Monday, January 16, 2012

Hello space? It's me, I've been brought back to earth.

Remember the scene in the original Matrix movie where Morpheus offers Neo a choice of pills: if Neo takes the blue pill he can remain and live in the deluded world of the matrix, enjoying blissful ignorance of the truth, while the red pill open his eyes to the illusion of the world around him but in doing so brought with it the sometimes painful truth of reality. Well, I think today at Race 4 at Robina I accidentally took the RED pill. The silky-smooth transitions and great race strategy from Race 2 was nowhere to be seen, instead being replaced with clunky-technique and poor transitions!

With an 8.56am start I was expecting to be punished by the heat that we sweated our way through last week. Not the case today, as the sunny skies were replaced with clouds, rain and a hint of coolness in the air (only a QLDer would say that, to anyone south of the border it would have been quite warm I'm sure!). With rain about it made for a 'wet track' and even before I made my way to the swim start I watched two people come off their bikes as they tried to negotiate the round-a-bout turn with too much speed. I made a mental note to take it easy on the corners, which there are quite a few of on the L-shape bike course.

While it was a bit cooler than normal on land, it was still nice and warm in the water. Just under 27 degrees in fact. I jumped in for my pre-race warm up and it felt great (other than the usual barrage of sea weed to get through before clear water). Bobbing up and down in the water, I took the moment in as I looked around and saw so many smiling faces of people about to do this thing they love - race triathlons! Without a doubt the combination of today's race doubling as the State Club Championships as well as being the the first after the new New Year's resolutions to get fit, brought out competitors in droves. This was pretty obvious when the line up to get into transition spanned almost 200m long! To their credit USM Events seemed to be handling the overload of competitors well as we all shuffled in to rack our bikes.

A bit of friendly banter before the start, with Brad Dalrymple (BD) 'foxing' us that he had a sore ITB (I think he was foxing us anyway ;) ) and before I knew it we were heading down the ramp and into the water. I found myself a nice spot at the front and was really happy with my positioning. This is probably the last place I was happy with my positioning all race though!

When the gun went off I took off and felt like I got into a nice rhythm with my stroke, I followed my own line to the first buoy and seemed to be amongst it. But after that I seemed to lose the plot a bit. I think after a couple of good swims in races lately I had changed my approach a little; today I thought I'd follow my own line as in previous races there was a lot of zig-zagging and wasted swimming. Turns out following my own line and not drafting off quicker feet doesn't work. Or didn't today anyway! And I sensed it as the swim progressed, which didn't help. I think I became less relaxed as I worried about the guys getting away from me in front, which doesn't help swimming technique as I become tense and most likely started to shorten my stroke.

Today I swam like a rock, not The Rock (he'd probably have gone quicker than me!)
I ended up waddling out of the water at least 45 seconds down on where I could have been ( in fact I was 3:49 behind superfish Peter Court!) and began the biggest challenge of the day - the mental battle. I know that in such short races you can't afford to give up too much time, so I felt like I was on the back foot already. "Get over it man. Yeah but I could have gone faster. So what? Look after your own square meter. I'm not feeling it today. Keep pushing. Can't wait to have a beer this afternoon". I'll admit the inner dialogue was pretty loud coming into that first transition. You know what happens when you lose a bit of focus? The gremlins creep in. I went to put my helmet on and the strap twisted. So it took two goes instead of the usual one to get it on. 50m down the road as I tried to put my foot in my shoe (already attached to the bike) and I just couldn't get it in. In frustration I reefed the strap to open the shoe up, too much it turns out as the strap came completely off! So, almost rolling along on my bike at walking pace now, I had to thread the strap back through, ease my foot in and FINALLY I was off! 

From swim exit to this point was probably no longer than 1 - 2 minutes. So that's about how long my brain-fart lasted. Once I was settled on the bike I gave myself an uppercut and got on with it. After all this is what it is all about, all the training, stretching, massages, it's all about racing and getting amongst it! I soon realised that the stretch of road coming south to north had a great tailwind and I was able to push up to 50kmhr. BUT that meant going back down that way was going to be pushing into the wind. Ouch. Love it! I soon picked up BD's bright red helmet and was able to check on each lap whether he was getting away or I was catching. Unfortunately the distance seemed to be pretty constant (in the end we had identical bike splits). I was riding like an old man on each turnaround which took the sting out of my time but at least I stayed upright. My biggest concern was that before the first lap was up Paul Jamison had caught me - he put 1 minute into me on the 4km run here last time! So if we got off the bike together I was going to be in trouble! We rode at a similar pace for a bit and then I gritted my teeth and drilled it into the headwind. In the end I had 34 seconds on him heading onto the run course. Enough? Hhhhmmmm...

