Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Vineman

The Race:
Vineman 70.3. Sonoma County, California. A beautiful wine-growing region (hence the name ‘Vineman’) about 90 minutes from San Francisco. The race is run by a great team of people and the course takes in all the amazing scenery the region has to offer. The event has a reputation of being one of the half-ironman classics, which is further emphasized by the number of top professional athletes that toe the line each year. The amazing hospitality of the community and the attractive prize purse are two more ticks of approval that draw some big names to this event.

The Players:
Craig Alexander (AUS), Timothy O’Donnell (USA), Kevin Collington (USA), Mark Bowstead (NZL), Luke Bell (AUS), Ben Collins (USA), Matt Reed (USA),
TJ Tollakson (USA).


The Action:
I felt great on race morning and after setting up my transition and warming up I meandered down to the race start. The swim is basically 950m straight up river, U turn and swim 950m back. I swam up the front, utilizing any chance I could get to ‘dolphin dive’ as the water was shallow enough at point to be only thigh deep. The pack didn't split too much and a group of 8 of us emerged from the Russian River, including all the names mentioned above. ^^


Bowstead and Collins ripped through transition and immediately went to work at the beginning of the ride, leaving the rest of us to chase hard early from the beginning. After about 5 km the pace settled and we were all firmly established in the group.

Despite feeling like I was in good run shape, I didn't want to get off the bike with a big group. It just leaves too much to chance, especially when 5 time world champion Craig Alexander is in the mix. Tim Reed had given me some extremely valuable information about the course that he used last year to help him win the event and I was keen to employ a similar tactic. I had spent the last few days riding the back 30 kilometres of the bike course where there are some sturdy hills and tight, technical sections with the hope of establishing a little break from the pack.


Coming through about half way on the bike I decided to give it a push on one of the downhill/technical sections to see what was in my legs. I got a 50m advantage and decided to fully commit to my pre race plan right at that moment.


I was unsure of how much time I was gaining but I kept the pressure through the pedals for the remainder of the ride and blasted into transition, knowing that this is where I would find out how much time I had to play with. As I trotted out onto the run someone called out that I had 2 minutes over the chase pack. Almost an identical situation to what occurred at Cairns 70.3 a month prior.


I tried to remain controlled and knew if I ran to my ability then I would have a good chance at winning. Although it’s never a comfortable feeling when you have some seriously quality runners chasing you down! I got to about 14km and was still holding my 2min advantage to Craig who I knew would be the one leading the charge. It was here that I kept telling myself to remain relaxed and I was able to really enjoy the final kilometer and the finish chute. Craig Alexander showed age is no barrier and came in 2nd with Kevin Collington running strongly to round out the podium.


Huge personal thanks to my sponsors, my wonderful home stay in Santa Rosa, Rob and Shelli Main, and my home away from home in Boulder, Pam and Warren Schuckies. You guys are all amazing.
Thanks to Shelli my amazing homestay. Rob was out racing while this was taken!

I am now getting into gear for 70.3 World Championships on August 30 in Zell Am See, Austria.

Thanks for reading!

A magnum of local red. 3 litres worth!


When in California you must stop at In and Out Burger


Did the tourist thing 




Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Cairns 70.3


Form is a very delicate beast, and often it balances on a knives edge. I was somewhat unsure of how I would go in Cairns. Since my win in Busselton 5 weeks prior I felt I wasn’t reaching the same numbers in training as I was earlier in the year. I felt a little tired, despite my total training volume not being dramatically high and without nailing all my key sessions I was a little unsure of my form. Knowing I race best when well rested Tim and I scheduled some much needed recovery into my taper to get me to the start in my best possible form. I always feel like its better to be underdone than overdone and with that I toed the line drawing from my past results this year as confidence in my own ability.  

The pro field was bolstered with some big names, including coach and 2nd world ranked 70.3 athlete Tim Reed, 5 time World Champion Craig Alexander, multiple 70.3 winners in Tim Berkel and Clayton Fettell and other names capable of being extremely competitive.


The swim in Port Douglas was fairly choppy due to the stormy days leading into the race which would make it tough for the weaker swimmers. I started out well and removing any thoughts of being croc breakfast, I settled into third place. I was given a brand new Blue Seventy wetsuit the day before the race and not being able to test it out pre race produced some mild anxiety that was quickly removed as soon as we started swimming. The wetsuit felt great and I was happy to emerge from the murky drink in 3rd.




I wanted to try a similar tactic on the bike that I employed in Busselton, this time swapping out Terenzo Bozzone for Tim Reed to try and get a break at the beginning of the bike. We had discussed this pre race and I was excited that the post swim scenario played out in similar fashion to our plan.  I saw a few guys yo-yoing off the back after the swim so I went to the front as soon as I mounted my bike to string it out. I knew that Tim is tactically smart enough to not bring up the whole group of riders with him and I thought he had let me go to make the solo bridge up to me shortly after.

After about 5 minutes a glanced back and couldn’t see anyone behind thanks to the weaving coast line roads. I kept the pace up, waiting for Tim to come. I started to get a little lonely and by the first u turn at 30km into he ride I got my first glance back at the chasers. Tim and Craig Alexander where about 45 seconds down with another pack of guys about a minute or so further back. I fully expected Tim and Craig to make the bridge across to me as the next 30km of the ride is quite undulating and I was starting to feel the pinch of the earlier effort creep into my legs. I wasn’t comfortable at all and was getting in and out of the saddle. It wasn’t until 60km when we hit the flat highway that I started to feel good again, and still on my own out in front I locked myself down into the most aero position I could muster to squeeze as much time as I could out of the chasing athletes.




