Ian takes on IMNZ 2018

In the midst of a red wine inspired moment in the aftermath Ironman Western Australia, I decided that Ironman New Zealand was a convenient sort of timing to allow for recovery and developing better fitness (ie three months).

Three months of training, a test day at Sufferfest Bunbury 70.3 and devotion to strength work would see me ready to perform, right?

Perhaps I am not alone, in reflecting on alcohol as being a driver of positive thoughts, with little room for the realities of life!

Christmas, New Year, working longer hours than usual at the clinic were things I had not considered and bizarre Perth weather that had weather forecasters embarrassed and left me short of some long rides (I refuse to ride a bike in thunderstorms).

However, with the loving support of Natalie (who told me I WAS going to go to New Zealand and race having booked flights and accommodation) I set off 4 days prior to race day.

Actually I set off, my bike case set off and my suitcase set off.  Only 2 of us arrived, with the rush for plane connection in Auckland meaning my suitcase sat there for another 24 hours.

So, eventually putting my bike together (and changing into clothes that didn’t smell clearly of 24 hours sitting around) I checked in to NZ relaxed version of IM.

I did a reconnaissance ride and drove most of the course (some hills, pretty windy, roads rough in places) – some parts of the bike course aren’t accessible except for race day.

Lake Taupo is beautiful, and so I swam a little (gee, water is pretty brisk isn’t it!).

I ran the lakeside portion of the run leg, and looked at the maps (BIG mistake right there – don’t trust maps,  get first hand feel for ALL parts of the course even if it means riding it).

I picked up Natalie and Gabs from the airport the day before the race, dropped off my bike and gear and did my best to forget all about it (still feeling a bit uneasy about my reliance on maps over eyeballing the terrain) and focus on the 2 girls having a good time in Taupo.

By the way, it is easy to have a good time in Taupo.  People are really friendly and laid back and helpful.  Great place to visit, having a race is simply icing on the cake.

Race Day

Usual raceday procedure.  Get to transition early, prepare bike ornaments, make sure the wheels go around and stop when brakes applied. Make sure gear is set to big cog on back (don’t laugh, I have made this mistake more than once before and it is embarrassing trying to take off from the mount line….).   Home and have coffee with Natalie and then wetsuit on, goggles and cap in hand and try to look relaxed (I failed the relaxed look).

I found the swim start (you guessed right, I hadn’t actually done this part of reconnaissance either) and joined the hordes of admiring age groupers watching in awe as the pros lined up on start line.

Then ……….BOOOM ….  Shit what was that?  Turns out they start IMNZ with a cannon which sounded like it was next to my right ear (I don’t remember reading anything about that in the Athlete Guide).

Fortunately I had wetsuit on so any wetness didn’t show.

Deepwater start, so swim out and get used to the water temperature. Is it just me, or does anyone else shiver uncontrollably whilst the race starters tell you “3 mins to start” and give you a good 7  -10 mins before they start you?   At least I was expecting the cannon this time.

With my swim expertise, I was self seeded at the back.   Even so, I wasn’t expecting somebody to (accidentally) almost rip my timing chip off my ankle.   I panicked, as I needed that chip (Natalie and Gabs wouldn’t know where I was without it, or when to go to finish line when I was finishing).   I admit I let this moment get to me, and spent the next 10 minutes trying to get my breathing somewhere near correct order-  breath out under water and breath in when you turn your head to air.

Eventually I got the required order of events right, and the swim was actually enjoyable.  Lake Taupo is clear,  can see the bottom of lake the whole way and can sight from both the buoy line and shoreline when turning to breathe.

Swim over, I stood and jogged/walked to transition.   Who has the sense of humour to put a 300m hill to run up to get to transition out of a swim?

Bike

I changed and asked my very cheerful and friendly Maori volunteer to put some sunscreen on me (I don’t really tan, I just develop different shades of red).

This guy was really enthusiastic, and totally dedicated to making sure that sunscreen wasn’t coming off any time soon. I was winded just by him slapping it on,  but to his credit I didn’t get sunburned!

