It's safe to say 2019 has started really really well for me. Last weekend in Port Macquarie months many months of work where put to the test to ensure we're on the right track for Kona. While there are always things to work on, no matter how good you are at anything you can always look to improve, I'm certainly very excited to see the fruits of the hard work of many that have helped me get to this point in Ironman racing. I haven't written a blog for a very long time, simply put I've worked harder on my running than I've worked on anything in my life & haven't had the mental energy for a keyboard marathon. I'll do my very best here to bring everyone up to speed on how everything came together the way it did at Ironman Australia.
For the 2nd year in a row Fallon & I headed to LA to see in the New Year & for me to restart my training with Geraint Thomas or G as we affectionately call him. We both had a rather successful year by both of our standards, guess that's a rather massive understatement!!! So there was no reason not to start this year the way we started last year. This time around i was a little more behind the eight ball as i needed a longer break at the end of 2018, the 8 Ironman's certainly took there toll & with the running set to dominate 2019 we knew my body needed a good rest & reset before getting back to work. This meant LA was a real suffer rest for me as G was a couple of months into his preparation & well & truly putting to the sword. Last year we'd go toe to toe for 2hr TT efforts while this year I'd last about 30 minutes before retreating to the coffee shop & a caramel latte while I waited for him to finish. On top of that i started running again with the goal of building up to 100km per week by the beginning of February & with the 5-6kg extra I'd packed on over Christmas this only compounded to my daily torture. The positive during this period was my swimming as the combination of Gerry Rodriguez's Tower 26 crew & my extra flotation flab meant my swimming was far more enjoyable than normal & made the 5am wake ups something i looked forward to.
As is always the case for in LALA land i often have to pinch myself with what's going on around me. If getting up early to get your swimming done so you can be finished in time for the Tour De France champion to meet you for training at 9 wasn't uncomprehendable enough, the mindset & structure to my running really took me by surprise. Last year Brett Kirby was a sounding board for the queries we had on the run & was a major factor in the improvements we made there. Brett is a physiologist with Nike & most would recognise the name from the Breaking 2 project if you've seen that. In 2019 Brett was keen to play a more active roll in my running trying and work alongside my coach Tim Kerrison to offer his expertise.
Once again, I really had to pinch myself on one drizzly January morning when i rock up to the Santa Monica Track for my first interval session for the to find Brett, Tim & Per Lundstum all waiting patiently for me to pull on my shoes & get to work. Per is head of high performance at RedBull so basically the 3 off the greatest sporting minds on the planet all waiting to see how i run! And not only that standing there in the rain! Brett actually joined in as he's a great runner in his own right which left Tim & Per to do the supervising while Brett kept closer eyes on my snapping right at my heels for the 10 X 1200m reps we banged out. For so many reasons this session was a spin out. Carl Lewis is one of my absolute sporting idols so I'd grown up watching videos of him galloping around that very track & never in my wildest dreams thought I'd be on the same track having these guys watching over my own athletic endeavour's, absolutely mind boggling moment for me. Safe to say by the time that session was finished & we'd had the de brief i was 100% focused & determined to give it absolutely everything i had to improve my running.
I survived January with G & as it should be with a re commencement camp i was far fitter than when it began. I was now doing 90 minutes of the 2hr TT sessions & ready to start the 100km weeks in February. Fallon & I packed up Olive & headed back to our home in Andorra to enjoy my first real winter ever!!!! I'd literally enjoyed an endless summer for almost 2 decades so winter smack bang in the Pyrenees was certainly a bit of a chance. Andorra is special in so many way but most uniquely is that the town actually sits quite low at 1000m elevation while all the ski hills don't start till your up around 2000m. So with that being said each morning Fallon & I would leave the apartment together, me in my running, riding, or swim gear, & her dressed in her Snowboard Kit. I'd turn left & go to work & she'd turn right & walk the couple of hundred meters up to the gondola to do some shredding, certainly not the mountain winter I'd envisaged hahaha. No jokes aside the winter was very mild & barely affected my training at all & when it did I'm more than happy spending hours on the stationary bike or treadmill catching up on YouTube or watching Eurosport.