Coming into T2 I got a wave of adrenaline and I trotted out onto the half marathon at perhaps a slightly too ambitious pace. After running through the crowds for the first few kilometers I was soon out on my own at a much more sustainable pace, left to my own thoughts which mainly revolved around pondering if the 2 minute gap to Craig and Tim would be enough for me to clench the win. 2 minutes is an uncomfortable time gap. If you’re running well, it would be enough, but with the run speed of the guys chasing, 2 minutes can be eradicated very quickly if I was even slightly off my game.

There are 3 u turns each lap, and I was mildly surprised to note that my lead was slightly increasing. I was still feeling controlled at half way and I got some encouraging words from training mates Tim Reed (who had dropped to 3rd behind Craig) and Clayton Fettell. The last 5km dragged on but I knew if I remained controlled I would win. I eventually found my way to the finish, ecstatic to take break the tape first.



I honestly never thought I would have lined up against guys like Tim Reed, Craig Alexander, Tim Berkel and Clayton Fettell (to name a few) and beat them like I did. Even being mentioned in the same sentence as these guys is something I am still getting used to.


I wanted to send a shout out to the guys from Bahrain Endurance who were in Cairns over the weekend. They made sure everything was taken care of leading into the race and to have that added stress removed made a huge impact on my weekend.

Thanks to all my sponsors, Reedy, training mates and to everyone for the support. I appreciate it all!

I have just arrived in Boulder, Colorado where I will base myself for the next 4 weeks before racing Vineman 70.3.  I am staying with a wonderful homestay couple here in Boulder, Pam and Warren Shuckies and I am looking forward to seeing what all the fuss is about over here!

Until next time,

Sam










Wednesday, 6 May 2015

A win in the West!!!

Third time is a charm! I really love the event over in Busselton. This is my third year in a row I have raced here and it's always a pleasure to come back to Western Australia. Despite the 10 hour travel day, and what feels like international long haul flight, the atmosphere and race organisation is what keeps me coming back for second and third helpings (that statement also rings true for the sticky date pudding that was on offer at the presentation buffet).

Lining up on the sand for the start in a brisk 4 degree air temp was a little undesirable, and I was really struggling to stay warm, despite a decent warmup in every layer of clothing I had brought westside with me. The water was a much more inviting 19 degrees and during the swim I was determined to try and string it out as much as I could. I lead for the first half of the swim and then settled into the feet of Guy Crawford, who was setting a nice pace, for the rest of the swim. I was happy to hear that a break had formed and there were 6 of us who navigated the frosty transition to our bikes together.

In my mind, 6 was still too many people to be riding with, so I immediately went to the front once we were upon 2 wheels. I rode hard without looking back for a while. After about 10 minutes, Terenzo Bozzone came around me with some words of encouragement and we set about trying to do some damage. For the first 20 kilometers I had no fine motor control over my hands in the 4 degree air temperature and I couldn’t even press my Di2 buttons to change gears. As you can imagine, wet lycra is not the most suitable attire for these arctic conditions. My toes and fingers were so numb it hurt, but the sun started to heat things up by the second lap and I was able to resume basic motor functions a little more easily.



Terenzo and I both worked extremely well together, and it was great to see our hard riding was paying off as the time gaps kept opening to the chasers. We continued to do about 10 minute turns on the front, and we were both really motivated to lock those first two podium spots down. We were rewarded with a course record 2:02 bike split, my fastest bike time over 90 kilometers to date.
We hit T2 and Terenzo decided to forego socks, so I was immediately chasing from the start. I bridged up to him after about 1 kilometer and settled into a much more manageable pace. I sat on the shoulder of Terenzo who was pushing quite a furious pace for the first 7km lap, but I tried to remain relaxed and just go with it, tricking my mind into thinking I was comfortable. I was having disturbing flashbacks to Geelong earlier this year where I was in a similar position with Craig Alexander, who like Terenzo, is also a 5 time World Champion. I let Craig dictate the race to me back then, and I didn’t want to make the same mistake this time.



I moved to the front about half way through and started to sense that Terenzo might be starting to hurt a little bit more than I was. I was aware that he raced (and won) in Taiwan a week prior, and perhaps that was starting to catch up to him in the later stages of this race. With about 3km to go I picked the pace up a fraction, not necessarily to drop Terenzo, but to just start to hurt his legs coming into the finish. All of a sudden I noticed his breathing was a little fainter than it was a moment ago and someone yelled out that I had a 10 meter gap. I didn’t need any other encouragement and I got a surge of adrenaline and picked up the pace even more. I didn’t dare look back and just pushed to the finish line, absolutely thrilled that I didn’t get caught in another sprint finish because the Appleton track record is currently sitting at 0 from 4 sprint finishes. It sounds cliché but running down that finish chute is an indescribable feeling, and it’s always over far too quickly.

  
Terenzo crossed the line shortly after, he always races hard and he pushed me the whole way. He has been someone I have looked up to for a while, so to go toe to toe with him was an amazing experience. James Cunnama crossed the line in 3rd with a very swift 1:11 run split to complete a Team Bahrain Endurance clean sweep of the podium.

The crew of Triathlon Western Australia put on a sensational weekend, and I think I speak for everyone when I say this. They have achieved something special with this event and I am elated to join the honour roll of champions at this event.

Thanks to everyone for the messages, I really appreciate reading them all. Big thanks to my team of sponsors: Bahrain Endurance, Giant Bikes, Rudy Project, Shotz Nutrition, Scody, 3D Bike Fit, Hawkesbury Physio.

Up next for me is Cairns 70.3 on June 14th. I’d imagine it will be warmer than 4 degrees up there!

Thanks for reading!







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!