Brace yourselves, this is going to be a long one!
I want to start by saying thank you to everyone for their support over the weekend. I have been blown away time and time again by how much support I receive from not only my friends and family, but from people I have never even met. It means the world to me. So are we ready? Lets get into my race report from Bintan 70.3 held over the weekend.
The lead up to Bintan did not start out too well for me. About 10 days out from the race the start list was released and there were some really good athletes in my age-group. I mean, very fast. I immediately went into panic mode, called my Mum, messaged my coach, what to do? Pull out and pick another event? I had actually decided that is what I would do. This decision changed several times over the week. My coach told me to not think about the things I couldn't control and to go and race the smartest race I could. I decided to go but i had lost all interest in the event. I didn't think I had a shot at the World Championship slot anymore. I didn't even write a blog post last week (the first time I have missed one) because my heart just wasn't in it. We landed in Singapore on Wednesday and I was so excited to be here. I love it here! But I noticed I was perhaps having too much fun. I was drinking a little too much and maybe eating a little too much either. Still I followed my taper plan. I went for a run in the heat and felt good. On Friday we made the trip over to Bintan Island. When we got there and to our hotel I hated it. The place was empty and depressing. Bintan Island is basically Indonesia with Australian prices.
I was in a bad way mentally, I did not want to race at all. On Saturday I went out for a easy ride to make sure the bike was ok and I came across a kind of look out where the water was so blue and there were palm trees along the coast, it was beautiful. It made me realise how selfish I was being. I had been hoping for a free ride almost and I had forgotten how lucky I was to be able to even race, or travel. Something in me changed. I became excited about the race. We made our way over to the race area which was based around the partially completed Swiss Bell Hotel in Lagoi. It was hot. Really really hot. Transition was a long double sided line but the area looked really nice. At the expo I rushed around trying to find the stuff I needed. I got myself a new pair of Blue Seventy goggles because I have been having massive issues with the latest pair of Speedos I bought fogging up every time I bloody look at them. I also spoke to the people at PURE Hydration who were going to be the on course electrolyte. I got myself some of their stuff and it was great. I left all checked in feeling nervous but also a little excited.
The morning of the race was the usual chaos, thinking I forgot something, having too many bags. We got to transition at 5:15 and all the lights stopped working so Dez had to walk down to my bike and shine her phone torch for me. I set everything up but was surprised to find I was spending so long in there. When they gave the 5 minute warning to transition closing I was still getting ready. I came so close to forgetting the battery for my bike gears. Literally I tried to change gears at the last second and it made me realise I had forgotten them. But I got into my swim skin, dropped off my bag and headed to the beach.
The Swim - 29:20
I was unusually calm at the start line. We were told that because of the low tide the start had been moved about 50 metres into the surf for a water start. I positioned myself on the far left as it was a series of left hand turns and there was a good line of buoys to follow. I made sure that my Garmin had GPS locked on and was set on triathlon mode as I didn't want to have it miss the swim leg like it did in Melbourne earlier this year. As the gun went off I decided to try and shallow dive as many times as I could before swimming due to the depth of the water. I think I did it about 6 times and noticed I was out the front of the start group. Once I started swimming I put in a serious effort and was leading for a good 200m. Then I started to settle into my rhythm and saw a few other green caps pass me. I was ok with it. My swim has become very strong recently and I was curious to see what I could do. Very quickly we started swimming through some of the slower swimmers from the other wave starts. I actually found it quite difficult to navigate through them as there were many doing breastroke. I had someone try ad grab me at one point as well. I found sighting quite difficult as there was a kind of haze meaning it was light but it wasn't bright. I just kept going buoy to buoy. I could have swum a better line but I was heading in the right direction. As we started to approach the beach I picked up my pace a little and once we hit the shallow water I started diving again like I had at the start. I came out of the water and was happy that my arms were a bit sore. I had swum hard.
T1 - 1:59
Coming into T1 I noticed straight away that most of the bikes in my area were still there. This meant I was one of the first out of the water. It was quite a distance to get to my bike and out of transition. No major dramas.
The Bike - 2:27
I had heard horror stories about the bike leg at Bintan. I had been very worried about it and had gone away from my normal 90mm aero wheels to my 40mm wheels which I usually only use when road racing. I put on an 11-28 cassette to make climbing easier. What I noticed quite quickly though was that these hills were not going to be horrific like I had expected. I was expecting climbs like I had to endure at Challenge Phuket. Instead this was the definition of a rolling bike course. Some hills were a little tougher but there was always a down hill the other side. I also noticed early on that I was riding very quickly. I have been doing a lot of work on my bike to get back the strength I had and it was obvious to me that it had paid off. I was able to ride ell over 40km/h very easily. The first 15km of the bike I was going past a number of competitors from the other age groups and was keeping an eye on the race numbers looking for any in my age group. I passed one guy after about 10kms and thought that there couldn't be too many others ahead of me. I spent a good 50km riding almost completely by myself passing the occasional athlete. There was some great support out on the course with a number of children cheering on the side of the road. They all wanted to high-five but I was worried it would cause a crash.
