An Experience I Will Never Forget
As requested for your reading pleasure, my highly anticipated race report from the Laguna Phuket Triathlon!!!
Hold your applause while I start with some background information. LPT (I am using an acronym) is a real bucket list race. It has been raced by some of the biggest names in the sport and is known for its brutal conditions and tough climbs. It is also known for its big after party. I am happy to start by assuring you that on Sunday I was not disappointed by any of those things. The race is a 1.8km swim, 55km bike and 12km run. I had originally not signed up for the event because I was not sure when my exams would finish for uni. But once I knew I would be able to race I signed up and was excited to come and race both the LPT and Challenge Phuket.
On Saturday we rode our bikes down and racked them in transition. It was hot but I was feeling pretty nonchalant about the whole thing as I was really just here to experience the races and use them both as training for Taupo 70.3 in December. We left the bikes racked and headed back to Thanyapura for the night. That evening it absolutely pissed down which is normal in Thailand at this time of year but this was crazy rain and it didn't go away. I was completely confident we would awake to clear skies the next morning but I was worried that the roads might be a bit slippery for some of the intense down hills. I wasn't wrong.
Race morning meant a very early 3:30am wake up with the shuttle picking us up at 4:30. We got down and set up transition then had about an hour to kill. I waited it out before jumping on the boat over to the lagoon. The water in the lagoon was very warm but the ocean water was crystal clear. We also learned that we would be doing start groups based on estimated finish times. This meant that I was in the first age group wave start. We were ushered into the start area and I wasn't able to get myself right to the front which pissed me off but I had a swim, bike and run to worry about. As the gun went off I thought to myself "lets please enjoy this!"
I am not a fan of the self seeded wave starts and this race reconfirmed why I do not like them. For the first 1.2km ocean swim I could not get out of the hustle and bustle. I was getting kicked and punched and swum over the whole time. The swim pace going out was quick which was fine but as we turned the far buoy it was obvious sighting was going to be an issue. The sun was coming up directly over the swim exit meaning you could not see anything. I decided just to follow the group and hope they knew where they were going. After 1.2km you jump out of the water and run across the beach to a fresh water lagoon which you swim across to complete the swim leg. Trust me when I say that going from salt to fresh water is an interesting experience. You feel like you are sinking and have forgotten how to swim. Much like the ocean part, it was impossible to see where the exit was so I was just swimming buoy to buoy. In the freshwater things had spread out a bit. I was happy to get the swim out of the way. I came out with a time of 30:38 and my Garmin measuring 2.1km
It is a semi-decent run into transition and as it is a non-wetsuit swim I used this time to get my swim skin off and the top half of my tri suit on. When I came into transition there were a lot of bikes still there which made me think I had come out in a pretty good position from the swim. Total transition time of 2:10
The bike has the big hills roughly 5km into the race. I was told by my coach to conserve for the first 5km then get over the hills and start to race. I was rolling comfortably at the start and was passing a few athletes. Having ridden the course a few days prior I thought I had a fairly good idea of how to handle the climbs. My approach was to have all the gear changes made before starting. These hills are seriously hard and I didn't want to have any issues with being caught in the wrong gear. Great idea in theory, but terrible in practice. As I would hit the start of the climbs I would quickly change to my easiest gear. When you are travelling at 40km/h and you hit the bottom of the hill you start spinning very quickly. It didn't really matter and I probably lost maybe 1 or 2 minutes total as a result of this approach. I did not care. I wanted to leave nothing to chance on these climbs. As I started the climbs I wanted to remain seated and just maintain a steady pace up and over. I was happy that I managed to do this. On the first serious climb I was overtaken by two people.
The funny thing about the hills in this race is that the downhills are just as hard as the uphills. As it had rained hard the night before the roads were very slippery. I was really using the brakes and still found my back wheel sliding. One of the 2 people that passed me on the uphill crashed hard on the down. Ultimately I could have gone harder on the downhills but I really wanted to play it as safe as possible. I have found that ever since my crash in Bintan I have been much more conservative and this was very obvious on Sunday. After finishing the hills the rest of the course was actually quite fast. There was a section which was quite narrow with lots of turns which made the speeds lower. What was making me worried though was that I wasn't catching anyone on the bike. I had not been happy with my swim and was sure there were a few people up the road from me. I just didn't seem to be able to catch them. I finally caught some people about 7km from the end of the bike and was surprised to see they were pro women. I put my head down for the last few kms and tried to get myself ready for the run. When I consider my average speed was 35km/h with the hills and tight turns I think I actually rode really well. I was going to find out just how well later that day. Total bike time of 1:34.
