Monday, 23 November 2015

Tri-Husky Sprint Triathlon Race Report

When it comes to sheer beauty, Huskisson is nature's version of Brigitte Bardot. 
This was one reason that I was relishing  the opportunity to race another sprint distance event in a town so perfect for triathlon.
While the location is ideal, the conditions on the day were not and the sound of the starting siren for the deep-water swim start saw us hacking our way through some solid south-easterly slop. 
I managed to be in the wrong place at the right time for most of the swim and copped more elbows and fists than a bar room brawl on a Friday night.
I exited the water mid-pack and climbed the carpeted stairs to set about pushing out some watts on the tredley.
On the bike at Huskisson
Whilst relatively flat, the Husky bike course can deceptively lead you to thinking that maybe you should be traveling a bit better than you are numbers-wise. I certainly felt that at stages, yet in retrospect, it was my best leg relative to other competitors. 
Once I was through T2, I managed to run my best 5km off a bike to date and felt in control for the bulk of the trip.
Working hard during the run
In the wash-up I finished 10th of 28 in my AG. In horse racing parlance, the form guide would probably read "Should gain experience from racing here and strip fitter for the run."
Finishing off the run
I'm looking forward to some hard work over the next couple of months before returning to Husky, along with Wollongong and Batemans Bay in the new year.

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Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Forster Sprint Race Report

If triathlon history was a currency, Forster would be as rich as James Packer. Being a keen student of the sport, I was looking forward to etching my name in the annals of also-rans at the iconic mid north coast venue.
A late change of schedule by event organisers meant I was up at 2:30am to get to the race. 

Torrential rain all morning made setting up for a split transition a little uncomfortable, even for a pluviophile like me.

The announcement that the swim would be a non-wetsuit affair was met with the usual groans of disapproval from most competitors and it wasn't long before we were in the soup-like water of Forster Keys.
The swim is currently my Achilles heel. I exited the drink eighth in my age group. Ok, there was only 14 in that category, but six of them were still flailing behind me. If anything I felt better than I had in recent races on exiting. This is no doubt due to my increased swim volume since I have began training under the guidance of Project M Training.

I jumped straight on the pushy & ripped in on a fairly flat course. The hardest part was keeping an eye out for pot holes on the rain affected circuit. I managed 5th in my AG in a very enjoyable ride, despite the slippery roads.

Having fun on the bike in Forster
Entering T2, a jack-knifing shoe saw one of my Specialized Tri-Vents spear out of the pedals about 10 meters from my bike rack, I lost a few seconds retrieving the wayward piece of footwear. I saw a pro do exactly the same later in the day so that makes it ok right? 

I've had a tendency to take off like a scalded cat on the first km of the run. I concentrated on keeping that more measured on this occasion and build towards a stronger back end. Despite a tightening right hammy at around the halfway mark it was a much more consistent effort and fourth fastest in my category.

In the wash-up, I managed to grab third in my AG and 30th overall. It was an enjoyable experience and I'd definitely recommend Challenge Forster as a destination for any triathlete.

There's plenty of work to do and I'm looking forward to another sprint at the picturesque Huskisson in two weeks time. 
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Saturday, 31 October 2015

Nepean Triathlon Race Report

Albert Einstein once said "When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That's relativity."

In triathlon terms, the Nepean Triathlon is relatively short, however for me, it was to be the longest I had raced in my fledgling foray into the sport. It composed of a 1km swim, 30km bike and 10km run.

The race is the oldest triathlon in Australia and boasts quite an honour roll including Pete Jacobs, Barbara Riveros, Brendan Sexton, Tim Reed, Courtney Atkinson and Aaron Royle. For someone like myself, who has developed quite a penchant for the history of the sport, this adds a little extra significance.

It was also a rare opportunity to race on the same course as the pro athletes, at the same time. 

The water temperature was a soup-like 23.5 degrees and, as a result, the swim was a no-wetsuit affair. This is not something I am daunted by but a definite slowing agent.

I did my best impersonation of a freeze block with arms and meandered my way over the three-turn, one kilometre course in a tick over 22 minutes. I have no doubt that this is the area that i have infinite scope for improvement and my weakest leg by far.

I kept my time in T1 to a minimum and was in and out in 1:36 10th overall in my category of 129 competitors. 
Overall results from my Nepean Triathlon debut.

The bike was a fast, mostly flat course which I enjoyed. I traversed the 30km in 52:46 at a bit over 34km/hr. That was enough to see me 55th in my category. 

T2 was a little slower but i was off the pushy and out on a 10km jaunt to complete the trilogy. 

The first 3km went fairly well, working hard on cadence and staying relaxed. The 4th kilometre I felt like the world was ending; concrete legs, heavy breathing, the whole kit and caboodle. A short refresher at an aid station allowed me to find some rhythm.

By the time the final two kilometres rolled around, I felt as strong as I had all run and was able to finish reasonably well, stopping the clock at 48:24 (my second best effort over 10km to date).

