Friday, 9 December 2011

Ironman Western Australia 2011 - Race Report

Apologies in advance that this is a little long so settle in...

Pre-Race

Travel to Busso all went to plan and before I knew it we were at the carbo dinner on the Friday night. This was a little disappointing, great set up but the content was a little slow, was good to hear from a few of the pros including Pete Jacobs (2nd in World Champs this year). They showed some of the footage of his race in Kona; Pete had caught and passed Andreas Realert, then been passed again and as he fought back and once again went past Raelert as the big German was struggling through an aid station, the camera captured Pete giving a little fist pump as he only had a few k to go and obviously felt that 2nd place was in the bag.

The next clip showed PJ heading through an aid station, clearly blowing to pieces, in the space of 20m he probably took 15 cups of water/Gatorade/coke etc from the volunteers and looked in all sorts of trouble. Then in a classic moment, an American guy watching from a car just in front of Pete screams out: “EAT THE PAIN PETE, EAT THE PAIN!!!” priceless moment, and certainly the mantra for all the competitors on the day in Busso.


Race morning

A 3.10am alarm call (!!!) and a quick breakfast before heading down to transition. It still warm from the day before (Saturday had been 34 degrees) and there was a steady North-Easterly breeze, very different from the year before where it had been fairly cool in the morning and completely still.

Ironman set up is pretty simple given that you check in bike and transition bags the day before so a quick stop at the bike to pump up tyres and put drinks on then off to chill out a bit before getting the wetsuit on and heading to the swim start.

Swim (1.04.26)
My plan here was to start close to the front and get the benefit of some faster feet, I was happy to have a few people swim over me if it avoided me having to pass too many others, as the final countdown came to the 5.45am start(!) a few people crept away from the start line, I stayed where I could still stand about shoulder deep but soon enough we were away. I had a great start, after a minute of swimming reasonably solidly to establish a position, I settled in for the long haul.

The swim was pretty uneventful (just how I want it to be!), following the jetty for 1.8km should be easy but somehow I found myself getting pushed around a bit by the water and felt like I took a longer route out than ideal. As I got towards the aquarium at the end of the pier the swell was pretty significant, big rolling waves rather than ugly choppy stuff so not too difficult to swim in but did make me start to feel a little sea-sick!

The swim back seems twice as long!! After a few hundred meters a guy slowly overtook me and I managed to jump in behind him and sit on his feet for most of the way in (minor apologies to the guy who was following his feet who I ‘moved’ out of the way!), he had a nice solid kick producing plenty of bubbles so was easy to follow, after a few looks up to check on our bearings, I decided he was pretty good at swimming straight so just tried to relax and follow him in. About half way back my swim cap popped off my head, no real issue but they are always quite a nice souvenir so that was a shame!!

Finally the beach started to actually seem to get closer, I still felt like I had loads of energy and although the swim felt a little slow, it was mission accomplished in terms of getting out feeling a bit fresher. A reasonably purposeful run up the beach to see 1.04.26 on the clock (time in the picture is for the pro's who start 15 mins earlier), similar to last year I thought and with the weather forecast ahead, I had already put aside any expectations of a sub 10 hour race. That was fine though, you can only deal with what is put in front of you on the day and I got through the chaos of T1 as quickly as I could then grabbed the bike and was on my way.

(My swim was actually 1 second slower than my time last year – although you can tell conditions were slower as I was 137 places higher (241st) in the field this year coming out of the swim compared to 2010.)

Bike

Lap 1 of bike (original front tyre and spares attached)

This year was the first time I had trained and raced with a power meter so I was confident that I knew exactly what I was aiming for in terms of pacing. The target for the race was 210-215Watts, and after a nice solid start, quickly settled into that pace, which when fresh, feels relatively easy. Trouble came fairly quickly though, I was about 17k into the race when the bike started making a very unhappy noise. I pulled over to find a flat front wheel, bugger!! A quick check of the wheel and I found that the valve was slightly undone, I therefore hoped that it was just a slow leak so quickly used a CO2 canister to put some air in it and hopped back on. Another km or so down the road though and it was clear that it was a ‘proper’ puncture.


End of lap 1 - 120km to go!
No idea why I need to stick my tongue out.

I didn’t panic too much although it was frustrating watching all that time just drift away and heaps of people ride past, I managed to get the tyre off without too much trouble (was using tubulars which thankfully had been glued on with a triathlete in mind – i.e. not too much glue) and fiddled around with the spare a little but that went on ok and I managed to get some decent pressure in it with the one remaining gas canister that I had (I do also carry a small pump just in case). Looking back after the race, I think the puncture fixing cost me about 10 minutes all up so not as fast as it could have been but not the end of the world.



Onto lap 2 - good thing I was taking salt tablets
- plenty being sweated out. No spares
left now, getting hotter!

Back on the road and I was conscious not to try and make up time and ride hard, it was going to be a long day! This was reinforced by Brendan as I caught back up to him, wise words helped keep me in check. So it was back to goal pace. That went fine until about 50-60km where I started to feel the heat a little. This just got worse over the next couple of hours, there was a bit of a headwind on the first part of the lap but having done lots of training around the bay in Melbourne where there is generally plenty of wind, that wasn’t bothering me too much, but on the longer out an back section on lap 2 (out of 3) I was really suffering with the heat, my legs had pretty much no power and to be honest all I felt like doing was going to sleep! I’ve never felt so bad, so early in a ride and was really worried about how the rest of the day was going to go. This bad patch seemed to go on forever, I just got slower and slower, power was non-existent and I was seriously uncomfortable with the heat. (Looking back at my data from the day you can see that this was the hottest part of the ride with the temperature climbing up to 36 degrees at about the 110km mark).


