With my sabbatical season in full swing, this past weekend I partook in my first half ironman triathlon. I'm now back in LA and conveniently Oceanside is the setting for the first major ironman 70.3 event of the season so as it was just down the road I figured I may aswell cruise on down 5 hwy and give it a crack. I have to admit I was pretty excited to give this particular distance of triathlon a crack as the distances of the respective swim bike and run seemed manageable for a first time while being advantageous to decent cyclists. The timing of my first attempt was influential in choosing Oceanside as after coming of the back of the Australian summer of racing I wanted to make the most of my ability to still be intouch with pedaling reasonably well! So with that all in mind when I finished my final road racing commitment 5 weeks ago I decided to jump back in the pool and pull on the sneakers and get myself ready for oceanside 70.3, I had thirty five days to snap into some sort of triathlon shape!
Off the back of the oceania TT championships I was fortunately is reasonable TT condition by my standards. With this in minds and such limited time to turn myself into a triathlete, I decided to not to bother trying to change my approach to training to much! Instead, I simply continued with my cycling training as usual and incorporated some short swimming and running sessions to do nothing more than adapt me body atleast biomechanically to these disciplines. My theory was pretty simple, the advantage I had was that all my cycling training had given me a good sized endurance engine. I saw this as an advantage from the point of view that assuming I took around 4hrs for the tri then my body was well and truly accustomed to that type of strenuous and physically taxing effort thanks to my years in the peleton. The biggest weakness I had was the fact that I hadn't swam more than a few strokes or run longer than a few miles at a time in around 7 years. Since I began cycling basically. So the challenge I saw was using my strength to turn my weaknesses into lesser weaknesses and at the same time not losing any of my strength on the bike, well seemed like the most logical approach to me! The plan I came up with was pretty simple, swim 2km in the pool straight 3 afternoons a week after training rides as a nice recovery session, and on the alternate 3 days do a light 30minute jog at 6minute mile pace. My rational around these two sessions was again very simply. Firstly for the swim I knew that I could easily do it in 30 minutes and if I trained hard I might do 27 minutes so didn't see any point training hard for such a small gain and instead would just make sure I could swim the distance easily. The run on the other hand was a leap of faith. I knew if I tried to run 13miles at such short notice it would firstly destroy me and secondly severely compromise my training on the bike. I therefore decided I'd simply give my legs and body a bit of a taste of the pace I'd like to do the run leg and then cross every finger and toe that I would be just tickedy boo on race day!! I did this program religiously for 4weeks and then race week decided to through in a little race rehearsal as I realized I really had no idea what was in for. I therefore devised my own version of what triathlete's call a brick session for the tuesday before the race consisting of a 2km swim, 90km bike and 30minute run. The reason I chose these distances was I knew I could swim and bike that far comfortably but also knew if I tried to run any longer than my trained 30minutes I would run the risk of taking on huge fatigue and not recovering intime for race day, I wanted the suffering of the half marathon to be a complete surprize!! I didn't want to know what I was in for. I won't tell you the specifics of the splits I did for the brick session but it gave me the confidence that if I had a good day I'd do 4:05 at best and 4:15 at worst. When tucked myself into bed Friday night I went to sleep feeling pretty confident I could achieve my target of winning my age group the following morning.
