Shaken Now Stirred
These posts are becoming far too infrequent and I am going to stop pretending like I am going to get back to doing them weekly.
I will do them, when I have the time or the desire to write something. I really enjoy writing, but the reality is, it takes a fair chunk of time. Time is a commodity that seems to be in short supply lately. I mean, I have the same 24 hours every day that you do but I choose to spend a lot of those 24 hours working on my podcast, working on myself and working on the triathlon team that I run. A lot has happened since I last wrote one of these which has been pretty bad. My Grandad died after fighting prostate cancer for 19 years. I travelled to New Zealand and Canada for work. I even started making some real progression with my rehabilitation which means I am on the comeback trail. But, as always, I turn to the things that happen in my life to write these… reflections?
Have you ever heard that it is bad to bottle up your emotions? I have and never really thought too much about it. I have dealt with tough times before and I have been quite open about the fact that I have even seen counsellors before when dealing with difficult things. My Grandad dying is what I would call a tough time. Despite convincing myself that I was ready for it to happen, it crushed me. I mean, it hit me at 100km an hour and left me on the side of the road in a heap. The weird part though was that I didn't really show how much it had impacted me. I mean, I was sad, and I cried a bit but mostly I was fine. I spent a few days in New Zealand and from the outside I probably looked like I was doing ok. On the inside however, I was a mosh pit of emotion from a late 90’s punk concert. I was in a state of chaos.
I believe that I do not think that being upset is a sign of weakness or that real men don’t get sad. Nothing like that. But I know, I don't like being sad. So, I bottled up the emotions and convinced myself I would ‘get over it.’ I came back from New Zealand actually quite glad that I went. I made the trip home from the airport surprised that I was doing ok. Then I got home. My home is my favourite place. It is my space where I am the truest version of myself. I got home, and the struggle began. Imagine a fight scene from your favourite comic book or movie. Two forces locked in an intense battle. That was all happening to me on the inside. When Dez got home from work that day, I completely flipped out over something I don't even remember. God bless her, she said, “Tim are you sure this isn’t about your Grandad?”
I have never experienced emotion like that ever in my life. I will try and explain what it felt like: Anger which started to erupt as my face got hotter, my jaw and fists clenched, and I wanted to scream were suddenly replaced by an ice-cold sensation which swept over my entire body. I started crying. Not like, ‘here is a tissue’ crying. I mean the Niagara Falls of tears. I was crying so hard I almost couldn't hold myself upright. I was weak at the knees and Dez stood there and held me. I do not know how long I cried for. I really rarely cry but I feel like I did about a year’s worth in one hit. I didn't feel better after. I felt… Calmer? I felt lighter? I felt like I was starting to let go of all of that turmoil that was inside and starting to heal. It wasn’t like this was the last of it. My Grandad’s funeral was probably the toughest thing I have ever experienced. I felt more tired the afternoon of his funeral that I have ever felt after any marathon or triathlon no matter how hard I have raced. But that feeling of lightness grew more and more until the weight of sadness left.
I think I can say that I am not sad about my Grandad dying anymore. Instead, the sadness has been replaced by me missing him. There have already been a few situations where my default is to call him and ask what to do. I had to find my own way instead. My Mum told me something though which really helped. She said “Tim, even though you would call him for advice, you always knew what to do – he just told you it was the right thing.” This has also helped to make it easier to have confidence in my decisions.
Now all of this preamble about bottling up my emotions before they spill out culminated for me (not in a bad way) during a meeting with my dietitian, Chloe McLeod. I decided to go and see Chloe because I am starting to get over my injury and I know I am not in the shape that I normally am and want to get back in shape. The thing I like so much about seeing Chloe is that is about so much more than food. She is my health guardian angel. The first three things that Chloe asked me were: how is your stress? How is your sleep? Are you meditating?
*We recorded our latest episode of Think Fit with Chloe about eating for weight loss and eating for performance*
My stress has been quite high because I am dealing with the most chaotic organisation to produce merchandise for my company. My sleep has been bad because of stress for about a month and a half because of stress, travel and fear. But I realised I had not meditated for weeks, maybe months… When Chloe asked me why, I had to stop and think. It isn’t because I am too busy – it takes 5 minutes. No, the truth was that every time I take the time to turn my attention onto myself, I brush the edges of the pain that is still in there. Almost like there is a wound that is healing, and I am too scared of bumping it while it gets better. I think the way that I had my emotional outburst scared me and I had (once again) been trying to avoid it. All because I was bottling up my emotions in the first place. I made it a much scarier and worse thing than it really is.
So, I came home and meditated. You know what? It was fine. No, it was great. I am sleeping better, I am less stressed, and I am starting to train hard again.
I chose the title this time because how I see it, I had a bottle and shook it until the cork blew out like a winner on the podium celebrating with champagne and it scared me. But now, I am ready. I am ready to move forward again and this time, like all the other times before, I have learned something about myself. I am going to be kind and gentle to myself for a while yet. But I am also going to use this new knowledge to help get the best out of myself. I said it Chloe and I say it to you all now. It is time for Tim 2.0.
Don’t avoid your emotions or they will cripple you and as always, remember to TRI!
The Here & Now
Once again, I turn to you random internet reader to get something off my chest. This relationship is starting to feel a little one-sided to me. I put this out there and basically dump my shit on your and that is it. I mean hopefully, you like what I write or find some value in my random ramblings.
I am literally sitting next to one of the most important men in my life while I write this, My Grandad. I wish I could say that we are enjoying a coffee (he always asks for warm milk with a shot of coffee on the side then pours in about a 3rd and leave the rest for me.) But not this time. I am in fact sitting in his hospital room at the hospital in Byron Bay. He has had his room moved today to a single room because he isn’t going home. He is in the last bed he will ever sleep in with a view out of the last window he will ever look out of. Fuck me this is hard to write. Even while I am typing and fighting back the tears he is reaching for his comb to brush his hair (another of his obsessions.)
I jumped on a plane today because I was told it was important I came and saw him. Basically, he wont last much longer. I have known for over 6 months that his prostate cancer had returned and this time there would be no beating it. But, to be honest, when I was told I needed to come I convinced myself it wouldn't really be that bad.
I was wrong.
I expected today to be a casual trip up to find out that things aren’t that bad and that we still have plenty of time. The truth of it hit me like a ton of bricks when I walked into his room and saw him. It got even worse when the palliative care nurse came in and said he wouldn't be going home.
So here I am, sitting next to him while he fidgets with is comb in a drug fuelled high that makes me think that if he had of been a drinker he would have been a funny bastard.
But I am not going to just write about the inner struggles of being part of my family. What I have realised today is that time is precious. We think we have so much of it but in reality we do until we don't. I have avoided coming to see him these last few months mostly to help myself ‘accept’ that he will be leaving me soon but also because I have kept telling myself that I have time.
Let me put this into another example. How many times have you heard people say they will start their diet tomorrow or next week or another time? Always some vague or distant time in the future? I wonder how many of those people really do it. I wonder what actual percentage of people manage to make time for that goal, that run, that diet, whatever that thing is. I am guessing not as many as you would hope.
I was that guy for a long time. I was always waiting to start the next diet or exercise regime or thing that would definitely work. Until it actually worked for me. I wish I could go back and tell myself “hey! Try this crazy thing called a triathlon” when I was much much younger. But I cannot. Just like I cannot rewind the past 32 years of my life and relive every single moment with my Grandad, no matter how much I want to write now. Instead, I can take the lessons I have learned along the way and try and help you, random internet reader, to not make the same mistakes that I have.
