Wolf v Kona – Mike takes on world Ironman championships

One of the best parts of being in the Wolf Pack is that we pride ourselves on having fun, enjoying great friendships and supporting each other to our individual goals – whether that is Kona or your first enticer. That is why I loved reading Mike’s Kona wrap up. He is one of the nicest guys around and gives us an honest picture of his experience racing but also enjoys his trip to Hawaii. All work and no play is NOT our motto. Read and enjoy!

Mike:

After training through the Perth winter I wanted to get to Hawaii as early as possible. Even though I wanted to train and get acclimatised, being able to escape work and freshen up was a priority this close to the race!! My partner Sophie and I left Perth on the 24th September, 3 weeks before the race.

After a week in Waikiki, we headed for the big island. When we arrived, the island was quiet and beautiful, we were away from the hustle and bustle of Waikiki, living the true Hawaiian Island life!! I spent my training time exploring and familiarising myself with the course with my tour guide/Coach who was also racing. The down time was spent eating Açai, drinking the Kona coffee, pro spotting and putting my feet up by the pool! White sand beaches are hard to come by around Kona, it’s all black lava rock!! As race day approached the quiet island transformed into a Triathlon mecca.. The expo was three times the size of IMWA expo and opened a week before the race!! There were athletes and supporters everywhere.

Race day: Started with a light breakky and bottle of Gatorade. The day was amazing, it was cool and no wind! I normally cope well with nerves but this race was next level!! I set the bike up, chucked the bottle on and realised I had forgot the Garmin. First minor hiccup but not the end of the world!! I went back out to say a final goodbye to Sophie and the family. I walked back into transition for race start, I was nervous and honestly, scared!

The mass swim start was incredible. Roughly 100m across, 20 people deep, treading water and waiting for the canon. I went out too hard in the swim, I just tried and tried to get some clean water, find a rhythm and hopefully some faster feet! I never found the clear water, a rhythm or fast feet, I was beaten up and destroyed by the other competitors from the Canon firing until T1.

My overall goal for the bike leg was not to ‘over’ bike. After talking to some Kona veterans, this was the thing that catches everyone out on the first attempt! The goal for first portion of the bike was to get the fluids in and not get done drafting! With so many people coming out of the water at the same time, it was nearly impossible to be outside the draft zone. I was really happy with the ride, the temperature was good, the wind was down, I had definitely held back and saved the legs.

For the first time ever, I felt a million dollars coming out of T2… I started the run exactly how I had planned, I was well hydrated and feeling great. The first third of the run is up Ali’i Drive, a sheltered road covered with supporters! The only problem was that it was sheltered, hot, windless and steamy! As you leave town, you run up Palani Street, a nice punchy hill, about 500m long with an aid station in the middle then on to the Queen K Highway.

My pace dropped a little as I started to run on the Queen K but it was something I expected. Long undulating hills and it was extremely hot! As I entered the energy lab I started to feel a bit gassed, the gels weren’t going down well and I could feel the cramping already. My pace slowed as I started the mental battle with my fatiguing body and by 25km both my legs locked up and I was in trouble.

I spent the rest of the race battling the cramps and run/walking. With 5km’s to go I spotted my coach and waited for her to come by me, I needed that familiar face to distract me and get me to the finish line before the sun went down (backup goal)! As you get to the top of Palani you begin to hear the finish line and Mike Reilly belting out those famous words.. There is still 2.5 km’s to go from the top of Palani but the roads are covered with spectators! Pete Murray calls you down the hill and gives that final pump up, before a couple more turns and into the massive finish shoot. I found Sophie half way down the finish shoot with my Aussie flag, a quick hug and off I went to cross that line!!

Overall it was an amazing experience and one etched in my memory for the rest of my life. The build up, the race and the finish is like no other. If you ever have the opportunity to race in Kona, TAKE IT!!

Thanks to all the wolves that reached out, I appreciated all the support.

Onwards and Upwards – The Ten Week Ironman

Priorities

We all play a number of roles in our life and if you’re not careful you can find yourself focusing too heavily on one area to the detriment of others.  This week I found myself in exactly that position and it’s only with the benefit of hindsight that I see where and how it went wrong.  Training-wise I was consistent, at least one session every day except my appointed rest day (Tuesday this week).  I was only playing dad on Monday but Leila and I had some time together in the evening and Simone was working night-shift for most of the week but I left a little later for work each morning so that we could see each other and made sure we had a little time at night before she left.  Sounds great right?  The problem is I wasn’t really there.