Throughout February, March & April the running was my absolute focus. In February in particular i only rode my bike twice for the entire month. I cannot remember riding that little in a month long period since i took my first paddle strokes at 2 years old!! Probably managed a few more swims in the vicinity of 5-6, every ounce of energy i had was going into building up a healthy running body. By the beginning of march i was regularly knocking out 120+km weeks & it was time to ease the riding & swimming in again to a level more required of a professional Ironman triathlete haha. When Tim & I sat down with Brett in January it was decided that I'd use the running focus to prepare for the London Marathon.
Now The time in which i ran the marathon wasn't really the focus but more the mental & physical application that I'd be required to adopt to endure such a training regime & running load I'd obviously never endured before & never thought I'd be capable of enduring. When you have the best minds in the business setting your regime however & the knowledge that Eliud Kipchoge is on a similar schedule all be it with paces around 1 minute faster than mine per km!! Isn't that just amazingly awesome!! It's easy to not ever think your working to hard as you know dam well there at least one Kenyan out there working a hell of a lot harder!!! Anyways as march rolled on & my riding & swimming picked up we noticed that i was actually running better with those two disciplines back in my routine than i was when i was basically only running.
We therefore decided to scrap the London Marathon idea & do Ironman Australia instead to get a real idea of exactly where we where at & what modifications we might need to make on the crucial next phase with kona now only 5 months away. The fact that I'd ridden & swam a hell of a lot less than usual was in many ways seen as good thing as it would probably put more pressure on my run if i wanted to win the race which obviously was my goal. With the plan now modified we found a tune up race, the Cannes International Triathlon to basically dust the cobwebs off my triathlon skills. The race was 2 weeks out from Port Macquarie so fitted perfectly with finishing the big weeks of training & allowed plenty of time to freshen up & travel to Australia.
Fallon, Olive & I packed the car and headed down to the French Riviera for the week leading into Easter. Sounds exotic doesn't it? Well it wasn't much of a holiday. G was home in Monaco so I took the opportunity to have my backside handed to me for a few days on the bike in the hope I wouldn't embarrass myself in the race that weekend. I really fitness crammed that week culminating on the Thursday where we rode for 6hrs before I pulled on the Nike's & ran 33km from Nice to Cannes. Friday i pre road the course for some active recovery as i was rather buckled from the previous 4 days & then enjoyed a very relaxing Sunday to freshen up as much as possible for the race.
Ive never been so excited to start a season which was a great feeling as i knew subconsciously my running wasn't going to be as bigger weakness as it had been in the past couple of seasons. I wasn't sure about the other 2 disciplines but i know i had plenty of time to get them to where they need to be for kona so that didn't really phase me. Besides I've always dreamed of winning a race by out running someone so a weak swim & bike could be exactly what i need to achieve that. You have to be careful for what you wish for as sure enough i got off the bike with Tim Don, the first time I'd got off the bike with someone in a long long time! I thought beauty, we are about to find out how my run legs will hold up.
The unique run course in Cannes was also only 16km so with Tim being a former Olympic Distance World Champ i doubt anyone except myself would've given me any chance to win that duel. To be brutally honest if I wasn't so stubborn I wouldn't have given myself a chance either but I'd dreamed of this scenario and now i had a chance to walk the walk or run the walk so the speak. I pinned the ears back and went for it straight out of transition to establish a small 15 second lead on Tim. There where multiple U turns per lap so wanted to be in front so i have an ideas of where he was and what was doing at all times. I held that gap through first 4km lap which was already a huge surprise. I was already rather uncomfortable so decided to get a little more uncomfortable & try to extend the margin & doubled my lead in the next lap.
I sensed he was really struggling so i sunk the boot in on lap 3 & doubled my lead again. I've lost so many races, basically every race I've done on the run I didn't let up & kicked again to double the lead yet again & win by 2 minutes. Obviously the perfect start to the season but with the cheer squad i had assembled i really couldn't lose this race. Gemma Porte (Richie's wife) & Sa Thomas (G's wife) had traveled down from Monaco to keep Fallon (& Olive) company during the race & add some firepower to my support crew. Pretty powerful female support right there so was really enjoyable to share Easter Sunday with them & i feel earn some Easter chocolate for the drive back to Andorra to get ready for our trip down under. The season was off to the perfect start.
