The Candle That Burns Brightest
I have been a triathlete for over a decade.
Putting that in writing is actually quite weird to see. In so many ways, I still feel like I am a beginner. I am still trying to figure out how to optimise my performance. I am still trying to work out what I need to do to get myself to the finish line as fast as possible. I am on the precipice of a sub 2-hour Olympic Distance triathlon and my PB over the half distance is 4:06, but I know there is still so much I can learn and do to improve.
Looking back at the last ten years, the biggest take away or benefit I have gotten from triathlon (apart from having more lycra in my wardrobe than a super hero does) is the structure it has given my life. Saturday is a long ride. Swim squad is on a Monday and Wednesday. Friday is my easier day and Wednesday and Thursday are usually pretty full on. I have learned to organise my life around my training to make sure I fit everything in.
Including the athletes I coached, I had a fairly small tight-knit community within the sport that made up my social circle.
We were all fiends for triathlon; we ate up all that the sport had to offer. We would watch classic races and dissect the performances. We would have arguments about who the best of all time was and loved taking sides in the great debates like Macca vs. Crowie.
Over two years ago I managed to achieve what many people would dream about. I turned my passion for triathlon into a career. Triathlon became not only the sport I love, but also my job.
But now that my job is triathlon and I deal with triathletes of all walks of life on a daily basis, I realise that we were an aberration. You see, triathlon has a problem. A problem that I am becoming more and more aware of in recent weeks.
Triathletes don’t stay triathletes for very long.
I am a big believer that to consider yourself a triathlete you need to swim, bike and run. You don’t need to do an Ironman or qualify for 70.3 Worlds or ride a $10k bike. It is more about living that swim, bike, run lifestyle.
So how to put this delicately… I think the problem with triathlon is that we all take ourselves a little too seriously. I am happy to put my hand on my heart and say that I absolutely take my triathlon incredibly seriously. I train hard and expect a lot out of myself. But I know that at some point over the last decade I got to a point when I realised, I was taking it too seriously and took measures to counterbalance my life.
I am going to paint a ‘pathway’ through the sport and be honest, does this sound familiar? A person hears about triathlon. Maybe through a friend, or they saw a story about something to do with it. They do their race and enjoy it. They train a bit harder and do another race. They make a big improvement. They start thinking to themselves, ‘maybe I’m not too bad at this triathlon thing.’ They start to look into the pros. They use the professional performances as a yardstick to their performance and at the same time start paying attention to age group placings. They decide that they should take this a bit more seriously and get a coach and make even more improvements. The thought ‘maybe I could go pro’ enters their head. They train even harder and more determined than ever. Their coach starts telling them to back it off a bit, to focus on recovery. They keep pushing. They plateau or get injured and can never quite close the gap to the professionals. They realise that they will not go pro and give up on the sport realising that their obsession with triathlon has cost them more than a small fortune.
Here is a second pathway. A person wants to do an Ironman. They have heard the stories, seen the tattoos, they want to challenge themselves. They train for it and do their Ironman. It is one of the hardest things they ever do. They hear the words “You are an Ironman” as they finish the race. They tick it off their bucket list and for the rest of their lives are able to dismissively state ‘Yeah I have done an Ironman’ whenever triathlon is mentioned.
I know, I know. I am making sweeping generalisations here but I think that most of us will either know someone or be someone who has gone through something similar to this.
I played team sport for most of my life. Even when I was well over 100kgs (I think that is about 57,000 pounds?) I could still rock up once a week for a game and have a few beers after the game. I was an athlete. I played weekly soccer with my mates. I watched games with them, had social gatherings with them and it didn't really impact the rest of my life too much. I had a moderate relationship with sport.
That is a story that many people see as impossible in triathlon.
We all hear that triathletes are a certain type of person. They are type A personalities that are laser-focused on their goal. But that is the problem that I think triathlon has. We need more moderation. Now I know I am so guilty of this but who says you need to race X number of 70.3s a year? Why do you need to do an Ironman every year? What is wrong with taking a few years to just focus on some local short course events?
I have seen a real focus on making triathlon more ‘television-friendly’ but is that really what the issue is? I mean, watching an Ironman can be as exciting as watching Jan Frodeno on his indoor trainer (yes I am judging you!) but maybe the problem we are having with really making triathlon a long-term popular sport is the complete lack of moderation. We are all so certain of our own athletic prowess that we get caught up in what we are doing and lose sight of why we were all drawn to the sport. I bet it wasn’t really for a PB or a finisher medal. It was probably more for the challenge or the sense of self-achievement.
I am writing this fully aware of how hard I have been chasing a certain result for years. I know that when I was within a minute of that time last year I contemplated giving the sport up. I mean 48 seconds is close enough right? But then I realised that while I love chasing PB’s and getting as fast as I can, I love the structure it gives my life. I love that it helps keep me in shape and how my training actually helps me to do my job better too.
What will fix this issue? I don't have a definite idea. But I know that this obsession with chasing Ironman as the pinnacle of our sport is not the answer. Neither is trying to maintain 20+ hours of training a week or pushing ourselves to the point where injury is ‘just something you need to deal with.’ Maybe if we focus more on moderation in our training, racing and personal and professional life there will be less burnout? Maybe by focusing less on what is sexy, like how hard our training was, and focusing more on what is important like sleeping 8 hours a night? I am still waiting for the sleeping version of Strava where we give each other kudos for sleeping hard!
Maybe by keeping more people in the sport will help to make more people want to watch it? I am sure as many people who are reading this article have ideas about how you could help ‘fix’ triathlon. But I think lots of people would have to admit that it needs to start with moderation. The candle that burns brightest doesn’t last and neither do the athletes.
But what I really hope that you get out of reading this article is the realisation is that what makes triathlon great isn’t the top professionals, or the plastic age group trophies we chase -- or even the excuse to wear training clothes so much. What makes it great is the people who make up the community. I am constantly blown away by the stories I see come up from our MX members and despite not knowing what will fix triathlon I do know that the more of us that are triathletes, the better off we will all be as triathletes. So don't take it too seriously, instead, just remember to TRI!
I have decided to start publishing my articles from mxendurance.com here as well.
Chances are you have had one or all of your race plans cancelled this year because of the big C-bomb. I am in enough triathlon circles to see the constant influx of announcements about cancellations, postponements and everything in between.
What has really surprised me though is the many different reactions that I have seen. I am shocked to see how many people without races in the future have basically thrown in the towel and said, ‘If I don’t have anything to train for then why train at all?’
To me this does not compute. Not because anybody who has had this reaction is wrong but instead because that thought never crossed my mind. I travel and race a lot. Honestly, it is one of the perks and challenges of my job. Last year, I flew to Canada for four days to run a camp and race a Super League race. It was an amazing opportunity and experience – that left me sick for two weeks. As a sort of new year resolution this year, I decided that I wanted to race and travel less this year and focus on just really becoming a strong, efficient athlete.
Now don’t go blaming me for the global situation we find ourselves in. I swear I wasn't secretly working in a lab so that I would be forced to stay closer to home. But maybe by explaining why I had decided to wind things down this year you might be able to understand why I think these ‘unprecedented times’ are actually a real opportunity for the longevity of you, dear reader, as a triathlete.
Triathlon asks a lot of us. It is often a real struggle to fit everything in and when it comes down to it, chances are there are a number of things we neglect. For some of us it might be *cough* training *cough* and then for others it might be gym work, mobility work, adequate sleep, mindfulness or all of the things we know we SHOULD be doing but just cannot find the time to do. Next add in the demands of racing. The tuning up for an event with speed-specific work, dropping weight to get to race weight and the stress of travel, packing and the race itself will all ultimately impact on your ability to ‘do it all.’
I said to all of my athletes as soon as all of this started that to me, this is an extended ‘off-season’ and I am not talking about the "eat all the food and drink all the beer" off-season. I am talking about the "get strong, work on weaknesses or inefficiencies, base work" off-seasons that are extremely beneficial but also not very sexy.
How many athletes are in the gym each week? We all know we should do it but as the training and intensity ramps up the gym is probably skipped because it leaves us sore and stiff and hard gym work and fast tempo work are not always each other’s best friends. But you want to be able to keep training harder and longer? You need the gym. How many pro athletes have you heard talk about the importance of resistance training as they age? Here is an opportunity to fit it in.
What about sport-specific strength? Bike strength through low-cadence big-gear work is good for getting your FTP up but it does not directly relate to faster riding. It lays the base for it. Same with swimming. Strength-based swimming is good for burning the lats but you may find your pace per 100m dropping as a result of it. With a race on the horizon, these drops in speed can be alarming and can lead to some panicked conversations with your coach.
By now you can probably see where I am going with this but basically, here is a period where we are all forced to slow down for a while. Being primed for a race is incredibly hard on the body. Being at race weight and ready to go can often lead to people getting sick or injured. Have you ever gotten sick before a race or right after it?
So, by taking the need to be that ‘sharp’ away and understanding that focusing on making your body strong a period without racing becomes a huge opportunity to prime yourself for when racing comes back.
Personally, I am training as much as I ever have but there is nowhere near the intensity I would usually train with and I am absolutely loving my training. I am seeing myself get stronger, I am eliminating niggles that have plagued me for years and I understand that when I do start to focus on specific race preparation, I will be better than ever before.
The even better news is that if you want to, you can work on this without as much volume as you might usually do. Busy at work? Take a couple of extra days off to recover because strength training leaves you fatigued. This style of training does not require your 100% commitment because, again, there are no races coming up.
If you are the person who has decided to stop training because you don't have a race coming up, ask yourself why do you train? Is it only because of race results or is it because of what being a triathlete does for you as a person and your life? I train to perform when I race, but I race and train to help me be healthy and fit.
That doesn’t take a break and that’s why I can just change the way I train; I will not simply stop because I am not aiming for a specific race.
You may completely disagree with me here and this honestly isn’t a plug for my coaching, but I think this is the ideal time to start working with a coach. Coaches will be able to use this time to really set you up for success. By working with a coach for an extended period of time you will see something much more than improved race results, you will improve your longevity as an athlete.
If you don’t want to work with a coach, then maybe it is a great time to join a community like MX Endurance. While your motivation might be lacking, our community will hold you accountable and accountability will never run out.
So while the state of the world isn’t great for those of us who love to swim, bike and run, with a shift in focus this could be one of the best things to happen to triathletes for a very long time. Either way, just make sure you remeber to TRI!
