Race reports from the Tri Nation team.

Elite Energy Canberra Triathlon Race Report

Ben Shepherd

Yarrawonga-Mulwala OD Race Report

Yarrawonga-Mulwala OD Race Report – Ben Shepherd

 

Pre Race

Ben ShepherdI hadn’t had much time to think about the race. Noting that there was no open field, the professional athletes were racing in the age groups. This meant that I was already a little more relaxed going in as I had no aspirations of winning. I simply went in to the race looking to race smart and hard in the conditions.

Unlike every other race, the event started in the afternoon. This gave me a lot of time to think, drink coffee, and think again. Dangerous. I definitely prefer racing in the morning, but all in all a good learning experience.

One of the best things I did was showing up to transition early. I managed to secure an excellent spot right by the entry to T1, allowing me to see my bike right out of the water. Unlike every other race it was not a ‘select your spot’ deal, but rather an alternating, 7-to-a-rack deal where we were ordered where to go. If you were late, you got lost in a rack, making it nigh on impossible to spot your bike. Once I had the bike racked, I went off to find an early lunch and grab a quick nap in the car.

 

Swim

A two lap swim (boo), fresh water (yay), murky as anything (boo). The field appeared super aggressive at the start with a lot of shouldering and nudging even before the buzzer went off. I was pushed out of the way by a dude about three times my size, which was a bit offputting. It did give me a good target to chase though.

When the buzzer went off, I experienced the most brutal swim start I have ever seen. Punching, kicking, pushing, I even saw someone have their head held underwater. It left a really bitter taste in my mouth as to how aggro these competitors were. Still, I focused on keeping good form and trying to find fast feet to hold.

Once the field cleared out a little bit, I started to see some clear water and some fast feet ahead. Keeping a thought on form and technique, I powered on a little bit and managed to grab hold of a trail of bubbles. Turns out that trail was being created by Nathan Shearer, a newly turned pro who won the 25-29AG at Kona last year. Once we entered the relative calm of the lagoon, we bounded up the ramp to T1 and continued with the rest of the race.

All in all, I swam a 22:30 – or spot on 1:30/100m. Not bad considering the start, the visibility and the fact that it was a freshwater swim which is traditionally slower. Even better was the fact that I left the water feeling very fresh and relaxed – I have never done that before, which to me means a whole lotta progress. Positive signs.

Positives: Finding (and holding) feet the whole way. Consistent power, felt like I still had something in the tank when I left the swim. Surged when required.

Negatives: Allowing myself to get beaten up at the start, getting frustrated by the washing machine effect, focusing my anger on the guy who pushed me out of the way before the gun – more control needed here

 

T1

Not a lot to say here. Bike was nice and easy to spot. Ran to it whilst unzipping the wetsuit. Goggles and cap off, wrenched the wetsuit down the rest of the way. Helmet on, grabbed bike, turned bike computer on while running.

Huge transition layout meant I had to run a long way with the bike. This wasn’t too bad because it gave my HR a chance to settle down as I made my way to the exit. Mounting the bike was a bit poor – right foot went in well, but shoe came unclipped when trying to get the left foot in. A bit more practice needed here but not a whole lot of damage done to the race clock here.

Bottom line: Transition needs work!

 

Ride

Oh boy. This is where it gets fun. Two lap course around the bay. For the first 6km, I had a tailwind or a cross/tailwind. I was holding low 200’s on the power meter, and sailing at 46+ km/h. Happy days. Then as the course went around the corner, it became more of a crosswind, then a cross/headwind. Struggletown! I watched my average speed play jump rope with 40km/h, then watch it dip significantly as I made the turn and powered into the headwind to return. My average speed was about 39.2 by the time I had finished the first lap. I picked up the power for the second lap – as planned – but the wind seemed to have picked up as well. I surged for a bit at 300W to try and make up some time, but then race experience spoke to me and I accepted that my final return leg was going to be a bit slow. I retained a NP of 255W, and an average speed of 38.6km/h, giving me a 1:02:06 bike. There were a few moments during the ride that I was passed by someone punching out significant watts, but for the first time (ever), I accepted it, didn’t go outside the plan, and put faith in my run to catch them. It wasn’t quite the ride I wanted (sub-1 is the goal), but all in all I am happy that I rode intelligently given the conditions.

Positives: Consistency, intelligence, and lack of ego.

Negatives: Rough mount of the bike, went too easy on the way out, could probably have pushed a bit harder on the way back in too. Need to find another 20+ watts in my opinion.

