Sunday, December 5, 2021

A reflective Blog, the seasons that didn’t seem to end.

A Reflective Blog



I don't usually reflect on a season or in this case seasons. In light of the uneventful end to of my 2021 competitive year, & the need to obviously look & plan ahead, in this case, I felt the urge to do so. For me this season started all the way in January 2020 when I unexpectedly found myself back in Cyclings World Tour with non other than Team Ineos, formally Team Sky, which later that season became The Ineos Grenadiers. The 2020 season didn't finish for me until the middle off November with the conclusion of the Vuelta Espana. Having not raced a Triathlon at all in 2020 the season to me at least, didn't feel complete. 


Instead, following the Vuelta's conclusion, I immediately set my attention to 2021. I got back into serious swimming & running full off optimism for a "normal" season, ideally culminating in Kona in October. Alas, that wasn't to be & two years on from my last trip to Hawaii, there's still been no Kona, & I've once again got that feeling that this season hasn't really ended either. Obviously as far as the colander goes its well & truly finished & tomorrow I'll head to Majorca with my Ineos Grenadiers Teammates & Staff for the annual pre season training camp to begin preparations for the 2022 season. My 21st year competing internationally. 


I look back over all those years I don't have a lot of significant results to hang my hat on. An Under 23 World Championship in Rowing, an Olympics appearance, some participation's in the Giro d'italia & Vuelta Espana, a few podiums in lower level professional bike races, a few Ironman Victories. Probably a good argument at multiple times over all those years to give up on sport & do something more constructive with my life, however, every time i ask myself that very question I'd be thrown back in the ring by those that believe in me or achieve some significant performance that indicated to that one day just maby I'd nail that major victory. 


And that brings to the hear and now. I'm finally very settled in Andorra, married, child, dog, & coming off what i feel to be the best season of my sporting life. At the beginning of 2021 i had two specific goals, one for my cycling career, & one for my Triathlon Career. The goal was to be apart of One Victory with the Grenadiers, & win one Ironman. In 2020 I didn't compete in a single Triathlon & was a team member for a number of 2nd places with the Grenadiers, most notably Richard Carapaz's 2nd place at the Vuelta Espana. To me these goals where simple to set & would show me that I'm still improving as an athlete & reaffirm my decision to continue pursuing bigger goal in my chosen sports. 


I didn't need to wait long into this season to tick off the first of my goals. Dylan Van Barle won the Semi Classic Dwars Door Vlandarin in early April which was a really special feeling to be apart off. Dylan decided the day after Gent Wavelgem, another semi classic of 250km some 3 days prior to Dwars, that's he'd like to do some recon for the upcoming race. Everyone was pretty exhausted as you can imagine from the 250km we'd just raced, & where looking forward to a day laying in bed watching TV & perhaps an easy coffee shop ride. 


When Dylan asked if anyone would join him on this 3hr expedition of cobbles & Flanders climbs there obviously wasn't many volunteers to join him. As the fill in guy known love training everyone looked to me to take one for the team so to speak & give Dylan some company. I joked at the time I'd do that is was confident the recon ride & my presence talking his ear off would be crucial in his quest for victory. Low and behold he won & consequently we all had a good laugh about my crucial sacrificial lamb role. The boys really made me feel special acknowledging my contribution to Dylans preparation & our teams execution of the plan on race day. 


I'd barely had the chance to stop celebrating achieving my first season goal when Tom Pidcock went & won the first Road cycling race of his Professional career, I had a call a few days earlier asking if I'd like to do the race & i told our sports director (the guy driving the car dictating tactics over the radio) Brett Lancaster, absolutely as i was confident Tom would win. Sure enough he did & that was 2 races in a row that I'd ridden & a team mate had won. If something happens once it'll probably never happen again. If it happens twice they say it'll happen a 3rd time. So when Brett called again a couple of weeks later to go to the Vuelta Algarve in Portugal I didn't hesitate to predict Ethan Hayter will win a stage & I definitely want to be there for that. Sure enough he did & that was 3 races on the bounce I'd been apart of some wins, a perfect start to the season for me. 


