4 12 2011
Event Distance Date
Audax Alpine Classic 140km 29 Jan 2012
Lake Hume Cycling Challenge 130km 25 Feb 2012
Scody High Country Challenge 200km 17 Mar 2012
M7 Westlink Marathon 42.2km 29 July 2012
City 2 Surf 14km 12 Aug 2012
Wagga Marathon 42.2km 19 Aug 2012
Lake2Lagoon 9.5km 9 Sep 2012
Canola Canter 200km Oct 2012
TriWagga Ultimate Tri 2km 120km 20km 25 Oct 2012
Canberra Half Ironman 1.9km 90km 21.1km Dec 2012

My First Triathlon: Race Report

27 11 2011

Done. My first ever triathlon! And all things considered, it went quite well.

The day started off early. The 8am start meant I needed to be up and eating by 6ish, and out at the venue by 7am. Having packed the night before, it was (for once) a relatively organised morning for me.

I rolled up to the lake and after finding a park, made my way done to registration. Having pre-registered, everything was ready for – swim cap, t-shirt, timing chip etc. But it was at the registration that my biggest disappointment of the day occurred. I was really looking forward to getting my number on my arm and leg. Unfortunately, the organisers opted for this instead.


I wasn’t expecting that and as a result, didn’t pack my race belt. I’m not a fan of safety pins on the t-shirt, but unfortunately I had no alternative. After affixing a race number to my bike, I checked into the transition area and started the process of unpacking. Being my first, it felt like I took a ridiculously long time to get my gear set out. At one stage I got busted talking to myself as I was going through the transition order in my mind…”ok, so out of the water, suit off, t-shirt on – check, sunglasses on – check…”. The guy next to me looked mildly amused but didn’t say anything.

After the race briefing, we hit the water for the staggered start. I was in the third group and was relieved to see that I wasn’t the only one hanging back. I was dreading the start and clearly wasn’t alone. I was grateful that wetsuits had been permitted. When we started, I made a conscious effort not to go out too hard. Despite that, and despite starting at the back, I picked up a few people fairly quickly. As soon as I swam into someone, things went south. I swam over legs, got kicked in the face, bounced off people, went sideways. I didn’t like it at all, but I was determined to persevere. We were swimming parallel to the bank and as I looked around, I noticed a couple of people had moved across to shallower waters. I did the same. The second my feet hit bottom, I felt better. All my nerves disappeared and I started swimming again. I’m a confidence swimmer and I had my confidence back. I swam better and stronger. I’d lost a little time, but I’d found my rhythm.

The course was a rectangle, with the two long arms being about 300m each. By the time I’d done the first half of the course, I’d taken a little over ten minutes. A quick look around at the buoy and I knew I was one of the last in my start group. The second half was easier. I’d settled into the swim and “powered” on through. By my watch, I finished the swim in a tad around 17½ minutes.

My official time was a little longer. The only timing mate I recall seeing was at the finish line, so I’m not sure exactly where it was, but I’m guessing it was at the entry to the transition area. This would account for the extra minute as I did a slow jog from the water to the transition area, 100m away.

I felt like I transitioned fairly quickly. I didn’t have too much trouble getting the wetsuit off and I got my t-shirt and helmet on fairly quickly. I’d practised transitioning onto the bike with my shoes already clipped in and the transfer went well. From the moment I hit the bike, I started to make up some time. I passed people almost immediately and never looked back. I knew the bike leg was going to be my strongest leg. About 7kms in, I saw the front runners coming back the other way, and it inspired me to push harder.  I wasn’t flying, but I was passing people on a fairly regular basis. In the swim, I’d come 143 out of 197. On the bike, I came in 61st overall. The bike course was undulating along a slow incline to the turn around point and then a rolling down hill back. I was pushing hard on the bike, and doing well, but I could have done better. I felt underdone. I hadn’t had a lot of time on the bike in the last month or so, and had no real power. In the end, I came home in 36:58. I personally feel like I should have done this ride in sub 35. As with the swim time, my official time is longer by nearly 2 minutes. I’ve given this some thought and I think I know why. The timing mats must have been at the bottom of the transition area, but the bike exit and entry were at the top. Which means that the bike time includes both times within the transition area, whereas the swim time includes the run to the transition.

