Monday, 30 March 2015

Challenge Batemans Bay

I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my 2015 season. After ending last year in a disappointing way, I am really proud of myself to have turned it all around into the best form I’ve ever had. Since racing Huskisson in February I have relocated up north to Byron. I was initially going to try and settle into my new environment and not race Batemans Bay, but Tim and I decided that with two really solid weeks we could get my body into winning shape. 

Batemans Bay has been a happy hunting ground for me in the past, and this is the fourth year in a row I have made the sojourn south of Sydney to this beautiful coastal town. Race morning rolled around and after setting up my transition I felt oddly calm, usually I am a hive of nerves and anxiety leading up to the start. I started the swim farthest to the right, making sure I can keep an eye on everyone because I breathe to the left. Jake Montgomery set a quick pace and I slotted in behind him for the first lap, but I lost his feet through the second lap as we came through the age group ranks that were starting their first lap. I hit dry land in 2nd place, about 20 seconds down on Jake with a few athletes in tow.


The bike course was conducted on some rural chip seal roads lined with some classic waterfront and bush scenery. It was quite cool starting off, something I haven’t been used to with the tropical weather up in Byron, but the first few kilometres included some punchy climbs that soon got the body thermostat rising. I must admit I felt extremely average for the first 15minutes of the bike, and it wasn’t until we arrived at the flat section that I dialled in my pace and started to feeling really great. I hit the front and didn’t look back for about 5km, at which point I noticed I that no one else had come with me. I was committed to ride hard and establish a gap and I was excited to see some pretty high numbers on my Garmin. I initially thought that my readings where inaccurate, but as a quickly began gaining time on the athletes behind I knew that I was having a great day on two wheels.


I got a few time checks to the chasing guys at the various U turns along the bike course and the gap kept opening, and that motivated me more to keep the pace high. Perhaps I got too greedy because I really started to suffer over the back third of the ride. My wattage had dwindled considerably and average power dropped from 309w to 294w by the time I hit T2. I didn’t let that bother me, as I knew I had a nice buffer and could afford to relax and take a little time if I needed it. I took my time over the climbs coming back into town and fuelled up for the run ahead of me.


I gave the crowd cheering me on a textbook display of sloppy transition as I pulled on my lucky socks and gingerly trotted out onto the half marathon. The Batemans Bay run course is glorious as it weaves its way along the path to the waterfront, around some cafes where locals cheer you on, and then over the main bridge out of town to the turnaround. I ran solid but controlled for the first lap, dialing in about 3:40 pace on the Garmin, but keeping an eye on the time gap to Robbo in 2nd who looked to be moving well. At half way I still had a decent lead and I was able to relax a little more and enjoy the rest of the run. While my run was not fast, it was all I needed to do to get across the line in first place, which was an immensely satisfying feeling after punishing my body for almost 4 hours.

I couldn’t be happier to win Challenge Batemans Bay, it’s a great event and the guys from Challenge and Elite energy do a fantastic job. I had a fantastic weekend in a beautiful part of he world.  This is my second win of the season and I am really looking forward to carrying the form through the rest of 2015. Thanks everyone for the support and messages. I really do appreciate them all! It’s great having you along for the journey!  I’ve taken a new kind of confidence and belief within my ability this year, and I have learned to back myself and take control of my racing which is something i will be doing more of moving forward.


Next stop for me is the Mediterranean for Mallorca 70.3 on May 9th.

Cheers,


Appo

*thanks to Korupt Vision for the photos!








Tuesday, 24 February 2015

A win in Husky!

Huskisson Long Course is one of my favorite races of the year. The relaxed atmosphere, along with the magnificent NSW South Coast scenery provides a very memorable experience. Flash back three years saw me as a fresh faced long course virgin, taking on a new adventure down the path of long course racing. I have been back every year since and not missed the podium once, however the top spot still eluded me. This year I knew was a great chance to change that as I had found myself in somewhat unexpected early season form.


Geelong 2 week’s prior really knocked me around. The battle with Crowie took a huge toll on my body that I still felt hadn’t completely left my system before the race in Husky. I knew it would be in my best interests to get away early on the bike and get out of sight and out of mind from the other competitors.

The swim proved to be quite fast with a couple of ex clubby surf guys flexing some muscle that unfortunately left us with no time to admire the abundance of marine life that accompanied the picturesque swim course. I honestly felt rubbish in the swim and started to get a little anxious that I might have underestimated the damage I had done to my body two weeks prior. However, I was committed to the race and I had formulated a race plan that I intended to stick to. I found myself locking arms with other athletes and wasting far too much energy fighting, rather than focusing on forward progress. I lost the two leaders after about 600 meters and I emerged from the bay in 3rd place upon completion, about 20 seconds down.

Once on dry land I new I wanted to put some pressure on the chasing guys that were perhaps already stretched from a solid swim. I had a slick transition, partly thanks to some last minute dousing from the dregs of oil left in the john west salmon can I consumed for breakfast (Shark Bait ooh ha ha). I had prepared myself for riding solo and instead of utilizing my normal ‘ride to the race and how I feel’ approach I had dialed in my Garmin and decided to stick to some numbers. I had 300 watts floating around in my cranium and decided to ride to that power for as long as I could sustain.

