Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas cheer = how much beer?

For many, 5pm today will represent the carrot that has been dangling in front of you for the past few weeks, months even. That's right, it is time to celebrate Christmas with what may be the jewel in your December crown - a 4 day long weekend! Lots of eating, drinking, being merry and catching up with friends and family (you know, those people that you tend to avoid when knee deep in triathlon training). So the big question - how do you balance all of this celebrating with maintaining your training plan?


From my experience in training to find the holy-grail of balance, that the answer is this... there is rarely such a thing as a perfect balance at this time of the year and you need to pick one and work backwards from there. For me, it's a no-brainer. My family and friends tend to get the tired, distracted, "let me fit one more session in before dinner" version of me during the year. So at Christmas, they get the spritely, attentive and energetic me (ok, so that's not entirely true; while rationally it's a no-brainer anyway, my triathlon-brain does tend to interrupt from time to time and distract me - I tend to block it out by eating another rum ball). Without family and friends, life would become lonely and boring. Unless you're a pro, ease up and relax a little. 

So, if you pick training as the priority, life goes on as normal. Although I would recommend the following:
  1. Put some thought into a few really good excuses as to why you need to train instead of going to the family breakfast. 
  2. Put some top-notch thought into expensive presents to use as negotiating tools. 
  3. Get up super-early so you can be home before the action kicks off. Warning: this may wake up your kids who will be excited about Christmas and will then bug your partner until you get home - thus this strategy may have an adverse affect.

For me, I will plan my training routine around family and friends. For example, this week I have gone into a bit of 'training overload' for 6 days so I can take Sunday off without any worry. All day to hang out with family and play front yard cricket with my niece, nephew and the crew. Other tips and tricks that may work for you:

  1. Enjoy the rest! How often during the year do you say to yourself "I wish I could just have a few days away from it all"? Guess what? You can! A few days of R & R is not going to undo all your hard work. It may even act as a good recovery period for you. 
  2. Stay active - find something that you can do as a family and enjoy the opportunity to do something different. I have done more yoga (my wife loves yoga) over the past 2 weeks than in the entire year! Front yard cricket is always good, or even just a walk together after you've indulged on goodies.
  3. Be sneaky - if you are at the beach tell your family / friends you are going for a splash. Build your open water confidence by running through the waves and swimming out 50 - 100m (count your strokes - about 37-40 is 50m for me). Trend water for a minute or so, then swim back into shore, catching waves on the way. Do this for as many times as you can before you get called on it!
  4. Make the most of having time for quality time. Take the time to notice the face of your kids or family when they open presents, to compliment those who are doing the cooking, to listen and create some memories for when you return to training and they complain ("remember how nice it was at Christmas time when we sung Kylie Minogue songs and I wore the apron with 'kiss me I'm the chef' on it?").
  5. Indulge (not over-indulge). Eat, drink and be merry. Have that pudding, beer, wine, trifle, and other goodies. However, as boring as this sounds I recommend setting some limits. These can be basic, such as "Christmas day is a free day, whatever goes", "no snacking on lollies between meals but everything else is ok" or "6 beers over the break". I suggest this because the human mind tends to develop unhelpful patterns when we are 'being naughty' that lead to what-the-hell behaviours ("I've stuffed up now, 6 beers in, I might as well finish the carton!). 
  6. Pick some quality sessions and plan with your family to fit them in. A few key quality sessions will keep you going over the break. Trust me. Maybe shorter but higher intensity, or focusing more on technique? In the pool, I might do 3 x 300m, 3 x200m and 3 x100m as easy, moderate, hard. With a cool down, this is 2km and about 40 minutes - done. For a run, I might do a negative split - run to a point for 22 minutes, then turn around and try and get home in 18 minutes. Again, 40 minutes of quality work. 
  7. Volunteer to do the last-minute shopping run to one of those 24 hour shopping centres - what better workout than pushing through crowds of people and fighting for the last pair of socks?
Most importantly, stay safe. Be careful on the roads if you are out and about (especially if you are up earlier to fit in with everything else) and be overly cautious. 

Merry Christmas guys and gals, have a run-tastic festive season and keep on smiling. 
  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Race 3 - A new perspective

Race 3 of the QLD Gatorade Series was run and won (by some) on Sunday. It was from a new vantage point for me; the sidelines. I found something tougher than making the decision to rest my calf and not race - standing as a spectator watching what would have been my wave take off! That being said I quickly embraced the opportunity to soak up the day from a new position (see the YouTube video I put together to see what I mean) and I have to say, bravo to everyone involved. From the athletes, to the volunteers, to the officials, everybody was on their 'A-game' with enthusiasm, smiles and support. Even the sun came out to play! It is also worth noting that from registration to numbering, to getting into transition, USM seems to have the blueprint for Raby Bay sorted out. A nice change compared to some of the reports I have heard about the race down in Canberra on the same weekend, which sounds like it was absolute chaos.

From a spectators point of view, Raby Bay seems to tick quite a few boxes. You can see the swim start, get close enough to 'high five' your mates as they run up the swim exit and into transition, then have enough time to scoot across and watch them mount (or attempt to mount) their bike and head out onto the bike course. Also, with a 4 lap ride for the full distance you get ample opportunity to watch everyone spin around the round-a-bout as they come back towards transition and then out again. Again, you can position yourself to see them dismount and run into transition, then yell out some encouragement as they grunt (usually grunt, or groan, sometimes squeezing out a smile!) their way out of T2 and onto the run. A bit of exercise for the spectator to move around to the run course, see everyone come in and out on their first lap, then duck around near the huge inflatable Mizuno shoe and watch them stagger / stumble / sprint across the finish line. So close you can taste the action sometimes! Not that I recommend licking the athletes as they move past. Finally, not only do you get front row seats for all the action, but you also get access to some great deals. On Sunday the Active Stride tent had some shoes at half price, plus all those last minute things that get forgotten (like race belts - I think I have about 5 at home because I would forget to pack them and need to get a new one on the day. Much better than pinning your suit I think!). 

I can't deny that I kept a close eye on the 30-34 year category action. The top guys were lining up (minus one or two) and again while I wanted to be out there I made the most of watching it all unfold from the sidelines. First port of call was the swim exit. Superfish Josh (J.Santacaterina) was no surprise as the first up the ramp and into transition, a place he held onto (just) coming off the bike and onto the run. He had a full minute clear of the 2nd fastest swim, with the rest of the top guys coming out of the water in another 30 - 45 seconds. Interestingly, the top 3 place getters were 5th, 9th and 22nd in the swim leg. This tells me that while a good swim is important, as long as I am within a 2 minutes of the lead I am still in it. It also reinforces that if I can get out of the water with the top couple of guys, the race is mine for the taking. 