To me that’s pretty piss poor. Now I know nothing about the logistics of running a triathlon, but timing mats should have been placed at the both sides of the transition area to allow more accurate timing.

What I do know is that I am 100% certain that the ride time on my Garmin is spot on, which means that my total time spent in the transition area is less than 2 minutes. For a first effort, I think that is pretty good.

The run was hard. My calves were burning from the start and I struggled to find a comfortable pace. I overtook a few people but for the most part, people overtook me. I spurred myself on my trying to stick with everyone who passed me. That usually worked for about 50m before I was dropped and then another popped by me. By the first turn around point, I’d settled into the run a lot more and started to pick up the pace. I’d been hoping to have my Forerunner with me to help me keep pace, but I’d forgotten to charge it up, and I’d left the bike Garmin on the bike. I was watching the time though, and I knew I was never going to get close to my 77min bold goal. In face, I was a little over 1.5km from the finish when the first goal time passed. I did my best to maintain my pace and hoped to make it home in time to reach my stretch goal of 83 minutes. I need to run a 25min 5km for that, but I couldn’t manage it. As with my riding, I’d neglected my running of late (even moreso) in favour of getting through the swim. In the end, I managed the run in a little under 27 minutes.

So my total time: 1hr 24min 53secs, in the middle of my stretch and respectable times. To be honest, I’d have settled for a simple completion, but I’m really quite happy with my time. I had been hoping to be faster that the average time for all competitors, but alas that was not the case.

I absolutely loved the race. Absolutely. Loved. It. I just want to do another. I want to swim more confidently, ride harder and run faster. I want to do a sprint tri in under 75 minutes. I want to do it again and again and again. But I can’t. I don’t have the time or the budget to travel that frequently so I’m fairly limited to local stuff. Saying that, there are local triathlons around, but I’m also keen to try to focus on my riding over the next few months. If I do front up for a couple more triathlons, I’ll have to work in at least one long swim and one hard run a week.

Open Water

12 11 2011

I’ll start with a clarification. I’m not sure if a lake qualifies as “open” water, but that’s what I’m calling it. The major point is that it isn’t a pool swim.

Yesterday, I joined a few of the local triathletes in an open water swim in preparation for the triathlon at the end of the month. Of the 6 who were there, I was the only one doing the sprint tri. It was the ultimate for the rest, although one was only doing the run leg as part of a team. Of the six who were there I was the only one swimming in open water for the first time. Of the six who were there, I was the only one who was thoroughly petrified.

Swimming in the lake wasn’t my only first yesterday. I also swam in my new wetsuit for the first time. The first of my concerns was getting the wetsuit on. Being that I’m still overweight and have a broad back, I had trouble finding one the right size, but eventually I came across the blueseventy axium, an entry level wetsuit. Despite my concerns, it went on relatively easily, and seemed to be a decent fit. Perhaps a little tight across the chest but otherwise ok.

First hurdle overcome – the wetsuit fits. But it was the swim that concerned me the most.

I’ve given some thought to this and come up with a short list of things that I’m afraid of about the swim – not touching the bottom, not being able to touch the side, not being able to see the bottom. In short, drowning.

I found it extremely disconcerting that I couldn’t touch or see the bottom and that I didn’t have the side of the pool (or lane ropes) as a safety net. I don’t use them in the pool, but just knowing that they are there is a comfort. When I started swimming properly, I needed them. I felt uneasy in the water, unnatural, even scared, but I always had the ground and/or the side there for comfort/security/piece of mind.