I completed the course in 2:07:01which was somewhere around the time I had estimated, if not slightly quicker. I placed 60th in my category of 129 competitors.

Two things I learned from the outcome were that I have a long way to go in terms of improving and that I am definitely keen for a move to Olympic distance racing next season.

My next race will be a sprint in two weeks time in the northern coastal town of Forster, another location rich in triathlon history.

The week leading up to this will coincide with me beginning a training program with Project M Training. This will be a lot of fun and a lot of hard work and should yield plenty of improvements. 

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Saturday, 10 October 2015

Tis The Season

Around here, you can usually count the number of 35 degree-plus days in summer on two hands. In Spring, they are next to non-exixtent.

Trekking west to Penrith for my first triathlon of the 2015/16 season on a day where the Mercury was nudging 36c was always going to make it an interesting day.

Leading into the event I was looking forward to the hit-out for a number of reasons. I was actually yet to complete a full sprint race owing to a swim cancellation meaning my previous attempt had become a makeshift duathlon.

Naturally, this meant I was keen to see where my swim was at. Training had been consistent, albeit consistently slow. I thought that the best I probably had in me for the 750m straight course was around 15 minutes.

The sound of the hooter and the splashes from a multitude of flailing arms and legs had me searching for some fast feet to nestle in behind but, alas, it was not to be. I then set about maintaining a straight track through the murky lake water whilst maintaining a nice, constant stroke rate.

Any feet I did stumble across were slow enough to pass so basically the whole swim was done alone and wondering how I was faring. It was the perfect example of just keeping your focus on the process, rather than the outcome.

I exited the drink in 14:40, better than expected and 6th of 17 in my category. I proceeded to peel off my wetsuit like a ravenous monkey attacking a ripe banana.

I was very conscious of staying composed in transition and taking my time; maybe a little too much. Soon enough I was out (12th in my category in T1) and pumping my legs on the tredley. I had ridden the course a couple of times before in winter duathlons, so I had a bit of an idea of what I was capable of.

Due to a malfunction on one timing mat, the official results also encompassed T2 but it was clear that I had managed my best effort around the flat western loop circuit.

All up, including T2 I carved out 35:59. My previous best was 35:22 sans transition which I'd estimate at around the one-minute mark.

I slipped into my Mizuno Wave Paradox 2's as rapidly as possible and headed out on a gallop. The heat was telling and it was far from my best run, a moderate 25:10 and 10th in my age group.

On the bike at the Hills Triathlon
My time for my first career sprint was 1:17:55 (8th in my AG and 61st of 128 competitors overall.)

There's plenty to improve on and hopefully by the end of this season I can give 1:15 a shake at some stage. I think there's a better swim in me and I can most definitely shave time off T1 and my run.

One positive for the day was nutrition. For the first time I tried Tailwind Nutrition which is a liquid nutrition and hydration system. It worked very well and I'll be using it again.

For now it's onto a 10km run this weekend known as Run With The Wind. While it may sound like a race for people with flatulence, it is actually an event held in and around some wind farms, a pretty cool backdrop.  Two weeks later it is on to the the longer Nepean Triathlon which should be a real test and a heap of fun.

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Tuesday, 1 September 2015

It's A Fine, Fine Line

The late, great Divinyl's singer Chrissie Amphlett famously sang "there's a fine line between pleasure and pain".
The same could be said for the space between over-enthusiasm and stupidity, the latter of which I may well have been guilty of at my last race outing.
At the time of entering race three of the Sydney Duathlon Series I was a fit, healthy specimen. In the week leading up to the event I barely got out of bed after being struck down with a bout of flu.
In order to convince myself that I was right to race, I tapped out a short, mediocre ride 2 days before. Even on that soft-pedaling expedition I found myself short of breath. However, in my over-zealous, infinite wisdom, I decided I was ok. 
Race three was at Parramatta Park on a "hot dog" style course; 3.5km run/19km bike/3.5km run.
The first leg wasn't the worst, sure my breathing wasn't 100% but I at least managed around my 5km pace, completing the 3.5km in 14:07.
The bike leg was far from hideous too, averaging around 33km/hr on an undulating course. Again, it could have been better but it was enough given my circumstances. I even got on the bike first go! 
What unfolded in the final leg was not only embarrassing but also provided a valuable lesson. 
Put simply, I crashed and burned with the only remnants salvaged from my smoldering fuselage being a pedestrian 15:27 run; some 1:20 slower than my effort from just half an hour earlier. 
A few shots from the Sydney Duathlon Series Race Three

It was only a few hundred metres into the leg that I realized all was not well, I was over-heating and struggling to breathe. These were usually the least of my worries off the bike when I am normally working on getting my run cadence going.

The harder I tried, the slower I went. I had nothing left. If anything, it was a valuable lesson in self assessment and being realistic. Some three weeks later, I am still not 100% and I would not be surprised if this decision to race was one of the reasons for that.