Life is short, don't stress the small stuff. Tell those people you care about that you love them. Don't leave the diet until tomorrow. Don’t let future you worry about anything. Don’t keep waiting for a future time where everything is finally better.
Life is short. It might seem like a long hard journey but it will eventually come to an end. We cannot (not really) control how long or short it is. But what we can do is be present. Live in the now. Make the most of this incredible, random, inexplicable mistake that is life because we only get one of them.
I am going to finish this rather sombre post by saying that is exactly what I am about to do. I know I only have hours left with this incredible man and I intend to make the most of every one of them.
Make the most of what you have and remember to TRI!
Light At The End of The Tunnel
Let’s address the elephant in the room. I haven’t been posting much. I know it and if you have been a frequent reader then you have noticed too. I cannot tell you how many times my Dad has reminded me that I haven’t been updating my blog. It’s true. I haven’t been. There is a reason though and it is one that is hard for me to admit and even harder for me to write down.
I have not been ok.
If you have read any of my posts, listened to my podcast or follow my shenanigans on Instagram you will know that I am injured. This has been one of the hardest things that I have dealt with. Not because the injury is particularly painful (it can be) or anything like that. Instead, the drawn out nature of the injury and the inability to get a proper answer as to actually what is wrong with me made me feel helpless. I cannot put into words the roller coaster of emotions I have been through, anger, frustration and eventually just sadness. Not being able to do what I love has made me sad.
Every time I decided to write a post the only thing I could think about writing was about my injury and I felt pressure to say “It isn’t getting me down” or “It is a blessing in disguise” when the reality is I was feeling helpless and alone and scared it would never get better. So I decided simply not to post anymore. I did not want to put up a post again until I had something positive to post about.
I am a bit of a content whore. You can find me delivering content across multiple mediums and it wouldn't be a blog post without a reference to my podcast. But a couple of weeks ago, a listener sent in an email asking us to discuss the problem many of us face of comparing ourselves to others. Think Fit is based completely on our experiences so when we started to do the preparation for the episode I started to think about examples of when and how I compare myself to others. I realised that I used to do it a lot when I was bigger. I used to look at my Dad, my Brother, my Mum and my friends and get so sad because they were all ‘skinny’ while I was not. That was obvious to me and probably to many people who go through issues with weight. What surprised me though was how much comparison was impacting me currently.
In January when I realised that my injury was actually a serious problem I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't race again until I was better. I thought it might take a couple of months. I certainly did not expect to find it June (basically) and still not racing. I realised how much attention I was paying to my competitors and friends results too. Everyone was getting faster. People I know I am faster than were posting incredible times at races I was meant to be at. I felt robbed. If it weren’t for this injury I would have gone under 4:10. If it wasn't for this injury I could have won that race. If it wasn’t for this injury I could have beaten that person. The negativity in my mindset suddenly linked itself to my injury. I was incapable of being happy for other people’s success. I was too busy feeling sorry for myself or that I was being unfairly punished. I was not in a very happy place.
So back to the podcast, recording that episode about comparing ourselves to others turned out to be a real blessing in disguise. I am not sure if the listeners picked up on it but I realised exactly what was going on with myself while we were recording. Now for some behind the scenes news, when Robo and me finish recording, we normally chat for a few minutes while the files upload etc. After that episode I think we stayed on the line for nearly 30 minutes talking about what had happened. I was wasting so much of my energy comparing myself to others. Like a fog was lifted, I suddenly saw myself clearly for the first time in a long time. I think this is where my recovery truly began. You can listen to that episode here.
The other thing that happened at the same time was that I finally decided to see a Sports Dr who sent me for scans. Within a week, I had a diagnosis! I had tendonosis of the hamstring insertion point, an overuse injury. The good news! It could be fixed! 2-3 weeks off running completely and 3 PRP injections over 6 weeks. PRP injections are where blood is taken and spun to separate the blood. From that, platelets are extracted and re-injected into the injured tendon. For a person terrified of needles it was a scary thought. But if it meant I would be back to my best then sign me up.
So last week I had my first PRP injection and it sucked! But I understood why I was doing it and that is why I finally felt like I could write another post. I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. This whole experience has proved to be a much tougher challenge then I ever could have expected. I have dealt with so many other things that just the actual injury. Things like pressure to portray a certain image, feelings of helplessness after comparing myself to others, anger and resentment towards other people and just generally feeling shit.
I booked myself accommodation for Sunshine Coast 70.3 in late August on the weekend after the injection because I am starting to feel optimistic again. The race is far enough away that I will be able to do some decent preparation for it. I can already feel my motivation returning and the prospect of running fast and pain free again makes me realise how badly I want to achieve my goals. Much like any great story or drama, it cannot be smooth sailing. I felt like I had already dealt with my tough times only to have life throw me a curve ball. Ultimately I am not proud of how I have dealt with it. But like so many things in my life I have certainly learned from it. I have a much deeper understanding of myself now than I did before and for that I am grateful.
The last thing I want to do is to thank everyone who has reached out to me throughout this injury. While I may not have always been in the mind space to hear or understand your words of encouragement, I always appreciated them. I am constantly surprised by the kindness of strangers, of people I have met through my amazing sport.
The truth is, all I needed to do was remember to TRI!
So I realised I have already failed at getting back to writing more regularly but give me a break! I am a working man now who has 2 podcasts and coaches. I am actually impressed that I have the time to even be doing this right now. I tell you what! For a person who hates talking on the telephone, I am spending a lot of time talking on the telephone. But it is all good and much better when you get to do something you are genuinely passionate about.
So if you read the last post it was all about how I have been dealing with my Grandad’s sickness. As always I have been blown away by the messages of support that I received from people I know as well as some self proclaimed ‘randoms on the internet.’ Some of your messages made me laugh, cry but they all made me feel like I am not alone. So thank you, really really, thank you!
One of the biggest challenges that I have been facing recently is that I have an injury that will not go away. I thought taking time off would fix it. I thought physio and rehab for 6 months would fix it. I have been wrong on both accounts. The injury is still there. It limits my ability to run far and run fast and I am sick to death of it. A few weeks ago, there was a light at the end of the tunnel though. One of the Exercise Physiologists at Precision Athletica, Jason Oei, decided to do some run analysis with me. Based on what was causing me pain when I ran, Jason deduced that my issue is that when I run fast I overstride to make myself go faster. Over-striding causes the hamstring to work more than it should and therefore I got myself an overuse injury. Now how do we fix that? Well quite simply, find a way to run that doesn't use so much hamstring. Easy right?
Wrong. I have worked really hard on what I thought were some of the real basics of running biomechanically sound. What has happened though is that I have become lazy and instead of focusing on rock solid technique I was ‘cutting corners’ to run fast. Over time this became my new normal way of running. So what I had done was develop habits that had become my normal. Now I have the challenge of changing what is my normal. So what do I have to do differently? We started by getting me to run on the spot. Next, I increase the height that my knees go so my feet tuck in under my butt. I do this for maybe 10-15 seconds then lean forward from the ankle until I start moving forward. I was running and it wasn't hurting! Jason! You bloody genius. Nothing will stop me now!
Again, wrong. I now have to think about how I am running the whole time. Also, while this seems like a miracle cure it isn’t like the injury has gone away. I can still feel it when I run. It just doesn't hurt anymore. I have also drastically reduced the distance I run. I think my longest runs have been about 40 minutes and after about 35 minutes, no matter how hard I focus on it, I can feel the injury starting to flare up. Still! Progress. I am moving in the right direction. But mentally, running has become a real challenge for me. No longer is my run the alone time where I am able to check in on myself or listen to a podcast. No, I need to focus HARD the whole time. I literally feel like I am teaching myself how to run again.