Off on the bike with Woody’s very clear instructions burned into my brain.  Eat before the hill,  take the hill moderate then get your act together and find the burn that is just right.

The bike course has a mixture of uphills and downhills,  rough road and smooth road.

Everyone knows the headwind is coming on the second lap out to Reporua, but that doesn’t make it any easier to grind your way through.

The enduring memory of the ride for me was the incredible friendliness of all the people lining parts of the bike course, farmers sitting by their front gates with gumboots on shaking their head at the yearly race that brought triathletes down their road, and the surprisingly strong smell of cow manure in parts of the ride.   Agricultural, but in a really good way.

I was told that I should ride hard enough that I believed I couldn’t possibly run  once I hit the 140km portion of the ride.  No trouble achieving that feeling,  in fact I was ahead of schedule as by 120 – 135km into that headwind I was convinced that I was cooked by the time I hit T2.

There is a really nice downhill segment for about the last 7km heading into town at end of bike course, and this certainly helped legs recover, and to be honest the mind appreciates speeding into town with cheering crowd lining the road, rather than grinding up a hill.

Run

My volunteer friend was busy with somebody else at change to run,  so I got another guy to help me.   He was slightly smaller than t1 helper (he was probably only about 125kg),  but I didn’t want to risk more body damage so left out the sunscreen.

Shoes on, cap on, race belt on,  gels in hand and I wobbled out into the run course.

Fortunately it is a few hundred metres before you get to the crowds, so some of my wobble boots had disappeared.

As I was starting, Terrezo Bozzone (winner of race) was finishing.  He was loping up the street like a gazelle like it was no trouble to have previously covered 226km in about 8 hours. Amazing.

My mantra for run was simply to ignore Garmin and focus on cadence and rhythm that would allow me to get to finish line.

This worked really well for first 3 – 4km until I hit the part of run course that I had failed to preview.

There were uphills and downhills and going around corners into territory that I had no idea what it held for me.  In truth, the uphills and downhills aren’t steep, but for a body that was feeling a bit trashed by that time and with increasing warmth of the day (unlike the forecast of rain all day) I found this difficult.

With the usual strategy of coke and ice at aid stations being employed, I ended up dicovering a new friend on the day – Red Bull.

I have never drunk Red Bull in my life before, and frankly I think it tastes like crap.   But it sure does improve mental status.   There was only one aid station that seemed to have it, but this aid station catered to athletes running both out and back into town.   So I think I had 4 big cups of this for the run, and will be back for more in future races (but will take it earlier!).   Equally, all the coke and Red Bull probably explains why I didn’t sleep much that night either.

Again I have to say that the support of the crowds on the run course is nothing like I have ever experienced before.  Super supportive, very knowledgeable and sort of like a family party type atmosphere.

Coming in to finish the second lap I went over to where Natalie and Gabs were standing and explained that I was cooked, and the last lap was going to be slower than ever. Sorry.

As I rounded the corner for last time and ran up the road towards the finishing chute, two other guys sprinted past me (they were also finishing).   Geez, who has the energy to sprint the last few hundred metres of a Ironman race.  Not me.

I was lucky enough that we had arranged for Natalie and Gabs to be present at the finishing line with Gabs giving me the finishers medal and Natalie giving me the towel (I think she was wanting to give me a can of Rexona too, but was too polite to say anything).

Will I be back?  No question,  yes.

This is a good, honest and difficult race.  I gave everything that I had on the day and came up short on my desired finish time.  However I consider myself to be focussed and persistent (both Natalie and my business partner may have used the words “bloody minded” and “obsessive”) and will continue to work on improving my health and train as hard as my body allows me too.

IMNZ 2019? I will do everything in my power to be there, be prepared and be my best.

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)

Confessions of a triathlete

It’s not a glamorous sport. Sweat, chaffing, dehydration, blisters, sunburn, butt cream, black toenails and the full body lycra suits that leave nothing to the imagination! We go to bed early on a Friday night and get up early on Sundays. Most of our ‘normal’ friends have abandoned us as lost causes.

