Judgement Day – The Ten Week Ironman

The Race Report

Okay, I’ve made you all wait long enough.  I’d like to say I took so long to allow some time for self-reflection, to see what the after-effects were so I could pass that on too or some other made-up reason.  The real truth is that I started writing it the week after the race but I procrastinated because it seemed like a fairly daunting task and then other things just got in the way.  While I didn’t do a lot of training hours (relatively speaking) there were a lot of things I put off because recovery was a priority and so it was time to get a few of those out of the way.  For instance, the Saturday after Ironman I moved these bricks out of a pile of overgrown grass and stacked them ten metres away, two by two.  It wasn’t pleasant and the hamstrings complained just a little.

Another tough brick session

So, here it is.  I warn you though, it may take you almost as long to get through as it took me to do the race so I’d highly recommend getting yourself a pot of tea and a packet of biscuits (Tim Tams are recommended) before you go further.  If it’s afternoon for you then a bottle of wine or a six-pack of something cold might be a better option.  Hopefully I can give you some idea of just what this experience was like for me and countless others on the day.  Enjoy.

Race Morning

I always suggest that the night before the night before a big race is the one you want to make sure you sleep well, because often the nerves and excitement will prevent you from getting decent rest on race eve.  I don’t know what happened to me though, because I slept like a baby.  That’s right, I woke up hourly crying and soiling myself.  Okay, so let’s say I slept like a log from the time I went to bed until the allotted waking hour of 4:30am.

Now I’m not one to rush things…anything, but I had a decent number of things to tape to my bike and prepare in transition before the race start so I hoped to get down there by around 5:30 at the latest as transition closed at six.  I don’t generally have a lot to do before I go anyway as I’ve made everything ready the night before so it’s just a case of getting dressed, coffee, toileting, race tattoos and having my four slices of white toast with honey.  This is the first big race that Simone and I have done together so I wasn’t particularly familiar with her routine.

Pre-Race

So, we get to transition around five-forty, barely enough time to strap my gels and caffeine tablets to my bike in between spraying my wit at everyone around me that was looking nervous or worried that they were forgetting something critical.  Honestly, I think I can probably be a bit of a pain in the arse to those that are in panic mode in the hour or so before a race.

I imagine they probably think I’m over-confident or not taking it seriously but neither of those is true, for me it’s about perspective.  The outcome of the day won’t be decided by those few moments, rather the weeks of training (or not) and the key moments as the day unfolds.  Being flustered or expending nervous energy can only have a negative effect and ultimately where I finish on the first-to-last spectrum or even if I DNF (the dreaded did not finish) it doesn’t change who I am, in my eyes or anyone else’s.

On The Beach

I think this is my favourite part of Ironman.  Standing on the beach with hundreds of other individuals, dressed head-to-toe in rubber and wondering what the day will bring.  Certainly, one thing it had brought to us on this day was fantastic swim conditions; something I was glad of because the new swim course was more prone to be affected by swell or chop than the old one around the jetty.  I was really disappointed that they changed the swim as there is nothing like a mass swim start with two thousand people all heading off at the same time and the trip around the Busselton Jetty was the one thing that really made the race unique.

Simone and I got into our wetsuits up on the path in front of The Goose and wandered down the steps to join the throng.  With a rolling swim start you locate yourself in groups according to your expected swim time (or in many instances just where you think will give you the best outcome.)  With Simone expecting to be out of the water somewhere after one hour forty minutes and my predicted time between 1:15 and 1:20 it was there that we had to part ways, kissing and wishing each other good luck.

Give me a mass start, any day

I wandered into the crowd looking for familiar faces and ended up finding a lot of them, including my mate Sam doing his first after such a long build-up to get to that point.  I also had Justin, Oleg and Monica from the club all in close proximity as well as a new mate Kieran from Karratha.    Monica had come off her bike and done a bit of damage to her shoulder two weeks before the race, she was lining up not knowing whether she would be able to make it through the swim.  I had faith because I’ve seen how tough she is but I also know it’s a very long way to go with something like that.

We funneled our way towards the arch where three-by-three we would cross the timing matt and be sent on our way.  Pete Murray, the Ironman Oceania chief race commentator was there near the start on the microphone and as he had done a video about six months ago to tell Sam that his friends had organised an Ironman entry for him (what kind of a friend does that?) I had to tell him that here he was, the 41 year old iron-virgin, which he repeated over the speakers wishing him luck.

A Very Long Day Begins (The Swim)

Kieran, Sam and I were set off together and as Sam had suggested he wanted to hold my feet (draft off me) we sauntered down to the water before grinning like idiots at each other and setting off.  He was still with me at the first turn buoy before we headed under the jetty but that was the last I saw of him on the swim.  The whole swim was fairly uneventful other than a couple of times where I gagged and thought I was going to chuck from a mixture of snot and salt water in the back of my throat.  Soon enough the two laps were ticked off and I took a right turn to head to the shore.

I stood up in one hour and twelve minutes with the watch reading slightly over 4km which I was quite happy with, even though I didn’t think I’d swum that wonky.  Later I learned that everyone had recorded the swim as long.  My all-time Ironman swim PB (personal best) is only 1:08 and in conditions equal or better than this so given that I’d only swam a grand total of 40km since June (38 of that in these ten weeks) it was a win for focused training.

Look at those pecs!

On the beach as I headed up towards the showers (yes, there are showers at the exit to wash the salt off) I saw mum and dad so I stopped to have a chat to them for a minute.  Not that there was much to talk about but any excuse to hear my own voice is a good one.  After that I climbed the stairs over the run course and walked my way to T1, passing best friend Bianca who I tried to have a conversation with also but she would have none of it, grabbing my head and smacking a kiss on the cheek before telling me to bugger off to the tent.

T1 (Transition One)

Nobody really cares about T1, I mean it’s basically just about how fast you can get your wetsuit off anyway so I took my time as usual.  Seriously though, in Ironman you’re going to be out on the bike for a long time and you can’t easily do too much without stopping, unlike the run leg, so it’s important to make sure that you get this right.  Sunscreen is really important and I always recommend putting on socks as you need them for the run anyway and it just makes the ride slightly more comfortable.

My mate Peter was volunteering in transition so we had a bit of banter and he refused to apply more chamois cream (he was busy attending to a fully naked Japanese man anyway) before I turned to head off to the bike.  As I did I saw Sam again on the other side of the tent so I went over and gave him a pat on the back and asked him how he went.  He was like a well-proportioned child in a lolly shop, the grin went all the way around to the back of his head.

Hi-Ho Silver (The Bike Leg)

Even though I do T1 with style in mind rather than speed I always like to mount my bike like a racer.  Once I hit the mount line it’s one…two scoots and then I get my leg over (always difficult at my age, limited flexibility and with a substantial inseam.)  Running in socks and getting your shoes on while moving at thirty kay an hour is always going to be significantly faster and it’s really not very hard to learn.  Sometimes I’ve gone a kilometre before I’m fully in but riding with your feet on top of the shoes rather than in them is no different to riding flat pedals like most of us learnt when we first got a bike as a kid.

The Busselton bike course is sold to the punters as being “flat and fast” which it certainly can be (fast that is) but while the lack of uphills might have many people cheering the inability to get any rest on a down-slope can make this leg relentless.  Stop pedaling for even a moment out here and you’re your speed starts to drop, something which posed a bit of an issue for me later on as you will see.