What is interesting though is that my pace has increased drastically. My easy runs I usually plod along between 5:30 and 6:00 per km. But since this change to my run technique my pace is 5:00 or lower with the same amount of physical effort (and lots more mental effort.) But again, this excites me. It makes me think that if I am patient and follow this plan, I will come out the other side a much faster runner. Who wouldn't get excited about that? Well obviously people who don't care for running I guess, or the people who want to beat me.
One of the other key changes that I have recently made is to start using a new pair of running shoes. I was lucky enough to be one of the first people in Australia to try the new Mizuno Wave Knit. I am not going to bother going through all the technical information about the shoe because it is explained much better explained on their website which I have linked here. But it is a lightweight shoe that manages to provide the foot with more support while almost doing less. As a triathlete, I am also excited by just how easy the shoe is to get on. When I first put them on, they felt almost flimsy and I thought, this wont be much fun to run in. However, every run that I have taken them on, the amount of support coupled with the lightweight design has made me feel like I am almost not wearing shoes! Another big plus of the shoe is that it contains what I think is my favourite aspect of Mizuno shoes, the wave bar. This piece of plastic that sits under your foot really enables your feet to ‘feel the road.’ For me, trying to run with rock solid technique, this is incredibly important. This shoe manages to maintain that feel for the road while actually making the road feel softer at the same time. Basically, it is doing a big part in making my return to running much easier.
But now that I have covered the changes to my equipment and my technique I think it is important to talk about the changes to my attitude. I know that last year wasn't my best in terms of development. But I also really understand why. I know what I did wrong and because I am not an idiot, I am determined to learn from my mistakes. That is why with this running issue and injury, I am determined to be patient. I have withdrawn from more races this year that I was planning on doing that I have in my entire life! I would rather get myself back to 100% before I am competing again. So patience is my mantra!
I also thought it was worth mentioning that the fatigue I spent a lot of last year talking about also seems to be a thing of the past. My energy levels are much better (although 5 km swims still hit me for 6.) I am determined not to overcook myself again like I did last year and I think that when I am back racing I am going to be going faster than ever before. This thought excited me!
So the usual stuff, check out my podcast, Think Fit, I promise there is great content there with some incredible guests we have had on the show. Other than that, learn to be patient, realise that anything worth doing should be done right and remember to TRI!
Help Me Obi-Wan
I have a few things to start with this week. Firstly, (it has become a bit of a habit), I need to ask for your forgiveness because I have been sooooo slack with getting this posts out as frequently as I used to. I love writing for my site and moving forward I need to get back into the habit of doing it for my own mental health. Secondly, I need to ask a favour of you. You! Yes, you! The person out in Internet land who has stumbled across my site and is reading what I have written. I need you to listen to me,. I need you to be a person who I can talk to (or write to at least) about what is going on. I don’t have a shrink to turn to, I can't talk to the people I am closest with because we are all going through it together. So random unknown Internet person, I am relying on you today to get this stuff off my chest.
On January 1st I received some of the worst news imaginable. My Grandad’s prostate cancer, which has been an ongoing battle since 2000 was back and this time there was nothing we could do to stop it. I am not sure why, but I often feel a bit guilty about how upset I am about this. For that reason I feel the need to explain that my Grandad is pretty much the greatest man who has ever lived. He has been central to my life as long as I can remember. He has been more than a Grandfather. He has taught me most of the lessons that are central to who I am as a person. He has been there for some of the best and worst experiences of my life. He has been that one person in the whole world I could talk to when I didn’t know what to do, where to look or if things were going to work out for the best. He is quite literally the voice in my head that tells me right from wrong and writing this stuff down is breaking my heart.
So yeah, January 1st I found out that his remaining time on this planet is limited. Was I surprised? Not really. He has been deteriorating over the last 12 months and I think we all knew something wasn't quite right. It was however a massive shock to learn just how little time we have left. I mean look, ultimately we are all going to die and I know that my Grandad being 80 means it is sooner rather than later. I just think that the human mind is very skilled and avoiding the things we don't want to think about. The news that he had a huge tumour that was taking over his kidneys, liver and was inoperable certainly forced me to deal with it. I also know that I am extremely lucky for this time. Many people lose loved ones with no notice. They are taking away suddenly, and people don't get the chance to make their peace, say goodbye or all the things they want to. For that I assure you I am eternally grateful. The problem is that this news has had serious ramifications on the rest of my life.
Here we go, back to sport now. I had a race in January and I think it is probably the only time that I have done a race and not written a race report about it. To fix that glitch I will summarise the race now. It was hard, I was sad and didn't want to do it. My mind kept going to my Grandad and I couldn’t push myself to the normal level. I finished and cried and was disgusted with the piss weak performance I put in. There you go. That sums up the race. The positives from the race were that I knew my mind wasn't in it. I knew I was distracted and not able to train or race properly. I decided I needed a break. I took 3 weeks off training and spent the time travelling between home and my Mum’s place to spend as much time with my Grandad as possible. I am extremely grateful for that time and I have some memories already that I will cherish forever. I also used the time to really focus on my new job, running Team MaccaX.
I know that taking the break was the right choice because I did not miss training at all for probably 2 weeks. I was so happy not training that part of me started to get scared that I wouldn’t miss it at all. I was relieved when I went to watch my wife run Park Run a few weeks ago and I was actually really jealous I wasn't out there running myself. I made the most of my last week off and decided to try a new approach to my training and racing this year. I was going to learn to be patient. To spend more time training and pick some shorter races at the start of the year to try and build some speed. My 4:05 70.3 is absolutely my number one goal and will be until I eventually get there. Then last weekend we recorded an amazing episode of my podcast, Think Fit (mandatory subtle plug that isn’t so subtle) with Brett Robbo. We were talking about overcoming adversity. One of the best things we discussed was the power of words, two words in particular. I AM.
This really struck a chord with me because 12 months ago without a doubt in my mind, My attitude was “I AM going 4:05.” Then after some less than stellar performances I slowly started to think “I SHOULD go 4:05” and then I realised I had ended up at “IS IT POSSIBLE to go 4:05.” Great, I had worked out that I had experienced a massive loss of confidence and in life, the first step is to admit that you have a problem. Tick box, done. The next step is to try and correct the issue. Now here is where I link this back to all the stuff I said at the start. No matter how much I am trying to convince myself that “I AM going to go 4:05” if I am really honest, I cannot get past ‘DOES IT MATTER if I go 4:05?”
Here is my struggle. I am struggling to get my motivation and focus back. I don't want to take time off from my sport. I really love it. My training gives me a sense of structure to my life that I find comforting. It also provides me with a distraction from everything else that is going on in my life. But how do I go about getting my frame of mind back to a point where I believe that not only am I going to accomplish my biggest ever goal. But also, that it is a goal worth pursuing? I have been seriously considering seeing a sports psychologist about this. I am also completing a Mental Strength program at the moment too. I just need to get myself back to believing that I can do this.
I kind of look at writing this as the first step, I even took a break just then to write on the blackboard in my kitchen ‘I AM GOING 4:05” so hopefully that helps too. I really think that by focusing on all of the negative things that are happening at the moment I am simply prolonging my own suffering. There will be a time to be sad, It doesn't have to be now. So if anyone else out there has dealt with these sort of struggles or difficulties, or knows someone that I could talk to please let me know. I have always thought that one of my biggest strengths was my optimistic attitude to goals. That belief is really being tested at the moment and I don't like it.