When I came into T2 I was greeted by the screams of my darling wife and her cousins. These two (Stian and Jeanette) first experienced my triathlon racing last year at Western Sydney when I was in tears and I was determined to show them I could actually run. I came off the bike and into transition and it was actually desolate. Shit, I could be in with a shot at the podium. I threw my stuff on and took off. Transition time of 1:02.
I came out of transition feeling good. I knew this wasn't going to last long as it had really started to heat up. I knew there was a big group cheering for me but it was game time and I was DETERMINED to run well. I only recognised one face, it was Justin Granger, one of our Team MaccaX coaches. I left the race compound out onto the road. This run is all about staying cool. I specifically wore a trucker hat as I thought I could put a sponge under it. This was not going to work though as the sponges were just too big. I instead kept one on my chest and would squeeze it over my head when needed. Sure enough it got seriously hot quickly. The first 2km I was running quick and I thought I will not survive this race or next week if I keep going like this. I backed off a bit. Aiming to stay under 4:30 pace which I know is not quick but trust me when I say it is a very decent pace for this race. There was a stretch of the run which went around the golf course and this was horrible. Lots of little ups and downs which made my calves burn. I just kept focusing on two things, my form and staying cool.
On this run course there are lots of opportunities to see other athletes. I was looking around and saw people coming but it was near impossible to know who I was actually racing. I decided simply to try and not let anyone pass me. Coming through the run turn around I was again greeted by my own personal cheer squad. I was running well and I only had 6km to go. The biggest mistake I made was discarding a sponge about 500m before the golf course loop. I thought for some weird reason that there was another aid station before it. I was wrong and nearly paid a price for that error. Coming out of that golf course I could feel myself struggling. I got to the next aid station and took 2 sponges and 3 waters all of which went over my body. With 2km to go I thought I would increase the tempo. I was passed by a pro female just before this point and felt guilty that she thought I was being an egotistical bloke not wanting to be chicked. I zipped up and went to work and passed her again. The last 2km were hot and if I wasn't focusing on pushing myself the pace would drop right off. I came into the finish area and was elated to see so many familiar faces (and the bloody finish line). As I came across the line the race announcer called my name and spoke about how I had lost 50kg through the sport. I crossed the line and was stoked. I had not had the best race, hoping to ride and run a bit quicker, but I had executed a responsible race. I had held back and not destroyed myself before the longer race a week later. Run split of 53:51 and a finish time of 3:02.
The Big Surprise
I have always said that my favourite part of race day is cheering on the other competitors (and finishing) so that is what I did. I hung out and cheered on my friends and teammates racing. Once we all came across the line we stared to look up our results. There was something odd with my result. Next to my name there was number 1. I could not really understand it to be honest. I had won the age group and done it by 4 minutes. I genuinely thought it wasn't possible. Between you and me I didn't really believe it until I was called up on stage that night to accept my award. The awards ceremony is a big party and I took advantage of the unlimited drinks in the first hour. We later went to the after party which did not end too well (enjoy a few not a few too many). The whole experience was incredible and something I will never forget. The fact that I am able to stand on the podium is something I only ever imagined and to stand on top is a dream come true.
Now to the thank you's. Firstly as always to my beautiful wife Dez. She is the most supportive wife and genuinely wants me to succeed. The fact she was able to be there for my first win made it even more special. To my coach Ben, this result clearly demonstrates that what we are doing together is working. I am looking forward to taking it to the next level next year. For my family, they might be starting to get a better understanding of the sport and I think they get that number 1 is pretty good. Especially my Dad who complains I don't mention him enough in my blog. To my friends and teammates and idols at MaccaX, the support and inspiration you provide me on a daily basis gives me the motivation to keep moving forward. To the crew at Thanyapura, for taking a risk on me and giving me the support you do is something I will never forget or take for granted and I hope I can give you back as much as you give to me. Finally to all of the people who read this blog or follow my antics and sent me messages of support, thank you too. I am constantly blown away by how this sport is able to bring people together and it is why I love it.
That will do I think, it is getting a tad too long and a little too emotional. I will leave you all with this one final thought. Never ever think that something is too hard or too difficult. When you work towards your goals good things will happen. It might not be today, it might not be next year but it will happen. If I can do this, anyone can.
Thank you all and remember to TRI!
Thailand, Training and a Tiny Elephant
Greetings from Thailand!
I arrived last Wednesday and it has been an epic start to my 2 weeks here at Thanyapura. The weather has been hot, the training has been tough and the food has been spicy. As many of you may know I also did pretty well at a race yesterday but I will get into that later. I want to give you all a rough idea of what a normal day at Thanyapura is like. So I will start with my first day here, last Thursday.
