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. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

New season, new challenges, new shoes

I am very excited and proud to announce that as the new triathlon season kicks off this weekend, so does my new role as the Active Stride / Mizuno Ambassador. It was a great surprise to hear from Robson and the team this week when they called me with the good news. I'm really looking forward to the new venture; the guys at Active Stride seem to share my passion for triathlon's and have given me a fair bit of 'creative freedom' in sharing my thoughts about all things triathlon. While I'm no Macca, and do not pretend to be Craig Alexander (I'm much to tall to try and be him anyway), what I do have is seven years of trying out this tango called triathlons. From Sprint Distance to Ironman, I've given it all a go and have had my share of ups and downs along the way. I'm happy to share the lessons I've learned, the one's I'm no-doubt going to learn, and to give some insight into what works for me (and what doesn't). I'm also open to hearing from people and writing about the things you want to know about like; How do you go to the toilet in a 180km ride? To sock or not sock before the run part of a race? Why do people wear teardrop helmets in a 10km ride? What does 'N + 1' mean when referring to bike ownership?

Whatever your goals are for the season, or level of racing you're at, I'll endeavor to put a smile on your dial and share the season with you. Strap yourselves in, it's going to be a wild ride!

Race 1 - Raby Bay
Only 4 more sleeps to what will be for many of you the first race of the season. The Gatorade Series kicks off at Raby Bay this weekend. A great series of races to get into regardless of your history in the sport - for first timers they provide well-run, fun and yet professional events. For the more experienced racer they are a great chance to take on your mates and claim bragging rights for a few weeks. Due to other commitments, I am not going to be toeing the line this weekend. So while I can't talk about my prep leading into the event, I thought this would be a great opportunity to 'get back to the basics'. No matter how many races you've done, it always pays to take the time to think the day through. In fact, I think the more races you've done the more important it is to refresh your memory at this stage of the season. I'll never forget the Fusion Games Duathlon last year. I had a head full of steam coming back from the run onto the bike; I jumped on to ride off and realized I still had my running shoes on (with my bikes shoes already attached to the bike)! After turning around and throwing my shoes back into transition, I headed off for the 10km ride. Coming back into transition and heading out for the second run, I got 20 meters down the road before I realized I still had my helmet on! Quite embarrassing but lesson learned; take the time to think the race through before you do it. 

So some key things to keep in mind before you get to the start line on Sunday:
  • Roll through some light exercise the day before - a spin, a run, a splash, something. It is important for your body to think "they're doing it again, we'd better chuck some glycogen into the muscles" so your body is fueled and ready to rock n roll.
  • Remember: you've either done the hard work already, so relax. Or if you haven't, your body is refreshed, so relax. 
  • Drink plenty of water and even an Electrolyte drink the day before. 
  • Eat dinner earlier than normal. It'll make it easier to get rid of pre-race 'nerves' before race start. Trust me, this is a great tip ;-)
  • Pack your bag the night before. As you do it, picture yourself from start (about to jump in the water) to the end (the run). As you picture yourself standing at each stage, picture what you are wearing. This helps me remember the gear I need.
  • Don't try to force yourself to sleep - if you're nervous it just makes things worse. Aim to have a good night sleep on the Friday night instead. 
  • Also, before you go to bed take a 5 minute time-out from it all - lay down and picture yourself in the swim, ride and run. For each leg, think of 'worst case scenario (my goggles get knocked off and I have to breast stroke), so-so scenario (I get through in the middle of the pack) and best-case scenario (personal best swim - heaps of space, great time and super relaxed)'. That way you will be prepared for whatever happens on the day, and it will also help relax your mind as you will feel like you've already dealt with things. 
  • Another idea the night before; rather than stay in bed getting a headache from thinking about the race, get up, go into the lounge room, keep the light off, and do some stretching from head to toe. This will help calm your mind and stimulates the relaxation response in your body.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get to the race venue in the morning. Work out how long you think it will take, then add 15 minutes. While it might be hard to roll out of bed a bit earlier, you will appreciate it when you see the thousand people standing in front of you waiting to get into transition. 
  • Sometimes liquid breaky's are better in the morning, especially if you are nervous. I find a banana Up & Go and a banana about 3 hours before my wave start does the job, with a TORQ gel about 30 minutes before race start to top it up. Plus I sip on an Electrolyte drink.
  • Own your space in transition; bring a towel so you can 'mark your territory' near your bike that you can put your running shoes, etc on. No need to feel intimidated - at the end of the day we are all people. Plus in my experience triathletes are a very welcoming and happy bunch (surprising for a group of people that are often sleep deprived).
  • Buy a new pair of shoes a few weeks prior (so you can get some millage in them first). Nothing motivates you to run faster than a new pair of shoes on your feet!
  • Most importantly - HAVE FUN! Smile, laugh, joke about how many guys you see with shaved legs for no real reason (guilty - although I try to justify it by saying it makes massages feel nicer). 
Have a blast out there on Sunday. I'm looking forward to hearing the stories, the battles and the fun times. I'll also be keeping a keen eye on the 30-34 category to see who is on-song this season ;-)

Stay safe guys and catch you on the road. 



Monday, October 10, 2011

So You Think You Can Run?

"First off the bike". Spend enough time with triathletes and you are bound to hear this phrase bounced around. A few words that say "catch me if you can"; that say you've swum and ridden faster than anyone; a few words that used to sound really cool and exciting. Now they sound tough. They sound heavy. A few words that bore down on my shoulders yesterday like Rubio with a deck of 'special' playing cards. That will make sense if you know Rubio. Anyway...