For now, it is back to training with my next scheduled event at this stage being the Nepean Triathlon in late October. It should be a real test for me distance-wise as it is a 1km swim/30km bike/10km run.

Considering that I am yet to race a full sprint distance triathlon without the swim being cancelled, this will take me well beyond my comfort zone and I am relishing the challenge. Now it is time to set about being as prepared as I can for it. 

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Sunday, 16 August 2015

Working Through Winter

As I sit and pen this entry I am into the sixth day of zero training. Not because I do not want to, but as the result of a virus which has dropped me like the proverbial sack of potatoes.

This has been the catalyst for a myriad of chagrin for a multitude of reasons. Not being able to train, feeling terrible and hoping to race a duathlon in three days time are at the forefront of them.

But it has not all been doom and gloom since my previous blog entry.

The last six or seven weeks have certainly yielded more positives than negatives in terms of improvement. They have also been a productive few weeks for me getting opportunities to run or race in a competitive environment which is something that I do not get to do too often.

I returned to the west for the second leg of the Sydney Duathlon Series in Penrith which also doubled as the state titles. I was able to shave some time off in all three legs of the race.
Run 1 at the Sydney Duathlon Series
The conditions were a little tricky with a very strong westerly wind howling down the length of the elongated loop course, providing a difficult head wind for half of the run and half of every bike lap.

The first 5km run leg saw an improvement of 26 seconds for me. Overall it was 22:26 which isn't too far off a 5km best for me.

The ride was my biggest gain, despite a very slow (and embarrassing) get away due to a rubber band malfunction when mounting. If anything, I was pleased to deal with it calmly and forget it as soon as I was on my way.
On the bike.

I shaved a bit over a minute off my last effort for the 20km on the same course. This is largely due to my upgrade to a TT bike but a strong positive given that I still have a lot of familiarisation and improvement to be made on the new rig.

I was keen to push a bit harder on the final run this time and was pleased to complete it 27 seconds quicker than my first attempt.

My overall time was 1:11:00 as opposed to 1:12:42 in race one of the series.
Swinging for home on the final run.

The weeks leading up to the duathlon had also allowed me to lower a few of my fastest running times. At my local Parkrun, I improved my 5km best twice with the latter gallop producing my first sub-22 effort (21:58) which was also the only time I have finished in the top ten at the event (8th).

Just one day later, I took the opportunity to run in the Sutherland To Surf over 11km which was a good test given that I'd never run anything beyond 5km at race pace.

I registered 52:23 for the undulating road course which ended up being 11.2km, this included my best 10km time of 47:51. I was happy with that considering, just a month or two earlier, I'd set my sights on around 50 minutes for the 10km by October.

On top of the running, I have been able to get a few miles in on the TT bike and in the pool and, with any luck, things will continue to head in the right direction.

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Monday, 29 June 2015

Run, Bike, Cramp, Run

It may not have been the first time, but it was at least the first time I was expecting it, a duathlon that is.

With winter arriving and the triathlon season behind us, my partner and I decided to make the trek an hour and a half west for the first race of the 2015 Sydney Duathlon Series, one of four races held by the Hills Triathlon Club.

I had only discovered that I could make the race two weeks earlier but had some adequate base training and thought it would be a good test for me. The tough part would be doing it straight after working a full shift that had started at 3am, but these are the things we do for fun and never the sort of thing I would use as an excuse to either not compete or for a poor performance.

The race took place at the Sydney Regatta Centre, the home of the rowing events during the 2000 Sydney Olympics and it provides the perfect course for some high speed racing.

A 5km loop run around the lake would be followed by four laps of the same loop on the bike, with a 2.5km out and back providing the final leg.

I set of in the men's 35+ wave, the pace seemed very solid to begin with and I was unsure if it was just me being tired or if this was a pretty slick field, It turned out to be the latter.

I was in the rear quarter of our wave about 800m in and looked at my watch only to see we were running well under four-minutes per kilometre. For me, this was simply unsustainable so I eased off a bit.

On the bike at the Sydney Duathlon Series
I still ran my fastest recorded kilometre (4:12) to open proceedings but then settled back into a more “normal” pace for me. I completed the run in 22:54 which was as good as I could have expected. The fact that I was only 18th of 23 in my age group and 94th of 151 overall was an indication of the quality of competitors at the event.

My transition went well, something I had worked on. I was in and out in 1:01 which was comparatively good (11th in age group and 70th overall).

Now it was time for the leg I was most looking forward to, the bike. This would be the first time I would get to race on power. I would be looking to maintain around 95% of my functional threshold power for the 20km.

For the first three and three-quarter laps I did this to perfection, then a mini-disaster struck. The build up of fatigue from not enough sleep and working all morning took its toll.

I have never been one to cramp but I was about to buck that trend. My right calf went and I was simply unable to go through the pedaling motion with any force. I managed to push a few with my left foot while I tried to stretch it out but it was with minimal success.