At each aid station, in addition to grabbing my drinks for the actual ride, I was grabbing 2 spares of water and throwing the whole of those over every part of me to try and cool down. This was nice for about 2 minutes until I just got hot again!!

It was a bit of a relief to be on the last lap, although I knew that my time was not going to be close to what I wanted, power was still nowhere to be seen and at times I was almost hoping for another puncture to give me a reason to pull out (I had no more spares). Knowing that Brendan was not far behind me I knew that this was a flawed strategy though as I could guarantee that he would have offered me his spare had he seen me stranded on the side of the road!!

About 145k in to the ride a little cloud cover came over and took a bit of the sting out of the temperature and on the last 11k section into the wind my legs seemed to start to come back to me. From there on in, things went fairly well, and my spirits lifted a little as I was motoring past a good number of other athletes.

Run

Into T2 and a quick change and I was on my way, given the temperatures, I was pretty nervous about the conditions, my ideal race would have seen me run around the 3.35-3.40 mark and so I headed out onto the run and settled into about 5 min/km pace and waited to see how the body felt. After a couple of km I needed a toilet stop which was at least a sign that I had not got myself too dehydrated to that point, The first toilet was at the turn around point after about 2.5km but they had put the toilet about 20m past the turning point, there was no way I was adding an extra 40m on to my run so I decided to hold on until the next one which was right on the course!!


almost half way
- suffering is really kicking in now

I felt ok for the first 5k and with a race plan to try and run well when my legs felt ok, I tried to concentrate on holding my effort over that initial section. I got to 10k in about 52 mins which, with a toilet stop was not too bad, first wrist band taken and then out for lap 2 (of 4). There was still a bit of cloud cover at this point so although I was hot and covering myself in water at each aid station and filling my clothes with ice I felt relatively ok. Towards the end of that second lap though I started to struggle, legs were failing me and those damn clouds had decided to give way to sunshine, I remember going through half way on the marathon and looking at my watch, 1.54 was already on the clock, my legs were really starting to struggle and I was thinking this could be a long trip home!


As I went past the finish area and onto my third lap, 9 hours was on the clock and I heard the commentator say that this year only 9 people (including the pros) had gone under 9 hours compared to more than 30 last year so I at least had some reassurance that it was a tough day for most.

Lap 3 is a bit of a blur, I had caught Greg, who was one of the ‘originals’ at Tri-alliance when I first started the sport a few years back. I was a lap up on Greg but now being forced into walking breaks was now regularly swapping places with him and it was great to get some encouragement. I was moving pretty slowly at this point and was grateful that Erika was also able to find me regularly and was a great help to keep me going.

Finally on to the last lap but I was really suffering, I normally like to say a big thank you to all the volunteers at the aid stations on the way round the last lap but most of my focus was on staying upright so I probably didn’t give them as much as I would have liked. Once into the final 7k I thought I would be able to jog home but my body was completely toasted, fingers and face were tingling and I felt like I was going to pass out so I had a long walking section, probably 5 or 10 minutes, at one point and older lady walked past me and I couldn’t even keep up with her walk!!

A feeling of relief more than anything
was pleased to still be in one piece!
I got out near the turnaround point where Erika had decorated the course with chalk writing the day before and decided that I should listen to the “EAT THE PAIN” message and force myself back to a slow jog to the far turnaround aid station. It was at this point that I actually overtook last years winner, Courtney Ogden who had been forced to walk most of the marathon (I had also un-lapped myself once from Leon Griffin and Luke McKenzie earlier in the race!)

Once through that aid station I managed to slowly jog the lasts few km all the way back into town and pick up my final wrist band before heading into the finish chute, high 5’s all the way down and thankfully picked out Erika before heading over the line to be caught by 2 volunteers and sent into the medical tent for a few ice packs!

Reflections

It certainly wasn’t close to the race that I wanted to have but I sign up to these things because of the challenge and it certainly ticked that box with bells on. I’m not sure doing a race in those temperatures is something I will be jumping at doing again anytime soon but am pleased that I have experienced it and made it through. I’ve never suffered for as long as I did in this race, from about 2 hours into the ride I was starting to struggle and it only went downhill from there.

I’ll put this one down to experience and move on to the next challenge, Ironman New Zealand on 3rd March. A couple of weeks of rest and recovery, both physical and mental are in order first but then it will be back into it to see if I can’t bring that pb from last year down a little.

NZ is unlikely to be anything like as hot as WA, although last year they had torrential rain all day to contend with so conditions could still be a factor!!





Thanks

This Ironman caper cannot be done alone and I want to say thanks to a few people, firstly Erika. Living with someone who is training for this sort of event is pretty challenging, for the last 6 months my alarm has been going off before 5am most days, and more often than not I’ll be pretty shattered in the evenings, can sometimes have a tendency to get grumpy when hungry (which is basically 24/7 for me – hungry that is not grumpy!!). And after all of that she is quite simply the best Ironman race day supporter ever, will put a garmin on her next time to see how much distance she travels on a race day!!

To all those people who have trained with me at some point over the journey (you know who you are), which includes more recently the MTC / Fluid movements crew and in the past the group at Tri-Alliance. It’s great having so many different people to call on to share the training and makes the tough sessions all the better when you are constantly seeing people out on the road who you know.

