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.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Cairns 70.3

I really enjoy heading to Cairns each year. It’s a fantastic week long festival that has a really great atmosphere, culminating with the ironman and 70.3 events, which were held last Sunday. Ironman Asia Pacific do a great job of making the 70.3 feel just as important as the ironman event and not just an after thought as the ironman hype can truly be overwhelming.
Great Barrier Reef
This is my third year in Cairns and I was lucky enough to get out the Green Island on the Great Barrier Reef for the Quicksilver Reef Swim held on the Thursday before my main event, the 70.3. It was a good little hit out and a great experience to swim out over one of Australia’s most famous natural wonders.


The tropical north was living up to its name as we had a mix of rain, wind, heat and humidity leading into the race. Every year I seem to forget that Cairns doesn’t experience winter but only sauna like conditions. 

For race day however we had rain, and lots of it. The swim was choppy, and I found it really hard to get into a rhythm but I still managed to maintain a good position up with the leaders. I came out in third after picking up a little wave onto the shore. Out of T1 we formed a pack of about 8 or so guys which included all the pre race favorites. The rain was still coming down and I was pretty cautious around some of the sweeping corners that we had to negotiate on the beautiful coastal ride. Tim Reed put a surge in early up one of the climbs and I came to the front to help him out as I was really eager to try and get a gap on the faster runners, in particular Brad Kahlefeldt whose raw ITU speed is not matched by many in the world. I was feeling really good on the bike and our group had whittled down to 5. I was trying to create an opportunity to get away with another rider perhaps Clayton Fettell or Tim Reed as I was little apprehensive about my run speed as I had sustained a mild but annoyingly persistent foot injury that had reduced my run mileage since racing Busso 70.3 five weeks prior. The reduced run miles had allowed me some more time to focus on my bike, which was paying dividends during the race. I was pushing a higher wattage than I ever had before in a race but I was unsure how the other guys were feeling as well. The last 20km of the bike turned into a little game cat and mouse as it seemed that we all were resigned to the fact that the podium would be decided in a foot race.

The 5 of us started the run together and I found myself running with a good stride but locked in a battle for 3rd place with Clayton Fettell. True to form Brad had taking off and had established a slight lead by halfway, Sensei Tim Reed was looking great in second. I was trying to get some more breathing room on Clayto but by 18km we were running side-by-side. I wasn’t able to go with his surge as my legs just seemed to turn off and shut down after the days hard racing. I made it home in 4th.

Tears

Coming so close to the podium always hurts but I am still happy with how I raced. Its great to be able to be really consistent with my results and see some tangible improvements in my biking ability which has come a long way in the past 12 months. Full credit to Brad, Tim and Clayton up front who all raced really strong. Thanks for all the support and mostly to my sponsors in my corner who make all this possible!

Train Safe!

*Race photography credit: Lucas Wroe

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Busselton 70.3

Last year I raced Busso was in an agonizingly close sprint finish with James Hodge for the last spot on the podium. This year I returned and again, found myself in a sprint finish, but this time for 2nd and 3rd and again I came off second best. Perhaps I need to go out and do some 100m reps and work on that lackluster sprint of mine!

In saying that however, I was really pleased with how my race went. I clocked a 73min half marathon, which is quicker than I have ever run before, and my consistency in my racing is something I am really happy with. To put the race in perspective, there was 32 seconds separating myself in 3rd and Tim Berkel who won and all three of us on the podium went under the course record by 2minutes as well.

The swim was held in the crystal clear, chilly waters of Geographe Bay, which on any other day would have been nice for a spot of snorkeling. There was a sizable main group with Courtney Atkinson and Sam Betten worming away to establish a minor advantage in the latter stages of the swim. I emerged with the pack of about 7 other guys and w quickly formed a 9 man group onto the bike by quickly shutting down Sam and Courtney’s advantage.

This was my first race on my new Giant Trinity and my stress levels were a little higher than usual. However, within the first few pedal strokes of the ride I found these feelings to prove unnecessary as I knew I was onto a sweet ride. I managed to average a lower power than usual while still clocking a 2:04 bike split. I was only wishing I had made the move to electronic gearing years ago!

The ride felt quite surgy at times but I was feeling comfortable, and I was making sure I was up the front of the bike especially on the second lap as it was getting quite congested with the age groupers and I didn’t want anyone sneaking off the front and camouflaging in with the crowd.