I lost valuable time but shortly worked out that I could do short bursts out of the saddle to keep some sort of pace. Whilst unstrapping my shoes in the final 200m, my other calf cramped! This was proving to be more of a test than I thought.

I dawdled to the dismount line and must have looked quite the novice trying to get off my bike with straight legs, it certainly wasn't a conventional dismount.

Running at the Sydney Duathlon Series
Overall it still proved to be my best leg, I averaged 32km/hr and completed the 20km in 36:12 (13th in my age group and 59th overall). Given that I am still riding a road bike I was happy with this effort and, relatively, it was my best leg.

I tried to zip in and out of transition as quickly as I could and set off on my final gallop. T2 actually proved to be my best part of the race with my time of 46 seconds being eighth in my category and 46th overall.

The cramps seemed ok running and I pushed as much as I could. The final leg took 11:46 which was 16th in my age group and 85th overall.

My final time was 1:12:42 which was a little faster than I originally estimated I might do, the bonus being that I feel there is plenty of scope for improvement.

This was a very well run event and one that I enjoyed immensely. I think it is particularly good for racing experience against quality opposition. Most triathlons have a wide cross section of athletes in terms of experience whereas this seems to attract a much more seasoned type of competitor.

The second race is on the 26th of July and I am already looking forward to having another crack at it.

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Sunday, 14 June 2015

Getting The Mix Right

Cooking pasta can sometimes take a little bit of time to master. A little too long on the boil and it is stuck to the pot, not enough and its all but inedible.

Finding a training balance can sometimes present a similar conundrum. We are always looking for that balance of freshness and steering away from being either over or underdone. 
The element of doubt is often likely to weigh heavily until we actually see the fruits of our work.
This scenario has been evident for me since I shifted from just running to concentrating on three disciplines. The main doubt is wondering if your running will suffer.
I have been managing three run sessions a week on average and usually around 18-25km. It is a small decrease on what I had been doing and I now try to make each session as specific and beneficial as I can.
I had the opportunity to test where I was at last Saturday by running my local Parkrun over 5km. This was on the course where I held my best 5km of 23:11 so it would provide a good indicator of whether I was at least maintaining that form.
My best time was set nine weeks earlier and the only run I have done at race speed since that time was at the end of a duathlon. It had indicated a similar speed but it is hard to line the two up given fatigue from the initial run and bike. 

A head cold in the week leading up to Saturday wasn't ideal but would be no excuse for not putting in a reasonable effort.
I surprised even myself when my Garmin told me that I had completed the course in 22:12 (my official result was 22:08). I also managed to place 13th overall from 111 finishers. 

Nearing the finsh of Sandon Point Parkrun
The result was a positive for two reasons. It showed me that I was still able to make large improvements given that I'd taken almost a minute off my previous mark. It also instilled some confidence in me in terms of my training and whether or not I am benefiting from my plan.
The run also included my best half-mile (3:19), 1km (4:14), mile (6:57) and two miles (14:07) but  clearly there is still room for improvement.

My second and fourth kilometers were a little below par so there is something to work on there in terms of consistency for the full 5km.

Plenty of PR's to be pleased about
Considering that when I wrote about my goals for 2015 (view blog here) that my aim was to break 25 minutes for 5km, it would be an understatement to say that I have exceeded my expectations.

Hopefully, with more hard work, the improvements continue.
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Monday, 25 May 2015

Expect The Unexpected - A Duathlon Debut (Of Sorts)

Expect the unexpected is how the cliche goes.

However,  not even the most fastidious application of the Boy Scouts motto "be prepared" would have allowed me to be 100% ready for the final triathlon of my first season in the sport. Oh, and when I say the word triathlon, I mean duathlon.
The event was staged at Port Stephens in New South Wales. A picturesque coastal town renown for blue skies and crystal clear water.
Our arrival in the town the day before the race highlighted the old "exception proves the rule" theory with pouring rain, high winds and massive surf all prevalent.
The organisers had no option but to cancel the swim due to the dangerous conditions and decided to replace it with a beach run.

The Beach Run
This race was to be my first step out of the Enticer distance (a race designed for beginners) and into the Sprint event. The replacement run was to be based roughly around a similar time to the swim and my 750m swim was substituted with a 2km hit out on the sand.
Luckily, around 70% of the run was conducted on fairly hard sand so it didn't end up being as taxing as it could have been.
I was careful not to go too hard early as sand running takes a fair toll on your calves and I wasn't overly keen on entering 20km of bike and 5km of running with them already fatigued. I completed the leg in 7:39, 130th overall (out of 322) and 17th of 27 in my age category.

I was looking forward to the first transition simply because it was an area I had practiced hard to improve on. 
I was in and out of T1 in 1:32. 99th overall and 12th in my category. While these stats may not appear overly flattering on face value, they are a quantum leap for me in terms of improvement. To put it in perspective, I had been the slowest in both T1 & T2 at my previous triathlon which was a beginner event. I was now racing more experienced athletes and managing to be in the top 30%. 