Bribie Triathlon - race one. We couldn't have dialed in a better day for racing. The sky was clear and blue, the air still and the water cool enough for a wetsuit. Perfect. While it doesn't seem to get any easier waking up at 4:15am to get ready, the trip there was easy and Adz was nice enough to give me a lift. The first debate of the day was 'to wetsuit, or not'. Everything pointed to not. A) It's Bribie, and tide assisted. B) It's only 750m. C) IT'S BRIBIE! So we wetsuited-up. I know, right? I tried to justify it as taking the opportunity to practice racing in a wetsuit and getting the transition right but really it is just hard to pass up the chance to float a bit more! Lance's justification was that he paid 'x' amount for a wetsuit, so why not wear it when you can as in sunny QLD opportunities are pretty sparse. And Adz... well, I think he just went with the flow. 

The game plan was pretty simple. Checking my times from this race last year I finished 2nd to a guy (TG) who I knew was racing this time. After talking with a few people the plan was to hold on as long as I could in the swim, kill it on the bike to catch him, and then duke it out on the run.

Once it the water I'll admit it didn't feel that cold. For the first time I positioned myself right at the front and ready to roll. I'm here to win! (thanks Macca for that quote). Adz and I started side by side and TG was there as well. A few handshakes later and we were off. For the first half of the swim Adz and I matched it stroke for stroke - a pretty quick tempo and one that had me wondering if I could keep it up for another 5 minutes or so. I could see TG pulling away up ahead with the Hawaii Ironman World Champion Macca's nemesis, Yo-Yo. I realized that I had slowly drawn closer to the shore, so angled back out a bit so I could make the most of the flowing current. For some reason I was really giving it in the kick - I think seeing TG up ahead made me push harder to minimize the damage! Around the final buoy and before I knew it was fingers dragged across sand and I was up on my feet and gunning it to my bike. At the time I was thinking I could be mistaken, but I think I was 3rd out of the water! (Turns out I was third out of the water, 36 seconds behind TG).

Focused when I got to the bike - wanting to get the wetsuit off quickly but knowing that when I try to rush the brain and hands don't talk to each other very well. Relaxed. But fast. Getting that balance right is a fine art! Pretty happy with that part of my transition, I got the wetsuit off easy enough, helmet on and out onto the bike course. The part for me to improve on is to keep the pace going and jumping on the bike, and also getting my feet into my shoes. I had pushed down hard on my shoes so when I tried to get my feet in, the top of the shoes were pushed in which made it hard to make the smooth transition. Once I was sorted though, I focused on the task at hand - a hard 20k TT! Having raced at Bribie a bit over the years I feel like I know the course layout pretty well - which is great because I can focus on hitting the corners smoothly and accelerating at the right time. No sign of TG for the entire first lap, but at the turnaround heading back for the second lap I caught sight of him - only 100m or so between us. Decision time. With nothing to lose I thought "let's see what these legs can do" and I made a determined effort to close the gap. The E-114 leaped under me and as the k's ticked over the gap was getting shorter and shorter and I knew I was going to catch him. Decision time 2. I decided to keep the pressure on and keep pushing past him. It wasn't until the final 200m or so I kicked it up to an easier gear to spin my legs at a high cadence to get ready for the task ahead. A quick transition and off onto the run course with about 8 seconds up my sleeve. First off the bike. But at what cost?

Decision time 3. I decided to put the foot down and gun it. Running is my thing, right? 5k I know I can do. Hard. I wanted TG to see me burn off into the distance and give up there are then. That would be a great plan if A) I hadn't just ridden a tough 20k like there was no run (which it was quite apparent now that there is!) and B) TG was a crap runner (which it is also apparent now not to be true!). I managed to hold him off until the last k or so, but man I was hurting. It has been a long time since I was in that much pain. Not just physically but mentally. My mind had a microphone this time - stop running you fool! - and it took a lot to get the positives to kick in - less than 10 minutes to go, you can do this. Pretty weak positives but that was about all I could muster! Picking off people one by one to help tick over the time and keep my mind occupied. When he passed me I had nothing. My heart felt like it was going into overdrive! It was pretty scary actually and for a moment I thought I'd have to stop. A look over my shoulder with 500m to go and I knew third was a long way off so I eased off and slipped the ol' rig back a gear. Something I have never done before but I was busted! So you think you can run? Apparently not as well as I thought.

Second place and a really good battle on the course! Some people race to train and others train to race - I am definitely the latter! In the end TG won by 16 seconds.

Swim 10:08 (3rd) Bike 28:53 (1st) Run 18:48 (2nd) Overall 57:51 (2nd).

Some lessons learned - a change of nutrition and adding caffeine pre-race may have influenced how my body felt late in the run. Also, I have a better idea of what my body can handle in terms of riding hard and then trying to run. With that in mind I knocked out the 2nd fastest bike time overall (1st in my category). Lastly, the need to be really mindful of what is happening around me. Maybe if I hadn't gone alpha male off the bike I could have eased off, caught my breath and waited for TG, then run shoulder to shoulder with him and made him set the pace. A bit of a breather may have let me reset enough to be able to push when I needed to on the run. 
Always something to take away from a race. Some lessons learned. And sometimes a pottery mug. 

Thanks ChainGang for an awesome steed and pre-race prep, and Reddog for getting me to the start line ready to rumble.