After Algarve in late May i switched focus to winning that IM. I didn't pick a race as i needed to do some decent training first. I raced a local event in Girona to ensure I hadn't forgotten how to swim & run. Next i had the local Half Ironman event here in Andorra where i finished 3rd & finally felt like a triathlete again. I then had 6 weeks of training at home which meant Copenhagen fitted perfectly as a reference check & first objective of the season in in the build up to Kona. Boyd from achieving my cycling goal for the season, I was beaming with confidence ahead of Copenhagen & won the race quite comfortably. Obviously at the time i was excited to have won but had my eyes on the bigger prize of Kona in October. Unfortunately just one week later Kona was postponed & later canceled all together for the 2nd year running & that was that.           


Never one too Dwell on misfortune i quickly looked to some new objectives to finish the season. I'd been taken out of the rotation for bike racing in late august to allow me to focus on Kona. When that was canceled I obviously went back onto the rotation of available riders for the end kid season races. Once a series of One Day races was scheduled for me in late September, early October, this presented the opportunity to not only be the best teammate i could be but also race another Ironman in Majorca just One week after my final cycling race for the season. 


Obviously post Copenhagen to swimming & running had become what'd best be described as a maintenance routine to ensure i was as fresh & sharp as possible for the bike races. This was more important to me during this period as seven teammates where relying on me at each race & i wanted to be the best i possibly could be for them. Adding Majorca onto the end of the cycling season was really an ego trip to try & show myself i could compete in both sports one weekend after another at the highest level. In the case of the Ironman, rely on the years of work I'd done to get me through it, as opposed to any type of specific preparation as was the case for Copenhagen in the summer. 


The bike races went reasonably well. A third for Ben Swift in northern France kicked things off & a second for Adam Yates finished things off for my block of racing in Italy. No wins during this block. That would also be the case in Majorca. Despite a extremely low volume for swimming for a couple of months, i started the race with all the confidence in world in my cycling racing fitness. In turn i had an awesome swim which basically came about because i was most certainly very fit & being a wetsuit swim was able to through my arms over nice and fast & have a great swim. Unfortunately this enthusiasm & self belief bit me on the backside. I was absolutely exhausted from this brilliant swim & struggled to drag myself up the beach & into Transition to start the ride. 


On the bike I obviously feel rather confident & convinced myself I'd have a 2nd wind. That wind never really came & it was all i could do to keep myself at the front of the race with a couple of guys hot on my rear wheel. I didn't worry about them or trying to distance them as i knew I didn't have the legs to do so without completely running out of gas & with a marathon to come that's never a good strategy on the bike. I instead focused on keeping the rest of the field as far back as possible so i could potentially salvage a spot on the podium. The podium is always an important result for me as it means Champaign but more importantly Flowers. My wife Fallon always reminds before the start to have a great race & that she'd love some flowers. Consequently on those difficult days when I realise  winning is not in my capabilities I refocus on winning some flowers. As a result of this I've got a lot more 3rd's than 2nd's as i tend to race very defensively for the flowers, & subconsciously seem to prefer to safety of 3rd & getting flowers, than risking fighting for 2nd & ending up 4th & not getting the flowers. I know its stupid. 


In the case of Majorca I didn't have to worry about fighting for 2nd as Florian Angert was absolutely motoring from behind. He ran past me so quickly while i was grabbing a drink at an aid station that I didn't even realise he'd gone past. It wasn't until i saw him at a turnaround where we crossed paths that i realised I'd already dropped to 3rd. Leon Chevalier had long since bolted up the road & was on his way to an emphatic first Ironman victory for him, I'm certain it wont be his last. I left now to fend off the rest for the final flower earning position on the podium which I managed to do. For me, realising how well the guys ahead of me had performed, & the caliber of athletes whom finished behind me, I couldn't help but be satisfied that I'd proven to myself i could compete at the highest level in both sports within the space off a week. 