It was starting to get hot after 90 minutes on the bike and I was trying to focus on staying hydrated. After about 60kms a rider on a road bike overtook me. I looked at his number and he was in my AG. I noticed that he was faster than me on the climbs but not on the flats or downhills so we started our game of cat and mouse. He would pass me going up a hill and I would pass him going down again. This must have happened 10 times and was becoming a little frustrating. Before turning on the major road that would take you towards transition there was a long climb and he put maybe 20 metres into me. So when we got to the top I hammered the pace to catch back up to him. Coming down the other side of the hill there was a 90 degree right turn. Nice and wide, plenty of room to go around quick. I slowed down a bit and took the turn. Something went wrong.
I am not sure exactly what happened but my back wheel locked. I managed to get one foot unclipped and then there was pain and a hard bang on my head. I had gone down HARD abut 5km from the finish line. Moments before I was thinking I might of been on track to go under 4:30 I was looking at a 2:20ish bike split. Next thing I know I am on the ground. It is amazing how adrenalin kicks in. I was up right away and couldn't feel too much pain. I knew I had done some damage because there was a lot of stinging and there was a big scratch on my handle bars. But the bike seemed ok. I was trying to get the chain back on but the police there (marshalling the course) were panicking, trying to take me and my bike off the course. I don't know what I was saying to them but lots of F's were used. I eventually managed to get my chain on but then the wheel wouldn't turn. At this point I thought the race was over because I had done something serious to my bike. But luckily I am quite logical and after I took a moment to impose myself I noticed the tyre had come off my rim I race tubular tyres where there is no inner tube, the tyre and tube are one and they are glued to the rim. Well my tyre was wedged between the rim and the bike frame and was still fully inflated. I knew what had happened now. The try had rolled off the rim. I assume it was because it was so hot that the glue had melted. When I checked the wheel yesterday the glue had stuck again. So I deflated the wheel until I was able to snap it back on the tyre then I jumped back on the bike and carefully rode the 5km back to transition.
As soon as I got off the bike I could feel my right knee was a little sorted whole right side of my body was grazed and had blood on my arm. I went through as quickly as I could. Again this was mostly because of adrenalin. I think I spotted 3 bikes in already. I was in 4th place.
Run - 1:42
I stared out feeling awful like normal off the bike but expected it to go away. I also noticed that it was incredibly hot. The course was 3 laps of the lake. My pace was ok for the first couple of kms but it was becoming harder and harder. I was struggling to run the way I wanted to and the heat was killing me. The mental games started then too. "Mate you crashed, if you pull out you have an excuse" I just kept telling myself that no doubt the others might be struggling in the heat too and 21kms is a long way. The first 7km was one of the hardest runs I have done in a triathlon. I just kept hoping it would get better. It was impossible to cool down as well. The sponges would warm up so quickly. On my second lap it became a matter of survival. I stared to walk the aid stations and drink anything cold. I thought if I could just stay in 4th position I might get a slot at the role down. I also knew that there were a lot of people tracking me online and the thought of them watching my splits kept me going. At the end of the first and second lap I saw Dez and she said "You are in 3rd place! Keep going" I thought she was mistaken as I was sure I was in 4th. But she was right. Somewhere along the way I had passed the leader who had obviously been struggling with the heat. By the last lap I was running over 5 min kms but I just kept telling myself, "5km is nothing, 3km is a cool down" I was starting to feel sick with about 3km to go and stopped drinking and eating at the aid stations. I threw out the sponges with 1km to go so I would look good for the cameras and I came into the finish area. I didn't realise but they were letting all the athletes cross with the tape across the line but I got bloody out sprinted by another guy. I didn't care. I was happy to cross the line. I heard the announced say I was provisionally 3rd in my age group. What was going on?