 

T2

Another long run back in which allowed time to get the head together. When I arrived, I noticed someone had knocked my visor and glasses around, so I scrambled to grab them. Shoes on smoothly, race number on, visor and sunnies on, locked and loaded. Another long run out, but everyone faced that. I left feeling pretty calm, thinking I was in around 10th or so position (but in reality had NFI).

 

Run

‘Run Smart, run within yourself’ was my mantra as I set out. I didn’t want to burn my matches too early like I had done in Townsville, and I needed to keep the pedal down for the whole 10km. The run was another 2 laps, a small climb up and over a bridge between Vic/NSW, and part gravel/part bitumen surface, which was quite tight in some places. Not my favourite run course, but not the worst by far. I kept an eye on the heart rate, as I didn’t want to blow up on this one like I did at Townsville. Surprisingly, with a comfortable HR of 165, I was able to hold a 3:47 for my first KM. This trend continued, holding around 3:50 or better for the first 5km. Then the wind picked up and I slowed slightly. My last 5km averaged out to be about 3:55, with my slowest going 4:01 – into wind and up the bridge. No negative split, but definitely a solid improvement compared to my last race. My official run time was 37:07, but the course was 300m short – so I’d probably be around the 38 minute mark. Still, a good day out. Good signs included not needing to smash water into myself like I did at TVL, and feeling relatively comfortable apart from a bit of shoulder pain at about the 5km point. Manageable but uncomfortable.

The best part? I passed the guy who shoved me out of the way with about 3km to go. Vindicated. Happy days.

Positives: Consistency, aerobic fitness, and no need for excess hydration.

Negatives: No negative split, noticing the soreness in the shoulders.

 

Summary: A 2:05:32 isn’t a bad effort. There is plenty of room to grow, but plenty to be happy about. Third in the AG (won by a pro), which from my count puts me at 45 out of a possible 50 points so far. The quest for ITU world champs is alive and well.

Looking forward to Robina in January with a bit of time to grow.

Shep.

Chain Reaction – Gerrard Gosens

Tweed Coast Enduro Race Report

Tweed Enduro 70.3 Race Report – Christy Collis
Sat 25 Feb 2017

Context

Christy Ironman NZ

Christy Collis

This race was part of my Cairns campaign. Over the months before Tweed I have done a number of QTS sprint races, and surprised myself by placing well in all but one of them (that one was the world champs qualifier). The QTS races were good race practice, but they also began to shift my mindset. In the WT session before Tweed, Mark also pushed this mindset shift. He said he wanted me to stop thinking like a participant and to start thinking like a racer. He said I am now an athlete, and I’m ready to race. He said I should aim to podium at Tweed. This felt scary for a few reasons. First, I don’t really know what it means to think like a racer. I’ve found a comfortable identity and approach as a participant, out there just to see how long I can go, someone who is interested in distance rather than speed, someone who is out there to experience being myself rather than to beat others. It occurred to me that these are safe stories I tell myself in order to avoid having to feel uncomfortable and having to face failure. Second, I fear that I’m not built for speed and power, so if I race I might be setting myself up to fail. And I’m getting older: it’ll be four years until I’m the young one in my next age group. Basically: fear. Fear of having to be uncomfortable. Fear of failure. Fear of committing to fix so much energy and focus to something that my body and my age might prevent me from achieving. With these thoughts and fears kicking around in my mind, I headed in to Tweed. To try to be a racer.

My big question: how do I try to podium? What do people do? My main practical answers were pretty simple: not to use my HRM, and to push the swim and bike. To stay in a hard gear on the bike, and to maintain a low, grinding cadence. To maintain a full pedal stroke. To try to keep tension out of my shoulders and to focus the effort in my core and legs. Not to drop any swim strokes (I sometimes drop a stroke when I’m fatigued); to stay very hydrodynamic through my right lower leg. No real plans for the run. Same nutrition and gear as usual.

A final piece of context from outside of triathlon is that I’m having a difficult time at work at the moment. I haven’t experienced feelings at work for well over a decade: I stay calm, confident, and emotionally detached. But recent events at work have forced me to have feelings, and these feelings have been negative. I made a note to myself before racing to try to compartmentalise this and to keep it out of my race. In particular, I reminded myself that when I get passed, I must not let the current negative feelings from work come in and make me lose my drive. I mostly achieved this.