Out onto the bike course and I had the opportunity to watch the top guys spin around the round-a-bout 3 times. Both BD (B.Dalrympie, 1st in race 1 and 3rd in race 2) and Ricardo (R.Barbosa, 2nd in race 1 and race 2) made huge gains on the bike, with BD hot on Josh's heals coming out of T2 (transition '2': from bike to run) and Ricardo 31 seconds back. Ryan Emmerson also sizzled the bike course with the 3rd fastest ride of the day (finishing our race in 4th place). Some really solid riding with the top few guys, which shows that is the place to take control of our category at the moment. 

That being said, a blistering run by Paul Jamison (16:57 for the 5km which was 34 seconds faster than the second fastest run split) moved him from well back in the field to 3rd place at the end of the day. A man to watch out for! I've gotta have at least 34 seconds up my sleeve when I jump off my bike, otherwise I am in trouble! BD quickly took control of the run (and race) and was able to hold off for his second victory of the season. Ricardo put in a strong effort to take 2nd, with Paul in 3rd. 

I have to say, Mr Abs himself, BD, looked the goods from start to finish. I was really impressed with the way he seemed to be in control of the day from the get-go, complete with fast transitions and solid performances in all three disciplines. With 2 wins from 3 races, he is the guy to beat at the moment. Maybe not the Alistair Brownlee of our category yet  as he is beatable - but perhaps the Gomez or Kahlefeldt ; ) I am really looking forward to toeing the line with him and the other guys at Robina in January for the club champs. With a bit of rest I'm sure my calf will be ready to rock n' roll. 

Enjoy the break guys and gals, I will put together some ideas soon for attacking the Christmas season and making it work around the puddings and pavlovas. 


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gatorade Series - Race 3 'Raby Bay'

A great day out at the bay, sunshine and clear skies after a week of rain and storms! The wrap up to come over the next few days. In the meantime, enjoy my 'snap shot' of the race.


Friday, December 9, 2011

To DNS or DNF, that is the question



For almost six seasons now I have immersed myself in the world of triathlons. From losing toenails (both big toe nails at once no less), to infections from the timing chip band rubbing, to being bitten by stingers, there are a minefield of small things you are going to encounter along the way that try to 'dint' your armor. It is part and parcel of the sport – we train to cause a level of stress to the body so that it repairs itself stronger and makes us more efficient. Fitter. Capable of running longer and faster. Looking back though not once can I remember missing a race due to injury. Sure, I’ve had a few niggles and injuries here and there. But I’ve always been able to train around them, pick up more time in the pool when I’ve had a leg injury or more time running if I have had a sore shoulder. Granted, before I go on I want to mention an old proverb that springs to mind. "I cried because I had no shoes, until I saw the man with no feet". I haven't (touch wood) had any serious or debilitating illnesses or injuries along the way, and I am not comparing my sore calf to something more dramatic. I'm glad it's a sore calf and not a torn knee ligament. 

What I am saying is that 2 days out from Raby Bay I feel strange as it looks like I am going to have to make the decision not to race because of an injury. It's disappointing. Like I’ve let myself down and lost before the race has even started. Is it because I know I can still swim and ride? Is it because I’m stubborn and don’t want to admit that bringing a wind trainer on my holidays has been a waste of time? Or maybe I’m thinking that I can still ‘roll the dice’ and on race day my calf might be fine. 

It raises these questions; a) how do you decide when it is better not to toe the line on race morning, and b) what is better anyway next to your name – a ‘Did Not Start’ or ‘Did Not Finish’? Whether you like it or not, unless you are like Arnie and are a hardcore machine under your fleshy exterior, there is a good chance you are going to experience some form of an injury through participating in and training for a triathlon. You can take precautions and do the right things to minimise the risk of this happening, such as stretching, regular massage and taking the time to warm up and cool down properly, but at the end of the day if you are logging long hours in training some cracks may show. If you’re lucky, you’ll notice the warning signs early and with a bit of TLC and treatment you’ll be back in no time. So what happens when it is a ‘slight niggle’ that doesn’t stop you from swimming / riding / running but is a definite sign that you’re body needs a break, yet you’ve got a race in a few days that you have spent weeks (sometimes months) preparing for?

From the outside looking in, it might seem like an obvious and easy decision. You’re hurt = don’t race (or train). But your mind can complicate things. Unless you have an obvious injury like a broken leg, parts of your brain thinks that you can still do it. The knight from ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ had both legs and both arms cut off and still wanted to fight, so why can’t I! “Tis but a scratch” “It’s just a flesh wound!”


I’ve spoken to many triathletes over the years with varying ideas. Some say start the race, because “what have you got to lose?”. If it hurts during the race – stop. If not, it’s a moot point as you’ve completed what you set out to do and finished the race. People have told me “you’d be amazed at what your body can do when the adrenaline is pumping and you’re out there competing”. Which is true and I would have to agree with. So true that for me I think this is the problem. I know that I am competitive, and that I can do some stupid things to my body. Once, a massage therapist put a heat-pack on my back and rather than tell her that it was too hot, I thought I’d see how long I could last with it on. Smart, right? Not so smart when I end up with a blister on my back from burning my skin that stung for a week. So I know that if I go into the race on Sunday and feel a pull in my calf, maybe I’ll keep going until the race is over rather than stop. It’s not even the race and I’m already thinking, “It’s only 5km after all, over in less than 18 minutes. Surely I can stand the pain for that long”. Chronic injury anyone?
 

So how do you know when to call it quits for the day and take a DNS? I think it is up to the individual. I’m terrible at making this decision because as I mentioned at the start, I have never decided to NOT start and have never had a DNF (nor made an injury worse). I started the process by putting steps in place to see if it would get better (I hurt my calf last Thursday during a long run): I had not run on it until yesterday (so 7 days off) so I rested it, saw a physio, had a massage, stretched and made sure I am hydrated before exercise. If it was ok yesterday, then I would have raced. But it wasn’t and I stopped as soon as it got sore (difficult thing is I made it through 10 minutes of solid running, thinking “yeah I’m back baby!” and just before I slowed down BANG).

