Everything but the Kitchen Sink
Greetings from Norway! We landed here on Saturday morning or was it evening? I can't tell with this bloody time difference, after a long series of flights. Along the way we realised that some of our stop overs were a little short which caused me and Dez a little concern as to whether our bags (and my bike) would be meeting us in Oslo. It was with huge relief when we boarded our final flight to Oslo from Zurich that I saw one of our bags being loaded onto the plane. They had made it! The main reason from my concern was that I was signed up to race an Olympic Distance the morning after we landed and wanted to get everything ready. Of course when we got to Olso and waited for our bags for over 45 minutes we had to accept that they did in fact not make the trip. Not because of timing but instead because Swiss Air decided the plane was overweight (Even though it was half empty) and chose to leave our bags in Zurich. We were told they may be on a flight later that day but it was unlikely they would be delivered to us until the following day. We did however have the option of driving back to the airport (a 40 minute one way trip) and collect the bags ourselves. So the night before my race, after next to no sleep for nearly 2 days we drove to the airport at 9:30pm to collect the bike and bag. Not the ideal prep before a race. I got the bike home and set it up.
The next morning we drove an hour South for the Østfold Triathlon. We loaded up the car and hit the road at about 7am. When we got down to the race area I jumped on my bike to make sure everything was a-ok and discovered that my di2 system wasn't working. One of the chords probably disconnected during the flight. Then I saw that one of the cables was frayed and barely even connected. The system was broken. I could not shift gears. I came incredibly close to pulling the pin on the race. I was quite tired and not feeling awesome and now I was going to have to do the race on a fixie TT bike. I think that if it was just me and Dez there I probably would have withdrawn. But my in-laws also came down to watch so I decided I would roll the dice. I think the last time I wrote about a race it was how I lost the mental battle. I am happy that despite my less than stellar start to the trip I did not give up this time.
So I went and registered and racked my bike. The weather was a bit dodgy but I was looking forward to dusting out the cobwebs. To summarise the race quickly, I really felt the jet lag in the swim. I was tired and my arms felt heavy. The lack of gears frustrated me on the bike because I could not pedal hard enough on the downhills or flats and had to get out of the saddle for most climbs. The run I was quite happy with. I didn't go balls to the wall but instead wanted to treat it a bit like a brick session and try and run a nice and consistent pace.
But despite the short summary of the race there was much more that happened. On the bike course my hydration system came loose and fell off at the 28km mark. I knew I was going to turn around soon so I decided to collect it on my way back. I had to stop 2 times to collect all the pieces and get them back in place. Looking back it is actually quite funny that almost everything that could go wrong did (I also nearly crashed at a turn around). My bike is at the mechanic being fixed and they are not even sure if they will have it ready before this weekend. Like I said, it is hilarious. But to be honest, I am actually glad to get this out of the way. I have had a series of races where either through my own stupidity or no fault of my own, something has gone wrong. I am hoping that by having a disaster on the weekend I might be blessed with some luck this weekend.
There were times during the race on the weekend when those usual voices started rationalising my less than stellar performance. But after all the messages and tips I got from people after my last race I was able to put them into action. One of the best things I have been told which I reminded myself of on Sunday was that life is too easy! We aren't used to facing adversity. Sunday I embraced it. I savoured it. I accepted the adversity and I came out the other side determined to keep going. In fact I could almost say that on the weekend it was my turn to win the mental battle. I accepted that there were lots of things out of my control. So instead I decided to focus on those things I could control. It worked well and I was able to finish within a minute of my PB.
So now all attention turns to this weekend. It would be fantastic to get there with a perfectly working bike. I am yet to race on my new TT at 100% and I am excited to see how it rides. I had a really good bike fit done last week at 3D Bike Fit and the new position will make me ride faster. I also definitely noticed the difference when I ran off the bike on the weekend. What I do know is that whatever happens this week, whatever challenges are faced, I will be lining up on Sunday excited to race the first ever 70.3 I raced all those years ago!
Have a great week, tusen takk and remember to TRI!
