Monday, February 6, 2012

Caloundra race report

Yesterday saw 1800+ competitors wake up early and head to Caloundra on the sunny coast for Race 5 of the Gatorade Series. Having spent the night with family on the coast I was able to get a bit of a sleep in (5am). A sleep in compared to what it would have been if I headed up from Brisvegas anyway. I think it made a difference as I woke up feeling much fresher than a few weeks ago for the race at Robina. I need to reflect on whatever I did / ate / etc this time around because my legs felt springy and energetic. I did have a beer with dinner the night before, something I don't normally do the night before a race... maybe that's the secret ;)

A relaxed drive down to the race with my wife keeping me company and a bit of Kanye West setting the scene ("n-n-now that that don't kill me ... can only make me stronger ... I need you to hurry up now ... cause I can't wait much longer" that's not dorky, right?) and before I knew it I was walking my bike to transition. The whole morning felt smooth - no cues for the check-in, straight into transition and a bit of space near the bike exit to rack my bike. Something that did bug me though was seeing 3 bikes taking up an entire section of the racking. Really guys? You know that it's going to be packed. Put your bikes closer together and give everyone a break. 

With an earlier wave start than last time it was only an hour or so of waiting around. I did get to see the Enticer wave starts and couldn't help but smile. All of the different ages, shapes, sizes; people who have had their own path of training and getting prepared for this particular moment. I think it's fantastic to see. 

Nutritionally it's always pretty basic for a shorter race. This time around I had an Endura Opti (chocolate) which pumps some carbs and protein into the machine. I tried this because my plan before Falls Creek next weekend (with nutrition playing a much more significant role) is to have an Opti in the morning before the race. So why not practice the plan in a smaller race. I then just sipped on an Endura sports drink until the race start. 

Something else I tried that was a little different today was a brief jog to warm up before the race. I remember reading once that a run before a triathlon doesn't make sense because you don't run until the end! So I have always limbered up my arms and swam some efforts to warm up. However, I read an article by Sam Hume (a killer Australian Age group triathlete) a few days ago and he indicated that one of the top 5 mistakes AG athletes make is not warming up properly. His suggestion was to do a short run, arm swings, gentle stretching and a swim with some efforts. So tick, tick, tick and tick for me pre-race : )

In the water I was starting to feel a bit nervous. I put in some limited breathing efforts (breathing every 4 or 5 strokes) as I have found in the past that this tends to force a bit of that anxiety out of the system. Better to push through the urge for shallow breathes here than in the first 100m of the race! I found my way to some 'friendly feet' at the start line and was actually mid-chat when the horn went off to start! Ooops! Those friendly feet I mentioned lasted about 5 seconds and then they were off. Damn these guys can swim! I tried to focus on keeping a long stroke, firm catch, relax into a rhythm. That seemed to last about 200m as we swam under the bridge. After that my arms felt like they wanted to fall off like a lizard's tail when they are scared by something trying to eat them. 

After being extremely disappointed with myself after the swim at Robina, however, I refused to give in mentally and kept pushing. To the first buoy. Then the second. Then around it and heading to the beach for the relief of land under my feet. I knew that if I could keep the gap as small as possible to the first few guys then I was in with a shot. As I looked up to sight the shore for the last time I could see a group of about 6 'yellow caps' scrambling up the shore. It looked like I was going to be within snapping distance, a thought that put a smile to my face (which was a bit dangerous considering I was still swimming!). I ended up getting out of the water in 12th place, 15 seconds back from the top 5 guys. It was on!

Me getting out of the water... ok so maybe not! Well done Courtney on your win in the Enduro event. Thanks USM Events for the picture.
A venue like Caloundra suits me - with quite a bit of running from the swim exit, to your bike, and then out onto the course I was able to eat up a lot of the difference before the bike even started. As I ran to my bike I could see Brad Dalrymple (BD) and Yo-Yo running to their bikes further ahead. I managed a nice quick transition this time around. After having to make 2 attempts at getting my helmet on at Robina, I had actually taken the time to practice my 'method' the day before the race - putting my helmet on and off a dozen times or so. It paid off, as I was able to get it on first go and head out towards the bike exit. As far as I could tell, there were maybe 5 or so people ahead of me. 

Across the mount line and onto the course and I was ready to hammer it. Feet in my shoes first go today (again, I had some user error problems at Robina that had encouraged me to return to the basics and practice during the week) and I was head-down bum-up. I caught a glimpse of my Garmin Edge 500 and was around 46-47khr heading away from transition. Woot woot! I have had two great sessions on the windtrainer this week that involved 5 minute efforts ABOVE race pace - this gave me huge amounts of confidence in the race to grind it out. I saw BD and his red helmet as I reached the turn around, maybe 50m ahead. I kept the effort up on the return back to transition and managed to breach the gap as we rounded the corner to head back out onto the second lap. 

