So I got reminded today that it is month yesterday until my next race, Bintan 70.3. So I thought I would give you all a bit of an update about where my training is at and how I am feeling about the approaching race. I was actually shocked to realise the race is as close as it is. With most races they always seem so far away until they aren't anymore. I suppose this is a result of signing up for them so far in advance.
About halfway through last year I started talking to my coach about the possibility of qualifying for the 2016 World Championships as they are being held on the Sunshine Coast which is my favourite place to race in Oz. Pretty early on I identified that my best chance of getting a slot was in Asia. I originally signed up for the Cebu 70.3 but all I heard was that it would be a hot and windy day. I don't mind the heat but I detest wind on a bike course. So when Bintan was announced I decided to change races. Bintan has a reputation for also being brutally hot but is said to have a tough and hilly bike course. I am a strong rider and I thought a tough bike leg would work to my advantage. So since February all the training I have been doing has been working towards this race.
It is funny but I thought that I was training pretty hard for most of this year and when my coach told me he was upping the ante I didn't really believe it. Let me assure you, he is smashing me. Some weeks, like this week, I see the plan for the week and I am genuinely concerned as to how I will get through some of the sessions. There hasn't been a drastic increase in the volume. I am still somewhere between 15 and 20 hours a week. There has however been an increase in the intensity. Where long runs used to be at a nice and steady pace, they now included above race pace efforts and instead of one there are 2 or 3. My standard swim has gone from 3km to 5km and my 2km speed set has been doubled to 4kms. The bike is also lots of intervals and strength work but that is mostly my own decision as I choose how I fill the hours on the bike. I believe that the key to success on the course will be to be strong on the bike and that is what all my bike work has been for.
I wrote about how it can be hard to train through Winter last week and this is true. I have found the last few weeks quite difficult to get though as it has been so cold and I have been literally been getting smashed. This week however has been incredibly positive. I saw the load for this week and was shocked. I signed up for a half marathon this Sunday and thought the week would be quite light. But no, 2 HARD runs both working out about 23kms and two hard swim sets. I was told the Tuesday run would be challenging and it was but I managed it. Considering I had done a 4km swim that day I was quite satisfied. I knew however the real test for me would be Thursday (a hard 4km swim and a 22km run with 12 hard efforts). I swam really really well. I have been a bit hit and miss in the pool so I was really satisfied. But I still had the run. The first hour was at a slow pace because I was quite tired. I was worried. When I turned around to come back and commence the efforts I started very worried. I started going and bang, the legs were good, really good. I was running 3:40km pace and managing it easily. I completed the set and it had been much easier than the week before. I told Ben about how I had performed and he said that I am ticking all the boxes. Instantly my week from hell has become one of the best training weeks I have had in a long time. The sessions have boosted my confidence, I think I can run a bit. I am excited to see how I go this Sunday. I am not going out there to run a PB or anything. I want to suffer a bit and use it as a good mental training session so bring it on.
So a month out how do I feel? I feel good. I still don't have that super fit feeling I have gotten in the past but I know I am training harder than I have before and I am doing it well. I know the race in Bintan will be brutal and again it is not a race where I am aiming for a time (yes that illusive sub 4:30 time will have to wait) but I am feeling like I may be in good enough shape to be a contender for one of those WC slots I want so bad. I am doing everything I can to get to that start line in the best possible shape. What more can I ask for. I am not going to leave anything out there that is for sure.
This week I also got a bit of extra motivation from meeting some of my triathlon friends. One of the guys I have met through the sport Mike 'Robo' Robinson is in Sydney and I got to catch up with him and another newbie triathlete who I have spoken to online a lot but hadn't met before joined us as well. Morenna has signed up for her first OD in Noosa this year. We sat down for an hour and just talked triathlon. I then agreed to meet up with Morenna for a swim today and we had a coffee after. It is amazing how motivating I find talking about triathlon. Especially about people just starting out in the sport. It reminds me of why I do it. It is also great to catch up with Robo. He is a guy I met through this sport who genuinely is one of my really good mates now. So the boost in motivation came at the perfect time.
So a month to go and I am getting ready for the race. There are things I will not be able to control like the weather and the other competitors who show up. But I know on race day I will have a good group of friends there to watch me and an even larger number of people cheering me on from around the world. I am really excited to race for something. It will add a new element to the race.
Thats it for this week. Remember to grab the latest Triathlon 220 Magazine with my interview and also have a read of my latest article on the news.maccax.com site.
Have a read, stay safe and remember to TRI!!!
I don't know about you but I am sick of winter. The off-season is a great opportunity to work on your weaknesses and make the improvements you can't really address during your racing season. I find that I am able to train at a higher volume without having to worry about saving anything for the weekend. During my racing season, especially this year I have a race of some sort maybe every 2 weeks. There is a focus on recovering between events rather than trying to improve. You need to have faith in the work you did in the lead up. I have experienced the off-season in Europe where it is literally impossible to train in winter outdoors and this is my second true off-season in Australia without any races from Summer to Spring. I like the volume and I feel like I am seeing some serious improvements. However there is something that I am struggling with a little bit at the moment. I am sick of training. I am really struggling at the moment with finding the motivation to keep pushing. This is especially hard as it is so cold at the moment. So what are the things that I do to get through those colder months of high volume training?