Off our bikes I latched onto the shoulder of Tim Berkel who always seems to pace his runs well. Courtney Atkinson obviously had somewhere else to be as he took off in typical ITU fashion. Tim and I ran shoulder to shoulder and I knew we were running fast with splits showed us clocking 3:20 pace for the first 7km lap. Courtney started to fade about half way through the run and Tim made a big surge to bridge up to him a couple of km later that I couldn’t respond with. I caught and passed Courtney at about the 15km mark and was now running in second with Tim just up ahead of me. However I was concerned about Alex Reithier, who was in 3rd and seemed to be running swiftly every time we saw each other at the turn around. With 3.5km to go we made our last pass of each other and I lifted the pace to make sure I held on for 2nd. With about 1km to go, Alex pulled up beside me and launched passed me straight away. I was caught a little off guard but had nothing left in the tank after over 3 and half hours of racing. I crossed in 3rd, very pleased with another podium, but if we are being honest, a tiny bit disheartened that I had been so close to being on the top step.

    


The guys at Triathlon Western Australia have once again put on a spectacular event that has probably been my favorite 70.3 experience of the past two seasons.
Quick thanks my team: Giant Bikes, Scody, Shotz, Rudy Project, Blue Seventy, Scicon, Hawkesbury Physio, 3DBikeFit, my coach Tim Reed and you guys!

Thanks for reading!
Cheers!


Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Challenge Batemans Bay

Batemans Bay has been a happy hunting ground for me in the past as I have won the Elite Energy Ultimate distance race here twice in as many years. This time I returned to the scenic south coast to race the inaugural ‘Challenge’ branded half distance race. The team behind Challenge are doing some really great things in Australia this season by providing alternate races to WTC 70.3 events and injecting a nice bit of loot into the series as well. This race was no different.

My form coming into the race was good. I had competed in Husky Long Course 3 weeks prior and used a solid result there as a launching pad into some race fitness after a brief hiatus from training in January. The line up was loaded with most of the best Australian Long Course athletes including multiple 70.3 winners, duel Olympian, Brad Kahlefeldt and Ironman World Champion, Pete Jacobs. There was also some wild card internationals spliced in there as well. I wasn’t intimidated by the start list, more excited to get out there and see where I am really at. I felt I was fitter, leaner and healthier than I had been in a long time and I had good vibes leading into race morning.

I knew there was huge pressure on myself to make sure I exited the water with the front runners. If you give guys like Josh Amberger and Clayton Fettell an inch, they’ll take a mile and you could end up racing for the minor placings.  I started hard and slotted in next to Josh and stuck to his hip like a newborn to the nipple. The swim was quite surgy with a few guys swapping the lead but I emerged at the back of the front pack, scurried through transition and we headed out onto the bike.

Josh and Clayton got a little gap at the beginning of the bike with myself, Pete Jacobs and Brad Kahlefeldt chasing. I was starting to panic as it looked like my pre race fears were starting to come true. Thankfully Clayton dropped back into our group and the 4 of us reeled Josh in about 25km into the ride. The course was initially hilly out of town to a flat out and back section where the majority of the ride took place, before rolling back through the hills into T2. I’m not going to sugar coat this one but the ride was hard. In saying that though, I am really happy with how far my riding has come. I am able to push more watts than I have done in the past mainly due to a more specific approach to training and showing rubbish miles the door. I was pleased to see our hard work on the bike was paying off as we established a gap of 5min to the chase group which contained some quality runners that I wanted to get some breathing room on. Towards the end of the bike our group started to sit up with everyone looking at one another. Josh managed to worm away and establish a gap of about 1:20 onto the run.



As we donned our run kit I knew I would have to start this run slow. Last couple of races I have gone out too hard and paid the price for spending my matches too early. The bike had also taken a pretty big toll on my legs. I was 5th out of transition and 5th to the first U turn at around 4km but passed Clayton (giving each other a mutual respect fist bump) not long after. I was feeling better as the run wore on and tried to keep Pete Jacobs (3rd) in my sights. It wasn't until about 5km to go that I thought I had a chance of catching him and making it onto the podium. I focused on staying relaxed and passed him with about 2.5km to go moving into 3rd. There were a lot of age groupers around so I was able to get the element of surprise sneaking up on him.  I enjoyed the last kilometre having consolidated 3rd place, but yearned for the finish line and the pain to cease. Brad went on to post a very swift 1:12 run and showed his supreme running ability to win with Josh locking in the second spot on the podium.


This race was also my first race in the new Scody Optimise AIR skin suit which performed exceptionally well whilst also making me the most stylish person on the circuit (see photos) ;)


On another note I have also signed on with Giant Bikes and Rudy Project for the 2014 season and beyond. I am so happy to have these fantastic companies supporting me in my endeavours and it’s a huge relief to have such great brands covering my racing and training needs. Look out for these at my next race!  And as always thanks to my existing sponsors Shotz Nutrition, Scody, Blue Seventy, Hawkesbury Physio and 3D Bike Fit.





Until next time!


