Tuesday, February 6, 2024

One Race To Many

Another season is in the books which always provokes the desire for some reflection. On one hand, I've been able to individually produce my best ever swim, bike, & run performances. On the other hand however, I've not been able to do it all in the same race which is a basic requirement in my line of work! There's no doubt that my inability to manage my time properly inhibited my ability to get to my absolute peak, i most certainly spread myself a little to thin at times throughout the year. Being able to perform at a world class level, a level that I work day in & day out to achieve, requires a solid plan, & diligent execution. You can work as hard as you like, if you get the small details wrong they've got the potential to derail everything. Having said that, nothing ventured nothing gained, as long as i learn from these mistakes i can take the positives of 2023, & be optimistic of a much more structured & consistent 2024. 

Following the disappointment of the Ironman World Championships in Nice, i was determined to achieve something out of the year to set the foundation for next season. I decided to focus on consolidating the running work I'd done over the summer & ensure i got that back on track. I'd not run well in an Ironman in over 2 years & it'd been 4 years since i set my Marathon PB of 2:46. Realising the urgency to break this cycle, & to give myself any chance of keeping pace with the front end of the sport, a single minded approach was necessary. I ran at a much higher intensity than ever before which is my preferred way of training, be exceptionally tired all the time. I perhaps pushed this to another level as on race morning the fatigue of not only the concentrated running block, but also the season as a whole, had certainly sunk in. I honestly contemplated staying in bed & faking a cold! I was just exhausted. Not surprisingly, in the race things didn't start out overly well. When I tired i swim terribly, completely lose my technique & just flap around like a fish out of water. In the swim I almost turned & swam straight back to the hotel, i really didn't want to be there. On the flip side i'd come to Florida to test my run & simply reasoned with myself nothing else matters except how well you run. Small steps if you like, pardon the pun! The annoying thing was i had to swim 3.8km & ride 180km just to get to the run!! Keeping myself in the game was definitely the biggest challenge that day. 

Being someone who's had experience leading more races than I've been behind in, I feel i can comment on this with some credibility. Basically when you're behind by a number of minutes, you have to get to the front asap. At some point if you don't get to the front the race simply rolls away from you. The momentum at the front of the race in the final 100km is just different. You don't pedal any harder & you simply just roll away. I've experienced it all over the world. It's obviously awesome when you're up front! Unfortunately it's also rather demoralising when you're behind, you get this sinking feeling. You can still be pushing hard but you simply keep losing ground, It's how it should be. In this sport you shouldn't be able to be terrible at a discipline & expect to be the best. You need to be good at everything & ideally exceptional at atleast one of the disciplines. So having said that, the reason i was excited about my run in Florida, despite getting left behind on the bike, I still averaged my usual 300ish watts. Basically that's my power +-20 watts depending on the course & my condition at the time. So i did execute the marathon with a usual amount of fatigue in my legs, that's what made me happy with the run & a new marathon PB of 2:44. I accomplished my goal of breaking the cycle of bad runs!!

As far as lining up at Ironman Cozumel goes, that was simply one race too many. It's certainly not the first time I've lines up at the end of the season when I should've been recuperating from an already exhausting season. In 2017 i lined up in Busselton IM, all enthusiast mentally after the breakout season I'd had overseas that year. I wanted to show off infront of my home crowd. Similar to cozumel this year, the swim was canceled that day. Initially I thought that was a positive however ultimately it didn't work out for. I started full gas that day & after on 60km i simply couldn't hold my stomach & had to pull over on the side of the road to be violently ill. I was completely empty & couldn't finish the bike leg, DNF. A year later I'd returned to Busselton for redemption which i got with a close 2nd place following a great battle with Terenzo Bozzone. The week later i decided it was a great idea to fly to Daytona Florida, Florida definitely hasn't been good for me in triathlons over the years haha, & race challenge Daytona. Although only a half distance, i was absolutely legless very early in the bike leg. I did finish that day but it took me a very long time to do so haha. 2019, after a great Ironman season i decided id attempt my first & only ITU race. I just remember once the adrenaline of kona had worn off & I had to start training again it was a terrible idea. I used to convince myself 1km swims were ok as ITU racing is much shorter haha. Sure enough i turned up firstly lacking the talent to compete with the speeders but most significantly any fitness, a body full of fatigue, & i got absolutely pulverised. 

In 2021 Ironman Florida was the one race too many. I'd raced a lot that year & kona being cancelled had certainly left mine feeling a little flat. Searching for that high end to the year i stupidly decided to go & race against Lionel & Gustav. After a decent swim i got on the bike with the guys & instantly knew something was up. I was light headed, felt very weak, was kicking myself for even lining up. I wanted to stop but my mind wouldn't let me, besides, i was leading the race. Then my body took over again like it had in Busselton all those years earlier & I abruptly stopped on the side of the road & was violently ill. Once again I'd totally emptied the tank that year & my body & mind said enough was enough, I couldn't even finish the ride. 