But the truth is we love this sport, warts and all, so we laugh at ourselves and others and keep on swimming, riding and running.

Here are some of the true confessions of the PHTC triathletes and the dumbest, funniest and worst moments of their #trilife

Confession#1 – I was riding with the group and about 50km into the 112km ride someone mentioned that my bib shorts may be a bit too old…I cycled at the back of the crew after that.

Confession#2 – I stacked my bike on a group ride doing something stupid and was too embarrassed to tell the truth so I made up a crazy story about a big dog running in front of me. It was just so outrageous I thought it would get a laugh and divert attention from the real cause, but everyone believed it.

Confession#3 – I did my first “real” triathlon (a national qualifier no less) with a plastic tote as transition bag, turtle-honky-horn on the cruiser-bars of my bike and a “YOU DID IT!” self-congratulatory balloon on my bike so I could find it in transition.

Confession#4 – At the Mandurah interclubs event, I swapped another athletes run shoes around as a joke after he had set up in transition. I asked him after the race how his shoes were for the run. Any issues? He said nope had his fastest run ever??? I had actually put them the right way around so it backfired!

Confession#5 – I put a mocha flavoured gel in the back pocket of my race suit and it exploded making me look like I’d crapped my pants during the race.

Confession#6 – During my first Busselton half ironman team race in 2015 I thought peanut M&Ms were good nutrition. Perhaps, but having chocolate all over your face and teeth is not a good look out there!

Confession#7 – I was 15 in my very first triathlon at Port beach, it was the perfect day for it. I had this very basic ali road bike, I was actually pretty chuffed with at the time, even had some cleats and shoes. I was all set up for a wicked race. The swim went well, managed to navigate through transition and onto the bike ok. Yay! At that point, i was passed by almost every other competitor on course (told myself it’s ok, cause I can run). But one thing I had not practiced, or even thought about, was that before you stop, you need to uncleat your shoe from the pedals. So at the end of my ride (thank goodness that was over) I approach the transition line, everyone is there, clapping and cheering, (go me!) and I get to the line, and I suddenly realise can’t get my foot out. The officials are yelling at me to take my foot out, I’m yelling back, then I got that momentary hover you get, you know the one when you know your about to fall and there’s bugger all you can do. So I fell. In front of everyone. ON the swim/bike/run transition sign. I was so embarrassed! But at least my foot came out and I could finish the race. I don’t know what the end result was, but I will never, ever forget my first race.

Confession#8 – I rode 15km with a flat at Cairns and only realised when I went around a corner and the bike went from underneath me in front of 50 cars waiting at the traffic lights. I had 5 km to go so rode on my rims back to transition.

Confession#9 – At the Australia Day tri this year I didn’t realize I had but my helmet on backwards. Abdul just kept laughing at me. Then the lady at T2 so politely said, “Just for next time dear, you’ve got your helmet on backwards.” Absolutely no where to hide…

Confession#10 – I once had to leave a group ride early because of bad gut. I didn’t make it back to the car – the vibrations caused by crossing a rail line caused some bad sh*t to go down and I ended up in a roadside drain with my knicks around my ankles hoping no cars would drive past and stop to help the poor cyclist who looked to have crashed in the gutter. On a positive note, I found a good use for the squirt nozzle on bidons.

Confession#11 – During my first 70.3 it was so hot I put ice down the back of my tri suit to cool off. Mistake! I was hopping round like an idiot as it slipped straight down my bum crack.

Confession#11 – I peed my self in transition because I couldn’t wait and couldn’t get a good flow going on the bike at busso 70.3 last year.

Confession#12 – I won my category at my first Olympic-distance triathlon but had no idea because it was really hot and I fell asleep under a tree and missed the awards ceremony.

Fun and racing on the coral coast

Gallery

It was a fantastic road trip for the wolf pack with lots of family fun and podiums at the Allbarnone Jurien Bay triathlon.

