Thursday, February 6, 2020

Team Work Makes The Dream Work

Team Work Makes The Dream Work



My 2020 racing season took a rather unexpected twist on Sunday & I jumped back in the Peleton. A little over a week ago Carsten Jepperson, Team Ineos Head of Operations, called me to ask if I'd be interest in returning to the world tour with Team Ineos. No prizes for guessing that it didn't take more than a split second for me to say "YES" & the wheels where immediately set in motion for my first race back in over 5 years. The last world tour race I'd participated in was the Tour of Beijing which no longer exists & my first race back, The Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race didn't exist either. That's how long it had been since I'd been banging handles bars with the best cyclists in the world. Make no mistake, me returning to the world tour had been something Carsten & my coach Tim Kerrison had discussed with Dave Brailsford (Ineos Team Principle) over the past few years. It was more of a case of when it would fit with the team & how that would aid me in my aspirations for Kona.

With the sudden retirement of Vasil Kiryienka, one the peletons legendary cyclists, the Time Trail World Champion, Grand Tour Stage winner & regarded as the greatest domestic delux of this generation, the team needed someone to step in immediately to ease the burden off his departure. The shoes of Kiry could never ever be filled, he's in a league of his own in the role he played for the team, however Dave B felt, my coach Tim felt, & Carsten felt i was capable of filling at the very least a portion of the workload that had been set out on Kiry's colander for 2020. With the decision being made so rapidly by senior management, they then acted decisively to register me with the team & get me onto a start line ASAP. This to me was also crucially important as after Half a decade away from the peleton i needed to get back into it as quickly as possible to remind myself what it was all about. This in turn gave us a clear indication of what areas of my training need to be tweaked a little to ensure I'd be useful as possible to the team as the season rolls out.

Fortunately logistics all lined up for me to be on the starting line within 7 days in Australia. I was finishing up a 5 week training block in LA with Geraint Thomas (G) & Ben Swift (Swifty) which made it a simple long yet direct flight across to Melbourne for Cadel's Race. Both Swifty & G where a little concerned for me being thrown into the deep end & certainly let me know that the power spikes you have in a World Tour One Day Race are not replicable in training & takes years of conditioning to handle them. Ever the optimist & despite no racing or motor pacing or anything bike race related training for over 5 years, i was confident that I'd just need to grit the teeth this first race back & deal with a lot more lactate, remind my body what it used to be able to handle week in & week out. Having said that, as positive as i am basically always there was a part of me & certainly Tim had similar concerns that we really had no idea what was going to happen. Worst case I'd be dropped in the first few kms & best case I wouldn't be the first rider dropped & not cause any crashes! So with that Fallon & I jumped on the jet on Monday & headed off down under for me to bang elbows with some old buddies & many new faces I'd never raced with before! I'm glad Andrei Greipel was there as otherwise i may have been the oldest guy in the peleton!

My heart was definitely racing a little as i approached the race hotel in Torquey as i guess this was the point it finally hit me i was about to be back in a routine I had happily left behind over 5 years earlier. Fortunately i had Fallon there to drop me off. She made the comment it seemed like dropping a boy off to his first day of school, something ironically we will be doing in 5 years time with our first born due in May. It was definitely a bit off a spin out. When I stopped racing I didn't have a girlfriend let alone a pregnant wife & the expectations that now follow me around in a sporting sense. The past 5 years have been incredible to me, beyond my wildest of dreams of where I'm at in life, did I really want to be going back to the bunch??? I guess i was most concerned about how Fallon felt about it all as she'd now be home alone for weeks on end when I'm away at bike races. Until now our whole relationship we've only had ourselves to worry about, and the dog of course! I'm home all the time & we travel to all the traces together, the cycling world is entirely different in that regard so knowing i had her blessing was obviously the most important thing to me. As if there was any doubt she basically kicked me out of the car, told me to take my suitcase & my bike & enjoy myself, she'd be staying just down the road if i needed a cuddle after getting teased by the guys on my first day back! I really felt like she was treating things like a dress rehearsal for our boy's first day at kindergarten. And with that i watched her drive away & leave me to face this new but familiar world again!

In December Dave B had invited me to the Team Camp in Majorca. This was a rather significant development in my relationship with the organisation as its the only camp that every rider & staff member attends. While at this point the plan was for me to be more integrated into the team structure in 2020 the primary goal & focus would be on preparing for Kona. I'd met most of the staff & riders over the previous 3 years since the team started allowing me to "hang around" so was great to meet the few that I hadn't had a lot to do with. It was also the first time Rohan Denis would be at this camp & i think considering the fact we both have the ability to be rather annoying at times, it softened the blow to 50/50 meaning that as a combo we where more tolerable, if that makes sense. At the camp it was clear that I wasn't on the rider roster but everything else would indicate i was every bit apart of the team. I was presented with all the team clothing including the Suitcase! The team road bike & interestingly to me the Team TT bike which of course is UCI legal, the same model i used to break the bike record on the first time in Kona in 2017. When they also sent me home with both bikes i was a little intrigued as I wasn't aware of what I'd need another UCI TT bike for, let alone a rim brake road bike. I guess even at this point someone in the organisation had an inkling i might be needing them during the season on the road! Anyways this camp was significant as i was now known by everyone on the team so when i turned up at the hotel in Torquey on Wednesday i was welcomed like one of the lads & certainly not like the new guy. This immediately reminded me this was for sure the best opportunity that could've ever been presented to me, i simply couldn't wait for Sunday to roll around & get back in the bunch.

Before i knew it it was Sunday morning. With a start time of 11am I didn't need an alarm! When your used to waking up at 3:30am on race day waking up before 8 is never an issue! Not having to worry about setting up transition gives you an extra couple of hours race morning so i can proudly say I've never been more organised for a race! I had spares of everything, even running cloths incase i could convince anyone else in the peleton to run back to the hotel with me after the race. You just never know!! Breakfast was great, some oatmeal, banana & honey on toast, same as usual just slightly larger helping thanks to not having 50minutes swimming at threshold to start the day! I could afford to have a little more on the stomach. All the boys where in great spirits, Pavel seemed particularly confident surprise surprise, couldn't wait to get the show on the road.

Next was my first team briefing with Team Ineos, a very special moment & yet again a reminder of how real this all was. Brett Lancaster was a our sports director for the race which was fantastic. I'd watched Brett win a gold medal in the 4km Team Pursuit in Athens & ever since really admired everything he'd done as a cyclist & heard only great reports regarding his abilities as sports director. Naturally, once a champion always a champion & Brett certainly leads by example. He would never ask you to do anything he didn't know you where capable off so that gave me great confidence I could fulfill the role he'd given me for my first race with the team. That roll was pretty simple, keep the rest of the guys as well positioned & fresh as possible until we reached the finish circuits. From there they all had a free roles to chase after some glory on Geelong's waterfront. Luke Rowe was the only other rider with a specific role being the road caption for the day, basically Brett's eyes, ears, and mouth within the bunch. Also when a decision needs to be made on the fly Luke is the one who makes the call, obviously a rather important roll.

When we finally arrived at the race start things finally started to feel a little familiar. The team meeting was already done so now was a time for everyone to go through there personal routine getting dressed & loading up there pockets with there favourite food. The signing on process for a one day World Tour race is a little more formal as we all do it as a team, it's more of a team presentation. During this i felt like a circus animal stuck in a cage, everyone was having a good look at the old guy racing his first race in 5 years, has his hair gone grey? Does he have a lot of wrinkles? What on earth does he look like after all these years!! Fortunately for me i think I've aged rather well & blended in reasonably well with all the young bucks around me, many of which hadn't started there WorldTour career when i last turned a pedal in anger. With them there where also plenty of familiar faces, some even older than me believe it or not in the form of Andrei Greipel & Adam Hanson, two of my favourite people to talk to in the bunch. Once up on the stage there was certainly nowhere to hide & I received a very warm welcome from the crowd. I made sure to remind them whilst being interviewed that i was die hard loyal Geelong Football Club fan ensuring myself & my team would have the maximum crowd support! Finally i signed on on the giant board & all the formalities pre race where complete. It was time to go & line up on the starting line & get this show on the road as they say.



The Race

As is often the case with any starting line I've been on i feel rather calm. Finally there is nothing left to do than whatever it is that's been asked of you, no more time for talk or to speculate, just roll up the sleeves & get stuck into it. I pulled up beside Lachlan Morton whom i had quite a lot to do with in my time away from the sport. In 2015 along with Lachie, his brother Gus & Taylor Phinney we'd documented a ride across Colorado. All of us at the time where at a bit of a lose end for all different reasons & the Film Thereabouts 2 was a compilation of the trip if anyone is interested. Anyways goes without saying that it was great to be racing in the top flight with Lachlan as both of us have had a pretty good run since that trip. Lach & I had a great little chat during the neutral zone but as km 0 approached it was finally time for me to find my way back to front of the group & ensure i kept an eye on proceedings in those first often aggressive kms. My first task was to make sure we didn't miss anything that would threaten the outcome of the race.

When the flag finally dropped the first attacks started. A couple of guys skipped of the front which was perfect & everyone seemed content to let them go & sit behind me. I'd done this roll many a time so instantly felt very comfortable back racing in the WorldTour, turns out not much had changed after all. 7km into the stage we where due to take a left hand turn & with it we'd be presented with a cross tail wind, the perfect wind combination to split the group into pieces by forming echelons across the road. Our Road Captain Luke Rowe was perched up on my wheel calmly talking me through our planned attack as we took the left hand turn. As we came around the corner you could feel the urgency in the bunch behind me, it felt so bloody good to be back! Then Luke called our troops to arms & told me to drill it, was time to cause some chaos. Being the first one to take a pull always feels rather vulnerable as if you get your timing wrong another team can pounce & all of a sudden your on the back foot. Luke however never gets this wrong & my fellow Ineos men in Ian stannard (Yogi) Owain Doull (Doull), Chris Lawless (lawless) Dylan Van Baarle (Dylan) & off course Pavel Sivakov (Pavel), where right there with me ready to rotate through and off while we waited for other teams to chime in on the action.