So that brings us to Cozumel in 2023. Like Busselton the swim was canceled. This really annoyed me as after Florida 2 weeks earlier, I'd gone back to LA & worked hard to get my summer swimming arms back & was feeling great in the water. I believed i had a good swim in my, knew with a good swim I'd ride well, & now with my running legs back was confident i could close it out. Not to be. They canceled the swim so that already had me questioning whether i even start, really crushed my morale. I obviously manned up & decided I'd failed in Busselton all those years earlier with a bike run IM, time for redemption. I started great & quickly shut down the 2minute advantage to Leon Chavelier & Sebi Kienle following the staggered time trial style start. Just as i got to them & was finally all motivated again with the day going so perfectly, i was the virtual leader, felt great, bang! Not a tire but my seat post slammed down. I'd arrived late to Cozumel the evening before as I'd attended a charity event in Miami the day before. In my rush to put the bike together to get to transition I'd obviously failed to tighten the seat clamp properly. Anyways, I had to stop, dig out an Allen key, and raise it back up. In hindsight is I should've just tried to ride on it & hoped my body adapted. Obviously once i stopped & fiddled around fixing it, Sebi & Leon disappeared & i was faced with a similar furious chase id just put myself through to get to them in the first place. 

Once i got going again I certainly tried to chase but all the adrenaline was completely gone & the fatigue of the long season & late arrival to the race hit me like a freight train. I had one bullet for that day obviously in me & I'd used it, i was cooked. I managed to finish the bike leg & hoped for a remarkable recovery with my new found run legs. It was to be, i tried in vein to jog but just got slower & slower until i was walking within the first km. I barely made it to aid station number 1 & hoped a coke might give me a morale boost. It didn't. Instead as i stopped to drink i could barely get moving again, i was once again completely out of gas & short of hoping i could walk the marathon wasn't in any state to be racing so unfortunately DNF'd for the 3rd time in my career. Was just one race too many. On this occasion it wasn't all bad, Mexico is pretty nice spot to end your season & i very quickly transitioned into off season mode. Pretty confident now I've learnt my lesson when it's one race too many! I just absolutely love competing & if I'm able to be on a start line, I'm not good at not starting the race even when i know it's probably not a good idea!

At the end of the day I'm still relatively new to the sport of Triathlon. Even Sam Laidlow who became the youngest ever Ironman World Champion this year at 24, has been doing the sport much longer than me. Why do i point this out. Well, the longer you do something the greater chance there is you'll have a not so good season, or even a couple of not so good seasons. Look at Jan Frodeno for example, in 2017 he struggled in kona, in 2018 he was injured & wasn't able to even take the start line. These things happen. Gustav Iden is another fine example. In 2022 he couldn't lose a race, in 2023 he's struggled to even finish a race, let alone get near the top step of the podium. Obviously the best guys have more exceptional years than other athletes, however, in a sport that has so many elements involved it's almost impossible for things to not go wrong at some point. Most important is to assess the short comings, right your wrongs, & move forward.

It's fair to say my first 4 years in the sport, 2017-2021 (2020 I didn't race a triathlon) showed a nice perfect trajectory towards the highest level of the sport. In Kona alone, 17th, to 9th, to 5th, then in 2021 I'd won Ironman Copenhagen during the summer, seemed nicely on track for Kona, then it was again cancelled due to Covid. As ill fate would have it, last year I was hit with Covid & un beknowns competed with it in Kona. I found it very challenging to perform at a high level that day. This year at the Ironman Worlds, despite crashing on the bike, i was still in the mix for a top 5 when i started the run. You can't hide in a Marathon during an Ironman & the effects of the crash seemingly ruined my chances of running the way I believe I'd prepared for. So yes, as disappointing as it's been at the world championships the past 2 years, it's hardly unusual. I've never been a dominating all conquering sportsman in the past, I'm obviously more vulnerable than the likes of Jan or Gustav to have disappointing seasons. There's no doubt that being older when i started Ironman racing limits the years I've got to execute the dream season. Personally, i see this as a positive. Ive always been good at getting things done when i have to get them done, its now or never for me should i want to reach my goals in kona. This definitely has me more focused than ever. As i said in my opening paragraph, there were glimpses during the year that indicated my best years could still very well be ahead of me.

One of the things I've most certainly improved this season was my swimming. I took the decision to go back to basics & really focus on feel from the water. I probably swam half the volume usually would in a year as i was apprehensive to get tired in the pool & lose my feel & go back to bad habits. I'd  obviously planned to increase this volume at some point but this year with my schedule I just never seemed to get the consistent block of weeks together to make this next jump. One week for swimming in June definitely stood out as a massive highlight for me in 2023. Ironman Austria, & 7 days later, Ironman NIce. Austria was a fresh water lake swim & while it was a wetsuit swim there's not the same buoyancy as in the ocean. Nice was non wetsuit & the first time I ever made the front pack in a non wetsuit swim.  This swim particularly gave me huge confidence ahead of the world championships. 

This confidence probably made me a little complacent. I switched my priorities to focusing on regaining my running form & inadvertently took my foot of the gas on my swimming progression as a result. This really came back to bite me on the bum at the world championships in Nice in September, literally. While my training remained consistent though out the summer & i definitely believed at worst I was as good as I was back in June. I didn't have the foundation to handle any unexpected curve balls. 3 weeks out from the world championships the team required me to do a one week stage race in Belgium. This was certainly a perfect opportunity to hone my cycling form ahead of the world championships with 7 days of World Tour bike racing. Unfortunately however, i wasn't overly organised with hunting down pools. I totally underestimated how quickly I lost the feel for the water & also the conditioning of my swimming muscles. When I returned to the pool the following week I felt like I was starting the pre season all over again. While I should've been disciplined & just been patient to allow myself to swim properly & get the feel back, I did the opposite & panic trained to snap my swimming back into shape. As you can imagine this didn't work out so well. I basically just made vulnerable swimming muscles even tireder in the week leading up to the biggest race of the year. I Absolutely made the wrong choice with this approach.