For me, if there is a chance that I could do some serious damage by racing and jeopardise the next month of training then I’ll be a spectator thank-you very much. I have raced with some ‘niggles’ and while sick a number of times. A bit of Nurofen gel rubbed in and off I go. But never with a dead-set injury. I’ve decided that if it is muscular, and it is a sharp pain rather than a dull pain, then that is a good warning sign. So for me, it’s a no-brainer this weekend. I’ll give it a miss. 3 races into the season and I’d hate to blow out my calf and miss 6-8 weeks of TRAINING, let alone racing. Big picture. I am happy… no content … no, I’m accepting of a DNS next to my name. I’ll live to race another day, and it’s not like we are racing for sheep stations. I would rather a DNS than that horrible feeling during the race when I hurt myself more and think “you idiot”. Plus I’d get no sympathy from my wife ; )

Funny though, while I gave my calf a week of no running and today strained it in a short run off the bike and therefore knew deep-down that not racing is the best option, I still saw a physiotherapist this afternoon in the hope he would say I’d be right to race. Needless to say he thinks triathletes are mad. 

For those who don't know who the 'black knight' is... 



Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Life is not just about surviving the storm, it's about learning to dance in the rain

 
A few weeks ago my wife found a lump in our dog’s mouth. We took her in to the vet and ended up booking her in to have part of the mass removed so that it could be analysed. Two visits later and she has now had a large section of her lower jaw removed after it was discovered that she has a very aggressive bone cancer. What a whirlwind! The time from discovery to final operation spanned less than 2 weeks. It has been a little hard to grasp; she has been a healthy dog for almost 10 years, nothing worse than a mite on her nose in that time. Yet in what seems like a blink of the eye she has gone from a happy, healthy, stick-chasing friend to one who was given 3 – 6 months to live without an operation. The waiting game is now on to see if the operation got ‘clean edges’ on the segment that was removed. In the meantime, she is with us down in Byron recovering in style.
The whole experience has reminded me of a lot of things, such as making the most of each day and the importance of family and support. It has also shown me first hand the power of resilience and having the right attitude.  My dog is getting around with a cone on her head, and she looks like a Simpson’s character from side on. Yet she doesn’t seem perturbed. As the vet told us, dog’s have a wonderful philosophical view of life. For example, he said that the first few times our dog will try to eat (without the lower part of her jaw) it will most likely get messy as she won’t have that part of her mouth to help catch the food. But, she will quite quickly go “huh, all right then” and figure out how to eat without it. He was right. She seemed to figure it all out pretty fast and there was none of that “poor me” hesitation and wallowing. She just got on with it using what she had. I think it’s amazing. Similarly with the cone on her head, I thought she would get frustrated but I think my wife and I have gotten the most frustrated hearing her bump into things with it! My dog on the other hand has just figured out that she needs to lift her head higher so it doesn’t catch on the ground. Job done.
It comes down to your thinking. My dog accepts that ‘it is what it is’ and gets on with her life. Humans on the other hand, we have the power of cognition – good for us right? We can worry about the things we are missing, how much better our life could be, the injustice of it all, rather than accepting things as they are and being resilient. Sure, some of us are great at ‘getting on with it’. You read about guys who have been attacked by sharks who go on to be motivational speakers. Some of us are ok at it, and some of us find it difficult. Wherever you are on this scale, I think it is always beneficial to be reminded of the power of just ‘letting go’ of the worries and what-ifs.    
This accepting mindset has a big place in the world of triathlons. Have you ever caught yourself thinking “it’s raining I can’t run today”, “it’s too cold”, “I haven’t got the most expensive bike so I’m going to be slow” or been at the starting line and thought “I missed three swims this week I’ll be terrible today”, “it’s too hot I can’t race when it’s this hot” or “I forgot that extra gel”. It’s up to you how long you let yourself wallow in these thoughts. Guaranteed though that the person who accepts them and just gets on with their day will have the most enjoyment. For me, I strained my calf in a run last week. Sure, I did my fair share wallowing. I was on a really strong roll in my running training and to have this happen I thought ‘bit the big one’. It meant almost no running in the week before Raby Bay. But you know what? It happens. Rather than sit here and think about how much it is going to negatively impact my race, I can accept it and move on. I can focus on using the extra time from not running as time spent in the pool. I can spend more time stretching and getting the ol’ abadaba’s going, which I tend to neglect.
With less than a week until race 3 at Raby Bay I encourage you to put aside any hang-ups you may have about things not going the way you want. Make the situation work for you, and figure out how to eat with half your mouth missing (you know what I mean). Race 3 has a fun pre-Christmas feel to it. You’ll see people racing with tinfoil on their bikes and Santa hats on the run. Last year it was a scorcher, so remember to start hydrating the day before the race. I will include a couple of sports drinks (such as Endura rehydration – the same as I use on my bike) in with my normal water consumption on Saturday. Research has shown that even a slight decrease in hydration (like a 2% drop) can have a massive impact on your sports performance.
It is worth noting that in race 3 the distances are longer than those in the first two events. This time we are swimming 750m, riding 20km and running 5km. This might mean turning back the dial a little to help you get through to the end. Pace yourself. It may also mean a change in your race nutrition plan. While you may have been able to get through the shorter events on a sports drink, on Sunday it might pay to have a gel in transition to pick up when you head out onto the run course. That little bit of extra kick and energy (many gels such as the Endura range include caffeine as well as carbs) could come in handy out there. Just remember to have water with your gels to help your body digest them quicker (and give you that energy hit quicker). If you have time this week and have not tried gels before, I recommend trying one during a longer run so you can a) practice eating on the move and b) see how your stomach handles it while your heart rate is elevated.
Good luck out there and remember that whatever happens happens, and the sooner you come to terms with that the sooner you can go back to enjoying the moment.
See you out there while I try not to think about the running I haven’t done this week ; )    Acceptance, right? Ha!    

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Reddog track session - a insiders look

At today's track session I got to play with a 'gobandit HD Action cam' that Robson and the guys at Active Stride have given me for a few weeks. After I have put it through it's paces I'll put together a review on what I like about it and what bugged me. But for now, enjoy the video from this morning...


Monday, November 14, 2011

Gatorade Series Race 2 - "Rumble in Robina"


A glorious day awakened for the start of the Gatorade Series Race 2 - “Rumble in Robina”. The two days leading into the race for me were a mixed bag. On Friday, I managed a solid ride / run session in the morning and had a great massage in the evening at Moorooka Therapeutic Massage (thanks Jodie). But on Saturday, I woke up feeling tired and run-down like an old pair of undies that are ready for the discard bin. I decided to cut out my planned swim session and instead did a very brief ride on my bike (more to check the setup once I had put the race wheels on and the recharged Di2 battery). I also made myself have a good stretch to try and get rid of some muscle fatigue, and played some Canasta with my mum and Aunty who was over from WA. The ‘relaxed body and mind’ must have worked, because on Sunday morning I woke up with more of a spring in my step than I have had in weeks. No excuses here – I was ready to race.

