Friday, 18 November 2016

Challenge Shepparton 2016 - Race Report

If I was to put the way I'd like to race a triathlon into a musical context, it would probably be Led Zeppelin's When The Levee Breaks. Right from the start, it's powerful and features a driving tempo which is relentless, right until the very end. 

Right now, my races are probably more like a John Williams 1980's Olympic theme song. Starting off slowly and quietly, building in the middle, before reaching a frenzied crescendo, although I must admit, my crescendos are not quite as soul stirring as those of the man known for his movie scores such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones. 

Challenge Shepparton was my first foray into the world of "half-distance" racing and very much fell in line with said Williams motif.

Andante (the musical term for moderately slow) - The swim took place in Victoria Park Lake, one of the prettier parts of Shepparton. The water colour may have resembled a short black that your local barista  serves up most mornings but, lets face it, you're not there on a marine biologists field trip. An overcast morning meant it was easy to sight the gigantic red and white cube-shaped buoys throughout the M-shaped course.

Like a solo brass introduction to a Williams classic, I had began. Understated, mostly solo and possibly underwhelming, the song was underway.

I felt I swam as well as I could on the day, in a discipline that I'm working hard at and slowly progressing with. I exited the drink 38th of 55 in my age group. Definitely an area that I can improve in, and that I need to. 

Moderato (The musical term meaning at a moderate speed ) - The bike was a two lap out and back affair on very flat terrain, however the conditions made it a tough gig. 

This is the part where Williams introduces a little bit of bass and accompanying strings to the piece. Nothing over the top, just a little fuller sounding.

Strong cross winds and a fair amount of rain made for a testing experience. Thankfully we often encounter similar winds in Wollongong so it was far from uncharted territory.

Being my first race over the distance, I was conscious of not over doing it on the bike, particularly with the run being my strongest leg.

My two laps were reasonably consistent, I'd got my nutrition right and was feeling pretty good. My time of 2:50:13 is certainly something that I can improve on. The bike is a work in progress and always coming along. 

Something I may not have been prepared for was transition. I entered T2 incident free and realised that the combination of rain, wind and 12 degree temperatures had left me numb. I grabbed my helmet strap but couldn't feel a thing, it was more a case of remembering what to do rather than feeling it that eventually allowed me to get it off. Putting socks and shoes on presented a similar conundrum yet, soon enough, I was on my way.

Allegro (The musical term meaning moderately fast) - Having only ran one half-marathon before, which wasn't off a bike, I'd only estimated a rough pace that I may like to run. The plan was more a case of finding a rhythm, which I did.

Slowly I felt better and better, as though Williams had commanded the military style snare drum and dramatic cymbals to join in for a glorious climactic curtain call.

I thought I may even have enough in the tank to push home with a little more vim over the final 3km, yet when I reached that stage, it was as though my right hamstring held a picket line with some tense negotiations.

To paint the scene, this was what I got back after I'd asked for a little bit more, just for 3km.

Hamstring: "Yeah I can see what you're trying to do, but I've been at it for five hours, how about we just agree to keep it at this pace, if not I'll cramp, your call buddy."

And with that, I continued as best I could to the line, wondering if Williams had ever met similar resistance from an orchestra member.

My run split was 1:43:57, only six minutes slower than my non-triathlon effort over same distance. I'd taken 5:18:25 to traverse the full race and finished 26th in my age group.

There was plenty to take away from the race and lots to improve on. The Shepparton course is a gem to race on and one that I'd recommend.

For now, it's back to shorter course racing with the view to the possibility of another half-distance race at the back end of the season. Until then it'll be a lot of hard work and hopefully a little more Led Zeppelin and a little less John Williams.

A massive congratulations goes to my coach Nathan Miller who finished top ten at his pro debut, along with Carolyn Dews who won her age group and Matt Lewis who finished second in his.

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Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Nepean Triathlon 2016 Race Report

Nepean Triathlon is Australia’s oldest. In 2016 the race celebrated its 35th anniversary, it was my second appearance at the same venue.

The race marked exactly one year since I had decided it was time to get a coach and, thus, had been under the tutelage of Nathan Miller. I thought it would be a perfect reference point of any gains I might have made in that time.

I tuned up for the event a week earlier with a spin around at the local Illawarra Triathlon Club race. This was done on tired legs after a long ride and run combination the day before.

It was a brisk morning with temperatures hovering close to single digits; thankfully the water was slightly warmer. The swim was a wetsuit affair and I set off in the tenth wave, what seemed an eternity after the pro’s had left.

I felt good during the swim, with a lot of miles in the arms I churned through the 1km with minimal interference and managed to find a few sets of feet along the way.

I was a little shocked at how slow the time had been but, in hindsight, I was about where I expected to be in the field and the time was more a reflection of conditions on the day.

Early on in the bike leg
The swim isn’t my strong point so I was keen to press on during the bike and run. I was in and out of T1 as quickly as possible. The results show that I made up 11 places there alone.

The 30km out-and-back ride presented a bit of a challenge, but only for half of the ride. A solid wind had whipped up, thankfully it was a tailwind on the way out and had me feeling like Sir Bradley Wiggins, whizzing past earlier waves with a minimum of fuss.

Then I reached the turnaround.

The breeze slapped you in the face like a disgruntled wife after you’ve rocked up home at 4am after just going down the pub for one beer. The figure of Bradley Wiggins was quickly replaced by a 4yo trying to ride up Bulli Pass.

I focused on staying aero and keeping the power on and still steadily made progress through the field. I jumped off the bike with a time three minutes faster than a year earlier and I had made up a further nine places.

I couldn’t wait to get onto the run, easily my favourite leg. That in itself was an indication of how things had changed in a year, 12-months earlier I was dreading it.