Obviously I'd have loved nothing more than to win in Majorca & I definitely started the swim with that intention. I learnt that I'm pretty good but no means exceptional & if i want to win under that type of preparation I'll need to do a few things differently during the bike racing phase to be ready. Covid has obviously been a rather limiting factor in many aspects for all of us, obviously that's a massive understatement. One positive for me as we come out of this pandemic & restrictions lift I'll be able to execute managing both sports much better as I'm able to do the training i want to do when i want to do no matter where in the world i am, particularly in relation to swimming. Leaving the team bubble during bike racing blocks just hasn't been an option to ensure everyone within the team stays as protected as possible. I'm really excited for the upcoming season where i feel I'll be able to put a lot of lessons I've learnt from the last 2 years into practice & become a better athlete in both sports. 


And that brings me to the ill fated attempted final month of the season. Halfway through the run in Majorca when i realised I wasn't good enough to win the race & i switched to salvaging the flowers for my wife, i decided I'd race the following weekend in Sacramento. The race ended up being canceled due to flash flooding in California, however, i was never making it regardless as we missed our flight from Europe to the USA. Under the entry rules for the US at the time Europe was still shut out & i was only able to enter as I'm married to Fallon who's American. I'd received pre approval & consequently didn't realise i needed to still carry our original marriage certificate to board the flight. Long story short they wouldn't let me board. I'd left the travel till as late as possible & when the following day wasn't an option it left no chance of making it to California in time. ,in the end it didn't matter as the race never happened. 


Ironman officials gave the athletes from Sacramento the option to race the Ironman in Florida 2 weeks later. The race wasn't scheduled to be a men's race however following Sacramento they made an exemption for a pro men's field for those on the start list for Sacramento. Morally i should never have accepted this opportunity as i never would've made the start line in Sacramento if the race had gone ahead. Selfishly i rocked up in Florida after gallivanting around California for 2 weeks pretending to train expecting to go out there & smash the field. 


Karma well & truly came back to bit me on the bottom & i made it as far as 70km into the bike before winding up on the side of the road completely emptying everything inside my body. I'd woken that morning feeling a little off but figured some extra paracetamol would get me through the day. It seemed to work for a little while as i swam at the front of the race & was in the leading group on the bike when i had the sudden desperation to pull over. Once i gathered myself a number of minutes later & stood up straight, I realised how weak i felt & how far there was to go. If I'd have happened in the run I would've definitely soldiered on as i have in the past as many of my readers are aware. In this case however I knew that the best option was to ride back to hotel with my tail between my legs & accept I had no business being at the race in the first place. Life has its ways of putting you in your place & that day was most certainly one of them.


Once again not wanting to dwell on a negative I quickly found a new focus in the Sacramento Marathon. I felt i could "somewhat" prepare for this properly. I say "somewhat" as i had only 4 weeks until the Sacramento Marathon. My decision was based in the fact i felt i owed it to myself to set some sort of target, do 3 weeks of structured training with an objective, & go & execute to the best of my ability to finish off the season on a relative high. Obviously I wasn't harbouring any ambitions of winning the event instead setting the target of finishing within 30 minutes off the winner. Along with my amazing coach at Nike Brett Kirby, we set a plan which went perhaps better than expected. The basics of the Plan where some longer sustained time on the legs runs, & some over speed work. 


The final form check was the annual thanksgiving 5k turkey trot race in Fallon's home region of Garret County Maryland. The event obviously attracts all ends of the exercise spectrum from elite college runners to mothers pushing prams. For me the elite college runners was a great opportunity to race against & learn some running race craft from seasoned competitors in that sport, obviously a bunch of youngsters half my age. In the end i found myself in a ding dong battle for the win with Evan Pyles which i was truly appreciative off. Digging deep in the final 50m's or so to win by the narrowest of margins over a competitive College X County & Track & Field athlete was a massive satisfying moment for me as i also ran much quicker than ever expected i could over that distance. A time of 16:03 on a course with 100m of climbing was a big shock & as a side note a course record. I certainly left the 5k full off confidence & enthusiasm to line up in another running race the following weekend in Sacramento for the marathon. 