The weather was warm and windy with bonus kms on the bike course but this was made up with the run course being a few hundred metres short. It seems the stingers were out to play (but thankfully no sharks!) with a few people copping a sting or seven.

Coach Peta thought it was a cracker day.

“One of the highlights of the day for the pack was supporting each other, all the big smiles and high fives throughout the race in spite of it being a pretty tough challenge,” she said.

“Turquoise Bay is a tough course, particularly the bike, but I highly recommend getting behind it and getting your clubs down there. It’s a terrific course and a great place for a weekend away.”

Big congratulations to Brett on his first medal, to Ian and Alex on their first full Olympic and young Caitlin who had her OWS race.

Podiums

Brett McCrum – BRONZE in the Male 50-59 Fun

Caitlin Gray – GOLD in the Female 14-19 Fun

Jenny Watson – BRONZE in the Female 40-49 Novice

Matt Snell – SILVER in the Male 40-49 Olympic

Could breathing better make you faster?

The part of breathing we generally think about is all to do with enough oxygen getting to the right places fast enough for us to do what we want to. Our bodies are pretty good at this in the absence of any serious health issues.

But you probably don’t realise our breathing also has a major impact on our overall posture and movement and our nervous system, particularly that crucial balance we need between our ‘ready for action’ stress response versus rest, recover and repair.

Breathing in sport is becoming hot news! We put emphasis on strength training especially when it comes to legs, but does anyone really target the breathing muscles?

The case for breathing training

In the last couple of decades it was discovered that like any other muscles our breathing muscles fatigue, swimming being the biggest culprit here. When they fatigue, there then follows a literal blood steal reflex shifting blood from the leg/arms to the breathing muscles. This happens because the brain reckons it’s more important to keep breathing than run faster!

So what can you do? Specific inspiratory muscle training (weight lifting for the diaphragm) will:

  • delay the blood steal reflex;
  • reduce our sense of effort (our heads are a huge barrier to performance);
  • hasten the removal of lactic acid;
  • speed up your recovery.

Breathing in triathlon

If that’s not a good enough reason then consider all the challenges put on your breathing muscles during triathlon.

Swimming – Our breathing muscles have to overcome hydrostatic pressure and need to achieve rapid inhales to maintain buoyancy and propulsion.
Running – we are permanently unstable when we run and breathing muscles have to both pull air in, push it out and keep the pelvis stable.
Cycling – horrible position for breathing! The breathing muscles need all the help they can get to overcome the restrictions imposed by crouching and again stabilising the pelvis to maximise efficient pedalling.

Breathing in recovery

Recovery is not talked about nearly enough in coaching yet the ability to bring ourselves back to baseline calm (think heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, relaxation, digestion, inflammation, immune response) is crucial to our ability to recover from our last race/training session and the success of our next one.

Outside of training/racing is another crucial area where sub-optimal breathing can play havoc. Recovery, otherwise known as all the hours we spend at work and home, awake and asleep is where breathing plays a crucial role.

You lot are by nature pretty busy and pretty driven! This is great for being out there on the run/swim etc but for adequate rest and recovery we need to bring our nervous system back to calm.

Breathing is a powerful regulator of our autonomic nervous system – that balance between emergency response (heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure up, muscles tense) and our rest, digest, repair, immune boosting state. Nearly all the athletes I see have a few things in common…

  1. They over-breathe at rest. This lowers the level of carbon dioxide in the body resulting in poor oxygen delivery, muscle spasms/tension, and airway and blood flow restrictions.
  2. They breathe into the upper chest. This results in fatigue of the accessory muscles (neck/shoulders i.e. muscles we need for effort) and a whipping up of the stress response (see above – not great for recovery).
  3. They are ab suckers. Your diaphragm is your prime muscle for breathing and core strength to name just two of it’s functions. It cannot work effectively against an abdominal corset.
  4. They frequently feel the need for sighs and often mouth breathe – this is hyperventilating, (see point 1).