So there you go, a bit of a confession, a bit of a chance for me to get my concerns off my chest, a bit of a cry for help. However you want to look at it. To me, it is the first step in the process of getting myself on the correct path. If you have gotten to the bottom of this, I want to say a huge thank you. Thanks for doing me the favour of being someone I could get this off my chest to. It really does make a difference.
So on that note, I will leave you for another post with a promise that I will get better at this. I am not saying I will always write as long or that I even know what I am going to write about. But I promise you it will be honest.
Thanks for listening, focus on the positive and remember to TRI!
To The Year That Was
2017 is in it’s final stages and it is hard not to reminisce a little on the year that was. I have found myself doing it often lately when I am asked about my goals for 2018. The funny thing is that every time I have set myself goals for a year, I rarely ever execute them. I don’t know why that is. I think that maybe I am not super motivated by large lofty goals that can take an extended period of time (but are also limited to a 12 month period.) Instead I prefer to set myself larger goals that require constant work and can potentially take much longer than 12 months to complete. Having said that, I do always set myself some mini targets or rules for the year that I try to live by. 2018 my focus is absolutely on drinking less. I have written it many times but I am a stress drinker and 2017 has been a year with lots of stress for me. Looking back on the year I am actually not surprised that I did drink more than I have in the past. I am not talking about all night benders (I think the latest night I managed was my brother’s bucks party – 4am.) Instead I have found myself having a couple of cold ones a few nights a week. But it is a practice I am determined to get out of.
In preparation for 2018 I have actually been researching a number of low alcohol or no alcohol options. My Dietitian, Chloe, suggested I try kombucha and that that has been a big success. I have also found a few different brands of alcohol free beer that I really enjoy (trust me, there were some terrible ones sampled too.) But using these strategies I am confident I will spend 2018 drinking less which in turn will benefit my athletic performance and health as well!
But I have gone off topic! This isn’t a post about my goals for 2018. This is a post looking back at 2017. After the success of 2015 and 2016 and in fact the great start this year got off to, I expected 2017 to be a big year for me. I was due to finish uni, I had been consistently getting faster, leaner and healthier. Everything seemed to be on track. It’s funny though how things are working until they aren’t working anymore and after my starting the year with a big PB, I had a bike crash in Thailand and followed it up with my slowest ever 70.3 time in Melbourne. Obviously things outside of my control happened and I was happy just to finish. In fact, the fact that I ran a run split PB meant I didn't walk away feeling useless. I took a break and even skipped a race to better prepare for other races later in the year. My confidence was still quite high.
I have also written about how I overtrained a bit this year. This is due to a number of factors, training with someone who does Iron Man, impatience with not getting faster as quickly as I would like and the ridiculous belief that more is better. Now I had a serious bike crash in February, yet a long ride in the middle of this year did far more damage than that crash did. I noticed it at the first half marathon I ran. My time was actually slower than last year. However, I came 2nd and won prize money so I convinced myself it wasn't a problem. Then it happened again, I did another 70.3 and after a good swim and bike I fell to pieces on the run. This was different to other times it had happened. I wasn't sore or unfit. I was exhausted. But again, this was in Indonesia where it is hot. I managed to find excuses for it. Then it happened again on the Sunshine Coast, good swim and bike and horrid run. Ok, something is really going on and finally when I worked out there was a serious problem, when I ran another half marathon and barely managed to crack 80 minutes, the exact same result as the year before. I had identified that there might be a problem but that last run really cemented it for me. I had put myself in a hole and had no one to blame but myself. With overtraining came the other side effects too. Little niggles appeared and one of them hasn't gone away. The fact that I managed to make the podium at any races this year is actually quite a surprise to me considering some of the problems I have had.
Here is the thing though, as much as these problems have shaken my confidence, they also have been a blessing in disguise. While I may not have gotten too much faster this year and have been dealing with a few injuries, they have forced me to re-evaluate my approach to training. If I had not have overtrained, I would not have had shoulder problems, if I didn't have shoulder problems I wouldn’t have sought out a physio, if I hadn’t started to see a physio I wouldn't not have started working on my glutes and putting an emphasise on strength and conditioning. To me, one of the most significant improvements of 2017 was that I started to work with the team at Precision Athletica. No longer am I neglecting to work on my strength and stability. Instead, I have a team of people who are invested in my success.
So yes, if I wanted to sum up 2017 in black and white terms I would have to classify it as a failure. I didn't make the improvements I expected and I felt like a lot of my peers left me behind this year because of my own stupid mistakes. However, I am a lawyer and lawyers love the grey areas! So that is why I think there are still a lot of positives to come out of 2017. Do I look back with regret? Most definitely. But I am also excited now too. I am excited to see where I am at once I overcome my fatigue and my injuries. I am excited to see what sort of performance I can deliver when I am making smart food choices all the time and when my mindfulness practices become second nature to me. I am excited to see how much closer I am to my goals after overcoming all of the obstacles that I have faces in 2017. For that reason, I am glad that 2017 has happened the way it has. While I could say it feels like one step forward, two steps back (which it has felt like most of this year) I am instead choosing to look at it as one step forward, two steps back, 10 steps forward.
I am excited for next year and all that it will bring. I have already seen so many changes for the year to come begin and they don't scare me, they excite me! We also put together a special episode of Think Fit all about New Year resolutions and sticking to them, which will be out on January 1.
So with that, I hope you all managed to get something out of 2017, I hope you are ready for a big 2018 and as always I hope you all remember to TRI!
Surprising Success in the West!
The last time I wrote a race report about the Western Sydney 70.3 I called it ‘The Dark Side of Triathlon’ because I had the worst race of my life. It is still a memory I lean on it training to make sure I never have another repeat. But as you will no doubt find out, things went much much better for me the second time around.
There have been significant changes to the race in Penrith, however, at its core, it is still the same race. I decided on this race instead of my usual trip to Thailand for a number of reasons but the main reason was that I felt it was time to try and overcome some demons. I am not going to go into the detail of what happened last time but if you are interested in the backstory I would recommend you have a read. The article is linked here.
But for now, let me whisk you away to the pristine waters of the Regatta Centre at the foot of the Blue Mountains. I probably shouldn’t have used the word pristine…. I’ll try again, let me which you away to the …. hmmmm… clear? No. delightful? Hardly…. Fresh? Too simple… Ok. Let me whisk you away to the waters of the Regatta Centre (nailed it!) As I mentioned, this was a big redemption race for me that was turning out to be as much of a mental battle as physical one. The last time I completed this race there were some serious psychological scars left. So yeah, I wasn't excited about doing it over again.
My lead up was actually pretty good. With the completition of my law degree in the days before the race I found my mind was settling down a bit and my body was also starting to recover from the hole of overtraining I had put myself in earlier this year. I was swimming better than I ever have at this time of year and felt that both my bike and run were the strongest they have ever been. There were even whispers that the weather was going to be mild and it might even be a wetsuit swim. The race was already playing mental games with me! I went out to rack my bike the day before the race and my number one priority was calmness. No rushing. Take my time. Be chill! No dramas. The night before the race I had a surprisingly good night’s sleep and woke up on race day ready to go.
When I arrived on race morning I found that I had plenty of room around me in transition. A few other athletes had not shown up which meant I could spread myself out. I got my transition area set up without hassles and wished my friends and one of the athletes I coach, Ashley, good luck (we also talked race strategy and she bloody nailed her PB by the way) I had a bit of a wait before I got into the water but before I knew it I was treading water waiting for the start of the race. The water was 26c and as far as I could tell (by sinking) it was not buoyant at all.
