The time has finally come for Fallon, Olive & I to head West again. In what's been our longest European stint thus far as a rolling circus we've also accomplished quite a bit since February.. Firstly we got Married, TWICE, become official resident's of Andorra, Olive had 7 months of un interrupted Dog swimming lessons, Fallon has been on the Deans roll of excellence for the first two semesters of the year studying wholistic nutrition, Ive broken my Nose & Rib in my first bike crash in 4 years, & I've won 2 Ironman's. All in all its been a rather productive start to the year for all of us. It's been a rather long time since i last wrote a blog which is largely due to the fact I've been flat out training a hell of a lot more than i have ever trained, specially running, that has really taken it out of me. Every time i started writing a blog I'd fall asleep so i just gave up. Now that I've finally had an easier week & a couple of days off I'm confident i can pound one out & give everyone a run down, pardon the pun, on what I've been up to.
After Ironman Australia Fallon & I embarked on our wedding tour. We had our first ceremony, the legal one, at home in Tasmania with my side of the family. Then a week later we travelled to the USA to get married in the eyes of the lord in a church with Fallon's family. Both where very simple services & for a reception we went out to a nice restaurant for a family dinner. I've never wanted for a big wedding & with family and friends all over the globe it gave us a headache figuring out where and when so we just went with simple by bringing the party to those closest to us. At the end of the day we really needed to have each other up there on that alter to say I do so anyone else who could make it was a massive bonus. I certainly appreciate now however how important it was for our parents to witness the occasion, that was really special to share with both sets of them & certainly very happy we didn't do what we originally planned & elope. Following our 2nd wedding we finally made it back to Andorra where we'd left olive 5 weeks earlier, she hadn't wanted to miss her swimming lessons & we had the band back together again.
Crash & Roth
I'm not a huge fan of travelling from the USA to Europe as the jet lag really kicks me in the backside. I'm useless for a couple of weeks so fortunately i have learnt from past experience & just go with it & enjoy sleeping in until midday, andorra is next to Spain after all. Sure enough after 10 days or so i started coming around until i got a nasty reminder that i was still a bit dopey! I was cruising through town with Pavel Sivakov & Jack Haig heading out for ride & following the car in front way to close. Sure enough someone wanted to cross the road so the car suddenly stopped & i went smack bang into the back of it. It looked a lot more messy than it really was but before i knew it i was having my first ride in an ambulance. The funny thing about that was I'd crash about 100m from the entrance to the hospital but as it was a one way street they had to take me for a joy ride around the block to admit me. I would've walked but was a bit groggy thanks to a mild concussion which gave me a headache for a few days, another first for me.
Immediately my biggest concern was challenge Roth as it was only 3 weeks away. Fortunately the doctor told me I'd only make my fractured Nose & Rib worse if i crashed again so the question was how much pain i can deal with & you'll have a slower recovery. The fractures where not displaced so where not major so i decided I'd nurse myself through Roth then have a proper rest as planned before beginning the build up for kona. Sure enough Roth wasn't overly pretty. The broken rib meant my weak swim was rather embarrassing as i only had power in one weak arm as a-posed to my two weak arms I usually rely on. The bike wasn't much fun either & i was pretty crooked & twisted to find a manageable position but got through that the best i could. Once on the run i was a little more comfortable as i carry my arms rather high which braces my rib cage & was able to sneak onto the podium. After Roth i enjoyed a week completely off & another couple of weeks managing the rib & i finally started to heal up. I was good to go for the most exciting part of the year, the build up for kona!!
Kona Build Up
The rest did me the world of good & i began the crucial 8 week block feeling great. I hadn't done any intervals on my bike since august 2018 so was great to get stuck back into some climbing & TT efforts. This wasn't by choice, I'd simply been so tired all year from increasing the running volume that we didn't want to risk overload & increase the probability of injury. We felt if we spent the first 8 months building up my running stamina we'd have enough time to add the intensity on the bike & swimming back in & be ready in time for kona. I guess we will find out on October 12! But the logic makes sense i think. Work on your weakness but respecting the fact you suck at it! In that i mean give it all your energy to improve properly & then slowly re incorporate the other disciplines on top of that. Lets face it my running was rather terrible so we had to commit 100% if we where going to make some meaningful gains in that area this year.
I obviously haven't raced anywhere near as much this year as in previous years. I've learnt a lot over the previous years with the large amount of racing I'd done so was time to lay some more foundations during the training phase as that's just difficult to do when your racing & recovering all the time. We also had a close look at when I'd done my best IM performances. In every case my best performances, Sweden & Wales in 2017, Zurich in 2018 & Port Macquarie earlier this year came 2-3 weeks after a race. Basically if i raced 2-3 weeks after another race i always did better in the 2nd race, guess its the cyclist in me. So we had a look at the IM schedule & IM Italy & Barcelona where right in my sweet spot.