Swim: 37.02

A good swim for me, with a twist. I pushed out in the lead, as usual, to get out of the pack from the start. I was leading right next to one other swimmer; we went out and around the two buoys together. After we rounded the second buoy and headed into the open water, I noticed without really thinking about it that the other swimmer was still swimming very close to me, right on my shoulder. It was a bit distracting because she kept elbowing me and getting in the way of my stroke. It was also odd because we were out on our own ahead of the pack: there was ample space around us. Nonetheless, as soon as I felt the tide I was happy: advantage for me. I’m not a particularly strong swimmer, but I am efficient with my body positioning in the water. I knew I just had to stay nice and clean in my body position and I’d move along well. Less efficient, stronger swimmers would be at a disadvantage. I swam at a comfortably strong pace. I barely sighted at all because I could follow the tide ripples in the sand below to keep me on course: nice. But the other swimmer kept getting right into my space. So I swam away from her a bit. She followed me and kept getting into my stroke. I stayed detached and focussed on my swim. Then she suddenly pushed me right under water and swam over the top of me. She then proceeded to swim right on my other shoulder. It was then that I realised that she wasn’t just accidentally swimming too close to me: she was trying to interfere with my swim. I veered off course to get well away from her; she followed. I finally thought, “if you want to keep this up, you’re going to have to catch me,” and I put on some speed and began to leave her behind. She kept grabbing at my feet, and then pulled me backwards by my ankle. Far out! I kept my stronger pace up and ditched her. The best revenge. I just stayed focussed on swimming. Other than the interference, this was a good swim. I was steady, strong, and efficient. No fatigue: I left the water feeling warmed up and fresh. First out of the water (and, as I saw later, second female swimmer in the race).

T1

I made more of an effort than usual to run quickly to my bike. Still toe socks though.

Bike: 2:59

Also a good bike ride for me, mostly. My focus was on staying in a hard gear and using my whole pedal stroke. Every time I felt the cadence getting higher or my power getting lower, I went up a gear. My average cadence was 67, which shows that I achieved my low-cadence plan. I felt strong throughout the ride. I began to feel like my infinit wasn’t sitting well after a while: don’t know if this was the heat or that I was pushing harder than usual on the bike. What was great about this ride for me is that I found I can push steadily hard for 90kms. My splits show that I maintained pretty much the same pace throughout. The bummer of the ride was that on the return leg of lap 2, I got a 5-min penalty. I was passing a guy and he pulled out in front of me to pass someone in front of him. The TO rode by just then and gave me a blue card. Unfortunate, but fair enough. For the rest of my passes on the ride (I pass people now!) I was a textbook passer, putting into practice what I’ve learned in squad WT sessions about surges of speed, and also looking to make sure that the person I was passing wasn’t about to pass someone else. Because I knew I had the penalty coming, I rode harder than I might have otherwise. My plan was to try to make up some of the time I’d lose. Two women from my a/g passed me on the ride, so I knew I was still holding a good position. Four laps of a hot, rough-surfaced road weren’t exciting, but I was happy with my ride. I did the 3rd fastest ride time in my a/g.

T2

I used my 5 mins in the penalty box to drink a heap of water and rest a little after my ride. I threw up once, likely from being too hot, and from sculling all that water. One woman from my a/g passed me while I was in there.

Run: 2:11.37

Felt dreadful for the first 10kms: way too hot, and also spewy. I had to find a slow pace just under spew and overheating thresholds. I stopped thinking like a racer and reverted to just being a survivor. I walked 15 seconds through every aid station, which seemed like too many breaks. I made sure to get water and ice in each time. At 10kms, I had a caffeine gel. I don’t have caffeine in my day-to-day life, so it’s a powerful chemical when I do use it. It was awesome. I suddenly perked up, and so did my pace. I still wasn’t doing anything flash, run-wise, but I was feeling better and stronger. I negative split the run, and passed a bunch of people—including one from my a/g—on the final return leg. I need to get my average run pace up, and maybe to stop less at aid stations (weather permitting). Calf felt fine because I was going pretty slowly. 7th in a/g for the run. Partially my poor run was due to heat; partially it may have been due to my not having a race plan for this leg of the race.

I came 5th in a/g; would have been 3rd without the time penalty. For the first two legs of the race, I did think and feel like a racer, and I liked it. Or at least I found out that I can do it. Fun fact: the woman who hassled me in the swim ended up DSQed for skipping a lap of the bike course (Stephen had also noticed her cutting corners on the run). Justice.

