Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Luke Harrop Memorial - a perfect 'book end' to the Gatorade Series

On Sunday the 7-race QLD Gatorade Series arrived at its 'Grand Final' event on the Gold Coast - the Luke Harrop Memorial Triathlon. For many the race marked the end of the 2011/12 season with over 2200 triathletes taking part. For me it was one of those days you love racing - into transition while it was still dark, with the sun rising on the horizon to paint the sky brilliant oranges and blues. 

There is something about the fresh cool of the air on your skin, the clear skies and energy of a race that sets me alight and puts a smile on my face. 

There was plenty of time to kick back and catch up with the 'triathlon brethren' that I've grown so fond of this season. Without a doubt a highlight of the past 6 months has been getting to know so many people who enjoy triathlons. I've got as much of a kick out of seeing the Brockman's, Mahony's, Boxes and Young's of this world work towards and achieve their goals as I have out of reaching my own. 

With the pressure off (I kept telling myself that I haven't done any speed work so it's not as if you're going to go fast) I had a relaxed pre-race routine. Some chats, a 5 minute jog and some splashing in the water and before I knew it the 'purple caps' were about to start. I picked my line, tagged in behind the Superfish (which lasted about 2 strokes before he took off into the distance) and got into my game plan - hard to the first buoy and lock in a bit of pain for the rest. "No pain, not working hard enough" was my mantra. The best swims I've had this year are those where I have intentionally reminded myself to swim hard. Out of the water in 12:19 (17th out of 111) tells me I did something alright (although it was still the second slowest in the overall top 10 - winter swimming here I come. Ughh). 

With a focus on a quick transition, I found myself stuck running single file out onto the bike course - the fence barriers were pretty tight. A bit frustrating but not much you can do about it. Once on my trusty steed I was off and felt great from the get-go. The extra hours in the saddle preparing for Cairns came in handy and my bike computer afterwards told me I was averaging about 47khr for the 20k. Funny, while I race I don't really spend that much time looking at how fast I'm going or what my cadence is - yet in training I'm always aware of the figures. I guess the muscle memory of what you do in training (how fast you're spinning your legs, etc) kicks in during the race. 

With transition time added on, my bike split was 31:48 (3rd fastest). The dark horse though was Ryan Emmerson with a 29:42!

Onto the run and the same mental checklist (the one I've grown familiar with after 9 races this season) - get the legs spinning quickly, run tall and high hips - and sure enough after about 500m the bike was a distant memory. With a sharp little rise that you go up and over (and back) twice, the ol' quads were pretty vocal. 

Each time my mind told me to stop I reminded myself that this was it - the last lung-busting short-course speed-fest for the year. It'll all be over in T-minus 18 minutes and counting. Without knowing how far ahead the regulars were (we were split over 2 wave starts again with 2 minutes in between) I just knuckled down. Fellow Reddogian Isaac Box gave me a cheer of "you're only a minute 20 behind BD", designed to inspire me forward I'm sure but the voice inside my head was quick to retort with "he's lying, he's just trying to get you to run faster". Helpful, right? Ha! Pushing through to the end by promising myself that it'll all be over soon enough, I crossed the line with an 18:08 run (3rd in the category) and managed to snag the win by a few seconds. 

A great race, well-run event and in the end a wonderful season. 4 wins and a fifth in the Gatorade Series gave me 2nd place overall in the series (BD had 2 wins and three second places - more consistent by 1 point!). I think it's more a case of age before beauty though... ;-)

Hats off to everyone for such a fun few months! I'm actually a bit sad that this part of it is over. I've enjoyed the banter, the competition, the people I've met and the goals I've reached. Thanks to Mizuno, Chain Gang Performance Bikes, Active Stride, Reddog Triathlon Training, Endura and Scott Waters Psychology (I had to add that one in!) for the ongoing support, advice and great products.

I'd love to say it's time to put my feet up, drink some beer and eat lots of ice-cream, but another goal is calling my name. Ironman Cairns and it's allusive Kona slots is less than 6 weeks away. LESS THAN SIX WEEKS. Argh! So lots of training, new limits to reach physically and mentally, plenty of tears, stress, smiles, fun, lows and highs. And that is most likely just the next 2 days. 