Goat to keep your mind on the job

Be present or be absent

Just don’t be both.  I say this a bit about training, but it’s equally true of life in general and I violated that principal badly.  What do I mean?  I guess it’s the same concept as mindfulness, whatever you’re doing make that your focus.  This week work was a constant bugbear and I spent far too much time thinking and worrying about it at times when I had no influence over what was (or would be) going on.  Consequently I’ve realised that while I wasn’t just going through the motions in the more important areas I really wasn’t doing them any justice and perhaps need to make some apologies.

Training

Four rides (including a double ride day), three runs and one swim.  Nothing stellar and I certainly should have fit at least one more dip in the water into the schedule.  I ticked off my longest (by duration) ride since this time last year and the training totals graph looks a little more healthy.  The last few weeks accounts for more than a third of my total training since the start of last December.  Sad but true.  From here on in it’s mostly about maintaining that same consistency rather than any key sessions or milestones.

Looking a little better

A weighty issue

You might have spotted it if you looked closely at the graph, my weight seems to be on the rise.  While I think that focusing on weight while training is a recipe for disaster (it’s hard to do both properly) I’m also very aware that carrying a little extra can make a big difference over such a long distance.  At least some of the weight is coming from increased storage of glycogen and water which is simply a training adaptation and just using the eyeball test I don’t think my body composition has changed in any negative way.  I’ll keep an eye on it but I’m not going on any sort of starvation diet just yet (or ever.)

And a big commitment

Yes, that’s right there’s no backing out now.  This week I put the big money where my big mouth is.

Daylight robbery

Trav (aka Stikman)

 

*Missed the series?  Head to back to week one

*Continue on to week five

Recovery – The Ten Week Ironman

Easy Week?

Well this week just gone was supposed to be an easier week and when it comes to training it certainly was but that was lucky because there was nothing easy about the rest of it.  Work in particular threw me a few curveballs and stress was high from Monday to Friday.

The Training

Honestly there isn’t a great deal to tell on this front.  Late finishes at work and a couple of sub-optimal nights of sleep meant there were sessions missed and in the end it was only one run, one ride and two swims for the week.  All of them were quality and I don’t concern myself too greatly in a recovery week as long as I keep ticking over.

You don’t want to get stale but you do have to remember that this time is about creating a good environment for your body to super-compensate and build itself back up stronger.  Unfortunately the effects of physical stress and mental stress are fairly similar so it probably wasn’t the ideal environment for me but this is life as an amateur triathlete with a real life, job and family getting in the way and we simply have to deal with it and remember what the important things are (triathlon is NOT one of them.)

Everyone Can Train Like A Professional

Yep, even you.  Look at your life and there I don’t think a single one of you couldn’t find the 20-30 hours a week somewhere.  An hour in the morning, two at night and ten hours on the weekend would be doable for most.  Sure, you wouldn’t see much of your family and life would be dull but you could do it.  What you couldn’t do is recover from that training while holding down a full-time job and getting six or fewer hours of sleep a night.  Once you train in excess of your body’s ability to put itself back together you’re just going to deteriorate until you have to stop.  This week my ability to recover was very low and therefore so was the training.

It can really mess with your head but learning to back off is a discipline equally as important as that of pushing through.  In almost a decade in this sport my only real injury was a flare-up of an old knee problem from basketball that occurred due to a mis-step during a race.  I rarely stretch or foam roll, I don’t visit physios and the only massages I get are the free ones after I’ve finished an Ironman race and at over 90kg most of the time this isn’t the most gentle of sports.  The only thing that I can put it down to is that I really do listen to my body and let it take care of itself.

The Week Ahead

After Monday and Tuesday work should settle back down and I can get back into it properly for another week of breaking myself down.  With only seven weeks to go I really need to start getting myself prepared for the specific demands that the race will place on me.  Get myself used to going (relatively) slow and steady and fuelling myself at the same time.  Sometimes keeping the ego in check is the hardest part, not that I’m particularly egotistical.  😉

 

Trav (aka Stikman)

 

*Missed the series?  Head to back to week one

*Continue on to week four

Reality Bites – The Ten Week Ironman

Reality Bites

Last week you’ll recall was all about enthusiasm.  I felt great, I’d decided to do have a crack at this little race and it was generally pretty good for work/life balance.  This week past things haven’t been quite so rosy and truth be told if I didn’t know that I was going to be reporting back to you all at the end of the week some of my decisions may have changed.

Monday was a bit horrendous at work with a later than expected finish and some difficult situations to deal with then a club committee meeting at 6:30 meant that there was no way that I was getting to the pool for my swim.  Realistically though there was no way that swim was ever going to get done unless I’d woken at stupid o’clock to head to the pool, as my plans of lunch-time swims rarely come off.  Lesson for the day, be sensible with my planning and don’t make little failures out to be bigger than they are.  One missed swim isn’t going to make or break this venture.