Sam

Monday, 27 January 2014

Auckland

Auckland was not the result I was after, nor was it the race I know I am capable of producing. I finished 11th, which was a little way off my somewhat lofty goal of a top 5 finish. When you look at the calibre of athletes who competed, and the fact that the top 19 athletes went sub 4 hours, you get an appreciation of the level of competition. If you’re not 100% on your game, you’re just going to get exposed out there and I didn’t have the legs on the day to go with the big hitters.

Auckland turned on the goods for race day with a serving of mild temperatures with no wind. I’ve been lucky enough to start working with Blue Seventy wetsuits for 2014 and it’s honestly the best suit I’ve swum in.  I found the swim quite hard after getting worked around the first buoy but settled in and emerged at the head of the chase pack with all the main big dogs, but a couple of the super fish had wormed away from us in the last few hundred meters.
The bike course in Auckland is great, offering spectacular views of the sunrise over the harbour as you head over the Auckland Harbour Bridge. We formed a lead pack of about 10 guys but there wasn’t too much excitement over the 90km. I was actually fairly comfortable on the bike which is a huge positive for me as I know my bike is coming along on leaps and bounds due to a far more specific approach to my training.
I got an adrenaline rush off the bike and ran out a little harder than I had initially anticipated. I was stride for stride with Kempy, Docherty and Terenzo. We took it out at low 3min km’s and for the first 3km and I was hoping the pace would settle but unfortunately it didn’t. From 3km to 10km I hit a long bad patch and was passed by numerous athletes from the chase pack but I muscled up and held my position for the second lap coming home in 11th.

I knew coming into this race that I was stretching my good form over a couple of months and I knew it was always going to be difficult to maintain my level of performance that I had in my peak during November the start of December. It’s a delicate act trying to balance form, training and ensuring you’re getting the appropriate recovery and in this case my form had started its downward spiral. It’s easy to over analyse a performance that is less than your best, but the reality is that you only need to be 2% off your top form to be exposed in a field like this. For me it was the first time I have competed in a field of this quality in a 70.3 and it’s never easy to know how to play to your strengths when you’re lining up against some of the best guys in the world.

I’m having a couple of weeks away from training now. I was going to race Geelong 70.3 if I was able to keep the form rolling but for now I am looking at have a few weeks to myself before rebuilding into some races over April and May.

I took a few days after the race in New Zealand to explore with Kat and had a great time. For you visually inclined i'll leave you guys with some photos.

40 degree geothermal stream

Mud baths

Lord of the Rings Tragic

More proof

Rotorura

Lake Taupo

Lake Taupo



Thanks for reading.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Glad Tidings

It is with great pleasure that I bring you this blog with news of a maiden 70.3 win in Canberra! I had done a fair bit of racing over the past couple of months with Port Mac, Nepean and Mandurah all falling within 5 weeks and I knew that the fitness and confidence I gained from these races would put me in good stead to challenge for the title.

Rarely is there a 70.3 race held in Australia where there isnt at least a handful of athletes with impressive resumes, but I knew I had form on my side. I knew I could win the race if I put together a performance  I am capable of, but its human nature to have some doubts. My lead up to the race wasn’t fantastic. I had been been up in Ballina for my university placement for the 2 weeks leading into the race and I wasn’t able to train as much as I had desired. On top of this, 7 days out I felt as though I was getting run down and starting to get sick, despite a reduced training volume. I stopped training on the Wednesday before the race and just focused on getting as fresh as possible and removing all negative thoughts. 

Race day rolled around and I knew that there was an opportunity for a few of us to split the pack early in the swim and really put the pressure on the chasers onto the bike. I started hard and had James Hodge sitting on my hip for the first 700m or so. Thankfully he came past me and assumed the lead, allowing me to sit on and recoup from my earlier effort. I was suited up in a fresh BlueSeventy Helix wettie which provided unparalleled bouyancy bliss and we exited the murky water of Lake Burley  Griffin in 23:17 (fortunately sans blue-green algae) with Michael Fox in tow and a decent gap to the chasers.

The three of us were really motivated to stamp our authorty on the race and put everyone else out the game. We all worked really well together trying to do exactly that, but the lumpy course didn’t provide much of an advantage to us working as a group. The 3 lap, looped course also provided no opportunity to see the gap to the chasers and with the traffic of age groupers realling thickening on the 2nd and 3rd laps, it was impossible to judge our lead. To add a little more flavour I suffered a nose bleed during the ride and it took about 20 minutes my platelets finally came to the party stemming the bloodflow. Resembling an extra from the Walking Dead, I pushing aside any thoughts of reduced red bloods cells and haemoglobin count I got on with the job at hand. I tried to push the last 20km on the bike as I knew some big gains can be made here and I especially wanted to clear out from guys like John Polson who has it over everyone with natural running ability.