Total Time - 4:42
When I crossed the line I must have looked in pretty bad shape. There was blood all over me and they came rushing up to me. All I asked was "which way to the medical tent?" They insisted on walking me over there. The guys in the medical tent were sensations. They cleaned all of my wounds and dressed them. I realised the extent of the damage because I came out of there looking like a mummy. As I made my way to the recovery area I saw the results were being pinned up and I had 3rd place. I couldn't believe it. I found Dez and she was ecstatic. I was speechless. Another friend of mine from Team MaccaX Timo found me a while later and knowing I wanted the WC slot told me the guy who own my age group wasn't taking his. We had to wait around for about 5 hours after the race but it didn't bother me. I got changed into my Thanyapura shirt which always gets me lots of looks and questions. Going up on stage to receive my third place award was surreal and was only outdone when my name was called to accept the World Championship slot. I could not believe it. I had qualified. It still hasn't sunk in yet.
It has now been a couple of days since the race and my body is pretty sliced up. So many people are saying that they can't believe I crashed and still managed to finish let along get on the podium. When I went down there was only the briefest moment where I thought I wouldn't finish and I forced myself not to use it as an excuse on the run. The support, congratulations and comments I have received from people literally brought tears to my eyes on Sunday night. I have written in other blogs how I have failed often. This time I succeeded. I set myself a goal and worked hard. It is funny but even though I had so much success over the weekend I am still disappointed that I didn't race to my potential. Who knows what would have happened if I didn't crash. Would I have gone under 4:30? Would I have won the age group? At the end of the day I will never know. Instead I think back to the advice my coach, Ben gave me "Only worry about the things you can control". So that is what I am going to do.
Big thanks to my coach Ben Hammond for everything he has done for me. I have developed so much as an athlete with him and am sure I have so much more to learn from him. My family also need to be thanked for their ongoing support even though they don't really get the triathlon thing. Thanks also to all of my Team MaccaX team members. You have no idea how amazing it is to see all of your comments and posts. It gives me goosebumps thinking about it now. The biggest thanks must go to my wife. Dez told me all week that I was going to get on the podium and qualify for the world championships. She is my biggest supporter and is doing a bloody good job of tending to my wounds.
So thats it for this week. Sorry it is long. But have a read and feel free to leave any comments you might have. It was also great to meet up with some Singaporean athletes yesterday Dawn and Eric. I love talking to other triathletes about the sport.
Now I am going to enjoy my last day in incredible Singapore. Good luck to everyone racing in Austria next weekend! Watch out for Sam Appleton, I think he will surprise everyone!
Stay safe, chase your goals and remember to TRI!
They say that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. I am not a psychologist but I can see where they are coming from. I think this is true in racing, training and in living a healthy lifestyle. Many people want to get in shape set a goal and fail. A few months or years later they do this again and fail. This can repeat itself over months and years. I know it did for me. It is the same with racing. Someone will not handle the heat well, suffer an upset stomach on the run or start cramping so badly that they can't run. Instead of learning from the negative experience they either ignore the problem or rationalise it. I am racing my first big race of the year in less than 2 weeks and I am trying to make sure that I learn from all of the experiences that I have had over the last 11 70.3's that I have completed (a 70.3 is a triathlon with a 1.9km swim, 90km bike ride and 21.1km run).
The race is going to be held on the Indonesian Island of Bintan which is a 45 minute boat ride from Singapore. From what I have heard there are two key things about this race:
This race is also my first attempt at getting a slot for the 70.3 World Championship in 2016. I have been training specifically for this race since the start of February and I think that I am fitter and faster than I have ever been. However, I am trying to be cautious. This is for a number of reasons. Firstly, I have never raced for any purpose other than giving it my best shot. This time I will be racing to finish as high as I can in my age group. I am actually going to have to try and race agains the other competitors in my age group. There is something at stake for me. The closest I have come to this was last year at the Western Sydney 70.3 where I was racing for a specific time. I wanted to go under 4:30 for the race. I had focused on it all year. I crumbled under the pressure that I put on myself and had a terrible race. It was also one of the hottest races I have experienced so there were many lessons I took away from the race that I am trying to use for Bintan.
Firstly, I have tried to stay as relaxed as possible about the race. As I mentioned, this is my first attempt at getting the slot. I have set myself to maximise my chances. I have registered for a number of 70.3 races some of which have a large number of slots. I also bought a 70.3 season pass meaning if I am one of the top ranked athletes I may get a slot that way too. What I am meaning to say is I am trying to focus on how it doesn't all come down to this race. This is simply my first chance. The next thing I am doing to also try and stay relaxed for this event is to actually focus on my next race. As I have mentioned several times I have been trying to get the elusive sub 4:30 time for a 70.3 and Sunny Coast is a much better race to do that. So in a way I am using Bintan as a warm up for that race. It actually works out well I suppose because I am not expecting a fast time in Bintan because it is a tough course so I am going to instead focus on going as fast as I can. Not hitting a certain time and hoping that the time I do is fast enough.