So I was swimming well in the lead up to the race and was excited to see how I preformed. I chose to start on the left as I sight to my right and found that as soon as the gun went off I felt very very strong. The changes that I have made to my stroke in addition to the introduction of strength and conditioning work has seen big improvements in my swimming. I felt like I was swimming the fastest swim leg of my life. It felt effortless and the buoys were passing by in rapid succession. I also didn't really notice too many people swim away from me. I made my way to the lane rope leading to the turn buoy and started working my way towards the first turn.
After a few hundred metres I started to pass a few athletes from the earlier wave starts and before I knew it I was at the far end of the swim course. As I took the first right turn I looked up (for one of the first times) and saw a washing machine full of people ahead of me. For the rest of the swim I needed to dodge and weave around lots and lots of other athletes. But at no point did I ever really feel like I was struggling. I know one woman grabbed me on the leg as I passed. I might have swum close to her but I was really making an effort to not be a prick. I think after about 20 minutes I swallowed a bit of water which saw my heart rate spike a bit. But honestly, it felt so good. I was so confident this was going to be a lighting fast swim split. Today was going to be my day… Until it wasn't. As I exited the water I glanced down at my watch. My total swim time was 31:26 and I have no idea why.
I came ripping into T1 after hearing many voices shout out my name as I ran past. It was all a bit of a blur. By now I have mastered the art of shoes clipped into the bike in advance. I ripped off my swim skin, put on my helmet. Took the bike and was off. I had no real issues mounting or anything. My T1 time was 1:20.
Straight away on the bike I was feeling strong. I took a few moments getting shoes on properly and making sure my visor was on before I settled in. The very start of the bike course required a lap with some tight turns before eventually making my way out onto the main drag. Once I got out there I got myself into my tight aero position and started to work. I was determined not to over bike at this race so I could run well off the bike. My speed was nice and high and my power was relatively low. I had a few guys who tried to come with me then pass but that only lasted a little while. By the time I made it to the far end of the course they were well and truly behind me. The course is mostly flat and smooth but you do pull off the main drag for a little section of about 10km. The roads weren’t so smooth here. In fact, I took a corner a little too fast at one point and nearly crashed when I came straight into a very rough patch of road. It was definitely put in the bank for the second lap. I was keeping an eye on my speed and at the end of the first lap I was averaging about 40.5km/h In fact, if I doubled the first 45km time I would have done the bike course in 2:14.
Onto the second lap and this time I noticed that the wind had picked up a bit. My speed wasn't as high on the way out and the effort was a bit higher. Still, I was sitting around the speed and watts I wanted. In hindsight, I think this was probably one of the biggest mistakes I made on the day. I wanted to ride an average watts of between 250 and 260 and I think based on my file I actually averaged around 235. I was too focused on my speed and when it was over 40km/h I was happy. If I had of really stuck to my power I think I would have ridden much better. Anywhoo, the wind was piking up and my speed was dropping a bit. I had made a point of really staying on top of my nutrition to try and minimise the chance of a stich on the run. With about 15km to go , an athlete who I had been riding in the vicinity of the bike course with, Scott Bavel, went away from me and again, keeping an eye on my speed instead of power I decided to let him go (maybe I didn't really have too big a say in the matter.) But when I was within the last 10km of the bike course I was feeling surprisingly good and almost excited to get onto the run. Highlights of the bike course for me were spotting so many people I knew out there including Kelly, Carlijn, Ben, Ashlee, Andy and Edouard. I made a quick dismount and made my way into T2. My total bike time was 2:17:18, my fastest bike split to date.
In and out in a flash for T2. I racked my bike, took off my helmet, put on my shoes and grabbed my hat which had everything else in it. The whole time I was in T2 I could hear Joel Murray talking me up on the mic which absolutely put a smile on my face. My T2 time was 1:01.
What is the point of reading a race report if it doesn't contain a bit of drama? There was plenty for me on the run (at least internally!) To say I was scared of the run was an understatement. I had fallen to pieces the last time I raced the 70.3 here and I was terrified it would happen again. I felt very comfortable from the get go but also noticed very quickly I was starting to get a stitch. I did whatever I could think of to try and get rid of it but it insisted on being a passenger. Despite this, I was holding 4 min pace effortlessly. So I bloody should too! I rode so I could run and it seemed to be working. The stitch would eventually leave me about 8km into the run but by then I had other things on my mind. I completed the first 5km in just over 20 seconds which was exactly where I wanted to be. Then the next time I glanced at my stupid fucking useless piece of shit Garmin, my pace was at 5:55/km… What the hell? I picked up the pace…. 6:10/km I started to panic. I dug even deeper. What the hell is going on? I am not being dropped by the other athletes? I am gaining on them? Then suddenly a km split came through ‘3:34’ now I was really confused. Next KM 4:48. I am not sure at what point I realised there was a problem with my Garmin but work it out I did.
I am a little bit embarrassed to be honest, but once I lost my pace it really through me. Also the attempt to speed up and hurt me more than I realised and I was not feeling as good anymore. Basically, the satellite wasn't connecting properly so I had no idea how far or how fast I had run. My file for the run is only 15km… I am pretty sure it wasn't 6km short… Anyway, I tried to then just focus on what I could. My form, my breathing, my nutrition. I certainly wasn't running slowly but I wasn't comfortable either. As we made our way back into the regatta centre I spotted my mate Charlie who ripped into me. Then I saw Dez and even managed to blow her a kiss. I knew by this point I wasn't going to have the same sort of disaster as last time. Eventually I gave up on the watch all together and just switched it over to total race time.
It also started to get hot. Really fucking hot! Any thoughts I had about the weather being mild and a nice and pleasant 25 degree day went out the window. I had the volunteers at each and every aid station throw the cups of water on me. I ran threw the hoses. I did everything I could to stay cool. It’s funny though, the heat in Australia is very different to the heat in Asia. While I could feel it and it had an impact on my race, it wasn't the soul sucking heat that I am used to in Asia.
As I got closer to the end of the race I was still aiming to try and go under 4:20 for the race. Like on the bike, I spotted many familiar faces on course, which really helped and even managed to pick up the pace in the last 2km. I made the final approach to the finish line realising I would miss out on sub 4:20 today but if I pushed it I would manage a sub 4:22 (my last race time). I crossed the finish line relieved that it wasn't an absolute disaster like last time. Far from a perfect race but man, not a repeat of the darkest day I have had in the sport. My total run time was 1:30:23 and my total race time was 4:21:28.
We did the usual debrief after the race and I got to see Andy and Edouard come across the line. I was a little deflated with the time because I felt like once again, something out of my control had gone wrong (even though I know I am the one who let it affect me.) Dez made her way over to recovery and my physio Matt was there too (Matt didn't make it out of the swim after being sick for 2 weeks.) We spoke about how I wasn't super happy when Matt said, not bad for 3rd place? I didn't really understand. Dez got a smile and said like I was a complete idiot ‘you came 3rd!’ I could not believe it. In truth I still cannot. I had assumed I was in 10th place or something like that. 3rd in my age group at the Asia-Pacific Championships! Bloody take that Western Sydney 70.3! You thought you beat me last time but I came back and made the podium! I was over the moon!
The messages of support I have received from so many people has blown me away. I know most of the people who know me are aware of my tri addiction. But even people who could not care less about triathlon were congratulating me. I had conquered my demons in the best possible style! So while the last time I had raced there had been the worst triathlon experience of my life I cannot help but feel like last Sunday was one of the best.