This article originally appeared on mxendurance.com
I have been doing so much writing for the MX website that I haven’t been putting together too many articles for here. However, I feel like this is probably a bit more of a personal post and therefore doesn't suit my professional website. Before I take you down the rabbit hole in my head, I want to wind back the clock a few months.
Right before all of this C Bomb stuff kicked off I was having the time of my life training like a professional in Phuket. I had the pleasure of noticing that my cycling kits were becoming loose and my ‘skinny’ kits were fitting well. My self-confidence was growing like it only can when I am in good shape. I was looking forward to getting back to Australia and carrying this momentum forward to lay a really solid foundation for the rest of 2020.
I had planned a early year catch up with my dietitian, Chloe McLeod to lay the ground work and make sure we had a solid game plan. I was excited for this chat because usually at this part of the season it was about having to get everything under control and re-learning old habits. But not this time! I was already off flying. I was going to be able to impress Chloe with how well I was doing.
We start the call; I can barely contain my excitement and then I tell her! I AM CRUSHING IT at the moment. Chloe was excited. It was great news, it meant we could start to focus on some more advanced strategies and make sure I took my performance to the next level. Then Chloe asked me “How are you sleeping?”, I hesitated, thought about it and said, “You know, to be honest… not great.” I had been in isolation for a week at this stage and I was under a fair amount of stress. As a coach, I had started to bleed athletes and running a global triathlon community, I had members from all over the World reaching out because they were doing it tough. It was taking its toll. As a sort of parting comment, Chloe asked me to start keeping a food journal. She was slightly concerned about my sleep but hey, I was stressed. No dramas. I had told her; I was crushing it lately!
The next day I woke up determined to be super honest with my food journal. All day, I put down my well balanced, healthy food I was eating. I knew she would be impressed by the range of vegetables I was eating, how balanced my meals were and how little I was snacking. I submitted my food journal, and everything started to go wrong.
I talk to Chloe fairly often on the phone, on Instagram or by SMS. She messaged me pretty quickly after receiving my food journal. I will now do my best to recount our conversation.
Chloe: “Is that everything you ate?”
Me: “Yeah! I told you I was doing really well!”
Chloe: “…. What training did you do today?”
Me: <slightly confused> “Just an easy 60-minute run – nothing hard?”
Chloe: “That’s not nearly enough, can you please weigh yourself?”
Me: “What the hell, Chloe I am 81kg!!!”
Chloe: “That doesn’t sound right, call me tomorrow ok?”
<I start panicking>
If you have read my posts in the past you will know I have spoken about how the number on the scales doesn’t really matter. There are so many other measures you can use to check your progress. I know this, I have told other people this, I have recorded podcasts about this and I have written it in many posts. In that moment of seeing an 8 in front of a 1 on the scale all logic, rational thinking and self-confidence I had built up over the past month vanished.
I thought I wasn't sleeping before, now I was really not sleeping. How the hell could I be 7kg heavier than my usual weight? My kits were fitting! My clothes were loose! What the hell was going on?
I called Chloe and the first question she asked me was if I had eaten breakfast that day. God damn she knew me too well. My first thought straight away was to cut right back on my food. She also made me promise to eat lunch and even made me send a photo of my lunch to make sure I did it. I will now try and give you a much worse explanation of what Chloe gave me.
In short, I was not eating nearly enough. The day I had written in my food journal was about 1500 calories. That was a normal day for me. The problem? I can burn up to 5000 calories on some days but the amount I was eating wasn't changing. I was not fuelling properly when I was exercising and as a result of this, my body had triggered starvation mode. One of those amazing phenomena we have our ancient caveman ancestors to thank. Because my body was constantly being underfed, it was clinging to every single calorie I consumed because it didn't know when the next time I would eat again.
The big lesson that Chloe wanted me to learn is that I HAVE TO eat more. Chloe set me the daily goal of 2200 calories PLUS the amount of energy I burned during exercise. Sounds simple enough right? I agreed and went off with my tail between my legs.
Ok, I think we are now up to date and I can now tell you about what the real issue is.
Ever since I am forcing myself to eat more, I am convincing myself that I am eating too much. Despite being told by an incredibly well educated, highly experienced professional that I have 100% trust in, I am having a daily internal struggle.
Eat more versus minimise what I am eating.
This is another one of those moments where knowing what to do is not as easy as actually doing it. My relationship with food is currently so messed up that I genuinely believe I am a on the verge of a very serious eating disorder. Every single fibre of my body wants to starve myself. I have lost all interest in food. I literally cannot make a decision about what to eat. I am so lucky that my amazing wife is taking charge at the moment because she knows how hard this is on me.
It is so hard. I know how ridiculous I am being. I know Chloe is right and I know I need to do what she says. I KNOW IT. But it is so fucking hard to keep doing it. I rode my bike yesterday and felt my belly. I then spent the next 2 hours of my ride obsessing over my belly. I pulled over 5 times to adjust my kit because I was obsessing over feeling fat. Today, I am going to go for a 3-hour ride and I know I will be back in one of my fat kits for no other reason than I think I am more comfortable in them. It infuriates me. I cannot find the words to put down how shit all of this is making me feel.
I am training better than ever, hitting numbers I haven’t hit in years and I am only focusing on how fit I feel and look. I was chatting with a really close friend of mine yesterday who also sees Chloe who said “when I listen to her it works, it is when I stop that things go wrong” so I opened up about how much of a mess my head is at the moment. He gets it, he has lost weight too and said he knew what I was going through. You focus on the imperfections and then they drive you mad. It is literally like beating yourself up.
I am happy to say that I am still forcing myself to eat more. Some days it is just too hard. On Saturday I would have needed to consume 7000 calories. I cannot physically eat that much. But I am making sure I eat around my training, eating enough every day and really trying to do EXACTLY what Chloe told me. I am just hating myself for doing it.
I have kept my weight off for nearly a decade now and yet here I am, a decade later and I am still dealing with the same struggles many people who are just starting out face. I am not perfect; I have not got this down. I probably never will. But I am really hoping that this time the logical part of my brain managed to keep the irrational part under control. Starving myself WILL make me feel better about myself but it IS NOT good for me and will mean my weight either stays up or drops far too low.
It’s frustrating. The ball of anxiety in my stomach as a result of this has not gone away for weeks but I will not give in.
I need to wrap this up and think the best way to do it is to simply say, you don’t need to be perfect, I don't actually think it is possible. But do whatever you can to do what is best for you in the long run and not to satisfy your own irrational fears and insecurities. I know I will get through this and will then probably be writing an amazing article about how eating more actually allows you to lose weight.
Until that time, I hope you are all doing well and even though we have no races on the horizon remember to TRI!
Doing Your (Personal) Best
I have sat down many times in over the last month to put together my thoughts about my Bahrain 70.3 race report but have not really known where to start. For reasons that most people don’t know about, wouldn’t care about and are quite frankly not that interesting, the result meant a lot more to me than I expected. At the time, it sort of snuck up on me and I was in such a mess post-race that I didn't get the chance to appreciate it. Then the questions, comments and feedback started coming in from people I know, people I like and people I have never even heard of.
I have never in the entire time I have raced triathlon had more questions about my race. I had randoms ask for my ride file, people I know ask for my peak power, average speed, HR data and just about everything in between. I had people tell me that I cannot consider it my PB, people tell me that the result doesn't count, and someone even called me a cheat. The whole thing left a really weird taste in my mouth. I think the thing that amused me the most was the countless people asking me “how did that happen” like they were actually shocked I got a sub 4:10 70.3 result.
Well here you go internet, you can find out exactly how my 70.3 Bahrain race unfolded.
I was really nervous about this event. I am sure this is my own ignorance, but I was nervous about going to the Middle East. No, it wasn't because of terrorists or any of that bullshit. It was just the fear of the unknown. Culturally, I have zero experience and that was a bit intimidating. I didn’t know what to expect. What would it be like? What would the food be like? In all honesty, when we flew into Bahrain, I half expected the airport to be a shed next to a runway in the desert. When we touched down and I was driven to my hotel I realised I had nothing to worry about.
Bahrain really reminded me of Singapore. At least where the race is held, there are big, modern buildings in a beautiful area called Bahrain Bay. Seeing this and then being reunited with some friendly faces from MX instantly put me at ease. It was funny how quickly my nerves went and were replaced from excitement. I was going to enjoy the race but because of a few niggles and bouts of sickness I was optimistic about getting a PB but not a really big PB, I mean, I knew it was a fast race but I thought that might have been because Kristian Blummenfelt was so fast rather than it being such a quick course.
In the days before the race I swam and rode and they both gave me a lot of confidence. I was easily riding well over 40km/h and felt like a dolphin cutting through the water. You can ask the people I was there with. I was getting more and more excited and thought we were in for a great day.
I went through my usual routines and got myself to the race ready to rock. I was going to have a crack and see what I could do. Based on my numbers in training, I really thought I would have gone around 4:12 at Western Sydney so I wanted to see if I could do that in Bahrain.
The swim in Bahrain Bay was self-seeded with the fastest group being sub 25 min swimmers. I AM NOT a sub 25 min swimmer. But my swim splits this year were 30, 29, 27 and 25. I was confident I would be swimming under 27 so I figured I would put myself sort of towards the back of the sub 25 and see what happened. Well apparently, the majority of athletes in Bahrain were sub 25 min swimmers because it was absolutely packed. I positioned myself in the front 3rd ready to go.
I absolutely made the right decision. Straight into the water and I powered passed probably 50 people in the first 400m. I have been trying to work out why I am suddenly swimming in the water so much faster and apart from the changes to my stroke courtesy of BondiFit, I feel like I have flicked a switch and now treat the swim like a race. In the past I have always swum hard but always had it in my head that it is a long way and I should save my energy for the bike and run. That doesn't happen anymore. I swim like a man possessed, I thrash my arms like the Road Runner and as a result I am swimming much, much better. After passing what felt like nearly everyone in front of me without too many problems, I made the final left-hand turn to the exit. This was the only struggle I had during the swim as the sun was right behind the swim exit, so sighting was hard. I climbed the steps and knew I had swum well. My total swim time was 26:39
Transition was long. You ran in, grabbed your gear bag (mine only had my helmet and race number) and ripped off my wetsuit then put it in the bag. I was lucky to be so early out of the water because it was so empty. I made the long run to the other end of transition while putting on my helmet and race number (they made us wear them on the bike) then grabbed my bike and ran all the way back to the other end to start the bike. Considering how far it was I was very happy with a total time of 2:06.