Up at 4:10am and in the car by 4:30am. Fun, right? Not really excited by getting up this early, I do everything I can the night before to make it quicker (so I can sneak that extra 10 minutes sleep!). I pack my bag the night before a race to avoid extra stress in the morning. I also put my drink bottle on the bench in the kitchen so minimal thought is required when I wake up. This is important as the cogs take a little bit to get going at 4:10am. As much as I’d love to have some caffeine, I hold off as I don’t want the peak and fall before the race. My pre-race meal is usually the same, although with these shorter events I tend not to stress too much about getting all the carbs in. Again, I plan ahead to take the stress out. So today, I knew that I’d have an Up&Go in the car around 5:30am which would make it about 2hrs before the starter’s gun. I aim to get my main pre-race ‘meal’ in at least 2hrs before jumping in the water so my body has time to digest it.


Having missed Race 1 this was my opportunity to see where I am at compared to the other guys in my category. I checked the results after Race 1, and had a chance to race a lot of the guys who did well at Raby Bay, at Noosa 2 weeks ago. BD won Race 1, and beat me at Noosa by 1:17. Matty Breakspear had also topped me at Noosa by 27 seconds. This is something that I am really coming to enjoy in these races; having been around for a while I am starting to know the faces of the guys and can have a laugh with them on and off the course. Don’t be fooled though – the competitive nature is there alive and thriving in all of them! In an event that is over in under 50 minutes, every second counts, which makes it even more competitive. Love it.


Once I had persevered through the longest toilet line in history (it took 3 photos to capture it all!), I headed ‘out the back’ of the swim start to get my swim warm-up in. The water temp was great, though I can only imagine how warm it is going to be next time we are at Robina racing. A few hard efforts later and I was back on dry land with the crew, ready to rock n’ roll. A look around at the start and everyone had massive smiles on their faces. This is what it’s all about! I headed down the ramp and into the water for our start. I placed myself towards the front, in behind BD as I knew he would hold a quicker swim than me. I was hoping to find his ‘friendly feet’ but once the race started he was off. As I’ve mentioned before, I am in the process of ‘remoulding’ my swim-race brain. 400m today, so I just kept thinking full throttle. I tried to keep the balance of being more aware of what is going on around me, while also being aware of my own form. I found my pace and while it hurt I reminded myself that I had just done 500m efforts in Thursday’s Reddog squad, so 400m will be over in no time. Right? We came up behind the group in front of us, so there were a few bobbing pink-caps scattered along the way. I tried my best to keep a good line while not swimming over anyone; I think I managed to do this alright. Around the last buoy and with the shore and swim exit in sight I focused on keeping my technique (relaxed, long strokes with hand-to-thigh each time) and quick arm turnover. I kept swimming until my stroke touched the bottom, then I stood up. How good does the touch of ground feel at the end of a swim! Up the shore and Jiggles gives me a confidence boost – “good swim mate, BD is just up ahead”. 

Jiggles pondering how many bakery's he can hit before Busso. Sponsor this Mo at http://au.movember.com/mospace/2311064/
Running into transition I see Matty and we share a few words about catching up to BD. The race is on! I get to my bike and out onto the course as quickly as I can. I'm feeling pretty excited because I have come out of the water in the mix, which is not normally the case. By the time I am on my bike and have my feet in my shoes (which were already on the bike) I have passed a few guys in my category including Matty and the Long Course to Short Course People's Champ, Yo-Yo. On the bike; this is where I have felt most at home over the past few races. Whatever I am doing in training is working and is giving me the confidence to push hard. 15km is not that long so the intensity is quad-busting from the get-go. I manage to get into the lead of our group in the first lap (though still behind a few super-fish like Josh who smashed everybody - 2nd out of the water was 40 seconds behind him after a 400m swim). Robina is good because you can get a look at your competitors twice on each lap at the two turnarounds. I could see that the gap was increasing bit-by-bit each time, which made me push harder. 


That's me on the right and BD hot on my tail
















Not a bad TT position - I was so far forward on my saddle though that I pushed it down!
I found the ride exciting, as there was not much between us all. I enjoyed riding to the front and attacking, hoping for the best. I'll admit, I had passing thoughts about my legs not holding up for the run. But hey, what is there to lose? In the end I had the fastest bike split and after coming 12th out of the water I was first off the bike. It's worth noting that Adz from BBT had a cracker on the bike. He got stuck amongst a group of people (which can happen with so many people on the course) and got a 3-minute drafting penalty. His bike split minus the penalty would have been 27 seconds QUICKER than mine. I'll have to keep an eye on him at Raby Bay :)

Adz putting in the hard yards. The fast bike split must have been because he was running a rear disc... ;)
Adz again - without that Mo he probably could have swum 30 seconds faster. Make it worth his while and be part of a good cause... http://au.movember.com/mospace/1955356/
I knew that I had about 30 seconds heading out onto the run. I managed a quick turnaround, the yankz laces make it easy to get my shoes on in a hurry. While I was happy where I was it is tough mentally being the first onto the run knowing there are 3 or so people hunting you down who can RUN. For the first time in years I was racing without a watch, so rather than being able to check my pace on my Suunto T6D I was running by feel. I tried to settle into a pace that was just bearable. Just. With the run course straight out and back (1k each way) it is easy to set little goals to aim for. It is also easy to see where everyone is at. So the first target was over the little rise and to the first turnaround. No looking back. Just in case. I didn't want to know. At the turnaround and back towards transition I began the count. 1... 2... 3... I got to about 15 before I passed BD and Ricardo. Another 5 before Matty. That makes 30 seconds still. I've just gotta hold on for that bit more. 3k's in training is nothing. But here. Ouch! I try telling myself that 3k's is less than 11 minutes. That didn't really hearten me much at this point in time! 

At the 2km turnaround and Ewan from Reddog gives me a few cheers which puts a brief spring in my step. I see the gap is still there (though shortening slightly perhaps). I ease off a little in the 3rd km. I remember at Bribie I was in a similar spot and kept pushing hard, so when Tim caught me and passed me there I had nothing left in the tank. I thought if I race smarter today and try to leave a bit I might stand a better chance to push to the line if they catch me. At the last turnaround I notice the gap is still there so I pick it up again and push for home. I know that I can knock out 1k in under 3:30, so if I can do it just one more time today then to catch me the guys would have to be flying. I end up with the 5th fastest run (all 3 of the guys chasing me had faster splits) and managed to hold on for first place with 27 seconds to spare.



I am stoked with the result and happy to have some bragging rights for the next 4 weeks. I am not disillusioned though; on any given day any of these guys could take the top of the podium. They are all great athletes and put the time into training to get results in races. Raby Bay will be interesting; with a longer swim I might have more time to have to catch up on the bike and run. Granted I'll have an extra 5k of riding and 1k on foot to do that in ;)


A week of taking it easy now to reset my mind and body. While I'm looking forward to a few sleep-ins, the sun is up so early now I find I'm awake by 5:30 anyway! My dog is going to get some extra walks this week, that's for sure. 