You always can tell how good the move is by what teams & off course which riders start rotating through in the echelon. When i saw Greipel, Celeb Ewen, Daryl Impey, World Champion Mads Pedersen, and boys from the Belgium quickstep team, the undisputed kings of the classics & riding in the wind, i knew we where causing some serious damage. Sure enough after only 10 minutes or so Brett told us the Peleton was now in 3 groups & pre race favourite Elia Viviani was caught behind. Upon hearing this we really started to turn the screw. As our team didn't have a all out sprinter which this race generally favoured our objective was to make it was as hard as possible for everyone from the start. See if we could take the sting out of the sprinters legs by the time we reached the circuits by keeping the pressure on from the gun. Having the like of Caleb & Andrei chopping off on the front of the peleton was not only helping our cause but also working nicely into our plan by making them work harder than sprinters often like to in the beginning of a race.

Personally i was absolutely stuffed after the first pull i did!! It had been so so so incredibly long since I'd raced at this level that I completely forgot how fast these guys can ride when they twist the throttle. Obviously not wanting to be the guy who slows things down i turned myself inside out every pull to keep the pace high & save some triathlete pride. The updates from Brett also helped mask the lactate coming out of my eyeballs with the gap to the Viviani group growing to 20 seconds, the 30, the 45 before topping out at a minute! The front group was down to 70 riders so was a huge thrill for me to not only be back racing but at the front of the race. I didn't want to be the first one dropped which secretly was definitely my biggest fear at the start of the day. 70+ dudes had saved my skin there as they where back there chasing us, that i can tell you was definitely a huge relief.

Unfortunately no sooner had the gap topped out at a 60 seconds that we turned another corner into a block headwind. We where only 45km into the race at this point so still over 100k to go. The impetus of our driving pace started to stifle as one by one guys started to drop out of the rotation & at the same time the Viviani group started to close the gap. I obviously kept the pressure on in the hope of another wind direction change as i felt much more comfortable in a group of 70 than 140! Sure enough it wasn't long before it was just me & another rider from the Israel team left on the front & our team caption Luke called off the assault. The Viviani group rejoined our group & for the moment the race called a very tense cease fire. Everyone knew we where in for more crosswinds later in race. During the lull in intensity all the boys came & gave me a big pat on the back. I didn't feel that I'd done anymore than them, in fact i knew I hadn't, Doull, Lawless & Yogi Particularly had not missed a single turn! I had to miss quite a few to collect my marbles as i had lactate literally pouring out of my eyeballs! Dylan & Pavel wanted to drive the pace more than all of us but fortunately our road captain Luke kept a lid on them. They where definitely our best chance for success on the day so we needed them to stay up front but also preserve as much energy as possible. Anyways the boys made me feel 10 feet tall they where so complimentary. Turns out they really didn't expect me to be of much use after so many years away from the sport, was nice that I'd been able to contribute more than anticipated!

My next roll was to ensure the boys where in the perfect position at km 85 when the next dangerous crosswind zone begun. Around 15km prior you again felt the tension rise in the group & we quickly formed at the front. Once again i took the wind on the front of the bunch with the other 6 guys lined up behind me. Caleb Ewen's team where controlling the pace of the peleton on the right hand side of the road so we set up camp on the far left inline with them. On TV when the bunch is all bunched up like that you think they mustn't be riding that hard, that's what I've convinced myself sitting on the sofa this past 5 years anyways! Turns out i was really wrong & as the corner approached the pace ratcheted up & i was once again gritting my teeth aboard the pain train.

Next thing over the radio Pavel had a puncture & with the corner only 5km away i knew it was crucial he was back at the front before we turned into the crosswind section. I turned to lawless & said ill go back & help get him back to the front once he changes his wheel. Lawless & Doull instantly seized the initiative and pushed forward to take the wind & keep everyone on the first line of the bunch. I dropped out the back of the peleton for the first time in my return to the racing, on this occasion voluntarily which felt rather empowering haha!!! I scooped up Pavel & we made our way back the back of the field. As we approached Brett reminded us there was only 2k to the corner & i needed to do everything possible to get Pavel up there asap!! I picked my way through the bunch taking some risks for the first time that day but halfway through the field it was so nervous & bunched up I couldn't see a way through. Pavel didn't flinch & went off road into the gravel which in Australia is like riding on marbles, slipping and sliding his way around the side of the field & onto the front line of the bunch just as they turned the corner! That was one hell of a ballsy move from a guy who just seems so placid when he's not on a bike!

With all the guys safely exactly where they needed to be i was unfortunately stuck back in the middle of the pack which was exactly where I didn't want to be. If in the first part of the race when things blew apart i was the bat, then this next part of the race i was about the be the ball! I hung in as best i could & tried to get myself back to the front to help the boys split it to pieces but eventually i ran our of grenades & surrendered back to the chase group that had fortunately formed behind me. Once again I didn't have to suffer the shame of being the first one dropped when the going got tuff. This time the wind wasn't anywhere near as destructive & our group never got more than a few seconds off the back so we where able to rejoin the front group before we reached the circuits. By this point however i was absolutely cooked. I well and truly used up my 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th & many many more winds that kept me in the race for as long as I'd been able to stay up there. There was nothing more that I could contribute than to make sure the guys had everything they needed drink & food wise & survive as long as i could to be of some assistance if required. When we hit the first climb sure enough my head wanted me to push forward but my legs where sending me backwards, i simply had no more top end left to give, i was absolutely cooked.

I rolled around for another lap at the back of the field however as soon as we hit the climb for the 2nd time i was a pat out the back for good, definitely no coming back this time. I found a young Italian from the sunweb team, Alberto Dainese. As a sprinter he was a little dejected at being dropped as they don't get a lot world tour races they have a chance at doing well at. They are mainly hilly courses or for the big strongmen on the cobbles of Belgium. Anyways he was in his first season so was his first race of this type. I simply reminded him that you have to endure the tuff days in the WorldTour as it makes you appreciate the good days so much more. He said he was racing the sun tour this week so was hoping he could bounce back there as quickly as possible. I assured him he'd be competitive at that race as its a very different level. The last time i raced there in 2014 I'd been 2nd on GC so you could see that raised some hope in his eyes knowing someone of my average ability had had success in that race. Long story short he went and won the first stage yesterday so i was extremely happy for him. I'm not claiming our chat had anything to do with that, he's obviously extremely talented to be in the world tour at such a young age. It was however a nice reminder that I've definitely got a different role in the sport now, I'm an old guy & believe it or not I've actually got quite a bit of experience at this level. It was nice actually pass a little of that on finally & hopefully it's something i can do more of in the future. As Alberto & I both pulled out of the race with 2 laps to go, hopefully its a good omen for my next race, perhaps ill win haha!!! That's almost certainly not going to happen! Still nothing wrong with wishful thinking, I'm certainly a bit off a dreamer.

By the time i pulled up at the camper the race was on the last lap. I kept my race radio in & listened to Brett call the shots to the guys in those closing stages. Sure enough up the climb on the final lap the strongest guys came to the fore & Pavel & Dylan where prominent. Pavel attacked again and was soon joined by one of those pesky quickstep greedy race winners. Our boy didn't put a foot wrong in those closing stages but unfortunately Devenyns was to strong in the sprint & Pavel had to settle for 2nd. Still as a team our plan was to ensure none of the pure sprinters made it to the group that decided the race which meant not only did Pavel find his way to the podium but Dylan also finished a fantastic 5th place rounding out a great day for the boys & the team. Was certainly a high note for the ineos gang to finish the Australian Racing block.

Back at the camper & off course everyone was in great spirits. Everyone had done exactly as was asked of them so you really cannot ask anymore than that. Quickstep had simply been better than us on the day. My family arrived, Fallon, Mum, Dad, cousin, some family friends so that was great. It's basically the only race of the year you get to share these moments with them, things get a little more serious once the racing hits the pressure cooker of Europe. The hotel was only 22km away so all the guys where riding back. Me on the other hand had a different form of transportation back to the hotel. Yep, my coach Tim Kerrison & basically the consensus of the entire peleton was that as i was the triathlete so I should run back to the hotel. Why not, How often will you get to do a brick run off a WorldTour bicycle race?? Not very often.

I was a little nervous as when i stopped my Garmin after i finished 30km less than everyone else mind you!! It said i needed 4 days rest!! I thought what a great opportunity to run on really really tired legs! I sculled a few mini cokes & a Powerade and trudged off. It took me a while to get my legs moving but soon enough i was loping along at my usual long run tempo of 4:00 per/km pace. I stopped at a petrol station after 11km & sculled a Ice break Ice Coffee, they are the best iced coffees on the planet! The coffee definitely gave me new lease on life & i started dipping into the 3:50's. I spotted a sign that I expected to say 5km to Torquey however when i got closer i almost cried when i saw that it said 15km!! Yep I'd taken a wrong turn & added 8km to my run back! When your out on a run there is little you can do but just trudge on. I certainly started to feel a little tired in that extra 8km but i made it back to the hotel all the same. I had my tracker on so the boys where having a good old laugh when they realised what had happened to me & where waiting with an ice cold Carlton Draught Beer. After the day I'd had it honestly tasted as close to liquid gold as i could imagine. We had a little de brief, everyone still extremely happy with everyone's work before Brett dismissed us all. They all headed to the airport & Fallon came to collect me just as she promised she would when she dropped me off 5 days earlier. I really couldn't have scripted my first race experience with the team going any better. It was everything and more than I'd dreamed up in my head & while I'd love to have been of more use for longer in the race it was important to start somewhere. I did what was asked of me & I'm now more equipped to ensure I'm better prepared for the next time i pin a number on my racing suit.