But not this time, and it was TERRIFYING. The others were swimming across and back, a two km swim. For me, I’d set myself a goal of the third buoy and back, which in the absence of a waterproof GPS I’m estimating at around 750m. (It’s 6 buoys across, evenly spaced. If you include the distance between the shore and the buoy at both ends, it’s be 8 buoys across, or 125m between buoys)

For the most part, the wetsuit did it’s job. I’d been told that if I got into trouble, or need a breather to roll onto my back and I’d float like a cork. Of course I tested this out, and it was right. Thankfully. The first couple of times I did it to test it out, the next few times it was more to give me time to calm myself. I was letting myself get a bit worked up and I had to work to overcome my own fear. And there was a lot. Remember, I was TERRIFIED!

Other than not being able to touch or see the bottom, I found the water temperature itself hard to adapt to. In the pool, it’s always the same. In the lake, one stroke my face would be in warm water, then cold, then warm. Very very weird. A few jetskis were out and about and the waves from those were also a first from me, especially when I turned to breathe and instead got a mouthful of jetski wake instead.

Not being able to see the line at the bottom of the pool meant I couldn’t sight properly. My goggles were a little fogged and the first half of the swim was directly into the sun. Sighting the buoy was nearly impossibe.

The wetsuit may have helped me float, but it was tight across the chest so I didn’t feel like I could get a good deep breath in when I needed to (which was always when I was trying to take a minute to calm myself down).

In short, I hated it. I well and truly gave free rein to my fears and had to fight them all the way home. Never have I been so happy to feel the ground under my feet as I was at the end of the swim.

Had it not been for my swim coach who stayed with me the whole way, I would have truly been in trouble. Steve was fantastic and he stayed close to me all the way, encouraging and calming me in equal measure. He knew I was scared, but he also knew I could do it. He patiently listened and let me voice my fears and then calmly took the lead and we’d get going again. Until the next pause, and then we’d start the process again. It wasn’t a fitness issue – it was pure and utter psychology. The water and conditions had got into my head and instead of focusing on swimming, I focused on fear.

In the last quarter, I changed tack. I swam in 60 stroke sets. I counted my strokes, breathing bilaterally every three. At 60, I’d stop, get my bearings, test the buoyancy of the suit, and then start again for another 60. In doing this, I stopped thinking about the conditions and started thinking about the stroke and I found it a lot easier. Now that I wasn’t facing the sun, I could see the shore and that helped as well.

But I make no bones about it. Steve got me through. It wasn’t even a scheduled session. He did it because he chose too. He could have easily done the full swim like he planned too when he arrived. I am and was grateful. When we were back on solid ground, I shook his hand and thanked him.

We’re going out again next week, and I’ll do better.

Challenge Completed

25 10 2011

A few days ago, I set myself the challenge of completing a 750m swim non-stop. When I set the challenge (6 days ago), the furthest I’d ever swum non-stop was 200m.

When I started swimming in October last year, I could barely swim 50m without feeling exhausted. After a few sporadic swims, I gave up for a while. In August this year I started again, and the situation was the same. I was unable to complete two laps of the 25m pool without stopping, and when I did, I was exhausted. My lungs were burning. It literally hurt to breathe. In short, I was crap. So I engaged a swim coach, and he set about correcting all the things I was doing wrong. The first few lessons were painfully slow and repetitive – change was slow. It was a slow two months, but I finally started to make some progress. From that point onwards, I’ve improved in leaps and bounds. First it was 4 laps straight, then 6, then 8. 5 days ago, I did 10 laps straight for the first time ever, and yesterday, I did 16.

Sixteen was a bit of a milestone, because at 400m, I’d covered the swim portion of this weekends triathlon. The local tri club has a “training” day at the end of every month and for the first time since winter, there is a swim component. So, I should be able to complete all three legs now without too much difficulty.