Total time: 5:48.39

Hawaii Ironman – Stella Foley

Hawaii Ironman Race Report

stella-imKupa’a: your strength to stand firm, to believe in and be loyal to yourself, and to your surroundings.

This was the theme for Kona Ironman World Champs 2016…And exactly how I planned to execute my race.

While the lead up week was fun, the real business started at 7:10am October 8.

The bit of a breeze that was up first thing in the morning signalled the bike was going to be tough, and the beautiful sunrise then gave way to some scorching sun. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. To test and prove yourself in the conditions the race is made famous for…yes please.

The swim start wasn’t as daunting as the butterflies in my tummy made it out to be. I’d kept them at bay all week but I definitely felt them as I’d waited in the slow and lengthy numbering cue. Anyway as soon as the cannon went off they were left behind (only for my focus…not my swimming speed). Stuck on feet and hips, and caught amongst elbows to the first turn. Must have kept a reasonable line for a change because I pretty much swam under that turning bouy. The back section went on a lot longer than I was anticipating but eventually turned again and headed for home. Reassuringly I was overtaking the (super) slow age group men, yay, first win. Swam hard to the steps and had a smooth transition with everything already being with my bike.

Undoubtably glad to be on the bike and the lap through town allowed for time to settle before heading out on the famous Queen K. Tri Travel (who are awesome by the way!) had driven us over the course earlier in the week- and we’d ridden the last ~50km, so I had some idea what I was in for. Apparently the day we rode the conditions were a 7-8/10 for “toughness”…race day was definitely hotter and windier. Cross winds until Wykaloa and then head wind for the ~30km up hill towards Harve (the turn around point). The pros came through at around 80km into the course, which was just &$@#% amazing to watch and some distraction from the head wind. The turn around was hectic- an aid station followed by special needs, scooted around people and tried to stay out of trouble. And then a tail wind combined with several descents made for a very fun start to the ride back! Overtook a lot of people on the descents so I must have finally developed some nerve? Cross winds returned where we’d had them before but it didn’t matter, town in sight. Should also mention that I had previously ridden to heart rate, but unbeknown to Mark, my HR monitor died the day before- with no where in town selling Suunto so let’s say the ride was done to feel…and it worked just fine ?

Hawaii IronmanAnother smooth transition and onto the run. I was told the run doesn’t start until you hit the Queen K (16km in) and they were right. Running along Ali’i Drive felt fun and easy, even the ascent up Palani Road (running) felt ok, but that highway, with its long “gentle” hills is deceptively hard!! Was hanging out for the turn to the Energy Lab…felt like it took forever to get there! An aid station at the top with pumping music and totally the best “aid” – Cliff station at the bottom and the turn around point made the notoriously difficult section a lot of fun. Seeing Mark after the climb out of the Energy Lab was also uplifting but despite more coke than I’ve ever drunk, my legs wouldn’t move any quicker! And my average pace was slowly climbing which was ridiculously frustrating. Back along the highway, legged it down Palani rd to find there was still about a km to go. So happy to finally see the carpet! Lap up some of the insane energy of the finishing shoot and make a feeble attempt to jump over the line (I saw how steep the other side looked…I would have never stuck a tuck jump). Loved every minute but also a humbling experience and a reality check to race against so many amazing athletes.

Swim: 1:13
Ride 5:45
Run 3:40

stella21st female in my age group
2nd Aussie in my age group and beat the girls who finished in front of me at Cairns ?

Can’t wait to continue working with Mark Turner to come back faster and stronger!

…thanks again for all the messages of support. Appreciate every one of them, especially considering I’m just getting to do what I love x

#trination #tristhlonisateamsport #IMKona #swimbikerun #feltcycles #pacewheels #mizuno

Mark’s Musings – Reflections on Cairns 2016

Reflections on Cairns 2016  

As I sit to write my reflections on IM Cairns 2016, 12 months after writing something similar for IM Cairns 2015, it is with a mixture of emotions.

IM Cairns 2015 was my first relatively incident-free IM. I had a good race, despite some stomach issues, and was only ten minutes from a Kona spot even though I had a very relaxed build-up to the race.

My preparation for this year’s event could not have been better.

I trained harder than I have in years and was in great shape both mentally and physically. After reviewing my weaknesses from last year’s race I had improved my swim and bike endurance significantly and was 2.5kg lighter this year.

On race morning I was relaxed and confident of achieving my goal of qualifying for Kona. However, between the cramping at the end of the swim and the exercise-induced vomiting, I now know I have a couple of issues to resolve with my body first. Let me take you through the race.