I'm already back in LA so its been a rather whirlwind 9 days. I'm even back into training & whats been most startling is its the best I've ever felt running. I've actually done 2 of my best ever sessions yesterday & today. I spoke with the Brett at Nike who'd noticed the same trend so we are all scratching our heads on why a bike race has improved my running all of a sudden!! Guess it really doesn't matter how or why does it. The idea of me coming back for a few races was simply to help me prepare to be my very best in kona & be of some assistance to the team in the process. If the initial race is anything to go buy then indications are we've made a good decision on all fronts!

If you've read all of this thank you! I've said it many times before but as I'm going to become time poor sometime around May i assure you ill keep my blogs much shorter in the future.

Extremely excited that my 2020 season is underway!!!


CJW


P.s. as always my race files are on Strava. I'm having some Garmin computer upload issues so all the data is from my watch at the moment. I'll endeavour to get the accurate power files uploaded asap once we've figured out whats wrong with my Garmin connect.





Sent from my iPad

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Jumping in the Deep end

Jumping in the Deep end



I'd like to say i was dipping my toe in the water on Sunday but that's not really the case. Following Kona i made the bold statement that i was going to attempt to qualify for the olympics in Triathlon. So thanks to opening my big mouth so loud I wasn't dipping my toe.. Oh no.. I was diving head first into the deep end. Every single race i did between now & the qualification cutoff in the middle of May was a case of sink or swim, literally as it turned out. In my defence after finishing 5th at the "World Championships" you'd think that wouldn't be such a bolds statement would you? despite being a shorter distance, 1hr 45min as opposed to 8hrs, it's still swimming, riding, and running after all??

Well, i found out quite emphatically on Sunday that the "shorter distance" or Olympic Distance racing is basically an entirely different sport.. I was left so far behind after 5 minutes of the race on Sunday that the spectators could've been excused for assuming i was a local weekend enthusiast who'd gate crashed the local ITU World Cup event in Santo Domingo.. I promise to keep this pretty brief as the reality is those who watched TriathlonLive.TV got a much better view of hows things transpired than i did.

My day began with a huge amount of optimism. Let's face it I'm ever the optimist & despite everyone telling me i was insane for believing i could pull of Olympic qualification, i needed to find that out for myself. I've never been afraid of failing, & taking risks has always brought me the biggest rewards. I believe you've got to be prepared to lose big if you want to win big & pulling off qualifying for the Olympics in a second sport would certainly constitute attempting to win big in my book.

Back to the race. So the day got off to a great start. I was up early feeling bright eyed and bushy tailed, i couldn't wait to get the race underway. During a conversation with my Dad before the race i reminded him i was off to a far better start than my debut in IM as a pro in 2016. Well i ended up having 2 debuts, neither of which went very well at allfor vastly different reasons.

The first Debut was at the Chattanooga 70.3 where I was awoken to the sound of the starters cannon. I was staying nice and close to the start to be organised for race morning & in the end all that great logistics brought me was a frightening alarm clock. Basically what happened was I'd arrived from LA the day before and for whatever reason forgot to adjust my phone. Sure enough just as the cannon went off so did my alarms, perfectly 3hrs after i thought they where going to. Opps, so that wasn't even a DNF it was a FTWU, Failed To Wake Up.

My second debut came at the Cairns Ironman a few weeks later & while this time i made it to the start line on time the day didn't go overly well from there. Halfway into the run i was still in the top 5 when my arrogance around how much fuel & hydration you needed to take on caught up with me. The 2nd half of the marathon went really pear shaped to the point that in the last 5k i was actually running the wrong way. I was completely out of it & didn't even know where i was. I managed to finish in just under 10hrs from memory so hardly the debut you'd expect for someone dreaming of being a kona contender one day. Anyways fortunately things improved from there and the last few years have been a nice progression giving me the confidence to try my hand at the shorter version of our wonderful sport.

Once i got down the race venue i instantly realised i was in for a rough introduction. The energy & atmosphere surrounding the event was nothing like I've become accustomed to in IM racing. The Yawns & Scratching of sleep out of the eyes of the athletes was replaced with kids warming up full gas on the stationary trainers, running around doing sprints for activation, and some even looking like they where doing a CrossFit workout! It was just a hive off activity which i thought was simply youthful enthusiasm & the old bull being myself would be the one who was fresh when it mattered most when the gun went off. My optimism grew even more! I set up my transition which was far simpler than normal. The 3000 Calories you strategically pack to your high tech tri bike was replaced with a full drink bottle in a cage on your regular road bike. No transition bags in site & instead your shoes, sock less for my first time ever, sat lonely next to your simple bike. I had no idea what to do with all this spare time, perhaps I should've jumped in with the CrossFit kids after all!! Finally all the pre race formalities where complete & the moment had finally arrived.. I was lined up on the famous ITU Start Line Blue Carpet ready to through myself into a new challenge.

The gun went off and as usual i had a great start. A few sneaky elbows meant i was one of the first into the water & swimming. I actually felt bad as i noticed there where quite a few behind me whom i knew I'd be holding up but hey, first blood to the old bull. The first four hundred meters i thought where going fantastically as i had bodies all around me & was thinking this is nowhere near as bad as i expected, I'm crushing this!! Well that just goes to show how aware of my surrounds i really was as by the time we rounded the first can around 450m into the swim i was at the very back of the field. Yep, I'd managed to not notice that all 64 other competitors had swam straight around me, whoops!

And that's about where my evolvement in the race ended. Less than 5 minutes into the 1hr 40 second ish event i was dropped and all alone at sea. Definitely should've joined the pre race CrossFit group.. The swim was two 750m laps & to be fair I wasn't overly far behind after the first lap, around 20-30 seconds i was later told. The 2nd lap however where I was left to swim under my own steam i lost a further 90 seconds which ensured i entered Transition for the first time looking very similar to T2 in most IM's i race, absolutely empty expect for my bike!! That was very humbling. At this point i still held out hope that i could somehow ride my way back the front of the race. Once actually out on the bike however i quickly realised I hadn't ridden in a draft legal event for years. When your dropped from a peloton of 20-30 guys, the field split in 2 in the swim, well 3 if you count me, you've got zero chance of riding back to a pack that size with the advantage of momentum they have. Sure enough after the first 10km the gap had gone from 2-3 minutes & i simply wanted to get off my bike & hide behind a rock.

Quitting however for me is never an option especially when you want to do it because your getting your backside kicked in! That's simply pathetic so off course I removed those thoughts from my mind & instead looked for some new objectives. Justin Drew, our High Performance director at triathlon Australia had told me before the event that just finishing the event by avoiding time cuts & being pulled off the course would be a good start. At the time I laughed that off and thought how hard can that be but sure enough i was now faced with the harsh reality of being pulled off the course by the officials for being so far behind. I calculated that to avoid being lapped on the run i needed to be no more than 6 minutes behind when i started the run so that i could be starting my 2nd lap before the leaders started there 3rd lap! They where 3.3km laps meaning to achieve this i had around 10 minutes up my sleeve to play with. I figured if I lost 6minutes on the swim/bike, then I'd have 4 minutes up my sleeve to hold them off for the first 6.6km on the run. It was definitely touch and go..

I kept my head down & hammered away as best i could on the bike. After 20k or so i caught a few guys who'd been tailed off the chase group & they thankfully had a similar goal to me & did everything they could to keep our train rolling. In the last 10k we actually stopped the bleeding and started to hold the front pack around 5 minutes & claw some time back on the 2nd big pack with them only 2 minutes ahead. The day was slightly improving! As we made our way towards T2 on the final lap i was keeping my eye out for how far into the run course the leaders where. We ran on the same course as the bike course so you always have a great idea of where you are. When I saw the lead moto coming towards us on on that final lap it was moving so fast i figured we must've had anther lap to go on the bike?? Nope it was just Team USA galloping along like a pack of gazelles which left me with my jaw dragging along the road, they where absolutely flying & I couldn't help but admire it!!

Into T2 & it was easy to find my rack as there was only a couple of spaces free. I slipped on the fancy fast Nike shoes & off I went. I was actually pretty impressed with my Transition time as it was only 5 seconds slower than the fastest guys on my first attempt, I'm sure i can improve quickly in that area. Onto the run & Jan Frodeno had given me some great advice. He said go to the point where your feeling like suffocating & then back it off a little. It took around 100m to get to that point & the highest heart rate I'd recorded all year so I figured i was performing at my optimum. I didn't have time to pat myself on the back for executing Jan's advise that carried had him to Olympic gold though. No.. While Matt McElroy was figuring out when and where he'd drop his 2:45km to show his teammates a clean pair off heals, i was calculating how not to get caught by him & pulled of the course. By my maths i had 4 minutes up my sleeve which meant 2 minutes per lap. I decided my best strategy was go as hard as possible early while had some freshness & hope to have a buffer should i blow up on the 2nd lap. 7km basically became my finish line!!

My plan worked out perfectly as after the first lap I'd only lost 1 minute 30 sec. halfway through lap 2 I actually felt good about myself for the first time that day as I'd only lost another 30 seconds in that half a lap!! I was now only 2km away from being allowed to complete the course safety.. I gritted the teeth and sure enough started my 3rd and final lap with still 90 seconds to spare which is probably the best feeling I've had in any race all season to be honest. I was able to witness Matt drop his grenade on his fellow countryman & as he flashed past i paused briefly to marvel at how amazing he looked.. I said to the guys after the race that to be on the same course as them at the same time & realise how massive the gap between our abilities was, was one of the most humbling experiences of my sporting life. I was absolutely powerless to do anything but give it my all to finish 10 minutes behind them. That just really impressed me no end to witness first hand just how dam good these guys are at there version of Swimming riding & Running.