Have fun whatever this time of the year represents for you - if it's rest time, THEN REST! Spend time with your family and friends so you can start up again in a month or so feeling guilt free :-)

Catch you on the road...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mental fatigue - can someone massage my brain?

Are there self help groups for over-extended triathletes? If there is, I imagine it would go a bit like this...

"My name is Scott and I am a triathlon addict".

"Hi Scott". 

"My wife sent me here today because I drift off over dinner thinking about which power-meter to get, which sessions I've missed and planning where I can squeeze it in, what races are coming up, have I prepared everything for the morning's ride, have I done enough training, do I have any gels left, and wondering whether it will be a wetsuit swim at Luke Harrop". 

"I also spend more time shaving my legs than she does, am passed out on the couch by 8:30pm, take up half of Saturday training, eat like a horse but go halves in the shopping costs, complain about niggles and strains, wake her up at 4:45am when my alarm goes off, and when I am asleep snore like a rhinoceros with a cold". 

Crazy creatures us triathletes really! Ok, so I have no intention of giving up triathlons or finding a group of people to help wean me off my addiction. But I often find that towards the end of the season (like now) I tend to get caught up more in thoughts like these and feel drained, rather than pre-season when I am consumed more by the excitement and enthusiasm for the training and racing process. Over the years I have become more mindful of what's happening 'upstairs' (rather than the kangaroos that are loose up there) and can now recognise triathlon mental fatigue

It happens to us all, earlier for some than others, and what we do when it happens will have a big impact on our performance, satisfaction and life as a whole. There are 4 options that you can take:
  1. Leave - get away from it all for a while and do something non-triathlon.
  2. Stay at it  but change some things that are in your control to add some fresh variety - new training group, try a Zone 5 windtrainer session, get a new toy like a Suunto Ambit, etc
  3. Stay, accept that you are feeling this way, and remind yourself of why you enjoy this sport - it is important for you to keep challenging yourself? do you value good health? do you like the competition? do you value being organised and structured in your training regime?
  4. Stay, do nothing, and make things worse by being ineffective and getting further into the hole - prepare for injuries, arguments, and bad attitudes if you take this option!
With Race 7 of the Gatorade Series (Luke Harrop Memorial) this weekend, option 1 can get scratched, and option 4 is unappealing. So I'm going with an option 2-3 combo. For example, on the weekend ONE HD screened the Sydney ITU race live so I set up my bike on the Windtrainer in the lounge room and spun away while I watched the likes of Erin Densham kick some butt! Something different that motivated me to knock out some time on the bike.

I am also reminding myself of the importance of this race - it is a tribute to the value of life, the passion of age group racing and above all the importance of embracing each moment with family and friends.  Luke Harrop sadly passed away 10 years ago as a result of a tragic traffic incident while on a morning warm-up ride. 

From the USM Events website:

"While Luke was an elite athlete one of his great passions was age group competitors who he had a great affiliation with and heavily invested his time into helping. He just loved being amongst it all and why the Gold Coast Triathlon – Luke Harrop Memorial is such a fitting legacy to him".

"His generosity, huge personality, forever smile and his strength of character is something that his friends still reminisce about often. He had the world at his feet at age 23, an engineering degree, Australian junior team member for triathlon and several sporting achievements under his belt and most importantly to him Cleo Bachelor of the Year finalist ... he was only just starting to show what potential he had", Russell, Rebecca and Loretta Harrop.

So I am looking forward to the weekend of racing and getting amongst it once more. I must admit, I am a little worried about whether or not I have the speed in the old legs as I have been doing a lot of longer, slower training in preparation for the Ironman race in Cairns. I may have to pack a tow-cord and attach it to someone's bike so they can pull me along!

Best of luck to everyone racing. I encourage you to take a moment to remember why you do triathlons, congratulate yourself on all of the hours of training you've logged in over the season, and embrace the day as a reminder of enjoying the moment rather than dwelling on yesterday or worrying about tomorrow. 

See you out there :-)