I saw a lot of people I knew out on the bike as the course has five dead turns so you only have to be within six or seven kay to catch pass them going in the opposite direction at some point, either ahead or behind you.  One really sticks in my mind though and that was when I saw Monica, I’m pretty sure I let out rather large yell of joy and it gave me a little turbo boost knowing that she had made it through the swim.

My second great moment on the bike was as I was getting close to turn back on to Tuart Drive when I saw my love coming back the other way.  Well, she saw me first really (I am a much bigger target and easier to pick out from the crowd after all) and we asked each other how we were going.  She seemed happy and riding comfortably, a quick check of my watch and an estimation of how far behind me she got into the water told me that she was well ahead of her target.  In hindsight I think I was wrong and she was actually sitting around where she wanted to be but my miscalculation made me happy.

The first lap of the course is always pretty good.  The wind is pretty mild at that time of the morning, there are lots of people to pass or be passed by, the road is smooth as butter and it’s only ninety kilometres.  The second lap on the other hand has a massive headwind any way you turn, is lonesome and they’ve covered the road with large pebbles, or at least that’s what your backside says.  Today was no exception.

Turning around back in Busselton is fantastic, well the being there bit is.  Actually heading out knowing you have to do it all again can be a real downer.  At this stage I had been following my nutrition plan nicely with two gels every hour and just water to drink.  In order to do this I had been getting two gels at each aid station which took a little coordination as the volunteers normally only had one so I had to call and grab from two in quick succession.  On the one in Busselton this proved a little more difficult and I dropped the second gel.  Knowing what a hole something as simple as missing 30g of carbohydrate can leave you in I decided to stop the bike and retrieve it.  The vollie apologised profusely and picked it up for me, I told her I was glad as it gave me a chance to get my bum up off the seat and then off I went.

One down, one to go

So, by this time I had been needing a wee for, well, since I jumped on the bike really and it was starting to get a bit painful to be honest.  Public urination is a disqualifiable offence so stopping on the side of the road is not an option and toilets are only at aid stations, the next one being at least forty minutes away.  It’s one of the rights of passage for an Ironman to wee while riding on your bike but it’s not easy to do, especially when you have a shy bladder!  Truth be told I had actually been trying to do it for most of the second half of the first lap without success and now things were getting desperate.

The problem is that it is very difficult to wee while your legs are moving and you don’t want to go all over your saddle and spares so you have to stand up and stop pedalling.  Did I mention the issues with a flat course?  Stand, coast…almost relaxed enough…here it comes…oh bugger, need to pedal again or else I’ll fall off.  Stand, coast…almost relaxed enough…here it comes…oh bugger, need to pedal again or else I’ll fall off.  This went on for about fifteen minutes before I finally found relief.  Mostly avoided my shoes too which is always a bonus when you aren’t changing your socks before the run.  A squirt with the water bottle and we’re good to go again.  Oh, and if there are any TO’s (Technical Officials) reading this whole paragraph is a fiction and never really happened.

As I went around a turn-around point on the second lap I saw Sam perhaps a hundred or so metres behind me.  Being a better rider than me I expected him to pass me not long after but at the next dead turn twenty kilometres later he was still at the same distance.  He must be the worst drafter ever I thought.  At the next one I yelled at him to ride like he meant it and pass me and I thought he was going to but he just pulled alongside for a little chat.  Apparently he thought with my experience I knew a thing or two about pacing so he was using me as a guide, foolish lad.  To do him a favour I stopped off at the penalty tent to see Slim who was looking a little bored.  I hadn’t received a penalty but on the way out past him I’d asked him to give me Simone’s last recorded split so that I could check that she was doing okay.  Of course she was and once Sam had gone past I carried on.

The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful.  There was a guy out in the forest that was drinking a beer on the other side of the road so I shouted at him that I’d grab one on the way back.  When I did come by again five minutes later he was incredulous that I might actually be serious and when he realised I was it was too late.  I guess I was going to have to wait until the run for my first beverage of the day.  Oh well, it was only another half hour.

T2 (Where Legends are Made)

A great mate of mine, let’s call him Ratty because everyone does, is a superstar of the bike-to-run transition.  His theory is that even if everything else is falling apart you can still salvage some pride with a great T2.  Now I’m not half the man he is (actually now he’s lost a bit of weight I probably am, maybe three quarters at a stretch) but he’s instilled that ethos in me and if I could run I’d probably be a fair match for him in this department.  At present though he’s recovering from a knee operation so before the race he gave me a few tips to speed me through.  Sadly though I had pretty much worked it all out myself anyway and unless he was keeping some to himself I have a couple more as well.

The first rule of a quick T2 is know your timing mat.  A few extra seconds on your bike time is practically meaningless so you can do some prep work before you hit the line, like stretching and getting a run-up.  Unfortunately on this occasion when I was asking the volunteers at the bike dismount where the mark was I heard a beeeep, signalling that I’d just stepped on it.  Oh crap!

I should apologise to the bike catcher (they take your bike from you and put it back on the rack in Ironman) as I just let my bike go before I passed him while I sprinted.  Ironman WA is one of the worst T2s possible for me as you need to run the best part of 200m (via the tent.)  Once in the tent it’s just shoes out of the bag and straight on your feet, grab the race belt and hat then run leaving your helmet with the bag.

I need a transition that has less running

This year I got third place in T2 overall, second male and first in my age group.  The guy that won it did something like a 1:12 compared to my 1:31.  He can obviously run quickly because there was no fat to trim from my time in the tent.  I might need to work on my sprint technique this year.

The Marathon

Let’s not call it a run leg.  There was very, very little running done by me.  This was always going to be the case with the lead-in and, if I’m totally honest, knowing that I probably gave myself permission to walk a lot more than I really needed to.  All that mattered with this one was the finish though, so walking was fine by me if that’s all I had to give.

Early on the run I caught up with Ineke from Triathlon WA who was on the second lap.  It was her first Ironman and she was looking as glamourous as ever, though not feeling it.  As we walked together briefly she told me that she had been doing a lot of groundwork to make sure that Pete Murray would pronounce her name correctly when he said the words we all hear at the finish.  “<Insert name here>, you are an Ironman!”  I later heard that one of the other commentators was on when she crossed so they tried but failed miserably.

About two kilometres into the run I had Sam come past me and slap me on the arse.  I’m not sure if I’d told him that’s what I asked people I knew to do to me, perhaps it was his own special touch.  In any event we had a brief chat and I wished him well as he went on ahead.  Ten seconds later I realise that I really wanted him to have the full Ironman experience so I sprinted past him and slapped him before stopping for a rest as he jogged off into the distance.

Towards the end of my first lap I saw my dad and asked him how Simone was doing.  He told me that she had fifteen kay to go with about forty minutes until the bike cut-off.  I think his maths was no better than mine earlier and she was doing better than that but it gave me some reassurance that she was pacing it to perfection (more on that later.)

Am I power walking?

As much as I dislike running, or perhaps it’s more a case of it disliking me, the marathon is probably my best leg of an Ironman.  I guess that’s because it plays to my greatest strength…talking.  As much as people might believe otherwise I can’t talk underwater and when you’re cycling your encounters with others are far too brief for anything more than a few shouted words.  With my pace and that of those around me in the back half of the run though, life stories can be shared.

