Australian Sprint Triathlon Championships

Two weeks post my long course debut and it was back into the short and fast stuff with race three of the Gatorade Series Triathlon. Conditions couldn’t have been any different to what I faced at Challenge Melbourne, with sunshine, no wind and essentially perfect conditions.

Image: Supersprint/Lucas Wroe

Image: Supersprint/Lucas Wroe

run2In short, I had the best race of my summer to date and made real progress in all three legs. Readers will know the swim was my main struggle at the start of the summer but I have improved every race. Yesterday was no exception with me recording my fastest swim of the summer, swimming the entire 750m swim without any pauses and also going under 2:00/100m for the first time with a swim of 14:56 for the distance.

From there I held 34kph on the bike which again was a PB for the summer and great progress and confidence from a slow half-Ironman ride. I still need to focus on leg strength and bike endurance but this was a good hit out.

It was starting to warm up a bit on the run but I still managed to knock out a 20:54 5km to finish off. All in all this was definitely my best, most complete race of the year. I ended up finishing 527 out of 1310 competitors, including mid-pack on the swim and bike compared to my past efforts in the bottom third!

Still lots of work to do but this really helps keep the enthusiasm going as I build towards my last race of the season, an Olympic Distance on 29 March.

Thinking ahead – how many half-Ironman and how close?

With my first half-Ironman race in the bag and the passion and hunger burning, my thoughts have already turned to next season!

The question is now how much can I achieve and what is reasonable? I’m considering two HIM’s next summer but worried it might be too much too close.

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Ironman 70.3 Ballarat is on December 13 and I’d love to try a new course and a WTC official Ironman race. I then want to redo Challenge Melbourne at the start of February.

The question is will 7-8 weeks in between be enough or am I asking for trouble?

What do you think?

Wet, windy, hard – and awesome!

It was wet, cold, windy and so much better than I ever expected! My first half-Ironman is officially in the books and I am just as officially addicted and left wanting more.

The race itself is had highs and lows; the weather made for real challenges, my swim went better than I ever dreamed and I was really proud of my achievement there, my lack of time in the saddle in training showed through in the bike leg and the run was a mixed bag with a solid first half, a slight blow up in the second but determination that meant I never stopped and got through it all. One bloody proud finisher.

Big choppy seas meant an altered swim course but a great experience. Image: Getty/competitor.com

Big choppy seas meant an altered swim course but a great experience. Image: Getty/competitor.com

The swim was pretty rough. The waves made it tough to swim out and particularly difficult to sight, the buoys disappearing behind the waves. That said, the challenge of the swim out was compensated by the waves pushing me in on the swim in. I finished the swim in 40:17, having passed a fair few people and finishing closer to the middle than then back. It was definitely my best swim of the season.

Pre-race transition

Pre-race transition

The bike was made of three 30km laps and it started off well enough, finishing the first lap on my target pace. However midway through the second I started to get some ITB pain in my left leg. I tried to shake it off but it sadly started to impact my pace. I think the lack of time in the saddle and stretching caught me out. I’d done the best I could do with my current situation and always knew the bike was going to the biggest challenge. I had aimed to finish in three hours but instead missed it by 16 minutes. That said I’m not disappointed or upset – just hungry and knowing what I need to do next time.

It's never a good sign when you have to deal with waves on the run!

It’s never a good sign when you have to deal with waves on the run!

run1By the run I was unsure how the leg would hold up. The first kilometre was a bit sore but the next seen were good, going around 4:30/km pace. In hindsight, despite feeling good and wanting to make up time on the run, I probably pushed a bit too hard and slowed in the second half.

The highlight of the day however had to be that my wife battled the weather, ignored my advice not to come after I experienced the weather and brought my two kids down to the race. I saw them on the run and I am sure that helped get me through the hard times.

As a Challenge Family event the organisers actually encourage athletes to run down the finishing chute with their children, and with about 200m to go I grabbed my three year old’s hand and ran with her until the finish line. It was an incredible experience, made all the better by doing it with her. She promptly declared that the finishers medal was hers and that she had won the race!

