I arrived in Kona two weeks early to adjust to the heat and humidity and get a good look over the course. I was pretty excited when I arrived in Kona because the place is hallowed ground for any triathlete, it’s the Wembley stadium, Lang Park or Yankee stadium of triathlon. Some of the best battles in triathlon history have taken place in Kona and the first thing I did when I got there is drive out to the Energy Lab, the Pier and the lava fields and just took the place in. My whole family had travelled from all over the world to watch me race so that was a massive boost for me as well.
The build up to Hawaii is pretty full on. Every triathlon journalist is there, every sponsor wants to have a presence there and on top of that there’s 2000 of the fittest people in the world strutting around the place which just adds to the atmosphere. The fortnight before the race flew by and before I knew it I was in the water waiting for the start cannon to go off.
A lot of people say the swim in Kona is extra tough but it isn’t, like all long course races it makes up less than 10% of the race, it’s pretty slow and a non-event really. In the early stages of the bike a large group of 20 odd formed out on the Queen K. I was sitting about mid pack and feeling pretty comfortable. Hawaii is famous for the wind but in the two weeks in the lead up to the race I hadn’t experienced anything more than a light breeze, race day was a different story. By the 40km mark on the ride the wind was really gusting across the Queen K and is probably the strongest wind I’ve ever ridden in. Michael Raelert’s one of the lighter blokes in the field but at one point I was riding behind him and watching him get blown from one side of the road to the other.
By the time we turned to ride up to Hawi the large group had disintegrated and by the turn around at Hawi I was totally isolated in about 15th position. I kept boxing on but riding in no-mans land definitely wasn’t part of my race plan. Over the next hour or so I picked up a few athletes who were really struggling, they were obviously paying the price for the pace set on the bike up to Hawi. After 130km I was caught by Andreas Raelert and Timo Bracht and I hung onto them until T2. I was expecting to have lost major time to the front pack but it turned out to only be five minutes so I was confident I could run down a few blokes and be right up there after the marathon.
I had ridden a lot harder than I had planned so I decided to run the first 21km conservatively and then really try and bring it home over the final 21km. Despite going out conservatively I was still catching another athlete every couple of km’s. By the time I did the out and back section on Alii Drive, ran up Palani hill and was out onto the Queen K I was in 7th with Andreas Raelert just in front of me and Faris another 200m up the road. I was really excited at this point because I was feeling good and poised to start picking off the blokes up the road. I don’t know what happened over the next 400m but I went from thinking podium to just try and finish. I really hit the wall badly which I put down to having to ride so hard for the full 180km, the majority of my riding before Kona had been up and down climbs in Switzerland but time trialling on the flat with cross winds is a different kettle of fish all together. I kept trying my best but I was really creeping over the second half of the run. I got past by several blokes towards the finish who were barley moving themselves but I just could not respond because I was just in get to the finish line mode. I finished up in 9th.
Lots of people said to me you should be so happy with a top ten at Kona on debut but to be honest I was really disappointed with the result because I know I was in better form than a 9th which is probably why it’s taken me six months to write this blog. I learnt a hell of a lot at Kona last year and I will use that experience for Kona 2013. Basically Kona is the only race I care about now and it’s all I think about in every training session or just when I’m day dreaming.
I was going to requalify for Kona this year at ironman Melbourne but unfortunately I picked up a minor hip injury before the race and had to give it a miss, I’ll qualify at another ironman later on in the year now but Kona will be the sole focus.
All the best.
Race morning and the conditions hadn’t improved, I was half expecting to get a text from Sutto saying to give the race a miss but it never came so I got on with things. I got in a bit of a swim warm up and just before the gun went off I glanced across and saw an old mate from the ITU days, Russian Ivan Vasiliev giving me his usual pre-race grin with a missing tooth. That gave me a good laugh a got me in a better mood for the race.
The race itself was pretty uneventful for me. I swam towards the front, lost lots of time in T1 rugging up for the ride, rode OK but again lost a lot of time taking extra care on all of the descents, lost more time in T2 and then ran fairly well and moved up into 3rd.
I’ve got to say here the skill level of the Europeans on the bike is really far superior to the Australians. I was being ultra conservative on the wet greasy corners because there was no way I was going to risk breaking a collar bone 6 weeks out from Kona but the speed that the European blokes can get their bikes around a wet corner was really impressive.
It’s a good feeling to have all the lead up races in the legs now. Just a few final weeks of preparation here in Leysin and then off to Kona for the big one.
All the best.