I woke up after an amazing nights sleep surprised at how comfortable my bed was. Feeling good and taking advantage of the time difference meant that I was waiting at the buffet when it opened at 6:30 for my morning feed and caffeine hit. The buffet is epic with almost everything you could imagine, including options for everyone. After a quick bite to eat I rolled down to the entrance to the Sports Centre where we were met by Sergio, the head coach here. In total there was a group of about 12 of us that would be going for our 55km ride (most of the Laguna Phuket Course). We set off at an easy pace with our support vehicle and coaches guiding and following the group. We made our way to the transition area for the LPT race and from there we made our way to the horrifically awesome Naithon Hills. These hills are brutal around 12-18% and they just keep going. Even worse, you think you are done and there is another one. This was the first time I really experienced the heat. I was sweating like a pig. When I got over the hills we re-grouped at a 7-11. It is so god to be able to stop and pay 30c for a ice cold coke. From there we completed the course with some decent speed work around the Thanyapura TT loop. Back to Thanyapura and a quick shift from cycling gear to the runners.There is a great loop right next to the main entrance which is almost exactly 4kms. I went out and tried to build to around 4min/km. In the heat it is hard to run fast but was happy to build up to finish with a 4:18 and 4:13.
That afternoon it was into the pool for a solid 3km swim set. This was a brutal swim and towards the end of it I noticed a lone figure next to the pool. A guy called Brett Sutton, if you don't know who he is, he has coached some of the biggest names in triathlon. In fact he was joined by one of those athletes, Daniela Ryf, the current IronMan and 70.3 World Champion. I was certainly trying to focus on my technique with those two there! Out of the pool and into Booster Bar for a protein smoothie. a good way to stay cool in the heat.
With the arrival of another friend we decided to head out for another run in the afternoon. The same 4km loop with some extra thrown in. As we completed the run and while waiting at the front gate another couple of handy athletes ran into the main gate. Michael Raelert and Ruedi Wild both looking the goods. Raelert went on to win yesterday and is probably going to win next weekend too.
After the huge day of training it was out into Thailand for a Thai feast. I think we ate everything in Thailand and paid almost as much as a single meal in Sydney! It was an epic way to start my time here. Since then it hasn't gotten any easier. There has been some absolutely brutal sessions with the coaching staff pushing my limits constantly. But there has also been sessions which are not hard but just as important. I have been attending the mind training sessions which teach you how to deal with negative thoughts you experience while racing. I have also started doing some yoga to improve my flexibility with classes specifically designed for triathletes. It really is triathlon heaven here! So that is a taste of my time here so far. Tomorrow we are starting with a 120km ride with former Tour de France rider Nick Gates leading the ride. Just to keep up appearances I will probably swim and run too.
There was also a little race that happened here yesterday called the Laguna Phuket Triathlon. This is one of the truly iconic races in the world with a long list of triathlon legends racing here over the 21 years of the race. I went pretty well. Managing to win my age group. I am actually really blown away by it. I genuinely never thought I would win my age group and to do it at a really iconic race is exceptional. I will admit to having a few too many beverages celebrating last night, but hey it is Thailand! I wont add a detailed race report to this post because I feel like it is already too long. But if you would like me to write one I am happy to. Just comment below if you do and I will bang something together.
So that's it for today. It is late and I have another big day of training tomorrow.
Train hard and remember to TRI!
Turn it up Princess!
It's the most magical time of the year! End of year uni break!!!!
Today I had my final exam for this semester. Which means as of right now I am on uni break so free to pursue all of those training and health goals as well as some of my less healhy goals (like spending some serious time with my Playstation). However before I settle into all that I am going on an adventure. For the next 2 weeks I am going to live and breath triathlon and of course being me I am going to go all in. In fact for the next 2 weeks I am going to train, eat and race based out of Thanyapura, the best triathlon training facility I have ever seen and the same location that some of the biggest names in our sport choose to train at. Over the next few weeks my blog is going to be a little different. I am going to attempt to update everyone semi-regularly on what I am doing. I really want to take the opportunity while I am over there to show you all how good it is. Now I know what some of you are thinking, Tim is an ambassador for Thanyapura so he probably has to do this. I assure you this is not the case and I am not doing it because I get anything out of it (I do get stuff out of being an ambassador) but I am doing it because this place is seriously good and I know that once people understand what a valuable resource we have so close to us, more people will want to train there.
But apart from the amazing facilities I am about to enjoy there is another big advantage to training in Thailand. This applies whether you are training for sport or just trying to get in shape. The thing that I like the most about training in Thailand is the heat. There has been ridiculous volumes of research on the advantages of heat training and I have neither the time or interest to read them or try to summarise them in my humble little blog. Instead as always, I want to write about my experiences in the past with heat. Both the good and the bad because lets face it, I have had my fair share of ups and downs in the heat.