Thanks to Sean Foster whose program I have followed for this attempt. I certainly didn’t quite pull off the race that I know I was well prepared for; with a bit of good fortune and some more hard work NZ will be my redemption! Also to Ben Street, I joined Ben’s swim squad back in May and I think I am still mentally traumatised by the first few weeks!! The memories of not having enough left in my arms and shoulders to get myself out of the pool at the end of each session are still there!! Progress has been great though and the development of the sessions over that 6 months has allowed me to keep improving and be in great shape for race day, and full of confidence standing on that start line. I almost don’t hate swimming anymore!!

Also thanks to Miranda and Emma, the two people who are always happy (I think!) to be bored by the tales of my training and racing, always happy to give their views and opinions when asked (and even when not asked sometimes!) and constantly inspire me to keep working at it and improving. Training with these two over the years has also helped in managing the male ego when the women keep streaming past you in races, I’ve certainly had plenty of practice with this!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Taper Time!!

For me, getting to this part is almost as satisfying as anything else to do with Ironman racing. No doubt running down the finishing line caps the whole process off but as anyone who has done any sort of endurance racing will know, the hardest part about completing these events is the training.


There are not that many people cheering you on in the cold and dark of winter when you are doing the hard work that allows you to complete these events to the best of your ability and I have a huge sense of pride knowing what I have managed to put together in terms of training over the last 6 months.

One thing I have learnt through racing over the last few years is that race day performance is very unlikely to be a huge surprise. If you haven’t trained to race at a certain pace/speed/intensity then hoping for that to happen on race day is the first stage in setting yourself up for disappointment.

I set out at the start of the year aiming for a finish time that started with a ‘9’ in Busso. I know that is going to be a huge challenge but am confident that I have the physical ability to do it. For it to happen I will need to have close to a perfect day and probably need conditions to be favourable. I’ll certainly give it a good crack but a certain time is by no means the be all and end all of the race for me. The most important thing is to add another one of these to the collection...


This last week of training has been a big one and I think the weekends sessions pushed me just a few % too far as I have been sick for the last couple of days but starting to feel human again now. Despite that, I had probably my best training ride of the whole build on Saturday. Despite Melbourne throwing a soaking wet day at me, I feel like I am really starting to understand my bike pacing and using the power meter to measure my effort properly over the longer race distance. I also experimented with a slightly increased volume of nutritional intake on the bike as I have been fading a bit towards the back end of my long rides and this seemed to work pretty well, no stomach issues which was good.

Sunday’s run was ok without being spectacular, tested out all of my race day kit though with no major issues so now have that all nailed down. The two key things I'm looking for with kit selection are comfort and protection from the sun. I learnt part two the hard way in Austria so will again be busting out the long sleeved white top to help with managing heat on the run

Looking back over the last 5.5 months, the training volumes point to a very solid block of work:

Swim – 244km
Bike – 4,997km
Run – 1,498km

Of course km’s travelled doesn’t even tell half of the story but it does build confidence to know that I have the underlying volume under my belt.

I have just over a week before heading across to WA, once I kick the sickness I will be into my tapering sessions, plenty of sessions still but much shorter with lower intensity, and mentally less stressful that then key sets of recent weeks.

The before I know it I’ll be standing on the beach in Busselton with 1,500 of my new best mates, wondering what an earth possessed me to do another one of these!!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

5 Weeks to go...

My lack of updates to the blog recently tells a story of its own. I quite like to try and keep a fairly regular log of what has been going on but with the work/training/life balancing act it has been pretty difficult recently. 

With 5 weeks to go until Busselton, the training is now well and truly into the ‘money’ sessions! I’ve had a bit of a reminder over past weeks that Ironman is hard (I know that is stating the obvious).

Having three finisher medals under my belt, the fear of not knowing if I can make it to the finish line is not there anymore, so whilst I don’t think I am complacent, sometimes you do forget the scale of the task at hand. This was made quite clear about 125k into a 195km ride the other week when the wheels somewhat fell off!

That knocked the confidence a little and I am still really waiting to feel my bike legs properly arrive but on the plus side, the running and swimming seem to be going pretty well.

In terms of volume of training I’m doing similar amounts to what I have done before, but feel like the quality of the sessions is probably a little higher and more focussed, particularly on the bike.

Sessions at the velodrome help this, no cars, trucks or junctions to worry about, and whilst riding around in 300m circles for an hour at a time is not all that exciting, you can safely have some music in your ears and hammer your way around the track, whilst giving and receiving plenty of friendly banter on the way.

Here’s an example, a session at the track last Wednesday, you can see how riding on the velodrome allows me to control the HR and hit a really specific target workout (this ride includes the ride to the velodrome and then into work)


Swimming is continuing to go well, since joining the squad I have gone from essentially non-swimming (had swum less than 50km in the first 5 months of the year) to over 200km in the last 5 months. I have definitely got faster but I think the real gains will come from the level of effort required to get through the 3.8k swim on race day.

Running is going ok, due to the training volume at the moment I always have to be careful not to push too far and blow myself to pieces yet know how important the key run sessions are. The biggest milestone recently was my ‘over-distance’ run. 3 hours scheduled (after a 1 hour ride) and relatively speaking this went without too much incident, 36.7km covered on a slightly undulating course (in the pouring rain) – nutrition seemed to work well. I was briefly tempted to knock over another 5.5km to clock up a training marathon but didn’t think that was going to help in the long term!!

