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!