I positioned myself toward the front end of zone one and was looking to swim under the hour quite comfortably.  I had swum 56 min for 4km (Garmin measure) at the Noosa swim a couple of weeks ago so I started with confidence. It was certainly one of the roughest swims I have done with some testing conditions for everyone. However, once I was out there, I focused on staying as relaxed as possible and getting through without incident. I could feel it was quite warm in the water but I was feeling good and stood up on the beach in 59 min.

mark out of water IM CairnsConsidering the conditions I was happy with the time but as soon as I stood both of my hamstrings went into a terrible and painful cramp. I fell back in the water and couldn’t stand up. As the waves crashed over me I put my hands up for assistance as I was in so much pain I wasn’t able to move my legs. I used to suffer terrible cramps like this on a more frequent basis a few years ago in similar conditions but I thought it was a thing of the past. What is even more surprising is that I was in great shape so it wasn’t a fitness issue and, while it was hot, I don’t think I sweated enough to cause such terrible cramp in both hamstrings.

The lifesavers carried me onto the beach and for the next few minutes I could not move as the cramping was incredibly intense. Any time I attempted to move both hamstrings continued to cramp with great force. After a good few minutes of withering in pain on the beach the cramp subsided and I was able to walk or very slow jog through to transition.

On a side note: I have come across some reading in the last 48 hours on cramping and the causes. Harvard neurobiologist Bruce Bean and Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist Rod MacKinnon believe cramps are caused by the nerve, not the muscle, and even the most nutritionally fit athletes can suffer from them.

They go on to say muscles cramp when neurons in the spinal cord start firing off spontaneously and repetitively. This makes sense to me as I was swim fit, well hydrated and I did not over extend myself in the swim.

Traditionally it’s thought dehydration, sweat loss or a lack of fitness causes cramping and, while I think there may be some truth in that, my experience in coaching and racing tells me there has to be more to what causes my issues. Maybe a combination of rough conditions, my back being in an extended position for longer than normal and previous surgery caused the cramp from my back into the hamstrings. Also, in a wetsuit swim which lasts for more than an hour, my hamstrings aren’t being used often so it doesn’t make sense that both would cramp so badly.

Anyway I digress and so once I was able to move freely I tried not to let what happened affect my resolve or plan.  In my bike bag in T1 I had some Cramp Stop spray and I used it like I was dying of thirst in the early part of the bike.  I have to say it worked as, until the very late stages of the run, I didn’t suffer from cramp again. 

Once on the bike I struggled to get my heart rate under control.  My plan was to race at 70-75 per cent of my max heart rate (approx. 200) and have a good even race by starting easy and finishing strongly knowing the wind would be up on the way home.  For the first hour my heart rate didn’t drop under 155 to 160 very often which had a lot to do with the hills early on and I was still struggling from the effects of the cramping. My legs were not feeling like I had hoped they would but I remained positive and just said to myself, “Stick to the plan, you will come good”.

After about an hour, the heart rate came down and I started to feel OK. I got into a good rhythm and focused on getting in the calories while remembering it is a long day. Pacing, nutrition and being in a good head space was all I thought about.

I thought the conditions on the bike were very similar to last year, windy with rain, and in 2015 I rode 2.44 and 2.46 (90km splits) for a total time of 5.30 with an average heart rate of 74% of max. This year, with the exact same average heart rate, I cycled 2.32 and 2.39 (90km splits) for a 5.11 time.  So, despite my cramping at the end of the swim, I had put together a good ride with the extra work on the bike in training paying off. 

Even though the vomiting started at around 150km through to the finish of the bike I started running and believed today was my day. I got off the bike in ninth place in my age group, after starting the bike in 26th and no doubt losing quite a few places due to the cramping at the end of the swim.

FMark Cairns IM runor the first 5km on the run my heart rate was where I wanted it to be, around 75 per cent of the max, my legs were OK and I was running at around 4.30 per km.  The plan I had worked on with dietician Sally Garrard was to not eat for the first 20 mins of the bike or run.  This was to give my stomach a chance to settle and reduce the risk of the vomiting occurring which is technically known as “exercise induced vomiting”. Here is an article of interest that I found which describes what happens to me in a race – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4027831/

Even with the vomiting happening on the bike I thought it wasn’t as bad as other races and the same thing happened last year which didn’t stop me getting to the finish. However at 5km, when I started to take in calories, it came straight back up. It was then I knew I had a challenge ahead of me but like last year I thought I would get home on coke and water. This year it didn’t work as well.  For the next 37km it became a battle for survival as anytime I put coke in or any type of drink, gel or food in it came straight back up.  My worst fears were being realised in that I couldn’t get the calories in and was running on empty. When I wasn’t vomiting I felt nauseas, weak and lethargic.