I raced Embrunman last year for the first time but I was pretty new to long course back then and I ended up having the absolute toughest day of my life so I was looking forward to an improvement this year. The 3.8km swim at Embrun is pretty special, it get’s underway at 6:00am when it’s still dark but during the swim the sun rises and you can see the sun hitting all of the Alpes surrounding the lake for the first time for the day. Team TBB’s Dan Halksworth set a good pace on the swim so myself, Dan and Powder exited the water with more than 3 minutes on the main favourites.
Out of transition and onto the bikes for the 186km ride we headed straight up a steep 7km climb. Dan took off and Powder dropped back so I was solo up the first climb and down the descent on the other side. It took me another 15 minutes before I caught up to Dan and we both rode together to the 80km point on the approach of the Izoard.
When I was younger I used to have some big Saturday nights and on Sunday I would always swear off alcohol for life but by the time the following Saturday rolled around again I’d forgotten about my promises the previous Sunday and I was ready to go again, so 7 days was the perfect amount of time to forget about a hangover. I think the same rule applies for Embrunman. At the base of the Izoard I knew what was coming up and I thought after suffering so badly last year why have I come back here? So 1 year is the perfect amount of time to forget about how hard Embrunman is. I had a laugh at this thought and then got serious again because 80km into the ride is really were Embrunman starts. The rode goes from a gentle 2-3% up to a 7-10% gradient for the next 15km all the way to the peak of the Izoard at 2360m.
Dan and I still held a 3 minute lead at 80km but I had to pick up the pace because I knew the two Spanish favourites, Marcel Zamora and Victor Del Corral would be coming up fast from behind. Dan dropped off and I was solo again. My goal was to manage the lead so I reached the peak at the same time as the two Spaniards which was going to be easier said than done, when climbing 1 or 2kg makes a big difference and I would be giving 15 -20kg away to these blokes, they’re jockeys with saved legs.
I eventually reached the peak of the Izoard first with a 30 second buffer over Del Corral. A few minutes into the descent Del Corral caught me and we flew down the hill together. At the Alpe d’Huez tri I’d really taken it easy down the descents but I went for it at Embrunman and had my rear wheel skipping out sideways a few times at 70km/h+ which isn’t much fun. Del Corral and I stayed together for the remainder of the ride until half way up the last climb of the day when I got a gap on him and then descended back into T2 with a small lead. Leading off the bike at Embrunman would have to be my best bike performance ever.
I just got through the 42km run without much effort so I didn’t leave myself flat for the final push into Kona and I crossed the line in 3rd place. Once again I’m back in Leysin and back into training. I think the strength I get out of Embrunman will be a big asset when Kona comes around.
All the best.
Day 4 – race day. The 2.2km swim for the race is held in the freezing cold waters of the Lac du Verney at the base of Alpe D’Huez. The swim for me didn’t really go to plan, amongst other things I got a punch in the face which left me pretty dazed and with a blood nose so I came out of the water a bit further back in the pack than expected but this wasn’t really a concern because the swim makes up such a short portion of the race in long course triathlon that it’s pretty insignificant really and after doing a few long course races now it’s defiantly true when they say long course triathlon is just a wet duathlon.
A few km’s into the bike and I was up in the front group again for the 115km course which has 3 major climbs, including the Alpe D’Huez which adds up to 3000m of vertical climbing in total for the ride. A few km’s into the first of the climbs it was down to Team TBB’s Aaron Farlow and Steve Bayliss, the Italian Alessandro Degasperi and myself. About 20 minutes into the first climb a French race referee came up next to the group and gave Alessandro, Steve and myself a drafting penalty. Strictly speaking we were within 7 metres of each other but generally there’s some lenience given on this rule when riding up the climbs. I’ve been racing and living on and off in France for over 10 years now and unfortunately dubious decisions made by the French are just part of life. It’s so common that there’s a term for it, it’s called ‘getting frenched’. Everyone who’s raced in France over the years has a story about when they got frenched.
The rest of the ride went to plan and I felt pretty good up the Alpe D’Huez and I lead into T2 with a 4 minute gap to the 2011 race winner, Spaniard Victor del Corral. The penalty given to me by the race referee earlier required me to stand in transition for 5 minutes and during this time I watched Victor come into T2 and run out in front of me. I tried my best to catch Victor on the run but he was just too strong.
Without the penalty the run would have been a nice cake walk to victory but that’s all academic. The main reason for racing Alpe D’Huez was to get in a really good hit out in the lead up to Kona and I did that so all good.
I’m back in Leysin now and back into hard work. I’ll have another 1 or 2 races in Europe in the lead up to Kona but just like Ale D’Huez they’ll be hard training days and nothing to serious.
All the best.
