The beginnings of Autumn had brought some chilly weather to Boulder that would have been mild for Boulder locals but had me putting on every item of cycling clothing I owned as I shivered out the door. Getting out of the plane in Cancun, Mexico felt like I had I had stepped out of the freezer into the furnace. In reality I’m sure that I’m greatly exaggerating the Cancun heat and humidity however I find that if I haven’t done specific heat training I tend to really suffer.
After the ripping swim pace of Olympic Distance racing I was surprised to find myself at the front of the swim over the first few hundred metres and having been too cool for race briefing I had no idea where to go and lead everyone in the wrong direction until a jet ski rounded us all up and corrected where were heading instantly putting me from the front to near the back of the swim pack.
I steadily progressed towards the front of the swim again until near the end I surged to try and get some free time should I have a sloppy transition. Unfortunately I sat on the Hungarian swim leader Balasz Csoke. Unfortunately both Balasz and I separated from the group and swam an extra buoy meaning we got out at the back of the group. Thankfully with a 1km run to transition I was able to move back into the mix and hit the bike where I wanted to be.
Andy Boecherer, European 70.3 champion was incredibly strong from the outset sitting on the front of the group and really drove the pace. It would seem that Mexican non-drafting rules are far more lenient then the U.S although I was proud that Andy recognised after the race that I did my best to keep 12 metres behind him throughout the ride. With such a flat ride and rather small gaps between bikes I knew it was going to be hard to get away from everyone on the bike. I noticed on the first lap how much everyone slowed picking up drinks as to have even 30kms without adequate hydration could end a day with the way the temp and humidity was rising. With my speedfil hydrations system holding more than enough fluid to skip an aid station I knew this was an opportunity to really split up everyone. Thankfully Andy had the same thinking and as we hit the aid station Andy took off, I quickly swapped the lead with James Hadley also drilling the front until and we were away.
The final 30kms only five of us were left, Andy, Hadley, Balasz, a pleasant Colombian chap and myself. While I felt like I still had another gear on the bike should Andy try to get away I was also getting very hot. Wearing black aero helmet with the air vent blocked for superior aerodynamics was not a smart option.
1kms to go and James Hadley moved to the front and hit an unidentified object sending him veering straight off the road flipping straight over his handlebars. I was torn as to whether I should be helping him as he is a great mate but I saw the gleam of his whitened teeth appear as he stood up out of the bushes so I pressed on.
Andy and I gapped the other guys early out of transition and I felt strong but hot. The aid stations were not really ready for us as we cruised through and after much yelling and explaining I found it easier to go over to the tables and select whatever I could hold.
By 8kms I knew my core temperature was too high. I was breathing heavily despite a pace that I should find very comfortable. Andy steadily started to gap me while I desperately tried to cool myself at aid stations however with only warm water and gels it wasn’t really helping and my pace continued to slow. By 10kms I was desperately trying to keep jogging between aid stations and I could see that everyone had made a lot of time up on me. I resigned to the fact that I had to get my core temp back down or the rest of the run was going to be a creeping jog so I spent a good amount of time walking through the next few aid stations running as much water as I could over my body. I ran carrying 3-4 small bags of water (an alternative to cups offered at some races) steadily trickling each back of fluid over my head.
Finally at about 15kms the aid stations had now been delivered ice. I was amazed that only one athlete, Olympian Daniel Fontana had passed me and I was still in the mix for a decent pay day. So with the ice stuffed into my hat, down my top and budgie smugglers I was finally able to get back up to pace and finish in 3rd place. I was proud and relieved that despite feeling like my day was done at 10kms I had toughed it out and held on for a pleasing result. Andy Bocherer had shown that he is in tremendous form for Hawaii World Championships winning with a run that would have been fast for cool conditions. Fontana finished 2nd and amazingly James Hadley recovered from a big crash to finish 7th place only fading from a potential fourth right near the end of the race.
The down side of getting yourself in the best shape you can for an upcoming race is that the body inevitably becomes very fatigued and your immune system comprimised.
I finished up my last few key sessions a week out from potentially the most profitable race I’ve been involved with and only to have to spend a few days in bed with a fever. Following the fever I was left with a residual cold and as I always get with colds, highly inflamed asthma.
I love training in Boulder and I do believe that the altitude have some very positive effects on performance. However it is at a risk. It is super easy to overtrain, very hard to recover well and and quality sleep is difficult to achieve. While altitude can help boost your red blood cell production it can also tip you the other way with a strong link between altitude training and low iron levels. Additionally I’m not sure whether it’s the dry air, the altitude or allergens but I’ve never had more asthmatic complications then when I’ve trained here. The last two seasons I’ve pushed it to the back of my mind as a small price to pay for the amazing daily training experiences the Colorado mountains and friendly people of Boulder provide. However after several races where I’ve been left gasping like an emphysema suffering 80 year old on viagra, I may have to reconsider.
I was pretty down about the race leading in as I was struggling to swim or jog easily without coughing my guts up. When you are racing 29 of the best triathletes in the world, you can’t be even 5% off your game or guys like Andy Potts, Chris McCormack, Greg Bennet etc will get out a big paddle and give you a spanking. Anyway as the race turned out, I swam very badly having to gasp for air after a coughing a lot early. As the race went on the lungs relaxed but I was never really in the mix and couldn’t even get my run happening until the final 3kms after 12 puffs of Ventolin. It’s hard to watch guys that I had beaten this season finish top 10 while I was struggling away to finish 23rd.