Sure enough on race day things didn't go well. I never lack confidence & mentally believed I could make the main swim pack, the pack I knew i needed to be in to have any chance of fighting for the podium. I hung onto the pack for longer than I ever have at the world championships & for 40 minutes believed it was going to be the dream day! Then with 1km left to swim I began to flounder as the fatigue of swimming way above my capabilities in the first 3km hit me like a freight train & I was unceremoniously detached from this dream group in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. That last 10 minutes swimming alone felt like an eternity & gave me plenty of time to comprehend how stupid I'd been in my preparation. Once on the bike I was simply of the back foot all day. Sam Laidlow once again rode off into the sunset & i chipped away the gab to Magnus ditlev im 2nd. It dropped all day 1:30, to 1miute, then finally to 45 seconds at the start of the big decent. To took some risks to jump across the gap & ultimately took one to many. I completely misjudged a corner & went hurtling into a dirt back at 50+ kmph, landing smack bang on my lower back & Butt! 

Fortunately nothing was broken on me or the bike aside from my pride & I was able to remount quickly. I arrived in T2 still 90 seconds back on Magnus Ditlev, so basically as I'd started the ride, not so bad considering. It wasn't long onto the run however that the adrenaline wore off & the back pain became rather excruciatingly. Coupled with that my bowls reacted as well in a way that every runner fears & I couldn't avoid a few stops to the Porta Potty. A very crappy ending to the day. None of this is bad luck but simply poor preparation. Had I have managed my swimming build up properly & been safely in the main pack, I'd have never been on the back foot, & never had to extend myself or take the risks I did on the bike. Ultimately this poor time management, as i also eluded to earlier, cost me the opportunity of having my best possible day at the world championships. 

Looking ahead to 2024, I'm excited to capitalise on the disappointments & lessons learned over the past two seasons. I tried to do things a certain way & honestly believed at the time that was the correct way. There's nothing wrong with getting things wrong so long as you take ownership of the mistakes & don't make the same mistakes going forward. Physically there's a few key areas i'm no longer able to neglect. Strength & Conditioning is certainly a significant one, I've hung my hat on the foundation in developed in the gym during my rowing days. 17 years later, its most definitely time to re visit that in a very structured way! I've got a gym at my house & during my travels around the world there's always a gym close by, zero excuses there. Mobility & Yoga is another area i need to pay attention to. I've still never been injured from wear & tear, I've broken some bones in falls or impact related incidents. Fortunately never have i missed training from a nagging injury. Still, with realistically a few years left at this level of competition I don't want to miss a single day. Looking after myself better than ever will be crucially important going forward. 

From a performance standpoint the swimming stands out as my primary objective in 2024. Having seen how quickly i can turn the running around in the past month, I'm even more determined to no apply that single minded focus to swimming. I certainly made a huge step in the right direction this year with technique & efficiency. I now need to add the strength & endurance element into my swim training while maintaining form, to make the significant jump I'm very confident in can make. One thing in life I've always been good at is learning skills I'm determined to learn. Just sometimes takes me a while to get to that point where i say right, now i absolutely have to do this!

So bring on 2024. I've got another week here in California getting back I into the swing of things with Geraint Thomas & Froomey. From there I'll head to Mallorca for the team camp. It's an important 2 weeks as it's the only time of the season everyone from team is together, staff & riders. I've certainly also noticed over the past 5 years of attending the camp that everyone arrives fitter & fitter every year haha. There's been quite a few of the guys contacting me over the off season regarding running ideas to build there fitness & avoidance injuries in the process. Also running is a good way to keep moving while travelling around & keep the excess pounds off when the diet is set assist for a few weeks. 

Personally i love going to the team camp. I've grown up in sport very institutionalised & respond well in these environments. My day always begins before the sun comes up with Gym work or a light jog. Then it's 4-6hours on the bike with the guys. Quickly grab my swim bag & head to the pool for a recovery swim before dinner. Repeat for 2 weeks. No matter how unfit i arrive at the camp I always leave feeling very fit! Cycling is certainly my priority during this period, I'm a member of a cycling with the best riders in the world. I obviously want to give the absolute best of myself on the bike during the training sessions which also allows me to maximise the conditioning by being pushed by the guys. 

One key session we did last year was the TTT training. At that stage i wasn't planning to be involved in any TTT's during the season. Nonetheless, I really had a great day that day, learnt a huge amount about the discipline, & most importantly how to utilise the power you have in the best possible way for the team. When i was a last minute call up for the UAE tour, it paid huge dividends having had this training session in the legs. Not only for me but also all the guys there in UAE. That TTT was a huge performance by our team, losing to a star studded quickstep by only 1 second. Our leader Luke Plapp went into the leaders jersey of the race that day & ultimately held on for 2nd overall behind Remco. Im certain without this seemingly inconsequential TTT training for many at the camp the previous December, we wouldn't have executed such a performance in UAE. Every days training is an unknown opportunity to benefit from during the season. In my case it's especially paramount as i could get thrown into any type of race on any type of terrain. For example the year before we did echelon training. I'd have never envisioned how crucial that would be in Paris Roubaix that season allowing us to dominate the race from start to finish. It's obviously super important to make the most of every single ride we do during or time in Mallorca. As a result of this focus my swimming & running merely serves as a compliment to activate in the mornings or recover in the afternoons. 