The alarm blazed to life at 4:45am and I sprung out of bed surprisingly bright eyed and bushy tailed! Waking up with so much enthusiasm at such an ungodly hour gave me even more confidence that it was going to be a great day and I was straight into my pre race routine. I was staying a mere 500m from the transition area where I had to check my bike in at 6am so there was absolutely nothing to stress me out before the race as I relaxingly consumed my gluten free chia seed porridge and a chopped up banana for my Pre race meal. At 5:45 I grabbed my backpack and bicycle and walked out the door champing at the bit to get down to the transition and set up my little possi. I'd been along the previous evening to scope out the area so I knew exactly where I was headed and was pretty excited off my allocated rack. I was positioned right at the very end of transition which was the first racks when you left the swim exit so was easy to find in my anticipated post swim delusional state! I arrived at transition and quickly get all my things lined out, bike shoes and running shoes, bike, helmet, glasses, number belt, all meticulously placed to limit my transition time as possible. I'd made the decision to put my bike shoes on in transition and also put on socks as appose to doing it the Tri way while in motion on the bike! I knew this would cost me a minute or so but having the same feeling in my feet as I've had for years on the bicycle would make up way more than a minute out on the road. Also while I knew I'd lose time on the first transition I'd make up for in the second as I would be so much easier to pull on my sneakers with socks on, I was pretty happy with this plan! The thing that I was most proud of though was remembering to bring baby powder with me to set up my stall!! I laid out a big towel and placed my shoes on that, bike shoes first and running shoes behind. I left around 1 foot of space at the front of the towel and drowned it in baby powder. My plan was that I would stand in the powder while I was putting my shoes and socks on and ensure my feet where as dry as possible so I was pretty pleased with myself for thinking that one up!! Oh I almost forgot I also unintentionally found out the best way to make friends with people in transition at 6am in the morning before the race!! All you have to do is take a track pump into transition!! I was amazed at how many people where in needed to put air in the tyres and hadn't come prepared! The bright yellow pump I'd borrowed from my mates at peddlers fork in calabasas went here there and everywhere in transition that morning to the point that I had no idea where it was going. It always came back but was quickly gone again and everybody so so so friendly when they borrowed it I really felt like I was fitting into the Tri community nicely, I was growing more and more in confidence about the day ahead. At 6:30 transition had to be cleared and I headed to get myself ready for the swim. As always our cannondale sports marketing lovely lady lauren celli was there to help out in anyway possible and had a pass for the VIP ironman area where I could get my wetsuit on and get ready for the start in piece right at the start line! Things couldn't have been more stressless and relaxed for before my maiden 70.3 adventure!
The guys at xterra had provided me with there latest technology wetsuit so I knew I had as much of an advantage as anybody in the field. Exactly 15minutes before my start time of 7:05 so at 6:50 I started to get myself into my snazzy silver and black speed suit. As I pulled my legs and sleeves up I drowned a redbull to give me one last little boost and pick me up before hooter sounded for the start of my wave. This 15minutes went so slowly! I just wanted to jump in the water and get stuck into the race, it was a great sign and when your not prepared the opposite occurs, yo feel like time is racing by!! Finally I was in the way and the countdown began, 5 4 3 2 1 horn!!!! And we were off.
My swim strategy was pretty simple, go hard for the first couple of hundred meters and ideally get out infront, from the I would settle into a rhythm until the final 200-300m and then bring home a little. I did exactly that and I was quickly clear with a couple of guys, I felt great in the water and I knew I was on good pace. About 8 waves of people had started ahead of my wave and after about 500m I started running into traffic. From here it was a complete slug fest where I lost count how many bodies I quite literally swam over the top of, pushed of the shoulders, pulled there legs or whatever else I had to do to get past. I was definitely being a bit of an a hole but I was on a mission and wanted to get out of the water as quickly as possible! As I approached the final few hundred meters a strange emotion came over me and was one I would surprisingly feel later on the bike aswell. I simply couldn't way to get out of the water and get on the bike, not because I was fatigued, no to the contrary! Due to the swim being such a slog fest of holdups with traffic I couldn't actually swim hard so was more frustrated than anything else as I couldn't push myself, I simply wanted to get on that bike and turn those pedals in anger and burn some energy! Right on Que and and anticipated schedule I exited the water in just over 28minutes, so far so good, my expectations based on preparations were on track, I was even more confident now of executing my race plan! Into transition and all went smoothly, I ripped of my wetsuit in a matter of seconds which was a relief as I hadn't practiced that at all!! Oops!! Stood on my baby powder soaked towel and effortlessly pulled on my socks and shoes. I clipped on my race number belt, on with the sunnies, helmet over the top, grabbed my bike and headed for the exit of transition. I was now on my home turf for the next 90km!