Despite this, I wasn’t about to give up and during the run had so many ups and downs. Periods where I could run, all be it a slow pace, and periods where a walk was all I could manage. I took my watch off at 10km and just decided with what was happening that it was best to run old school and ignore heart rate, time and pace and just dig in to the finish.

So many times I wanted to stop. I never thought about giving up but just stopping and resting. Yet knowing how hard I had trained and the support I had received from so many, especially my wife Suzanne, I knew I had to dig in and suffer to the finish.

I thought of my goal and resolved not to give up but take aid station by aid station. I had no idea where I was placed but every time I ran past the Tri Nation support team and other Tri Nation athletes it kept me going.

Last year I ran a 3.36 marathon and this year I was lighter, stronger and had done some really good long runs in training so I felt I was capable of running around a low 3.20 all going well.

In the end my marathon time was 3.57 for an overall time of 10.19 and 16th place in my age group. It was 15 minutes from a Kona spot and last year I was 10 minutes off a Kona spot with a 10.10 overall time and 8th place in my age group.

mark IM finish CairnsI did not enjoy the marathon this year. It was horrible; a mixture of vomiting, nausea, pure fatigue and the pain of pushing yourself to a place that makes me afraid to go back there. I swore I would never do another one after collapsing at the finish line and ending up in the medical tent again. Now after a couple of days to reflect, I am determined to find an answer to my nutritional issues associated with long course racing.  I know that without the nutritional issues I would have qualified for Kona quite easily and run some 30-40 minutes quicker than I did on Sunday. 

Last year my average training volume 23 weeks leading into Cairns was 11.5hrs and this year it was closer to 14hrs. For the last 12 weeks leading into Cairns this year my average was around 18hrs which for me is a lot, more than I have ever done. I was fit, strong and ready to race well.

On the day I did everything I could to maximise my performance. I could not have gone any quicker, I overcame any obstacle I was confronted with and despite all the challenges I did not give up. From that perspective I am satisfied but at the same time quite disappointed I still haven’t found the answer to these issues my body battles with.

I had set myself a goal to qualify for both the 70.3 World Champs and Kona and this reflux vomiting is making it very difficult to reach my potential. As I alluded to in one of my earlier blogs, I have had quite a few setbacks in my long course career and with each one the voice of doubt grows louder but I know after the weekend I am close, I have the ability and I just need to keep searching for an answer.

Ironman New Zealand

Christy Ironman NZ

Ironman New Zealand

Ironman triathlon Mark Turner

Reflections on Cairns Ironman

Cairns IronmanReflections on Cairns Ironman

Training conversations involving triathletes, especially those focusing on long course events, can obsessively dwell on weekly training volume. I have not escaped such chat in the past as I’ve tried to squeeze in too much for my body and lifestyle to handle. When I push the training limits I am prone to becoming overly fatigued and extremely tired to the point where I can’t train until I have completely rested for at least a few days.

This is mainly due to the three Ironman events in three days I raced in 2008. The health of my eldest son William, who requires ongoing full-time care, also plays a part. The toll from completing three Ironman in three days and the stress of William’s health problems means I am forever balancing a case of permanent fatigue.  Training, racing and coaching is a great way to cope with stress but it is a very delicate balance.

I know I respond to high intensity training well but not to large volume. It has taken me a number of years to understand I simply can’t train as much as others. For my Ironman Cairns campaign I decided I would keep a record of my training, as I always do, but not count weekly volume hours until after race day.

My weekly training volume in 2014 was quite low, around 5-7hrs per week. Last year I did not race a triathlon but did enough work to maintain a reasonable level of run and bike fitness.  I did race quite a number of running events for fun including the 500km road relay in November and 75km on the Queen K with my good friend and fellow Tri Nation online coach Craig Percival when he raced the World Ultraman champs in Kona. I also ticked off the Smiddy Challenge ride from Brisbane to Townsville. Swimming training was a rare occurrence until December and I was certainly carrying too much weight. Whilst I was in okay shape I was far from race ready.