In other news, after trying yet again to nail down my bike fit, I decided to take relatively drastic action and change bike frames. A slightly calculated gamble this close to the race but one that I hope will pay off. Initial signs are good, still need to find my ideal saddle but so far I feel much more solid on the bike. It looks pretty cool too, although have already established that a white bike instantly looks dirty whenever you ride it!!


Finally amongst all that I also managed to take my Level 1 triathlon coaching course last weekend, had some interesting sessions over the two days, and definitely something I’m keen on doing a little more of. 

A quick summary of this week’s training, have been on the brink of some serious fatigue all week but after a nice afternoon sleep today, feeling a bit better and ready to attack next week!:

Swim – 12.9km 
Bike – 272km
Run – 73km

Total time – 20 hours 4 mins 

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Ironman World Championships 2011


Next weekend marks the pinnacle of this crazy sport that I take part in, with the World Championships raced in Hawaii.

Since I’ve been involved with triathlon over the last few years, this is always an event that I look forward to watching. The live online coverage is pretty good and seeing what the pros are capable of is pretty amazing. 

This year promises to be a great race, with no clear favourite in the mens race and a few question marks over the womens field. This year is also the first time that I know a few of the age groupers who have qualified and will be racing. So thought it would be good to put down my predictions for the big race, and also comment on a few of the people who keep contributing towards inspiring me to trying to continually improve my own racing. I’m still a long way from the standard required to qualify for ‘the big dance’ and having been on holiday to Hawaii, not sure I ever actually want to race in that heat and humidity!!

This clip is from 2008 and was one of those that inspired me before my first Ironman, love the shot of the bike charging through the lava fields 



My top tips:

Pro Men
1. Craig Alexander – I was lucky enough to spend a training day with ‘Crowie’ last year as part of the 3Fest event. Such a nice guy who was more than willing to offer advice opinions on training and racing, even to an age-group ‘hack’ like me!! His passion for the sport was great to see. On top of being a nice guy (as sadly that won’t win you the title), a 1.11 run split at the 70.3 world championships a few weeks ago tells me this guy is in some serious form. I think he’ll be closer to the action off the bike this year and run a course record for the win!



A final note on Crowie – he’s not the biggest guy but standing next to him is pretty intimidating – the guy looks like a thoroughbred racehorse!

2. Andreas Raelert – don’t need to say much more than this guy was 3rd in 2009, 2nd in 2010 and set a new Iron distance world record at challenge Roth with a 7.41.33 (which is just stupid fast!). Also a shame his brother Michael did not make it to the start due to injury, the ex 70.3 world champ would have made for an interesting race as K-Swiss had put up $1m for the brothers to go 1-2!)







3. Marino Vanhoenacker -  My first experience of Ironman racing in Austria left be blown away when I saw this guy coming the towards me on the bike course, it was like he had an engine on his bike he was going that fast!! Showed last year that he is not just fast in Austria with 3rd place in Kona. He went 7.45 in Austria this year and held the world record time for a week before Raelet took it off him.  

Dark horses – Pete Jacobs (fastest run split last year and much improved bike splits this year will be close to the front out of the swim), Tim O’Donnell, Joe Gambles, Chris Lieto (love the way this guy races – expect to see him in to T2 first)



Pro Women
1. Chrissie Wellington – If Ironman wasn’t such a niche sport, I’m convinced that Chrissie would be widly regarded as the greatest athlete on the planet. She has re-defined the sport for women and blown away reality with her performances. I wouldn’t want to be a pro-male watching Chrissie smoke past me on the run. The only doubt comes from a recent bike crash (see photo!) but if anything I think that this will only serve to help her focus the mind, still unbeaten at Ironman racing and looks to have improved her run this year in the face of other stepping up their game in this area.

2. Mirinda Carfrae – The first time I ever came across ‘Rinny’ was during my first half Ironman race in 2008, I was just starting the run and this tiny little woman came blasting past me like Usain Bolt! (she was on her third and final lap on her way to the win), I didn’t see anyone, male or female going quicker than that all day. Defending champion  and run course record holder, I just don’t think she has the bike legs to be close enough to Chrissie but will be guaranteed to be charging through the run course.





3. Julie Dibens – Author or some excellent Twitter banter with Rinny, I’m interested to see if she can stick with Chrissie on the bike, a quality swim-biker she just doesn’t seem to have got the formula for a great run sorted yet but I’m convinced it will happen sooner or later. I expect Rinny will have the upper hand but may take until later in the run this year to win their own little battle.

Others – Mary Beth Ellis (3 Ironman wins over an 8 week period this year), Caroline Steffen (consistent performer all year), Catriona Morrison (people assume the Scot will wilt in the heat but I think otherwise!)


Age-Groupers I’ll be following:

Xavier Coppock - One of the XOSIZE athletes, this guy is one hell of an athlete, the training volume he has been taking on is mind-blowing, no danger of being under-done! Xav went 9.06 in Busselton last year to qualify and I hope he has an awesome day. A nice guy and if someone puts a few corona’s on the final few aid stations, I’m sure that’ll help spur him on!

Kristy Hallett – One of the MTC crowd that I have got to know as I’ve been training with the squad over the last 5 months. Kristy’s work ethic is amazing and it is no surprise that she gets the results that she does. One of those athletes that always seems to be smiling a 3rd place overall at 70.3 Yepoon shows how good she is.