Thanks to the guys from Active Stride, Mizuno and Chain Gang Performance Bikes for their support leading up to the race. I'm enjoying have the chance to share my race experiences with others who are getting into the sport.



Monday, November 7, 2011

Don't take life too seriously, you may not get out alive.


Goals are an important part of moving forward. They let you know when you have achieved something that you set out to do. They can motivate you to get out of bed when the rooster hasn't even gotten out of bed yet. Without a doubt they have a place in the triathletes bag of tricks. But they come with a catch. Many people tend to think of success as achieving your goals. But what happens if you dedicate 3 months of your life to hitting that 'special' time in a race, and on race day miss it? What happens if you get sick and miss the race altogether? What happens if your goal is to race Noosa next year but it sells out in 5 minutes before you have a chance to even log in? Does that mean you've failed? 

Don't get me wrong - taking the time to set and work towards goals is something I think is really important. In fact, my coach and I are putting some time in at the moment to work out what I want to achieve over the next 12 months. But, I think success can be measured another way. I think it is just as (if not more) important to be living by what drives you, what you value. For example, rather than focusing on the goal of knocking out 12 sessions in a week, ask yourself how your training goals match who you want to be. Is it important for you to be focused? Competitive? To enjoy the moment? These qualities of action are things you can do right now. You can be focused in today's track session. You can train with the competitive drive to beat 'that guy' in the next race. You can enjoy the moment by riding a bike that is hooked up to a blender to blend your own smoothie. Which means you can be successful right now even though your goals might be a long way off. The key is to bring both goals and values together. Consider this, if you value being fair in your relationships yet you are trying to fit in training sessions morning and night and not leaving time for your partner, at some stage one of you are going to crack. Your motivation to train will be impacted and in the end; you'll stop enjoying triathlons (or you'll have all time time you want to train as a single person!). But, if you can match who you want to be with your goals, then you can conquer the world. Guaranteed life will be richer and you'll be happier, and we all know when we're happier we are more energetic and more likely to train. For example, if being determined is important to you as a person you can act in ways to be this person. You can hit that early morning training session even though it is raining. In doing so it'll fill your day with meaning and a smile. How do you know what you value? One way to start thinking about it is this; imagine it is your 80th birthday and there are 3 people are giving speeches about who you are and what you have stood for. In the IDEAL world, what would you like them to say?

You may be thinking, this sounds like taking life very seriously so how does the title of this blog fit in? True, this idea of living by your values sounds pretty serious. But I think once you have started to refocus the way you assess your 'success', to become more aware of who you want to be, then it becomes less effort. Less stressed about what you want to do and more in touch with the now. And more fun. Richer, yet less critical of not reaching that 'key' time. Noosa reminded me of this. I finished 6th, yet in my mind wanted to finish top 5. 4 minutes faster than last year yet still a part of me was disappointed. Ridiculous, right? Once I reminded myself of the way I dedicated my time to training, had been respectful of my relationship, had focused on the 'one percenters' I remembered that "we're not racing for sheep stations". I'm still me and that's enough. Although I still want to beat Matty Breakspear and BD!


Not long now until it's time to strap in for Battlestations Robina. It's a pretty good course for the strong biker and runner I think. The bike course is a L-shape that gives you plenty of opportunity to get into a nice time-trial position on your aero bars (if you have them). Fairly flat, a slight incline in one part but nothing too strenuous. For that edge over your competitors prepare to give that power-push out of the turnaround points. If you've got time in training sessions this week (ideally on a wind-trainer) try including 3 - 5, 15 second HARD efforts (heavy gear high cadence) with a minute or so rest. This will stimulate a different energy system that provides you with that powerful push. 

The swim is easy to navigate for those who have some trouble sighting in open water. A square shape with buoys that are easy to see. Again, in training this week try including a few laps of the pool that include some efforts with your head looking forward (for example, 4 x 50m easy alternating 8 strokes normal, 8 strokes head looking at the end of the pool). 

I remember last year in the run it felt like it went on FOR AGES. Find a way to distract yourself is my advice! And hydrate. Last year it was a scorcher at Robina. Make the most of your time on the bike to get those much needed fluids into your system. If you are new to triathlons, I think it is important to try to limit your fluid intake in the last 5 - 10 minutes before you get off the bike and onto the run. Otherwise you may find yourself with a belly full of fluid slooshing around - not fun, trust me!

Training wise try to taper off towards the end of the week. Having raced Noosa just over a week ago makes the lead up interesting for me. I haven't got the post-hard-race process down pat so I have been fighting off a bit of a cold since Noosa. My immune system took a hiding and rather than refuel properly I got swept up in the Noosa party festivities. I blame Paul T aka Rubio. But that's another story. So a few swims last week and my first ride / run a full 7 days after the race. This week I'm not rushing it as I still feel rundown. My general approach though pre-race is to have a good stretch and massage (if available) on the Friday before the race, then a general run through of something on the Saturday. This time around I'll have a swim. This is important, and I know some people have the day off 'to refresh'. Physiologically, I think it is important to do some form of activity that makes your body go "he's doing it again, we'd better refuel those muscles to prepare". That way your muscles are filled up with the energy and nutrients you'll need when you are standing on the start line the next day. 

Good luck guys. Remember, be who you want to be first and the rest will follow. 



Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Noosa Triathlon Festival '11

You can tell if you've had a great weekend by how fast it goes by. It's Monday night, 3 days since the adventure began, yet I feel like I've blinked and it's all over. I've been struck again by the intoxicating event that is the Noosa Triathlon Festival.


I think you'd be hard pressed to race in a more relaxed and welcoming place. I'm a big fan of the beach, good coffee, fresh food and fit triathletes in bikinis. Noosa has all of this and more.

The morning of the race welcomed me with sunshine and blue skies. Much better than last year when it was miserable and wet. Give me the heat over rain at any race. If I was a horse in tomorrow's Melbourne Cup my odds would blow out if it was a wet track. I caught the shuttle bus to transition and had plenty of time to get myself organised. For some reason I just didn't feel right. My legs and arms seemed heavy and lethargic, not springy and energetic. I felt dazed and tired rather than focused and ready. I think it was partly because the people I normally spend the pre-race morning with weren't with me, and partly due to a rough sleep. Rather than dwell on it, I took the time to stretch and wake up my body a bit that way. It worked, and before I knew it I was down at the swim start getting ready to warm-up. No wettie today, with the water temperature measured the day before at 24.1 degrees. Can you believe that? Age Groupers can use a wetsuit when the temp is up to and including 24 degrees. 0.1 degrees over! 