The bike course was an absolute beauty and one i knew 80% off lie the back of my hand. Last off season I spent one month training on the roads around oceanside and the streets on and around camp pendelton I frequented quite often. Another reason for excitement was the opportunity to finally let loose on my brand new cannondale slice 2. This bike is an absolute beauty where Cannondale's engineers obviously spent years developing. Like all cannondale's TT bikes it feels extremely fast in a straight line but what excited me most about this particular model is the way it handles underneath you in corners and up and down hills. On this missile I simply don't feel the need to touch my brakes as I want to rail every corner!! Well rail it by standards which isn't that crazy fast but feels good for me, I just feel extremely confident on this bike. The other feature is how Greta it feels while I'm climbing. Historically TT bikes have had a reputation and feeling to match that they are absolutes dogs when it goes uphill. Well this bike bike bucks that trend as when you hit a long climb or share rise and burst out of the saddle the slice 2 responds like the evo road bike and feels simply awesome! Year sure cannondale is my sponsor and I'm loyal to them but in all honesty this bike has absolutely blown my mind as far as it's performance goes and I was could wait to wind it up!! The other exciting thing about race ay of course is having all the race wheels dialed in and speed lid protecting your melon. Your bike not only looks awesome with a 80mm deep mavic cxr 80 and matching rear disk but it also feels fast, its such a great feeling riding a fully kitted out TT rig, very very exciting actually!
Anyways back to the bike course and having some local knowledge. This proved to be pretty crucial as on the bike I still had a bucket load of traffic to navigate my way through. I knew my bike split would be +/- 2:05 depending on whether I really jammed it or not so quickly and surprisingly easily was straight into that 43-45kmph speed average.the only issue I was faced with on the bike was again traffic like I'd encountered in the swim, there were people everywhere and it required all my peleton skills to duck in and around all the bodies on bikes to maintain my pace. As i roared through the camp ground and the stretch of road that the wednesdays worlds champion is crowned each week I reminisced about the day on the ride when Taylor Phinney, Sean Bell, Keil Reijan, and I would lead out Cal rutchlow for the sprint. He won it every single week and man it was fun despite my effort at the time brought a giggle and smile to my dial for a few seconds! By around the halfway point of the ride I was through all the age groupers from the waves ahead and I had some clear road ahead of me. The next group on the road would be the pro women but for 10km's or so I enjoyed some piece and quiet on the road between the famous trestles surf beach and the back gate to re enter camp pendelton. The other key aspect of the bike leg was also nutrition as it was when most of the food for the days race would consumed. I had come up with a pretty simply plan for this. I had 2 large 800ml drink bottles which each contained 100grams of carbs, 20grams of protein, and 100ml grams of caffeine. One bottle was to be consumed in the first 45km and the 2nd was to be consumed in the final 45km, simple!! I was confident that these bottles would contain enough energy to pretty much get me through the entire event. Sure enough at 45km I finished of the first bottle, as I entered the back gate at camp pendelton all was on schedule. Also one other crucial piece to my nutrition plan was 2km decent at around the 75km mark with a 40kmph safety speed limit. The pace felt like you were walking and must have looked like at a NASCAR race where all of a sudden the car is moving so stupidly slow!! Anyways it was great as I took the chance to slam down a block of cliff blocks and have a good drink as basically I had nothing else to do, just had to quite literally role it out. The annoying thing was all the pro women I'd just passed on the climb barreled past me as the rule was only for the age groupers and not enforced for the pro's, anyways didn't matter, was great to get that Tucker in and get it swallowed without being rushed, a luxury you often take for granted in bike races!