When I was a little *cough* 'bigger' *cough* then I am now I loved the cold and hated the heat. Trust me when I say there is nothing worse than being overweight in the heat. Your clothes stick, you get rashes in the most inconvenient places and you sweat all the time. The cold however was never really a big problem for me. I grew up in the Blue Mountains and while it isn't the arctic conditions I eventually dealt with in Norway, it was cold enough. I played soccer in the winter and those late night training sessions meant I came to enjoy the cold. In fact in 2010 I was sent to Thailand for work and trust me when I say that going to meetings in a suit in that heat was horrid. It was embarrassing walking into the office and having to change my clothes because they were dripping wet. So when I decided to go for my first training camp and race in Thailand in 2013 I was worried about how my body would handle it. What I found however was that the heat did not bother me as much. While I still felt it and still got bloody sweaty, I could handle it. In fact I came to enjoy that feeling of walking into the heat and getting smacked in the face with humidity. When I did my first race in Asia it was Challenge Phuket and I made a decision to be conservative on the run. What I found was that I was actually able to run well in the heat while a lot of other people struggled. Mark my words, I was a lot slower than I am now. But I came to realise that in the heat, I did not need to train with the same intensity.
How can I give an example of this. When I was in Singapore this year in the lead up to Bintan, I went for a 10km run. Not fast, cruisy easy pace. This is a run I will do as a recovery run or as a very easy jog in the lead up to a race. When I got back to the hotel I knew it was hot, my face was red. But what I found most interesting was that the same workout that I could do every day of the week in Australia left me absolutely buggered. My Garmin said that my recovery time was 4 days!!!! Normally it will come back as maybe 5 hours. My average heart rate was also a lot higher than normal. What this lead me to deduce was that there were a lot more demands on my body when training in the heat. The basic idea of training is to put the body under stress then allow it to recover. This will lead to improvement. Science shows us that training in the heat allows the body to produce more blood plasma which in turn can improve your bodies VO2 Max but this is getting technical. Basically I found I had to do a less intense session to enjoy the same benefit as a harder session normally.
The other thing I really like training in the heat is that you sweat and sweat a lot. Now again there is nothing scientific about this but I always figure that if I finish a session and have done a lot of sweating then it means I must be burning a decent amount of calories. Last year when I was in Thailand for Supercamp, I ate like a madman and trained like one too. The people that I was over there with said they could noticeably see that I had lost weight. To me that must have had something to do with the increased temperature. I will say that while you are training in the heat it is important to make sure you stay hydrated and keep up your electrolytes. Again I fear I could venture into science a bit here and I don't want to do that. Basically what I have found in the heat is that I do not need to train as hard to have the same benefits as I would in normal temperatures and it is easier to lose weight because your body has to work harder to regulate temperature.
Not all of my experiences in the heat are positive. But training at a world class facility surrounded by a group of like mined individuals makes it a no brainer for me. There is of course the biggest advantage which I have not mentioned yet. The beer tastes so much better after a hard session in the heat. So stay tuned over the next two weeks as I try to keep you all up to date with what I am up to in Thailand. If you have anything in particular you want me to show you or focus on while I am there please let me know and who knows, I might even try putting the go pro to good use and making some video footage as well.
Thats it for me today!
Stay safe, get hot and remember to TRI!
What's Your Plan B?
I was getting a little excited. The weather was warm, the sun was out and triathlon season had started. My infamous tan lines have made a return. It is my favourite time of the year. Well apparently mother nature had other plans this week and it just so happened to coincide with one of the biggest weeks of training I have had in some time. This is all in the lead up to the 3 big races I have over the next 6 weeks, Laguna Phuket Triathlon, Challenge Phuket and Taupo 70.3. I am also currently in study break as exams start next week and am working on my major essay for one of my subjects. The shit weather and the large study load created the perfect storm for skipping some sessions. But I will not do it. After the shambles of a race I had on the Sunshine Coast and addressing some of the issues with me perhaps overdoing some aspects of my training I have been attempting to follow my training program like a saint. This means come rain, hail or shine I am determined to get my sessions done. It simply means being flexible. This is not something that only applies to weeks where the weather is poor or you have exams coming up. It applies to the regular stress and congestion that many of us face in our regular lives.