This experience reminded me of the last time I'd felt like this. My very close mate Sunny Garcia had taken me to surf the famous Trestles break in North County San Diego a few years ago. Sunny for those who don't know was a multiple world champion, the first surfer to earn 1 million dollars in prize money & basically the pioneer for the success of the surf league today. A true sporting legend. Sunny had learnt me one of his boards & we both had the same Xterra wetsuits on.. I remember taking off on the famous A frame wave with Sunny, he want right, i went left. As i cruised along with the wind in my hair i could picture the amazing carves & Ariel's & god knows whatever other mind boggling tricks Sunny was doing on his side off the wave. At the time I thought too myself Wow, here i am with all the same stuff, I'm even on the same wave & i cannot comprehend how on earth Sunny & his pro surfing buddies can do what they do. It was simply an incredible experience. This was the same feeling i felt watching Matt & his band of merry men wearing the Stars and Stripes this past Sunday.

So obviously everyone is wondering where to from here? Well like i said at the start this wasn't about me dipping my toe in the water & seeing what its all about. No. This was jump in the deep end & see if i sink or swim. Obviously we found out that i sank rather quickly but managed to get my head above water just enough not to drown. So with that being said nothing changes & we move on with the project. I'll take a break now for the rest of the month of November before getting myself fit again in time to start serious training January 1. In the meantime Triathlon Australia & I will come up with where we go from here & which races they will allow me to represent the green and gold in next. Whether that's South Africa, Australia, USA, Mexico, Spain, or France, I'll definitely be on another start line early in the new year too see if i can compete with these guys. I said from the start I'm under no illusions of how much of a long shot it is for me to pull this off, however as I've said all along the improvements that I'll be forced to make in my swimming & Running & Riding will only help add a few more strings to my bow for Kona in 2020. For now thank you for following my journey in 2019. It's definitely been a nice improvement on 12 months ago & I'm excited to now freshen up & come back & start working on making more positive steps forward in 2020.


CJW




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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Kona

Kona


The big one has once again come & gone & I'm leaving kona with a slight sense of satisfaction about what went down on Saturday. I certainly have to confess that i never envisioned the race panning out the way it did for me, however, having the luxury of now being able to analyse my opponents & how i felt on the day, 5th was as good as I could've hoped for no matter which way the cards had fallen for me. Since Italy everything went exactly as we had hoped it would. Fallon, the Dog, and I had a very seamless travel and transitional week from Italy to Kona. We checked into LA for a few days allowing me to do a little bit of active recovery & soften the 12hr time change between Europe & Kona.

We arrived on the big island on the Friday & I was instantly back in a normal routine sleep wise so we most definitely nailed that. I was able to do a really good 10 day block of training which I'd never done before in Kona which to be honest made me wish I'd chosen to come to kona a lot sooner for some training. Each session i felt better & better in the heat & off course grew in confidence that i could be a contender for the biggest event in our sport. It's one thing for everyone else to tell you that your a contender, its another thing to truly believe you are yourself. While Italy was a big step in the right direction I knew first hand that that meant absolutely nothing when it comes to delivering a solid performance in the Lava Fields. The recovery week was great & my muscles felt fresh & ready for battle. One thing i was a little concerned about was how much sleeping i was doing especially during the day, usually I cant sleep when i take training away as I've got so much more energy. Might be something, might be nothing but I'm certainly going to look into that. The week definitely seemed to take an eternity as is often the case when your well prepared & when the alarm went off on Saturday morning at 3:20 i was ready to go.



The Race


Swim

Kona is the race I've done more than any other in this sport. In fact I've done kona double the amount of times of any of the others which i guess is pretty common however that means it totals 20% of my career days racing triathlons. Suffice to say Fallon, who's been there with me on each of the 4 occasions, & I have a set routine of when to arrive, get me dressed, & get me to the star line in plenty of time. It certainly helps with nerves when you've done it all before as they say & this year i certainly felt more in control of my thoughts than previous years. This year my Mum also joined us in kona for the first time & when it was time to head of to the swim start giving her a hug & realising how many race starts shes been there for to send me on my way, & in so many different sports & levels of competition was a pretty special moment & gave me some reassurance its was going to be a good day.

En route to the water entry i ran into Jan who looked imperious as always, its impossible not to admire his physical stature. What struck me more was how calm he was, making jokes about having my phone confiscated & making it clear he was up for the fight. This made me excited now as I didn't care who won the race or filled the top spots & i just wanted those spots to be filled by guys like Jan who was there to make the race & not simply sit back & wait for others to falter as we'd seen in the last couple of years. Finally was time to get into the pacific & then i always feel calm, guess that's because i grew up surrounded by it! There is nothing quite like the start line in kona, it just feels so mythical & I couldn't wait for the sound of the most famous cannon in our sport to reverberate along the kona Pier. We where off!

Up until this point everything had seemed to go perfectly. From this point on everything panned out in no way shape form the way I'd envisioned. Usually when I'm sharp i get off to a fast start in the swim which gives me the chance to keep an eye on the leaders & stay as close to the front as possible. On Saturday i had a very sluggish start & the arms simply weren't turning over like i wanted them to. Instead of being in control i was instantly retreating into the washing machine of the main body of the field with no idea where anybody was. One thing i knew for sure was that Jan, Ali, Josh & any other fast swimmers where long gone. I have to emphasise I didn't feel tired at all, to the contrary in fact, i felt great, i just couldn't get myself going, was just flat.

Anyways I've learnt to swallow my poison & except that was where i was at & bobbed along in a group that i had no idea who was in or how far behind we where. I have to also confess as we got closer to the Pier i did start looking back as I was concerned Lucy was going to catch me again, i wasn't overly optimistic it was a surprisingly fast swim i was having that's for sure! Finally we hit the pier & to my pleasant surprise most of the guys around me where the same as 12 months prior & once again Lucy hadn't been able to catch up! I say that's a success but she still swam over 3 minutes quicker than me. Happy with who was around me the next concern was where was Jan?? 5 minutes up the road... Great, not what i hoped for but probably what i expected, was time to get to work on the bike.



Bike

With Sebi & Lionel in my group I thought I'd like to get away from them if possible so I really jammed it when i got on the bike. Well i tried to really jam it however this was when i realised that sharpness i was searching for in the swim was also not there anymore on the bike. Once again & very early on i accepted my poison on the bike & just had to cross my fingers i had it in me to stay close to the front of the race. I settled quickly into my grinding tempo that i knew i could hold all day & waited to see if Sebi & Lionel would reenact 2017 & lead the charge to the front group. That's a lie, i was preying that they would do that as i knew I didn't have the legs i needed to get across a 5 minute gap to Jan, TO, & Ali. This time around there was Cameo from either of them & they seemed very content to instead pack themselves behind the Cam eo instead. While this shocked me at first i also have enough respect for both of them to know that if they felt they could push the pace they would & that my pace was better than they could muster up. This gave me a little more confidence that I wasn't going along too badly & i settled in for a lonely ride on the front of the train. I definitely wasn't annoyed in anyway shape or form in fact to contrary, i thought wow that's a massive sign of respect from those guys. 2 years earlier I'd sat behind the pair of the as we rocketed up the queen k hanging on by the skin of my teeth. With what's transpired since then its obviously my responsibility to set the pace as I've created that tag for myself. Just unwritten rules of the sport & to be honest i prefer to be on the front as I'm paranoid about getting a drafting penalty. I'd just do the best i could.

As the miles ticked by we started to eat into the lead. Certainly not as rapidly as I would've loved to have been able to but heading in the right direction as they say. One by one guys also starting dropping from that group which was nice to be moving up places but also told me they are not messing around up there! When we caught Patrick who'd had the swim of his life, ridden harder than anyone had ever seen him ride for 60km I couldn't help myself but to take a jab at him. I slowed a little as i passed the lone figure & as loudly as possible said to him "YOU LOOK A LITTLE LONELY THERE". I noticed he'd snivelled his way into our group a few miles later when i glanced back so i mustered up some strength to blow him straight out the ass of my following chew chew train & i knew that would be the last we'd see off him that day. It's a long way on that highway when your left to your own devices.

When we finally made it to Hawi I finally had the opportunity assess what was going up front. As expected an looked smooth & relaxed as did TO. Ali was already looking pretty ragged which wed all predicted so was very impressed to hear soon after that he'd punctured & been able to ride back to the front of the race. Was certainly something I obviously I wasn't capable of doing on the day. Once on our way back the Decent from Hawi had been my launch pad in the past, not this year. Try as i may to spark some pace i just couldn't get myself going, was just one of those where the mind needed to be stronger than the body.

Coupled with my lack of speed was the wind direction. It was basically a block headwind or howling tail breeze. This meant that into the breeze i was protecting all those behind me whom i knew many of which where much faster runners than me, not a good situation. And then when the wind was from behind the line behind me had the reverse effect of blocking me from the tail breeze so I couldn't maximise that like i usually can & try to squeeze the throttle. I had to take advantage of the rare crosswind sections & steeper rises to attempt to take some sting out of there legs so i stood some chance of running my way into a respectable position. Fortunately as we got closer back towards town i got some favourable wind & was able to pretty easily dislodge the tag alongs & give myself a nice buffer on them into T2. On top of that I'd managed to pull back Ali & blast straight past him which reiterated that i was perhaps in better shape than i thought to salvage a top 5. For the first time in my professional triathlon career I didn't enter T2 in record time & with nobody in front of me. Nope, i was 3rd, over 2 minutes back on Jan & TO & it was certainly very humbling. I say that but i was also slightly chuffed as since my arrival we've seen an entirely different dynamic & level play out on the bike. If your going to dish it out you have to be prepared to take it & was certainly being whacked with a good dose of my own medicine. As Arni would say, I'll be back.....



Run

Through transition & finally onto the part of the race I'd been most anticipating. I obviously wasn't in the situation I'd envisaged so instead of calculating what i need to run to stay away I was now working out what pace pace i believed i could run from start to finish. I felt 4:00 per km pace +- was a realistic goal on the flatter sections & that would allow me to be conservative on the harder parts of the course. As i expected Ali, Sebi, & Lionel took off like greyhounds & sprinted past me in the first few km's. Sebi looked great & was going after Jan while the body language on Ali & Lionel meant it wouldn't be long before I'd be running back past them out on the Queen K. To say i felt comfortable would be a stretch however seeing how ragged the others looked reinforced i was certainly within my capabilities.