Oh, the bike, the source of so much internet butthurt whinging. FOR THE RECORD, I measured 88.6km so yes it was a little short. Why this course being short is the cause of so much internet angst is a mystery to me. I have done races with a 1500m swim or a 20km run before and no one seems to care but for some reason, this race has seen more people lose their minds than I can understand. You want to know why it is a fast course? Then keep reading.
Straight onto the bike and it was apparent just how good these road surfaces were. My speed quickly went to about 45km/h and despite what people may think, my watts were high. I was EASILY holding 310 watts and it felt effortless. At one point I thought, “did the prince install engines in all of our bikes overnight?” I was absolutely flying on the bike, but I was working hard for it. My effort was extremely high but knowing that for what felt like the first time in my life, that all of my effort directly translated to speed I was motivated to keep going. I soon settled into a groove. My watts were higher than I had expected but I was anywhere between 260 and 290 watts consistently. I rode past maybe 6 or 7 other athletes but otherwise I was all by myself. This section of the course was on the fast lane on a 3-lane motorway that was open for traffic. Cars were flying past us and I think that this helped to cause a bit of a vacuum. Not so much drafting but like a wind tunnel that again made the wind less significant. The roads were flawless, like riding on black marble that make the roads in Sydney look like rough goat tracks in a paddock. While I was absolutely giving it everything, I was LOVING IT.
After we turned off the main highway for the first out and back section, I spotted Mark Cavendish and assumed it was a long out and back section but it really wasn’t. There were a few out and back sections before a longer straight that led to the F1 track. Here the wind really picked up a fair bit and for the first time my speed dropped a bit. It was also where I was passed by the first (and only) pack I came across. I have to point out that going the other way I saw so many blatant pelotons I was grateful to be so far at the front of the race.
The next part of the bike that was significant was the F1 Track. I knew we got to ride on the F1 track but wasn't sure what to expect. Compared to the regular roads we had ridden on the racetrack was rough. It was undulating with tight turns and it was fucking amazing. I was making actual car noises as I tried to take the shortest lines through the corners. The photographers must have thought I was high. It was so great to ride around an actual racetrack with eerie empty stadiums all around you. It was extremely difficult to hold consistent speed or watts in here but damn it was fun.
After the race track it was the same road back to the main highway and I was starting to feel the effort I had been putting in for the last 50 odd kms. I was starting to hurt but I was also getting an idea of the sort of time I would ride. I could do a 2:10 split if I keep this up. I was definitely going to PB if I just kept going and ran ok.
I made the big loop back onto the highway and as it was like the clouds opened up and a rainbow shone down on me. Incredible roads + tail wind = 50km/h + The last 30ishkms back to transition was like someone had attached a rocket to the back of my bike. Realising what an opportunity this was (and probably a little bit of that old-Tim arrogance) I kept pushing on the bike to get every single km of speed possible out of my bike. My speed was now over 50km/h. In hindsight, I should have been aware of the pain in my quads. I should have considered backing it off before the run. But all I was thinking about was a sub 2:10 bike split.
Before I knew it I was back at transition with only a lap of the bay to finish. I was now obsessed with getting as fast a bike split as possible, so I continued to push way too much power the whole way around. I even passed a few people in those final kms (who were probably being smarter than me) then made my way to the dismount line. I took my feet out of my shoes I will admit a little curious to see how my legs would be feeling. My total ride time was 2:04:24 I rode a normalised power of 270 watts for the 90km with an average speed over 43km/h. 12 minutes faster than my previous best bike split!
Truth be told, T2 was a blur of excitement and panic. I knew I had ridden under 2:10 and I knew I had swum 26 minutes. I was rushing through transition, getting my gear sorted and getting out all while trying to do the maths. Considering how flustered I was and the adrenalin pumping through my body I was impressed with how composed I was. I did have to yell at the volunteers who were standing there. They were blocking the signs with the row numbers on them and trust me, transition was basically empty at this point. My T2 time was 2:16.
The first thing I did after getting my hat and run gear sorted was switch my Garmin to overall time. It read 2:35… At first, I couldn't make sense of this. There was a time when I dreamed of seeing 3:00 when I came off the bike. Then the maths started… Hang on…. 2:35… If I run 90 minutes… That’s 4:05… Have you ever had a moment that was as quick as a blink of an eye but dragged on for an eternity? A moment where you are suddenly bombarded by a tidal wave of realisation and pressure? That was that moment for me. I can run 90 minutes EVERY. DAY. OF. THE. WEEK!
I went out in a panic and my first km clicked at just over 4-minute pace. I heard my swim coach, Spot Anderson’s voice in my head “all you need to do is evenly pace yourself or negative split”. He was right. I am not trying to go under 4 hours. I am trying to go 4:05. All I need to do is run 4:15 pace and I have it in the bag. I made a conscious effort to slow my pace down. I even patted myself on the back a bit. I was being a smart athlete and absolutely setting myself up for success. I was going to go 4:05. What the actual fuck. I was going to do it today. In less than 90 minutes a decade of training would be about to pay off.
The Bahrain course is 3 laps like a very very tight C so you are always running next to the other part of the course. For a race I really enjoyed, I did not enjoy the run course. I was so far in my own head for most of the run to be honest. What if I do go 4:05? What will I do? Do I have to do an IronMan? Should I consider having children? Will I retire from triathlon? Why isn’t Dez here to see this happen? Who is going to take a photo of me at the finish? These and about a million other thoughts were going through my head as well as moments of elation, excitement, panic and to be honest, fear. My pace was starting to slip by the 7km mark and a high-five and encouragement from Macca surrounded by the Bahrain Endurance 13 gave me a real surge of adrenalin, but it didn't last.
My pace was now down to 4:20 per km and the conversation stopped being what do I do once I go 4:05 to DO NOT FUCK THIS UP! People on course must have thought I was crazy. At points I was screaming at myself “4:05” over and over. But no matter what I did, my pace would not increase. At the 14km mark it was still a possibility, but I knew I would need to suffer. I reminded myself of Challenge Melbourne and North Carolina earlier in the year where I went harder for the last 5km. The carrot of my 4:05 would surely push me to go beyond what I was capable of.
By the last lap I was suffering, and the doubt started to creep in. I knew I was going to have to pull something out of the hat to make it happen. I still refused to give up. My pace had increased to 4:10 and it was costing me everything I had just to maintain that. I know at one point someone called my name then ran up to me trying to chat with me. All I could muster was “NOT NOW” and “I’m sorry” then kept going. Inside the last km I think I accepted I was not going to make it but I also told myself, you don’t know where the timing maps are, you don’t know what point you crossed the start mat… DO NOT GIVE UP!
I don’t remember the finish line. For a huge PB my finish photos are pretty crap. I half threw my arms in the air in elation? Disappointment? Frustration? I was not well. But I did turn around and see my name with 4:06 next to it. FUCK! So close! My total run time was 1:31:21 and my finish time was 4:06:47.
If you had of told me I would go 4:06 before the race I would have been ecstatic. But to me it was almost bittersweet. 48 seconds… That’s all that stood between me and 4:05… I have spent a lot of time thinking about this result and to be honest, the attitude of other people, including some people I would have expected unconditional support from, added to my feelings of dissatisfaction. It is really bizarre to be honest. To come so close and not get there. I guess in a lot of ways it is sort of my way of going about things. I mean it took my 2 years to crack 4:30. The thing that I think upsets me the most though is how relieved I was that I didn’t make it. That is really hard for me to admit and to type for the internet to read but it is the truth. I have come to realise since the race that what has soured this result for me the most is how ashamed I am of my relief of failing.
I was never in the right headspace for this result. 4:05 was not even on my radar and to have it thrust upon me like that was a real head fuck. I was forced to have a very hard look at myself and in a lot of ways I did not like what I saw. But I also worked out what I can do to work on it.
As the weeks have passed, I have become extremely proud of that race. I definitely could have done things better. Maybe I should have backed off on the bike a bit. Maybe I should have just trusted myself and ran the way I normally do. All questions I will never know the answers to. But I also learned that I am capable of putting in a good sub 27-minute swim. I am capable of riding over 40km/h and I know that with hard work I can definitely make sure I run well under 90 minutes.
As for the haters, the people who have told me it isn’t a real result. Or all the other random, unwanted opinions and questions. My 70.3 PB is now 4:06. No one can ever take that away from me. I will argue with anyone who says it isn’t.
Do I think this makes me a better athlete than some of my friends? Absolutely not. Do I think this result should mean anything to anyone else? Hell no! Doing this race made me realise that this huge goal I have for a 4:05 doesn't matter to anyone else than me. Would the crowd have erupted, and the Prince and all the pro athletes have come out and celebrated if I went 4:05? Of course not. I still would have been shuffled along, asked for my timing chip and sent to recovery with no one caring. But let me tell you what. My result means a lot for me. It means that I am moving in the right direction. It means I am able to reach my goals and it means that I should have more faith in myself and it means I am better than I was a decade ago.
Not bad for a man who struggled to complete an Olympic Distance race in 2010 in 4 hours and 5 minutes hey!
I will always remember that and it is why I will always remember to TRI!
Haters Gonna Hate (And Ruin Your Day!)
I’ve spent the last few days living in isolation as I lick the ‘wounds’ from the weekend. I usually put together a race report following my bigger races because it gives me a good opportunity to go through my performance in my own head. However, on the weekend, something happened which shocked me to my core and has left me wondering if I even want to do triathlon anymore.
Before I get to Western Sydney 70.3 I want to talk about my experiences in triathlon. I came to the sport as an extremely unfit, overweight guy with no real interest in taking care of myself. Through training and racing triathlon I lost over 50kg and made my health a priority. I have completely changed my approach to life, my relationships with friends and family and through some stroke of luck, I have even managed to turn it into my job. Not bad when I consider that all I wanted to do when I started this blog was to try and encourage some other people to give triathlon a go.