Jo Coombe – Another MTC’er and one of the friendliest and most welcoming people at the squad. Jo wears her heart on her sleeve and has been known to be on fire and then lose it at least 3 or 4 times in a training session ;-) She qualified for Hawaii with a sensational race at Ironman France (10.35 for 2nd in Age group) and has had to get herself back into top shape only 12 weeks after that race. Another incredibly dedicated athlete who deserves to have a great day in Kona.

Sean Foster - Having decided to try something different for Ironman attempt number 4 I joined Sean’s Fluid Movements squad back in May. As an athlete Sean has done it all, having raced Hawaii twice as a pro as well as numerous top 10 Ironman finishes. I’ve benefitted greatly from the experience he has and looking forward to seeing how this transmits into my own performance in December. I know I’ll benefit from the fact that he has just put himself through his own training program and wish him all the best for race day!

So they are my predictions, wanted to get them down in case I happen to be right, they I can look back and say “I told you so” – if I am wrong I can just delete this post!!

My own training is ticking along pretty well, feeling re-energised after a rest day today and looking forward to attacking the next 9 weeks!! Am aiming to keep this a little more updated as I get closer to race day. 

Friday, 12 August 2011

Foundations are down, time to build a big house...

Training has been going really well in recent weeks. I'm coming to terms with the swim volume with the new squad and now finding that fatigue from swimming isn't impacting my other sessions quite as much.

Given that I do love a graph, here's my most recent creation...


This shows the total volume of training house per week in the last 30 weeks leading up to recent Ironman races.

A quick analysis of the obvious things:
  •  I entered Ironman Australia (green line) late and didn't have the base fitness (although did put in a consistent block of training over the last 15 weeks or so)
  •  Busselton training last year (red line) had a few peaks and troughs - major troughs due to holidays and also backing off the bike training for the Melbourne marathon (and then recovering) 

What is clear is that I feel like I set myself up really well for Busselton this year (blue line). The race specific training phase (16 weeks worth) is only just around the corner and I'm looking forward to getting stuck into it.

Training with Fluid Movements is continuing to go well, I’m finding that the sessions fit in with work pretty well, the only thing I really have to make sure I do is get away on Tuesday and Thursday evenings for run sessions, starting a little later in the morning is not normally a problem at work so providing lack of sleep does not get me, I'm getting 2 x bike sessions and 3 x swim in on weekday mornings.

Aside from the swim volume (49km last month!!) one of the other thing that has been a little different has been the quality of my bike sessions, Bike sessions are now more like run and swim sets with specific aims and targets to hit, and I've particuarly been enjoying the sessions at the velodrome where you also have other guys (and girls) to help push you along. The power meter is also helpful to stop me kidding myself when my head is telling me that I’m riding great yet the power number gives me a reality check!

Another graph to demonstrate (blue line = speed, yellow = power, red = HR)!!


This session involved a few ½ lap sprints to warm up and then the main session was 4 laps hard then 5 laps recovery x 10. We did the session as a group of 4 with each of us working hard, I’m not sure that anyone ever started the interval on the front and managed to finish on the front, highlight had to be coming round the final bend of the last interval 4 wide trying to take the ‘win’!! 

Anyway, I guess the summary is, very happy about where my fitness base is at, time to see what I can do with it over the next 17 weeks!

That’s it from me, off to sort out my kit for the morning, stay safe on the roads.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Putting it all in perspective

This weekend has been a tough one. We had some people over on Friday night to watch the final mountain stage of the Tour de France up Alpe D’Huez which was great fun although saddened significantly by the news that one of the coaches at Tri-Alliance, John Cornish, had been killed in a bike accident on Beach road.


I was aware there had been an accident as one of my friends who rides home that way had called me to check that I was not involved as he had ridden past a nasty looking scene. Even though the cycling community in Melbourne is huge, this had been playing on my mind for the evening, knowing that there was always the chance that the person involved could have been someone we knew.


It was about midnight when I saw the news that it was John. I didn’t know him that well but had done a number of bike session with him late last year, he always had an enthusiasm for riding the bike and was keen to pass on skills and knowledge. Seeing someone with such a talent for riding a bike was also pretty inspiring (John would have us doing hard efforts around Albert Park lake on the TT bikes – just as you were right on the limit, pushing for all you were worth, he’d float up next to you, spinning along in the small chain-ring offering some advice before flying off into the distance!).


My thoughts go out to all those close friends of John and his family. It’s such a terrible waste of a life and only goes to show that none of us know how long we have left.


I didn’t particularly enjoy riding my bike this weekend but am sure that in these circumstances, the right thing to do is to keep getting out there.

Rest in Peace JC, may the wind be forever on your back.

Friday, 10 June 2011

PB Updates!

Always a positive topic to write about. Post triathlon season the focus had been on running in preparation for the Gold Coast Marathon. I’ve now downgraded that to the half (at least in my head I have – must email the race organiser!!) more on the reasons for that later.


Meanwhile I’ve had a couple of short sharp races / time trials to see where my running has got to and was please to put down a couple of new PB’s.


Firstly the iconic Tan Lap in Melbourne, 3.82k and a lung bursting effort got me round in 14.55 (previous best 15.08). I understand that Craig Mottram’s best lap around here is 10.08 which is pretty bloody amazing! (2.39min/km!)


http://connect.garmin.com/activity/88091507


I then also did the Williamstown 10k run on the Sunday of the same week, I’ve got close to 40 mins before but never been under and I figured that I was in decent shape so should give it a go. I had done a hard bike / run brick the previous day but felt pretty good, went through 5k in about 19.30 (thanks greatly to the pacing services of Kev!) and managed to hang on for a 39.39, a nice little mental barrier broken.