Sure enough there was one more curve ball to come my way. The word fluid has been used more often in the past two years than I've heard during the rest of my life & yet again this fluidly changed our plans in a flash. A message from the Team Doctor a few days ago asking me to return to Europe ASAP to minimise the risk of being subjected to any potential travel ban changes due to this new Variant detected in South Africa. Off course considering the latest bombshell in the fight against COVID, running alongside 20 thousand people, flying halfway around the world immediately afterwards directly to team camp, is far from the most responsible thing to do. 


Team camp is obviously a time that keeping the team bubble as safe as possible is the top priority. As a result I'm already back in Andorra ensuring doing all i can to not take this dreaded virus to the camp. With no Marathon to cap off the year I'll end the season with the thrill of victory instead. Certainly the way the last couple have moths have panned out I'm absolutely chomping at the bit to get to team camp & start planning for 2022. I've learnt an incredible amount these past 2 years & cannot wait to use those lessons to continue my evolution as an athlete.


This blog ended up being a lot longer than I anticipated however it was more for personally to write it all down & move on. No time to dwell on what did or didn't happen, onwards. 


CJW 


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Friday, August 27, 2021

Catch me if you Cam

The title Catch me if you Cam has never felt more appropriate for a race report. As has become customary with me with regard to race planning, I decided at the very very last minute to participate in Ironman Copenhagen & I'm obviously happy I did indeed line up. It'd been almost 2 years since I'd had the opportunity to put together something that resembles Ironman Training, its not been since the lead up to Ironman Italy in 2019 I actually felt I'd done the work to not only go the distance, but also be prepared to race every single centimetre of it. 


The reason for the last minute decision attributed to a number of reasons. Firstly, my Teammates success at the olympics with Gold Medals for Tom Pidcock, Filippo Ganna, Richard Carapaz, & off course Bronze for Rohan Denis, was so inspiring I simply wanted to race myself & show what i could do. Coupled with that, I'd missed out on selection for the Vuelta Espana so i wanted Dave B & the management to know that i was ready for the race, in great shape, so they take that into consideration next time they are considering me for a converted spot in a grand tour squad. 


Secondly, Fallon's sister Kira was visiting from the USA. I needed to make sure she was happy to tag along with our circus to an Ironman. Fortunately Kira was happy for a new adventure, she'd never been to an Ironman before, let alone Copenhagen, so she was a resounding yes. I greatly appropriated her allowing me to interrupt her holidays to come along and watch me race around swimming, biking & running in Lycra. 


The third reason was due to my training load. I'd managed the most consistent 6 weeks of IM training I believe I've ever been able to execute. It seems the road racing has given my fitness a nice little bump & as a result i found i could push myself much harder in my swimming & running while maintaining my cycling, than i could in past years. This however has a toll & the cumulative fatigue started to hit me 2 weeks ago & i knew i needed to take a break to absorb that great work. Knowing that I'm hopeless at taking a break from training, i felt that if i did an Ironman to "finish" off the block, I'd be more likely to take a proper break from training for a number of days. 


And the final factor was my 2nd vaccine. It was scheduled for last Thursday so 3 days before the race. I'd certainly felt pretty average after the 1st dose so was quite concerned about feeling flat in the Race after my 2nd dose. In the end we decided to take the gamble & I had the vaccine the morning we traveled to Copenhagen. I took Thursday completely off, Friday as well to be on the safe side, & to be on the safe safe side i took the day before the race off training as well. Actually that's a small exaggeration as on Saturday I did a 50m swim with or Dog Olive so she could get her paws wet in the Baltic Sea, she loves swimming. I certainly still wasn't confident i felt "normal" but I didn't have a fever like after the 1st dose so decided I'd roll the dice & tackle the Ironman.


Once we arrived in Copenhagen it felt so good to be back at a proper Ironman event. Obviously this time was a little bit special as we had Wyatt with us for the first time. Last time he attended an Ironman was in Italy & Kona when he was the size of a Prune inside his beautiful Mumma. 2 years down the line & he's 15 months old & ready to begin his IronKids career which he did on the Saturday before my race on Sunday. I have to admit, he's pleased Kona has been postponed as he's definitely got a few areas to work on, particularly getting off the starting line on his own 2 feet. He was chomping at the bit in the build up until the loud music & crowd fired up. His little sensory senses haven't had much exposure to noise during the Lock Down dominated first 15 months of his time on the planet. Anyways the extra 5 months we have to prepare for Kona will be invaluable I'm sure as he looks to improve on his first performance in Copenhagen. 


