Reality Bites – The Ten Week Ironman

Reality Bites

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

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

A very stressful day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ride four hours to get this view ten minutes from home

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

Where to now?

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

The cat has the right idea

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

Trav (aka Stikman)

 

**If you missed week one you can catch up here.

The Ten Week Ironman

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

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

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


Where I found my mojo

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

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

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

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

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

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


Some results were scarier than others

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

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

Trav (aka Stikman)

 

Hi Potential Triathlete,

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You’ll find Triathlon Australia accredited coaches at every PHTC session.  Lets face it –  they want YOU to feel the exhilaration of crossing that finish line.

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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.

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