I crossed the line in 6:05, about 35 minutes slower than I hoped for. I was sore and getting in and out of a car hurt for two days, but the smile and feeling lasted a lot longer. Although I know I need to rest up and let the body recover, instead of feeling burnt out like I usually do after a marathon, instead all I feel is a desire to do better, to do it again and train harder.

I am officially addicted.

Taper time!

The journey to a half-Ironman started exactly one year ago today, 27 January 2014. 365 days later I now stand five days out from the start line.

184 training sessions in the books culminating in 13 really solid weeks. The challenge now moves from building the machine and into a phase of final tune up. Already though the taper crazies have started to settle in:

  • On Saturday I was out with the kids and managed to have a stick cut the side of my foot open – a minor scratch really but in the taper mindset this was essentially the same as my foot hanging on by a thread…I’ve since worn bike and running shoes and it seems insignificant, certainly an awareness but I think by Sunday it will be fine.
  • Later on that same day I slipped walking down our internal stairs and slammed my back on the stairs and metal child gate as I fell. Lying on the floor I quickly assessed my body and felt everything moving. No bruising or marks but still some pain. Still definitely some pain there a few days later but again, I don’t think will be an impact on race day.

It’s more mind games than anything between now and the end – the hard work has been done and the body just needs to rest and sort out the minor details.

I need to get my bike serviced, get some sleep, sort out my nutrition plan and get work sort outed as I go on leave on Friday (woo hoo!) but the end is in sight. Training wise it will be basically be keep the body moving, a few light swims, a final sharp run session and one ride post bike service.

Let the taper continue….

How I hit my peak and kept life in balance

50 weeks into my training and now just 10 days out from my half-Ironman race, I think I have finally got the balance right and found the rhythm to train and keep the rest of life moving.

In the past three weeks I have completed 21 training sessions with my only days off been for pre-race and the day I gave plasma. In addition to the quantity I’ve had some excellent quality sessions and the best part is my wife has hardly noticed.

So what was my magic elixir? How did I do in this past three weeks what had been such a struggle for essentially a year before?!

1. Night time

IMG_20150117_213515The biggest secret was making the most of night time. There were a number of parts here that led to success. First one was capitalising on time when my wife went out. Last weekend was a great example, she had her sister’s Hens Day (pre-wedding party) and was out all day Saturday and stayed the night at her mum’s. I couldn’t train during the day as I had the two kids, but by 8pm once the kids were asleep, instead of playing Madden on the PlayStation or watching a movie I’d had saved up for a while (Lone Survivor), I jumped on the bike on the Computrainer and smashed out a 2:30 TrainerRoad session. A little bit of my soul died on that trainer, but my legs and endurance more than made up for it.

I’ve actually done the bike session at night a few times now as my wife has started going to the gym some week nights so again, once the kids are in bed, it means no impact to her and I get a quality session in. Win-win.

2. Pets

20150103_074146We have a Labrador called Holly. I’ve started using her as an excuse to get a short 5-6km run in consistently as she needs the exercise and I can kill two birds with one stones. Occasionally I do have to sacrifice my run to take the kids with me (which is great fun in itself) but overall this has led to runs that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to do, or been able to extend a run that I had scheduled. For instance the Sunday prior to the Olympic Distance triathlon I had a 12km run that I was able to do and then swing by home, pick up Holly and pull out another 5km, giving my 17km in total.

3. Shorter but regularly

IMG_20150103_120101This is largely to do with swimming – work has been steady during January but it still meant that I wasn’t able to get away for 60-90minute swims as often as I would like, so instead I have been doing 40min swims more regularly, 3-4 times a week. This is still not a great swim volume but it’s better than nothing and I believe my swim fitness is as good as ever. A true case of take what you can get. The other lesson has been to take any opportunity – twice in recent weeks I’ve had work or meetings pop up in my usual swim time (sometime between 11am and 2pm) meaning it looked like I would miss a swim that day. Instead I worked through and headed out for a 45min dip at 4:30 and was still able to get home in time for the kids bath.