The first lap of a two-lap bike leg
So it was onto the bike for a two-lap 20km spin on a course that featured a nice incline. 
Sporting a new set of lighter wheels, I traversed the 20km in 40:30 (avergaing just under 30km/hr), again 17th in my category and this time 106th overall.
Cycling is still a big area of improvement for me and that result is probably pretty much as good as I could have expected.
T2 was not as good as my first transition but still an improvement on where I'd been. A time of 1:42 had me 18th in my category and 205th overall. I still have plenty to work on there. 
Now it was just a case of slipping back into the shoes and run 5km as fast as my legs would carry me. 
Heading out on the run leg
The run leg is a very important part of the race and I was determined to put my best foot forward in this leg.
The course may have been a tick under 5km and I managed to get through it in 23:45. I had to overcome a few demons at around the 3km mark and managed to finish strong. The time landed me 14th in my category for the run and 102nd overall. 
The run was my best leg and definitely one that I want to improve further as it is the most valuable part of the race.
The strong finish saw me move up to 14th in my age category and 95th overall.
I was happy with the results for two reasons. It showed me how far I had come in a very short time and also allowed me to identify a plethora of things that I can work on next time. 

My Spider-Man outfit for the Superhero Enticer
Later in the day, my partner and I backed up for the Enticer event in a fun idea known as the Superhero Wave.
Anyone who had raced earlier could enter the wave for free, provided they dressed up as a superhero. There were some sensational outfits on display and the race was conducted in terrific spirit.
I chose Spider-Man as my character and enjoyed the constant cheering and words of encouragement from all the kids out on course. The "Go Spider-Man" tally must have been well over a hundred during the race.
It is a part of the day that makes it an attractive proposition for the 2016 calendar.
Already, I can not wait for next season to roll around and hope to race as many triathlons as possible. 
For now, it is back into the training and looking for a few running and cycling events to have a crack at and possibly some duathlons too.

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Monday, 11 May 2015

Six Simple Ways To Improve Your Triathlon

In triathlon, there is no substitute for consistent training coupled with a good training plan. However the fact that an event involves three disciplines and two transitions also means that there is a lot of ways to improve your race aside from just swimming, cycling and running.

My first two events have been a steep learning curve and I am the type person who is always looking to improve themselves.

Below I have listed a few of the things that I have taken on board by reading, observing and listening to make my experience a little better as a novice triathlete.

Some are more cost effective than others but all worthy of consideration for anyone who is just beginning their foray into the sport.

1 - Use A race belt - Possibly one of the most simple but effective pieces of equipment to have in your artillery. It saves the hassle of pinning a number on a shirt or go through the pain of putting it on after a swim. Not only is it very easy to attach your race number to, but it also is just a simple case of clipping on and away you go. This also gives you the ability to have your race number on the back when you ride and swing it around to the front when you run. A race belt is also one of the cheapest pieces of equipment that you are likely to buy.

2 - Practice your transitions - There is a lot to think about on race day. Many of us do a lot of training in all three disciplines but it can all come undone with a couple of transition mishaps. I like to practice my changes from swim to bike and then bike to run to the point that it becomes second nature. That way, on race day when you arrive at T1 or T2, you know exactly what you have to do and can be in and out of there with a minimum of fuss.

3 - Try a wetsuit - Swimming is often the most revered leg of the triathlon and probably the leg that deters a lot of people from even attempting a triathlon. A wetsuit can be a valuable tool that assists in conserving energy. Not only will it keep you warmer but also provides buoyancy which can make the swim both a little easier and also a little faster. It is not the cheapest of my suggested improvements but definitely one to consider when you have tried most of the others.

4 - Plan your nutrition - Racing anything from sprint distance or above is going to see most novice triathletes out on the course for at least an hour and a half. With nutrition being a vital part of your race, it helps to plan when is the best and most convenient time to have your gel, rehydration or whatever it is that you like to have. It could save you from falling apart later in the event.

5 - Wear triathlon cycling shoes - This is another piece of advice that is not on the cheaper end of the scale but one that will see you in and out of T1 in a flash. The shoes are designed so that they can be pre-clipped into your pedals and only need to be slipped on at the start of the ride. There is plenty of info on YouTube about the best way to secure your shoes and get into them effectively.

6 - Lay your gear out - When you arrive at T1 or T2, the last thing you want to do is find yourself looking for a certain item. When practicing your transitions, work out the best order to lay out your equipment for the easiest possible changes. This is another simple but effective thing that can reduce both time and headache.

There is literally a myriad of ways to improve your racing and to give yourself the best opportunity to set a new PB. None of the suggestions above can substitute for good, old fashioned hard work but they compliment it nicely.

Feel free to add any more advice for prospective triathletes in the comments section below.

Above all, have fun!

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Thursday, 7 May 2015

My Introduction To Cycling Sportifs

Nearing the finish at Bathurst
Training and the desire to improve can often mean an athlete is always looking forward and rarely pausing to recognise how far that they have come.