After enjoying a little time of solitude out in the open road my days target on the bike course being the pro women were now coming into sight. They had started 22minutes ahead of me and I knew if I caught them then I would be a long way ahead in my age group. Historically the fastest age group athlete had achieved the same time as the leading pro women so by catching the women I knew my lead was already somewhere in the vicinity of 15-20minutes. I started to pick them off 1 by 1 and as approached the final 25km the realization that still had a half marathon to complete after the bike leg! A run that would be double double the distance of any run I'd done in the past 7years! So with that I had a decision to make. Do I push on at this pace and shoot for a 2:02-2:03 bike split and risk blowing to prices on the run? Or do back it off a little and aim for a 2:05 and give myself the best chance possible to have a decent run and ensure I win my age group? Fortunately I made the intelligent choice and backed things of and started resting up the pins for the unknown that lay ahead! I tossed and turned in my mind with my ego wanting to go as fast as possible on the bike and common sense telling me that it's important to win the race and not worry about an ego boosting bike split. So the final 25km was extremely enjoyable and fortunately due to the predominant down hill still very fast even with my foot off the gas. The funny part was with around 10km to go I got the same sensation as I'd gotten in the swim, I was now ready for the bike leg to be over. Well there were a couple of reasons for this! Obviously I hadn't taken the time to test out my flash new tri suit sugoi had prepared for me and especially given myself the chance to get used to the very minimal chammy they have! So that meant my under carriage was a little on the tender!! But really the other sensation I was experiencing was that I was well and truly ready for the bike leg to now be over. I wasn't pushing hard anymore, I was recharging my batteries for the run to come and I simply wanted to get stick into it. In a strange way the fear of the unknown that lay ahead had an equal amount of excitement and anticipation of just what might happen to me during that 21km with nothing but my 2 feet to carry me. Anyways I was still n the bike and I still had to pedal some final km's and finish of that all important 2nd drink bottle of fuel. When I finally rounded the port on the final few hundred m's to transition the I took my final gulp and I was bursting with excitement to start the days long jog! I hit transition and as id anticipated this one felt extremely fast. My split was again exactly in the ball park I'd anticipated at 2:05 so I was stoked with that. My bike shoes were quickly relieved of duty from my feet and my mizuno running flat were on in a flash. In fact I surprised even myself with my speed in this transition that I paused for a moment as I was sire I'd forgotten something!! I hadn't, I was obviously just getting the hang of all this and while I hadn't down any practice transitions at all I had done plenty of visualizing how I'd do the transition and it was amazing to me to see how much that helped me nail it on race day. I was now headed into the great unknown!
Like the swim and the bike I had a plan for the run and it was pretty simple, try not to blow up!! Kimba Tedro had given me some great advice and told me that my first 2miles should be my slowest and build up from there. As a usual fly and die guy this was a hard one accept but I took kimba's advice as she is always very good with giving tips and headed out on the run relaxed and at a pace I felt was holding plenty back and as later in the run would show, it was dam lucky I took her advice!! Once out on the course I started to get plenty of support. The crowd I think felt sorry for me ad I was running right smack bang in the middle of the top 8 women. Talk about the thorn amongst a big pile of roses!! The pro men were up ahead and the age groupers were now some 20minutes behind so everybody just thought the logical thing, this poor block is miles behind the pro's! Good on him for sticking it out among the women! It was pretty funny hearing there feeling sorry for you encouragement. Little did they know I was absolutely brimming with confidence and excitement. I hadn't lead anything since the oceania TT and on that occasion Micheal Heburn ultimately got the better of me in the final km's! I remember how nice it felt to be on the podium that day but also how much it hurt not being strong enough to hold on for the win. Well today I was finally out in front again and had a chance at a victory and I was determined to not let it slip. As I turned the top marker on the first lap of the run, I had done as kimba suggested and taken it steady and was feeling great.