The weather in Indonesia is another thing which I am trying to use my past racing experience to deal with. I have raced in Thailand in the humidity and I have raced in crazy hot conditions in Australia. I think Challenge Melbourne topped 40c and Western Sydney hit 39c. This actually makes me feel a little confident about the heat. Ideally I would have liked to arrive in Asia maybe a week before the race to get used to the temperature but being a student means I can't skip classes. Instead I have been trying to stay as hot as possible when I train. Using layers on the trainer and when I go out running. I also know how I need to hydrate in the lead up to the race and to use drinks with carbs in them on race day because I will be sweating so much.
I have been in this sport for a few years now and I think that experience is going to give me a bit of an advantage over at least some of the field. I am lucky because I have had great races that I didn't expect and had terrible races that I want to forget. But because I am surrounded by people who have lots of experience in the sport they have taught me to learn from my mistakes. I know how to suffer, I know where my mind goes when I am hurting, I know how much pain I can tolerate. But, I also know hot to deal with it now. I am not saying that I will have a perfect race in a couple of weeks. There is a good chance that the heat will get to me or I will have a meltdown like I did in Penrith. What I am saying is that it will take a lot more for me to give up this time because I have learned how to handle it.
Lets take it away from triathlon now and onto diet and exercise. I was so guilty of trying the same thing over and over and never seeing any change. I think that lots of people out there do it. It can be even harder in this day and age when there are so many people telling you that this thing or that method is the best way to lose weight. In reality I think it is simple and it worked for me. I didn't go on a fancy diet or start some 12 week challenge or buy a dvd program you can do at home. The secret to losing weight is to burn more calories than you consume. When I started to understand this, the weight started to fall off. Now I understand that there is more to it than that. There are different sources of calories and different forms of exercise. I think that everyone is different and what works for one person will not work for another. I will say that I don't think that high intensity is the best way to go. I think that aerobic work is still the best way to burn fat and lose weight. But try things and find out what works for you. If you are really struggling talk to a GOOD trainer. Someone who really knows what they are talking about. But learn from your mistakes. There is nothing worse than failing over and over again. So do everything you can to equip yourself with the knowledge to prevent yourself failing. By learning from your mistakes, you are able to avoid them again in the future.
Stay safe, keep your chin up and remember to TRI!
I thought I should probably do a race report from the M7 Half Marathon that I ran last Sunday in Blacktown. Of all the things that I write about I think race reports are my favourite. I signed up for this race about 2 weeks before as a bit of a training day and because a few people that I have gotten to know through Instagram were going to be there too. I do a lot of my riding on the M7 so I thought it would be fun to do a race there. After speaking with my coach, he told me the timing was perfect as it is exactly 4 weeks out from Bintan 70.3.
Of all three of the disciplines of triathlon, running has been the hardest for me. I know that the swim was probably my weakest leg for a while there but I swam a lot as a child so I think there was a pretty good base. As for running, being a big guy it was never easy and it was something I associated with pain. When I started losing weight the run was the thing that caused me the most grief. I had countless injuries and even after I lost all of my weight I found it very hard to make any significant improvements. I remember the very first run I went on when I started this crazy weight-loss journey. I made it about 200m before having to walk, the next day I insisted on going further and this continued until I was running the 2km loop 2 or 3 times. But enough about my running history. To the race.
I don't know what it is about racing but I always dread it. The night before a race I am constantly having to remind myself that it is why I do all the training I do. Last weekend was no different. I went out for dinner with some friends and I just wanted to drink about 2 bottles of red wine to give myself an excuse not to run. Even though I had no expectations from the race. I did not sleep well. When the alarm went off it took me a little while to get ready. Anyway, me and Dez headed out to the start area which was about 30 minutes from home. Dez has not been doing a lot of running lately but I convinced her to try and sign up on the day. She couldnt sign up for the 21.1km but was able to sign up for the 10km. It was a pretty coldish morning and I had decided to run in shorts and a t-shirt. I had my pants and jacket on until about 10 minutes before we started then I stripped down and did an easy warm up. I was pretty sore and fatigued from a HUGE week of hard training including two 22+km runs and 2 hard 5km swims. I had also played 90 minutes of football on the Saturday. This was all part of my plan though. I wanted the race to be a bit of a struggle because I was hoping to do a bit of mental training out there. See where my mind went when I was hurting and work out what I needed to do to dig deep. The aim was to go just under 1:30.