So that 2023 basically done, certainly no more competitions to focus on anyways. I've realised the importance of writing this blog is really for myself. When i write things down like this, make them public, it makes me accountable, i feel like I really own my words. If I don't follow through with my words i deserve to look foolish. It's definitely something that's makes me feel vulnerable & uncomfortable. Feeling both uncomfortable & vulnerable i feel are what makes me the best version of myself. So in reality, i don't really care who reads this, about my spelling & grammar mistakes, this isn't meant to be a newspaper article. I know that those that matter to me will atleast skim read through it & hold me accountable to my words, that's all that matters to me. 

If you did manage to read all of this i greatly appreciate you & apologise for taking up so much of your day hahahaha!

Have a great day


Sent from my iPad

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Blowing out the Swim, Bike, Run Cobwebs

Ironman South Africa went pretty much as i expected it would. What surprised me was the fact that i was in the thick of the action deep into the run on Sunday afternoon. Like I said in my last blog, the event was very much a last minute opportunity to get a good solid day of swim, bike & run training into my body. Due the circumstances of how kona panned out & the sickness that followed, the team camp in December & then a busy start to the cycling season, i simply hadn't had a chance to do the running volume i need to do to have a solid marathon, especially the back half of a marathon. I'd not ridden my Triathlon bike since Kona so was a little intrigued to see how my hips & back would settle into that position. I usually like to do a 5-6hr ride on this bike weekly in the build up to an IM, just so it's familiar. Throw in the fact that I've been on 5 different continents in the past 5 weeks & i'd say i was more than justified in feeling some uncertainty on how the race would unfold for me. When travelling around the world like that Racing & training there's only so much you can stay ontop of. Unfortunately on this occasion, it was the running volume that was the casualty. 

If I'm brutally honest it's the first time the day before the race i was actually afraid of the marathon in the race. Even back in 2021 & 2022 when i had terrible starts to the tri season in the Girona Full Distance event & St George IM, i still started both race thinking i could perform across all 3 disciplines. This was largely due to the fact that while in LA over the previous winters I'd accumulated 4-6 weeks of 100-120km running weeks back to back. This just lays a nice foundation that you can always draw upon during the season which i showed in Copenhagen and also last year in Kona. This year however I wasn't able to do the running block. Instead sine kona I've barely managed 500km in total, let alone in the month of January & February like I normally would. So suffice to say i was faced with a challenge I'd not faced before in an IM before, feeling completely unprepared for the run. I had some positive chats with myself to remind myself that this is merely a fully catered training day. I don't need to try and be a hero & hit it out of the park, just a good day across the board. 

I knew the run would hurt my body the most so long as i stayed within myself the entire 42km. Without my usual resilience, the muscles would inevitably breakdown. I was excited to feel this pain as finishing kona feeling like I'd been for a walk in the park really annoyed me, i desperately wanted to hurt myself to remind my legs how they're meant to feel. To do this i knew it was important to measure my effort as best as possible as you do the most damage in that final hour. I didn't want to waste this lack of preparation by running hard early, blowing up, & simply walking most of the last 15km like i had in Girona & St George. I needed to really hurt my running muscles so at the very least from this Ironman I'd get a great training stimulus & improve my running strength as a result. Shock them into shape for the upcoming season if you like. With that all being said i rationalised the positives of going through this exercise, overcame the fear of the inevitable average overall result, & simply couldn't wait to get stuck into the big day of training on Sunday.

Once all assembled on the beach readying for the start some worrying lighting flashed over the ocean in front of us. Inevitably this forced the organisers to shorten the swim for safety reasons which ultimately had a much bigger outcome on the way the race was race than I would've anticipated. Being a erratic swimmer, in that sometimes i swim quite well & sometimes quite poorly, most would think this would suit me. I can categorically confirm it didn't as while I've done a lot of running, i have been consistent with getting into the pool 3-4 times per week & have felt great in the water. Even in the shortened 800m swim i could feel the benefits of this consistent time in the pool & comfortably sat on the feet of the faster swimmers. On the bright side i know I've made a good progression especially with my feel for the water & I'm excited to progress that as i work towards Lanzarote in May. We were back on beach pretty quickly & with a swim of this nature it was obviously a congested bunch of guys heading out on the bike together. I'm always fearful of drafting penalties due to a lack of concentration in traffic so ensured i got to the front ASAP. 

Once at the front the race i felt immense satisfaction. Sure this wasn't kona but having felt so worthless the entire day there & not being a factor in the race at all, the feeling of being in front was far more gratifying than I've ever experienced in all my time in the sport. I was so happy with how i'd felt in the water & to be now on the bike feeling equally as comfortable just felt great. As you can expect once i stand on a starting line the idea of a training day quickly went out the window. I wanted to roll up my sleeves & get stuck into the race, get the front & then start figuring out how i can stay in that position all day. Being in lead much earlier than expected thanks to the shortened swim, it was also evident everyone felt much fresher resulting in a much more furious bike pace than normal. I was feeling fantastic however, the best i think I've ever felt on the bike & continued to twist the throttle to open up a gap. Once i had a few seconds on the chasers i was away & went about building a lead for myself. I wasn't getting any splits so had only one opportunity at the turnaround to see where everyone was at. After 40km i had around 1minute on the stronger cyclists & 4 minutes on the main pack. It'd indeed been a perfect start. Again what excited me the most was how good i felt. If I wanted to push i could & i was also able to recover maintaining a good speed. I felt completely in control which has honestly been a couple of years since I've had this feeling, it felt great. This feeling is how i always believed I'd be coming from a bike race. A sharpness in the legs & ease to apply whatever power you want to push. It just felt so good. 