The three of us hit T2 and after my usual sluggish transition I decided I was feeling antisocial and wanted go off the front. To my dismay I noticed we hadn’t put as much time into the chasers as I would have liked and Matt Pellow was charging through the field about a minute back. I kept on the gas and extended my lead to about 2minutes by halfway and  I just kept telling myself to keep relaxed and stay focused. I felt really controlled throughout the run and was stoked to post a 1:14 run split to take the win. Matt Pellow ran into 2nd with James Hodge rounding out the podium. True to form Johnny Polson out split me by 8 seconds to cross in 4th.

Thanks to everyone for the messages of support. A big thanks also has to go to Tim Reed who has prepared me both physically and mentally over the past few months. He has been a huge influence on me and a facilitated my growth as an athlete to gain that extra couple of percent to challenge for the top step over the past few months and it feels great to get there. Thanks to all my supporters as well: Shotz, Scody, Echelon Sports, Blue Seventy, Hawkesbury Physio, 3D Bike Fit, Mum, Dad and Kat.

Hope everyone has a great Christmas and New Year.


Thanks for reading. 

Check out a write up on the Ironman website here 



Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Australian 70.3 Championships – Mandurah 2013-11-12


Coming off a recent string of good form I was pretty excited to race in Mandurah against a quality field. The word ‘stacked’ seems to be thrown around quite a bit in Australian races these days. I think that the sport is evolving and each year we are seeing more and more people assert themselves as worthy contenders over the 70.3 distance which is very exciting. With USD 50,000 and an Australian title on the line, many people were hungry to snatch some of that pie, myself included.

After a 2nd place at Port Mac 70.3 a month earlier, and then following it up with another 2nd at the Nepean Triathlon seven days later, my confidence had gone through the roof. These results, along with new coaching direction from with Tim Reed (building a program that is focused on quality sessions and sufficient recovery which seems to a good recipe), I was confident that in was in good form, but still had huge respect for the guys that I was toeing the line with.

With an absence of super fish swimmers I knew I would be one of the guys setting the pace in the swim. I got in clear water early to try and set a solid tempo but the seemingly straight forward canal swim was a lot harder to navigate than I anticipated. The weaving course coupled with my Ray Charles sighting skills provided an interesting challenge for me. We were given a lead paddler but he was paddling way too far ahead for him to take effect and it seemed like I was trying to follow a speck on the horizon. I took a wrong turn round one of the buoys (chopper) and found myself swimming into the guys trailing me. After copping a few swift backhands to face I righted myself and swam back up towards the front and came out in 3rd.


My pre race theory was that the race was going to be a pack swim due to the current assisted canals and then a group would form on the flat fast bike. This came to fruition as a group of 8 guys formed the lead pack with all the heavy hitters involved. The wind hit us straight away and out on the open highway there was nowhere to hide. Some big turns were put in by Terenzo Bozzone (NZL), Tim Berkel (AUS) and Jeremy Jurkiewicz (FRA). Newly employed coach Tim Reed unfortunately suffered a mechanical early into the ride forcing him out of the race. Both the wind speed and temperature were rapidly rising through the second lap of the bike and the pace was starting to take its toll on everyone in group. My garmin was clocking speeds at 50km/h + on the return into town and the work put in on the bike rewarded us with a 2:03 bike split. The group was reduced to 5 by the time we entered T2 to start the run.

Terenzo showed some authority straight out of transition and l none of us could go with the early pace. I was feeling pretty rattled after the ride and was a little unsure about the run. I faded back through to 5th by the time I hit the 6km mark with Bennett, Jurkiewicz and Berkel pulling ahead of me. I found some rhythm and Bennett, who was looking very dangerous at the beginning, was starting to suffer. I moved into 4th and kept the other two guys in sight. I was feeling better as the run progressed and moved through to 3rd place, relegating the Frenchman into 4th by about 13km. I could see Berkel ahead but the gap between was not closing, so I made a big effort to bridge up to him, digging deeper into my reserves than I had originally planned. We duked it out together for a while until about 2kms to go where he put in a surge to break these weary legs. Terenzo crossed the line first, just under 2 minutes ahead of me but his Kiwi heritage meant the Aussie title passed to Berkel who showed some true grit to defend it from last year.



For me, I am thrilled with another podium spot. It’s been a great month for me and I hope to continue this form onto Canberra 70.3 in December and then the Asia Pacific Champs in Auckland in January.
Despite getting almost mowed down by angry Mandurah locals on post race festivities I had a great time in WA and I want to thank my amazing team in Shotz, Scody, Hawkesbury Physio, 3D bike fit and Tim Reed. Also big thanks to my mum, dad and Kat for ongoing support.

Cheers.

PS. Be sure to check out the interviews and race footage in the videos below (excuse bogan accent).


This is a highlights package of the race made by Ironman Asia Pacific:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwY7Ea-hcKI

Photos courtesy of firstoffthebike.com and Ironman Asia Pacific
Interviews with firstoffthebike.com and oztri.com.au