The Land of the Midnight Sun
Freedom! Another semester of my law degree is behind me and as of next semester I am a final year law student. Exciting and equally scary times ahead. The last few weeks have been a little all over the place with some big assignments and exams to get ready for. I had an exam yesterday and I was actually surprised how similar I felt before the exam to my race morning nerves. It is done and now I have a month to focus on all things triathlon. First up in my month long adventure of triathlon is to jump on a plane to the land of the midnight sun, Norway. What can I say about this place? I have a real love-hate relationship with the country. When I left there in 2012 I was so happy to be leaving. I despised my time over there. As I boarded the plane from Oslo I turned back up the tunnel and pronounced loudly "Fuck you Norway!" with a 2 finger salute. In hindsight it was not actually anything to do with Norway but instead a lot more to do with myself. The country is incredibly beautiful with a great sporting community. Norway was also were I experienced my first 70.3 and needless to say I fell in love with it. So when Dez and I decided it was time to head back you better believe that I tried to plan the trip around the race in Haugesund.
So yes, I will be lining up on July 3 in Haugesund. At the scene of my first 70.3. I still think this race is the most spectacular I have ever done. Maybe it is the romance of my first event. But I have such fond memories from Norway 70.3 I am so excited to race again. Yes! You are reading this correctly! I am actually excited about suffering for over 4 hours. I think there are a number of reasons why I am genuinely excited to get back there. As I said, Norway was my first 70.3 and I had no idea what was in store for me at that first race. I arrived in town at 5pm the night before the race. Raced on my road bike and had massive knee issues because I had not yet set foot in my magical Mizuno's. I walked away with a time of 5:08 for my first and I had no idea what this meant. I just wanted to get to the finish line. Now this is when I realise I have been doing this for a while. I am lining up 4 years later and 16 70.3's later. I am a much different athlete. I am the epitome of all the gear now with my crazy fast bike and aero helmet. Fancy aero race kit. I might not go as fast as the pros but I certainly look the part. In all seriousness, I have done a crazy amount of training this year. I looked at my training diary and I have already done nearly the same amount of training this year that I did for the entire 2015! The training this year has been much more structured and while the focus is firmly on Sunny Coast in September I am expecting to put together a significantly better performance than I did all those years ago.
It is important for me to realise that this race is in effect a test event. It is still a race! I hate it when people say they are 'training' when they race. Every time I line up to race I give it 100%. I may not always go as hard as I could or can but you better believe I am not someone who spends hundreds of dollars to train. But this race will be one I attempt on tired legs. Something I have always struggled with is how to get my taper right. I have had races with a proper week long taper where I have been fully rested and ready to go. Those races have usually ended in disaster. Then I have had races where I have not even stopped training until the day before doing huge volume in the weeks leading up to it only to put together some of my better performances. So this race will be that. I mean come on! I am going to be in Europe with those amazing Norwegian roads to go riding on. You think I am just going to sit around tapering with all of the outside my door (not to mention the sun is basically up all night!) So yes, I will train in the lead up to the event to see how the legs respond. I am also excited because my wife's family will be coming over to Haugesund with us to watch me race. I love it when those people in my life decide to come and see what all this crazy triathlon stuff is all about. I am sure they will have a blast!
The Norway 70.3 race to this day had the most spectators I have ever seen on a course before. The finish straight which you run past 4 or 5 times is packed with people and the atmosphere is electric. There are crowds on the bike course as well. I remember at one point when I was racing I nearly crashed my bike because I was too busy looking at the incredible water views as I rounded a bend. I suppose my biggest concern (apart from crashing for real this time) is that the race will not meet my expectations. The year I raced it was the inaugural event. Did this mean that they put in extra effort? We will see. Honestly, this race was so good that when I lined up for my 2nd 70.3 which was Canberra I was disgusted by the difference. Norway set the bar so high that I am yet to find another event that even comes close to the levels of professionalism displayed by the event team. Fingers crossed it is still just as good.