Onto the second half of the bike & I decided I'd try to give myself a chance to win this thing. I continued the manage the gap's as they where & start the run as fresh as possible. Feeling this good meant i was able to ride relatively quickly while feeling remarkably fresh, normally a huge advantage when you've got a marathon to still run. On this occasion i knew i didn't have the running legs so i needed save as much energy as possible & hope it'd be enough. Sure, I could've gone for broke on the bike & kept building a on the lead, an approach that would be seen me almost immediately blow up on the run. I was here first & foremost to a good consistent day of exercise & a reality check off where i was across all 3 disciplines. Still running at decent clip deep into the marathon was crucial to this objective. I felt great swimming, I knew my cycling legs where exactly where i wanted them to be, i was excited now to test my running legs against my rivals.

Onto the run i was quickly into a nice rhythm. Without a doubt i was the freshest i think I've ever felt starting a marathon in and Ironman & my optimism grew for a good result. Leon Chavelier had kept me in check on the bike & passed me in the first few km's. He'd go onto win the race & is really evolving in the sport as one of the hardest guys to beat after winning in Majorca in 2021 & was 7th in kona. Still, I didn't let him run away, which, may have been my ultimate undoing in the final 15km. I decided to try to match his pace as i felt great off the bike & in those early stages a 2;45 marathon pace felt very comfortable. After 15km of this i realised I'd bitten off way more than i could chew. 2:45 was my PB for the marathon in an Ironman & as I'd said before i was most definitely not conditioned to run faster than I'd ever run before. Classic case of how i often get my ambitions & capabilities mixed up. Sure enough after only 15km the fatigue really started to hit my unprepared legs. I managed to hold a modest pace until the 25km mark however from there it went downhill rather rapidly. 

Bradley Weiss passed me with around 15km remaining dropping me to 3rd & it was here that i really started to fall apart. I tried every trick in the book, walking aid stations, a few stretches here & there, plenty of coke, cooling, ect ect. I've got enough experience to know taking a couple of minutes easy can save your race but on this occasion it was different. I wasn't hungry, I wasn't very thirsty, I wasn't feeling any cramping, I wasn't hot front he heat or humidity. My legs had simply broken down from the effort of the day & it was everything i had just to keep them ticking over. I remember thinking around 10km to go that i wish i could do a set of squats in the gym, i just needed some strength, my legs needed to be rebuilt from the damage i'd done to them. Still, i was actually quite content with myself as this was the exact feeling i wanted, I wanted to feel broken, I wanted my body to know it had to harden up, teach myself a lesson for neglecting my running the last 5 months. I realise i find interesting ways to punish myself but i had to get as much out of the day as i could. The biggest focus for me in the final 10km was to continue running & not give up to the dreaded walking. I knew to inflict the most damage on myself & force the most benefits in rebuilding post race, i had to find a way to continue running. It hurt so much every time my feet hit the ground & i tried to lift one up again. Fortunately my nutrition, hydration, heat stress, where all in good order so had energy to apply to keeping jogging, all be it very slowly, & not succumb to walking. 

Inside the last 10km Mathias Pietersen breezed passed & i slipped off the podium into 4th. I'd slide one place further when Rasmus Svenningsson barrelled by a few kms later to demote me to my final finishing position of 5th. I tried so hard to react when both guys ran past me but I simply couldn't. The muscle damage was crippling & i only got slower and slower until i barely reached the finish line. Once across the line i'd normally be thinking what could've been when you've been leading most of the day, in a podium position until the final km's on the run but not on this occasion. I was incredibly satisfied as i could barely walk. I can't remember ever getting the line with so much muscle soreness, it felt absolutely amazing. Fitness wise I'd shown myself that was capable of carpeting at the front again. Run conditioning wise i knew going into the race i was extremely vulnerable & that proved to be the case. Despite managing myself as best as i could on the day & never starting a run feeling fresher, I simply didn't have the run legs. The good news is I know what needs the most amount of attention as i work towards Lanzarote. 

The last couple of days have been as uncomfortable as I'd envisioned they'd be. I've absolutely dreaded having to sit down to do a poop each morning knowing that somehow I'll have to try and standup once I'm finished. I've never appreciated elevators & escalators so much, I'd normally pride myself on taking the stairs. I'm immensely satisfied with how the race panned out overall as my goal of inflicting maximum pain into my running legs was executed nicely. I was desperate to experience this for a couple of reasons, firstly, remind myself what it feels like to hurt in the marathon, & secondly, remind myself of how much it hurts when you don't do the required preparation, excellent motivation for my training for the remainder of the season to not feel like this again. In the future the only way i want to hurt like this is when i run really fast & to do that you need to be conditioned! Otherwise you hurt like hell & run slow, that's simply a lack of conditioning! I've honestly never felt more confident of my ability to get to the level i desire in triathlon than i do following my experience in Ironman South Africa. I feel like I've laid some excellent foundations & now i simply have to do the easy part, increase the volume, & work my backside off in training! It feels great to have my season underway on both the bike & in my swim, bike, & run sport!