Pre Race wise for me was dominated by the recent appointment by Lionel Sanders to make me his coach. I never offered my services, he simply appointed me. I agreed to do the job for this 1 race & 1 race only. I was so confident in my ability to get the best out of him that i knew he wouldn't need me after Copenhagen, he'd be back on track. I shouldn't give away my coaching secrets but I'm a bit off an open book so here you go. I simply told him I'd lead by example, simple as that. There was obviously plenty of banter & interviews for the pair of us which was a welcome return to what I've become so accustomed to at Ironman events, & most certainly, what I've missed so much these past 2 years. I really love everything about Ironman events, the build up, the race obviously, the day after with presentation if you've earned a place on the podium. I really love the whole thing & to now be able to include my son & the activities for him into that makes it even more special. 



Race Day


The Wurf's are pretty dial'd in with race day mornings & despite the introduction of Wyatt & my Sister in Law Kira, everything went as smoothly as it ever has. My bike setup it pretty straight forward. Check the tire pressure, 110psi in the front & back, fill up the hydration system, refill water bottle behind my seat, 2 oversized squeegee bottles containing 5 gels each & 2 energy bars in the bento box, clip in my shoes, Garmin, & I'm good to go. A process that used to take me 1hr now takes 15-20 minutes. From there its off to find the family to relax a little before getting suited up for the race. 


Finally on the start line & the final countdown seemed to take forever. So long so that my front foot started sinking into the wet sand & just as I lifted it out to reposition it, the race started & i was quite literally on the back foot! Fortunately i was able to bash my way through the field & latch onto the back of the strong swimmers group. I was certainly at maximum revs trying to stay with the group & unfortunately just after half way i lost touch with those guys & slid back to the next group. Fortunately this group wasn't overly far behind but what surprised me was that Lionel was leading it! He really was taking this follow my example seriously & was swimming the best I've ever seen him swim. As humbling as it was slotting into this group i was comfortable in the knowledge that there was only a handful of guys ahead of us within a couple of minutes. Well, all except Lukas Wojt, the former Olympic swimmer who was giving us all an absolute schooling in the discipline. It would take me the best part of 120km on the bike to overhaul the 5+ minute lead he had built up in the swim. Fortunately he was alone & the rest where well and truly within catching distance nice and early on the bike.


Once on the bike & we'd navigated through the first 10 very technical Km's, i went to work on making my way through the field. First thing i needed to do was put Lionel & the rest of the group we'd swam with in the rear view mirror & put what i felt to be my biggest rival for the day on the back foot. I'd studied the course & wind direction & knew that a long exposed cross tail wind section came after 20km. As we hit this section of road i twisted the throttle & instantly had a gap on Lionel & the group & was off in pursuit of the faster swimmers further up the road. Once I'd established this initial gap on Lionels group i settled into a nice comfortable rhythm ready to twist the throttle again as i caught & passed those ahead. By halfway through the bike only Lucas remained infront of me but as I'd averaged close to 45kmph for the first 90km i knew he'd been working very hard to maintain his lead & it was just a matter of time before i caught & passed him as well. 


Sure enough around km 110 i sailed passed Lucas to give him a taste of the same medicine he'd dished out to us in the swim & i was in the lead. I've got to admit i took a moment to savour the fact i was leading an Ironman again & i now simply couldn't wait to get off the bike & get into the run & finish it all off. The final 60km i just kept my nice solid pace & i was pleasantly surprised but my pace. I've certainly done some work on my position off late & obviously racing at the world tour level has opened up the energy systems quite a bit. Was definitely a nice feeling to be able to maintain such a pace & at the same time feel like i was well within myself to have a good run. As soon as i dismounted the bike & my feet hit the ground the sensations where confirmed & I felt great running into transition to strap on my running shoes. 