Right before the race I started to feel very calm. There was no pressure on me to perform. But I think one of the reasons why I dread racing is because I know how much it hurts. It doesn't matter what distance I race, I race hard and it normally hurts. Running races always hurt the most. Anyway I lined up for the start which was a lap and a half of the athletics track before heading out onto the course. When the gun went off I found myself very quickly at the front of the race with maybe 7 or 8 other people. I decided to just go with it for the first lap. I straight away noticed that my HR strap was a bit tight and was making breathing hard so as I ran around the second time I took it off and threw it to Dez. As I came towards the end of the lap I looked at my Garmin and was terrified to see I was running 3:05min pace. I instantly made the decision to slow down. As we left the sports precinct in Blacktown there was a climb to get up to the M7 cycle path. I tried to maintain pace and not go too hard as I went up. When I got onto the track I really started to settle in. The first part of the race on the cycle path was a 750 metre there and back again loop. This was good because it gave me an early chance to see how many people were hot on my tail. I was surprised to see that there was already a pretty significant gap between myself and some others to the main part of the field. I was even more surprised to see my first km split at well under 3:30 pace. As we headed out onto the main part of the run I was overtaken by 4 people quite quickly. This was fine with me though as I was there to race myself and I knew I wanted to be a bit conservative at the start.
What I noticed on the course was that hills which I would not even consider hills on my bike were brutal to go up when running at sub 4min/km. I was going through all the potential hills in my mind. I realised the race was going to be tougher than I had expected. I went through the first 5km in under 19 minutes which really surprised me and I think I ran my fastest 10km too in 38:58. The most surprising part for me though was that it didn't feel hard. I will admit the hills didn't tickle but I remembered how much the 1:25 I had run at the Western Sydney Half Marathon had hurt on a flat course. I felt totally in control and it was making me nervous. I know how the back end of a race can be a struggle and I knew that every hill I was running down I was going to have to run up again. At the turn around point there was a very sharp hill which I hoped would be avoided. I got the the top and probably the only thing from the entire race which I thought was poorly organised was an aid station there. Regardless I turned around and I was on the way home. On the way back I saw a few of the people I have met through Instagram and they gave me a shout and some encouragement which helped ALOT. In fact I was surprised how many competitors were shouting support at me. It was really nice. I also realised that there was a decent gap between myself and the majority of the field and between myself and the race leaders. But hey I am a triathlete, not a runner!
At about the 17km mark we passed the turn around point for the 10km run and the race became a little chaotic with many of the slower 10km runners taking up most of the path. I didn't bother trying to move around them instead opting to shout, "passing" to get them to move. I think this is one of the main reasons I don't like to see people racing while listening to music. I saw people physically jump as I ran past some of them as they were in their own world. I noticed that between km 15 and 17 my splits were starting to slow down a little. This was when I decided to try and dig a little deeper. I was happy to see my body responded so well and I was able to go back to sub 4min kms. At the top of the hill we took to get off the M7 path I also spotted Dez who was nearly done with her 10km. I couldn't resist the opportunity to slap her on the ass as I ran past. I came into the stadium and put the foot down for the last lap. I crossed the line and my Garmin had me at 1:23:49. This was an amazing result. Straight away I also realised that I was fine. I wasn't wobbling, I wasn't vomiting. I was really ok. I sat down when Dez arrived, we talked about how the course was much more challenging than we had expected.
I came 14th overall and 5th in the 20-29 Age Group. But for me the most important factor was that I averaged 3:57/km for the race. This is something I have been aiming for and to do it on a tough course on tired legs blew me away. I waited and saw a lot of other people cross the line and then we took some photos for our ever important Instagram accounts. To demonstrate how absolutely ok I was I even went for an hour ride in the afternoon. I was sore on the Monday and Tuesday but I ran on the Tuesday afternoon. I pulled up better than I did after playing 2 games of soccer back-to-back.
Throughout the week I have had plenty of time to reflect on the performance and what it means for me. While 1:23 is not a super fast time. It has given me a lot of confidence leading into Bintan. It has also made me curious to know how fast I could run if I prepped for a half marathon or even just tapered for one. But to be honest, what I am most blown away by is how far I have come in the last 4 years. To think that the 120 something kg bloke who couldn't run 200m was now doing this bows me away. It also reminds me of how grateful and lucky I am to be able to do it. It was also amazing to meet some of the people that I talk to so often in the flesh and potentially grow my training and reading network in the future. I am stoked. Oh I almost forgot, Dez ran a 5 minute PB in the 10km and I am convinced that my slap on the ass pushed her to finish even stronger!
This week I have taken it much easier before the final little build before Bintan. I am going to give that race 100%. so thats it for this week.
Stay safe, don't give up even if it is hard 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.