Target 599!!
25 weeks to go until IMWA and training has now really started to get into full swing. Given that I have set myself a pretty tough target of sub 10 hours I was conscious that following the same sort of training plan for this year is likely to result in the same sort of result so decided to mix things up a bit and try something new.


The new thing has been to join up with Sean Foster at Fluid Movements and start doing some training wit his squad. As well as being keen to get some fresh perspectives on training for an Ironman I also wanted to continue to expand my network of people willing to join me on the tough (i.e. stupid) training days.

Run
I’ve been with them for a few weeks now and it has been going well so far. I joined just at the start of a run block which I came into in good shape due to the marathon training so I’ve been maintaining a pretty high volume (70-80k per week). When I initially spoke with Sean he was more than happy to help towards the marathon training but it was his view that would be detrimental to my goals in Busselton so after giving it some thought I decided to drop to the half at the Gold Coast. That will mean my recovery will be much faster an enable me to continue working towards Busso through July.


Bike
My biking has been pretty limited in recent times so getting a bit of consistency back into that over the last couple of weeks has been good although its pretty daunting realising how far I have to go. I punched out a pretty good 20min TT (average watts 312) but don’t feel like I have any endurance in my cycling legs at the moment.


Swim
Whilst I don’t think there are huge time savings to be made in the swim I think there are significant energy savings I can make on race day and so I have also been swimming with the Fluid Movements squad at South Yarra Sports. I’ve been to 4 sessions so far and it has been pretty brutal. The volume and intensity is much higher than I have trained at before and at the end of each session to date it has been a struggle to lift myself out of the pool!! The timing of the sessions works quite well for me in terms of work so the plan is to get myself there 3 days a week, get the sessions done and hopefully see some big improvements.


I guess technically I can add another pb to the list as well, although really by default, after 3.3k of butterfly and freestyle drills the other day we then did a 200m TT, I was already cooked but dragged myself through to a 3.05 which I was pretty happy with in the circumstances, but sure I could improve if fresher!


Anyway, looking forward to my first trip up to Kinglake of the year tomorrow (will be interesting to see how much more recovery there has been since the 2009 Bushfires), must stop typing now, my arms are still hurting from swimming.....

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

End of Triathlon Season – Part 2

Last week marked the second end to the triathlon season for me, after coming back from London in January significantly better insulated and less fit than when I left, I’ve enjoyed the last few races of the sprint season and rounded that off with a 6th place finish in 30-34 age group and a good all round race.

Despite fairly limited swimming I’ve actually been going pretty well in races and based upon the splits posted yesterday (which I am still not convinced by) I was actually 5th out of the water in my age group

Copious amounts of baby oil helped to get my slightly snug wetsuit off in double quick time and I picked up a podium slot (3rd fasters through T1!).

I wasn’t feeling great on the bike but my speed was pretty good, a couple of guys came past me as I was starting to lose a bit of focus (probably due to the slight hangover and sore legs from paintball on a bucks/stag (depending on your nationality) and that woke me up and my simple plan was to make sure that they didn’t get to far infront. This kept me working pretty hard and before too long I was back past one of them and hunting the other guy down. Off into T2 and some quick abuse from the coach’s husband regarding the aero lid (fair) had me on my way into T2.

I had a bit of a fight with my new shoes (check them out - trying to move toawrds forefoot running a bit - at least they look fast!!) which cost me a bit of time in T2 but I was on my way. Run was reasonably uneventful, I was pushing as hard as I could and running a decent pace. Some more abuse from the coach as I got near to the line (“Rob this is a race!”) had me busting out a mini sprint finish.






Splits for the race were:

Swim 13.06 (3rd in AG)
T1 1.01 (3rd)
Bike 33.52 (4th)
T2 1.15 (13th)
Run 19.59.7 (10th) - (ok I know that is 20 mins when rounded like the others but it looks better this way)
Total 1.09.14

6th in 30-34 AG, 48th overall. I measured the bike course a little long for this event (21.6km) and the run course a touch short (4.95km).

Overall I’ve been really happy with part 2 of this season, it was hard coming back to racing having lost so much fitness post Busselton but I’ve enjoyed the last few races and can feel my form coming back again. The focus now switches to running as I start to build up for Great Ocean Road half marathon and Gold Coast marathon.

I have to say a big thanks to Scott at XOSIZE, he’s helped me out this year with some sponsorship and it’s been great being part of the team.

I’ve been really impressed by the XOSIZE series, having previously only done Gatorade races. I think the support these races give to the kids series is also pretty impressive, although having a 35kg 15 year old bouncing past you on the run is a little soul destroying!! Busselton was a great memory for this year but getting my first podium at race 1 of the series was also a cool moment.

Last week saw an increase in running up to 60k's for the week, I have a target of close to 100k this week but will see how the body holds up.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Target 599 – Stage 1


My previous post outlined the goal for the year, as much as it would be nice, I’m fairly sure it won’t happen for me without plenty of hard work, a calculated approach and no doubt a little bit of luck throughout the process.

I have some ideas for things that will help me with my training to get there and I thought I’d talk about a few of them here.

My first 2 plans are closely related and were trialled a little in my Busso build up this year to get a bit of understanding.