A very stressful day

Tuesday I was coaching the club run session, and knowing that it would be difficult to do that and fit in my own running, I organised a session that would require me to run along with the group (and my trusty whistle) so that there could be no backing out.  I, like most people, are much better when other people are relying on me than when I’m doing something for myself.

Wednesday was my first double day of this build up.  As a coach I’m not a massive fan of double days (except for double runs) unless absolutely necessary because they pretty much guarantee a sleep debt, negatively impacting recovery and therefore training benefit.  In this instance though I’m in a situation where the benefits outweigh the risk and with Simone heading into a stint of night-shift my sleep hygiene for the rest of the week is completely in my control (turns out that leaving me in control is a bad idea.)  So, it was up early for an hour on the wind trainer then straight to work with the aim of leaving early to swim before coaching.  Mid-way through the day Emma, fresh from attending the ITU World Championships, put her hand up to take the swim session leaving me to my own devices.

When the going gets tough, it’s not always the tough who get going

Work was okay and I got away at around four (for a change) and headed reluctantly to the pool.  This was my biggest struggle of the week.  I got to the car park and found the perfect parking spot near the entrance but as I rounded the corner I realised by the noise from inside that the place was packed with kids on school holidays.  In a moment of weakness I decided to forget the session and head home rather than deal with them.  As I started to drive towards the exit though I asked myself some hard questions.  How much did I really want this?  Was I prepared to do what I knew I needed to do?  If I couldn’t answer these now, just ten days in, how was I going to go in another four or five weeks.  I steeled myself, did a lap of the car park to return to the vacant spot.  An hour later there was 3000m in the bank and I felt great, not just because of the swim but because I’d triumphed over the voice in my head and done the harder thing.

Thursday is long run day for me, primarily because it is the day when I am guaranteed no dad duties.  The plan was to get up early and hit the trails but when I woke the wind gusts were crazy, making the trails a dubious option.  I decided to grab an extra hour’s kip and get it done straight from work.  No issues getting out the door at the end of the day and I ran (from Maylands) down to East Perth, across to the stadium and return by the new bridge.  It was warm and I knew I had access to taps going that way.  It wasn’t fast and it wasn’t particularly pleasant but 12km in the bank, 20% longer than the last week.  I wouldn’t normally increase at this rate but the body is recovering well and remembering what to do so I’ll just keep an eye on things.

Friday was an early morning swim with Karen, Jenny and Kellie at the swamp (again having others there makes motivation much easier) and in the evening I jumped on the trainer again for a threshold session.  I started pretty late because I had to pick Leila (my daughter) from the airport after having flown solo for the first time to spend a week in South Australia with Granny and Grandad.  I probably didn’t get to sleep until midnight, so that wasn’t ideal, but it was important for my mindset to tick it off.

Ride four hours to get this view ten minutes from home

Saturday and Sunday were a trail run and ride respectively with the club planned session.  It was great to catch up with Ian who obliged by slowing himself down to keep me company on the run, though I think he got some sort of sadistic pleasure from taking me on that route through the Andes.  The ride was scheduled to depart at seven from Kelmscott and I intended to ride there to get my time in the saddle (aka T.I.T.S.) up to four hours for the day.  After an unexpected closed road I had to change my planned route to a shorter though more risky option and bust a gut to get there with 30 seconds to spare.  Sadly, it was only me and Oleg (A Group leader) who showed up and while I was initially going to turn and head for the flats and leave him to do his thing, I once again made my mind up to do the harder thing, and boy was it hard!  Oleg is a monster on the bike and with him looping back to me after finishing the climbs I swear he probably rode 10km further in the 2.5hrs we were together.  It was great though, we tackled some pretty tough ascents and I got a fantastic workout before leaving him at Kalamunda to head home.

Where to now?

So now it’s taking it easy for the rest of the day before a slightly easier week next week.  For us older folk (40 seems to be the marker) I like to have every third week as a week for training absorption rather than the more traditional four week cycle.  There will still be a number of good solid sessions but it’s important to remember that your body’s adaptation to training is actually a response to trauma, building it back up stronger for next time.  If you don’t give it good conditions to repair every now and then you just end up breaking down.  I see a lot of athletes train the house down but end up with much less than optimal results because they think the work is more important than the recovery.  It’s not, they’re both critical to achieving your best results from what you put in.