One of my vices when racing is not doing a proper swim warm up. I know I should; when I don't it usually takes me a good 50 - 100 meters of the race to find my rhythm, and sometimes I struggle getting my breathing under control as well because I've gone from nothing to 100 mile an hour without warning my body first. So today I took the time to warm up, do some hard short efforts and a bit of 'sculling' to get a feel of the water. It must have helped, because I knocked out a PB in the swim. I had three things to focus on in the swim. 1) To follow the shortest path by sighting and focusing on the buoys for each turn. I think in some races I drift off track and swim 2k instead of 1.5k. 2) I was determined to find some 'friendly feet' to get in behind, which is something that I have struggled to do before. 3) I wanted to start aggressively and find my space at the front. Usually I hold back and prioritize getting my own space and relaxing rather than attacking. But I took confidence from putting myself at the front at the start of Bribie 3 weeks ago and ended up 3rd out of the water. Looking back now, I think I managed to do all three of these things successfully. Still a way to go (67th in my category for the swim @ 24:55) but a 'stroke' in the right direction. 

Up onto the shore and into transition for a quick turnaround. No great dramas here - focused on the tasks at hand, small steps, race belt on, sunnies on, helmet on, and out onto the course. In a sea of bikes it was easy enough to find mine; I had placed in on the rack right near a large sign so I knew to run to it. So on the bike and firing along out towards 'the hill'. This is where Noosa (and many of the big races) doesn't favour me - with so many guys in my age group (about 360 this year) we are split into 3 wave starts based on surnames. 'Waters' places me in the third wave, while all the top guys are in the first wave. So I don't have that 'rabbit' to chase right in front of me, you know what I mean? One strategy when racing if you are in the lead is to push that little bit harder so that you break visual contact with the guy behind you. It's a powerful move if they can no longer see you; kind of 'out of sight out of mind'. So for me being in wave 3, the top guys are permanently out of sight (unless I make 8 minutes up on them... unlikely!). I'm not saying this to make excuses, rather to highlight the thoughts that run through my mind during a race. Admittedly it may also make me ride harder knowing that they are up ahead. 

I have to admit I had a fantastic day on the bike (5th in my category @ 1:02:59). I got into a great pace early that was uncomfortable but manageable. There were plenty of people on the course to break the monotony by working to catch and then pass them one-by-one. I also love climbing, so the hill suits me perfectly. A nice touch this year for the 'Garmin King of the Hill' to challenge the best climbers to fly to the top. At the turn around I had my Torq gel as I could feel the low sugars slowly creeping in. With that kicking in though I kept the pace up and took full advantage of the downhill part of the bike course. I snuck a glace at my bike computer and was traveling around 86khr. Not too shabby, although when you hear stories of guys knocking up around 100khr I think they must be mad! It was reassuring as I wove my way back towards transition to see I was maintaining the same pace as the one I had set out at. The niggle in the back of my mind though was that feeling of low sugar creeping back in with no more gels on my bike. 

I hit transition smoothly and again focused step by step on the tasks at hand; helmet off, shoes on, new gel in hand and off. A 'click of the heels' for my support crew who were there to watch me head out onto the course and it was on. Someone had hit my watch in the swim so the timer wasn't counting for me. I knew that my wave started at 7.25, so going by the time on my watch now I knew I was on track for a PB - BOOM! Heading out of transition and around the roundabout onto the course is a sure-fire way to get your legs ready to run; with the huge crowd there cheering you on there is no other option! Again, I settled in easily and focused on keeping tall and light on my feet. Some people count steps to distract themselves, some think of the beer at the end, some walk, for me I focus on key bits of running technique. Running tall is a good simple one. High follow through on the recovery phase is another one that works for me. I find it passes the time while keeping your form as best you can when you're exhausted. I also try to not think about the run as 10k long, especially over the first few k's, because that can be heart-breaking! I think having done Noosa a few times definitely benefited me in the run. I know that the turnaround at the bridge isn't halfway. I know the last bit snakes around through the back streets rather than running straight back down the drive to home. I know that once I pass the aid station on the back streets that I can push it harder, and once I am back on the main drag the crowd will keep me running hard (I don't want to embarrass myself by slowing down then!). I think little things like this can make a big difference to your race. 


Through the crowds, past the Reddog tent and Chain Gang tent and then the Active Stride tent and over the line - what a great feeling after bashing yourself around for a few hours! Once you're over the line there are 'showers' set up so you can sit down and let the water wash away the pain. Sort of. It comes back when you leave the shower area! 

A great day out and 6th place for me finishing in 2:05:50. Plus a 4 minute PB on this course which is really the best measuring stick on how well I went (I think so anyway). As many triathletes will tell you, post-race there are always things you look back on and think "I'd do that differently". For me, I'd have 2 gels on the bike. I was running the gauntlet of 'bonking' from the second half of the bike on. The gel on the run was good, but I tend to take a little bit at a time rather than all at once when running and in this race the gel had run over my hands before I ate it all! I think the heat made the gel extra runny. Other than that, I really can't complain. I know that stretching works in trying to get myself going when I feel sluggish, so that is something that I would use again. Also, with the second fastest run split (37:56) I can safely say the Mizuno Ronin's worked a treat.

Now the focus is on Robina. Two guys that beat me at Noosa (4th and 5th) tend to race the Gatorade series races, so the challenge is on! Time to reevaluate my training, recover and then do what I can to line up against the TOUGH field at Robina. It's daunting, but also really exciting, to have such a good quality group of guys to race against. It is definitely a serious motivator. 

First port-of-call; I just read in a magazine that cross-training can help with recovery post-race by encouraging blood flow without repetitively damaging muscles by doing the same movement patterns over and over again. So I am off to give yoga a burl this arvo.

A HUGE shout-out to my wonderful support crew - imagine my surprise at seeing this banner... 


A bit embarrassing given I'm just a guy racing (not even top 3!) but a great feeling having the support behind me. No pressure to perform, right? Ha!


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Getting your head around a 'Mousdash'

They're hairy, scary, and can make your upper lip quiver. No, I don't mean a mustache. I'm talking about fun-runs that can send a tingle down your spine! 'Movember' 13th marks the third anniversary of one of Brisbane's newest running festivals - the Nova 106.9 Mousdash Mt Coot-tha Fun Run & Walk. Movember itself is a fantastic campaign and one that I wholeheartedly support. It is about raising money and awareness of men's health problems, specifically prostate cancer and depression. Working as a psychologist I have seen (and continue to see) firsthand how debilitating and consuming depression is, on both the person experiencing it and the people around them. Campaigns such as this one that have the support of organisations like Beyond Blue help people to realise that depression is real and is something that is OK to talk about.