Prior to February of this year, I had hardly been on a bike of any description for around 23 years. In mid-April, I found myself lining up for my first cyclo sportif.

After originally getting a bike simply to allow me to cross-train for running, I had opened up a can of worms. I not only found a deep passion for two wheeled adventures but also for triathlons after I had a go at a couple of entry level events.

The Blayney to Bathurst sportif was a 70km ride over some beautiful rolling country side. It included some challenging climbs and was a genuinely enjoyable course.

Leaving the picturesque streets of Blayney
Having never ridden that distance I had no real expectations other than breaking three hours. Both my partner and I started in the slow wave and made it all about fun and enjoying it. She had endured a tough 70km hilly training ride the day before so just to finish was amazing for her.

The downside of the slow wave may have been the fact that there was no real groups to ride in and I found myself solo for a large portion of the journey.

I felt that I got my nutrition right and used both my own stocks and the aid stations to ensure I had enough in store to maintain my energy until the finish.

I completed the 70km in 2:32, nothing special in most peoples terms but probably faster than I expected.

I met quite a few cyclists on the route and it was a lot of fun having a chat.

Finishing at Bathurst

For the last 15km I was lucky enough to share the work with a guy I had met called Greg and it certainly made the final stages of the race a lot more enjoyable and a bit easier! Having done next to no group riding, I found it to be a nice change.

The race finished in the pits of the famous Mount Panorama motor racing circuit at Bathurst which is a real icon of the Australian sporting landscape. It was a good feeling to complete the 70km.

While my cycling ability is most definitely a work in progress, I love the challenges it presents and would not hesitate at giving this sort of thing another go in the future.

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Monday, 6 April 2015

PB's & Podiums

It has been a touch over two weeks since my last blog entry and plenty of the proverbial water has flowed under the bridge in those 14-plus days.
Coming off my 5km PB, I had much to look forward to in the form of events. 
FunRun Pink at Parramatta Park on March 20 was to be followed by my second triathlon over the Enticer distance eight days later at Batemans Bay.
I was keen to do as well as possible at Parramatta, however having done the same run in Melbourne, I had an inkling that the course would be a little more than 5km. The reason being that the finish chute is not factored into the course distance. 
FunRun Pink at Parramatta
I found myself fairly prominent early in a field of around 100 and I managed to stay there.
The course was a two-lap out-and-back layout with a long gentle incline at the start. The bonus with this was that it was a long downhill run home.
I traversed the 5.1km course in 24:28 and finished 10th overall. The run made me realise that I was now a genuine sub-25 runner, possibly sub-24 over just 5km.
It was then onto a week of mixed training before heading into my second triathlon. 
I warmed up the day before by doing my local Parkrun (Sandon Point). Not only did I run my personal best at the course, I also ran a new PB for the 5km of 23:11. 
The time was a surprise as I felt I could go faster than that. It will be interesting to see if I can maintain my improvement over the distance.
It wasn't long after that we were in the car and heading a couple of hours south to the Eurobodalla Shire for some triathlon fun. This one would be slightly different to the first one I had done, with the bike leg (10km) some 3km longer than Wollongong.
I had been disappointed with the way I'd ridden in my debut and had put some work in on the bike, particularly climbing efforts. I also had a professional bike-fit done and was hoping that the work& modifications would help me perform better. 

Batemans Bay Triathlon Sunrise
After arriving in Batemans Bay and doing a quick scout of the course, it was evident that there would be a couple of nice inclines to contend with, it was certainly the type of challenge that I was keen to try my hand at.
A minor disaster struck on race eve when, during a short spin on the bike, my front derailleur decided to malfunction.
I spent a couple of hours getting it operational again before having it fine tuned by the on-course mechanic on race morning. It is one of those unexpected elements that you simply do not envisage in the lead up, I think it is important to try and deal with them as calmly and rationally as possible so as to not waste any energy.
Race morning saw fresh weather and a beautiful sunrise. Despite the cooler air, the water would be nice and warm.
I plodded through the swim relatively unscathed. It still feels to be my weak leg but something I am desperate to improve, particularly in the endurance department.
I exited the water 17th overall and  2nd in my age category. 
I made the effort to get to T1 quickly and felt I made the most of the run from the water.
My effort in transition however was nothing short of ordinary and another facet that I will work on hard before next time. 
Finishing at Batemans Bay
Jumping on the bike, I felt a little average at first, but I quickly found a rhythm. I found I was able to pass people on the climbs and, more often than not, stay in front of them. 
I was found out by one hill at around the 8km mark of the 10km out-and-back course but overall felt I had done ok.
I had actually done even better than I thought, I had finished sixth fastest overall out of the 103 competitors and led my age group in the leg.
I felt a lot quicker in T2 and wasted little time in getting out on the run leg.
As expected, my legs felt like a pair of 100kg anvils after jumping off the bike and gave me the illusion that I was hardly moving. I managed to work hard on my form and really honed in on maintaining a fast cadence.
I churned out the 2km in 9:19, which was an improvement on my first triathlon and not a million miles away from my full potential based on current run times.
The biggest surprise laid in the results. I had finished 11th overall from 103 competitors and snared second place in my age group. I certainly was not expecting that!
Second placing at Batemans Bay.
To top off a great day, my partner also grabbed an age-group placing in the Sprint distance, so we both went home with some excess baggage in the form of a medal.
Now that I have completed two Enticers, I have decided that my next triathlon will be a step up to the Sprint distance. That event will be at the picturesque Port Stephens in late May. That length of time gives me ample time to prepare, I can’t wait.
My next event will be the 70km Blayney to Bathurst cycling sportif on April 12, it will be the first cycling event of any type that I have ever competed in and it should not only be a lot of fun but also a steep learning curve.
I’m really looking forward to training hard over the next few weeks to give myself a good base for my next triathlon.