I wanted to do Barcelona but Italy was a more logical choice as it meant I could visit the pinarello factory on my way to the race to collect my Kona bike & give it a proper test drive. Also the travel to kona is literally the other side of the world so racing Italy meant i could travel to kona this week and recover from my 8 weeks of intense training while easing the body into the new time zone. I'm a train-a-holic so was important mentally i felt I'd earn't a recovery week to not rush that process as it is something that knocks me around. I also wanted to leave Europe ready to go, ensure I'd done all the hard work & was simply a case of sharpening up & freshening up when i got to Kona. I've been in a fantastic training routine all year in Andorra so didn't want to disrupt that. All made perfect sense to me so IM Italy was set to be the final hit out before kona.
The race on the weekend obviously went a lot better than i expected although my personal objectives of how i wanted to race it went exactly to plan. I'm sure that doesn't make much sense so ill try & explain. The month of august was a very concentrated swimming block. I had my swimming coach Sean Kelly with me for the month & he brought Tom Hammer along to kick my backside in the pool. Tom is a paralymic athlete whom last week broke the 100m freestyle world record at the para world champs swimming 51.4 seconds!!! Yep he absolutely smashed me to pieces every single session, I couldn't even beat him with Fins on!! Anyways we had a great few weeks which I'm really proud to say we both benefited from judging by Tom's results last week. Watching this was so inspiring and had me chomping at the bit to test my swim in Italy. Unfortunately it was a wetsuit swim but still i got all the answers i was looking for as it was by far the best swim of my tri career. It felt so good to put all those 6k session's into practice & I was actually a bit disappointed when it was time to get out of the water as i was so excited swimming on the feet of Tim Don! Massive improvement for me.
Thanks to my new found swimming arms i was at the front of the race pretty quickly. This was a welcome change as at my last race in Roth it took me 25km to catch Lucy Charles who's steamrolled over the top of me in the swim! In Italy it took me less than 25k to overtake former Olympic Swimmer Lukasz Wolt who'd put 2 minutes into our group. Amazing what those 6k swims will do for a bloke!! Once in the lead i did my best to keep my foot on there throats & extend my lead as much as possible. Being a 2 lap course & beautiful Italian country roads i knew it would get a little crowded on the second lap with the age groupers making it more difficult to increase the advantage. I'd already crashed once this year & suffered those consequences in Roth, I didn't want to go through that again for Kona. I made hay while the sun shined as they say on the first lap & put myself in what i felt was a commanding position.
This meant the 2nd lap i could just enjoy the experience of the race, take in the beautiful Italian countryside & being among the people, had quite a few great conversations on the climb in particular. With my socialising completed i headed back to town for the final 20k which was again on empty roads allowing me to open the throttle a little bit again just to pad that advantage out a bit more. I hit T2 feeling great, the new bike had been flawless & with zero pain in my lower back that we'd feared from the new handlebar. I was very very happy. Honestly i was also relieved as i always feel very vulnerable on the bike worrying about a crash or flat tire. I'm always relieved sticking the pinarello back on the T2 rack for the day.
Once on the run i felt like i was again completely in control of the rest of the race. I've averaged 100km per week this year so running is probably the thing that feels most comfortable for me at the moment. I had a pretty simple objective on the run. Win the race. Normally i go out all guns blazing leading to equally spectacular blow ups. This time i decided to back myself & wait for them to catch me & have the energy to respond if need be. Sure enough in the first lap local hero Molinari slashed my lead from 8 minutes to 6 minutes. I thought I better get moving as if he keeps that up he'll catch me on the last lap. Then i realised i was running at 2:44 pace so I'd just stick to my comfy tempo & assess the situation the next lap.
Sure enough the gap went back out to over 8 minutes. Same tactics for the 3rd lap & the gap was out to 10minutes! This was a first for me increasing my lead on the run. Secretly i knew the run course record was 2:47 & if i could get this without digging too deep I'd be really satisfied with my day. I maintained my 2:44 tempo for the last lap & even allowed myself to back it off a bit in the closing 5k to enjoy the ambiance with all the age group athletes now on course & a fanatical Italian crowd getting loader & loader as the afternoon wore on. Down the finish chute & a quick check of the watch told me the run record was mine so then i could enjoy a long celebration down the red carpet. I lived in Italy for 8 years during my cycling years so the Italians obviously adopted me for the day & really made me feel special & showed there appreciation for the records I'd set on there course. Italians love winners & they really love new records! After winning IM Australia earlier in the year I feel like i've won my other Home race in Italy on Saturday, was really special.
So that's that, Euro 2019 comes to an end. We are nearly landed in the USA & after 3 days in LA to break up the trip & enjoy some rides on some of my favourite routes we'll be in kona on Friday. I'm well aware there are a lot of people scratching there head about the weekend & why I'd race an IM 3 weeks out from the biggest race of the year. Basically we don't look at it that way, we saw it as merely apart of what we believe to be my best preparation. Everyone has an opinion & I realise it's unorthodox for the sport. Having said that no one else in the pro field on October 12 have a Olympic rowing background or world tour cycling experience. We are obviously going to have completely different ideas about how to train & freshen up & whats works for me certainly wont work for them & vice versa. I have no idea what will happen on October 12. All i know is I've done everything we've set out to do & i cannot wait for the cannon to fire on Kona pier on October 12. Around 8hrs later, probably less looking at the strength of this field, we are going to have all the answers & that excites me big time!
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