So that’s it! I have so many people as always to thank. My coach Ben Hammond, my Dietitian, Chloe McLeod, my physio, Matt Sweeney and the team at Precision Athletica. All of the people and companies that support me and most importantly, my Dez!
If you want to hear me talk about the race (even though you are probably sick of it after reading all of this) you should check out the latest episode of Think Fit.
Remember guys, dark times exist so we can compare them to the good. So even if you don't think that you can, remember to TRI!
How Quickly We Forget
It is time for my favourite thing to write (and basically the only thing I have been writing lately – sorry), a race report! Last weekend I took on Australia’s oldest triathlon, the Nepean Triathlon. This is not your standard race with the distances being a bit different. It is a 1km swim, 30km ride and 10km run. I really struggle with these shorter races. I get annoyed because there isn’t a significant change in my pace compared to the usual 70.3 distance that I race.
I am completely happy to acknowledge that I am dropping some excuses this week. I want to get them out of the way at the start, sort of lay all of my cards on the table upfront. I have really been struggling the last few weeks/months with my energy levels and the week leading up to Nepean Tri is just about the worst I have been that I can remember. I have been completely mentally exhausted and unable to perform in training. I was having hot flushes on a run and was so lightheaded I had to sit down for 15 minutes to get my bearings.
By the time the race came around I had completely lost interest in it too. Nepean Tri is where my brother, Luke, surprised me 2 years ago by training in secret and rocking up on race day. Last year he raced it again and we ran out of T2 together for about 600m before I went on to crush him (jokes). In all seriousness, running those 600m with Luke is one of the greatest sporting moments of my life. Luke wasn't racing this year.
I also had an athlete who was going to use the race as prep for Western Sydney 70.3 and I had decided to do the race with them as well as another one of the athletes that I coach. In fact it was looking like I would be sharing the course with at least 4 of the athletes I coach which I was really looking forward to. The first athlete and I parted ways when I felt the coaching relationship had become stagnant (I wrote a post about in back in July) and my other athlete had a serious (but stupid injury) that meant they would not be racing either. So basically that coupled with my fatigue (and weight gain as a result) meant I was not that keen to start. But Tim Ford isn’t a quitter! I signed up for the event so I would give it a red-hot crack!
We made our way out to the Regatta Centre on race day and the conditions were looking perfect. I registered and tried to find a place for my stuff in transition. I got myself set up and made my way down to the race start. As I said, I have done this race the last 2 years and was looking forward to using the bike leg as a good test before Western Sydney 70.3 at the end of the month. We got in the water and made our way to the start line.
Last year I made a decision to start outside the start buoys. This was in an attempt to find some clear water at the start and not get beaten up too badly. It worked for me last year and I think it worked well again this year. The Regatta Centre is such an easy place to swim because there are literally lane ropes from the rowing which you can see under water which means you basically do not have to sight. I had no issues at the start of the swim. About ¾ of the way into the swim I was starting to really move through some of the earlier wave starts and I swallowed a mouth full of water and one point and had a mini panic attack. That was about the only drama. I could tell I hadn’t broken any records but I think for a fresh water, non-wetsuit swim I put in an ok performance. My swim time was 17:30 for the 1km swim.
No dramas in T1, it was a little bit of a run and I had to dodge some of the pro athletes coming in off the bike as I was making my way out. I remember seeing a whole heap of athletes riding past transition and I couldn't work out why? It is a one lap bike course???? My total T1 time was 1:46.
After a few false starts at getting my shoes on properly I was off. The first thing I did was managed to avoid a guy who decided to ride in the grass for about 100m. My Garmin also had the notification that my power meter battery was low… YAY! I do not know how it works with a low battery but my power was just not displaying right. I would be out of the saddle giving it everything and it said 120 watts (this is really low.) It was ok though, this is only a 30km ride and as long as I am not riding 50km/h it will be ok. I made my way out of the Regatta Centre and got real low in my aero bars. Head down, practicing the position that Ryan from 3D Bike Fit has taught me. I was moving. As I mentioned, I assumed that the course was the same as the 2 previous years and I had not even looked at them on a map. As I am TTing up the road at 45km/h I notice some barricades ahead of me and the volunteers are directing us right? Oh god! They had changed the course and I had not even looked at a map. This is literally one of the most rookie mistakes a person can make and one that I have no excuse, except laziness for making! So instead of the smooth, flat TT paradise of the old course we ducked and weaved our way through the nearby industrial area. It was basically, ride hard, brake, turn, accelerate, slow down, turn, accelerate… you get the picture.
It was at this point I realised that it must be a two-lap course. I was going to have to do all of this again. I got the speed right up again going back down the long straight and at the turns spotted a few other people in my age group. The second lap of the bike was exactly the same. There was a particularly horrid section or road we had to go over twice and I spotted one of my athletes, Steph, cruising down the little hill without pedalling. I whizzed by and screamed at her to start bloody pedalling. Over all, despite not having power, I felt like I rode a smart, controlled bike leg. My total ride time was 46:23 but considering how technical the course was I was ok with it being a bit slower than the year before.
I flew into T2 and got my stuff on no dramas and was out in a flash. My T2 time was 46 seconds.
Out of transition and I was right behind one of the guys in my age group I had been chasing on the bike. I sat in behind him and wanted to run myself into the race. I figured I was probably in about 10th place in the age group at the moment based on my swim and bike splits but wanted to run a good run. A few weeks before at the Melbourne half marathon I ran the first 10km in 36:15 so I was extremely confident I had a 37-minute 10km here off the bike. Alas, it was not to be. The tiredness I referred to at the start hit me like a ton of bricks and I shifted my focus on running my own race. The guy I had been running with dropped me but this didn't bother me. Next, another guy who I had passed on the bike passed me. I wasn't too worried because I was here to try and get myself back into the run. If you have never raced it can be incredibly frustrating, you feel like you are running harder but your speed doesn't change. This was happening to me. I certainly wasn't running slowly but I was running about the pace I usually run off the bike in a 70.3 after a 90km bike leg!
In hindsight I wasn't running quite as badly as I thought. I was sure I was not even going to get under 40 minutes for the 10km and knew my time was going to be slower than the year before. About 8km into the run when I realised I was going backwards this year I got really disappointed. 2017 has been an incredibly frustrating year for me. I smashed my PB at the start of the year at a race I wasn't ready for and then since then have had a series of races I am not happy with at all. To train harder, smarter and put in so much more effort, going backwards really upset me. I mean what is the point if I am getting slower. As embarrassing as it is to admit, I thought about giving the sport up. Maybe I had reached my plateau… I approached the finish line and I know John, a local photographer would be there so I put on a little show at the finish line. My total run time was 39:12 and my total time was 1:45:39 24 seconds slower than last year…
I caught up with a few of my friends. My athlete Steph informed me that she had accidentally only done 1 lap of the run course. I told her to go out and do the other lap but we realised she had already handed in her timing chip… My other athlete on course was Ashleigh. I was really disappointed I did not see her. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself and was keen to get out of there pretty quickly. I can happily report though that Ash managed to complete both laps of the run and the race. I am excited to see her improvement at Western Sydney 70.3 later this month. My Dad was up from Melbourne and had come to watch. We went to meet him and my Aunty for breakfast and while we were sitting there and I was explaining how disappointed I was I got a message from my friend Momo (the one who suffered the stupid injury) saying congratulations on 3rd! I checked the results online (they printed them off there but there was no placing information) and I had indeed come 3rd in my age group. Amazing how quickly I forgot about the disappointment. It turns out that the guy (Damian) who I ran out of T2 behind won the age group. I had actually gotten off the bike in second place. A funny silver lining but I was disappointed I missed the presentation.