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Monday, 16 March 2015

A Pleasant Surprise In The Highlands

Surprising someone can be a lot of fun and often very fulfilling, however there may be no better feeling than when you surprise yourself.

I had already done that a few times in 2015 but really didn't think that the Highlands Community Fun Run on the 15th of March was going to be one of those occasions.

I had set myself just a couple of goals for 2015. One was to run 1000km which I should do easy. Another was to break 25 minutes for 5km, something that I thought would take a long time, I achieved that on February 14th.

 Another goal was to run 10km at least once, I have also done that on multiple occasions. My only other goal was to enter as many events as I could, when time permitted.

Leading up to the Highlands Community Fun Run, I had discussed with my partner the need to possibly reassess my goals now that I had achieved them. I had mentioned 24:30 for the 5km as a good starting point given that I had only improve nine seconds to get it to 24:38. I thought it would take a good run to beat it.

Heading into the fun run, I wasn't feeling fast or overly ready to run well. My warm up was pretty good but I was far from jumping out of my skin.

Once we got off and running, I had decided I was going to push early and try to maintain the pace. I had fallen apart a little in the final kilometre of my best run so maybe, just maybe, I could do better.

The first kilometre had a sharp downhill section and, being an out and back course, I was dreading going back up it at the finish. I covered it in 4:36 which was somewhere around where I wanted to be.

Putting in for the last 500m
I pushed on in the second and third kilometres, producing 4:46 and 4:54. I was still feeling good and ran 5:00 for the fourth.

I felt like I had enough up my sleeve to give the last kilometre a good crack, despite the hill. I concentrated on my form and cadence and was happy to churn out a 4:39.

Looking at my watch I was most surprised to see 23:59, especially after stopping it a little late. It was the first time that I had felt I had run the full 5km with no lengthy flat spots. Sure there is lots of areas I can improve in but this was a major step in the direction of where I wanted to be.

Maybe I did still have some decent time to shave off my PB, especially if I could finish races off like this consistently.

I will get another chance this coming Sunday at Parramatta when I run in the Sydney edition of FunRun Pink, the same event that I ran at Albert Park in January. It should be a lot of fun.

The totals for the week were;

Running - 30.5km in 2:59 with an elevation of 153m.

Cycling - 99.4km in 4:11 with an elevation of 920m.

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Monday, 9 March 2015

A Triathlon Debut

Exiting the water
Since taking up running and participating in a few fun runs, nerves have not been something that have really not played a part at all.

Compared with my sporting endeavours from years gone by they could be considered almost non-existent.

Going into my first triathlon was a completely different kettle of fish in that department.

I am not sure what initiated it but can only assume it was a combination of a venturing into the unknown and a little bit of fear of failure.

Simplifying it, I really had no need to worry, I could swim, I could ride a bike and I could run. Maybe I'd pictured myself running out of transition with my helmet still on too many times.

There was zero expectation on myself in the event for a couple of reasons. The fact that I had only trained for a week and also not really knowing how I should be performing meant it was more about finishing and doing as well as I could.

When it came to the day, it was a drizzly morning, nice cool conditions possibly barring a slippery road.

A few pre-race mishaps ensured that my nerves stayed with me. Firstly I had made a slight error on the entry form and entered myself as a female. After a few jokes and a quick filling out of new paperwork that was rectified.

Working hard on the bike
I had set up in a prime position for transition after we were directed to our row. A late change from the organisers saw the group of us that had gone to the trouble of getting there early shifted to another row just before start time. It wasn't a big inconvenience but enough to keep me on edge.

In the lead up, I was probably most concerned about my swim leg. In hindsight, it is not as bad as I thought and, with a bit of work, could actually be one of my better legs.

I was away mid pack and covered the 300m in 6:30 which is about what I'd been swimming in practice. The refreshing part was that I managed to stay out of traffic for the most part and that was the part I had been dreading most.

I felt like the last 100m of my swim was my best and I will definitely be looking to go a bit harder next time. I finished 6/12 in my age category for the swim which is better than I thought I could do.