At various stages I think I caught pretty much everyone from the club and most others that I already knew out there.  Some, like Monica, I spent a bit of time with while others it was just a brief chat as they ran past in one direction or the other.  I won’t lie, I probably sledge and joke far more than a man of my modest athletic ability should but I think everyone takes it with the good humour it’s intended.  One of the great moments was seeing clubmate Bill on the sidelines and having him tell me that he had won his age group comfortably and would now be living his dream of going to Kona.

There was one guy I spent a fair amount of time with over the course of the run leg, his name was Nick and he, like me, had his partner on course somewhere behind him.  I wouldn’t say that he could out-talk me but I reckon he it was a fairly even match.  I think we might have walked the best part of two laps either side-by-side or within a dozen or so metres of each other and regaled each other with tales of Ironman glory (and failure) from our respective histories as well as solving most of society’s woes.  It’s amazing what you can do with a lot of time and lots of oxygen.  Early on the last lap his wife came past and he felt obligated to stick with her for the sake of domestic bliss.  Well that was his story at the time but I did see when I checked the results that he crossed the finish line two seconds ahead of her so I suspect it was more about bragging rights.

Until you’ve competed, and struggled through, a longer race I don’t think you can truly appreciate the value of a support crew on the sidelines and I might be biased but I think the Perth Hills cheer squad are one of the best going around.  Every time I passed the club tent I was spotted early (okay, this may be more due to my appearance than their diligence) and the banter came from all quarters.  There aren’t too many clubs with multiple members willing to flash you to try and raise your spirits.  A huge thanks to all of you for your efforts, especially those that stuck around to see the last of the wolf pack finish (me.)  Just one thing though, next time you put the club tent up make sure that the club logos are facing in the same direction as the course!

Just a hundred metres or so after I collected my last wrist band (you get one after each lap you complete) I heard a call from behind me that I recognised.  She had been gaining ground on me for some time and now Simone had caught up, albeit a lap behind me.  I don’t know if it showed on my face but that last kilometre was probably the best part of my day.  Having the opportunity to speak with her properly and find out how she was feeling, how her back was holding up and what she had been up to for the last fourteen and a half hours was absolutely priceless to me.  Had she asked me to I would have gladly done the last lap again with her (according to my Garmin file I had already done an extra kilometre on the run course from crossing over to the other side of the course to see people I knew) but she would have none of it.  Truth be told I probably would’ve just ended up annoying her so she left me at the start of the finisher chute with a kiss and headed back out in the dark.

The finish

Ahead of me where the path turned to head past the stands and main part of the finish there was a gent from Thailand hugging a family member and collecting a flag with which to run across the line.  It was obviously a very proud moment for him and one I thought he should have to himself.  I was in no desperate hurry and the security bloke standing there seemed like a decent bloke so I stopped and asked him how his day had been and if he had any beer on him.  He didn’t and by this time Suk had cleared the finish so I checked that there was nobody else immediately behind me before setting off.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before but I have a personal policy that if you can’t actually be good at something that you’re doing then looking good is the next best thing.  Lots of Ironmanners (not a real word) spend many, many hours out on the run course just like I did and then get to the finish chute and it’s the fastest fifty metres they’ve run all day.  If you’re in line to set a new personal record or beat a significant time (e.g. go under X hours) then I’d highly recommend that approach.  In all other instances might I suggest that you take your time, thank any friends and family you can find for supporting you all day, and enjoy the rockstar experience.

So it was that I started strutting as I rounded the bend, stopped for a brief conversation with the Perth Hills crew I spotted behind the barrier before walking like a supermodel in a Victoria’s Secret show to the finisher archway.  I’m fairly certain that the announcer was a bit puzzled, if not a little annoyed, at my nonchalance as he kept encouraging me to get a move-on.  As he always does, starting about five metres before I crossed Pete Murray called out my name and those four words that 853 people had already worked hard to hear before me that day.  “Travis Bentley, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN.”

The medal went around the neck (unfortunately for the poor volunteer “catcher” I couldn’t bend over much so it was a bit of a struggle) and the finishers towel was handed to me with the usual queries as to how I was going.  I saw mum and dad to my left so I walked over to them to thank them and let them know that I was okay and roughly how long I though Simone would be before I left for the recovery tent.

A Nervous Wait

The recovery area is fantastic, it’s one area where they rarely skimp.  Lots of tables and chairs with other finishers around to share stories with; staff to make sure you’re okay and get you anything you want if you can’t do it yourself; hot savoury food (a godsend after eating sugar for fifteen hours); medical personnel if you need them; most importantly though, it also contains the massage area.  Yes, that’s right, you get a free* massage included in your $800+ entry fee assuming you finish.  I understand that all of the masseuses are volunteer physiotherapy students and even at ten o’clock at night they are all happy and smiling.  I guess they don’t know what some of the athletes have left on the parts of their bodies that they have to touch.  In my instance the two guys doing my massage were also providing entertainment as I listened to their attempts at flirting with two of their colleagues.

After I got off the table, collected my street gear bag containing my phone and had had some hot food all I could do was wait.  Unfortunately, something was wrong with my phone preventing me from typing, so I couldn’t get updates as Simone passed the timing mats out on course to give me an idea of when she’d be finished.  Luckily, I met Steve (one of the TO’s, a TWA board member and friend) and he looked up her projected finish time for me.  With less than five kilometres to go she had a little over an hour to finish under cut-off so barring a disaster she was home-and-hosed.

She has finished two of these monsters before in 2013 and 2014, the first just a few months after I first met her at Mandurah Half Ironman, but I knew that both times she had received the wrong size finisher shirts.  One about four sizes too large and one two too small.  I wandered over to the shirt collection area to get mine and made sure that they still had her size left.  Plenty as it turned out but it was a little fist-pump moment for me.

Once I received word that she had passed over the timing mat with one kilometre to go I made my way out to the back of the finishers’ chute.  I’m not entirely sure if I was supposed to be allowed to go there but at that time of night I don’t think anyone cared and I just started friendly conversation with anyone who looked like they might question me.

The run course goes past the finishers chute before doing a u-turn and I spotted her as she shuffled with about two hundred metres to go.  I’d been keeping an eye out to ensure that there was nobody in front of her and I asked Pete (the commentator) if I could present her medal and towel to her.  I didn’t think she’d mind, luckily I was right.  As she crossed the finish line and had her name called she saw that it was me waiting.  There were tears of happiness.  She may have cried too, I’m not sure, and I escorted her to the recovery area after she spoke to my parents and just about cut the next finisher off.  Her time was 16:49:39; the pacing was impeccable, leaving enough time to allow for something to go wrong but not using more energy than she had to.  She even had a faster run split than me!

The Day After

Waking up after about six hours sleep it’s always a bit of a lottery as to whether you can firstly get out of bed and secondly walk to the toilet and/or fridge.  Remarkably, other than the usual sore feet from walking so much I was feeling pretty good.  All of the joints seemed to be functioning as intended, if a little bit creaky, and so coffee was made to ensure that nobody had to die.

There were two important things to do today; the first was to go and watch the Kona roll-down where the best and brightest get an opportunity to spend a thousand U.S. dollars for the opportunity to compete in Hawaii (costing further several thousand in travel and accommodation, hey Bill?); the second, and undoubtedly most important was the Beer Mile.