That's not all I am going to do in Norway. I am not going to fly all that way and only do one race and some training. I said that I want to make the most of my time in Norway. So when I found there was a triathlon on this Sunday you better believe that I signed up. The race is the Østfold Triathlon. I have also done this race before. It is a local Olympic Distance event. The biggest challenge I am going to face with this race is that it is literally the day after I land there. After 20 something hours of travel I will have one night to get my stuff ready before lining up for an Olympic Distance triathlon. Again, I am excited to go back to this race. Similarly with the 70.3 I am looking forward to see how I have developed. I am hoping to see some significant improvements but more than anything I am just excited to race in another country. I have done a heap of races in Asia now and Europe presents a whole number of different challenges. It may be more like racing in New Zealand (just with nice roads). The riders are usually stronger but the courses are also honest. Whatever happens though I am going to make the most of every second of both races. I remember that this race had one of the coldest swims I have ever completed. It was pissing down raining the entire race and when I came out of the water my hands were so cold I cold not use them to get changed. Surely it wont be that bad this time?
So I am going to use my little respite from our Australian Winter to get another couple of races under my belt as well as some serious km's into my legs on the bike. I will be riding the same roads I used to ride and following the same run trails that I used to struggle on. If I am able to keep the nostalgia under control I may also get some decent training in. I am the sort of person who breaks my year into sections. Usually by significant events. For me, this trip and the races in Norway will end a period and it will mark the start of the real period leading up to Sunny Coast. I have no idea what to expect out of that race but I know I am doing some absolutely horrible training to get myself ready. While Sunny Coast is but a step in my march towards my goal of a 4:05 70.3 it is a pretty big step to race against the best in the world. So when I get back from Norway (after yet another sneaky trip to Singapore) things are going to get hectic. I don't want to line up on September 4 and wonder if I did everything I could. I want to know that I did. Whether I am the first or last or anything in between, if I go out there and give my best performance that will be enough for me. That's all I ever aim to do.
Have a great week, I will be writing next week from Norway! Remember to TRI!
My Little Ninja Secret
It is that crazy busy time of the semester for me with exams coming up and final assignments needing to be finished. However I have found myself with some free time after a particularly hard session today which means any academic work I attempted would be absolute dribble. So I decided to write my blog instead ( I promise you wont get the previously mentioned dribble!) I wanted to talk this week about an experience which I had over the first 5 months of this year or ever since Christmas. I coached my first athlete to a 70.3. I am not a qualified coach or anything and before you start thinking I shouldn't be doing that I explained all this to my athlete at the start.
Morenna or as I call her 'Ninja' had signed up for Busso 70.3 and wanted some structure to her training and was unsure whether she wanted a coach. At first I suggested she try my coach but after she told me that she didn't really want one I asked her if she would be my guinea pig. I have always said that I love trying to bring people to the sport and I love spending time with beginners who are in awe of the sport. This to me seemed like the perfect opportunity. I think after a few years in the sport most of us have a good idea of what works and what doesn't. This was the opportunity for me to put my thoughts into practice. To train my first 70.3 athlete.
I have been working with my coach for over 2 years now and through that time I have worked out what sort of strucute works for me. I am also extremely lucky to have access to some of the best coaches and athletes in the sport through MaccaX. As a result of this I developed what I thought would be the best plan of attack to get Momo to the start line in the best possible shape. Last year I had another client of mine who worked with me to lose approximately 20kgs sign up for his first triathlon. As a result of that, the training I prescribed to him became in effect a triathlon training program. I knew however that this would be different. 70.3 is a different beast. I was also extremely fortunate to have a good understanding of Momo's athletic background which helped me to derive a solid game plan. But I don't really feel the need to get into the specifics of her training. Instead I want to talk about the experience that I had in helping to get her ready for her first 70.3.
I want to say at the outset that I was blown away by Morenna's dedication to her training. There were some weeks where I almost felt guilty about what I was asking her to do. I would write the program then look at it as a whole. When I write plans I usually expect there to be about an 80% completion. Life is life and we are all busy. But week in and week out she got through it. I realised quickly that a big factor for Momo was to train with others. I tried to accomodate this as much as I could. I am however a believer that you need to do some of your training solo. Triathlon is a tough sport and there will be points during your race where you have no one to talk to but the voices inside of your head. When this happens they are often not saying nice things to you either. So there were also times where I had to specify to her that I wanted a particular session done alone. Im not sure whether it was because I didn't want to overwhelm her or because it changed often but I would always tell her that "it's all part of the long term plan." But I never really told her what that plan was. I knew I wanted to spend as much time as I could developing strength then spend a good 6 weeks tapping some speed. I did explain this at the start too. "You need to become stronger" was one of my favourite things to say to her.