You see, I feel like I am indebted to triathlon. This sport literally handed me the keys to my own life and I genuinely believe, saved it too. I am one of the first people to talk of the positive benefits of the lifestyle, of the incredible support I felt running (walking) the 10km of my first ever triathlon. Or how you can do this sport and feel welcomed and included. It is not a sport where you will have people laugh at you when you are struggling or kick you when you’re down. I think this opinion is so engrained in my view of triathlon that I am unable to separate the two. Triathlon = inclusion.
Now I am also not an idiot. I have been around the sport long enough to know there are bad apples and I also know in a competitive environment people can say and do things in the heat of the moment. It is part of racing. I have especially noticed this as I have gone from the back, and I mean back of the pack, up to the front. The attitude of your competiors change. The conversations at the start of the race are different and the vibe is much more intense.
I am also not naïve enough to know that some people do not like to see others succeed. You know that after I won my age group at North Carolina a few weeks ago I lost over 200 Instagram followers in 24 hours? I do not obsessively follow those numbers but it was a significant enough drop for me to notice (and no, this was not after they read about me pissing on the bike). I have had people tell me that I no longer know what it is like to do it tough out on course, or that I am a corporate lacky who only ever pushed the products of his sponsors. My personal favourite is that I am lucky to be fast!
In some of the more extreme cases, I have had people set up fake Instagram accounts and message my followers telling them that I have been talking shit about them behind there back. If I have an issue with you, I say it to your front! I have been accused of doping, accused of having weight loss surgery, I have been accused of lying about my weight loss, fucking hell I have even been accused of photoshopping Instagram photos (that are clearly photoshopped). The point is, this stuff has made me pretty thick skinned. I figure the people who really know me will know I try my hardest not to be a dick. I try and encourage people as much as I can and really do want to bring as many people as I can to the sport. People may interpret the way I act online (or how I write these posts) in a way that makes them think I am a C**T but I go to bed at night truly thinking I try and be a good guy.
So to have my race ruined on the weekend because of the actions of a coward has cut me to my core.
I came out of the water on Sunday surprised to see I had swum under 30 minutes at the infamous Regatta swamp thinking, if I race how I know I will today I could be on track for a very very fast time. I have now done 30 70.3s and I have most of the processes down. I set my bike in the optimal gear for pushing off while also trying to get my feet in my shoes. On Sunday when I pushed off at the mount line there was a horrible crunch as my gears went haywire. Someone had shifted them from one of my easiest gears to my hardest gear. When you change gears without pedalling then try and pedal you hear a noise that would make you think you have snapped your chain. My gears had been changed 7 times to put the bike in my hardest gear. Another athlete I know Nat even said to me “slow it down mate” assuming I had made an error and as I saw my Physio Matt Sweeney he heckled me about nearly falling over. I told him someone had messed with my gears. Oh well, a minor inconvenience that cost me what? 2 seconds and maybe a slight surge of adrenalin. This has happened to me before and wasn't that big a deal. I put my head down and started riding.
My power and speed instantly went where I wanted them and a small smile came over my face… I am going to have a good day. The conditions are perfect and I am at the front of the race. Let’s do this. I was told by my coach to really go hard on the bike and felt like I was in the perfect position to do so.
Then I got a puncture…
In some ways, I didn't hate that this happened. The race was only ever meant to be an exercise in preparing for Bahrain (I hate saying it was going to be a training day) and the thoughts of maybe getting a PB went instantly out the window. It meant I would fix the flat then do exactly as Ben said, ride the first 30km conservatively then send it for the last 60km and treat the run like it was only 18km long.
I took off the disc and started changing the tyre. After I removed the inner tube I ran my finger along the inside of my tyre to see if whatever caused the puncture was not still there.
In another piece of luck I ran my finger the same direction as the foreign object I discovered, If I hadn’t I would have pricked my finger because I found a sewing needle stuck in my tyre. I pulled it out and got on with changing my flat. At the same time an official came to see if I was ok, he watched as I made the change then struggled to reinflate my disc because after the innertube inflated I couldn't get the Co2 valve out. The end result was a semi-inflated rear disc wheel. He radioed and found out the only on course mechanics were back in transition. I decided I would ride back and get them to pump it back up to where I wanted it. I was ok about it still, just get it sorted then get back on course. I will admit there were thoughts about just pulling the pin but I have never DNF’d a race and didn't want something as simple as a puncture to be the reason why. I left my timing chip at the penalty box so I didn't trip the timing mats and followed the officials instructions to ride on the run course. I got back pumped up my tyre, made my way back to the bike start and was off again, I went back to the penalty box, picked up my timing chip and was off.
It is funny but in the heat of the moment I didn't even really dwell on the needle that much. When I was out on the course I saw the guys I had come out of the water with coming back and they were a LOOOOOONGG way ahead of me. That is when it hit me. Fuck! Someone must have done this to me. The gears were an inconvenience and a puncture could just be bad luck but you tell me how a sewing needle unless it somehow was pointed up instead of laying flat on the ground would have ended up in my tyre… I got mad.
My head was out of it and I found my mind wandering a lot through the run but one thought kept going through my head, “What could I have done to someone to make them want to do that to me?” As I said, I really try and be as encouraging as I can be. I try and respond to every private Instagram message or question on my website (if you send me dick pics I block you – this really happens) but more than anything else I felt violated.
Triathlon is my safe space, it is the thing I love doing and where I feel more like me than anywhere else. To have someone set out to ruin my day broke my heart.
I got a bit upset again on the run seeing people I am usually much further ahead of literally miles in front of me but kept telling myself to worry about Bahrain. I also felt like I had to make everyone understand that I wasn't having a bad day, someone had made me have a bad day so I told my friends exactly what had happened. Don't feel sorry for me, feel angry for me!
I finished with a 4:48 and I felt worse than I have ever felt after a race. Even now, days later I feel… flat? Down? I don’t know how to explain it. I imagine it is the same feeling you get after having someone break into your house?
I hate that this sounds like a cliché triathlete coming out with all the excuses. I hate that I sound like Lionel Sanders talking about how I forgot to drink water in the hottest race of the year but I also hate that this experience has affected me so much. Whoever it was that did this probably wants me to feel like this and I hate that it is working.
The support from people has been fantastic. Everyone has said the same things to me, get back out there, don't let one person ruin the thing you love. That is what I choose to do. I signed up for a sprint tri this weekend for that exact reason, to get back out there and prove to myself it was an aberration.
To whoever you are, I feel like I owe you an apology for whatever it was I did to make you want to do this to me. What really makes me uncomfortable is the thought of you planning this. Thinking up the idea, getting a needle and packing it, lurking around my bike and then doing what you did. You must have been terrified of getting caught.
But I am not going to apologise. If you read this and you don’t like how I present myself online, delete me, block me, unfollow me. If you did it because you were worried I would beat you (which I couldn't care less if I did or not) train harder. I don't take any shortcuts or have some secret for success, I train, HARD. If you did it because you are jealous of the opportunities that I have been given, put yourself out there and see what happens too. There are so many different ways you could have reacted to your negative opinions of me and what you did is not one of them. There were people on course on Sunday that I would not piss on if they were on fire to put them out and the thought of sabotaging their race never even entered my head for a second…
So there you go, this ended up being a lot longer than I anticipated. Despite this, I still think triathlon is the most wonderful sport there is and I need to remind myself that nothing like this had happened in the previous 29 70.3s I have done.
Let’s not let people like that win, let’s continue to make this sport encouraging positive and one where we all want to TRI!
The Boy From Oz
Greetings from Florida!
Over the weekend I participated in a pretty small, local event in Wilmington North Carolina, North Carolina 70.3. I think this was the biggest race in terms of participants that I have participated in with over 3000 athletes signed up.
Wilmington North Carolina is not a town I grew up dreaming about visiting the same way Disney World in Orlando (where I am writing this race report) was. But after the weekend, Wilmington will have a special place in my heart.
So buckle up, check your harness is tight, place your personal items underneath your seat and keep your arms and legs inside the ride – I may have Disney World stuck in my head.
My lead in to Wilmington was a sort of return to a riskier method that has seemed to work for me in the past. In 2015 and 2016 I spent 2 weeks training hard and racing in Thailand before heading to New Zealand to race. I found that after a couple of weeks of hard training in the heat, despite a bit of fatigue I tended to race really well. So when I knew I was heading to Kona and then to the U.S. I thought let’s try that approach again.
I rode over 1000km in Kona swam nearly 20km and ran about 90km. I was sore, tired and sick of my training equipment when I left the island. There were several times out of panic I messaged my coach Ben Hammond saying “I have forgotten how to run fast.” But the plan was to leave Kona and scale things right back. I arrived in Wilmington on the Thursday and was shocked by how cold it was.
Other than the weather I had a few little hiccups in the lead up to the race. My bike was making a weird noise when I rode it to transition (also got properly screamed at twice by drivers) but the legends and Bike Cycle in Wilmington sorted my beauty out for me. Split transition made the logistics of this race a little challenging but by Friday evening, everything was were it was meant to be. All that was left to do was race.
I had a terrible night sleep which was not normal for me, I have been sleeping quite well before my recent races but I got myself ready and had the wonderful Cindy Cassady drive me to T1. I got myself set up, tried to remember where everything was and jumped on the shuttle to the swim start. This is a true point-point race. We start the race about 2km from T1 then ride to a different T2 and then finish somewhere else again. So, the bus to the swim start was a good opportunity for me to calm my mind and get ready.
The holding area was jam packed with athletes. This was a rolling self-seeded start, so I went straight to the sub 27 area where I was impressed by how many athletes were there. After some friendly chats with other athletes I made my way towards the front. We were led across the road and ordered into single file waiting for the start. The cannon went off and I made my way into the water.
Now it is important to note here that the Wilmington swim is tide assisted. I am not convinced it is for the whole way. I am man enough to admit I cannot hold 1:09 pace for the first 500m like I did in the swim but I think the remainder of the swim my pace was maybe 1 0r 2 seconds faster than normal.
Having said that, despite any tide, I had MY BEST EVER SWIM. Not my fastest ever but my best. I had no dramas with anyone. I swam with pretty much the same people most of the way and had clear water ahead of me the whole time. The biggest challenges I faced in the swim were the waves from the wind every time I looked up making me swallow water and getting tangled in not one but two buoys.
I want to take a moment here to thank my swim coach, Spot Anderson. I have been swimming with Spot for quite a while and recently I completed his stroke correction clinic. The simple changes like head position, arm depth and how to apply pressure in the water are the reason why my last two swims have been so great.