On January 5, and 23 weeks out from race day, I began my preparation for IM Cairns.  I needed this longer preparation, rather than a shorter more higher volume approach of 12-14 weeks, considering how long it had been since I had trained consistently. I needed to do a few races of any distance to get ready for racing again and also to find that routine of swim, bike and run. My first race back was Auckland 70.3 but a hamstring problem stopped me from completing the race.  After getting on top of the injury I raced QTS Caloundra, Mooloolaba, Tweed Enduro and Luke Harrop plus a few cross-country races on a Saturday afternoon. These Saturday afternoon hit-outs are great for building strength and I really enjoy them having started my endurance career as a cross-country runner back in 1989.

My weekly average volume for 23 weeks was 11.8 hours. My longest ride was 165km and I did one other 150km but most weeks it was around 4-4.5hrs getting in 2-3 rides per week, an average two to three swims per week, one gym session per week, and three to four runs per week with my long runs up to two and half hours in duration but with specific intervals. My basic principle was easy on the easy and hard on the hard. So when I went hard I really worked hard but the easy ones were pretty slow. I had a bout of vomiting for a few days a month out of IM Cairns and there were a few weeks where I missed some key sessions because of William and work commitments having started in a new role as General Manager for Healthstream in Qld along with my coaching commitments for Tri Nation. I also had a few days where the fatigue levels crept in and couldn’t train but overall I had a consistent preparation. I coach people who rarely miss a session but this is just not possible for me.

I was happy with what I was able to achieve in the 23 weeks leading into Cairns. I felt good heading into the race and I was really excited to start on race morning. All I wanted was an incident free day, which in my previous four IM events had not happened because of punctures, a trip in an ambulance and a bout of vomiting.  I was not focused on time but just the opportunity to test myself and cross the line knowing I had gone as hard as I could on the day.

A 59minute swim in choppy conditions set the day up well. The bike certainly threw up challenges in the forms of wind, rain and rolling hills in the middle section of the course. My plan on the bike was to ride within my target heart range. That was hard at times due to the conditions but I rode a very even race of 2.44hr for the first 90km and 2.46hr for the second 90km for a 5.30hr bike split.  There was a very strong headwind on the way back into Cairns from Port Douglas that slowed everyone down. I felt quite good on this stretch and found myself passing a lot of people in the last 50-60km, which is always a welcome feeling.

On the run I felt pretty good from the start. Again, I had a heart range I wanted to stick within and the plan was to use course nutrition of gels and Endura. At about 10km I hit a bad patch for 3-4km and decided to switch to coke and water, really focusing on running from aid station to aid station.  This worked a treat and I was able to run out a strong marathon of 3.36hr. Certainly the last 15km was tough but at the same time I loved it. I finished with a 10.10hr, 8th place in the men’s 45-49 age group, knowing I could not have gone any faster on the day.

I would have placed top 10 in every other male age group, which I was really happy about. While it was not a goal, I was only 10 minutes off a Kona spot in my age group so it gives me some validation that with further consistent training and racing I should be able to achieve that in the future.

One of the best things to come out of the whole campaign is how fresh I felt mentally.  Any IM campaign is tough on the mind but with a low weekly volume I felt great, other than the usual tiredness and sore spots an IM delivers.  This low volume approach of 12-16hrs per week depending on the athlete for IM is a theory I have been practicing for most of the athletes I coach over the last few years. Off the back of this we have seen an increasing number of success stories including personal best times, Kona qualifiers and athletes getting to the start line fresh, healthy and not burnt out. More importantly they are able to maintain a healthy balance in the rest of their lives.

As you start your next IM campaign have a think about what it is you want. I have seen too many athletes push too hard for a short period of time only to be mentally and physically burnt out. Their work suffers, their relationships suffer, their health suffers and they become what I call IM sick.  It is impossible to have a conversation unless it relates to IM, they lose a sense of objectivity about the rest of their life but more importantly they lose their enjoyment for the sport and what it was about when they first started.

Let’s always celebrate the PB’s, the Kona qualifiers and the first timers. But let’s really celebrate how lucky we are to do it and the experiences and friendships this wonderful sport gives us.

 

Auckland 70.3 Race Report

Auckland 70.3

Taryn Axelsen

January 18th 2012 – I attended my first Tri Nation (BTS) running squad session as a nervous beginner triathlete. Up until this point I only ran – I had never in my whole life attended swimming squad and the longest I had ridden was 50km (which left me with ice on my knees all afternoon and I couldn’t walk for days!). I didn’t swim or ride outside of races.

