Yarrawonga-Mulwala OD Race Report – Ben Shepherd
I 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.
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
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!
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.
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 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.
Tweed Enduro 70.3 Race Report – Christy Collis
Sat 25 Feb 2017
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.
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).
I made more of an effort than usual to run quickly to my bike. Still toe socks though.
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.
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.
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.