You'd want a head-start too if you had this chasing you!
Having composed myself on the bike my second transition was much quicker and smoother. Bike on rack. Helmet off. Shoes on. Go. Heading onto the run course I had no idea where I was in the placings. Again, with a few turns on a two-lap course there was a bit of time to check out who was in front of me. I got into my stride and tried to relax. While I prefer racing in the heat I must admit the cooler weather made it a bit easier out there. I had a lot less fluids than I normally do, as history has shown me that there is no point drinking a pre-determined amount of sports drink. When it's cooler, I sweat less. So I need less. Easy. In the past I have ended up with a lot of slooshing around in my stomach because I've drunk too much.

I passed Ewan Larson at the start of the run, who had a stellar ride (fastest of the day in our category) and began my chase. The Reddog tent was at the start of the run and I don't think they stopped cheering once all day! It was great to have them pushing their athletes when we needed it the most, deep in the hurt-locker of the run! By the turn around of the first lap I had seen a few of the top contenders and guessed I was in 4th place. Pete was way in front, with BD and Ricardo Barbosa (you could set a metronome on them - they are a couple of very consistent racers) between him and I. Once I had an idea of where I was in relation to everyone, I focused again on my square meter and ploughed through the rest of the run. At about 2.5k's the inevitable happened - Paul had caught me and was off! I tried to hold his number belt to get a tow but it didn't work. I found my character was tested a bit here as I was tired and disheartened, but I thought "bugger it, you're racing for yourself mate, if you quit now you'll regret it". So I kept the effort and pain turned up and focused on going as quickly as I could.

For those who have done Robina you'll know that you are running for about 1k straight home, which is blocked for a bit with the rise of a bridge. I focused on running hard to the bridge, as I knew that when I went over the top and saw the finish it would offer new motivation and I'd be able to keep running hard to the end. Back past the Reddog tent and over the line. Aaaahhhh, it's done! What a hard day at the office! Persistence pays off though - it turns out that I passed a guy in my category in that last 500m and beat him by 6 seconds (he had demolished me in the swim) to get 5th. If I had of given in I would have lost that spot and finished 6th.

Today was one of those races that can teach you something new again. That's one of the things I love about racing triathlons, the constant growth and experience. If you look for it and make the most of the challenges, you can really learn something about yourself as well. It reminded me of that cartoon with the frog about never giving up. It also reminded me that there are some uber-quick guys and gals out there. A quick look at the open category and they are putting another 3 minutes into the guy who won our category by 2:28!

Back to the drawing board now. Caloundra is 3 weeks away, home court for me in a way as my family live on the Sunshine Coast. After a splurge of a few beers, a massive burger, chips and ice-creams (yes two ice-creams) I may need to do some training just to burn all of that off anyway!

A big congratulations also to Reddog Triathlon Training - we managed to keep the trophy for the second year in a row! If you measure success on team spirit, then I think we are in for a lot more wins given the atmosphere under the tent today! A cook-off complete with post-race carrot cake was the real winner today I think : )


  1. Win or Lose you are always a champion to Team Whippet!! Your writings are inspiring and teach us the reasons for trying harder at what we love so as to reach a goal we are happy with!! I often feel like the frog but with your help occasionally fly like a bird and it feels sensational! Well done.

  2. Congratulations on your top 5 finish.

    You were probably clever to ride the roundabouts like an old man because the crash tally for the roundabout down near transition was 15 with many more stacks out on the rest of the course too.

    1. Thanks, you're right I think. I saw a few people bounce back up pretty quick but some others who didn't 'bounce' as well ; ) Did you race?

  3. I didn't race. I was volunteering as a technical official on the back of a draft buster bike (don't hold that against me - LOL).

    It's awesome to watch the race riding laps of the course as a motorbike pillion. I got to see more than just the backs of guys zipping past me, which is all I ever get to see in the race. And I got to follow the open men flying around the course, which was super impressive. :)

    The next event I'm actually racing is Kingscliffe. It'll be my first Olympic distance since Noosa in 1997 so am looking forward to the challenge.