I have written before about training with friends. I have been lucky this year to have some friends come and spend a weekend training with me. I find that it is much easier when you are not training by yourself. Those weekends I have been able to train much harder than I would by myself. I find that I want to train harder because I want to help them improve. Training with them also got me to change some of my bad habits. I normally don't ride too much outdoors during Winter but having them here meant I went out riding and it is something I have continued to do after they have left. I am also lucky to have one of my mates training for his first triathlon which has also meant that I am doing more sessions with him as well. So absolutely one of the first things I would suggest to help keep you going through Winter is to connect with some friends.
Another thing which I did this off-season was to participate in a challenge. My international race team, Team MaccaX, hosted a 'consistency' challenge. While it was unclear how consistency was measured, I chose to try and train every day throughout June. I also tried to get as close to the same number of hours each week. I found this incredibly motivating as there were days where I did not want to train but knowing I was being measured against my teammates got me out the door when otherwise I wouldn't have. We used Strava for the challenge and this is something you don't need to be a member of a team to do. Get your mates together and start a group on Strava. It is super easy and interesting to see how you compare against your friends. I also recently discovered 'KOM' on Strava. If that gets you going good luck to you.
The main thing that I will be doing over the next few weeks is signing up for some running races and duathlons. While I am not able to compete locally in any triathlons there are a number of other options. In 2 weeks I will run a half marathon and a few weeks after that I am going to run the City 2 Surf. I find that by having some races which are literally more training for my main races gives my competitive side a chance to train a bit. I am also able to perform at another level which I never do when training by myself. It provides your mind and body with a break from the monotony of simply training. You are able to meet new people and even talk a little smack.
Last year in the middle of Winter I escaped the freezing cold to Thailand for a training camp. This camp was held at Thanyapura, one of the best training locations I have ever experienced. Training in the heat with a group of athletes meant that I was able to train well above what I was used to in conditions I would not have been able to at home. When I got to my first race of the Spring, the heat did not bother me as I had been in Thailand mere weeks before. Thanyapura is running another one of their 'Supercamps' this year as well and if I wasn't already racing that weekend in Indonesia I would have been there in a heart beat. So I would suggest getting away to somewhere warm. It is amazing how much easier it is to train when the weather is nice.
While I am sure that everyone has their own ways to train through their off-season, these are some of the things that I have done or do currently. If you are able to train hard when most of your competitors are not training you will enter the new season with an edge over your competitors. Or alternatively, you will be able to see some serious improvements in your own individual results. Either way, the off-season provides too good an opportunity to improve to waste. So if you can find the motivation to train in the cold and dark you will reap the rewards once you start to race again.
Make sure you grab the latest 220 Triathlon Magazine this month. There is an article on me and why I race triathlon. I also today filmed a TV commercial. It was a pretty cool experience and completely different to anything I have done before. As I mentioned, my training is pretty full on at the moment. I am finding it hard to stay strong at all three disciplines. As my coach told me though, as you get better you will find yourself having some poorer training sessions as well. I know it makes sense and I believe that I am heading in the right direction. I am looking forward to getting out to Bintan 70.3 next month and I am hoping to see the benefits of all of the hard work I have done in the off season.
Until next time, keep training, stay warm and remember to TRI
A few weeks ago I had a friend and fellow triathlete come down from QLD and stay with me for a solid weekend of training. While he was down we did a park run. For those of you who don't know a park run is a free 5km race held around the world. They are a great opportunity to go out and smash yourself every week to see how you are going. I ran well for me and managed to complete the 5km in 18:21. After the race I was talking with Craig about the places you go in your mind while you are racing. The thoughts that you have while you are hurting. It was interesting to get Craig's opinion as he has completed 2 full Iron Man races. But what we agreed on was that no matter whether it is an Ironman that can take some people 17 hours or a 5km race done in less than 20 minutes you will have similar thoughts at some point during the race. I thought I would try and talk about the different stages of racing that I usually go through. With a triathlon, you will find I may go these stages multiple times, sometimes on each leg and sometimes a few times on the same discipline.
Stage 1 - Nerves
Prior to the race start I am always nervous. Depending on the race I am nervous for different reasons. Before a triathlon I am usually nervous about having a mechanical issue on the bike, something outside of my control going wrong. With a run I am usually nervous about how much it is going to hurt. Anyway no matter how much I care or don't care about the result, I always experience the nerves before the start of a race. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. I find the nerves force me to concentrate, I use the opportunity to go through the race in my head. Think about what I am going to do at what point. I also find it helps me to focus. It is funny, but I do the exact same thing before an exam. I use the nerves I am feeling to 'get in the zone'. I know some people say we feel nerves because we are scared and this might be the case. We fear that we haven't done enough or we aren't good enough. It doesn't matter what it is that causes the nerves but it is important to accept they are going to come and come up with a way to manage the nerves. Trust in the work you do and try to remember the feeling you will experience when you cross the finish line.