My debut transition went smoothly. I had practiced a few times the night before with the help of my partner which meant it had become a little bit habitual, that was a great help.

After taking a little while to clip in and get going, I enjoyed the ride on the bike. Having not ridden for a long time it is something I am relishing at the moment.

Despite riding as well as could be expected, I have realised that it is a facet that I really need to work on, particularly my climbing.

Brick running
The course was a short loop which we completed four laps of to total our 7km. It had one short rise which was where I lost most ground. Despite averaging almost 30km/hr, I finished 9/12 in my age on the bike and I suspect that it is where I lost most ground.

My second transition also went smooth and I found that running in with the bike helped loosen the legs for the brick run.

As expected, my legs felt like a pair of anvils as I tried to carve out a good 2km to finish it off. I thought I was running 7:30/km, dragging those buckets of lactic acid along.

Luckily, it was a misconception and I managed to break 10 minutes for the run and finish 4/12 in my category. A pace of 4:58 was as good as I could of hoped for but also another thing that I would like to improve next time.

The run home
I was pleased to have finished, the final time was 34:41. 65th of 130 overall and 9/12 in my category, which again highlights the importance of the bike given that I finished much higher in the other two disciplines.

I knew straight away that I wanted to do another one and set about entering a similar length race at the Challenge Bateman’s Bay event on the 28th of March.

The test with that will be an increased bike leg (10km) while the others stay at the same distance. While I will keep running at the core of my training, I will cram as much cycling and swimming into my program as I can.

It is an exciting sport and, with so much to learn, I am loving it. I'm already looking forward to the next challenge.

The totals for the week were;

Running - 11.2km in 1:04 with an elevation of 92m.

Cycling - 124.3km in 5:58 with an elevation of 1,029m.

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Monday, 2 March 2015

Squeezing The Most Out Of Orange

The above heading is not in reference to extracting juice from a citrus fruit, but rather to the Orange Colour City Running Festival in the central west of New South Wales.

While the pun may be mediocre at best, the aforementioned festival was the antithesis of said play on words.

It happened to be the run that would be the culmination of my eight-week 5km training plan and one that I hoped to d well in.

Running in Orange
Having recently set a new personal best of 24:47 on an athletics track, I was realistic that I would probably not break that but I did hope to go sub-26, hopefully a low 25.

A quick drive around the course the day before quickly made me think that my estimations may have been a little ambitious. A couple of decent inclines towards the latter part of the run would make things interesting.

From the online entry to the finish line, the organization of this event was flawless. I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys the environs of a country town and a friendly, well-run event.

If there was one slight hitch with my 5km run it was some competitors approach to self seeding.

With over 1000 runners lined up for the start, there were signs with your estimated time on them. I put myself in the 20-25 minutes zone but was surrounded by young children.

I do not doubt for one minute that there is plenty of primary school students who are faster than me over 5km, but I was surprised that there was seemingly whole classes.

Once the run began it became obvious that they'd simply wanted to be up the front. Trying to weave a path between them was absolute madness. Some stopped suddenly, some cried out that they had a stitch after 200m, others walked.

It was actually quite dangerous, hoping that you would not trip over someone and cause serious damage to one of them. It must have been frustrating for organisers who had gone to great lengths to ensure a smooth start.

After about 800m I'd managed to find a bit of space to move and really started to enjoy the run. It was a beautiful course with the race run in warm conditions but free from the humidity I was used to in the coast.

I was hoping to set up my time with a nice, quick opening kilometre as it was partly downhill and mostly flat. While 4:30 was something I had in mind, I was not disappointed with the 4:46 that I churned out. The fact that I was able to back it up with a 4:49 and a 4:47 was very pleasing.

My fourth kilometre had been notoriously bad so I made a conscious effort to maintain the quality and managed a 4:59. I was on track to break 25 minutes and possibly even give my PB a nudge.

Them last kilometre found me out, I battled and felt like I was losing grip on all the work I'd done.

Holding the finisher's medal from the Orange Run
I knew it was going to be over five minutes but tried my hardest to squeeze out what I had left to minimise the damage. My partner was waiting about 300m from the end and her support helped me find a bit to get home as well as could hope for.

The result was great for me. I'd set a new PB of 24:38, shaving nine seconds off my track run.

I felt like I was getting closer to running a full 5km although the last part of the race had found me out on this occasion.

I was also left wondering if the days of taking big chunks off my PB’s were over and that it will only begin to happen in small increments. It is inevitable that it will happen and there is every chance that it will be sooner rather than later.

For me, the most satisfying parts of the result were twofold. Firstly the fact that I had beaten a time that I set on a track whilst running on a road course with hills and secondly the knowledge that I still had some improvement in me if I worked hard.

The totals for the week were;

Running - 21.2km in 1:59 with an elevation of 130m.

Cycling - 40.3km in 1:42 with an elevation of 237m.

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