4. Commuter training

One of my plans for this year as I build back up towards a marathon focus for mid-year is to run into work one day a week. I haven’t quiet managed that yet, primarily because it’s 25km and I don’t want to go that hard this close to my race, but I have started to get off a few stations early and run home. It requires some logistics planning to ensure I can leave my laptop at work, have the right running bag, locker at work to hang my suit in, collect everything the next day, but it has meant again some extra runs that otherwise wouldn’t have occurred.

The fact that it’s summer and nice weather has certainly helped, and touchwood my health has stayed in shape despite the larger training volumes. The key now is to get the balance right in terms of fine tuning and not overdoing it as the taper begins.

Relax WADA…

bloodYes, I have a needle stuck in my arm, blood coming out of me, spinning in a centrifuge and then getting pumped back into me. But relax WADA, this is no complex doping system – just decided to give a blood plasma donation.

My blood type (AB+) means I have universal plasma (anyone can receive it). Plasma is used as an anti-clotting agent, immune system booster and to boost some proteins in people with deficiencies. It is used by people in trauma, burns, kidney and liver issues and many other scenarios.

The benefit of donating plasma for an athlete compared to full red blood cells is that the blood is circulated back into the body, meaning that the lethargy and depletion of cells usually experienced in a full donation is not as bad. This means a quicker and better return to training, although I still took a rest day on the day I donated and easy, recovery training the next day.

First Olympic Distance race done

After my self-worrying late last week I showed up to Sunday’s St Kilda Olympic Distance race with some reluctance. My confidence was down and I was worried. The forecasted downpour of rain never really eventuated and I was greeted with a beautiful sunny morning, although the humidty was high and there was a bit of wind.20150111_065054That said I still felt nervous, unsure of what to expect from the race. My past two swims had only been 500m and a struggle at best. This was 1500m.

Turns out I was worried for nothing. I had the best swim of my summer and confidence grew the further I went. At the start I was still unsure and breast stroked for 30 seconds or so before committing to swim to the next buoy. I did that and felt fine so kept swimming to the next buoy. And the next buoy. And by then I wasn’t worried about the swim at all. I knew I would make it and actually finished mid-pack. I was stoked coming out of the water – you could have stopped the race then and I would have felt like a winner!

Apart from the confidence I also learnt one vital lesson – don’t forget to lubricate/put anti-chafe cream on around your wetsuit collar. About 1000m into the swim I realised I had forgot, and the salt water on the friction burn reminded me, and the sweat continued to do so for the rest of the race! A small price to pay but one I will remember.

wetsuitrash

A nice friction burn from my wetsuit collar – must remember to lubricate next time!

As I started the bike leg I was on a huge high. This was however still going to be a challenge and was the longest bike ride in a race setting I had done so still had some unknowns to conquer. I was aiming to complete the 40km ride at 30/km per hour and just missed this. Given there was a headwind for half the course I was not upset by this. The only way I can get faster on the bike is to spend more time on the bike and I don’t have that option at the moment.

I felt confident and comfortable throughout the ride through. My nutrition and hydration worked out really well with the new X-Lab Torpedo handlebar mounted system working brilliantly. I filled that with water and sipped at different intervals and swigged a drink bottle of Gatorade at the turn of each lap. I also popped an energy gel at the start of the bike and another in transition for the run.

I wore socks on the run this time and got no blisters so put that down as a win. I finished the 10km in 44:32, not as fast as I had hoped for but surprisingly gave me a top 20 run for my age group. I think the humidity and heat affected people and slowed everyone down.

Full of confidence post race and looking forward to my hakf-Ironman in three weeks

Full of confidence post race and looking forward to my hakf-Ironman in three weeks

The legs were pretty sore afterwards but a night in compression tights and a gentle swim today seems to have helped. My confidence is now at an all time high and the challenge will be balancing the enthusiasm to train with the need to properly recover from this race. Thanks for all your support!