The press conference
As expected the swim was pretty fast with a prime on the line and a group of five of us exited the water with a good lead including myself, Csaba, Ben, Matt and young Filipino Team TBB scholarship holder Dhill Anderson Lee. The bike course in the Philippines has it all, fast flat sections along the Subic airport, steep climbs and technical descents. I was a pretty nervous on the descents because it was so hot and humid that on the climbs my hands were getting sweaty so on the descents I was hanging on for dear life with slippery hands. Myself, Matt, Ben and Csaba came into T2 together and the pace was really hard from the start on the run. Csaba pushed the pace and at the 3km mark he had a 20 second lead on me. I was feeling alright and still confident of getting the win at this stage because in my past few races I’ve been able to negative split the run and come over the top of a lot of others. I eventually caught Csaba after 6km and kept pushing hard to establish a lead. Lots of people after the race commented to me that going back to the olympic distance after racing ironman must be so easy but I think it’s all relative. 8km into the run in an ironman I’m just getting into my rhythm and looking forward to the rest of the run but 8km into the run at the Philippines I was exhausted and just wanted the race to be over.
I crossed the line for the win with a small gap back to Csaba and Ben with Matt O’Halloran coming in 4th. It was great to catch up with the 6 young Filipino Team TBB scholarship holders in Subic and a big congratulations to them because most of them were competing in their first race on the weekend.
I’m in Leysin now ready for a big 15 weeks of training in the lead up to Kona. The whole team is getting along well and everyone is looking super fit so I think it’s been a great year to date for Team TBB but there’s plenty more to come in 2012.
All the best.
Some highlights from the Philippines 5i50.
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The race got under way on an absolutely beautiful Cairns morning and by this stage my flu had pretty much all cleared up. 100m into the swim I jumped onto Luke Bell’s feet. Luke set a good solid pace for the whole swim and we exited the water with a 3 minute lead over the chase pack. On the bike I felt surprisingly good and by 45km I was solo, had cameras in my face, a helicopter overhead and I was flying along the spectacular coast road and feeling great. 70km into the ride at the Port Douglas turn around I still had a 2:30 lead over the four man chase pack. At this point I just fell apart. I was dizzy, hungry, had no power and starting to think about pulling out. I was so annoyed with myself because I’d been sick during the week and instead of taking a conservative approach and going for a 3rd or 4th placing and just gaining enough points to get to Kona I went out way too hard, blew up and put my season plan at risk.
I was swallowed up by the group at the 90 km mark. The next 90km was a real struggle for me. I was on and off the back of the group several times. Coming into T2 I was trying to come up with some positives because I’d been really negative for the past two and a half hours. The best positive was that it was starting to get hot and humid. I love racing in the heat, the hotter the better in fact so I thought I’m at a big advantage here because in the group was two Victorians (Luke Bell and Leon Griffin) one South Aussie (Matty White) and a Kiwi (Cam Brown) All of these blokes would have been preparing for this race in cold weather.
Bike leg highlights
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I went out of T2 conservatively and after 2km I was in 5th, I moved into 4th after 4km, into 3rd after 6km and into 2nd after 8km. The run course in Cairns has lots of long straights so after the 8km mark I could see Cam Brown 1:20 up the road from me. I didn’t get too carried away at this stage and just maintained the same pace and slowly but surely the gap came down to Cam. I made the pass into 1st place at the 24km mark and just kept the pace up after that to establish a good gap. Over the next 18km’s the gap kept growing to Cam and I could enjoy the last few km’s of the race with the great Cairns crowd and take my first ironman victory.
Run leg highlights
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I was really pleased with my performance as the lead up to the race wasn’t ideal, I’m qualified for Kona now and apparently Cairns is the highest paid ironman for the year apart from Kona so that’s a great bonus. I was sitting around after the race and I had a bit of a laugh to myself because I thought if that girl on the phone from the airline had given me a refund on my flight last Tuesday I never would have come up here.
I leave Mooloolaba for the Team TBB camp in Switzerland soon and I’ll have a full 15 weeks to prepare for Kona now. I know Brett is going to have some tough training planned for me but I’m really looking forward to the hard work and putting in a big performance at my Kona debut on the 13th of October.
All the best.
I stayed the night in Manilla and then flew out to Thailand the following morning for the inaugural Koh Samui triathlon. I had been looking forward to racing Koh Samui for some time but to be honest when I arrived I was really tired from all the travel I’d done the week before. It was warm and humid in the Philippines but when I got off the plane at Koh Samui airport I was shocked at how unbelievably hot and humid it was. Because of my tiredness and the heat I really cut back the amount of training I usually do in the lead up to a race and spent most of the time lying in bed with the aircon on.