What about challenges we faced? There were plenty of these too. As I mentioned earlier, I felt like I had a good understanding of Momo as an athlete and I had a solid understanding of her background. To me this made me think that as important to her performance as the fitness was, confidence was going to be just as important. To try and make her confident I needed to put her in situations where she was NOT going to be confident. I told her to start at the front of the field when she did other races. I told her to get used to the rough open water swimming so that it isn't too daunting when you line up in May. I wanted to make her understand that she would be able to run off the bike so I made her run after doing the swim/bike in Huski when she was part of a relay. I constantly made her swim further and further. I got a picture message the first time she successfully swam 4km! I was stoked.
But as much as I knew confidence would play a big part in her performance it also became a slight issue as well. Momo can run. She has run multiple half-marathons and her approach to running reminded me a lot of myself. When I first started triathlon I ignored my swim. I had been an adequate swimmer so I worked more on my bike and run to the point that my swim for a long time was my weakest leg. I had to hound Momo to make sure she got her long runs done. I felt like she was taking her run for granted. In our conversation after she completed Moo Tri I think Morenna realised the same thing because the last few weeks before Busso she made significant improvements in her running.
The biggest challenge I feel that I had though was actually trying to slow her down. Momo loved to add the sneaky additional sessions. Her friends would be going for a run club or an ocean swim so she would tag along too. The best example I remember was the first time I set Momo a hard brick. It was a 40km TT followed by run intervals off the bike. My coach has given me a similar sort of session in the past and I dreaded it because I knew how much it hurt. Morenna wanted to move her training one weekend so she could go for a ride with some friends. She suggested she squash 3 sessions including the brick into one day and go for the long ride on the Sunday. I had to convince her that this was a bad idea. I had to repeat several times as the race got closer that as the training became more intense and the volume decreased the biggest risk was injury or sickness from overdoing it. I would ask her "what are you getting out of the session?" This too was something that I had done in the past. In the lead up to Western Sydney 70.3 in 2014 I was convinced I needed to lose some weight in the last 2 weeks leading up to the event so in addition to my regular training I would go to the gym everyday and spend 2 hours on the X-Trainer. It ended in disaster for me and I didn't want it to happen to Morenna too.
As the race got closer we had more and more conversations about how the actual day would unfold. What to expect both positive and negative. How to deal with things as they came along. Strategies to get her to the finish line as quickly as possible. When Morenna left to head over to Busso I felt extremely confident in her. I had seen the improvements she had made I think a lot better than she did. I think this is pretty normal to be honest. It is hard to see those improvements in yourself but when you are an objective bystander it is possible to see them clearly. Morenna's result at Busso was incredible. But to be honest I wasn't surprised. I knew that she had put in the hard work. For a person who couldn't swim 12 months prior the race she swam 38 minutes for 1.9km. In 2014 I was swimming 1.9km in over 40 minutes. Considering it took Morenna literally months to not only learn how to use cleats on the bike but also to use the drops and to not stop when having a drink she averaged 29.5km/h for her first ever 70.3. At Moo Tri Morenna ran over an hour for the 10km but at Busso she ran under 2 hours for 21.1km after a 90km bike ride! She deserved a strong result and she got it. Not because she was naturally talented or was privy to some secret about triathlon (even after all these races I am yet to find one). Morenna delivered an amazing first result because she put in the hard work. It is that simple. I was insanely proud of her and called her after the race. The conversation was one of elation. Of everything I have done and achieved in this sport, being involved in whatever small way that I was in her performance is one of the things I am most proud of.
I go on and on about this but I really believe that triathlon is the best sport on the planet because of the people. I want to help to bring as many people to the sport as I can and I think Morenna 'Ninja'/'Momo' Burn is a great ambassador for the sport. She set herself a challenge and worked hard and consistently towards it. As a result of this she was rewarded. It shows that no matter who you are or what your background is, you can do it too.
If you want to read more about Morenna and her experiences check out her blog
Have a great week, be like Morenna and remember to TRI!
I lost 50kgs though triathlon and completed the 2016 70.3 World Championships. Aiming to hit 4:05 for a 70.3, the same time it took me to complete my first Olympic Distance Triathlon. I want to bring as many new people to the sport as possible. Whether you are fit and active or want to make positive changes to your life.