At the turnaround on Ali Drive i got another look at Jan where just like before the swim start I couldn't help but admire his athleticism, as we crossed once he made eye contact i just said "please smash that race record". TO also looked great, his signature head tilt in perfect position as always & at 39 in the form of his life, Go the old guys i thought! Sebi looked great as well & while i knew he'd fade later in the run i also knew I didn't have the running legs to up my pace & stay close enough to capitalise our that. Ali & Lionel continued to look vulnerable & upon examine those behind me I knew Ben Hoffman was the only one who looked like he had the legs to run me down. 4th to 5th was my revised objective which to be honest was a lot better that was i was contemplating on the bike where i felt a Top 10 would've been the best i could hope for. The day was improving finally!

Once out on the queen K i got into a nice rhythm & quickly picked off & dispatched first Lionel & then Ali. Really says how far my running has come when you've got the confidence to let guys like that blast past & know you'll be back past them in the not to distant future, specially someone of Ali's pedigree. While I'm one of Ali's biggest fans with what he's achieved on race day he's just another opponent to me as I'm able to judge him on what i can see & not what i know about him. If i allowed myself to fall into one of my man crush moments about his Olympic Gold Medals I'd probably have been to embarrassed to run back passed him. In my book what that guy has achieved in this sport he's in a league of his own. Anyways back to the racing.

Into the energy lab & i allowed myself to switch off a little & freshen up a bit for the final slog back along the Queen K to the finish line. At the turn around nothing had changed in my assessment, Jan was on course record pace, TO's head was still perfectly tilted to the side & Sebi was tiffing it out like only Sebi knows how to do. From behind the Hoff was absolutely flying & i knew 5th was now best case scenario. I also took notice of Joe Skipper who was within striking distance & with a 2;38 marathon to his name i knew that I'd need to really get to work once back out on the Queen K to keep him at bay.

The Hoff stormed past me quicker than expected so much so that he actually frightened me! I tried to up my pace but knew that was a hiding to nothing & got back to maintaining the rhythm I'd figured would be enough to keep Joe from doing the same thing to me. By the time I'd grind'd my way to top of Palani Road i still held decent buffer on Joe however not wanting to leave anything to chance i let the legs go & set about emptying the tank over the final few km's. That section the run course has actually been pretty good to me the last couple of years. 12 months prior Javier Gomez became the first professional triathlete i ever past on the run course. Fast forward 12 months & i was running my 2 fastest km's of the race en route to defending a top 5 position, isn't i crazy how much better a top 5 sounds than coming 6th!! Sorry Joe. 6th doesn't get you an invite to the post race press conference for starters.

When i finally hit Ali drive i was searching so hard for that finish line & the sound of Mike Riley's voice, i was hurting big big big time. Across the line & i felt very content, I finally managed to race an entire swim/bike/run in Kona! While I'm well aware many saw 5th as a disappointment its most definitely far from the case for one simple reason, the 4 guys that finished above me. Two of them are previous champions of the race & the other 2 have both finished 2nd, I'd most definitely finished in the position i truly deserved for where I'm at in this triathlon journey. Jan set a new overall course record which was another monumental step forward for the sport, specially in less than favourable conditions.

So that's that, another Kona in the books. Ive already qualified for the 2020 edition so baring injury or illness ill be on the start line on oct 10. For now its time for me to switch gears & tackle some ITU racing, see where that gets me, worst case scenario it should help me with that very vulnerable swim! Only time will tell i guess however one things for certain, i truly love each & every second of what i do!

CJW


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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Euro 2019

Euro 2019


The time has finally come for Fallon, Olive & I to head West again. In what's been our longest European stint thus far as a rolling circus we've also accomplished quite a bit since February.. Firstly we got Married, TWICE, become official resident's of Andorra, Olive had 7 months of un interrupted Dog swimming lessons, Fallon has been on the Deans roll of excellence for the first two semesters of the year studying wholistic nutrition, Ive broken my Nose & Rib in my first bike crash in 4 years, & I've won 2 Ironman's. All in all its been a rather productive start to the year for all of us. It's been a rather long time since i last wrote a blog which is largely due to the fact I've been flat out training a hell of a lot more than i have ever trained, specially running, that has really taken it out of me. Every time i started writing a blog I'd fall asleep so i just gave up. Now that I've finally had an easier week & a couple of days off I'm confident i can pound one out & give everyone a run down, pardon the pun, on what I've been up to.



Wedding's

After Ironman Australia Fallon & I embarked on our wedding tour. We had our first ceremony, the legal one, at home in Tasmania with my side of the family. Then a week later we travelled to the USA to get married in the eyes of the lord in a church with Fallon's family. Both where very simple services & for a reception we went out to a nice restaurant for a family dinner. I've never wanted for a big wedding & with family and friends all over the globe it gave us a headache figuring out where and when so we just went with simple by bringing the party to those closest to us. At the end of the day we really needed to have each other up there on that alter to say I do so anyone else who could make it was a massive bonus. I certainly appreciate now however how important it was for our parents to witness the occasion, that was really special to share with both sets of them & certainly very happy we didn't do what we originally planned & elope. Following our 2nd wedding we finally made it back to Andorra where we'd left olive 5 weeks earlier, she hadn't wanted to miss her swimming lessons & we had the band back together again.



Crash & Roth

I'm not a huge fan of travelling from the USA to Europe as the jet lag really kicks me in the backside. I'm useless for a couple of weeks so fortunately i have learnt from past experience & just go with it & enjoy sleeping in until midday, andorra is next to Spain after all. Sure enough after 10 days or so i started coming around until i got a nasty reminder that i was still a bit dopey! I was cruising through town with Pavel Sivakov & Jack Haig heading out for ride & following the car in front way to close. Sure enough someone wanted to cross the road so the car suddenly stopped & i went smack bang into the back of it. It looked a lot more messy than it really was but before i knew it i was having my first ride in an ambulance. The funny thing about that was I'd crash about 100m from the entrance to the hospital but as it was a one way street they had to take me for a joy ride around the block to admit me. I would've walked but was a bit groggy thanks to a mild concussion which gave me a headache for a few days, another first for me.

Immediately my biggest concern was challenge Roth as it was only 3 weeks away. Fortunately the doctor told me I'd only make my fractured Nose & Rib worse if i crashed again so the question was how much pain i can deal with & you'll have a slower recovery. The fractures where not displaced so where not major so i decided I'd nurse myself through Roth then have a proper rest as planned before beginning the build up for kona. Sure enough Roth wasn't overly pretty. The broken rib meant my weak swim was rather embarrassing as i only had power in one weak arm as a-posed to my two weak arms I usually rely on. The bike wasn't much fun either & i was pretty crooked & twisted to find a manageable position but got through that the best i could. Once on the run i was a little more comfortable as i carry my arms rather high which braces my rib cage & was able to sneak onto the podium. After Roth i enjoyed a week completely off & another couple of weeks managing the rib & i finally started to heal up. I was good to go for the most exciting part of the year, the build up for kona!!



Kona Build Up

The rest did me the world of good & i began the crucial 8 week block feeling great. I hadn't done any intervals on my bike since august 2018 so was great to get stuck back into some climbing & TT efforts. This wasn't by choice, I'd simply been so tired all year from increasing the running volume that we didn't want to risk overload & increase the probability of injury. We felt if we spent the first 8 months building up my running stamina we'd have enough time to add the intensity on the bike & swimming back in & be ready in time for kona. I guess we will find out on October 12! But the logic makes sense i think. Work on your weakness but respecting the fact you suck at it! In that i mean give it all your energy to improve properly & then slowly re incorporate the other disciplines on top of that. Lets face it my running was rather terrible so we had to commit 100% if we where going to make some meaningful gains in that area this year.

I obviously haven't raced anywhere near as much this year as in previous years. I've learnt a lot over the previous years with the large amount of racing I'd done so was time to lay some more foundations during the training phase as that's just difficult to do when your racing & recovering all the time. We also had a close look at when I'd done my best IM performances. In every case my best performances, Sweden & Wales in 2017, Zurich in 2018 & Port Macquarie earlier this year came 2-3 weeks after a race. Basically if i raced 2-3 weeks after another race i always did better in the 2nd race, guess its the cyclist in me. So we had a look at the IM schedule & IM Italy & Barcelona where right in my sweet spot.

I wanted to do Barcelona but Italy was a more logical choice as it meant I could visit the pinarello factory on my way to the race to collect my Kona bike & give it a proper test drive. Also the travel to kona is literally the other side of the world so racing Italy meant i could travel to kona this week and recover from my 8 weeks of intense training while easing the body into the new time zone. I'm a train-a-holic so was important mentally i felt I'd earn't a recovery week to not rush that process as it is something that knocks me around. I also wanted to leave Europe ready to go, ensure I'd done all the hard work & was simply a case of sharpening up & freshening up when i got to Kona. I've been in a fantastic training routine all year in Andorra so didn't want to disrupt that. All made perfect sense to me so IM Italy was set to be the final hit out before kona.



IM Italy

The race on the weekend obviously went a lot better than i expected although my personal objectives of how i wanted to race it went exactly to plan. I'm sure that doesn't make much sense so ill try & explain. The month of august was a very concentrated swimming block. I had my swimming coach Sean Kelly with me for the month & he brought Tom Hammer along to kick my backside in the pool. Tom is a paralymic athlete whom last week broke the 100m freestyle world record at the para world champs swimming 51.4 seconds!!! Yep he absolutely smashed me to pieces every single session, I couldn't even beat him with Fins on!! Anyways we had a great few weeks which I'm really proud to say we both benefited from judging by Tom's results last week. Watching this was so inspiring and had me chomping at the bit to test my swim in Italy. Unfortunately it was a wetsuit swim but still i got all the answers i was looking for as it was by far the best swim of my tri career. It felt so good to put all those 6k session's into practice & I was actually a bit disappointed when it was time to get out of the water as i was so excited swimming on the feet of Tim Don! Massive improvement for me.