When it rains it is still quite easy to swim and run. It is the bike that I hate doing when it is wet. My bike gets filthy, the road becomes slippery and your brakes don't work as well. You get very wet and very cold with the wind blowing on you as you ride. I used to like the cold but my stint in the arctic hell which is Norway completely broke me. After 2 years of living in a location that quite frankly is not suitable for human habitation I am a massive sook when it comes to the cold. So having a week with 4 rides was never going to be much fun. I will also admit that I am quite lucky as I really enjoy using the trainer or stationary bike. But only up to a certain point. This week I was starting to push that limit.
Every morning I would look at my program for the day and see the volume. My first thought was always is there a session I can skip? The honest answer is yes. I could skip every single session if I wanted. I could prioritise other things like couch surfing or study over the training. But instead I found a way to get the session done. Tuesday was a real challenge as it was a 2 hour bike ride followed by 8x800s. On Tuesday it was pissing down and I could not work out the logistics of an indoor ride and then getting to the road where I run my 800's. So I accepted the fact that I would go to the gym and spend 2 hours on the spin bike followed by the run on the dreadmill. The 800's are a tough set. But they are extremely satisfying because you are left completely drained at the end of the interval. They are also acceptable because you can see the end of the interval as you run towards it. On a treadmill this is not the case. I got the session done but it was a battle. I think in total for this week I spent 9 hours on the indoor bike or trainer. The longest session was 3 hours on Thursday and it was horrid.
Basically I am having a whinge about having to do so much of my training inside this week. I hated it. I hate it. But in hindsight it is better than the alternative, not doing anything. As I mentioned, it would have been possible for me to rationalise missing sessions this week because of the weather or study but the only person I would have been cheating was myself. So how can this apply to the average person who is trying to stay in shape? How easy is it for life to get in the way? To rationalise skipping one, then two then all of your sessions because you are busy or something comes up. The simple answer is that it is very easy. I also believe that if you are seriously stressed there is no advantage in forcing yourself to complete a hard session. I do however believe that in every 24 hour day we live there is always time for at least some form of exercise. If it means getting up early and heading out the door before you are used to or sacrificing your lunch break for a work out or heaven forbid, leaving work on time and heading to the gym, it is possible. It comes down to your priorities. Are you trying to stay in shape? Are you trying to win your next race? The goal will always impact on the effort and dedication.
One of the best things I have ever read is that saying I'm too busy is the grown-up equivalent of the dog ate my homework. Everyone has challenges and hurdles that can get in the way of their eating or training. But some people are better at overcoming them than others. Whether this is because of their ambition or goals I am not sure. But what I do know is that there are things that everyone can do in order to overcome those challenges. These things are simple tricks which can help to maximise training opportunity and minimise missed sessions because of being time-pooor.
The simplest thing is to have your training gear with you. If you are planning on going for a swim, take your swim stuff with you. If you don't go in the morning find a pool or other place (gym) which you can go to before you go home. Chances are if you are a bit tired and you have to go home before heading out to train, you aren't going to do it. By eliminating the possibility to sit down on the couch for a couple of minutes there is a much greater chance of getting it done. Make training dates. If you have a friend who you can train with, set a time and place to meet. If you are busy at work it might encourage you to actually get out the door on time because there are other people waiting on you. Plus, training with other people is fun. It can be social and much more entertaining than doing it yourself. Download an audiobook and only allow yourself to listen to it while you are training. If it is a god story you will be desperate to get to your next session because you want to know what happens. You might also find yourself training a little longer than expected. The final tip I have today is to stay flexible. You may have a 60 minute run planned but you only have time for a 30 minute run. If that is the case then do the the 30 minute run. Something is better than nothing and when people start to think they will 'catch up' later in the week is when injury and sickness can creep in. Always have a plan B if your original plan doesn't or cant work out.
Don't think that I am a saint. I skipped a 30 minute run yesterday because I was absolutely exhausted. With all this the primary concern should always be to listen to your body. But make sure it is genuine exhaustion that makes you need to miss a session. It is easy to come up with the excuses to not do something. Training is hard. If it was easy we wouldn't be facing massive obesity issues and everyone would be world class athletes. But at the end of the day when you do stop training or miss one too many sessions remember that the only person who you are impacting on is yourself.
That's it for this week. Sorry I am a little late in getting this done but as mentioned there has been a lot going on. I am heading to Thailand in a couple of weeks and get to stay at the incredible Thanyapura while I am there. I will try and recap the training we do at the camp each day so you can all see just how incredible the facilities are there. We are also taking a go pro so there will be some fun stuff coming your way.
But enough from me. How about you? What is your best tip to make sure you train? Does having a coach help? Does the potential for your friends giving you grief keep you motivated? Let me know, maybe they will help me next time I am struggling to get out the door.
Have a good week, get out and train 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.