Along the run route there were aid stations every mile so basically 3 each way on each lap. My buddy Todd Skipworth had given me great advice to just role through all the aid stations nice and slowly and take on water and a couple of gels int he first lap and a half. I took Todd's advice and again it proved to be pivotal. Out on course my supporters from cannondale and sugoi were all cheering me along which was great. It's awesome when there is support out there but it's always more special and motivating when you here you name. As I began my 2nd 11km lap I felt Great. It seemed my steady pace was paying off and keeping up the fluids was proving pivotal. I was now however entering the great unknown as I hadn't run this far for almost a decade. I simply hoped that the engine I'd developed over the years in rowing and cycling would be enough to keep the biomechanical movement of the running technique I'd worked on for 5 weeks going! Also at this point I felt so good I decided to start upping the pace and driving for home as mentally I believed I just had to get to the final turn around at 5km to go and that part would be a freebie! Surely regardless I could survive from there? At roughly the 15km mark I noticed my legs getting a little sore! I didnt have any injuries but I could just tell that were now some 30minutes over my usual training run time and were attempting to raise the white flag. I was actually happy to feel this, I expected it and was surprised it hadn't come sooner. I'd promised my mates no matter what I was put myself well and truly into the hurt locker on that run leg and that was now exactly where I was headed!! I finally reached the top mark and was really starting to labor. Still I also now only had a little under 5km to the finish and could almost touch the finish line. This feeling drove me another 2km the boom!! It finally hit me!! I was going crosseyed!!
I'd always wondered just what it felt like to be stabling along in the final stages of marathons and triathlons when you see it on tele. Always just wondered at what point does that kick in and do you really no longer have control of how your legs function with the rest of your body. So like so much of the day when then questions were asked I was wrapped I'd pushed myself to that point and so intrigued as to what was going to happen to me. The next thing to save me was the redbull tent situated around 1mile from the finish. I could see it up ahead, it seemed to take an eternity to arrive and by the time had dragged me to that point the coordination of any sort of technique was gone, I was simply throughing one keg in front of the other. I have to admit redbull really did give me wings on Saturday! I walked through the aid station and slammed a couple of cups of the magic potion and admired the view for a brief moment of which redbull had obviously taken great care in ensuring was top class, much appreciated by this weary triathlete! Once through the station I had my legs back but of course it was short lived however it did drag me another 800m or so until I literally started getting tunnel vision and loosing color, I was on the verge of passing out! I succumbed to walking again for 50m or so and so so fortunately had my legs spring to life once again and start carrying me toward the finish shoot I could clearly see in the distance about 600m. I fixed my stare on the ironman banner and simply focused every tiny bit of energy I had on putting one foot in front of the other. Again that final stretch seem to take an absolute eternity which in reality it did, I'd dropped off almost 2minutes per km in those final few km's so was going pretty slow! Anyways that didn't really matter as the only important thing was I was moving forward.
When I finally crossed that ironman finish line off course I was spent. I had absolutely wrong every last bit of moisture I could from my body during the event. Lauren, Jaime and nat were all there to meet me at the finish and give me the knows I kind of knew but was so relived to here the confirmation, I'd Won!!! I had no idea of the pacing I was running at so but I assumed it was slow. I therefore was so excited when I realized i'd run a 90minute half marathon! That was simply what I'd hoped for, even with all my confidence deep down I didn't think I pull that one off. I had completely dodged a bullet on that one and gave me some hope that perhaps my running can be worked and I could be more competitive in The sport. That however was going to have to wait a while my body will take some time to recover from that prevent on Saturday. With the win came my expected slot allocation for the 70.3 worlds in my age group which I was so incredibly excited about. I had an absolute blast at the triathlon in Oceanside not just with the event but more importantly because of all those who came out to cheer, was just an incredible incredibly fun and enjoyable day. So that was my first 70.3 triathlon, done and dusted. I came in in what many would say was underprepared and in many ways I was however on the flip side of that I believe the way I managed my training and timing made me as well prepared as was possible under the circumstances and that gave me huge confidence. I'm hooked, I'll be on the startling again very soon looking forward to seeing what I can do against everybody else in Austria on august 30, jolly rippa of a day!
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