Thanks to my new found swimming arms i was at the front of the race pretty quickly. This was a welcome change as at my last race in Roth it took me 25km to catch Lucy Charles who's steamrolled over the top of me in the swim! In Italy it took me less than 25k to overtake former Olympic Swimmer Lukasz Wolt who'd put 2 minutes into our group. Amazing what those 6k swims will do for a bloke!! Once in the lead i did my best to keep my foot on there throats & extend my lead as much as possible. Being a 2 lap course & beautiful Italian country roads i knew it would get a little crowded on the second lap with the age groupers making it more difficult to increase the advantage. I'd already crashed once this year & suffered those consequences in Roth, I didn't want to go through that again for Kona. I made hay while the sun shined as they say on the first lap & put myself in what i felt was a commanding position.

This meant the 2nd lap i could just enjoy the experience of the race, take in the beautiful Italian countryside & being among the people, had quite a few great conversations on the climb in particular. With my socialising completed i headed back to town for the final 20k which was again on empty roads allowing me to open the throttle a little bit again just to pad that advantage out a bit more. I hit T2 feeling great, the new bike had been flawless & with zero pain in my lower back that we'd feared from the new handlebar. I was very very happy. Honestly i was also relieved as i always feel very vulnerable on the bike worrying about a crash or flat tire. I'm always relieved sticking the pinarello back on the T2 rack for the day.

Once on the run i felt like i was again completely in control of the rest of the race. I've averaged 100km per week this year so running is probably the thing that feels most comfortable for me at the moment. I had a pretty simple objective on the run. Win the race. Normally i go out all guns blazing leading to equally spectacular blow ups. This time i decided to back myself & wait for them to catch me & have the energy to respond if need be. Sure enough in the first lap local hero Molinari slashed my lead from 8 minutes to 6 minutes. I thought I better get moving as if he keeps that up he'll catch me on the last lap. Then i realised i was running at 2:44 pace so I'd just stick to my comfy tempo & assess the situation the next lap.

Sure enough the gap went back out to over 8 minutes. Same tactics for the 3rd lap & the gap was out to 10minutes! This was a first for me increasing my lead on the run. Secretly i knew the run course record was 2:47 & if i could get this without digging too deep I'd be really satisfied with my day. I maintained my 2:44 tempo for the last lap & even allowed myself to back it off a bit in the closing 5k to enjoy the ambiance with all the age group athletes now on course & a fanatical Italian crowd getting loader & loader as the afternoon wore on. Down the finish chute & a quick check of the watch told me the run record was mine so then i could enjoy a long celebration down the red carpet. I lived in Italy for 8 years during my cycling years so the Italians obviously adopted me for the day & really made me feel special & showed there appreciation for the records I'd set on there course. Italians love winners & they really love new records! After winning IM Australia earlier in the year I feel like i've won my other Home race in Italy on Saturday, was really special.

So that's that, Euro 2019 comes to an end. We are nearly landed in the USA & after 3 days in LA to break up the trip & enjoy some rides on some of my favourite routes we'll be in kona on Friday. I'm well aware there are a lot of people scratching there head about the weekend & why I'd race an IM 3 weeks out from the biggest race of the year. Basically we don't look at it that way, we saw it as merely apart of what we believe to be my best preparation. Everyone has an opinion & I realise it's unorthodox for the sport. Having said that no one else in the pro field on October 12 have a Olympic rowing background or world tour cycling experience. We are obviously going to have completely different ideas about how to train & freshen up & whats works for me certainly wont work for them & vice versa. I have no idea what will happen on October 12. All i know is I've done everything we've set out to do & i cannot wait for the cannon to fire on Kona pier on October 12. Around 8hrs later, probably less looking at the strength of this field, we are going to have all the answers & that excites me big time!


CJW



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Thursday, May 16, 2019

2019

2019

LA

It's safe to say 2019 has started really really well for me. Last weekend in Port Macquarie months many months of work where put to the test to ensure we're on the right track for Kona. While there are always things to work on, no matter how good you are at anything you can always look to improve, I'm certainly very excited to see the fruits of the hard work of many that have helped me get to this point in Ironman racing. I haven't written a blog for a very long time, simply put I've worked harder on my running than I've worked on anything in my life & haven't had the mental energy for a keyboard marathon. I'll do my very best here to bring everyone up to speed on how everything came together the way it did at Ironman Australia.

For the 2nd year in a row Fallon & I headed to LA to see in the New Year & for me to restart my training with Geraint Thomas or G as we affectionately call him. We both had a rather successful year by both of our standards, guess that's a rather massive understatement!!! So there was no reason not to start this year the way we started last year. This time around i was a little more behind the eight ball as i needed a longer break at the end of 2018, the 8 Ironman's certainly took there toll & with the running set to dominate 2019 we knew my body needed a good rest & reset before getting back to work. This meant LA was a real suffer rest for me as G was a couple of months into his preparation & well & truly putting to the sword. Last year we'd go toe to toe for 2hr TT efforts while this year I'd last about 30 minutes before retreating to the coffee shop & a caramel latte while I waited for him to finish. On top of that i started running again with the goal of building up to 100km per week by the beginning of February & with the 5-6kg extra I'd packed on over Christmas this only compounded to my daily torture. The positive during this period was my swimming as the combination of Gerry Rodriguez's Tower 26 crew & my extra flotation flab meant my swimming was far more enjoyable than normal & made the 5am wake ups something i looked forward to.

As is always the case for in LALA land i often have to pinch myself with what's going on around me. If getting up early to get your swimming done so you can be finished in time for the Tour De France champion to meet you for training at 9 wasn't uncomprehendable enough, the mindset & structure to my running really took me by surprise. Last year Brett Kirby was a sounding board for the queries we had on the run & was a major factor in the improvements we made there. Brett is a physiologist with Nike & most would recognise the name from the Breaking 2 project if you've seen that. In 2019 Brett was keen to play a more active roll in my running trying and work alongside my coach Tim Kerrison to offer his expertise.

Once again, I really had to pinch myself on one drizzly January morning when i rock up to the Santa Monica Track for my first interval session for the to find Brett, Tim & Per Lundstum all waiting patiently for me to pull on my shoes & get to work. Per is head of high performance at RedBull so basically the 3 off the greatest sporting minds on the planet all waiting to see how i run! And not only that standing there in the rain! Brett actually joined in as he's a great runner in his own right which left Tim & Per to do the supervising while Brett kept closer eyes on my snapping right at my heels for the 10 X 1200m reps we banged out. For so many reasons this session was a spin out. Carl Lewis is one of my absolute sporting idols so I'd grown up watching videos of him galloping around that very track & never in my wildest dreams thought I'd be on the same track having these guys watching over my own athletic endeavour's, absolutely mind boggling moment for me. Safe to say by the time that session was finished & we'd had the de brief i was 100% focused & determined to give it absolutely everything i had to improve my running.

I survived January with G & as it should be with a re commencement camp i was far fitter than when it began. I was now doing 90 minutes of the 2hr TT sessions & ready to start the 100km weeks in February. Fallon & I packed up Olive & headed back to our home in Andorra to enjoy my first real winter ever!!!! I'd literally enjoyed an endless summer for almost 2 decades so winter smack bang in the Pyrenees was certainly a bit of a chance. Andorra is special in so many way but most uniquely is that the town actually sits quite low at 1000m elevation while all the ski hills don't start till your up around 2000m. So with that being said each morning Fallon & I would leave the apartment together, me in my running, riding, or swim gear, & her dressed in her Snowboard Kit. I'd turn left & go to work & she'd turn right & walk the couple of hundred meters up to the gondola to do some shredding, certainly not the mountain winter I'd envisaged hahaha. No jokes aside the winter was very mild & barely affected my training at all & when it did I'm more than happy spending hours on the stationary bike or treadmill catching up on YouTube or watching Eurosport.



Europe

Throughout February, March & April the running was my absolute focus. In February in particular i only rode my bike twice for the entire month. I cannot remember riding that little in a month long period since i took my first paddle strokes at 2 years old!! Probably managed a few more swims in the vicinity of 5-6, every ounce of energy i had was going into building up a healthy running body. By the beginning of march i was regularly knocking out 120+km weeks & it was time to ease the riding & swimming in again to a level more required of a professional Ironman triathlete haha. When Tim & I sat down with Brett in January it was decided that I'd use the running focus to prepare for the London Marathon.

Now The time in which i ran the marathon wasn't really the focus but more the mental & physical application that I'd be required to adopt to endure such a training regime & running load I'd obviously never endured before & never thought I'd be capable of enduring. When you have the best minds in the business setting your regime however & the knowledge that Eliud Kipchoge is on a similar schedule all be it with paces around 1 minute faster than mine per km!! Isn't that just amazingly awesome!! It's easy to not ever think your working to hard as you know dam well there at least one Kenyan out there working a hell of a lot harder!!! Anyways as march rolled on & my riding & swimming picked up we noticed that i was actually running better with those two disciplines back in my routine than i was when i was basically only running.

We therefore decided to scrap the London Marathon idea & do Ironman Australia instead to get a real idea of exactly where we where at & what modifications we might need to make on the crucial next phase with kona now only 5 months away. The fact that I'd ridden & swam a hell of a lot less than usual was in many ways seen as good thing as it would probably put more pressure on my run if i wanted to win the race which obviously was my goal. With the plan now modified we found a tune up race, the Cannes International Triathlon to basically dust the cobwebs off my triathlon skills. The race was 2 weeks out from Port Macquarie so fitted perfectly with finishing the big weeks of training & allowed plenty of time to freshen up & travel to Australia.