We headed to Australia the next day in order to have a good week at home in Tasmania to re calibrate onto the Souther Hemisphere. Also I be got an awesome crew of guys i train with when I'm back in Tasmania & still bing light on the cycling fitness i knew Fox & the gang would bash me around the ears & harden up for my first Ironman of the season. I've got the best sponsors I could ever dream off & while obviously making money from sport is awesome its the support i have that make those deals priceless. Ive got bikes & clothing in each continent we spend our time. Los Angeles & also the east coast in Fallon's Home town, Tasmania & off course Europe. The stress of not having to lug stuff all over the worlds just makes it so easy to simply do my job & sure enough i was on the bike at 6:30am to meet the gang for a few hours of torture 7 ensure Jet Lagged had no chance of getting me down. After a great ride with the gang I knocked out a run on my favourite trails around the house & straight away i was back in the groove. The next week at home followed the same pattern, the guys would meet me early for a spin & we'd fit swimming & running sessions in around there work schedules. These guys are so tuff it just always kicks me in the butt. I basically now know if i can manage not to get dropped during our sessions then I'm in really really good shape! With that knowledge I headed to Port Macquarie full of confidence.
Racing in Port Macquarie had some extra significance for me. My parents divorced when i was 3 & Port was the town Mum decided to move us to where she felt she could bring me up on her own the best way possible. We remained there till i was 7 when we moved onto Lord Howe Island so most of my earliest memories in life are in Port Macquarie. I leant to swim, started little athletics, got my first geared bike & off course started school in that town so i was anxiously excited to go back & perform in what was in essence a home town crowd for me. Sure enough the town had embraced me as there own once again almost 30 years after mum & i had left. I got goosebumps when being introduced to the crowd & would start the race with the entire town in my corner & the weight of a home town victory firmly upon my shoulders. We arrived in Port a couple of days early so that i had the time to check out the bike course. As always the bike the centre piece of my strategy, its where I'm either on the front foot from the get go or giving myself a chance to get back into the race.
Not knowing what position I'd find myself in come race day but obviously wanting to win i knew a good recon of the bike course was crucial. It was 2 laps of a 90km course so much easier to recon than single lap courses. My Dad had travelled down from Noosa to do this ride with me & off course watch the race & that made it the first time I'd actually done a recon ride of a course with someone else. It really helped having dad there to discuss the things i was seeing & have some reassurances that i was reading the course the right way. No matter what sport I've done over the years dad has always been there to support me in anyway possible & give me every opportunity imaginable to succeed. To see him look at me with a set of eyes like i finally after all these years of sporting failure had some idea of what i was doing gave me huge confidence for the race. His been my biggest fan but also my biggest critic or perhaps the person most capable of giving me a reality check so this look of belief & approval meant a huge amount to me. With the all important course check done i was relishing favouritism status for the very first time & simply couldn't wait for the gun to go off so i could get stuck into Ironman Australia.
When the gun finally did go off i had a terrible start. I dangled to the front group for as long as possible before a combination off disorientation & fatigue meant i raised the white flag to swim my own pace. I quickly swallowed my poison & accepted I deserved this with my lack of swimming & decided to look for the positives, this was definitely going to put more pressure on my run. I excited the water 4 minutes behind with a big smile on my face which seems odd doesn't it? Well the reason was that firstly I'd expected to be a lot further behind considering how easily I'd swum, & secondly I hadn't been caught by the girls who started 1 minute behind us!! I'd got lost on the swim back from the turn around & assumed they'd gone past me whilst the life guards where getting me back on course. Instead I wasn't in such a bad position at all specially considering the caliber of swimmers that where only 4 minutes ahead as i know i could wipe out that advantage on the bike pretty quickly.
I got straight to work once on my trusty Pinarello & within 60km i was alone any the front of the race. I simply wanted to get control of the race as quickly as possible so that i could dictate things on the run the way i had in Cannes. Once in the lead however i got the adrenaline rush i always get when leading a major IM & decided to keep the pressure on. I surprisingly felt fantastic & very strong, perhaps the best I'd ever felt in the early stages of a bike leg. I'd been top have a bio mechanical fitting & aerodynamics checkups with the guys from Gebiomized & Staps in Cologne Germany. I can honestly say these guys are absolute genius's as i felt stronger than ever & faster than ever aerodynamically. We also did some product testing so all in all i was very excited in the knowledge of the speed we had found for free basically, I love technological evolution! Back to the bike & the sensations didn't change. I continued to feel strong & my lead continued to grow & not only that but it felt way easier than it had previously.