Stage 2 - Overconfidence
Every single time I race I know I am going to do this. I try to prevent it. Tell myself not to. But time and time again, the first thing that I do is go too hard. When you get to a race you are usually well rested from a good taper. You reduce your training volume so you go to the race fresh and ready to go. If you have done this properly you have probably been feeling a bit frustrated from the lack of activity. Throw in the adrenalin of race morning and you have a cocktail for some seriously fast racing, whatever your level. When I did my last park run I saw that after 500 metres I was running at around 3:10 pace. This is way too fast for me. In a triathlon it is usually ok because it is good to go out hard when you start the swim. You avoid the violence of the swim and can get on the feet of a weaker swimmer. I really notice this happening to me when I get onto the bike. The bike is my strongest leg so I am super keen to get on it and go hard. In fact the only leg I don't normally experience this is when I get off the bike and onto the run. I may not feel good but I do usually tend to start running too quickly. It is critical to acknowledge that what you experiencing and try to adjust as quickly as possible.
Stage 3 - Oh Shit!
This is what I think when I realise I am going to hard. You know that by going to hard this early you will pay for it later. It can be hard to change your approach when things are going well. As stage 2 is called overconfidence, you don't immediately accept that you are performing above your capacity. If I have gone too hard for too long I know that I am going to suffer later. It becomes a matter of how I am going to suffer.
Stage 4 - Rhythm
After things have settled down you are able to get into a zone where you are able to maintain your pace. It might not be easy, you may still be suffering, but you are able to endure. Even when it hurts it is ok. You have trained for it before and know how to deal with it. In my opinion, the secret to racing is to try and maximise the length of this stage. The longer you are able to stay in the rhythm zone the stronger your performance will be. While you are in this zone your mind can sometimes wander. For me, I do a lot of maths in my head. If I run at this pace for the next X kilometres that means I should run this time and get this finish time. It is important to try and stay focused. If you really get distracted it is possible that your pace will drop off and your technique will go out the window. This can lead to injury. So while this stage is the longest and I suppose kind of the easiest, it also has some of the greatest risk Again, you may not feel good in this stage but it feels a lot better than what you are about to endure.
Stage 5 - Hello My Friend
Stage 5 is where I believe your race really begins. This is when you start to realise you are hurting. You may feel a niggle or notice how sore your muscles are. Your breathing might become hard and you are struggling to hold the same speed you were before. It is about this time when the voices in your head start to kick in. It is amazing how quickly I can go to a negative place when I start to hurt. I have experienced this feeling in every single race I have ever done. The response that I have had to it has varied from successfully managing to deal with it to nearly letting it beat me. I am proud to say that while I am writing this, I have never let those voices in my head win. I came bloody close last year. Some of the best advice I have ever heard about dealing with this pain is accepting that this is going to happen. You are going to hurt. You are going to have negative thoughts. I deal with these negative thoughts in a number of ways. Firstly, I thing that if I am suffering it means that I am working hard which for me usually means I am having a good performance. I then try to think about the positives. For me I remind myself that a few years ago I wouldn't have been able to do this at all. I try to remain positive. I analyse the race, how long is left, can I use some sugar, how is my form. This all works for me. Sometimes this is the second last stage of the race. Other times there can be one which is even worse.
Stage 6 - I'll Show You
This is the stage you go to when you are in real trouble. I have gone to this place 3 times when racing. The first was during a bike race in Norway, the second was the marathon I ran in Trondheim in Norway and the third was at Western Sydney 70.3 last year. This is when you can do nothing to manage the pain and suffering but force yourself to keep going. It is horrible, it is emotional. You quit, you pull out, you retire from the sport, you make all kinds of comments. I like to say to my wife that I am not responsible for what comes out of my mouth when this happens to me. It isn't true but there certainly is an element of truth to it. I don't really remember thoughts from those times where I have really been hurting. I remember feelings Anger, fear, sadness. Every person will deal with this stage in their own way. It is why we train, to be able to manage the worst case scenario. It is why we push ourselves to the limit on the track, in the pool. It is the stage in the race when you realise that your mind is stronger than your body. Your body is in agony but your mind tells you to keep going. If you can survive this stage then the final stage will be even better.
The Final Stage -Euphoria
The first feeling I normally experience when I finish a race is relief. This is often followed with a strong desire to:
As the minutes after you finish pass you start to feel better and better. You see the people you know, your friends and family. If you have had a good result you start to realise what you have achieved. You start to feel amazing. I actually believe that no matter how much I have hurt while racing I normally feel great for a good 30 minutes after the race is over. I am actually surprised they do not try and get people to sign up for more races at the finish line. I reckon they would have huge success. This stage is the reason why I choose to suffer. It is all worth it at the end of the race.
So this will ultimately be different for everyone, but these are kind of the stages that I go through when I am racing. I am really curious to know if anyone else experiences the same and how they deal with it. Are there any other stages which people experience? Let me know in the comments section.
Anyway I hope you liked this one. It is a little more race specific and it isn't meant to scare people off racing. Just be aware of what to expect. As I said, the final stage makes it all worthwhile.
So until next week, train hard, run a park run 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.