The day after every Australian Ironman we hold a race that should really be the main event.  In fact, in order to compete you must have completed an Ironman the day before (doesn’t have to be the close one if someone wanted to fly in after doing one further afield) so you could say that the longer race is nothing more than a qualifier.  Some people take this second event far more seriously, others treat it as a bit of fun to let off some steam.  For me though, as the race director and sole organiser, it’s a very serious business.  I need to measure and ratify the course (“yeah, looks about right”), prepare speeches and the race briefing (seconds before they are delivered) and ensure that all rules and regulations are complied with (to a point anyway.)

The race itself consists of four four-hundred metre intervals, each preceded by the consumption of a can of full-strength, fizzy alcoholic beverage (preferably beer.)  Should one chunder during the event a fifth can must be imbibed in order to be deemed an official finisher.  Fancy dress is encouraged, the more appalling the better, and at the end of the day everyone is a winner, including the actual winner.

Race director duties – official race briefing

Due to Ironman changing the events and times of their awards, roll-down and after-party it has become increasingly difficult to avoid a clash.  This year I decided to teach them a lesson and hold it at the same time as the awards ceremony and have us run past them all.  Needless to say, it was a huge success and all eyes were on the main event, or at least on the guy in fishnets (you may be surprised to hear it wasn’t me.)

Prologue

So, when I started this the aim was to show that Ironman wasn’t really as difficult as what a lot of people think.  That even after a long layoff (nine months) it was doable for an average (or below average) middle-aged person without any significant pre-existing injuries and a bit of common sense.  Hopefully I have proved that to a few that have been patient enough to read along but the truth is that I’m not really the big story, and nor should I be.

If you want to see just what can be done, I would direct you to take a look at Simone before me.  She decided to take on this challenge on the same day I did, but her time away from competing or any significant training has been around four years.  She works a physical job as a porter (orderly) doing long hours of shift-work at the Fiona Stanley Hospital emergency department.  She also has chronic back problems (basically missing a disc) for which she is taking daily pain medication and really needs to have surgery.  With all of these challenges she managed to come in under cut-off with a smile on her face and enjoying the whole day.  That’s pretty special.  If she can do it with all of that going on, what makes you think you couldn’t?  You might just surprise yourself.

Coach Trav (aka Stikman)

*Missed the series?  Head to back to week one

Race Week – The Ten Week Ironman

Taper Week

I’m not really sure that I’ve ever done what would traditionally be called a proper taper.  For me personally I generally just do a little bit of everything with the aim to get fully recovered but not stale and sluggish.  I think sometimes people can pretend that it’s a little more scientific than it really is, it’s so individual not only for each person but for each race.

After Sunday’s race the rest day on Monday went down a treat, the legs were a bit sore and I needed some time to get the gear clean and dry ready for the weekend.  My parents were away in Busselton waiting for our arrival so Tuesday I had Leila when normally they would have.  This meant taking her to tennis so while she practiced I hit the trails of Darlington for a forty-five minute trail run and the legs felt surprisingly good.

A Bit of a Surprise

Wednesday evening I was coaching swimming so I got to the pool a bit early to do a session myself.  As I arrive club coach candidate Emma was just leaving and she wanted an opinion on her wetsuit fit so we chatted for a good fifteen or twenty minutes which resulted in me being left with thirty minutes for my two and a bit kilometre swim set.  Knowing that this was beyond my capabilities I thought I would take the opportunity to slip in a little test session to see if I’d made any improvement over the last ten weeks.

The swim test that I prefer is known as a critical swim speed (CSS) test.  It consists of a 400m and 200m all-out time trial with rest in between.  The shorter time is then subtracted from the longer and divided by two to give a CSS pace per 100m, the result often very similar to that of a 1000m time trial but without the pain, or at least for a shorter time.  This is then used in a similar way to what threshold pace is for run sessions or threshold power for the bike, to set training and racing targets.

The last time I performed the test was back in week one of this little adventure and the results weren’t awful with a 6:55 and 3:17 giving me a CSS of 1:49/100m.  Given that I’d only swam fourteen times since then I wasn’t expecting great things but the end result was a 6:19 and 2:59 (I think only the second time I’ve broken 3:00) for a CSS pace of 1:40.  I think at my absolute best I only tested at 1:36 so I’m certainly not going to complain!

The Preparation Gets Serious

Before big races (Ironman and half-ironman if I’ve trained a bit) I can sometimes feel like a bit of a fraud.  I see all of the hard work and dedication of “real” triathletes and the stress they seem to be under worrying about the outcome and I just don’t have the same drive.  One thing I’ve always believed though is that you can fake it until you make it.  Sometimes just acting the part you want to play gets you into the mindset to become what you want, for example it’s hard to feel crappy when you force a smile for long enough.

So how do I fake being a triathlete?  I do the thing I swore I’d never do when I took up this sport almost ten years ago.  I go hairless.  I don’t mean on my head, that’s the normal state anyway, it’s the legs that get the treatment.  Mostly I just shave them but this time Tarn very kindly offered her services in giving them a wax.  Even with the forest-like growth that I’d accumulated I can assure you it doesn’t hurt very much and no matter how stupid it seems it just makes me feel like I belong.

On The Road Again

The plan was to leave home around midday on Thursday but with the wax in the morning and a few other things to do packing didn’t start until around 11:30 so we didn’t pull out of the driveway until around one.  Simone insisted on driving (because I drive like a grandpa apparently) and we had a few issues with the bike rack on the back of the ute which resulted in us arriving at Busselton just after four.

I normally register on the Friday because I don’t particularly care for sleeping with the wrist band but Simone gets a little excited where Ironman is concerned so once we’d parked up and put the bikes inside the house it was down to the expo to pick up our packs and do a tour of the stands.  Nothing of significance was bought but there were certainly a few items put on the “considering” list.

Too Much Socialising

The big race weekends are always very busy for me.  I tend to take an hour to get anywhere because the place is full of people I know and even though I’m very shy (as I’m sure you’ve noticed) I can’t avoid them and have to stop to let them listen to me for a bit.  I love it really but sometimes it would be nice just to be able to sneak around unnoticed and relax by myself.  I certainly wouldn’t say I’m an introvert but sometimes you don’t feel like company.

Thursday night was a catch-up with my parents who are staying, as they do every year, in their caravan at a park just up the road.  Club mate Shane and his two gorgeous daughters joined us for a roast dinner that really hit the spot.

Let the carbo load begin

Friday afternoon Simone and I caught up with a mate, Sam, who you have heard about before.  It’s going to be awesome to see him do his first Ironman tomorrow and he really seemed in a great headspace for it.  A huge transformation from just a few weeks ago and one he should be very proud of.  Then we were off to the Vasse for dinner and to catch up with the Perth Hills crew down here to race the full or half ironman or just as importantly offer support.  It’s a great club and one I’m very proud to lead.

Saturday morning was the regular pilgrimage to what I consider to be the premier event of the weekend, Ironkids.  Watching them race is just brilliant as they couldn’t care less about times or anything other than getting to the finish line and getting their medal.  I think it’s something we should all probably try and capture in our own sporting lives.  It’s funny too watching all the dads and mums who are doing the half or full the next day having so much more joy and pride in their kids race than they ever will in their own.

That afternoon Simone and I went to The Goose to meet a good friend Pete and his better half for a beer, it’s kind of a tradition for him and I pre-race.  To my immense surprise my closest friend showed up too and I had absolutely no idea she was going to be here at all.  In fact I very nearly sent her a message earlier in the day to give her curry about not wishing me luck or coming to cheer me on!