As always, thanks for reading


P.s. for the number crunchers who follow me my data from South Africa


Time: 4:10

Ave Speed: 43:0

Power ave: 315 watts

Heart rate ave: 143

Elevation Gain: 1415m


Time: 3:02

Heart Rate Ave: 155

Sent from my iPad

Thursday, March 2, 2023



The last blog I wrote was en route to LA excited to put the finishing on my kona preparations. Well, a lot happened since then which has taken me quite some time to come to terms with. I arrived at the Big Island full of confidence. I was healthy, injury free, & couldn't wait for the big showdown. I was confident I'd done the work i needed to do & i didn't feel the urge to be chasing any last minute form. This is generally a good sign for me. We'd waited 3 years for this event & i was chomping at the bit to empty the tank in the lava fields.

Come race day it certainly didn't pan out very well for me. The day couldn't have gotten of a worse start. The feet i thought I'd be able to follow i simply couldn't keep up with & I lost contact with the front swim packs. From that point on I wasn't really apart of the race anymore. I certainly didn't feel like i was in the actual race for the championship atleast. Normally on a bad swim day I'm hanging onto the feet of that group containing the likes of my buddy Lionel, Sebi, Joe Skipper ect. One positive to take away that this year I actually lead & set the pace for that group. Despite lacking the power i thought I'd have, i was definitely swimming better. This was a nice consolation after all the hours spent with Gerry & the Tower26 crew during my LA camp. When we exited the water i was actually surprised we were only 4min behind, I've been further behind in Kona in previous years, othat's for sure! 

The words of Mike Riley will always stick with me, "the only thing you can control is your attitude". With an ever positive mindset, I jumped on the bike believing i could drag myself to the front of the race. Early on in the bike however it was very evident that lack of strength i felt in the swim was following me onto the bike. I had to remind myself of Mike's quote on a very regular basis during that 4hrs 9minutes. I was giving it everything i had & simply not going anywhere. I was hanging on by a thread at the turnaround just to avoid losing time. From experience i knew by halfway you need to be up there. I was now a ticking time bomb to start bleeding time to the guys up front. I've been at the front of kona enough times to know things just move faster at the front. Obviously it's where the best athletes are but there's just a different energy up there. You feel like you can ride like ten men. On this occasion that man was Sam Laidlow. He put on an absolute clinic across the lava fields setting the race alight & absolutely obliterating my Bike Course Record in the process. 

What impressed me most about Sam smashing that record was that i was in the same race & was absolutely powerless to go any faster than i was. Sam well & truly showed he deserved the mantel of the fastest cyclist ever in Kona. Not only that, he was one of the first out of the water & almost won the race overall. Was it not for the phenomenon that is Gustav Iden smashing the run course record en route to a mind boggling course record aswell, Sam normally would've been the champion. To me he's a far more worthy holder of the bike course record as he is an all around top line Kona, Ironman Triathlete. It never sat well with me having the record as I'd taken off Norman Stadler. Norman had long retired when i first lowered the mark in 2017 & that day I'd go on the wog (walk/run) the marathon to 17th place. When Norman had set the record he was also crowned the champion that day. That's how i always dreamed of setting any of the individual segment records in Kona. Sam did come 2nd, however, it was one of the greatest kona performances ever. It's most definitely fitting for the sport that Sam's name is in the record books & at just 23 there's a decent chance he'll take down all the records on the big island during his career. 

For my part i eventually reached T2 to begin my run. I was blown away to see how far behind i was, again something I wasn't accustomed too especially in kona. I was in 5th off the bike & set about holding onto a top 10. I'd realised early in the swim & was very much confirmed to me on the bike, I wasn't on a championship level day. For some data reference, my power on the bike was 280 watts, some 20-30 watts lower than I'd normally record there.I felt so left behind by the race that I was amazed i was even in the top 5 at that point. I Probably should take the opportunity to thank my technical partners for keeping me in the race, with this power output & still being among the quicker cyclists, that's a great testimonial for Pinarello, Princeton, Castelli, & Kask! 

Back to the run & i settled into a defensive rhythm. I'd already learned i didn't have the turbo today & simply wanted to get the best performance out of myself that I could. 1 by 1 i was passed by a bunch of guys until i was in 10th with around 5km to go. I honestly thought one of them had to blow up but surprisingly, which never usually happens in kona amount the top 10, nobody blew up! I believe that the Tokyo Olympics really increased everyone's awareness & knowledge of racing in the heat, it simply doesn't effect people like it used to. This also goes for me. I still managed to run a 2:53 marathon which is my best in kona. While I certainly felt flat, it's by far not a bad run & I'd say testament to the work i did in LA to have this as a baseline performance. I decided if another runner passes me I need to risk complete capitulation & race whoever it was. I had a bad feeling however of who'd it be. The other guy to lose all his records in Kona that day, Patrick Langer. Similar to way id matched my Bike course record time, Patrick would match his run course record time only to see it fall to Gustav. On this occasion however, he did it running into 10th place. When he passed me he obviously passed pretty quickly & I most certainly didn't have the wheels beneath me to mount any challenge. Instead I accepted 11th to finish of a very lacklustre day. 