For those who are interested in seeing my garmin file, it can be found by following this link.
https://connect.garmin.com/page/activity/activity.faces?activityId=703766553&actionMethod=page%2Factivity%2Factivity.xhtml%3AuserSwitcher.switchSystem&cid=7070881#

The course at Huskisson is three 27km loops, so any time gaps you get coming through town are in fact one lap behind. However I was extremely pleased the hear someone yell out when I came through 2 out of 3 laps that I had 3 minutes on the chase pack after the first loop. My numbers were high and I was feeling good on the bike, much to my relief after my lackluster aquatic performance. I just tried to keep pushing as hard as I could, knowing that the more time I gained, the higher the possibility of a slightly easier run could be on the cards. This was a very tantalizing trade off, as the thought of getting into another running race was not something I was thrilled about. Despite pushing hard I kept an eye on my garmin, making sure I was keeping my power controlled on the climbs and even on the descents to avoid too much of a wattage spike over the undulating terrain. Coming into T2 I the numbers on my garmin validated my thoughts of having a great ride. I had averaged 307 watts and clocked 1:55 for the 82 kilometer course, 5 minutes faster than what Tim Reed, Pete Jacobs and myself had ridden the year previous as a trio.

Towards the end of the ride I started to feel my muscles threatening to cramp in my inner thigh, and as I dismounted and donned my running paraphernalia my left VMO cramped with enough force to subdue Pharlap in her prime. I gingerly trotted out of transition and had some thoughts that I could be in trouble, however I knew I had almost 7minutes to chasers so I took my time early to find my feet. I took every aid station slow and knew that it was now my race to lose. I stuck to about 3:30-3:40 pace for the first 10km and after getting the time check of still over 6 minutes I was able to relax and enjoy the second lap. It was great having a chat to a few guys out there who were thrilled to be able to hold pace with the guy leading the race. 

After two 3rd’s and a second place finish over the past 3 years it was really satisfying to take line honors in a convincing fashion. I know it sounds corny but it is really great to see all my hard work paying off, as well as tangible improvements over the past 12 months. I have never won a race before by going solo off the front on the bike. My bike is something that Tim and I have worked very hard on over the past 18 months and its great to know that I have gotten up to a very competitive level that I can know use to win races.


Hats off the Emo and the team at Elite Energy who have built such a fantastic race over the years. I’m thrilled to be able to join the long list of winners such as Crowie, Pete Jacobs, and Tim Reed.

Thanks to everyone for the messages and my team of sponsors: Giant Bikes, Rudy Project, Shotz Nutrition, Scody, 3D Bike Fit, Hawkesbury Physio, Nutrition Station, Blue Seventy.
Next race will be Challenge Batemans Bay at the end of March.


Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Geelong 70.3

Anyone who has been following my progress will know that the end of last year was a tough time for me. I got really run down towards the end of the season and my training and racing suffered as a result of this. Mentally I was really struggling to get my body up for the demands of competition and decided to cut my season short.

I took some time off before Christmas and had an awesome holiday to Hawaii where I was able to completely let go of triathlon and recharge my batteries. By the time 2015 rolled around I was more motivated than ever to get my body and mind back on track to have a successful season.

Surprisingly the fitness came back quite quickly and I was seeing some nice power numbers on the bike and clocking some decent run times in training. I had a little stint of training in the heat and humidity of Byron Bay with Sensei Tim Reed in January to really try and get that race fitness. I felt like my legs were really coming good for Geelong 70.3 and I had a confidence in myself that I hadn’t felt in so long, especially with the form late last season. I was genuinely excited to get out there and race.

Me second from the left in the centre of the picture

Race morning was calm, with promised mild temperatures and some moderate winds. The swim was largely uneventful and I managed to establish myself in a good position, largely due to the fact that I started right next to the race starter who had someone whispering a countdown timer to him so I was able to get a perfect start.

I emerged from the drink in 3rd place, about 15 seconds behind early race leaders Marko Albert (EST) and James Seear (AUS). I had a slick transition and immediately wanted to put pressure on those people chasing. I hit the front early and put my head down, hoping I could entice one or two others to come with me.
At the first out and back section I had a little more of a gap than I anticipated when I crossed paths with the chasers. I wanted to be aggressive on the bike but I must admit, the thought of a 90km TT alone didn’t exactly excite me, however I was committed to what I had started. After about 25km I got another look at the chasers and was delighted to see that Craig ‘Crowie’ Alexander and Mark Bowstead were making the bridge across to me without dragging up the rest of the pack. They caught me at about 30km and we went to work together to lock down the podium spots. We managed to build up a lead of about 3 minutes over the course of the 90km bike, which was a nice buffer to having coming into T2.


Heading out onto the run I latched straight onto Crowie and just planned to stick with him for as long as I could. The man is more seasoned than a Sunday night roast, not to mention the 5 World Championship titles he has to his name, but I was thriving off it. I had really good running legs and just wanted to keep ticking off the kilometers. I looked forward to coming through the crowded areas as every man and his dog was cheering for the Champ and only I only heard a select few calling out to the young upstart (if you’re reading this, then thank you!). I didn’t mind though, it actually pushed me more to stick with Craig.