I have come away from the race determined to fix the issues I have been dealing with lately. I am not 100% confident I will be back to my best by Western Sydney but I can promise you all I will do everything in my power to make it so. In the week following the race and after discussions with my dieitian, Chloe (who we just recorded an episode of Think Fit with last week), I have been trying to make myself a priority. I am trying not to rush around so much, drink less alcohol, more water and I am meditating everyday. My training is still not 100% but I am getting there.
I am confident I will sort this out and get back to being myself in no time. It is funny though how quickly my disappointment went away after finding out I had come 3rd.
So with that in mind, always look for a silver lining and remember to TRI!
Sorry again for a gap between posts but managing multiple forms of media is hard work. I promise that my podcast, Think Fit comes out weekly and you can hear the sweet tones of my voice directly in your ear if you download and listen!
I am sure this will come as no surprise to you but did you know that your body is a complex set of parts. In order to obtain peak performance you need them to all be working not only well, but well together. It is amazing how a slight breakdown in one of the systems in your body can have a huge impact on the rest of your body. Like how a niggle in your calf could lead to problems somewhere completely random like your lower back or possibly even your neck and shoulders. Look to be honest I don't know if that is the best example I have ever used but I’ll tell you all something, I have become increasingly well aware of the way these complex and often unrelated systems can affect the rest of your body. I will tell my story of woe now.
I have been complaining for a few weeks (months) about my shoulders giving me grief. Weeks ago when the coach of squad was sick he left us with a set of 40x100m in the pool. The first 10 were a warm up but the last 30 were all on a 1:30 cycle (this means complete the 100m and take a rest and leave every 90 seconds.) Now I can hold 1:30 cycle for maybe 12-14 100s before I start to drop off but I thought to myself no. If you want to improve you need to dig deep. Now let’s be honest, I did not hold the 1:30 cycle for the 30. All I know is I swam those 30x100 (the last 10 with paddles and buoy) as hard as I could and limped home. I think the last couple really blew out. After this swim my shoulders weren’t great. I thought little of it and continued on my merry way.
Now that was my left shoulder. My right shoulder has been giving me grief for literally 18 months now. This isn’t some ongoing sport injury, instead it is a sleeping injury. As ridiculous as this sounds, the way I sleep aggravates my shoulder. I went to a physio last year to try and get it sorted. I followed all of the exercises ( I was having the same problems with my left shoulder that I am now) and was told if I slept differently it should get better. I changed the way I slept but the issue didn't go away. But wait! There’s more! I had a bike fit a few months ago at 3D Bike Fit and trust me when I say Ryan is the best of the best. During my fit (where they work out the best way for you to sit on your bike for aerodynamics, comfort and power) Ryan told me he thinks I am not using my glutes when I ride and this is why I have such big calves, trust me they are hideous! We then jump ahead to a few weeks ago when I joined my new swim squad, One Body. I have only done the one session with them so far and any concern I had about joining a new squad was quickly removed when Dan pulled me out of the pool after a couple of laps and said, is your shoulder ok? Surprise surprise my left shoulder had become super tight and was a factor at Sunny Coast. In fact it was such a problem that I had booked myself in an appointment with a new physio to hopefully get it fixed once and for all.
This time around I wanted to find a physio who really understood my sport. The first physio I saw years ago was heavily involved with soccer, the last physio I saw was involved with different forms of rugby. They were both fantastic but if I really wanted to get this sorted than I wanted to see someone who understood the exact demands of triathlon. Not swimming, not cycling and not running. Why? Well swimmers may have shoulder problems and guess what causes them? Swimming but a triathlete can have other factors that impact the shoulders like sitting in your aero position where the shoulders can bear the load. One of my new athletes that I coach, Luke ( a subtle plug for my coaching) had told me he had been seeing a guy at Precision Athletica. The way he told me was like EVERYONE knows about this place. I had never heard of it. He told me that his physio was going to be in touch with me (which is pretty normal when your athlete visits a physio.) So when I got an email from Matt I looked him up. The first thing I noticed was this guy was a triathlete!
I have poured over Sydney physio sites and can count on one hand how many physio sites mention their staff are triathletes. I also really liked the sound of Precision Athletica, they refer to themselves as a ‘private institute of sport.’ So when I needed an appointment I booked myself in to see Matt Sweeney.
So I went for my first session and explained what was going on and much like the first time I met with my Dietitian, Chloe Mcleod (the best in the business) the first few questions he asked me made me realise he understood my sport. This instantly eased my mind. I mean for me, as a student, these sort of appointments are a big financial cost so I really want to make sure I am utilising my limited funds as best I could. After the first session, I had the first pain free night sleep I had had in 18 months. From that first appointment my expectations have been exceeded constantly. From the fact that the General Manager gave me a courtesy call to see how I found everything to the fact that I am having everything explained to me and we are able to be complete triathlon nerds for the entire time we spend together. I am a huge fan. But this isn’t me giving a plug my new physio office. I was talking about interdependency.
This week I went in for a whole body analysis. Matt put me through a whole range of tests where we checked the functioning and range of motion on all the major joints and muscles and guess what we identified! Obviously my shoulders aren’t great but my right hip is not good enough and my hamstrings are way too tight. Add in the glutes which aren’t activating on the bike and you might wonder how I manage to ride 90km at around 40km/h. But that isn’t what surprised me the most. Remember when I said Dan from One Body pulled me out of the water and asked if my shoulder was tight? Well he also said that he thought that my glutes were not working probably and I also probably had issues with my hips and hamstrings. This was forcing my legs to drop in the water which in turn was causing my shoulders to work in ways they really aren’t supposed to which is why they were causing me problems!
So what is the whole point of this long-winded explanation of what is happening in my life? This is the first time that I have seen a physio who understands the demands of my sport and because of his knowledge of the demands of triathlon. Not swimming, not cycling, not running. Matt was able to use that knowledge to really try and identify the root cause of my shoulder pain and come up with a strategy to not only fix my shoulder, but to also get my body functioning the way it is meant to. Surely by fixing these fundamental issues before they become injuries I will not only be back to 100% faster, I will also be able to go even faster than before because my body is working exactly how it is meant to!
So as I always leave you with a final thought this week I will say, find a person who understands exactly what it is you want to have fixed then deal with the cause instead of just the symptoms. By doing this you will have an easier time when you remember to TRI!
Hold onto your hats! Another race report! I guess it is that time of the year when the racing increases and with that means more and more race reports. This is the 5th time that I have lined up in Mooloolaba for the Sunshine Coast 70.3 and once again it was a race full of highs and lows but hey, that’s triathlon. I love this race, I get the same nerves and excitement every time that I race here and every year I walk away more motivated to deliver a ‘perfect’ race there. I think if I could pick the event that I managed to hit my 4:05 target it would be this one. I genuinely love this race and haven’t missed a year yet. I have no plans to miss one anytime soon. With that said, time to get into the race!