Cannes

Fallon, Olive & I packed the car and headed down to the French Riviera for the week leading into Easter. Sounds exotic doesn't it? Well it wasn't much of a holiday. G was home in Monaco so I took the opportunity to have my backside handed to me for a few days on the bike in the hope I wouldn't embarrass myself in the race that weekend. I really fitness crammed that week culminating on the Thursday where we rode for 6hrs before I pulled on the Nike's & ran 33km from Nice to Cannes. Friday i pre road the course for some active recovery as i was rather buckled from the previous 4 days & then enjoyed a very relaxing Sunday to freshen up as much as possible for the race.

Ive never been so excited to start a season which was a great feeling as i knew subconsciously my running wasn't going to be as bigger weakness as it had been in the past couple of seasons. I wasn't sure about the other 2 disciplines but i know i had plenty of time to get them to where they need to be for kona so that didn't really phase me. Besides I've always dreamed of winning a race by out running someone so a weak swim & bike could be exactly what i need to achieve that. You have to be careful for what you wish for as sure enough i got off the bike with Tim Don, the first time I'd got off the bike with someone in a long long time! I thought beauty, we are about to find out how my run legs will hold up.

The unique run course in Cannes was also only 16km so with Tim being a former Olympic Distance World Champ i doubt anyone except myself would've given me any chance to win that duel. To be brutally honest if I wasn't so stubborn I wouldn't have given myself a chance either but I'd dreamed of this scenario and now i had a chance to walk the walk or run the walk so the speak. I pinned the ears back and went for it straight out of transition to establish a small 15 second lead on Tim. There where multiple U turns per lap so wanted to be in front so i have an ideas of where he was and what was doing at all times. I held that gap through first 4km lap which was already a huge surprise. I was already rather uncomfortable so decided to get a little more uncomfortable & try to extend the margin & doubled my lead in the next lap.

I sensed he was really struggling so i sunk the boot in on lap 3 & doubled my lead again. I've lost so many races, basically every race I've done on the run I didn't let up & kicked again to double the lead yet again & win by 2 minutes. Obviously the perfect start to the season but with the cheer squad i had assembled i really couldn't lose this race. Gemma Porte (Richie's wife) & Sa Thomas (G's wife) had traveled down from Monaco to keep Fallon (& Olive) company during the race & add some firepower to my support crew. Pretty powerful female support right there so was really enjoyable to share Easter Sunday with them & i feel earn some Easter chocolate for the drive back to Andorra to get ready for our trip down under. The season was off to the perfect start.




Australia

We headed to Australia the next day in order to have a good week at home in Tasmania to re calibrate onto the Souther Hemisphere. Also I be got an awesome crew of guys i train with when I'm back in Tasmania & still bing light on the cycling fitness i knew Fox & the gang would bash me around the ears & harden up for my first Ironman of the season. I've got the best sponsors I could ever dream off & while obviously making money from sport is awesome its the support i have that make those deals priceless. Ive got bikes & clothing in each continent we spend our time. Los Angeles & also the east coast in Fallon's Home town, Tasmania & off course Europe. The stress of not having to lug stuff all over the worlds just makes it so easy to simply do my job & sure enough i was on the bike at 6:30am to meet the gang for a few hours of torture 7 ensure Jet Lagged had no chance of getting me down. After a great ride with the gang I knocked out a run on my favourite trails around the house & straight away i was back in the groove. The next week at home followed the same pattern, the guys would meet me early for a spin & we'd fit swimming & running sessions in around there work schedules. These guys are so tuff it just always kicks me in the butt. I basically now know if i can manage not to get dropped during our sessions then I'm in really really good shape! With that knowledge I headed to Port Macquarie full of confidence.



Port Macquarie

Racing in Port Macquarie had some extra significance for me. My parents divorced when i was 3 & Port was the town Mum decided to move us to where she felt she could bring me up on her own the best way possible. We remained there till i was 7 when we moved onto Lord Howe Island so most of my earliest memories in life are in Port Macquarie. I leant to swim, started little athletics, got my first geared bike & off course started school in that town so i was anxiously excited to go back & perform in what was in essence a home town crowd for me. Sure enough the town had embraced me as there own once again almost 30 years after mum & i had left. I got goosebumps when being introduced to the crowd & would start the race with the entire town in my corner & the weight of a home town victory firmly upon my shoulders. We arrived in Port a couple of days early so that i had the time to check out the bike course. As always the bike the centre piece of my strategy, its where I'm either on the front foot from the get go or giving myself a chance to get back into the race.

Not knowing what position I'd find myself in come race day but obviously wanting to win i knew a good recon of the bike course was crucial. It was 2 laps of a 90km course so much easier to recon than single lap courses. My Dad had travelled down from Noosa to do this ride with me & off course watch the race & that made it the first time I'd actually done a recon ride of a course with someone else. It really helped having dad there to discuss the things i was seeing & have some reassurances that i was reading the course the right way. No matter what sport I've done over the years dad has always been there to support me in anyway possible & give me every opportunity imaginable to succeed. To see him look at me with a set of eyes like i finally after all these years of sporting failure had some idea of what i was doing gave me huge confidence for the race. His been my biggest fan but also my biggest critic or perhaps the person most capable of giving me a reality check so this look of belief & approval meant a huge amount to me. With the all important course check done i was relishing favouritism status for the very first time & simply couldn't wait for the gun to go off so i could get stuck into Ironman Australia.




Ironman Australia

When the gun finally did go off i had a terrible start. I dangled to the front group for as long as possible before a combination off disorientation & fatigue meant i raised the white flag to swim my own pace. I quickly swallowed my poison & accepted I deserved this with my lack of swimming & decided to look for the positives, this was definitely going to put more pressure on my run. I excited the water 4 minutes behind with a big smile on my face which seems odd doesn't it? Well the reason was that firstly I'd expected to be a lot further behind considering how easily I'd swum, & secondly I hadn't been caught by the girls who started 1 minute behind us!! I'd got lost on the swim back from the turn around & assumed they'd gone past me whilst the life guards where getting me back on course. Instead I wasn't in such a bad position at all specially considering the caliber of swimmers that where only 4 minutes ahead as i know i could wipe out that advantage on the bike pretty quickly.

I got straight to work once on my trusty Pinarello & within 60km i was alone any the front of the race. I simply wanted to get control of the race as quickly as possible so that i could dictate things on the run the way i had in Cannes. Once in the lead however i got the adrenaline rush i always get when leading a major IM & decided to keep the pressure on. I surprisingly felt fantastic & very strong, perhaps the best I'd ever felt in the early stages of a bike leg. I'd been top have a bio mechanical fitting & aerodynamics checkups with the guys from Gebiomized & Staps in Cologne Germany. I can honestly say these guys are absolute genius's as i felt stronger than ever & faster than ever aerodynamically. We also did some product testing so all in all i was very excited in the knowledge of the speed we had found for free basically, I love technological evolution! Back to the bike & the sensations didn't change. I continued to feel strong & my lead continued to grow & not only that but it felt way easier than it had previously.

Brett had suggested that my unique physiological makeup thanks to my rowing & cycling background should mean that the more running i do the stringer i will get on the bike. Surely this wasn't the reality though as everyone always told me that when you start running more your cycling will really suffer!! Well on evidence of the first test for 2019 I'd say I'm going to have to side with my running coach Brett on this one as i felt awesome & by the time I'd reached T2 I'd averaged more power than ever for a IM bike split of 307 watts or 316 normalised for the scientific minds. As usual all this data is on strava so you can analyse it yourselves there but the best part was my heart rate was also much lower than normal so I'd really done this ride well & truly within myself. I was absolutely buzzing with excitement to pull on the trusty Nike's & get stuck into the marathon as I'd never ever started a run feeling so good.

Once onto the run course I instantly felt in control which again was a feeling I'd never experienced before on a run course. This i guess was where the 1600km over the first 4 months of the year where paying off, that's further than i ran during the entire 2018 season, felt the first time like I actually had some control over running. Once i established where my rivals where in the first lap i settled into a pace that ensured they didn't close on me at all. My good mate Tim Reed was my closest challenger & he was definitely pinning his ears back to come after me in his budgie smugglers. To keep him at bay & in an attempt to crack him psychologically i was forced to knock out a 1:20 first half of their marathon, my second fastest half marathon ever!

I felt like i was doing it easier than Tim judging by the pain on his face but he could also have been playing mind games so i just focused on trying to extend the lead. Unfortunately i lost focus a little on just doing what i was doing & maintaining my rhythm & started to panic that i was running to fast. Noe I didn't try & slow down but i did start consuming double the calories we'd planed for me to consume. My thought was I'd never run this quick before & i could run out of fuel so better cram some more in. This is perhaps the dumbest mistake you can make when your stomach is over 6hrs into an IM & sure enough it wasn't long before the wheels started coming off. Through 30km my lead was still stable but trouble was imminent.

I stopped for a nature break with 11km to go & once going again experienced my first ever stomach stitch in competition. Having never had one before i had no idea what to do so rattled my brain & remembered seeing Craig Alexander digging his hand into his ribs one year en route to winning Kona so hand into the ribs it went! After a couple of km's or so it subsided & while my lead had dropped a little it was still in excess of 6 minutes so i knew with 8km to go I just had to manage the engine carefully & limp it to the line if necessary. I knew exactly what the problem was so obviously stopped eating & gave my stomach a chance to deal with the excess calories I'd pumped into it.

Once around the final turn around & only 4km from home i was starting to feel not so uncomfortable again. I had a look at the watch & saw that a 2:46-2:47 marathon was still on the cards so i got back to work on finishing this thing off. I passed Tim for the final time with over 5 minutes still up my sleeve so i knew i could go for broke & worst case scenario grovel over the line before he could chase me down. I had a real spring in my step which in the final 4km was again a very foreign feeling for me, was like absolute night & day my experiences I'd had in 2017 & 2018 compared to in Ironman Australia, it just felt so dam good to know where those double run days had got me. Sure enough my eye's got too big for my belly & with less than a km to go my stomach said enough was enough & brought me to a grinding halt to empty its contents.