Training and Race Readiness

Well there’s not a lot to tell here.  A couple of open water swims and a shortish ride on the bike to check that there were no issues are all that’s been done.  Unfortunately there’s been too little use of sunscreen and I now have a slightly red glow about me but it’s too late to do anything about it.

A little KISS in transition

Saturday after the last ride the spares, stickers and other final touches went on to the bike.  The bike and run bags were packed, along with the stuff I need to take into transition on race morning.  The bike has now been racked, the bags put in place and a brief walkthrough of transition done in readiness for the morning.

Ready to go!

Que Sera Sera

As Doris Day sang, whatever will be, will be.  There is nothing more that I can do other than get a decent night’s sleep and wake up ready to swim, ride and run for the best part of a day.  If you want to get some context of what this is that we are all embarking on imagine jumping into the Swan River at the Causeway bridge then swimming to the Narrows.  Now get out and ride your bike down to Bunbury for a bit of fun.  Once you’re there, throw some runners on and jog your way to Busselton.  That is roughly the equivalent of what Ironman involves.

Eight years ago I thought anyone who would even consider something like this, let alone do it, must be super-human.  Now as I’m about to embark on my ninth I want you to know that whoever you are reading this, it’s not beyond you.  Maybe you’ll need more than ten weeks of training to get there but with determination and a sensible approach it’s yours if you want it.

See you at the finish line,

Coach Trav (aka Stikman)

*Missed the series?  Head to back to week one

*Continue on to the race report

Oh No! – The Ten Week Ironman

A Lighter Week

Well sometimes reality doesn’t meet expectation but this week did, spectacularly so.  As you may recall last week I said I was expecting a much easier week leading in to the Interclub State Championship race on Sunday.  That was certainly what was delivered but not in the way I would have liked.

Monday Morning

Monday was greeted with a bit of a lie in, well perhaps not to most but getting out of bed at 7am is pretty luxurious based on the last several weeks.  When I got up though I just felt a little off.  Sore legs, sure but that’s been pretty usual for a Monday morning, it was more of a foggy head than anything else.  The ironman panic sets in…please don’t be getting sick!

Of course it was a rest day and there’s not a lot you can do about illness, and better now than in a week’s time.  Rest up, drink lots of water, eat well and wash your hands a lot.  Give yourself the best chance to fight it off quickly if it is something coming on.

So, Sick or Not?

Tuesday comes around and nothing much has changed.  Legs still very heavy, head foggy but no development of symptoms.  Maybe it’s just a hint of over-training?  Not a whole lot to be gained by pushing through though and a lot to be lost if it goes wrong so second rest day in a row it is.  Wednesday was crazy busy at work with a two hour meeting with a key client who had pushed back our meeting from Monday, unfortunately because he was sick.  Not ideal, rest day #3…

So by Thursday I was a bit sick and tired of not knowing whether I was sick or just tired so I jumped on the trainer for an hour.  Not much effort, basically an aerobic ride with a couple of little builds in to see how the body would respond.  Physically there were no ill effects, and I slept much better for having done something.  I guess I could sit around and beat myself up that I hadn’t found this out earlier by doing this sooner but that’s not going to do any good, just put it behind me and move on by getting up early on Friday to be punished by coach Brian in the pool

My Favourite Race Weekend

Now don’t get me wrong, I really love Ironman Western Australia (and the Busso Half in May) but the WA State Interclub Championships really get me excited.  You see, I’m not a huge fan of taking races too seriously.  We mostly do this stuff for a bit of fun so when I see people at races that seem to be not enjoying themselves or putting too much pressure on to perform I get a little cranky.

Interclubs love (photo credit – Monica Borrill)

Don’t get me wrong, Interclubs are serious business and I probably push myself as hard there as I do anywhere (while telling everyone I’m just going to go Ironman race pace) but success is measured by team success not the individual.  For some clubs that means winning one of the two trophies on offer while others might consider building team morale to be far more important or even simply getting some club-mates through their first attempt at a sprint distance race.  To borrow a cliché, everyone can be a winner.

So we all managed to dodge the wet weather which set in not long after the race was over and as a club we had some pretty impressive performances.  I think there were a number of race PBs (personal bests) in the group and a great feeling of camaraderie not just within the club but between everyone there.

Benchmarks

Interclubs serves another purpose for me.  I’ve done the race all bar one year before tackling Ironman WA and I’ve found the ratio between my result there and my final time a week later always falls within a fairly narrow band.  Now I’m not going to suggest that I have a goal time for next week as there are simply too many variables that are out of my control but I can at least be fairly confident that it won’t be a terrible race for me.

The Training by the Numbers

So leading into my one week taper (given this week’s effort I feel like I’ve already done it) I thought I’d take a look back to see how the training compares to previous attempts at this race and the results were somewhat suprising.

The numbers don’t lie

I don’t have records for my first attempt in 2011 but you can see that in terms of the eleven weeks leading into taper I’ve actually done okay compared to normal.  In fact it’s almost spot on my second best lead in which ended up with my best result to date.  Of course that sub-12 hour result was helped greatly by excellent conditions on the day and the consistent training that I’d already put in prior to that build so there’s no suggestion it’s in danger of being bettered.

I guess the other thing this might hopefully tell some of you is how achievable Ironman can be within a relatively normal life.  I’m certainly no great natural athlete, as a child I had to attend Horse Riding for the Disabled because of a sever lack of co-ordination.  What I do have come race day though is a bit of pig-headedness and a will to just keep moving forward.  There’s no magic or rocket science to finishing, it’s just one stroke, revolution and footstep after the other until you’re done.

This Week

It will all be fairly easy training and all determined by how I feel until Thursday when we head to Busselton.  After that I have a little training routine that I try and follow, one that is almost second nature to me now.  I also use the week down there as an opportunity to catch up with a lot of people that I don’t see too often and to socialise.  The work is done.  The result can only be negatively affected from here on in if you do too much or let the nerves get to you.  It’s time to relax and enjoy what we’ve built.

 

Train (or taper) safe,

Coach Trav (aka Stikman)

 

*Missed the series?  Head to back to week one

*Continue on to race week

Last Push – The Ten Week Ironman

One Last Push

I normally only taper for one week leading into an Ironman but the truth is I normally don’t train as consistently as I have been.  I think that this might be the reason that managing fatigue, by which I mean feeling totally drained not just a little bit tired, has been a bigger issue during this lead in.  As you read last week I fell into a little bit of a hole so with wanting to make sure that I can race at the State Interclub Championships at the end of next week and still come up fresh for Ironman the week after this really was my last opportunity to put in some big sessions.

Weekly Goals

While you want to keep the focus on the big picture it’s always handy to start the week with a few key sessions or goals that you want to tick off before Sunday night.  This is especially true for those who have trained for a much longer period than I have for this one, where the pay-off always seems so far away.  Life isn’t perfect and if you judged yourself by whether everything went to plan, disappointment would be inevitable, so by setting a couple of important aims you can be sure to tick them off.  A little like the Pareto Principle though likely with a much lower hit rate.

Two Big Sessions

I needed more time in the saddle and particularly spending time on the aerobars at a reasonable level of effort so knocking off another five hour session on the freeway path was a non-negotiable.  My fuelling and hydration plan is tried and tested through several races now but things can change so it was important that I include that as part of the ride.  I never judge these rides by speed or distance as weather conditions can have too great an influence, it’s just a case of riding for time.