The cat has the right idea

So that’s it from me for this week.  Hopefully I’ll see a few more of you at the club sessions this week as tri season looms large and training for other events finishes up.  I need you to help keep me accountable in my weak moments.

Trav (aka Stikman)

 

*Missed the series?  Head to back to week one

*Continue on to week three

The Ten Week Ironman

Coach Travis is the perfect example of how to be a serious triathlete without being too serious. In this special series of articles he chronicles his return to Ironman…in just 10 weeks

Last Sunday I showed up to the club ride with a course that I knew was going to challenge me, in fact if I’m honest I wasn’t entirely sure that I would be able to complete it having done pretty much zero training since early December last year.  For whatever reason only Shane showed up and with him having a session already set by his coach and being a much stronger rider than me I sent him on his way.  Truth be told in the recent past I probably would have turned around and ridden the ten kay home but for some reason I decided to set off on the planned route by myself, at least for a bit.  Maybe it was because I’d publicly posted the route on the club page and felt like showing everyone that the they should get back in the swing.  Hey if the lazy Prez can get off his arse and train then you should too…

Well something unexpected happened while I was out there.  I began to really enjoy myself.  Riding solo I had nobody pushing me yet I was working my backside off. The sun was shining, the hills were looking massive and the endorphins were kicking in.  With only about half the ride done and plenty of elevation in front of me before I headed homeward I went to replace my empty bidon with a full bottle and hit a bump at the wrong time.  BAM, down goes the bidon and I’m stuck in the middle of Death Valley on a warm day facing 30km home with no water.  That just made me smile and push on happy to face the challenge.  Luckily I saw Kellie and Carley on the way home and they provided me with some cool, fresh water so I didn’t melt.  Even the couple of swoops I received couldn’t darken my spirits.


Where I found my mojo

I guess what I learned last weekend was that I just love a challenge.  I live for pushing myself to see exactly how much I can hack when the going gets tough.  Last year at Ironman I thought I’d found that point but with hindsight my problem that day wasn’t that it was too hard, it was that I’d forgotten how to have fun with hurting.  Sunday I found my happy (hurty) place.  It was like flipping a light switch.

When I got home I guess Simone could see something had changed.  That evening we were sitting on the couch and she asked me whether I was training for something.  I made the mistake of smiling and she knew.  Ten weeks out and I was making a play at Ironman WA.

Now me deciding to Ironman at late notice isn’t anything new.  The first time I raced Cairns (2014) I signed up less than six weeks out. The third time I graced the course it was more like seven days, so what’s the big deal?  I guess what I want to show is that there is no big deal. Not that finishing an Ironman isn’t a major achievement because it is.  I mean that it isn’t beyond the reach of the average person (trust me I’m very average.)

So for the lead in to Ironman WA I am going to keep you all in the loop.  You’ll hear what’s gone well and what hasn’t in my week, a rough outline of my training, a few funny (or perhaps tragic) anecdotes and a lot of the weird things that go through my head.  I want to show you all that it doesn’t take a perfect life, incredible discipline or crazy hours to become an Ironman.

“Now, now” I hear you say, “you’ve got a long training history that must help” so let’s start by letting you know exactly where I was at when I made this decision.  In the prior 42 weeks (since IMWA 2017) I had done exactly 74 hours of training consisting of 36hrs of bike, 32 hours of run and a whopping 6 hours of swimming.  Of course that’s not spread evenly, almost half of those 42 weeks had no training at all. For those of you who know about such things my CTL was about 8.  So I guess we can say I’m kind of starting from scratch.

So what’s been going on this week?  Well in real Trav style my first day of “official” training was a rest day but otherwise every day has involved a swim, ride or run and getting some testing in to see exactly where I’m at, with some results way scarier than others.  It culminated in Sunday’s ride which was amazing. I got to kill myself riding up Great Eastern Highway to get to Mundaring in time to catch up with some great company for a steady aerobic ride for a couple of hours before taking the long way home throwing in some extra hills for good measure.


Some results were scarier than others

It’s important that I don’t ramp up too quickly because that’s a sure-fire way to injury or burnout. At the same time ten weeks isn’t a long time to go from bugger-all to Ironman fitness so every session is going to have to count.  I’m going to be attacking my fitness on three fronts to maximise my gains and beat the law of diminishing returns.

This coming week will be an effort fitting in three rides, three runs and three swims around a club meeting, coaching twice and trying to maintain the most important things like a relationship and remaining employed.  If you do manage to see me though, feel free to tell me what a dumb decision this is and how you could never do it.  I look forward to showing you that one of those statements is possibly right and the other undoubtedly wrong.

Trav (aka Stikman)

 

*Continue on to week two

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