The next step was obvious – 750m non-stop. The distance of the swim in the Elite Energy triwagga Sprint Tri at the end of November. I’ve blogged a couple of times that I could do further than the distances I’ve been doing, but have been limited by time and circumstance. Today, I had no such limitations. I literally had the entire pool to myself. So I decided it was time to see what I could do.

And I did. I completed the distance, non stop. In 18m30s. For good measure, I added another 10 laps, bringing my total to 40 laps (or 1km) non stop. To say I am happy is somewhat of an understatement. I’m ecstatic. I’m almost bouncing off the walls. I had the tiniest of pauses at the end of the 750m to stop the timer on my watch, but the pause was literally a couple of seconds.

Challenge Completed!

So what now? Other than practice practice practice, I need to continue to work on my stroke. I don’t kick much when I swim, which is the polar opposite of what I did when I started. So I need to continue to work on my kick, although there are obvious benefits to having somewhat fresh legs at the end of the swim.

The other thing I’ve noticed, is that I’ve never done more than four laps straight from the outset. I get in the water, I do a couple of warm up laps, have a break, do another 4 laps, have another break and then I swim properly (because of this, my actual distance today was 1150m) It takes me those first few laps to feel like I’ve got my “rhythm”. So I need to be able to just jump in and go.

And finally, my swims to date have almost all been in the 25m pool. I feel a lot more comfortable in that pool because I can touch the bottom along the entire length. If I get into trouble, I can just stand up. That’s not the case in the 50m pool and it makes me feel less comfortable, less relaxed in the water.

Which leaves me with the following minor goals over the next 4 weeks:

1. More leg work. Stronger kicking will help me get my time down to closer to 15min over the next month.

2. Swim 750m non-stop, from the first lap. No warm up-laps.

3. No more 25m pool. From here on in, it’s the 50m pool only. Except if it’s raining. Or it’s a coaching session and the coach says so.

1km non-stop. Oh yeah!

Future Plans

23 09 2011

So having had the disaster that was the Sydney marathon, what are my plans from here? What does 2011 and early 2012 hold for me?

Well, next up is the Wagga Triants Club Duathlon in just two days time. It’ll be a good hit out and an opportunity to gauge my overall progress since last year.

In a fortnight, I’ve entered the annaul Bicycle Wagga Wagga Canola Canter, an Audax ride. I’ve signed up for the 150km event, although I’d rather be doing the 200km. But with so little riding under my belt of late, the 150km will be a stretch as it is.

After that, I have a good seven weeks of hard training before lining up for my first ever triathlon, the Elite Energy triseries Sprint Triathlon. I’m working hard on my swimming now, and should be able to complete the 750m, 20km ride and 5km run in under 90minutes. At least that’s my goal.

A fortnight earlier, the inaugural City2Sea is on in Melbourne and I’m keen to enter. It’s the fledgling sister event to the City2Surf and I’d be keen to try and crack 65minutes for the relatively flat 14km course. However, I’ll only go if I can go down and back in a day, or I can get the grandparents to look after the girls for the weekend and I’ll take the Mrs. down for the weekend.

December is clear, as is most of January. I haven’t discarded the possibility of lining up for either the December Fest Triathlon in Canberra or attempting a solo marathon around home before the year end.

At the end of January, I’m entered in the Audax Alpine Classic 140km and hopefully I’ll be able to erase this years DNF. From there, I’ll be looking forward to either the Great Ocean Rd Classic or the Scody High Country Challenge in March, and then the BWW Hills Ride in April.


Sydney Marathon Run Report

19 09 2011

Last weekend I went up to Sydney for the Sydney Marathon. It was my first time at the start line and I was somewhat nervous. At the start line, I positioned myself behind the 4:00hr pacer and took the obligatory photos of my fellow runners. And then I had a few minutes to think. What do you think about at the starting line of the longest run you’ll probably ever attempt?