It wasn’t until about 10km that I thought I might actually have a chance a winning this race. I thought Craig might have just been toying with me for the first half of the run but I could sense he was maybe feeling the effects of 3hrs of hard racing just as much as I was. I kept on him for a long as I could, thinking that if I could get to the last 1km I might have more fast twitch fibres left in my legs than the veteran. Alas with 3km to go we hit a downhill section and Crowie lengthened his stride as my quads imploded. He got the gap he needed and claimed the win with myself coming in 2nd, 17 seconds back.


As ecstatic as I am with 2nd place, coming so close to the win is a little bittersweet. However this performance is a huge confidence booster for me leading into the 2015 season. Full credit to Craig, the guy knows how to win races and I had an absolute blast out there locking horns with him.




Not only did Crowie win the race but he also showed us who's boss with the beer

Thanks everyone for the messages of support and my team Giant Bikes, Rudy Project, Shotz Nutrition, Scody, 3D Bike Fit, Hawkesbury Physio, Nutrition Station, Blue Seventy. Lastly thanks to my coach Tim Reed, Mum, Dad and Kat for their 
ongoing support!

Thanks for stopping by!

Blue lips. Post race was freezing

Monday, 25 August 2014

Challenge Gold Coast

I had my eye on Challenge Gold Coast as soon as it was announced earlier this year. This was not without an element of risk though, as it falls only 2 weeks prior to what is perhaps the biggest race of my season, 70.3 World Championships in Mont Tremblant, Canada. Discussing with Tim we targeted the race as a potential last hard hit-out before dialling it back for worlds. We had discussed swimming and riding really hard and hopefully having a buffer to notch it back a little on the run to avoid the muscle damage that arises from 21 kilometers of pounding pavement.  I was also eager to replenish my bank account to avoid potentially living off baked beans and mi goreng noodles after splashing ‘dat paper’ on a trip to the northern hemisphere. 

Having already raced a fair bit this year, Tim was keen for me to focus on Mt Tremblant and use this race as a solid hit out to test where the form was at after just completing a decent training block. I was a little apprehensive, as I hadn’t really freshened up as I usually would before a race but given that Worlds is in 2 weeks I knew it was important to keep the training volume up. I had also been battling a chest infection for a couple of weeks which had also left me feeling a little flat, but I convinced myself that a few days of warmer tropical temps would put me back into good health and ready to go for the race.

Due to some unseasonal Gold Coast weather, the race organisers made the tough decision to reduce the bike leg from 90km down to 40km for safety reasons. I was initially disappointed with this call as I was eager to test out my current cycling form over the full 90km. However after riding the roads during the race I know the right decision was made as we weaved our way through moss covered roads that were treacherous to negotiate on a TT bike.

Race morning rolled around and the skies seemed to be clearing for what promised to be a great day, regardless of the course changes. Shane Barrie offered himself up as bull shark bait and left the rest of us in his wake as he opened up a handy lead in the opening stages of the swim. I was content to lead to chasers as we exited around 20 seconds in arrears.


Onto the bike, Tim obviously didn’t want to muck around as he sniffed an opportunity to break up the little pack that might form on the bike. Feeling quite sluggish I went with him for 10minutes before slowly dropping off the pace. I turned around and noticed that Casey Munro and myself was the only one able to respond to Reedy’s watt bomb. Tim managed to get about a 200m advantage but due to some shared work by myself and Casey we managed to claw back onto him by 20km. To give you some indication, at the 20km mark my average wattage was 330w. I was surprised to see a handy lead to the chase pack at the U turn as we set about our return journey. Casey unfortunately punctured not long after, which was disappointing for him after riding superbly.






After sloshing through the rapidly deteriorating transition we set about on the 21km run ahead of us. We got our first time gap after doing a little out and back section and I guessed we had about 3.5minutes to the chase guys. Tim wasn’t feeling that social and opened up a little gap before settling into his pace and I was left hovering about 30seconds in arrears as we completed the first of two laps. I noticed that Dave Mainwaring was moving quite well in 3rd and had eaten away at my advantage so I put in a sustained surge for about 15 minutes to really put the nail in the coffin, but this had also brought me within 10 seconds to Tim. This didn’t go unnoticed and he quickly crushed any thought of me sneaking into the lead as he increased his lead again to 30 seconds by the finish. The raced pretty much was executed perfectly from my pre race plan and I was happy to come away with 2nd with Dave consolidating 3rd with a swift run.



A huge congrats to Marcus and the guys from Challenge Australia for putting on such a fantastic event despite tumultuous conditions in the days leading up to the event. Also a huge thank you to my homestay Matt and Coleen for their exceptional hospitality over the course of my stay. Thanks also to my team Giant bikes, Shotz, Scody, Blue Seventy, Hawkesbury Physio, 3D Bike Fit, Rudy Project and echelon sports.


Next time I will be checking on from the USA!


Thanks for reading.