I am also starting to understand how important swim fitness is for setting up your race. My rate was high and the whole time I was swimming I really felt like I was racing, not just sort of going through the motions like I often to do in a swim. When I saw the swim exit, I was actually pumped up, not relieved and when I got out of the water and saw my split time, I thought I was in for a good day. My swim time was 25:08.
Christ this was a long run. It just kept going and going. I eventually made it to my bike. I cut the legs on my blueseventy helix and getting out of it is so easy now. I shoved all my swim stuff in my bag and grabbed my bike. I ran out to the mount line and as I started peddling, I nearly got run off the road by another athlete. I gave him the traditional Australian greeting “fucking watchout mate” and was off. My T1 time was 3:50 (I know my official result said 1:25 but I am not that fast over nearly a km. I think the extra was added to my bike.)
I am an old and wise triathlete. I have done 29 70.3 races and I know that flat courses are not always fast. In fact, I find most triathletes get excited by the prospect of a flat course and over bike meaning they struggle on the run.
The first 10km of the bike course was a struggle to me. It was a bit windier than I expected and I didn't really feel comfortable. There were more ups and downs as we went onto and off different roads, but I made a choice early on in the day to follow my watts and cadence. I wanted to ride 260 -270 watts for this race so that’s mostly what I tried to do. There were some pretty scary moments on the big highway we rode on. They had closed a lane for the race, but we were riding towards oncoming traffic. Two cars didn’t seem to think the road closures applied to them and came screaming into the bike lane. I was lucky I was at the front of the race. If this was later on people would have been hit.
The first 20km were tough but I was starting to feel ok. I had ridden up to and passed maybe 5 or 10 athletes at this point and then we hit the main road where the majority of the race unfolded. At the 30km mark I was off the pace. I am always aiming for an average speed over 40km an hour and I think I went through the first 30km in about 47 minutes. There were probably a few moments of panic but overall, I think I was still telling myself to follow my plan.
At about the 30km mark a couple of guys passed me and I made the decision to go with them. Now again, I was not drafting, my power was the same and I was probably more like 20-30 metres behind them than the required 12. We had marshals alongside of us several times and there were no dramas. Now that I have got the disclaimer for all of those ‘armchair experts’ who love to provide their ‘opinions’ (aka bullshit) on what I do out of the way I can get back to the race and it is time to make things a little dramatic…
Riding along a long straight road sucked. It was not fun, it was not picturesque and there was nothing to look at except the bikes ahead of me. You know things are a bit grim when you get excited by the fancy police cars they have in the U.S. as they blocked the side streets. After maybe 15km of riding with the group that had now increased to maybe 5 or 6 I did the gentlemanly thing and took my turn on the front.
For me, this is a much more comfortable place to ride. As before, I was following my numbers and cadence but wasn't forced to slow down when someone else would brake for no apparent reason. The locals either missed the memo about the race happening or didn’t really care (probably the later) because this section of the race was just on full on open roads and HAVE YOU SEEN THE SIZE OF THE TRUCKS PEOPLE DRIVE HERE?!?!?! I mean if you looked up overcompensating in the dictionary I think there would be an American man driving a ute or ‘pick-up’ the size of a fucking tank. The course did a sort of loop at the far end for about 15 km and just as we got back to the highway the group passed me again. Their timing was perfect…
If you are easily offended, or don’t like to read about the beautiful, natural ways in which our bodies work then skip ahead to the end of this paragraph… You have been warned…
I needed to piss. It had gone from “that’s annoying” to “If I go over another bump it is just going to come out.” I had a myriad of factors to consider but the main one was I simply didn’t want to piss on my bike. Now for those of you non-triathletes this is pretty common. We don’t usually stop for things like toilet stops in a race. I left it until basically I had no choice. I pissed. What can I say, there was something strangely empowering about being a man wearing skin tight lycra pissing himself on a highway in North Carolina on a top of the line bike. It was worth it. I instantly felt better and just as well because the pace was starting to pick up on the ride back to town.
The last 30km of the bike was fast. It was basically just tting and keeping focused. I was riding well over 43km/h on the way back and I know my last 30km was about 43 minutes.
I had to piss again on the bike and I did. I am a real bad boy now!
I was getting excited looking at my time and doing the math in my head. I had managed to get myself on track for a 2:16 bike split. That would be around my pb for 90km that I did in Melbourne earlier this year. The Kona work had paid off. I rode hard and felt strong all day. The test was going to be how I ran.
Then I saw the building that was next to transition… That isn’t 800m away. Garmin hits 90km. I thought there was a bridge we rode over? Garmin hits 91km. Ahh the last metal grating we have to ride over. Garmin hits 92km. Finally I can see transition, I slip out my feet and hope I don't crash the dismount. My total bike time was 2:21:39 (for a 93km course with an average speed of 39.3km/h)
I jumped off the bike and noticed how empty a transition set up for 3000 people is when there are only 2 other bikes in there! Yes, I was off the bike in 3rd place! I racked my bike then struggled to get my socks on because my feet were wet! I took a breath and got it sorted. I had even put all of my stuff inside of my hat then used a rubber band to keep it shut to make sure I was as quick as possible. My T2 time was 1:41.
The first thing I saw as I came out of T2 was someone saying, “You’re in 3rd place” and then a bloody lead bike started riding with me!!!! It freaked me out. I calmed myself down despite being excited and made my way around the first 1km loop of the course. I spotted Dez just after the 1km mark then started running the long straight out of town. I was feeling quite good, but you always know how quickly it can go pear shaped. My pace was around the 4:05 per km mark where I wanted it and I felt quite strong. All the spectators were screaming for me.
At the 3km mark I was passed by one of the guys I was riding with and to be honest I was a bit relieved. Now I could just run my own race. We turned off the main road out into the suburbs. The course was a big sort of curve next to a large lake. The aid stations were all Halloween themed and at some of them they were cheering so loud they couldn't hear what I wanted. My pace was still good, but I was starting to get a little worried. I could tell how close people were behind me by the time it took to hear them cheer again. I just kept telling myself run strong, run strong, control your race.
There were a few times I tried switching my watch over to overall time, but my brain could not do the math. I think I knew I wouldn’t be getting a PB, but I could still try and get a podium in my age group. At the 11km mark we turned around and I had seen the 3 guys ahead of me. Then as I turned around, I also got my first proper look at the guys behind me. There was another athlete maybe 300m behind me then another 2 maybe 500m behind me. They hadn’t caught me yet so just keep doing what I am doing.
There were a few rough patches were my pace dropped a bit but overall, I was feeling quite good. I decided that at the 16km mark I would switch back to overall time and then attack the last 5km. Not too long after the run turn around I heard footsteps and thought this is it, I have finally been caught by the guy behind me (who was a really nice guy) but I was shocked to see it was the 2 guys who had been 500m behind me at the run turn around. THEY. WERE. FLYING. Later boys, I am a pretty good athlete but Timmy can’t run that fast. I saw one of them had 32 on his leg which meant he was in my age group. I just hoped the other guys ahead of him weren’t. I had gotten a good look at them as they had passed and I didn't think they were
They quickly put maybe 100m into me and then I started to notice the other athletes. Nearly every person running the other way had something positive to say to me “you’re looking strong”, “chase him down” or my favourite “you’ve got this!” It was incredible and I was starting to feel better and better. The 16km mark came, I switched over my Garmin and if I ran about 20 minutes for the last 5km I would go under 4:20. My goal became the Taupo slot.
My pace was there and it wasn't hurting as much as I expected. That would come. I noticed the other athletes were starting to say “he is just ahead” or “5th place is suffering” then I spotted him. He was in sight. I kept doing my own thing, there was plenty of time to pass him. Then as I got closer, I thought he didn't look like he was having a great day anymore. When he had passed me before it looked effortless and gorgeous. Now it looked like he had tightened up and was struggling a bit.
A whole list of questions came up in my head as a true over-analyser… Do I pass and go? Do I wait and attack the last km? Who am I? What is the meaning of life? What is grits? Then suddenly my decision was made for me. He was walking an aid station and I was only 10 metres behind him. We had 3km to go. I knew how well this guy could run. All I could do was give it my all.
Now in my head this was a battle equivalent to the famous triathlons like the 89 IronWar or Macca V Raelert in 2010 or even Frodo V Brownlee V Gomez in 2018. I passed and ran as hard as I could for 3km. I pride myself on not looking over my shoulder. I think I checked over my shoulder about 15 times in those last 3km. I was running scared. It’s funny because I always talk about how much I do not care about placing high etc but I will tell you what. Give me a taste of the podium and I will change my tune in an instant. I was in 5th place and I knew for a fact 2 of the guys ahead of me were not in my age group. I could podium if I kept going.
The last 2km felt like it never ended and I was running scared while my body protested HARD. All of that pain however disappeared as I saw the finish come into view. I checked over my shoulder again, not that it actually did any good as I am sure I saw athletes right behind me every time. But this race I wanted to celebrate. I had run well, I had swam well and I had ridden well. I was on the podium and I was fairly confident I was top in my age group. I soaked it up, I played it for the crowd and I had so much uncontrollable emotion come out in that finish chute that I don’t actually really remember finishing. My total run time was 1:27:20 and my total time was 4:19:35. I was first in my age group and 6th overall.
I was pretty excited and, in the days after I have thought on the race alot. Technically, this is not a PB. I have done a 4:17 and a 4:18. As a true triathlete though, I am convinced this is my best performance. I did the math and those extra 3km on the bike (which were hilly and had a steel no pass section) cost me around 6 minutes. If I take that off my time I did not only PB, I crushed my PB.
I feel like this is my strongest total performance I have put in. I had a plan, I stuck to it, I didn't make any little mistakes and I took control of what I could control. In the process I won my age group at my first Iron Man 70.3 (I have won a Challenge 70.3) before and I also qualified for the World Championship in Taupo 2020. Again, just a weird personal thing here but to me I take great pride in the fact that I qualified by winning my age group. In 2016 I came 3rd when I got my slot so this is pretty special for me.
Most importantly though, this is a real sort of end of a chapter in my life. 2018 was terrible for so many reasons and there have been so many times this year when I have thought it was all behind me to have something pop up. This to me really is the start of the next phase for me. My coach Ben has been saying to me that I am on the precipice of a big result and I feel like that was on the weekend.