Fast forward 3 years to January 18th 2015 and I was about to line up for my 10th half ironman, the Asia Pacific 70.3 Championship in Auckland NZ.

I knew I would return in 2015 after experiencing this race the year before when they put on a really good event – they even had hot face towels at the finish line and a big feed of fish and chips afterwards. This year I was returning to compete as prep for my first ironman (Melbourne in March) – amazing what 3 years can do.

I have discovered that the 70.3 half ironman is my favourite distance. I love the long training sessions involved and the fact that you can actually race it hard and recover relatively quickly. I have managed to improve my times from 5.24 in my first in Cairns in 2012 to a 4.53 in Busselton in 2014.

After attending so many events (10 now since June 2012) in such a short time means I am now well-versed at bike building, bike racking, registration and avoiding overspending at the merchandise store.

Swim

Auckland 70.3 swimRace morning is always a buzz and I love the feeling and atmosphere of events – it is one thing I don’t think I will ever get tired of.  A quick set up of the bike and nutrition and it’s off to get my wetsuit on and be shuttled off to the start line.

I had raced in Auckland in the World Championship Sprint Distance triathlon in 2012 and I will never forget how cold swimming in the Auckland harbour was. It was about 13deg back then, but fortunately 19 deg on race morning this year.

I don’t usually suffer from nerves in the swim, apart from worrying about a marauding shark or two, and look forward to lining up with the other girls and the rough and tumble at the start.

My goal for the swim this year was simple – swim straight. Last year I swam off course and was put straight by a life guard, so I was determined to stay on target this time. Goal achieved, however I looked at my watch and saw the same swim time as last year (which was really slow) and I will admit my heart sunk (once finishing the race and looking at results it was clear that everyone’s results were about 4 minutes slower than the previous year – goes to show you cannot compare different race times but you also have to be careful with comparing the same race year on year as, in this case the swim course was definitely longer).

Arriving back at T1 and there were many more bikes left than normal (usually they are nearly all gone after I arrive at T1); this lifted my spirits. Wetsuit off, helmet on and I was set to ride.

Ride

auckland 70.3 bikeI may have been a little ambitious assuming it would be okay to ride a brand new bike (I had only ridden it for a total of 25km before the race) but a fit a few weeks earlier from Custom Bike Fit meant I didn’t have any real dramas, except it being quite different from my previous bike.

I had one goal in the bike leg too – listen to the coach and ride to a set heart rate. This proved to be much harder than I thought.  I think perhaps my heart rate monitor took a while to work (I wore it in the swim) as it was stuck on 174 (significantly higher than planned). I eased back to try to get it lower but then started getting overtaken by others in my age group – I will admit that at around the 50km mark I had enough of trying to make it work so I put the pedal down (HR was way off target – sorry coach).

The ride is a gorgeous ride over the Auckland Harbour Bridge, then laps of the Auckland waterfront – never a moment to get bored and before I knew it I was arriving into T2. I nearly stacked it getting off and quickly had to correct myself and find my running legs very quickly.

Run

I always count bikes from my age group in T2 to see how I am placing. I counted 9, placing me (what I thought) in 10th. I had some work to do – helmet off, Mizuno Hitogami shoes on, grab race belt and hat and go.

I had another strategy for the run – a really really low heart rate (for me); set by the coach. I was to run at heart rate 150. To put this into perspective my last half ironman 3 months earlier, my heart rate average on the run was 181. I turned my watch onto heart rate and tried my best to keep it down. The best I could do was high 160s – still a vast improvement.

My focus was on heart rate and consequently I forgot about my pace – I was pleasantly surprised to see my splits coming in at 4:20 – 4:30 pace and I was holding them. At about the 7km mark I had overtaken 3 girls putting me into what I thought was 7th. I then decided to target the girls in my age group. Soon I was 6th, then 5th, then 4th then with 1km to go I got another girl. 3rd. Maybe – was I?

My run is my strength. Coming from a running background, I count on this to finish a triathlon strongly. I have improved dramatically in recent times and am almost on the verge of catching my nearest and dearest (he is still bloody quick). I train very hard and run anywhere between 70-100km a week.

I finished Auckland in my quickest time ever for the run (1.36) and third fastest half ironman time ever (5.05). A quick look at results had me in 4th by only 50seconds. Damn. A podium spot so close but so far. It might have given me a roll down spot for the World 70.3 Champs in Austria, but that has never been my goal: however I do want to qualify for the same champs when they come to the Sunny Coast in 2016.