The race kicked off at 7:30am and it was already 30 degrees, it wasn’t much of a relief diving into the water for the 4km swim either because the water temp was also 30 degrees. About half way through the swim I was already feeling the heat and I just decided that the race today was going to be about survival. A group of 4 of us left the water with a good gap to the second group. We got out onto the 122km bike course which was two laps of the island and we rode pretty solid for the first lap and our lead over the second pack had blown out and extra few minutes. At this point our group was joined by TBB’s Aaron Farlow. Unfortunately about half way through the second lap of the ride young Australian Ben Allen punctured so it was down to 4. Then with about 10km to go on the bike Aaron Farlow dropped his chain on one of the many steep pinches so it was down to 3.
The last 7 or 8km of the ride was a real struggle for me because I was cramping badly in my abductors which was a bit of a concern because I had a 30km run coming up in the heat of the day. Myself, Faris Al-Sultan and Dirk Bockel entered the second transition together. My legs felt good when I started running but then after about 500m I cramped badly again in the hamstring this time. I had to stand there and stretch for 30 or 40 seconds as Faris and Dirk ran away. The cramp eased eventually and I got into my rhythm. About 5km later I caught Dirk and went past. The run was out and back with a lot of long stretches of road so I could see Faris in the distance up ahead of me the whole way.
Coming into the 15km turn around point I crossed paths with Faris – a world and European ironman champion, I took the turn and 30 seconds later crossed paths with Marino vanhoenacker – the current ironman world record holder, 30 seconds later I crossed paths with Aaron Farlow – 2 time iron distance champion and then 30 seconds later I saw Marcel Zamora – 5 time ironman champion. I was feeling good at the turn and I thought I was in with a chance of the win but I knew I’d have my work cut out for me with the blokes that were around.
At the 18km point I picked up the pace and eventually reeled in Faris after 23km. I got a lead over him straight away and just didn’t look back. I crossed the line in first which I was really happy about firstly because despite this race being in its first year it’s one of the best paying races on the circuit and secondly because my goal now is Kona and this race showed I can handle the heat.
I’m back home at Mooloolaba now preparing for my next race at Ironman Cairns in 5 weeks.
All the best.
Some highlights from Koh Samui
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The swim went well and I just settled into the front group of about 10. There was a few ups and downs for me on the bike but I eventually got into the second transition with the front group of 9 or 10. I got a bit of a shock in the second transition with how fast all of the others got out onto the run, I thought with a marathon to come everyone would take their time a bit but I only had both socks on and I was the only one left in the change tent. I eventually got out onto the run and the first little section was an out and back and I got to see everyone in front of me and I got another shock of how fast they were running and how far I was behind already. I tried not to get too flustered and just started to get into my own rhythm. It was 5km before I pegged back the first competitor, then at 20km I was feeling really good and caught a group of three and moved up into 5th. At this point I made a pretty big mistake, I was in a great rhythm and doing it easy and I backed it off for the whole 3rd 10km stretch. I took this conservative approach because in my first iron distance event 9 months before hand at Challenge Cairns I absolutely went to pieces at the 25km mark and went through the worst hour and half of my life just to get to the finish. I really should have backed myself and my training more and kept up my pace. I made it to the 30km mark and picked up the pace again and was taking time out of the guy in 4th but I’d left my run to late and came in 5th. I was a bit annoyed after the finish because I still had some fuel in the tank but that was a good race experience and I won’t be backing off after 20km ever again.
I crossed the line with an 8:04, a 2:45 marathon and 2400 Kona points which moved me up into the top 25 on the rankings. I’ve recovered well from Melbourne and I’m looking forward to my next race now in Koh Samui, Thailand on the 22nd of April.
All the best.
At the end of the camp I packed up the car a drove across to another Australian ski resort called Falls Creek for the Australian long course triathlon championships. The 6 weeks in Thredbo were awesome but by the end of the camp I was exhausted and the race at Falls Creek was a bit a disaster. I felt like I was swimming through mud on the swim, I was creeping on the bike and the run was either shuffle, walk or hands on the knees. There’s no two ways about it I had one of the worst races of my life but I wasn’t worried because the main objective for the early part of the year is Ironman Melbourne and it was more important that I trained through the race at Falls Creek to get in the miles in the lead up to Melbourne.
The day after the race in Falls Creek I packed up the car again and drove the all the way back home to Mooloolaba. Doing a drive like this makes you realise what a big country Australia is because this drive was less than half the height of Australia but was still the equivalent of driving from Zurich, Switzerland to Oslo, Norway.
Next stop Ironman Melbourne on the 25th of March.