During the first lap of the run
I immediately found a good rhythm and a comfortable heart rate, that happy medium between not having a go and completely blowing up. I was happy when I saw the pace that I was running and did all that I could to hold it for 10km.

I crossed the line with the third best 10km I have ran and easily my best off a bike. I’d made up another nine placed to finish 21st of 97 in my age-group. A year earlier I had finished 62nd and gone eight minutes slower.

One of the big take-aways for me is that consistency and hard work, along with a good program and advice, will give you great scope for improvement.

There is still a long way to go but I am very happy with how far I have come.

Now it’s onto Challenge Shepparton in mid November where I’ll make my half-distance debut, I can’t wait.

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Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Batemans Bay Sprint Triathlon

Batemans Bay could well be one of the most underrated locations for a triathlon and the Elite Energy event that takes place in the picturesque Eurobodalla Shire is a real gem, offering something for everyone. Having raced my second ever triathlon there just a year earlier, I was looking forward to the return. 
A small amount of confusion arose at the race briefing with a bike and run course being announced that differed to the competitor information. Thankfully it was all soon alleviated and it was re-announced that the original course was in fact the one that would be raced.
The swim was held at the scenic Corrigans Beach and entailed a rectangular course with a deep-water start. The cooler southern conditions meant it was a wetsuit swim. With a large conglomerate of age-groups starting together in my wave, it made for a fairly busy start but I was able to find open water for the bulk of the 750m barring the standard bash-and-barge traffic that so often occurs around the turning buoys. 
With that out of the way I was in and out of T1 in a hurry and heard the announcer mention that I was in third position in my age-group. 
Heading out of T1
The bike course is easily the most challenging that I have encountered in my relatively short triathlon career, encompassing a myriad of hills, most of them short and sharp. In total it was around 400m of elevation in the 20km circuit which is both a challenge and a lot of fun.
I didn’t encounter too many other riders out on the course other than a couple of guys who were clearly younger than me. It is definitely not a course for fast splits or high average speeds but I felt like I had ridden it as hard as I could with what I had on the day and it was going to be interesting to see how the legs coped with this going into the run, I exited T2 still in third position.
Heading out on the run
The run course is a beautiful flat gallop along the foreshore of Batehaven and Catalina and I felt reasonably good from the moment I left transition. The further I went, the better I felt which is in no small part due to the regular Thursday Project M run squad sessions which are a great simulation of a sprint run-leg like this. 
I was not only able to lower my own 5km PB (which includes runs that are not off the bike) but I also recorded the fastest run-split of my age group; something that I have never done before in any leg of any triathlon. 
In the wash-up, I had ran into second placing in my age-group and 24th overall in the sprint field which is easily the best results I have returned in that department. 
A rare podium
I’m now looking forward to stepping up to the standard distance at Port Stephens in late May before ripping into a big block of winter training.
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Saturday, 9 January 2016

A Whirlwind Year & New Goals

They say that a year is a long time in sport and, for me, that certainly rang true in 2015.

It has been a little over 12 months since my first entry in this blog and to say things have changed would be putting it mildly. 

A year ago I was just managing to break 30 minutes over 5km, I didn't own a bike and had not even remotely considered the idea of swimming, other than a refreshing dip in the ocean.

Fast-forward 12 months and I have completed 11 triathlons/duathlons, I have a coach, I'm putting in around 12 hours a week training and loving every second of it.

I am regularly set tasks that challenge me both mentally and physically. These are things that I would not have done when I was doing my own training and it highlights the benefits of having a coach or mentor to set your program for you.

There are the obvious physical gains from the aforementioned challenges but it also does volumes for your confidence.

I cannot speak highly enough of Nathan Miller and Project M Training, my only regret is not joining the team earlier.

The best part of it all is that it is still very early days for me and I'm excited as to what the future holds. 
On the bike at the December Illawarra Triathlon Club race.
December was another solid month of training and also included a little hit out at my local Illawarra club triathlon which was a lot of fun.

A surprise 5km time trial at our weekly run squad saw me register a new personal best of 21:18. This was a 40-second improvement for me in an area that I was beginning to plateau just a couple of months ago. 

I well and truly met all the goals I set for 2015 and am in the process of setting some for 2016.

There are already a few that I have in my sights. They are not specific in terms of a figure, time or outcome but are all integral to my continual improvement as an athlete.

I have broken them up into categories;

Consistency - The most important of all. I pride myself on getting every session done as best I can. Barring illness there are no excuses. This is something that brings many people undone and is the thing that I consider a priority. 

Swimming - This is easily the most frustrating element of triathlon for me. I'm currently working hard and swimming about 20km more per month than I was previously. It is the field that I have the most to gain in and hopefully by sticking at it the gains will come.

Diet - While I wouldn't say my diet is poor, there is a many ways it can be better without requiring any drastic alterations. It would certainly be the catalyst for further improvement.

Running Off The Bike - With every race or brick session, I feel I am edging closer to producing splits closer to the sort I would in a normal run. I'm aiming to achieve this in the near future.

Distance - The inevitable next step for me is to start racing over longer distances. With the volume of training I am currently doing, the Olympic/Standard distance is something that I'd be confident to tackle now. There is also the allure of 70.3/Half Ironman racing that is certainly not out of the question. As I've learnt, a lot can happen in a year!

During the run at the December Illawarra Triathlon Club Race
January holds more hard work and training as well as another local club triathlon. I will be doing this one the day after working an eight-hour shift beginning at 3am and coming straight home to spend five hours in the saddle climbing hills. I'm relishing the challenge and can't wait to see how my body responds.

After that it is onto more triathlons in February and early March in Huskisson, Wollongong and possibly Kurnell.

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