1.     Training with Power on the bike
2.     Using Training Peaks WKO+ to track fitness and plan workouts / taper

Power – I bought an ibike last year (http://www.ibikesports.com/products_ipro.html) which is basically a very clever computer that estimates your power output based on measuring or estimating all other variables. I found this pretty useful and gave me a better idea about pacing my longest rides. One major benefit of the ibike is that I can transfer it between bikes and use it when racing, however although I found the power numbers useful as a guide, I did get a fair bit of variability between the two bikes and bad weather would tend to make it have a heart attack!

SO after much deliberation and procrastination I took the plunge and bought a powertap. The main disadvantage of this system is that I cannot race with it, however, I can use it for all of my other riding, on either bike and can therefore use it to structure my training more.

Structured bike training seems to be one of the things that a lot of triathletes seem to lack, we are good at running interval sessions, fartlek sessions, hill session or keeping the pace easy on other runs however, more often than not bike rides for me seem to get dictated by the group you are with or how you are feeling rather than having a really specific aim. I also think people have a tendency to kid themselves about how well a bike ride went, it’s easy to feel like it was a good ride when you spend the last hour flying home with a roaring tail wind, although actually measuring how much effort you put in can only be done accurately by looking at power numbers.

WKO+ - This program which I purchased last year enables me to use the power data in order to objectively measure my fitness and fatigue. I used this throughout my Busso build and as a numbers geek at heart, found it a useful guide, particularly in relation to fatigue, but also good validation that your fitness is progressing.

I started using WKO+ from June last year and as of a few days ago, can explain my last 8 months training in one graph, however, in order for this to make any sense you need to understand 4 few key concepts:

TSS – ‘Training Stress Score’ – this is a score computed for every workout based upon how tough it was, this is calculated using the intensity of your workout (calculated with reference to your threshold running pace or threshold bike power) and the duration of the workout, so for example, a 30 min flat out running race may give you the same TSS as a 90 min easy run – WKO works out this TSS for you based upon the threshold numbers you put in and it then uses the data from your workout (using a Garmin and the ibike for me).

CTL – ‘Critical Training Load’ – This is essentially your average TSS over the last 6 weeks and gives you a measure of your overall fitness – this is the blue line on the graph

ATL – ‘Acute Training Load’ – This is your average TSS over the last 7 days, so a shorter term measure of the work you have been putting in – this is the pink line on the graph

TSB – Training Stress Balance – This is the difference between your CTL and ATL and therefore gives you a measure of current fatigue (the yellow line of the graph) – basically if you went out and accumulated a TSS of 100 every day for 7 days your ATL would be 100, this would effect people differently depending upon their underlying fitness (represented by CTL) so this is a really useful guide when trying to taper for an event, and can sometimes show you when you are trending towards overtraining (or being a slacker!!)

I’ve noted a few key things on the graph below (which is a combined bike and run graph – I actually track these separately but this graph will do for now!).

I started recording data in the system from June last year and my fitness slowly built up over the first 6 weeks since it was starting assuming that my fitness was nil (which was not the case!)

You can then see how my fitness (blue line) went down when I was on holiday in NZ. I then had a good long block of solid training as I built towards the marathon and had a huge peak in ATL (pink line) following the two day camp at Apollo bay – that left me very fatigued and I struggled for a week or so after that (look at how low the yellow line goes – I now know that if I want to be able to train usefully, that is more fatigue than I can reasonably cope with).

As I came into the marathon (10th October) I tapered down and you can see how the fatigue reduces (yellow line comes up) but the price you pay for that is a small reduction in fitness (blue line).

Post marathon recovery the last 8 week block into Ironman started and again I managed to start raising the blue line (note that as the blue line gets higher and higher, you have to perform workouts with greater TSS in order to keep raising it). The one downfall for me this year was that after the Melbourne marathon I did most of my riding on the TT bike, where the ibike would give me a lower power number compared to the same effort on the road bike. Therefore the TSS’s I was generating were not equivalent to pre-marathon. However, absolute numbers are not really important, this tool is more useful for showing the trend of your fitness.

However because of this the absolute numbers would suggest that I was about the same fitness for the Ironman as I was for the marathon – I know that this is not the case but having the powertap this year should help to reduce the inconsistency of data.

It’s all just numbers and pretty graphs and doesn’t help you come race day, however I find it an interesting way to plan my training and it has been useful as a guide to knowing when I am starting to get really fatigued, it gives you some objective evidence on those days where you are fairly sure that staying in bed will be the best option!

The final note is to point out that you can see how all that hard earned fitness pre-Ironman has happily left me now!! I’ve started doing some fairly structured training again so hopefully I can start having that blue line head in the right direction!!

Monday, 21 February 2011

599

599 - Thats my motivation for the year - it may not seem like much or have any real point to it but without setting myself a goal there is not as much motivation to get me out of bed in the mornings! By putting it out there publically this early, I'm hoping others will help to keep me moving towards it (that's an open invitation to beat me up in training!!). 

If you have not yet worked it out, 599 minutes (and 59 seconds) is the aim for completing Ironman Western Australia this year.

That's just over a half hour improvement required compared to 2010, a pretty difficult task but now I've started to get close to it, and trained with people who have achieved, I know I have it in me - although currently this is burried deep inside (and slightly too well insulated :-( 

How do I do that? Well in simple terms I reckon my route to a sub 10 would look something like:

Swim - 1.02 (1.38 per 100m)
Bike - 5.10 (34.8km/h)
Run - 3.40 (5.12 per km)
Transitions - 8 (well 7.59!)