Simpler than it looks

The second key for me was a swim session that I’ve been doing for the last few Ironman races that gives me confidence and an idea of my likely race swim time.  It’s a double pyramid (well really a reverse pyramid because pyramids get smaller as you go up!) of 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 400, 300, 200, 100 and repeat.  It’s not a straight swim though, every second rep is done with moderate sized paddles and pull buoy.  When I look at the results of this session I can pull it apart to see how a few different components of my swim fitness are at that point in time.  It might be too late to do much about it but forewarned is forearmed they say.

A Good Week

The training week started, as you should all know by now, with a rest day on Monday before joining the intrepid Perth Hills crew for the interval session at Woodbridge on Tuesday.  Normally when I’m coaching I like to just coach but as we had longer intervals it was a good opportunity to get my run in while also observing and encouraging them.  Wednesday was my double day for the week with a ninety minute trainer session in the morning, starting with a virtual race, and then knocking off the aforementioned 5000m swim in the evening.

I was up early on Thursday for a pure aerobic trail run, including short walk breaks where necessary to keep the effort in check, and then again on Friday to join in Coach Brian’s club swim session.  For those club members that haven’t yet made it to one of our morning swims I highly recommend it.  Lower numbers mean individual attention and you get it out of the way early making you feel smug all day.  From a coaching perspective it’s also good to get in the lanes with the athletes once in a while to see what they’re doing under the water, it’s not always easy to tell from the deck.

The weekend started pretty softly as I met Karen and Carolyn, who I am coaching to the half-ironman, at Port Beach in Fremantle for a bit of open water swim familiarisation.  Very little swimming was done by yours truly but I hope the ladies got something out of the tricks and tips I had to offer.  We probably spent more time drinking coffee afterwards and talking about the race, plans, fears, goals and the like.

Sunday was the big day this week.  Simone and I met Sam (refer last week’s Kings Park catch-up) for two and a half hours south before trying to catch the tail wind back.  The legs felt good and I gained a lot of confidence in being able to hold my aero position, at one stage not coming up off the bars for 90 minutes straight.  I’m afraid I couldn’t hold Sam’s draft though, way too strong on the bike.  I am really looking forward to seeing him live his dream in a couple of weeks, if I’m off the bike before he is done!

Oldies (like, really oldies) but goodies

Sunday afternoon was finished off with a free concert in Kalamunda at Stirk Park where Simone and I met my parents and were entertained by Normie Rowe and Johnny Young.  Some of you around my vintage may remember Normie as the guy that took a swing at Ron Casey in front of Ray Martin on national TV many years ago but of course he was also a huge pop star back in the sixties before he was drafted into the army and sent to Vietnam.  Dad tells me (and everyone else) that Normie’s long locks of hair were pinned up on the army barber’s wall when he got his own cut as Normie had been in the intake before and they wanted to show the lads that there were no exceptions!  Of course most of us know Johnny Young from his days hosting Young Talent Time decades ago but he too had a rock and roll career before that.  I had forgotten that he grew up in Kalamunda, living in Hummerston Road (which we shall never, ever climb on a bike!)

The Week Ahead

Well this biggish week (about thirteen hours total) has left me feeling a little drained and so I’m expecting to have a light week in the lead up to the most important race of the season, the State Interclub Championships.  I always race this before Ironman.  When done at race pace it’s a relatively gentle workout and fantastic opportunity to test everything before the big dance.  As I’ve said to others numerous times before, these two weeks are 100% about getting to the race fresh, uninjured and well.  Whatever it takes.

Coach Trav (aka Stikman)

 

*Missed the series?  Head to back to week one

*Continue on to week nine

Overstretched – The Ten Week Ironman

What Goes Up…

Coming from a really low base this little exercise was always going to carry a risk of overtraining and this week I think that risk might have come to fruition.  Last week wasn’t huge in the context of Ironman training, only thirteen hours, but with half of that crammed into a couple of days it proved to be a bit much.  My usual Monday rest day wasn’t enough to freshen me up properly but come Tuesday I decided to just push through…big mistake.  A hard bike session on Tuesday morning with a threshold run that afternoon put me in a hole.  I needed a proper rest.

Time Off

Your head messes with you a bit with this stuff.  I knew that I was doing what was best by taking a couple of days completely off mid-week but the little demons keep telling you that you’re losing fitness, undoing all the good work and just simply being lazy.  As a coach I know this is just ridiculous but when your academic self comes up against your emotional self, especially when you are a bit exhausted, the right team doesn’t always win.

If I had have been coaching myself, I would’ve given me a third day off but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.  Instead I decided to do a tough but short session on the wind trainer to keep me mentally going and give me a little confidence, so a ramp test it was.

Ouch!

The Test

A ramp test is pretty simple, you start at a particular power (measured in watts using a power meter) and then you gradually ramp it up at a particular rate until you physically can’t push any more.  For me it’s over and done with in under twenty-five minutes, a better rider will take longer, but it only REALLY hurts for the last couple.  At the end of it all you get a few numbers (power and heart rate) that can be useful for monitoring progress and prescribing future training.

The results were a significant improvement on six weeks ago though a long way from where they would have been at my peak.  Still, this gives me a bit of confidence that I’m heading in the right direction and it’s not going to be a total disaster come race day.

A Dad Weekend

This weekend I was on dad duties and Simone was working so opportunities to train were limited, but having already had an interrupted training week I just had to make it work.  While Leila can now ride the bike next to me when running it can be a bit of a chore so I figured the easy solution was to get my long ride in on the trainer…over three sessions in two days.  It’s not fair to go effectively missing for four or five hours leaving her to look after herself and the cumulative effect isn’t too far different.

Racing Again

In one of my sessions on the trainer I decided to do a virtual race on Zwift.  Basically, you sign up and start with a bunch of other people somewhere in the world on their trainers and race them.  Everyone is seeded by their ability (self-seeded mind you) and put into divisions accordingly, a bit like age-group racing in triathlon but allowing you to stand half a chance.  I seeded myself in D-grade (the lowest) and after half an hour of utter suffering came a creditable fifth.  It probably wasn’t great training for an Ironman but it reminded me that I occasionally have a bit of a competitive instinct in me.

Dropped…

A Great Finish to The Week

Sunday morning, I finished off the third session of my long ride and noodled around for the morning doing my coaching duties and not much else.  In the afternoon I had arranged to meet a friend in Kings Park for a chat.  He has a young daughter and it was his weekend playing dad as well so it meant the kids could play together while we had a deep and meaningful conversation.

This mate is a triathlete too and has always wanted to do a full Ironman since he first saw the sport decades ago but simply hadn’t had the opportunity (or didn’t think he was ready) to tackle it.  He’s such a genuine bloke and amazing father that earlier this year a bunch of people organised a free entry and coaching for him to go around at Busselton.  He’s been incredibly diligent and dedicated but has been struggling a bit with belief in himself along the way and the enormity of the task ahead of us.

We spent maybe three or four hours, a lot of it just talking crap not in any way related to triathlon, and went from one end of the park to the other.  Hopefully the few hours we spent helped calm the sense of expectation and will ease the rest of the journey to the start line.  I know that his enthusiasm, fear and excitement helped get me in the right mindset.