In saying that even if was breathing well I still think that I would have lost a lot of time in the swim which would have put me out of the mix regardless. The river current was seriously intense and the pace the front guys set was incredible. My focus has never really been short course racing but I’ve had such a blast racing the shorter Olympic distance this season that I want to continue mixing it in. That means that there is going to be hell of a lot more swimming thrown into the training program. You can get away with 15kms a week of swim training in long course racing but to make the pack with the calibre of these guys you need to be swimming at least 30kms week in week out, nailing close to a minute per 100m around the first couple of buoys.
There was some amazing positives to take away from this race. Hy-Vee did an absolutely incredible job making this the most professional race I’ve competed in. Monica and I enjoyed 5 star accommodation with a nice spread of presents on the bed to welcome us to Iowa. The crowds were phenomenal, the course exciting and the prize money for simply making the top 30 qualifiers extremely rewarding.
I truly hope that I can be here next year. WTC are really onto something with this series. Huge thank you to Hy-Vee and to Monica who put up with my gloominess the whole week prior to the race.
Last year, I was pleasantly surprised with a 2ndplace at Boulder Peak Triathlon utterly shocked to out ride some of my idols including Matty Reed, Tim DeBoom and others. It was my first Olympic Distance as a pro having been a distance I’de stayed away from because I felt I didn’t have the swim to be competitive. As it turned out, I didn’t have the swim but rode and ran well enough to get back into a decent position.
With the announcement of the 5150 Series for 2011 culminating with the Hy-Vee Triathlon which included over 1 million buckaroos in prize money, I knew I would have to have a crack at making one of the 25 qualifying spots.
After a 2nd place at DC 5150, I was particuarly confident about my chances of racing well at Boulder Peak 5150 which had extremely good qualifying points for Hy-Vee. I did a ballistic 10 day training block. I tried to fit in a swim squad every day and then would often include a 2nd afternoon swim session, punched out a good 500-600kms on the bike and while keeping a relatively low run volume (compared to the other pros) of around 70-80kms, I was including a lot of intensity really trying to work on being able to hold 3 min/km pace with my running. The result- I was completely overtrained. My comprimised immune system allowed my athsma come back strongly and I was rediculously tired but couldn’t sleep. I raced like a dog, swimming minutes slower than last year, riding minutes slower and struggling to breathe the whole way until I got hold of my ventolin on the run.
So the pressure was now on to perform at the last qualifying race, the New York 5150 triathlon. I had doubled my asthma medications and felt my lungs open back up, particuarly when I hit the humidity of New York several days before the race. The vibes wer positive, I was well rested and had Monica on my side. I haven’t had a bad race with her as the support crew so far.
New York has a down river swim which is ideal for the not so strong swimmers like myself. I exited the Hudson a little off the pace but with a long run from the swim exit to our bikes I was able to pin back some time to the back of the front group.
As always I can tell whether I’m going to ride well from the first few pedal strokes and the pegs and Kestrel Kev 4000 felt great. Unfortunately I was stuck behind Andrew Yoder who is an exceptional cyclist but possibly not so confident in the technical sections rolling the first 200m technical section out of transition and with no space to overtake I was stuck behind and watched Greg Bennet and others ride away. As soon as we got onto the open road Andrew proceeded to drop a 400watt average and rode away also. Still, I rode hard with a group of guys close behind and was delighted not to get the usual glute pain thanks to a professional bike fit from Boulder Centre for Sports Medicine.
I hit the run in 6th or 7th, my legs felt fresh but more importantly my lungs felt open. The run is tough winding through Central Park with quad crunching undulations and an oppressive New York humidity. In saying that, the vast number of people cheering on the race cancel out the slower aspects of the run course. I soon pulled away from several others and settled into 4th place. Bennet and Collins were too far up the road to catch but on a longer straight I caught sight of David Thompson and just zoned in on his back willing him to come back towards me. As is the common technique I hung back a little behind him for about 30 seconds before putting on a surge as I went to pass him to ensure that he didn’t follow. Unfortunately he did follow and I knew that I was going to have to slow which might give him the confidence to stick with me. David is a strong guy, I didn’t want to have a sprint finish with him. Before I slowed I decided dig one more time and give one more kick up a hill. I had accepted that if I didn’t drop him on that hill that I was going to have back it off and wait for a sprint finish. Thankfully he broke and I was able to cruise to the finish a happy boy.
Ben Collins had ridden incredibly well and held on in the run for the win, picking up a nasty stress fracture on the way whilst the ever consistent Aussie Olympian Greg Bennet finished 2nd. My run split was a high 31 minutes, the fastest of the day securing 3rd place and enough points to qualify for Hy-Vee Triathlon. Who Hoo.! Huge thanks to the beautiful Monica who made racing so easy by looking after everything before hand. I’m forever in her debt.
After a very literal pain in the butt that turned out to be a sacral stress fracture I got the all clear to resume training in March. Instead of going back to aerobic base building basics I decided to test out the ‘old school’ method of training that is racing a tonne to get strong and fit. Back in the Aussie triathlon glory days while I was running around thinking I was going to be the first 5ft NBA basketball player utterly oblivious to triathlon there was a time when you didn’t have to travel abroad to be a professional Australian triathlete. However those that did including the legends Welch, Bevan, Macca, Stewart etc had a crazily busy race schedule and off the back of the Australian season would go on to dominate internationally. I wanted to see whether that method would work for me, hence from March to May I tried that philosophy and did five 70.3/Half Iron distance triathlons in three months. By the last couple of races I was starting to find my form again. [Read more…]