So how do you tackle a mustache? I'm probably not the right person to ask about that. But a Mousdash - now that I can help you out with. If you choose to 'Stride It', you're up for 10.5km around Mt Coot-tha going clockwise

Before you get into it, remember to warm up the ol' rig before you get it into 'mountain conquering' mode. No need to reinvent the wheel here - do whatever has been working for you in training. Walking for a few minutes, some light jogging and then some basic drills like lunges and high knee run-throughs works for me. 


Given you are about to tackle a mountain, here are a few basic tips for running up hill:
  • Let your arms do the work for a change. No, not walking on your hands (although that would be impressive to the top). It's really difficult to run and swing your arms and legs at different speeds, so pump your arms a bit harder to propel you forward. 
  • Imagine a cable attached to your chest that is pulling you up to the top of the mountain. 
  • Keep your head lowered a bit, or looking forward, just not straight up the hill. It's OK to glance up to see how far you have to go, but by keeping your head down a bit you keep your back straighter and it encourages better running posture. 
  • Pretend the person in front of you is pulling a sled that you are on. You can even imagine that you are whipping them if that is your kind of thing. 

You start at Mt Coot-tha Rd and head up to the first intersection with Sir Samuel Griffith Drive. This is a bit of an incline, but it is over quick enough. Given you'll be caught up in the excitement of the event with thousands of others around you, you'll hardly notice. Focus on counting as many pairs of Mizuno's as you can until you hit the intersection; that'll distract you!


When you hit the 'welcome' sign, turn left. This is it - the steady climb to the top. The part you've been thinking about for the past few nights, waking you up in a cold sweat. Never fear! You just need to focus on breaking the 2km's to the Summit Restaurant up into smaller pieces. For example, a few hundred meters up and you have a great view to your left out over the Brisbane CBD skyline. The part you may find tricky is the fact that after the first 1km or so, the road starts to snake around so you can't see the end of it. For me, the mind games kick in because you start asking yourself "when do I stop climbing - I can't see it ending!". Remember it does stop going up. Trust me. Also, look for the positives - sure, you are still climbing but now you have the shade of the trees. 


Coming up the front side of the mountain, the road will plateau out for a little bit. Use this time to catch your breath and relax a bit if needed. There is one more short sharp push before you reach the Summit Restaurant. When you get there, let out a "Woo Hoo!" as you are (almost) at the peak. The road will curve around to the right, and you will find yourself going through a round-a-bout. A hundred meters further and the road flattens out. Two pieces of advice here. A) Soak it up and enjoy the view - it is amazing looking out over the rolling hills and towards the horizon. B) Don't be fooled. There is still a few hundred meters of climbing just around the corner! When you hit it, don't be scared as it is only a short section and a freckle compared to what you have already overcome. 


From here, it is rolling hills for a while. Remember to stay in the moment. Your legs might be hurting and your mind telling you to stop; the key is to thank your mind for these thoughts (that's all they are, thoughts) and then to take in what is going on around you; the people of all shapes and sizes conquering the mountain with you, like a bunch of marauding athletes! The sound of the wildlife and birds. Focus on finding something with each sense; the smell of the forest leaves, the sound of shoes on the asphalt, the colour of the sky, the taste of the sweat on your lip, the touch of the material on the person in front of you's bu... hold on. No, I don't recommend touching random people. But you get what I mean. Enrich the experience!


You will pass a few stations - first will be Channel 7, then Channel 9. As landmarks, once you have passed Channel 9 there is another slight rise for about 100 meters and then, in the distance, when you see Channel 10 - the downhill run! While it may be very tempting to think the quicker I run the quicker this will be over, it will destroy your legs if you are not used to running downhill. Plus it is a sure recipe for injuries and shin splints. Some tips for the downhill stretch:
  • Don't over-stride. While it will be tempting to take huge leaps to move faster, you'll hammer your quads and struggle for the last part of the day. 
  • Keep your feet low to the ground and try to stay light on your feet. Your stride turnover will naturally pick up as it now has gravity on it's side, so try to keep your steps short and quick.
  • Try to keep your shoulders just in front of you and your hips and feet under you. 
  • Don't lean back and try to brake yourself. Let gravity pull you as you glide down the hill. 
 Also, I saw this sign on the downhill which might provide some entertainment:


This tells me that at some stage some guy is going to try and jump over a man riding a horse while riding a bike! Yeah! If you're there when it happens, let me know because it sounds like it would be mind-blowing. 

Again, the downhill section snakes around a bit so you may find yourself wondering where the bottom is. Rather than focus on the end, focus on making it to each bend in the road. Count how many steps it takes to get to the corner, then start again for the next one. Consider this: if the iceberg that the Titanic ran into was made up of many ice-cubes rather than one huge chunk of ice, the Titanic would have sailed straight through them all. Treat the mountain the same. Break it into small pieces and you'll be through it in no time. Otherwise you may sink. 

  

So, at the bottom of the mountain you will hit Simpsons Falls. When you see that, you are almost home and hosed! A nice stretch of open flat road awaits your bouncing step (you're still bouncing at this stage, right?). If you're lucky you will be greeted by a couple of friendly horses that live in the paddock on your left. If you're thirsty then there is a water cooler near the car park on your right. Last tip: if you are feeling great still, gun it because you are nearly there. If not, or if you are unsure, keep a bit in the tank because there is one more mini-climb before the downhill strut to the Botanical Gardens. 

Congratulations! Once you've made it to the end, soak up the experience. You've given yourself ample excuses to pig-out on ice-cream and cake for the rest of the day; you've raised money and awareness for a good cause; and you've done something good for yourself. 



Friday, October 14, 2011

Your first triathlon: a recipe for success

A quick check of bom tells me that the sun is going to rise on a 'fine' day on Sunday; rising up over the horizon to shine of the shoulders of those who beat the sun out of bed and are filled with the nervous energy humming in their stomach that can only mean one thing... It's go time! For many, this will be their first taste of a triathlon. Believe me, the flavour is addictive and will have you coming back for more. One person who will be 'popping his triathlon cherry' on Sunday is Adam Bowen - Adam finished in the top 14 of Australian MasterChef - Season 3. I caught up with him in his final week to ask him about his preparations, life on MasterChef and recipe for success... 



Scott W (SW): Hi Adam. Before we start, do you mind if I call you Ad?

Adam B (AB): Ad is all good, my mates call be Bowza. It comes from my last name being Bowen and I always have a go at things. So it's 'Bowza havin' a Gowza' since I was 17. 