Have I done enough training?  I haven’t done enough training. In fact I’d done less than half  of the training plan that I started out on way back in May. I hadn’t run more than 32kms ever and I’d only done over 19kms once in the last 6 weeks. My last run was a week ago and I struggled through the 9.5km. NO

Am I ready for this?  I’m not ready for this. Marathons are as much a test of mental fortitude as they are physical stamina. I failed at my last true endurance test and I’ll fail at this one. I’m not ready. Oh God, I’m not ready. NO

Have I got enough food and drink (gels and water) with me?  Six gels, a bottle of water, some electrolyte tablets plus however many drink stations between here and the Opera House. YES.

Am I wearing too many layers?  I’ve got on my compression shorts and shirt, a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. The same things I always run in, and the heat has only beaten me once, and then it was 35 degrees and the middle of summer. NO

How hot is it?  It is feeling a bit warm actually. So is the wind. Now that I think of it, it is practically scorching compared to the last couple of months in Wagga. Bloody Hot

Am I  wearing too many layers? (again) Yep. Shit. YES.

Am I ready for this? (again) God no. NO.

I’m not ready, I’m not ready, I’m not ready, I’m not…AND WE’RE OFF.

The race started well and I found a good rhythm early, thanks to the pace runner. I didn’t really have any issues as we crossed the Sydney Harbour bridge although I did notice that I’d somehow started my Garmin 14 or 15 minutes early. I’m fairly certain I didn’t do a 19min first km! By the time I’d hit the 2km mark, the watch was way out and I made the decision to reset. From there, everything else slowly unwound. As we came off the bridge and headed out towards Mrs Macquaries Point, the heat kicked in and smacked me in the face. By the time I’d rounded the hairpin at the end of the Botanic Gardens, I was in trouble. I stopped for some water and a gel but in the process got dropped by the pacer. As I increased my effort to catch him, I took down the gel and a mouthful of water, which was nowhere near enough. It’s well known that a gutful of gel is not a good thing in the absence of at least a cup and a half of water.

The result, headspins and nausea. Add that to the heat, the overwhelming fear of dread and conviction of my own underpreparedness, I quit. 9km in. Less than a quarter of the way around and I tucked my tail between my legs and went home. Literally.

I’m over it now, but at the time I was angry with myself. By the time I’d walked the km (or so) to the Opera House, I was feeling much better. I actually felt like I could go on, but I felt too ashamed to turn around and go back to where I left off. Shit and bugger. It’s true to say that a marathon is as much mental as it is physical and for me I failed on both counts.

I failed to stick to my training program that was actually going quite well. I pretty much had myself convinced that I was going to fail before I turned up. I’d stacked the odds against my success to the extent that success was as unlikely as failure was inevitable.

So what did I learn? Training programs exist for a reason. Start one, finish one, do the run. Don’t skip steps or take shortcuts. Get off your arse, stop being a sook and HTFU. The easy option is what found my sitting on the couch bemoaning my terrible state of health. I took a big step backwards and in the process reminded myself why the path of least resistance is rarely;y the best option. At least not when I’m trying to change my life.



1 07 2011

During the group ride on Wednesday, I got chatting to one of the other riders. She asked me about my tribars and how many triathlons I’d done. I had to confess that I was still “in training” and hadn’t actually done one yet. To be honest, I’m getting tired of giving that answer. I’ve put almost zero serious effort into my swimming. But thanks to recent developments, I’ve been given a massive kick in the butt and it’s time to get moving.

The good folk at Elite Energy have announced their calendar for the 2011-2012 Season of the NSW TriSeries and my home town is on the list. That’s right – on November 26/27, the first official triwagga triathlon festival is on, and I’m going to be there.

I’m setting my sights on the Sprint event – 750m Swim/20km Ride/5km Run, although (and it is a big although), if I can get my swimming together and up to scratch, I will consider taking a crack at the Ultimate – 2km Swim/120km Ride/20km Run, but it is a massive ‘if’! (even bigger than the big ‘although’).

The challenge is on!