So I'm seeking a couple of minutes on the swim (1.04.25 in 2010), and about 15 mins on both bike (5.22) and run (3.56) compared to this year. I have my own ideas of how to get there but if anyone wants to throw in some advice then feel free!

First bit of training for the year may be learning to get changed quicker, nearly 10 minutes spent in transitions in 2010, need to find an extra 20%!!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Falls Creek 2011

The first big race of 2011 and I was a little apprehensive given that I had only really had a few weeks of reasonably regular training since coming back from the post Busselton rest.


My training had been limited to fairly short stuff, longest runs had been about 12km and only one bike ride over 100k. Coupled with only a few visits into the water over the last couple of months and I was expecting a challenging day but hoping that I had enough underlying endurance coupled with a stubborn attitude that would get me through!!


We arrived after a long drive on the Friday night and on Saturday rode the bike course in the mist and rain and ran a short section of the trail run. I also had a very brief swim to check out water temperature and was then set for race day.


Swim
The swim felt terrible, by the end my arms felt like they were no longer moving! The altitude definitely seemed to have a big effect here, what would normally have felt like a relatively easy cruise around had left me pretty tired already. I was out of the water in just over 36 minutes which I thought was relatively slow for me but to my surprise most of the other guys that I would have expected to be in front of me with that sort of time were also heading up to T1 at about the same time.


I think Supersprint did everything that they could to make this a tough race, and the run up to T1 was no exception, a lung bursting 500m or so of running uphill just to get to the most painful surface to try and run barefoot on resulted in everyone that I could see walking through the transition area to their bikes!!




T1 was a little slow as there were a few layers of clothing to put on but I was soon out on to the bike.


Bike
With a relatively clear day I was at least less concerned with the potentially slippery road surface and set about at a conservative pace knowing that there were plenty of hills to drain the legs. Whilst I found the course tough, some of the views were pretty spectacular, watching the cloud start to roll out of the valley over some of the course on the last lap helped to take away from the suffering a little!


On the plus side, the challenging terrain resulted in almost no drafting that I saw, a real positive.

I was pleased to get back to T2, and probably only 10 minutes down on where I would have liked to be had I actually done some decent training!





Run

A smooth change in T2 and then onto the run. This started with a real punch and gave you a taste of what was to come, out of transition and a right turn to then run up a steep and bumpy grass hill, once at the top of that it was back down hill, through some boggy patches to soak the feet and onwards for 20k of punishment! Highlights (!) of the run course have to be the hill after about 2k, second lap I was reduced to a walk and my heart rate still didn’t come down from about 99% the whole way! I also managed to hit the deck on the run, overtaken by a guy who then cut back onto the track which meant I did not see one of the rocks, gave it a good kick (main problem was not lifting my feet more than an inch of the floor!!) and executed a nice forward roll. I would have happily laid there and had a rest but figured I should probably get up and keep going!!


The last 2.5km nearly pushed me over the edge, I have rarely been in a deeper hole that at that point so it was really just a case of trying to keep the legs moving and get to the finish line!!









Overall time was 5.26, which upon reflection I am not too unhappy with, it’s a shame in a way that I was not in shape to give it a really good go because it is definitely a honest course where you will get what you deserve, nothing was easy. I’ll definitely consider going back again, the talk is that the running trail will be a better surface next year which would make for faster times but I am sure they will maintain some of those damn grass hills! On the plus side, we had a great day weather wise, I suspect that may not always be the case with this event which would make it even harder.

 





Back down to earth this weekend with the BRW corporate triathlon this weekend, marking the 4 year anniversary of my first ever triathlon! For those of you who may not have known me the whole time and think I am just some freak Ironman type, here’s the proof that it has been quite a journey...


BRW 2007 vs Ironman Australia 2010


Sadly not currently quite as lean as when I races IMA last year, better get back on the training track...

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

2010 Wrap Up

As 2010 fades into the distance, time to take a quick look back at 2010.

When I look back over what i have done triathlon wise this year it has certainly been a big one, 2 x Ironman, 1x Marathon, 2 x Half Marathon and numerous other races.

Highlights:
The main highlight for the year had to be Ironman WA, finally pleased with an Ironman result that I feel was a better representation of my training going into it and my ability over that distance. There is still room for improvement but I was more than happy with that result.

I was also pleased with my Half Marathon pb for the year of 1.28.57 on a challenging course down on the great ocean road. It was also nice to get a first ever podium finish in the XOSIZE race.

Could do better...

I was well prepared for Port Mac but in hindsight the late decision to enter meant that the base fitness was not as good as it could have been and race day was a very difficult day.

I was disappointed with the Melbourne marathon result, I am sure that I can do better over that distance and in 2011 I'm going to take the time out to do a proper prep for the Gold Coast marathon and see if I can move my running on a little more, hopefully this will then translate to Half Ironman and Ironman distance and help to move me towards the 4.30 and 10 hour marks respectively.

Training totals for this year were well up on last year, as you would expect given the amount of long distance racing. I've done. I'm pretty proud of this given the challenging job I have that often involves long and unpredictable hours. I work pretty hard at trying to fit it all in and at times it is not easy.

Swim - 298km
Bike - 9,702km
Run - 2,276km

2011 Outlook

I'm keen to blog a bit more in 2011, I find it a good way to keep track of my year but sadly it is about the first thing to get dropped when time pressures are on.

I've been in full recovery mode since Busselton, have managed a few runs but I expect it is going to hurt a little getting back into training, looking forward to some shorter racing in early 2011 though.