Onto the run course & my first objective was to get an idea of where my rivals where at. I knew i had a decent lead but I had no idea really how big it was & who was where. Fortunately there was a turn around after 2km so I'd get a good look at the field. Off everyone i saw only Jasper Swenson who was at 6 minutes & Lionel whom was at 9 minutes back, looked like they'd be capable of catching me. They where both still running at 2:36 pace after 10 km when i got a 2nd chance to asses the field so i ran some calculations in my head to set my race plan. 


I figured if i ran at 2:45 pace it'd be fast enough so that they have to maintain there rapid pace to catch me by the finish line. Neither had run a marathon that fast before but i have too much respect for my rivals to count anything out so I figured it was best to be on the safe side. Fortunately for me this pace felt very comfortable so i made a rule with myself that I wouldn't react until they got within 1 minute of my lead. I was extremely confident i could up the pace if need be but with it still very early in the build up to Kona I wasn't prepared to work any harder than was absolutely necessary in the run. Sure enough lap by lap the gap to these two continued to plummet & it took a lot of patience to stick to plan & wait as long as possible before reacting. My ego wanted me to burry them early on but common sense or perhaps maturity ensured i stuck to the plan. 


First Jasper fell off the pace & only Lionel remained as a threat as i began the final lap signifying 10km till the finish line. At this point the gap was down to 2 minutes which meant he had to run 10-15 seconds per km quicker than me to catch me before the finish. I stayed patient and maintained my 4:00 pace knowing 3:45's where a big ask for anyone in the sport at that point in the run. With 4km's to go the margin was still 1:20 so his paced had began to slow & i knew i had it in the bag. At this point i allowed my self to have a little fun & stretch my legs over the final few km's to the finish. At that point I didn't see any need to be out there any longer than necessary & was excited to hit that finish tape 1st for the first time in 2 years & celebrate with my family waiting at the finish. 


That feeling of crossing the finish line didn't disappoint & was as exhilarating as always. Was a pleasant surprise to learn I'd broken the overall course record by over 3 minutes with a time of 7hrs 46minutes, which is always my goal as it means you've also won the race! People talk about bike course records however my opinion is you ride for show & run for the dough $$$. So that was that. In the end I'm extremely happy that we made the last minute decision to go to Ironman Copenhagen. Obviously winning makes me feel less bad about dragging Kira around Europe on a work trip during her holiday although she seemed to really enjoy herself so that was good. Being a dad is the greatest thing in the world so feeling like I'm setting a good example for my Son feels good as well. All in all Ironman Copenhagen was a very satisfying outing.


With Kona postponed till February we've obviously had to change plans accordingly. I'll now finish the cycling season racing on the road with the Ineos Grenadiers. i expect to race a few 1 day races in Italy & belgium over the next 6 weeks. My race program is very flexible with the team as I'm basically one call for everything but I'd expect to just do a number of 1 day races between now & the end of the season in October. From there ill take a bit of break before building up for Kona with my annual training block in Los Angeles in December & January. Obviously it's disappointing that kona has been delayed from the perspective that Hawaii is still struggling from the COVID pandemic. We can only wish that the island gets on top of that so they can safely and happily welcome the Ironman World Championship back to the island. Obviously public health & safety is of far greater importance & significance than any sporting event. So having said that, whenever it is we are fortunate enough to be back on the big island for Kona, I'll be ready!


CJW

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Monday, May 31, 2021

Blogs Back

Going to do my Best Josh Amberger impersonation here...

Have a free weekend at home & discover there is a Full Distance Triathlon Happening 2hrs Drive away🤔 check the training plan👨‍💻 🏊‍♂️🚴🏻🏃‍♂️on schedule, great, why not share the pain with 1000 other fellow endurance sports tragics. Pack the Car, wait we now have a Baby, Baby stuff takes up most of the Trunk Space, guess I'm not taking the spare wheels, helmet, wetsuit, or extra nutrition I'll actually never use. Having a baby simplifies packing👌Oops forgot we still have the Dog🐩🤦 There goes the space for the unnecessarily overloaded tool kit. Wife & her kitchen in a bag in 🚘 & off we go. Kitchen bag now stashed at feet as no longer room anywhere else in the car, wife's knees tucked up under her chin. Feels like we've never been to a triathlon before.