I am ready for what comes next and I know that because of the support of people like my Coach Ben, my swim coach, Spot, my physio Matt, my dietitian Chloe, my friends like Robo, Charlie, Tom, Jenna, James, Lucy and everyone at MX Endurance and all of my supporters I am going to be in the best possible shape for them.
There is always one person who deserves the most thanks and that is my very own Minnie Mouse, Dez. Let’s do this darling!
Dream big, chase your goals and remember to TRI!
I want to add this in here. I have had so many people reach out to me after this race saying they wish they could do the same. You can! If you are looking for some guidance get your applicaiton in for the MX Endurance Race Team and be one of our ambassadors! We want people off all shapes and sizes to represent the brand!
It’s Not The Length That Matters…
I guess I need to start with a little clarification. I had an amazing time in Kona that was not ruined by the actions of a few. What I was intending to highlight was that there was more of that sort of ‘ego’ at Kona than I had noticed at other races. Kona really was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I wish the course was a little more spectator friendly but apart from being allowed to follow along next to the pros all day, I was never really going to be happy with not watching it online.
There were some really special moments for me in Kona. I think the first was obviously having Dez arrive after not seeing her in a week. But I had a swim where I was doing a triangle course of different paces and after my 3rdset a woman waved me over and asked, “do you know you’re being followed?” 3 dolphins had been swimming along following me. I will admit this freaked me out and I swam back to shore but on my last swim in Kona a pod of about 20 of them were swimming all around me. It honestly brought tears to my eyes (not because I was scared!)
I also tried to squeeze in a run on race day and did a sneaky 5km out and back along Ali’i Drive. I genuinely messed up my timing because I did not want to be jogging along when the leaders came past but running along Ali’i with Frodo for the handful of metres I did was INSANELY cool! Then there were all the people I got to meet for the first time or catch up with again and seeing all of my friends who were racing crush their races was also inspiring and rewarding.
So, I know the question that has been hounding me for nearly two weeks is the ‘elephant’ in the room and it is only appropriate that I take the time to write it here, so it is on the internet forever.
Do I now want to race Kona?
I have been pestered about Iron Man for as long as I have been a triathlete. “Go on Tim, you’ve got to do one!”, “You’re not a real triathlete if you haven’t done an Iron Man” or my favourite of all “It’s only a half-ironman!” I have never even been tempted. I have swum 4km in the Open water (I know it is 3.8km). I have ridden well over 180km and yes, I have even run a marathon! The truth is, with the exception of the bike, I didn't really enjoy any of them and the thought of doing them back to back to back not only doesn't appeal to me. It scares the FUCK out of me.
Here’s the thing, I could never just do an Iron Man. Unless someone said, “hey Tim I have a slot for this Iron Man on Sunday, do you want it?” (I would actually love that because it is probably the only way, I could do one zero pressure). I am not that guy. I can never just go through the motions. Despite my best intentions, when that gun goes, I am possessed by the spirits of the great want to be athletes who came before me. I have to give it my all. I would feel that I have to go sub 10 hours on debut. I would feel I need to try and qualify for Kona at my first Iron Man and whether it is true or not, those expectations would mean that I would be so stressed and so highly strung about goals that are extremely unlikely, I would ultimately end up disappointed.
So, I kept getting told, once you see Kona you will want to do it. I have now trained on 95% of the Kona course. I have swum in the bay. I rode up to Hawi and back. I experienced the winds on the Queen K and ran along Ali’i and in and out of the Energy Lab. The truth is that the course sucks. It is a boring, shitty course. The real appeal of Kona is the history and the class of the field. I have now watched the 2010 highlights of Macca winning because I now understand where it all happened. I understand why some people walk up Palani and I understand why it is the longest finish chute in sport.
So back to the whole point of this post. Now that I have experienced Kona do, I want to do it? Can I say maybe? I still do not have a burning desire for it. I think the race would actually be horrific. I saw athletes I idolise in the absolute hurt locker on Saturday and I thought to myself “no fucking way” but then I also saw them at the finish line. One of my mates who I look up to a lot, Charles, was so pumped in the finish chute I couldn't help but think “yeah I want to do this.” So, where does this leave me? I think if I am 100% honest with you all and myself my opinion has changed. I now think I probably will do an Iron Man. I still don't particularly want to; I have not planned one and if I ever do, I will keep it bloody secret. I have gone from thinking I could never do one to thinking, yeah, I probably could.
STAY CALM! This does not mean I am rushing out to sign up for IMOZ or anything like that. It just means I have had a shift in my mindset from never to maybe.
At the end of the day, it isn’t how long the race is or how fast you do it that makes you a triathlete. That shit just matters to wankers like me. Triathletes are any person who does a swim, a bike and a run. If anyone ever tries to make you feel like you are less of an athlete because you haven’t done an Iron Man or a 70.3 tell them to fuck off and remind them that it isn’t the length that matters… It's how you race it ;-)
Maybe means maybe and remember to TRI!
The Best in Our Sport?
With Think Fit winding down I am finding myself looking to get back to my writing a lot more. I am actually surprised how much it has been on my mind lately so at 5:30 in the morning while I am waiting for my coffee to be ready seems like the perfect time.
I am in Kona to watch the Iron Man World Championships this weekend. I have a number of friends racing as well as some MX Endurance people including one of our coaches and a close friend of mine, Jenna-Caer Seefried. I think as much as I am excited to see the pro race unfold this weekend the real battle I am looking forward to is between Charles Legget and Tom Mort. The tension between these two guys is… non-existent. Two incredible athletes who genuinely only want each other to have a good race.
For many of us weird lycra-wearing oddballs, Kona is the holy grail. I mean, I don't even race Iron Man and I have always wanted to come here and experience it.
As hard as this may be for you to accept, there was a time when I did not dedicate my life to posing for photos of myself swimming, biking and running but even then I knew what Iron Man Hawaii was. You hear so much about the sport, the history, names like Palani Hill, the Queen K or Hawi. When it came time to board my flight here I was pretty excited.
The first 24 hours here was amazing. I swam in the crystal clear waters and saw more fish than I have ever successfully caught in my life, I geeked out as we parked our car in a car park halfway up Palani and I got strangely emotional about my first ride on the Queen K (Really it’s just a smooth highway with a wide shoulder). I mean, I got excited when the wind picked up and when I fell to pieces on my first run it felt like I had earned a badge of honour!
Everything was bigger and better than I could have imagined. Then I started to notice something and the more I notice it the more I don't like it. Now before I go into what I think may not be a super popular opinion here I want to acknowledge a few things. People who qualify for this race are the best of the best as both amateurs and professionals. This is the biggest single day race in triathlon and to even qualify for it is amazing. I also acknowledge that while I am not a professional athlete, I do take my triathlon and pursuit of my goals very seriously (my wife and family might say obsessively).
So with those disclaimers out of the way I need to ask… What the fuck? Why are there so many rude and arrogant people here? I am not talking about the ripped Amazonians and adonises running along Alii Drive with their shirt off. I am talking about the people who really look you up and down as you walk or run past them, who stare at you as you cycle the other way or the guy who yelled at me as he passed me on the Queen K yesterday. I mean not a “on your left” or even a “get your slow ass out of my way” literally an extremely aggressive yell as he rode towards me that scared the absolute shit out of me. I sent some choice 4 letter words mostly starting with c right back at him.
Now I understand that a lot of the issues I have are around my body. I will not be that guy running around Kona with his shirt off, I will not enter the famous underwear run this week and as usual, no I will not be wearing speedos when I am swimming. But triathlon to me is an inclusive sport. I mean I think I put that in nearly every post I write about triathlon. Yet here I am surrounded by the leaders of our sport, the best of the best and a shockingly large amount of them walk around like they are Jan Frodeno or Daniela Ryf (they aren't) and even if they were, why does that give them the right to be so rude?
I get it, it is the big island and you have a big race coming up but that doesn't mean there is any need for people to be so… cold? Nah it is fucking hot in Kona… Aggressive, some are but I am still not sure that is it… Oblivious, yes! That’s the word I am looking for! So many people know I haven’t don't an Iron Man and I think it is one of the most common questions people ask me. I have half expected to come to Kona and leave next week signed up for one trying to qualify for Kona myself. I suppose that makes me an Iron Man novice. Well I can tell you that the behaviours and attitude I am seeing and experiencing here is not making me anymore interested in completing the 226km race at all.
I also feel it is important here to acknowledge this is not everyone. There are so many incredible, friendly people here. I have met people from all over the world who have been so nice and genuinely excited to race here. I know that there are people who do take this stuff incredibly seriously and I have written about it before but it just seems like a larger number of not so friendly triathletes are all in the same place at the same time. Does this mean the best athletes in our sport have a higher chance of also being a prick? I refuse to believe it. But what I want to say is that you are here because you are the best of the best in our sport. You are all role models to people like myself who are not part of the cool club. So maybe realise that your long stares, aggressive training behaviours and random screams are not why people want to come to Kona!
Thanks for reading and if you are that random guy who yelled at me on the Queen K yesterday I am sorry I used so many great swear words at you. Good luck to everyone racing this weekend, enjoy the experience and remember to TRI!
The Second Start
So it happened! Despite all my hesitations, nerves, fears and doubts I lined up for my first 70.3 distance triathlon since January 2018.
I want to start by saying that the path to this race was a bumpy one. I think I had built up in my mind my comeback race. I wanted it to be something special, or at least not something terrible. The progress I have made in this sport has been hard earned. I have never been naturally athletic or one of those people that makes it seem easy. There have been too many hours of blood, sweat and tears put into my performance than I care to remember and the fear that I had undone all of that hard work was almost too much too handle.
I realised at the start of the year that while my leg was still hurting, it wasn't holding me back anymore and if I wanted to wait for a time that it would not bother me anymore I could be waiting a very very long time. So instead I realised it was time to bite the bullet and pick an event. The decision to race Melbourne was actually quite last minute. I had gone back and forth on it due to feelings of just not being ready. I entered 2 weeks before after not starting a race in Forster due to bad weather. I have already said it but I wanted my return to be something special and racing in the cold, wet and windy conditions that day would not have been. After some tough love from my coach, I pulled the trigger on Melbourne.