SW: Alright, Bowza it is. First things first, lets get the important stuff out of the way. What's the best recipe for impressing the ladies?

AB: Blokes that's easy. Girls are impressed whenever a guy cooks anything for them. Even if you get a nice takeaway (tell her you cooked it) put it on a clean white place and tell the girls you spent all day cooking it. They will not know the difference; make sure to plate it up like a pro. Laughs. But if you really want to impress the girl of your dreams, then cook the following: start with an entree Pan Fry Sea Scallops on a bed of Risotto of Corn Puree; main would be Medium Rare Lamb Racks on a White Bean puree with red wine vinegar Jus with garden vegies, and for dessert to seal the deal and to really impress the special girl in your life a Chocolate Ganache tart with salted Caramel served with double cream. Remember to keep the Champagne flowing and victory will be your and all her friends will think you're worth paying attention to.

SW: I was with you up until the takeaway part. I'm lucky there isn't a fourth leg of the triathlon where you need to cook anything otherwise I'd be in a bit of strife. So, from MasterChef to triathlons. What got you thinking about giving triathlons a go?

AB: Mate I got back from MasterChef and I had put on 13kg. I was invited to compete in a 10km fun run, crossed the line in 49 minutes and really enjoyed it. Then decided to do the Brisbane Marathon with no training, crossed the line in 4.17, and I loved the pain my body went through and I survived ... just ... The last 4km took me 40 minutes! Thought to myself I could do that faster, so I need to train. Down at the Valley one night I was teaching a Dry Suit course [ed note: Bowza's day job is a Scuba-diving instructor at GoDive Australia in Brisbane] and I saw a friend, Bill Farry, and told him that I did a marathon. He said "great but real men do Ironman" so the training started, and 2 months later love it. 

SW: That Billy is a straight-shooter alright. Man a 4.17 for a marathon with no training is pretty scorching. You just need to tag a 3.8km swim and 180km bike ride in front of it. So how does Raby Bay fit into the scheme of things?

AB: I'm training for Raby Bay and then Port Macquarie 70.3 in November. Training for 2 months and I have dropped my weight to 95kg. Came back from MasterChef in May at 113kg. 

SW: That's awesome. Trent (Reddog Triathlon Training) tells me you approach training like a blue-heeler at a food bowl - you dig in at 100 miles per hour. What's your secret to staying motivated for every session?

AB: Trent's a great coach, a great bloke. I love getting involved in different things and when I do something I want to be the best I can be. What's the point of going to the effort to do training and not putting in 110%, if you don't go hard, go home and sit in front of TV. To stay motivated I just say to myself "get started" then your body takes over. I get better and feel stronger as the session goes longer, I always think at the start of the session it's not how I feel at the moment but how good I will feel when I finish. My motto in life is "Weakness has no place here". Every time I hurt that's what I say to myself. It doesn't take the pain away it just helps me work on forgetting about the pain. 

SW: Love it. It sounds like you've got the mental game down pat, it's just about putting it all together on race day. What's the most common bit of advice people are giving you going into your first race?

AB: Stay out of trouble in the swim, it can get crowded. And don't blow your legs on the bike. 

SW: Good advice. And remember to breath; that always helps. I also find that if I am starting to stress a bit at the start I think of all the hard work I've done up to that point. What hard work can you look back on, say when considering a typical week?

AB: My training week seems to be getting busier as I get fitter. Monday I run 8-12km before work, swim squad that night. Tuesday is my day off, Wednesday I bike in the morning and swim that night, Thursday is a run session in the morning, Friday I bike in the morning, Saturday I run in the afternoon, Sunday is a long bike and run. After Port Mac 70.3 I will reduce to 3-4 days a week only. 

SW: I'm a bit worn out just hearing about your week. Yeah, I found the challenge preparing for a half and full Ironman event is the time it takes each week to train. Especially to get the bike hours up. First things first though, how are you feeling about the race on Sunday?

AB: Feeling really good, I just want to see how well my training has been working for me. Looking forward to competing against other people, training is all about competing against yourself. 

SW: Yeah, it's a different kettle of fish putting it together in a race. It does help you to judge how your training is going in comparison to others. Speaking of judges, what do you think is tougher: having Matt Preston tasting your food or running off the bike?

AB: Running off the bike for sure. Getting fit and doing triathlons is one of only a few sports and activities in life where your performance is a true reflection of your effort. The clock and timer don't lie or cheat and your triathlon results aren't left up to judgement or opinion. The results are real and it's all up to you.

SW: I couldn't have said it better myself. You tend to find yourself out there, even though there are others around you, you tend to spend a bit of time in your own head. I see a lot of people who seem to be looking at their feet trying to find themselves on the run. As if their soul may be in one of the cracks on the sidewalk... Glazed over eyes, vacant stares... Probably not that motivating to mention that now before your first race. Sorry. So, your favourite session?

AB: Long runs, gives you time to think and some quiet time to yourself. 

SW: Cool. Least favourite?

AB: Getting started for a swim session. It takes a good 500m for Big Bad Bowza to get warmed up and feeling good into the stroke.

SW: What are you most worried about on Sunday?

AB: The swim. I'm 6'5" and 95 kg so I'm worried about swimming over someone smaller or accidentally punching someone with my round arm swim technique. You never know, it might help my result by taking out the competition. Laughs.

SW: I'm sure those 'smaller people' would much rather have your problems in the water. You're right, while it's not always pretty there is something to be said about wild arm swinging in the swim of a triathlon. It's one way to find your own square-meter, that's for sure. So, as someone who has had some great gains, and losses in the form of kilos gone, what advice do you have for someone thinking about getting into triathlons?

AB: Get involved, it's the new golf. It makes you feel great, you meet great people, and everyone is very supportive of newbies. 

SW: Maybe that's because they are hoping they'll get one up on you. Just kidding. Maybe the next thing will be Burberry triathlon suits.

AB: Burberry?

SW: Yeah, golf, triathlons, merged together... Anyway. Moving right along... If you could ask Alistair Brownlee one question, what would it be?

AB: How do you guys go so fast over the distances?

SW: Imagine if you could bottle whatever makes them go fast? It'd be worth a mint. It would probably smell funny though. Anyway, what are your goals for the season?

AB: To build my base fitness and have fun competing against other triathletes. 

SW: You'll get a chance to do just that at Raby Bay. Thanks for your time Bowza. I'm looking forward to hearing all the war-stories after the race. Hot tip: pay attention to where your bike is in transition and find a landmark, a tree, something. My first (and third) race was about 500m long because I was running up and down the rack looking for my bike. 

AB: Good idea.