Next Week

I’m playing it a little bit by ear at the moment but I expect that I’ll get one last proper big ride done, a decent run and get back to the pool.  You might have noticed that I didn’t mention swimming this week.  Other than that, there isn’t a lot left to be done that can make race day a whole lot better than it already will be.  From here on it’s about maintaining the fitness while not doing anything stupid or falling back into a hole.  Of course, not doing stupid things isn’t one of my strong points…

 Coach Trav (aka Stikman)

 

*Missed the series?  Head to back to week one

*Continue on to week eight

On The Downhill Run – The Ten Week Ironman

Halfway There

One of the benefits of a short build-up to a big race is there isn’t a lot of time to get mentally fatigued.  No sooner has the initial enthusiasm worn off than you begin the downhill run and can start ticking off the days in anticipation.  You don’t have that period in between where the race still seems forever away and it just turns into a bit of a grind.

The Big Sessions

This week was always going to be the time for the biggest run and cycle sessions.  Generally I’d aim for the biggest ride session to be a week closer to the race but because I have Leila next weekend it had to happen here.  Of course the session lengths don’t drop off a cliff any time soon so it’s not like these are a make-or-break situation.

There is a school of thought that these two sessions should be done on consecutive days to replicate the demands of the race, that somehow running on tired legs in training will make it easier on the day.  I don’t prescribe to this, in fact I believe almost the opposite.  By backing up difficult sessions together you lose some of the fitness you would gain in the recovery from the first and have a couple of days in between and getting the run out of the way earlier in the week with the lower impact cycle later.

Make It Work

Training time and family time doesn’t need to be a zero-sum game.  Doing more in one area doesn’t necessarily take away from the other.  This week being a bigger week it was important that I did what I could to ensure that Simone and I were working together to make it all fit.

Monday was my usual recovery day so Tuesday morning I was up early and on the trainer to get an hour in before Leila was up.  That evening I was coaching at Woodbridge so after I dropped Leila at tennis practice I headed there to get an hour interval session in myself.  Simone did the tennis pick up and she and Leila spent some quality “girl time” together which is also important.

What a place to train

 

Wednesday after work Simone joined me at the pool (she’s been doing great with her training on limited time too by the way) where I did a relatively easy set of 2500m, making sure I was ready for the next morning which was the first of the big ones.  Out of the door around 5:30am I only really planned to run for two hours, heading up the trail past Darlington and Glen Forrest, running to a heart rate target to keep the effort down.  It was one of those beautiful mornings that makes you feel great and you don’t want to stop…so I didn’t.  In the end it was two and a half hours and I finished feeling reasonably fresh, knowing that it wouldn’t be until tomorrow that I could tell whether it was a wise idea.

Up early again to coach at the pool from 5:30 I felt reasonably good and the legs weren’t too heavy though the knees were a little tender.  Before the intrepid crew had left the deck afterwards I made sure I was already in the water.  This serves two purposes:  firstly it shows a good example to them and assures them that I’m not missing out by coaching them; secondly, and more importantly, it makes sure that I don’t chicken out or get lazy and just head home.

A long way to go

Friday night was quiet and in bed reasonably early because Saturday was chosen as my long ride day.  This was so that I could spend some time riding with Simone to her work at Fiona Stanley Hospital before continuing on down the freeway and back.  She started at twelve so we left a bit after 9:30 to make sure there was plenty of time for her to get there and make herself decent for work no matter what cropped up on the way there.  With a kiss she headed in and I put my nose into the wind and headed south for another hour or so before turning tail and returning home via the same route.  In the end I was a bit disappointed, I had planned to go for five hours and thirty minutes in total but I misjudged the turn around point and ended up doing five hours and thirty two.  I must be losing my touch.

The week’s training was completed on Sunday with an hour long swim and the intent to do an hour or so on the trainer which turned into ten minutes when my legs told me they had had enough.  I guess you can’t blame them after thirteen and a bit hours in six days, my longest training week in exactly a year.

Looking good…ish

Looking Forward

The race is now just four short weeks away but I won’t be focusing any further than this coming week.  If all goes to plan there will be another run over two hours and a bike around four and a half as my two key sessions, the rest will depend quite heavily on my recovery from this week with decisions made on a day-by-day basis.  The numbers all look fairly good and confidence is high so I need to make sure that I don’t ruin that by doing something stupid by pushing too hard for too long.  It’s an Ironman truism that more people ruin their race day by overdoing it in the lead up than ever do so by too little work.

Trav (aka Stikman)

 

*Missed the series?  Head to back to week one

*Continue on to week seven

One Step – The Ten Week Ironman

Every Journey

Starts with a single step, so they say, and the same applies to every training day.  Often the toughest part of each session is the first step (or stroke or pedal revolution) but this week I had a bit of a lesson on this front.  As you already know, unless there is something fixed in the week ahead that means I can’t train, Monday is my designated rest day for the week.  This week was no different.  Not only do I know that I need at least one total recovery day it also does me good mentally because it means that I can begin every week with a day where I execute the plan.  Silly I know but there you have it.

Knowing I’d had a less than optimal training week last week I was keen to get back into it come Tuesday and so I was looking forward to the club trail run that evening.  Unfortunately about an hour before it was due to start I got an alert from the DFES letting me know that there was a fire close to our start point so with safety in mind the run had to be cancelled.  Not to be daunted by such obstacles out came the trainer and an hour on the bike it was.

Getting Swift with Zwift

Inspired by Simone using it I have this week been giving the online bike “game” Zwift a trial.  If you have a controllable trainer it allows you to ride on virtual terrain with others, adjusting the resistance and speed automatically.  It’s kind of fun, at least more fun than staring at a wall, but it can often be tempting to chase other riders as they whizz past you.  Perhaps good for cyclists and certain triathlon events but probably not ideal for Ironman.  Still, I think I might keep it for the relatively small cost involved.

The Gambler

As Kenny says, “you gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em” and after a double day (run+bike) done a little too hard on Wednesday the numbers and my legs told me I needed to take it easy on Thursday.  I’d planned a longer swim but as swimming is my relatively stronger leg and I was going to swim on Friday morning after coaching I decided that a nice glass of wine on the couch with Simone was a much better option.

Be like Kenny

Up early on Friday I headed to the pool for an hour of coaching (if you haven’t come to a morning session you really should, the small numbers mean much more individual attention) followed by a threshold swim session.  No warm up and no cool down it was a pretty basic 3000m of threshold with both short and long intervals while the girl did her thing alongside me.

Westside Is The Best

Ali G was right, that’s why Saturday morning I set out to do my long(ish) ride for the week on the trainer watching Westside Story with Leila.  She’d wanted to watch it since we started a couple of weeks ago and had to cut it short due to bed time.  If we’re doing nothing else for her at least I’m confident that she’s getting a good cultural education with us.  We barely watch any telly but we make sure she knows all of the good comedy (Monty Python, The Two Ronnies, etc.), gets to listen to music from classic jazz to hard rock and appreciates the great movies.  I think she likes it all, at very least she tolerates our eclectic taste.

I’ve just met a girl

Sunday is Fun Day, Family Run Day

With Simone due to start night shift we had planned a morning long run around the river for the morning, with Leila riding her bike.  Leaving from Burswood we headed north past the new stadium, across the bridge (not the Matagarup one, Simone thinks it’s an abomination) then down around to the Narrows and returning via South Perth.  Running by heart rate I managed around 18km (including loop backs) in a touch over two hours which is my longest run since the half marathon in February.  Truth is that I rarely run more than 21km in a build up to Ironman anyway as the recovery just takes too long for me.  I don’t believe that anyone should run more than two and a half hours for this reason, there’s more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to getting distance in.  Frequency often gets better results without the risk and double run days are golden for a triathlete.

