about wheels, shall we? ;)

Can you recall your first encounter with a carbon wheel?

IC: Even when I cycled at high school I never used carbon wheels so my first encounter was actually with a pair I borrowed off my friend Jessie Hodges (NZ Cyclist) for the Nationals at Kinloch. I had a stellar ride with one of the fastest bike splits seperated by only seconds so thought maybe it was time to invest in my own pair if I was going to take my racing to the next level.

The amount of effort you put in! (on the bike, the one thing that can make all the difference, and is under your control)

NS: At Negative Split, we put the customer in the center, always. We approach this exercise by asking 3 simple questions. The answers will reveal what the customer is really looking for and whether investing in carbon wheels is (or isn’t) a good idea.

Let’s put Issy ‘in the center’;

1. Why do you think you need carbon wheels?

IC:The cycle leg is probably my strongest of the three but I want to have every advantage I can get so think carbon wheels would be a great addition to my set up!

2. Would the actual performance gain make a difference in your decision?

IC: If the difference was minimal then maybe I wouldn’t get them but I’m pretty sure they make a big difference!

3. And lastly, how often do you ride?

I usually have 3-4 rides a week hitting somewhere arund that 150km mark.

NS: Our assessment concludes that….

  • Marginal gains are fundamental to you (and therefore, really, any gain would justify the use of carbon wheels)

  • You’re putting a substantial volume of riding into your training

  • You’re likely to have the ability (and power) to get that extra speed from enhanced aerodynamics

Good volume of training, strong performance and marginal gains being fundamental does seem to justify an investment in carbon wheels in this instance! ;)

Triathlon is one of the toughest sports I’ve ever put my hand too so it’s pretty awesome to see how many kiwis get involved.

NS: As a cyclist, when you’re on the bike, what is that one thing that can make all the difference (and is under your control)?

IC: The amount of effort you put in!

NS: You’ve got some amazing results and you really haven’t even started, what’s next in your triathlon agenda?

IC: For now I’m just taking some time to enjoy training with the NZ season having finished back in March. I’m heading over to Europe to get some work experience so will be nice to enjoy a bit of riding over there and maybe even catch a glimpse of the Tour de France.

I’ll start to ramp training up a bit as we head into the NZ summer and probably look to do my first race of the season at the peoples triathlon series in auckland!

// Getting to know the true Issy a bit better.

NS: Someone you look up to?

IC: To be honest I admire any athlete that competes in triathlon!

It’s one of the toughest sports I’ve ever put my hand too so it’s pretty awesome to see how many kiwis get involved. If I had to pick one person though it would probably be Javier Gomez and it was super awesome to be able to meet him and race with him at the Marra Tri back in March this year.

NS: What’s THE RACE you’d like to win?

IC: I’d love to win the Tinman at some point! I haven't done an Olympic distance race yet so it will be interesting to see how the body copes…. Especially with that 10K run!

NS: All right last one –for now

IC: You come out of the water first and you’re leading on the bike now, do you wait for the rest of the pack to ride together or do you take off?

IC: Take off!

I think Triathlon is about being strong across all 3 disciplines and if I get the chance to go solo and show what I can do then I would definitely go for it!

Issy rides deep-V section 38mm front and rear full carbon wheels, coupled with Continental Grand Prix 5000 tyres.

'I chose this depth because I can use them for training and racing so I’m always used to the feel of my wheels when it comes race day!' -Issy

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