Brett had suggested that my unique physiological makeup thanks to my rowing & cycling background should mean that the more running i do the stringer i will get on the bike. Surely this wasn't the reality though as everyone always told me that when you start running more your cycling will really suffer!! Well on evidence of the first test for 2019 I'd say I'm going to have to side with my running coach Brett on this one as i felt awesome & by the time I'd reached T2 I'd averaged more power than ever for a IM bike split of 307 watts or 316 normalised for the scientific minds. As usual all this data is on strava so you can analyse it yourselves there but the best part was my heart rate was also much lower than normal so I'd really done this ride well & truly within myself. I was absolutely buzzing with excitement to pull on the trusty Nike's & get stuck into the marathon as I'd never ever started a run feeling so good.
Once onto the run course I instantly felt in control which again was a feeling I'd never experienced before on a run course. This i guess was where the 1600km over the first 4 months of the year where paying off, that's further than i ran during the entire 2018 season, felt the first time like I actually had some control over running. Once i established where my rivals where in the first lap i settled into a pace that ensured they didn't close on me at all. My good mate Tim Reed was my closest challenger & he was definitely pinning his ears back to come after me in his budgie smugglers. To keep him at bay & in an attempt to crack him psychologically i was forced to knock out a 1:20 first half of their marathon, my second fastest half marathon ever!
I felt like i was doing it easier than Tim judging by the pain on his face but he could also have been playing mind games so i just focused on trying to extend the lead. Unfortunately i lost focus a little on just doing what i was doing & maintaining my rhythm & started to panic that i was running to fast. Noe I didn't try & slow down but i did start consuming double the calories we'd planed for me to consume. My thought was I'd never run this quick before & i could run out of fuel so better cram some more in. This is perhaps the dumbest mistake you can make when your stomach is over 6hrs into an IM & sure enough it wasn't long before the wheels started coming off. Through 30km my lead was still stable but trouble was imminent.
I stopped for a nature break with 11km to go & once going again experienced my first ever stomach stitch in competition. Having never had one before i had no idea what to do so rattled my brain & remembered seeing Craig Alexander digging his hand into his ribs one year en route to winning Kona so hand into the ribs it went! After a couple of km's or so it subsided & while my lead had dropped a little it was still in excess of 6 minutes so i knew with 8km to go I just had to manage the engine carefully & limp it to the line if necessary. I knew exactly what the problem was so obviously stopped eating & gave my stomach a chance to deal with the excess calories I'd pumped into it.
Once around the final turn around & only 4km from home i was starting to feel not so uncomfortable again. I had a look at the watch & saw that a 2:46-2:47 marathon was still on the cards so i got back to work on finishing this thing off. I passed Tim for the final time with over 5 minutes still up my sleeve so i knew i could go for broke & worst case scenario grovel over the line before he could chase me down. I had a real spring in my step which in the final 4km was again a very foreign feeling for me, was like absolute night & day my experiences I'd had in 2017 & 2018 compared to in Ironman Australia, it just felt so dam good to know where those double run days had got me. Sure enough my eye's got too big for my belly & with less than a km to go my stomach said enough was enough & brought me to a grinding halt to empty its contents.
Safe in the knowledge i was over 5 minutes ahead I didn't panic & let my tumbling tummy sort itself out & once i did I straightened myself up & finished off the run with a real spring in my step. Running down that red carpet to the roars of my hometown crowd is a moment I'll cherish for the rest of my life, it was without a doubt the ultimate homecoming. I thought about all those hours if uncomfortable running I'd done over the winter & it made the effortless feeling i know have trotting along feel all the more sweeter. Fallon, Mum & Dad where all there waiting & after Fallon really went mad at me for giving up the fight in Busselton it was important she knew I wouldn't do that ever again. However the special moment was reserved for my Mum & she was the first one I turned to. As a young single parent she'd packed up her life in Tasman to come to a town she felt would give me the greatest opportunities to grow up in the best possible way. When I was 5 I distinctly remember coming dead last in my first 200m race at little athletics & crying my eyes out as i ran into her waiting arms. She simply looked at me & reminded me i was her little champion, 30 years later where it all began I finally got to prove her right.
P.s. as always all of my race data from both Cannes and Port Macquarie are on my strava feed as is my training for the period as well.
Sent from my iPad