When i finally crossed the line I'd already had an entire race to contemplate & process what'd happened. The thing that confused me however was why I'd felt so flat & lifeless out there, no spark at all. Another realisation when i crossed the line was that I didn't even feel that fatigued, i barely felt I'd been able to push myself & merely had grinded through a long training day. Our team Carer, Marko, who was in Kona to help out for the week, commented i looked like I could've done the course again & to be honest physically I definitely could've. I wasn't sore at all, no cramps, I wasn't even thirsty, all very uncommon feelings at the end of an Ironman. I simply felt like i couldn't push myself & it really annoyed me not knowing why, mentally i was pretty distraught. 

To rub insult into injury was the realisation that for the first time in Kona i'd performed worse than my previous attempt. Up until then it'd been an upwards trajectory towards th podium, 17th, 9th, 5th, then Covid stoppage, 11th. Also this young French kid had taught me how to really ride a bike & it hurt. Until that moment I'd never felt like being the kona bike course record holder or finishing top 5 was overly important. When both get taken away from you you realise how special it was to be that guy. That really hurt & to be honest has taken me quite a while to asses everything & figure what i want to do going forwards. In the immediate aftermath of the race my first instinct was of course to drop racing on the bike and focus on Ironman's exclusively again. To me my performance in kona was evidence i was becoming average at both. I decided to not be too hasty & take a few days before speaking with the team about the future. I'd simply let the wounds marinate for a few days. None of this however answered the question of why i felt so of. 

For the couple of days leading into the race i had been feeling more and more tired. I wasn't sleeping very well & I was shortening the already shortened sessions i do to freshen up, very uncharacteristic of me. Normally i'm sneaking in a little extra exercise to stay sane & bouncing out of my skin ready to explode on race day. During these days i was waking up with dry cough, stuffy nose & a few body aches. Those symptoms would subside a little as the day went on, & with the help of a little paracetamol, i was able to keep it at annoyance value only. After all, Kona was now days away, I wasn't letting a little sniffle stifle my opportunity to fight for the world title. 

The day after the race these symptoms had strengthened, no surprise there i thought, i'd just done an Ironman & of course I'm a bit run down. I went running with Kristian Blummenfelt in LA a couple of days after the race. Big Blu was running like one should 2 days after an Ironman, an absolute buckled mess. Me on the other hand was bouncing along looking like a graceful runner. Kristian commented that I don't event look like i raced & that I obviously hadn't push myself hard enough. I told him I couldn't agree with him more & that I wish I'd been able to push myself, i simply couldn't. I was so jealous of how much discomfort he was in, that's exactly how i'd dream'd I'd be feeling after emptying myself in the lava fields. Instead I was left feeling like a weak fraud of an athlete for being so soft.

The upcoming weekend I was due to be in Nice for the team gathering to celebrate the season & plan ahead for 2023. It was obviously here that I'd planned to sit down with the team and discuss what we do going forward. Back in July I'd agreed to continue racing with the team in conjunction with my Ironman focus. I'd just qualified for Kona with a close 2nd in Vitoria Gastez & following a win in Copenhagen the year before, i was confident we could have more success balancing both sports going forward. On top of that, I'd had a great season with the team where I really felt i was growing nicely into my position as last man up. Also with Covid restrictions lapsing in the 2023 season, I'd finally be able to do some swimming & running while at bike races. In order to keep my team's staff & riders as safe as possible while at races, nobody was allowed to leave the team bubble. For me, this meant no sneaking off for a quick swim or run from time to time. This lead to me basically being full gas just trying to maintain my swimming & running level, let alone improve it during bike racing periods. There was no doubt my result in Kona had made me rethink what's best for everyone involved, my family, the team, sponsors, & of course myself. 

We where still in 2022 however so to attend the camp in Nice, surprise surprise, we still needed to do a Covid test to enter the "team bubble". Sure enough, for the first time since the Pandemic had started, I tested Positive for Covid. I'd been so diligent over the previous 2+ years, hundred's of tests & never tested positive, never missed a race the team needed me for, then finally when it was my time the dreaded virus had infiltrated my defences. I informed the team medical staff assuming I'd be told I wouldn't be coming to the camp. Instead they asked me if I'd had any symptoms, flu like, aches, restless sleepy, lack of energy ect ect, in the previous days. Finally i realised what had been sapping the life out of me the previous week. I guess if there was ever to be a super spreader event it'd be Kona. 20000 people from all over the world excited to be together in this mythical location for the first time in 3 years, social distancing was quickly forgotten. Add in the fact i was well & truly on the razor, I'd pushed my body to limit in training & also my diet. For certain I had a vulnerable immune system & it'd finally got me.

The team instructed me to wait a day or so & test again. They were very confident I'd picked it up in the week leading into the race so it should pass relatively soon from their experience. Sure enough a couple of days later i was already negative, indicating it'd been incubating in me for a little while. The medical staff were very keen to get me to the camp especially for the medical tests, in particular on the heart. Doing an Ironman with Covid they said would've put a massive strain on my body & in particular my heart. It was important to see if any damage was done before we could contemplate what'd I'd be doing on a sporting sense going forward. Obviously these were some nervous times for me having heard of other athletes who'd had Covid related heart issues. Fortunately however, the extensive tests showed my heart had been unaffected by the virus despite what I'd put it through. I'd dodged a serious bullet there & had a clean bill of health for the 2023 season. 