We drove down the Friday before the race from Sydney and this time we stayed within walking distance of the race precinct because my Dad’s house that I usually stay at is being renovated. In the lead up to race day I was extremely nervous. It was actually really bothering me how nervous I was. I know on race morning the whole thing rushed past me. I made a point of getting down there with plenty of time to spare yet it felt like a snap of the fingers and I was in the water. Anyway, enough preamble. This is the story of how my day unfolded….
I have done so much work on my swim over the last 18 months and I am extremely happy with the progress I have made. One of the key things I wanted to achieve was a fast split time. It literally started so quickly I don’t think I had much time to dwell on what was before me. I was in the water duck diving and took off like a rocket. I felt good. The water was cold and despite the large number of athletes the swim never felt too crowded or hectic. I felt good and strong. I was excited to see what I could deliver.
I was with a group of swimmers for the first 750m and as we turned at the far left of the course I noticed that the pack had put maybe 5m into me. I decided to make a concise effort to catch back up to them and I think I spent the better part of the next 750m trying. The thing is, no matter how hard I tried, I didn't get any closer. Then at about the 1500m I felt like I hit a wall and was suddenly swimming uphill. There was a noticeable drop in my energy and I could feel my form go out the window. Despite swimming much longer in training, I was struggling to make the 1900m. It was probably the fact I had gone so hard trying to catch the group but I sort of limped back into the swim exit. Looking at my Garmin after the race (it auto laps every 500) the 1000-1500m interval was by far my slowest and I actually came in quite quick. I exited the water feeling fucked and saw my swim time was around 30 minutes. Honestly about 3-4 minutes slower than I was hoping for.
I think the one really good thing about this race was that I convinced myself that all that mattered was finishing. Times were (relatively) irrelevant. I know that 18 months ago, a 30 minute swim would have left me extremely disappointed but it didn't phase me at all. After the race my coach pointed out that a lot of the swim times were very slow so not too worry too much. This was also my first opportunity to race in my blueseventy Helix and it delivered the goods with the absolute highlight being ZERO chaffing around my neck. My official swim time was 30:52.
A rather long transition but I was happy to not make any silly mistakes. I have become very good and setting my transition up for quick changes. The only thing I need to work on is getting out of my new wetsuit as that took me a little longer than I would have liked. I also wish they had some water you could run through to get the sand off your feet after running in from the beach. My T1 time was 1:35.
This was what I was looking forward to. My first opportunity to really put my bike work to the test. The Challenge Melbourne course is an undulating 3 lap course on smooth, fast roads. I do not care what anyone says but it is not flat. We aren’t talking serious hills but it is broken up with enough little ups and downs that you are never just in a rhythm. As with all my bike legs the plan was simple, break it down into 3rds. I have recently also really focused on 2 numbers, my power and my cadence. I am constantly trying to find the sweet spot where my power is high enough and my cadence is over 90. That is basically what I focused on for this race.
On the bike and it felt easy pushing big numbers. Even though I haven’t raced for a while though I still have enough experience to know that it usually does. I had a plan and I wanted to stick to it. I had forgotten what it was like to have people pass you and then slow down and the process repeat over and over. I want to from the start say that while I saw some CRAZY drafting and packs out there, all the people who road around me were doing a good job of riding fair. It made me really happy to see most fast guys really trying to race properly.
The first lap went off without a hitch. I was pretty much on target with my split and still felt good. I have a rock solid nutrition plan which I was following. Then about halfway though the second lap I noticed my speed and power was dropping. I didn't feel like anything was wrong but there was a good 10 minutes of panic. Had I ridden to hard at the start? Was my HRV (I got my lowest ever score race morning) correct? Maybe Melbourne was being Melbourne and the weather was going to shit? I am not too sure because I did start to feel good again but I really think that little window is why I just missed out on a 2:15 bike split.
2 laps down and 1 to go and I got passed by a rider who I assumed was a relay rider (they look like proper TT riders) I decided I wanted to go with him and within the space of about 5km there were probably 5 of us riding together. 100% we were not drafting and I know this because my power and speed remained basically the same. The psychological impact of having someone else set the pace however cannot really be measured and for me it was significant. My pace and power were nice and high on that last lap and with about 5km to go I decided to up the pace a bit and took off. I felt very calm and relaxed about the bike. I was a little disappointed realising I would not crack 2:15 but all thoughts quickly turned to the upcoming run leg and how would my leg hold up. I rode my best ever power for a 70.3 and my bike split was 2:16:49.
My Dad who I did not see was at the dismount line and after the race told me how impressed he was with my dismount compared to others. This was another long transition with a decent run on a gravel path. Not exactly what you want after a hard 90km bike. I felt very right and uncomfortable. But once we hit grass I could stride out a bit. I made a point of cleaning the sand and gravel off my feet then I was out in a flash ready to attack the run. My T2 time was 1:55.
This was it, the thing I was nervous about. Just how shit was my run going to be? Straight away I made the decision to let my body set the pace. I was just going to run at the speed my body liked. I really had no idea how my leg would hold up to a long run at a decent speed. Usually, I always aim for 4 min or under off the bike but today I was sitting very comfortably at 4:15-4:20 pace… Not terrible. I felt very comfortable and could even talk to my wife and volunteers as I ran past. The St Kilda course is actually great as you run along the coast for 2 laps. However, there were just too many people on the course, walking their dogs, pushing their pram or walking 4 abreast. It meant you had to pay a lot of attention running and dodge a lot of people. On the run course I spotted some of the MX Endurance guys, Jarrad who I coach and Hal. Both were looking good (I found out after the race Jarrad wasn't feeling good.)
As I finished the first lap I spotted my Dad and I wasn't feeling as good anymore. My pace was now dropping towards the 4:25 mark but I was still going and while I was getting the usual neural discomfort in my hamstring I was very optimistic. I kept doing my thing and was actually surprised how quickly the run was passing. I was on the cokes and was not doing much talking at this point. I got to the 16km mark of the run and I am not too sure why but I changed my watch over to overall time and saw that I was still under 4 hours… Hang on a second… This wasn't meant to happen. I was going to do a 4:40 today? My mathematical brain started calculating and I realised if I really push the pace here I could PB. WHAT. THE. FUCK!
With 5km to go I went to work. Now don’t imagine I started running 3:30 pace or anything like that. But I made a significant effort to increase my pace and I think I started sitting close to 4:00-4:10 pace for those last 5km. I was constantly doing maths with my watch now just showing overall time. I pushed and pushed and I think I realised with about 400m to go I would miss out on the PB but I was still going under 4:20! I crossed the line elated! I had not only gotten through the race without major incident (my leg was a bit sore) I had gone so much faster than I had expected. In fact, I would later realise that I had done my second fasest ever 70.3 and had missed out on a new PB by seconds! My overall run time was 1:27:03 and my finish time was 4:18:16.
How common is it for triathletes to talk abot all the things that went wrong during the race… For me I can’t. Did I have a perfect race? No. I know that I need to do a lot of work to get my run back to where it was and my swim was a little disappointing. But for what I wanted to get out of the race, I could not have asked for a better comeback.
When chatting with Ben before the race he had said to me, “this isn’t about your old times, they mean nothing. This is about setting a new benchmark, a new starting point.” To set a new starting point so close to my FASTEST EVER result has given me so much confidence after having next to none for so long. I really mean it when I say the last 18 months have been the hardest of my life. I have come so close to giving up, to walking away and taking up cross fit so many times. But that result, that insignificant number on a website that matters to no one else but me was a like a shock to the heart while I was flatlining.
I am still struggling a bit to find the same dedication and focus I had 2 years ago but I know it will come. I also know that all of those fears of all of my hard work being undone are just that, fears. They occupied so much of my energy recently so it was nice when I was packing the car to drive home after the race (metaphorically because I made Dez pack the car) to leave them behind.
I know it is a cliché but I really do want to thank some people. Firstly, my physio Matt Sweeney. Matt is almost exclusively responsible for my comeback from this injury. I am extremely grateful for his help and support and shit taking while we are in the gym. I cannot recommend him highly enough. I also want to really thank my coach Ben Hammond. I know how frustrating this was for me and can only imagine how frustrating it has been for him. He has helped ensure I continue to grow as an athlete despite my injury and his words of wisdom before the race helped me a lot. I also need to thank my mate, Mike Robinson. Robo is probably the bloke I am closest to and he therefore has had to deal with more bullshit than most people. His friendship and support mean the world to me. Then there is my Dez. Getting to hug her after the race and say “I did it” nearly made me tear up. She knows better than anyone how hard this whole thing has been on me and to have her their cheering me on is still probably my favourite part of racing.
The last thing I want to talk about is my Grandad. The last time I raced a 70.3 we had just found out my Grandad was dying. We lost him in August last year. One of the weird things that happened on race day was that randomly my Mum had found his iPad and had emailed me a bunch of the photos she found. One of the first people I used to always call after a race was my Poppy and after the race when I opened my phone there was an email from Barry Stockbridge. It certainly gave me pause but it also made everything feel sort of right in a weird way? So I just wanted to dedicate that race to him. I know he would have called me a crazy bastard but he would have been proud.
So don’t ever give in to your fears, stop waiting for the perfect time and remember to TRI!
A Super Time at Super League
What is this? Has Tim finally cracked out his laptop and sat down to write a blog post?
It has been far too long and even doing this has taken me too long as I decided weeks ago I would write a race report from my experience at Super League while I was there! I think last year I was sick of writing about my injury so decided I would not start writing posts again until I started racing again. Well, I am happy to say I am back racing which means I have no more excuses not to do this.
One of the biggest perks of my job is the ability to travel to some key triathlon events for ‘work’ and the first trip this year was for Super League. Now if you are reading my posts, chances are you have some interest in triathlon. If you are not a triathlete chances are you don't really love watching the sport because it is about as entertaining as watching one of those fire place videos on YouTube. Well trust me when I say, you should watch Super League. It is short, sharp, vicious racing designed for TV. The races are short on tight, technical, difficult courses. The formats are designed to create drama and make the viewer sit on the edge of their seat.
In Singapore, my company, MX Endurance, had the chance to enter a number of teams into the corporate relay. Two days of racing where amateurs got to experience the Super League course and have a taste of what this racing format is actually like.