The Lesson

Did you catch it?  I know it was pretty subtle.  This week I didn’t have any problems at all with motivating myself to begin a single session because for each and every one I had someone else there to provide a secondary reason.  Whether it was just getting my head into the right mindset (Tuesday), to get my arse to the venue (Friday) or for company (Saturday and Sunday) there wasn’t a single instance where it was just about me.

Sometimes “I need to do this session because…” simply isn’t enough to get that first single step.  If you want to be a success in triathlon and life you need a decent support crew, whether they know they’re there to help you or not.  This week wouldn’t have been half the success it was without mine.

Trav (aka Stikman)

 

*Missed the series?  Head to back to week one

*Continue on to week six

The Art and Purpose of Suffering

By Ian Hainsworth

Endurance Sport is something that we all love (after all that is why you took up this sport, right?).

Let’s face the reality – there is an element of suffering and struggle that goes with the territory.

Much has been written about suffering over the years, and I don’t want to bore you with a topic that others have covered in greater detail than I could hope to.

Instead I want to talk about that  poor cousin to suffering  – struggle.

Suffering is somehow heroic (chest burning, quads screaming at you, shoulders on fire in the pool) and we can talk about it as a physical element.

Struggle often doesn’t have a physical expression that can be observed and recognised by others, but is those times when your expectations of just how that race or even training session would turn out,  is just NOT what reality is right now.

It can be accumulated fatigue of training load, not keeping your body fuelled with the nutrition it needs, mental fatigue of long hours at work.  Who knows, just what is causing it on the day.

But what your race or training session should be looking like is not what your Garmin is saying right now.

I would like to suggest that instead you celebrate those times, because making it out the other side of struggle is what really makes for a great performance.   The timing chip or Garmin may not say this, but deep down you KNOW that you made it out the other side of struggle-town and you still put in the required effort.

You see, struggle is all about focussing on the things you CAN control.  Yes, our human minds swiftly move to the negative side of the coin and look at what isn’t working, what isn’t happening and it tends to fuel further negative thoughts.

Struggle time is the time of choice.  The choice of working with what you CAN do to your absolute best and most excellent effort, or just “make it through”.   Nobody will know that you haven’t put in your best effort – except that person that you look at in the mirror every morning. They know the truth.

Listening to other athletes experiences and reflecting on my own, I suspect there are some real truths that we can apply at the time of struggle.  Effort.  And Focus. And Technique.

By listening to our bodies and knowing just where we are at in our training, we know just what outcome (speed, pace, power) occurs with certain efforts.   Yes, we can say on our Strava comments that our run was an “easy run” but for many of us it was actually moderate to hard effort and we wanted the numbers to look a certain way.

Effort

Honestly, far better to only glance at your Garmin occasionally,  and go from true effort assessment on the inside.  Become the true expert in listening to your body and knowing just what easy feels like, what moderate feels like and what hard feels like.  Then on struggle time, you can apply a correct effort with confidence, knowing that this consistent effort will get you to the end of that race or session with the best outcome.

Focus

Focus is (at least in my head) the application of your resources – your senses, willpower, knowledge, your intellect, your thoughts – on a single matter.  There is no such thing as success when we multi task, and there is no room for negative thoughts when desiring success.

When struggling, that is the perfect time to develop the mental muscles to choose to think only what you can do and choose to block out that voice of the devil on your shoulder whispering seductively that you can’t do it.  To block out external sensory input that minimises the pain and struggle. Honestly, better to embrace and accept the pain and struggle and learn to not only cohabit with those bedfellows, but respect that whilst they have a significant impact on you they are NOT your master unless you allow them to.

Much practice is required to achieve this (more practice than you may first think is possible), which is why those days of struggle in training are a wonderful opportunity to practice focus and positivity at the very time when you feel like crap.

Technique

It is said that nature abhors a vacuum.  So, if you CANT rely on Garmin or external sensory input, what can you do?

The answer is rely on technique and in fact choose to develop and refine technique at those times when you are struggling.

I don’t mean “perfect” technique (because that is not at all practical and will add to your frustration) but rather a technique of excellence that fits what you CAN do.

For example, choose to push circles on those bike pedals, choose to run tall and land lightly on your feet, choose to focus on stroke rate or pull through length with your swim.   These are all choices that allow your mind to focus on a positive. Without the availability of positive focus, it is even easier to succumb to going slower in the face of struggle than otherwise may be achieved.

Is dealing with struggle easy?  No, of course not.  It is frustrating, often unexpected and frankly it sucks.

However, the gift of struggle is that the same mental muscles that you implement and practice in your training session and raceday are the very muscles you use when life itself is a struggle also.

Coach’s corner with Coach Yanti

Making the transition from breaststroke to freestyle

Breaststroke provides useful mental images and drills that’ve helped many beginning swimmers/triathletes who are more comfortable with breaststroke start make the transition to a solid freestyle pull. Most beginner swimmers who can manage the breaststroke are a lot closer to freestyle than they think. The pull in breaststroke and freestyle are nearly identical.

I’ve asked newer swimmers to try doing the breaststroke with the same pull they do in freestyle (usually a straight arm windmill pull). They can’t. Somewhere here, it clicks that doing freestyle with a breaststroke pull is the way to go.

Ignoring legs/kick for the moment, I have them glide, then pull breastroke with one arm only. (Similar to several sculling drills). At some point, I get them to rotate their bodies slightly to the pull side so they can breathe as they pull.

This is a start, and one of several likely helpful breast-to-free drills. There’s no one magic formula or trick, and different images and metaphors will help make things click for different swimmers. It’s just that this one has helped so many okay-breaststrokers struggling-freestylers to make that transition, so I wanted to share it.

In my own training I do breaststroke very mindfully in the pull, thinking about freestyle, and I don’t swim it competition style anymore, since some of the motion is used to pull the head and upper body up out of the water (instead of forward the way you want in freestyle). I pull back as much as possible and stay much flatter in the water than I would doing a competition breaststroke.

I also do breaststroke pulling (with or without pull buoy). Really helps isolate pull mechanics since you WILL NOT go anywhere if you aren’t doing it right!

One last point. Most swimmers steadily exhale while underwater doing breaststroke, but “hold” their breath during freestyle, only exhaling toward the end of the stroke and finishing the exhale while their head is out of water, then inhaling. In breast and in free, anytime your face is in the water, exhale!

Athlete Profile – Justine T

Nickname:  Jussi, Juzzi, JT, Tenners and Just Jeans

How long have you been in tri?: About 2 years 

How did you get into tri?: I was trying to get fit and then I saw the advertisement for the Pink Tri – thought it might be good fun so I bought a bike and signed up. 

How many bikes do you have?:  Three (roadie, tri-bike and a mountain bike)

Something we wouldn’t already know about you?: I spent 3.5 years in the Pilbara chasing Manganese deposits as a Project Exploration Geologist so I’m pretty good at roughing it and 4WDing

What do you want to achieve this season?: I’m hoping to swim at Busso 70.3 (third time lucky) and take on my first marathon (don’t ask me which one I haven’t decided- suggestions/thoughts welcomed)