Have a look at your own breathing

  • Do you nose breathe 100% outside of hard effort?
  • Do you have exercise induced asthma/ chest tightness/wheeze/tightening in the throat?
  • Do you sigh/yawn a lot?
  • Does your chest or belly move as you inhale/exhale at rest?

If you would like to read more about this, check out the series of articles by Robin McNelis for Runners World UK. He talks about running but of course this is relevant for all sport and life in general. It really is worth a read.

Pip Windsor is a physiotherapist and specialises in Breathing Pattern Disorders (BPD) and Asthma Education. She runs Physio2breathe which has offices in Darlington and North Perth and can help athletes improve their breathing for peak performance. In her free time Pip is an ultra trail runner and level 2 recreational running coach. She has dipped her toe in the triathlon pool but decided she prefers running up steep hills. Pip can be contacted via email at physio2breathe@gmail.com

Athlete Profile – Karen A.

How long have you been doing tri?: This is my second season

How did you get into tri?: I lost weight and decided I needed goals to help me go further so my psychologist suggested I enter the womens tri in March 2017 (it was October 2016) so I googled Tri Series and entered the whole of the 16/17 series, as you do!  Then joined the PHTC, went to one session and decided I did not want to be “that” fit but sussed everyone out from afar at each event!  Then I entered the whole series again this year and thought I should be brave and get a little fitter and meet you all so that I keep up the training better.

How many bikes do you have?: Well I started last season on a free road side collection mountain bike (which I still have) but once I enrolled to do the novice course last year, everyone had lovely bikes so I bought a second hand road bike which lives inside my house much to the jealousy of the mountain bike that lives outside.

Something we wouldn’t already know about you?: I was born in Zimbabwe and immigrated here when I was 16. In my real life I am a boring accountant. I have a 19 year old son who is a second year roof carpentry apprentice.

Athlete profile – Nikky

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

How did you get into tri?: I started running about 3 years ago and all my running friends had done a few tris so I wanted to do one too. It was going to be a one time thing, get the finisher medal and go back to running. Ooops. I then joined the club to learn some swim technique and now I’m on the committee. I am still not sure how this all happened.

How many bikes do you have?:  3 – a second-hand Trek hybrid I bought to do my first few tris (because I wasn’t going to be serious about this). My Liv Avail roadie and my latest love is my Liv Pique mountain bike (the descent continues).

What do you want to achieve this season?: I was concentrating on my running in late 2018 so I was not doing much swimming or riding. This season I am aiming to be consistent in all of my tri training and improve my swim and bike strength. Maybe do an olympic distance.

More medals at Bunbury Sufferfest 2018

Gallery

It was a flat, fast and furious course at the 2018 Bunbury Sufferfest and the perfect course to showcase your speed. The swim was flat and calm, the ride course had some head wind offset by a long road of tailwind and a scenic run course with some dragon boat obstacles. And after taking out some medals there is no doubt the wolves will be back for this next year.

  • Emma Moon – GOLD Olympic 30-39
  • Sue Thomas SILVER Aquabike 50-59
  • Peta Woodland SILVER Half-Ironfest 40-49
  • Leanne Dingle – SILVER Sprintfest 18-29

Athlete Profile – Matt S

Nickname: Snelly
How long have you been doing tri?: 3 years
How did you get into tri?: I was inspired by a mate who did his knee playing footy and transitioned into Triathlon and then qualified for Kona on his first attempt.
How many bikes do you have?: Five. Giant TCR Roady, Giant MTB, Scott MTB and Merida Warp 5000 TT. Ohhhhh and I have an original Chrome Redline BMX that was mine as kid.
Something we don’t know about you?: One day I plan to build an ‘actual’ lightsaber. I’ve read several books that outline ‘how to’ but am yet to come across a transponder unit or developed the technology to travel to the planet Illym where the crystals can be found.
What do you want to achieve this season?: Have some fun in the shorter races whilst working toward a 4 hour 30 something at Busso in May.