Knowing I would be going to Singapore, I decided to spend a week before hand in Phuket training. I had not been to Phuket in over 18 months and was very excited about getting back to one of my favourite training locations in the world. Like every trip to Phuket, I got to meet a whole new group of triathletes and make even more friends through this sport. I was especially happy to get to catch up with one of my favourite couples in the world, Lucy and Neil Richardson. I met Lucy through an MX camp years ago and see much less of them than I would like. The trip was made even better when we were joined by Jenna Seefried, one of our MX coaches who came all the way for Canada. We had a great time smashing the training and I was getting excited for Sinagpore where there would be around 20 MX members around and 4 teams racing the relay.
Singapore is one of my favourite cities in the world. I have a lot of friends there and one of my best mates has lived there for about 4 years now. So any excuse to get there is a good excuse for me. Being able to visit the city I love AND race and experience Super League was too good to say no to.
We had a big welcome dinner at one of the Singaporean Hawker Centres and all the MX members who had ordered their team gear were presented with their uniforms for the race. Now if you had of told me 2 years ago I would be designing a range of merchandise I probably would have laughed at you but I have and when I did I wanted it to be easy to spot and stand out. All our team gear has a giant red X on it and trust me, we had so many people comment on the suit design over the weekend.
The race was split over 2 days. The first day each member of the three man team completed a 300m swim, 5km bike and 1.5km run in a relay format. My team was Lucy first, Jenna second and me last to try and bring us home strong. The course was extremely challenging with a 30c swim where you could feel yourself sweating in the water, a 4 lap bike course with some extremely tight turns and an exposed, hot run to bring it home. With 4 teams racing from MX we talked a lot of shit about who was going to win and being the boss I pulled rank and changed the teams so I could have Lucy and Jenna on my team… What can I say, there has to be some perks of the job.
We got there race morning or afternoon really and I did a few laps of the course on my bike to make sure it was cemented in my mind and I ran a lap of the course too because as amatuers we would not be doing the same run course as the pros as there would be too many bikes on course. The weather was hot and even though I knew the whole thing would probably take 20 minutes I was extremely nervous. These pre-race nerves were something I had missed and something I had not realised how much I love (and hate.) I was pumped.
Now straight away there were some pretty strong looking teams but I was convinced we would be the strongest mixed team (both male and female members.) The excitement was building and before long it was time to get ready. Now usually, once the gun goes you forget your nerves and get on with it. But not this time. Being the third athlete I had to watch Lucy and Jenna do their thing, the whole time my nerves building. I was worried about how my leg would respond to running flat out. I was worried I would forget how to do a proper transition. I was worried I would be shit. Before long (because those two incredible women did an incredible job) it was time to get ready. I made my way intro transition ready to race.
As Jenna came into transition to hand me the timing chip one of the other MX teams (black) came in before us. I had been joking with Pawel that I was going to be coming hard for him. Jenna gave me the chip and I took off like a mad man. It was probably a 300m run down to the swim start and I went as fast as I could yee haaing at the crowd as I ran past. About 150m into this run I remembered I had to swim and instantly regretted my showboating but I was just excited to be racing. I made it onto the pontoon just after seeing Pawel’s pathetic attempt at a dive. I took a flying leap and hit the salt water soup of Singapore. The water was hot. Noticeably hot but I had other things on my mind. I have been working so hard on my swimming I wanted to see what I could do. I gave it everything and quickly passed Pawel. I felt like I was moving quickly through the water and was actually really enjoying the swim. I found it easy to sight and apart from being hot (I was going to need to get used to it) I was feeling good. Being a relay there was basically no one around me in the swim so it was uneventful. In the blink of an eye it was over. My average pace was 1:18 for the 300m swim. Into transition and onto the bike.
I hated the bike. It was a tough, painful ride and I felt completely neutralised. I was accelerating as hard as I could only to slam the brakes on and then do it all over again. I was huffing and puffing and two laps in I realised I still had to run. My quads were on fire and each pedal stroke was an effort. I know it must have been traumatic because I actually do not remember that much of it. I hated the bike leg because it was so hard and the bike is usually my favourite leg! I was extremely happy to get off the bike and was shocked to remember I had barely ridden 5km! From memory, my average speed was about 32km/h which considering how technical it was I am ok with. Even though I am used to seeing around 40km/h.
Similar to the bike, there wasn't a whole lot of action. I just ran as hard as I could. It is a giant U-shaped course around the mariner. I pushed and pushed and noticed that as you came towards the finish there were some hard 180 degree turns. This information would be very useful on Sunday. I came back towards the finish line with all the MX guys screaming. I crossed the finish line and wanted to die. How the fuck do the pros do this more than once!?!?!?! Still, I was happy to be greeted by Jenna and Lucy. I had run 3:40 pace off the bike and we had crossed the line in 5th but we were the first mixed team.
After the racing we all got changed and made our way to the VIP area to watch the pro race unfold. Hand on my heart, watching that racing was one of the greatest sporting experiences of my life. I was enthralled by it and again, encourage you all to watch just how exciting it was.
Day 2 was the enduro race. Swim, bike, run, swim, bike, run with each person of the team needing to do 2 of the disciplines. I had planned on doing the bike leg but realised I was basically neutralised on that bike course so we set it up that I would do the first swim and the last run. With Lucy and Jenna splitting the other disciplines. Lucy rode 1st and swam 2nd. Jenna ran 1st and rode 2nd. Much like day one we talked a lot of shit about being the first MX team and first mixed team across the line. We had been over a minute ahead on day 1 so it was basically a formality on day 2. What actually unfolded could not have been further from that.
The mass start on the pontoon was a new experience for me and to be honest, not something I loved. I stubbed my toe diving in and was instantly swamped by other athletes. Unlike day one there was no clear water. It was people soup and knowing I had a huge break after I went harder than I thought I could. There were periods were I could not even manage to suck in air there was just too much going on. Coming out of the water in 4th or 5th position was a little disappointing but all there was left to do was run. Now my garmin included a bit of a run on it but it had my average pace as 1:00/100m. I would estimate it closer to 1:12/100m. I handed the chip to Lucy and started to get ready for the run.
Now credit where credit is due. One of the other MX teams racing, Team Swozzi were very clever with how they allocated their athletes. Beks is an incredible swimmer. I mean INCREDIBLE! Her husband Ross is just a good all around athlete and a very strong rider and Craig is rock solid runner if I do say so myself (I coach him.) They stuck to their disciplines and it quickly became apparent this was a smart play. They started the second swim with us and by the start of the bike had a lead of about 10 seconds on us. By the end of the second bike, Craig their final runner had a minute lead on me. Now in all honesty, I am not really that fussed about beating other people or stuff like that but I had talked soo much shit and even changed the teams so we would perform well. If we were to lose, it would have been pretty embarrassing. To say I was getting slightly agitated waiting for Jenna to come in off the bike would be an understatement. I did not want to lose and I thought a one minute gap was too much on a 1.5km run to make up. But fuck me I would give it a shot.
Standing next to Craig in transition I noticed his slight falter as he stopped to adjust his timing chip then he was gone. As soon as Jenna came in, I had the chip on my ankle and I took off so fast I half expected DeLorean style burning tracks behind me. I was running like a man possessed. If there was even the slightest chance of catching Craig I wold go for it. Hitting the first straight I could not even see him (or if I could I didn't because I was just looking directly in front of me.) As I took the first turn around the mariner I spotted Craig taking the next turn, he was 200-300m ahead of me I think. I locked onto my target. After the next turn he was gone and knowing the course, the next time I would spot him, he would have turned around and been coming back. He would know how close I was. I saw him much sooner than I expected which wasn't good news. Craig was running well and I definitely noticed how cool and calm he looked. I was worried. After I turned and came back I could see him now. He was permanently in my sight and I was starting to think I might be able to catch him. I realised though that if he knew I was right there he might kick and I was already going as hard as I could. As he turned the last of the 90 degree corners on the mariner, he turned and looked straight at me. He was probably only 30 metres ahead of me at this point. All that was left was a 300m straight and two 180 degree turns. I kept going and as we got about 100 metres from the first 180 turn I passed him. I was screaming on the inside. Then Craig kicked and tried to pass me again…
The panic that went through me when he kicked is unlike anything I have ever experienced. I instantly hated this man because I know realised what I was going to need to do to beat him. Whatever it took. I went with him then in a weird moment of clarity realised we had the two turns to make. I had an idea. I made sure to have the inside line and grabbed onto the barricade to turn as tight as I possibly could. I then immediately stepped directly in front of Craig to block his path. If he wanted to pass me he would need to go through me. I heard him scream out in rage and it would have put a smile on my face if I wasn’t close to tears. I sprinted through transition and made the last hard turn. I crossed the line and screamed out SHIVS! (to get us into the VIP area that afternoon) having given every single possible piece of effort I had. The photo below sums up how I was feeling after that run. I ran 3:15 pace (which is pretty bloody fast for me) and once again we were the 5th team home and the first mixed team.
I still cannot believe how much harder that 1.5km run felt than some of the fastest or hardest half marathons I have run. But it was horrific. It was also amazing. I could not believe what I had just been involved with. As age groupers we never really get those incredible moments like an Iron War or Macca’s 2010 race. But for me and all of the MX guys watching, we had a true battle. I pushed myself to a place I never thought possible and managed to come out on top. What made it an even more memorable experience was that it was with my MX friends.
I was buzzing and we made a point of cheering all of our MX members home. We then spent the afternoon watching the 2nd day of professional racing which was just as exciting as the first. The whole thing was such an incredible experience and while it wasn't the same as working for months towards a 70.3 and hitting a pb. Why does it always have to be. I really mean this when I say that as triathletes we all need to get over Iron Man. There is so much more to the sport than simply doing it ourselves. Racing IM events we never get to see the skill of our top professionals. Super League gives them a platform to shine. If there is ever a Super League event that you can get to – don't be lazy, you travel for races so travel to watch one – you should go and watch it. I promise you that you will not regret it.
I also need to give a huge thank you to my boss, Chris McCormack who helped get the MX members such great access. We owned Super League Singapore and got to see and do things that the general public did not.
Also - if you are reading this and want to know more about MX Endurance, we are currently running a completion. Every person who signs up goes into the draw to win one of Macca's last TT bikes, Zipp 808 wheels and more. With memberships starting from only $10 a month you can make high savings including 40% off Enve wheels, 25% off blueseventy, 20% off Pure Sports Nutrition, 20% off Swozzi and much much more!
So there you go, it is a long one and I am hoping it wont be so long between articles moving forward. But as I always say when wrapping these up, it’s good to be back on the horse, check our Super League 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.