I arrived on the Sunshine Coast on the Thursday before the race with my Think Fit co-host Mike Robinson who had flew over from New Zealand to experience some semi-decent weather. It seemed like he brought half of the country with him because every second person I spoke to in Mooloolaba was a Kiwi! We had been talking a bit of smack on the show about who was going to win the race. Robo plays a strong mental game and his constant comments about how he hadn’t been training and was feeling sick made me if anything less confident that I would come out on top. The last time we raced this course together he beat me by a handful of seconds. Competing against other people does really not motivate me but I love the banter! We spent the next few days experiencing the course and were lucky to do it with a pretty decent crew including Cam Paul and Simon Cochrane, two NZ pros who I have gotten to know really well. It made the lead up to the race better than ever. I definitely noticed it was much more subdued compared to last year but that was to be expected. It just shows that Iron Man know how to really put on a top level event.
I wrote about how I had been struggling a little bit after Bintan and was doing all I could to get to the start line in tip top shape. I was definitely better than I had been but I was noticing that even little training efforts were making me tired and by about 4pm I was absolutely exhausted. I tried to take it as easy as possible. I also woke up on the Saturday before the race with a crook back and neck. I think sleeping in a different bed had left me a little stiff. There were a fantastic team of masseuses at the expo who spent a good 30 minutes trying to rectify the situation. While I certainly wasn't in perfect shape I was a hell of a lot better.
Now this isn’t me sooking about why I didn't have the perfect race. I am really not that sure whether the back even had much of an impact on my performance. It is just how it was.
We recorded an incredibly honest episode of Think Fit with Dr. Charlotte Durand about her struggles with eating disorders that I encourage you to all listen to as well you can find it here or wherever you listen to podcasts (you should).
I went to bed the night before the race a bit nervous but quietly confident.
The morning of the race the conditions were perfect. I had noticed racking my bike the day before that transition was very very tight. It would pose a bit of a problem if I came out of the water with a big group. I got everything set up and made my way to the swim start. The timing was quite good. We saw the pros leave the water (all swimming about 22 minutes) which told me conditions were good. I was confident of posting a quick swim. As we waited for our wave start I kept going over the plan. I made my way into the start area and waited for the gun to go.
As soon as we were off I ran like a mad man into the surf and settled into a good pace quite quickly. I didn't notice too many people pass me and as we made the first turn I looked up to see the buoy in the distance. As I started swimming I noticed everyone else was going a different direction and I mean EVERYONE. I looked again and saw another orange buoy on my right. I had spotted on the buoys on the way back. I adjusted and put the foot down a bit to make up time. After a few minutes I noticed that everyone was cutting across me, I looked up and realised we weren’t swimming towards a buoy, we were swimming towards a lifeguard! God damn it! I had been right in the first place. I adjusted again and kept going. My back and neck weren’t giving me too much grief but I did notice that my left shoulder was a bit tight. My rhythm felt a little off. Still I felt ok. I noticed there was still a bit of anxiety in my stomach that normally goes away with the start gun. But to be honest, I was having a relatively uneventful swim. I definitely found it quite tough on the way back and even started to think it as taking a long time to get back.
As I made my way out of the swim I was disappointed to see my watch with 29 minutes on it. Damn it! 2 minutes slower than I wanted. I started the run to transition. My total swim time was 29:44
The transition was quite long but I had finally managed to cut my wetsuit arms and legs that made getting it off much easier. As expected, transition was chaos. There just wasn't enough room. I got my helmet on and grabbed my bike. There was literally a line of people WALKING to get out of transition. I was panicking and very very frustrated. I made my way out and struggled to find a spot to mount my bike. My T1 time was 2:51.
Ahh the bike. I was a man possessed. I know this course very well and was determined to ride as strong as possible but not over do it. The first few little hills out of town pinched as usual but I knew what was on the other side. I hit the highway and immediately started watching my power. 250-260 watts is where I wanted to sit and sit there is what I did. The great thing was that my speed sat at about 45km/h with those numbers. Starting quite late meant that I passed a lot of people and I was not surprised to find the usual thing of some riders coming with me. One guy in particular would pass and slow down. I wasn't surprised to see him very close to my back wheel in the race photos. Once we left the highway after 40 odd kms I didn't see him again. There was another rider who I rode with most of the bike course and it was actually great. 100% no drafting from either of us and it was good to have someone to focus on during some of the tougher sections of the course.
I came off the highway at the 40km mark with an average speed of 42km/h and it had pretty much felt effortless. I was really trying to focus on the position Ryan from 3D Bike Fit had shown me and it seemed to be working. I did make one mistake though. At the 30km mark of the bike I was curious to see my average power and have my watch set up to give me average power when I hit lap. So I did, forgetting that in triathlon mode hitting lap switches to the next sport. This wasn't too big an issue until later on in the race.
The loopy section of the bike course was fun and much tougher than the highway (no surprises there) and I was happy to see my mate Charlie leading the age group field on my way to the loop. After the loops I found the return to Mooloolaba quite tough but again, I made sure to focus on cadence and get the legs ready for the run. My total bike time was 2:19:08.
The same issues as T1, it was very tight and some people were going very slow. I have really put a lot of time into my transitions and was in and out in a flash. My uneventful T1 time was 1:55.
Am I a cracked record if I start by talking about how I was expecting to deliver a really solid run performance? I came out of transition feeling amazing. My pace was right where I wanted it to be. It felt effortless. FINALLY! I was going to put together a good run on this course. I noticed very quickly that I had forgotten to turn the auto lap function on my run setting. This happened last year (yes I didn't learn to check) so I tried to fix it while I was running. It didn't work so I decided to finish my triathlon on the Garmin and start another run and turn on the auto lap setting. I am glad I did, it meant that I wouldn't have my overall time though. I was running really well and now my splits were coming in around 4:05 per km. Exactly where I wanted them. Today was going to be a great day despite the ordinary swim! Then at 7km I got a stitch.
Now I have had stitches in more races than I haven’t so I know how to deal with them. My pace dropped and I focused on my breathing and took in some electrolytes at the aid station. It seemed to be under control. The only real problem was that my pace had dropped right down closer to 4:30 pace and I couldn't seem to get it to increase. The middle 7km of the run was incredibly frustrating and my mind started to go to a dark place as it always seems to on this course. I just kept trying and refused to pack it in. By the 14km mark I was feeling much better and was able to pick up the pace. It was hard but maintainable and my pace was around 4:15. It would do. I kept focusing on my breathing and technique and waved for my mate Scottie who was a race day paparazzi popping up everywhere.
By this point of the race I was starting to try and work out what my finish time would be. When I couldn't be bothered trying to do the maths ( I study law not maths!) I decided to base it on my start time. I thought this was 6:32 so I figured as long as I came in before 11:02 I was under 4:30. I got really annoyed when it looked like I was going to barely scrape in under that time and with a few km to go I really gave it everything I had. The thought of going slower on an easier course than last year when I know I am better was not making me very happy. I made my way onto the finish chute and crossed the line. I assumed I had come in at 4:28 so I turned around and saw my name appear on the screen with 4:22:56. My run time was 1:29:18.
I think I was surprised when I saw my time that meant that any disappointment I felt was sort of short lived. I spoke with my coach after the event saying I was a little unhappy with my swim and run. Ben then gave me some great advice. He said, mate you have set a strong benchmark. 18 months ago you wanted to swim under 30 minutes, ride sub 2:20 and run sub 1:30 today you did all three. This really put things into perspective for me and as always I have walked away from this event even more motivated to prepare for my next race. The timing of this race at the start of the Australia season is a great boost to get re-focused and to get prepared for the rest of the year and this is no different.
I am really looking forward to the next 6 months of work and seeing what I am capable of delivering. I was also super happy to see Robo exceed his own expectations with a 4:36 and Charlie crush the race with a 4:11. Lots and lots of positives.
I think this is long enough for this week. I hope you enjoyed!
Have a great week 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.