Race Day...
🏊‍♂️Off to a decent start for the first 5 stokes before lactate sets in, that's right haven't done this for nearly 2 years. Still in a good Group. Peleton skills coming in very handy, if there's one thing I've gotten very good at over the past 18 months it's following Men's Bums & Heels, you touch plenty of both fighting for position in an Open Water Swim bash🙄 Halfway through the swim expectations & capabilities finally collide, Fractured Rib from 3 weeks ago rears its ugly head, I was meant to take the swim easy🤦 Too late now I'm committed, the trusty left arm & kicking will have to do the work🙏 Somehow manage to hold onto the pack, exit the water in the Top 10, surprisingly great swim, again peleton skills saved me👍.


Onto the bike & quickly reminded by my lack of swimming fitness, I'm absolutely exhausted. Somehow find my way into the lead in the first 25k, figure the quicker I go the quicker I'll feel good again? Yeah I know, stupid! Haven't done this for a while ok!!! By 30km the bumpy roads have snapped off my rear bottle cage, brake hood is hanging out of the bars, gell canister has flung out of my bento box, 150k to go on the bike, no worries hand up for the team car, bottles & food required, Oops I'm not at a bike race🤦 I'll find water & gells at the aid stations, all good👌.

Find a random piece of tape on the hydration system, use that secure brake hood back in the handle bars, in long distance triathlon Improvisation is key! 30k to go, haven't managed to grab enough food at aid stations, hunger flat, completely lights out. Fortunately on a climb, will recover on decent & grovel to Transition. Off the bike first with a 6 minute lead, not as bad a situation as I expected!


Onto the run with renewed enthusiasm🥳 Wait what's that, oh yeah fractured rib & now you jumping up and down🤦 Focus shoots from running form to learning to run without breathing of bouncing, can't find a solution, suck it up & just going to have the cross the fingers here. I see Fallon, Wyatt & Olive out on course, motivation again rises! 10k down, still leading, amazing, I'd forgotten what it felt like to lead race, to finish first first you must get into the lead! Enthusiasm growing for the fairytale tale ending to the group training day. 15k in, wheels start to really fall off, lead evaporates quickly and by 19k I'm over taken by Sam Laidlow who goes onto win, chapeau.

Focus turns now to actually finishing as with half a marathon still to go it's going to be a long slow death March! Maintain 2nd for the next 15k as pace rapidly drops, walk aid stations in the hope of a miracle revival, black magic (coke) by the Gallon with water, isn't working like it used, why can't it be 2019!!! Richard Spink (Physio) & Brett Lancaster (Sports Director) from the team where there at special needs to hand me bottles, or as we call it in the world tour "extra feed". I wish I had a convoy off cars to hide in or a peleton to get towed along by at this moment that's for sure! In the last 5k I'm past by 3 more guys, vision is now going cross eyed as I grovel to the finish line & I don't even notice them passing me.

Finally reach the finish, 5th, just the way I left off long distance racing all those years ago in kona, 5th, great consistency Wurfy👏👏 No, jokes aside, it was simply great race & in the end finishing felt like an achievement. If you have any weakness a Long Distance Triathlon will find you out, particularly on the Marathon! It'd been so long I kinda hoped that aspect had changed, wishful thinking obviously🙄 Great to be back racing, go through the motions as they say, will make sure I'm healthy & more organized before I tow the line again.

Congratulations to all that took part, just surviving that spectacular course was an achievement in itself. To the organization for putting on fantastic safe event given the current climate the world faces. The host region of Girona & off course the city of platja d'aro, you have all the ingredients off making this one of the most iconic, Long Distance Triathlons in the world. Truly a heart bed of endurance sports, particularly triathlon. Definitely a Bucket List Event! And finally but by no means least, the volunteers. You guys & girls are the heart and soul of any Long Distance Event, without the athletes simply run out of fuel Haha. Jokes aside we wholly & solely depend on you to realize our dreams, Thankyou!


CJW


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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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