Always a tough call to be 'the rabbit' rather than chasing the rabbit, as you are suddenly the one setting the pace. Brimming with confidence in my riding lately (consistent training works wonders both physically and mentally!), I decided to push past and go for it. I focused on not wasting a second on the course - picking my lines and trying to get through the roundabouts without having to hit the brakes. While there were a lot of bikes on the course, I found that most people were happy to move over a bit when I gave the 'rider on the right' call. The rest of the ride was spent staying mindful of the moment - focus on cadence, keeping the speed up, good lines, rather than drifting off in concentration by starting to think about the run or worse yet what I am going to have for breakfast afterwards!

I left it to the last minute to get my feet out of my shoes, still trying to soak up as many seconds by keeping the pace up for as long as I could. I literally hit the ground running when my feet touched the ground and used my hand on my bike to steady myself. While I was moving fast I was aware enough to settle my mind and focus on picking the right lane to get to my bike rack! I knew I hadn't walked it through from this side before the race so the last thing I wanted to do was head up the wrong space. Lucky I picked the right one and had a smooth transition again. Bodyglide in the heels of the shoes works a treat.

Caloundra provided a great venue to get a close-up view of how the pro's do it. Needless to say my transitions are nothing like these!
Out onto the run course with nothing between me and first place other than 4km of flat-out running. Easy, right? Haha! Who am I kidding. My legs were shot and I had a stack of stellar runners chasing! I think the battle was on as much with my mind and myself as it was with my body and the physical course. I was hurting. A lot. My mind wasn't falling for my strategies as easily or for as long as it usually does. Focus on technique - high hips ... slow down! Run tall ... you can go a bit easier! Quick leg turnover ... I can't keep going! Trying to convince myself that if I am hurting this much the others must be hurting as well - so what?!? I've got nothing left! Haha yeah the minds games were in full swing at Caloundra. 

I wasn't game to look over my shoulder and thought I'd wait until the 2k turnaround. As I spun back around I was relieved that BD wasn't on my heels. I started the count and got to about 15 seconds before we passed. That makes about 30 seconds lead. So for the next 2k I locked in about 3:25 pace and thought 'if you want to catch me mate you are going to have to run 3:10 pace - enjoy that!' (although that did mean I had to stick at 3:25 pace - a slight hurdle to get through). While I had done a few 2k repeats the weekend prior, NONE of them felt like they were anywhere near as long as this last 2k effort! Along the boardwalk and eventually I could see the crowd and finish area in the distance. I crossed the finish line, absolutely smashed and happy to flop into one of the plastic seats. The effort was worth it though, with 1st place in my hot little hands! 

I have the utmost respect for the guys I race against and was glad to get the win at Caloundra. After 5th at Robina it was nice to have a solid hit out. Also, with Falls Creek in less than a week it makes me think that training is going to plan. I can't show my appreciation enough for my family and friends and their support - my wife for giving up her Sunday (and sleep!), putting up with my triathlon-rabble, being there with a smile and letting me indulge in my hobby; my mum and her husband Craig for treating us to dinner (and post-race breaky!), putting us up for the night and cheering me on; my sister, her partner Jordan, and my niece and nephew for being the backbone of 'team whippet'; my other sister Holly and Tom for going to a daggy triathlon when they could be doing something cool; and to Darren, Jane and Kelly for making it a spectacular day! I never feel like there is enough time after the race to catch up. 

The two winners of the Enduro event - well done USM Events for making this a part of the day. Very spectator friendly and adds a bit of 'razzle dazzle' to the day (other than watching Yo-Yo race).
Thanks also to Reddog Triathlon Training, Chain Gang Performance Bikes, Active Stride, Mizuno and Endura for helping me out along the way with spectacular products, support and advice. Ok, so maybe not such a big thank-you to Trent @ Reddog for making me do a 12k run on Sunday afternoon after the race as a last bit of prep for Falls Creek. It sucked and I was knackered! 

Pre-afternoon run. You could say I was not really into it ;)
Well done to everyone who took part in the day, either racing, spectating, volunteering or marshalling. Without a doubt the Caloundra race is one of my favourites in the series (when it is not pouring cats-and-dogs like it has the past two years). See you at Raby Bay : )

For those who are curious, here is my pre-race tune for Caloundra... 

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on first place. Good luck at Falls Creek.

    Think a few of your Red Dog mates had a good weekend at Gundy too. Saw them out in force looking strong.