Safe in the knowledge i was over 5 minutes ahead I didn't panic & let my tumbling tummy sort itself out & once i did I straightened myself up & finished off the run with a real spring in my step. Running down that red carpet to the roars of my hometown crowd is a moment I'll cherish for the rest of my life, it was without a doubt the ultimate homecoming. I thought about all those hours if uncomfortable running I'd done over the winter & it made the effortless feeling i know have trotting along feel all the more sweeter. Fallon, Mum & Dad where all there waiting & after Fallon really went mad at me for giving up the fight in Busselton it was important she knew I wouldn't do that ever again. However the special moment was reserved for my Mum & she was the first one I turned to. As a young single parent she'd packed up her life in Tasman to come to a town she felt would give me the greatest opportunities to grow up in the best possible way. When I was 5 I distinctly remember coming dead last in my first 200m race at little athletics & crying my eyes out as i ran into her waiting arms. She simply looked at me & reminded me i was her little champion, 30 years later where it all began I finally got to prove her right.


Cjw


P.s. as always all of my race data from both Cannes and Port Macquarie are on my strava feed as is my training for the period as well.


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Monday, December 17, 2018

The Grand Finale

The Grand Finale



2018 has been a McMassive year for me in the sport of triathlon. With all being said and done I've competed in and completed 10 events in total, 8 Ironman Distance and 2 half distance. It's safe to say that I absolutely love racing and when the opportunity came up to race at the Home of Motor Sport, The Daytona International Speedway, I couldn't resist in finishing off my awesome year in Daytona beach. What exited me most was dealing with the logistics of racing and Ironman on the West Coast of Australia and travelling literally halfway around the world to the East Coast of America to race again in a 6 day period. Busselton and Daytona literally couldn't be further away from each other, both ways around the world are the exact same travel time!! Through into that the fact i had to make a very important Pit stop to collect a Diamond ring on the way and the week was absolutely full gas from the moment the gun went off in Busselton to moment i crossed the finish line 6 days later in Daytona. Was the absolutely perfect way to finally burn the last bit of runner left on my continental tires and empty the physical and mental tank for 2018.

There are no secrets that i love America, and i love Motorsport. Despite the circumnavigation of half the globe and everything we crammed in between i was bright eyed and bushy tailed when we touched down in Daytona in the early hours of Friday morning. I snagged a few hours sleep but as soon as the sun was up i was off to the race track, I couldn't wait to get behind the walls of a Motorsport venue I've been glued to the TV watching over the past 3 decades! Pinarello decided to sponsor the event to celebrate the mantle we've earned over the past 2 years of the fastest bike in the sport being able to cut some laps on the fastest race track in the world. On top of that the Guys from Epic Cycles in Claremont Florida had a massive expo setup to give the Bolide some VIP treatment and display for everyone to came take a look at it. Fallon and i often joke now that people ask first where is Olive and secondly where is the bike,Then they ask how we are!! It's actually become rather comical how much attention that particular bike gets, and the dog of course, it's really cool.

Friday rolled on with the usual briefings and intros for the weekend with it being clearly evident the influence NASCAR had had on the organising of this challenge family event. Everything was so organised and as a pro athlete they really made sure we knew how important it was for us to interact and be as accessible as possible with the fans, just like there drivers are on a entirely different level of popularity obviously but you get the drill. They wanted this to be very American, a big show!! To ensure this they had invited a great group of pros to ensure that's exactly what they would get. The womens field was stacked with champions across all disciplines from ITU to Ironman Distance making it impossible to pick a clear favourite. The men's field was set be equally as exciting with Andrew Starkyowiz gunning to exact some revenge on me for what transpired in Kona and Dylan McNiece & Peter Heemeryck both sat tied one place behind me in the Challenge Family World Bonus rankings which basically meant whoever finished ahead of each other would be 4th instead of 5th and take home $12000 instead of $5000. Basically put i had a big target on my back. Through in local Ironman legends Andy Potts and Matt Russel and a whole rath of ITU guys and the men was set to be an epic battle from start to finish, exactly what you want the seasons Grand Finale.

Saturday morning i was up again ready to rumble, it was race day 1! I'd suggested to the organisers that us pros spread out in teams for the sprint relay to add a bit more of that interaction the NASCAR guys had spoken off. I was paired with Lesa France who's grandfather built the track and family now are not only the owners of multiple venues around the country but the driving force behind the sport. It was amazing to meet Lesa under such circumstances as I always say as i always say sport is the greatest leveller and to see her passion we consider very small on the grand scheme of global sports was really exciting. Along with her assistant Wendy we had an absolutely fantastic morning and the 850m swim head to head with Dylan where i finally learnt how to swim on someone's hip!! It's like your surfing, amazing revelation for me, was a great way to blow out the cobwebs for Sunday's main event, I actually felt fantastic.

Sunday morning finally rolled around. I was up and feeling great, excited to leave whatever energy i had left on the race track, literally. When we arrived at the track there was an announcement about bad weather on its way. The organisers decided to have all the age groupers go off as planned at 7am to complete a modified course and the Pro's would race once the storm had passed later in the day to ensure we could do the planned half Ironman distance. We were called into the "Green Room" for a meeting which was a special room setup for the Pro's complete with treadmills, exercise bikes, food, drinks ect to basically ensure we where comfortable all weekend. This room alone was something I'd never experienced at a previous race and yet another indicator of how serious NASCAR where to help innovate our sport.

During the meeting they outlined the details of the storm due to hit in a few hours and when it would pass to allow us to race safely. The speedway has a direct line to the national weather centre and it was remarkable how to the minute they where of predicting the weather to hit and pass. After a lengthy discussion of the different race and route possibilities we all agreed on a modified distance to take place entirely inside the stadium based of a 1600m swim. In other words that worked out to be a 60km ride (15 laps of the speedway, how AWESOME!!!) and a 14km run zigging and zagging around the infield of the track. The start time was set for 1pm so we all ad 5hrs to kill. Some went back to the hotel, some just hung out, while passed out on the floor in between a couple of treadmills, the jet lag had finally caught up with me! Finally 12:30 rolled around and just as predicted the rain stopped dead and the sunshine appeared, it was go time!!! All the athletes like one big happy family now after spending all morning together happily headed to transition to set up bikes and make the final preparations. Then bang on 1pm the gun finally went off for the final race of the season!

When it came to swimming I definitely saved the best till last and blasted off the line. Ive never felt better at the start of a swim and soon it was only the two super swimmers in Andy Potts and Dylan McNeice ahead of me. As we exited the water after 800m to then jump back in for a 2nd lap i was only 15seconds behind those guys, I couldn't believe it. The second lap Peter passed me but i clung to his feet and exited the water only 45 seconds down on Andy and Dylan, this was a massive improvement for me and i was absolutely wrapped. Now for the really fun part!

Going along to watch Jimmie Johnson at so many races I've always dreamed of riding on the speedway and i was finally getting my chance. I launched myself onto the bolide and set off in pursuit of Andy and Dylan and the lead of the race! About halfway through the first lap i knew i was in trouble as I just didn't have the punch I've enjoyed all year which left me with a simple decision, go hell for leather with what you've got and see if your remarkably hang on. Through the start finish straight people where giving me splits to Andy, was so cool having so many people so close to you so often, just and incredible experience. 3 laps in and i was in the lead and while it knew my pace was dropping every lap i just kept hammering away with every bit of horsepower i could muster.

Around 7 laps in i really started to struggle to compound my issues could also feel the looming Starky baring down on me like a ton of bricks. He was moving like a freight train and sure enough a few laps later he passed high up on the wall which was pretty cool to see actually and try as i might to stay in touch he kept riding away from me. I simply didn't have the goods to stick with him and was absolutely powerless to do anything about it. I'd experienced this 12 months before in Ironman Western Australia where that was the one race too far and i blew up halfway through the bike and latterly climbed off and sat on the road side. That was a horrible experience where i felt very foolish infront of my family and the fans so in this case i had the chance to wittier those wrongs and hang tuff as best I could and try to give the spectators the show they couldn't wait to see. Somehow i kept Starky insight until a few laps to go but then he just disappeared for good and pumped 2minutes into me in the last 2 laps, he was flying and on a mission! When i finally reached transition still in 2nd, I hadn't given up hope of one last blistering run for the title for 2018, I'm certainly ever the optimist.

Once my feet hit the ground it was very apparent there would be no fairytale ending to my 2018 season. My running legs picked up where my cycling legs had left off, flat out running out of sight on a dark night. 1 by 1 they ripped passed me until when I finally waddled over the final finish line for the year in 10th place. When it came to the exciting pre race hype between Starky and I battling the bike leg and could I hold Peter off to hold onto 4th in the world bonus I was well and truly the days biggest loser on all fronts. Peter not only finished ahead of me but he did it emphatically winning the race and obviously in the process ensuring himself a bigger Christmas bonus than I would receive, he was far and away the better athlete than not only me but everyone on this historic day for NASCAR and Triathlon and great inaugural champion of this great race.

With the curtains finally down on what was far and away the most fulfilling year I've ever had in all my years of sport I was looking forward to holiday. The race couldn't off been in a better location to get stuck right into the festive season with Fallon and I heading straight for Disney world and the first line at Magic Mountain and my favourite the Magic Teacups that I spun so hard in a bid to knock Fallon off her feet. While I didn't quit succeed at Disney World in doing so, later that evening once reunited with olive in her home town of Deep Creek Lake Maryland, I delivered her that Diamond ring I mentioned earlier. It fitted, she seems to really like it and I can't wait for whatever adventures lie ahead for us. It's been on amazing few years together where year on year has just kept getting better and better and naturally simply cannot wait to see what 2019 brings.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone and I look forward to hopefully seeing some of you if not all of you somewhere on some continent sometime soon.


CJW


P.s. As always my race data is all on strava, one victory I did have was the fastest lap recorded on a bicycle around the famous speedway!!


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