Learning all of this gave me clarity that the decision we'd made together in July to continue pursuing both sports, was the correct decision. I've no idea what actual impacts Covid had on my performance in Kona, but thing is absolutely certain, it definitely didn't cost me winning the race. Those top 4 guys were clearly a level above the rest. I certainly believe putting up a more valiant fight for that 5th spot was within my capabilities considering what I'd felt in training. Shoulda, would'a, could'a, it obviously inconsequential now. I always say you're judged on what you can do when you're not at your best, the best are generally still the best. I'm far from at the level i aim to get to in that regard. 

Despite testing negative i was far from out of the woods. To the contrary in fact, I was man down for a couple of months after Kona. I certainly wouldn't recommend anyone knowingly do an Ironman with Covid. I felt like i had chronic fatigue. I desperately wanted to race an end of season IM, put the Kona disappointment behind me if you like. Instead, whenever i did a training session I'd wake up with a flu like symptom the next morning. I gave up trying after a couple of weeks of this, I was simply flogging a dead horse.

I'd heard from a number of people who've had long Covid. The message was resounding, you need to kick this thing asap & the only way to do that is with rest. If I'm honest, I hadn't had an off season since 2019. The Covid years rolled into each other with thinking kona would happen, then not happen, the Vuelta finished in November in 21, racing started again in January. I wanted to a marathon at the end of last year, the omicron stopped that, straight to team camp ect, ect. Basically it'd been 3 years without giving my body a rest. Perhaps Covid was my bodies way of saying give me a break! I definitely got the message loud & clear. I'd forgotten how good that fresh recharged feeling is after a good break. The experts all recommend it for a reason, the body needs it!

So here we are today. International season number 22 is already underway. This past week I've raced the tour of UAE & this weekend I'm lining up at the Ironman African Championship. I'm definitely committed to doing both sports! The UAE tour was great. Young Aussie on the team Luke Plapp was 2nd on GC so that gave our team real purpose all week. Luke was my roommate which was an enjoyable experience navigating through the race with him, both on & off the bike. Fallon has had me reading some books on management & delivery of message, basically how you convey things to people in a more effective manner. Telling Luke what to do & not to do is not my job. My goal is to provide him information & empower him to make the right decisions on areas i have some experience. He knew whenever he made mistakes so he didn't need reminding of that. Instead we'd look at the opportunities you can take if you don't make those mistakes. From this perspective the point is made in a much more constructive manner. I've been so fortunate to ride with, & train with, so many great champions over the years. It's extremely gratifying to have the opportunity to pass on that knowledge to these guys & be there to see them succeed at the highest level.

On a personal side i had a great week at the UAE tour. Despite arriving directly from LA & navigating my way through the 12hr time zone difference, literally doesn't get more opposite than that, I felt good & confident i could fulfil the tasks assigned to me. I was able to do a few swims, a few runs, & make the final day the hardest of all with a slightly longer run. Thanks to Luke either leading the race or being 2nd all week long, I spent a lot of time riding on the front of the peleton which is really ideal for my Ironman preparations. I think in previous years I've panic trained in swimming & running which has been detrimental to the fitness i gain from bike races & also my cycling overall. This week I've focused on just maintaining the muscle memory of both swimming & running & try to maximise the physiological benefits from the race. With a couple of days of recovery following the race, the idea is that the fitness will align with the muscle memory, & all going well, i can be competitive in the Ironman on Sunday. Normally this would hardly be my desired swimming & running prep for such a big race but it's gamble I'm willing to take on this occasion. This Ironman was very much an after thought. Ineos have an activation event around the new Grenadier in Cape Town next weekend which they asked me to attend. I realised the Ironman sat conveniently between the end of the UAE tour & the Grenadier event so why not. I absolutely love competing & being able to do it at this level is an absolute privilege and honour. Looking forward to see how i go, & at the very least, getting a race into the body and building from there into the rest of the season.

So that's that. I've been putting off writing this blog as Kona really hurt, it still really hurts, I really don't like how much it has been hurting. Writing this all down however has finally relieved me of my thoughts & I'm now incredibly excited for what lies ahead. I'm excited about this trip to South Africa. Fallon and Wyatt are with me so between events we'll do some sightseeing & try and find some big animals. It's the first trip we've been on in quite a long while without Olive, we didn't feel Africa was a place she needed to visit! 

Once we back in Europe the team have given me a great schedule for the year. Basically a stage race each month allowing me plenty of time to prepare for a few Ironmans over the spring & summer. The plan is to Race Lanzarote in May, Nice in June, & perhaps Switzerland in July. All going well I'll qualify for the World Championships in Nice in September which could potentially be a good course for me! I'd like to do a few other Triathlons in there as well. A PTO event would be great, I've always had clashes thus far so it'd great to do atleast one of those. Perhaps even Embrunman in august which has also always been on my bucket list. For now one event at a time so I'll get through Sunday's Ironman then go from there. It's certainly nice to have a bit of plan however which is something I've missed the past few seasons. 

If you've managed to read through all of this thank you. I greatly appreciate all my followers & everyone who reads this blog. I'll endeavour to get back to doing them more frequently as it's as much a therapy for me, as it is a way for me to share my journey with you.

Have a great day


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