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

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Port 70.3

The result in Port Macquarie has come as somewhat of a relief for me. For those who follow my progress will be aware, I have amassed a number of top 5 finishes, but was still missing the podium. Following Sunshine Coast 70.3 a month prior, I felt as though my performance has somewhat plateaued. I had gotten myself to a level to be competitive but I felt as though I was missing that extra few percent to further improve my performance. After the race I felt as though I needed change in my training structure and more direction, so I contacted Tim Reed to see if he would consider helping me out. Tim’s knowledge and coaching technique is something that I’ve thought would chime with my training structure, and being one of the most successful 70.3 athletes in Australia himself over the past few years, having him in my corner as a coach and mentor is something I am very excited about.

I wouldn’t say the pro field was stacked, but this race was by no means thin with some young talent like myself mixed in with men more seasoned than a Colonel Sanders family feed. The swim was always going to be fast with two of the quickest swimmers on the circuit, and I emerged from the water 30 seconds down on these two, but sitting pretty with a group of 3 other guys.

                     
 The bike course is 2 laps on an out and back section to make the 90km. After about 1 kilometre of riding you’re greeted with a about a 15 minute section of undulating hills before settling onto the flat. The hills really stung my legs, and to be honest I felt pretty average through this section of the bike. I lost touch with my group and was stuck in no man’s land by myself. I was initially pretty disappointed at this stage. 4 guys were riding away from me and I couldn’t see anyone behind to help me limit the damage. I knuckled down and rode solid, catching glimpses of the guys in front at each turn around. After half way I noticed roommate Josh Amberger had a sizable gap to the chasing three guys. Feeling pretty deflated by now I then noticed Tim Berkel, Paul Ambrose and Dave Mainwarring had almost bridged up to me. I was pretty happy about this as I knew these guys were strong riders and we could limit our losses to Josh and the chasers. They made the pass at with 30km to go and I was starting to feel a little more motivated, but legs still didn’t seem to want to play ball.

We came into transition 8 minutes down on Josh and 3 minutes down on the other 3. I didn’t feel great at the start of the run, but I thought I might be able to salvage another top 5. There were only 2 chances during the run to see the other athletes, one at about 2.5km, and then again at about 13km. After the first lap of two laps I was running 5th, but I wasn’t sure where I was positioned in regards to the guys in front because there were lots of age groupers on the course by now. I passed Josh going the other direction and he yelled out to me that I was only 30 seconds behind Tom in 2nd. I caught a glimpse of the guys in front and was pretty shocked to see I had run myself into a chance at a podium. I got a little over zealous and brought out the party wheels to go from 5th into second within about 5minutes. The pins were suffering but I knew if I held it together for the last 5km I could get my first podium. I’m pretty sure I negatively split the shit out the run and I couldn’t have been happier to run onto that red carpet into the finish in 2nd, 3 minutes down on Josh who put on a superb solo clinic to take the title, and 90 seconds clear of Joey Lampe in 3rd.
                      

I ran a race best of 1:15:02 which gives me confidence leading into the next couple months which will see me racing the Australian 70.3 Championships in Mandurah in November and then onto Canberra 70.3 in December. But first things first, I’m racing the local Nepean triathlon this Sunday to give these fast twitch fibres a workout. Huge thanks goes to my sponsors and everyone for the kind messages, i really appreciate reading all of them.

Thanks for reading,

         

Monday, 16 September 2013

Sam Appleton post Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast

Sunshine Coast 70.3 - 4th

Another 70.3 and another 4th place to add to a growing collection of minor placings. My race didn't go exactly to plan and I'm left still chasing the elusive podium, nevertheless I'm happy to post another consistent result.


Course:

Swim: Held in mooloolaba beach, it was a straightforward loop of 1.9km. Beach start and some swell added an extra bit of spice.


Bike: Out of transition there is some sharp hills out onto a flat highway. First lap 50km, 2nd lap 40km. For those that have raced the Continental Cup the course is essentially the same, just two laps and the turn around slightly further down the Sunshine Coast Highway.


Run: 2x10.5km laps which included the negotiation of ascending the Alexandra Headland hill twice per lap.


The race:

An early start of 6am meant a 4am wake up. I usually like about 2 hours pre race to focus and give my body a chance to digest some food. In this case it was left over risotto that Kat made for me the night before.


The field had some good swimmers and I knew if I let guys like Pete Jacobs and Clayton Fettel get away from me I wouldn't see them again. Thankfully I felt comfortable in the swim and a group of 4 of us formed which included Pete, Clayton, Myself and Casey Munro and we exited the swim with an advantage over the rest of the field.


The start of the bike was tough through the hills and I had to work hard to stay in touch  but once we got onto the the flat highway I settled in. It wasn't long before some serious wattage was being laid down by Clayto and Pete. Pete was particularly strong and I was tapping well into my reserves to stay with the group. Post race chatting with Clayton revealed he averaged 345 watts for his bike split, a massive number to sustain for that period of time.



After the first lap we had to head back through town and over the hilly section again. Pete was aggressive and lifted the pace and Casey and myself were dropped like a bad habit. As soon as I got separated I knew I was starting to lose some big time to the leaders but I settled into a sustainable tempo for the remaining 40km with Casey. Pre race I had a nutrition plan from Darryl, the guru behind Shotz nutrition and made sure I stuck to it. It was getting hot and any depletion in calories or electrolytes would be diabolical on the run.


On my way back out of town for lap 2 on the bike i saw the chase pack and estimated we had a significant buffer of around 7mins. I rode 2:06 for the 90km which is quicker than I have gone before but it was no match for Clayton and Pete's 2:01, meaning we lost 5minutes on the second lap. I'm looking forward to watching these guys race the Ironman World Champs in Kona in 4 weeks if this race is anything to go by.  

Onto the run I had Casey on my shoulder and I set off at a pace I thought I could build on. I didn't feel great, but I didn't feel bad either. After about 6km I decided I would be more comfortable running alone in 3rd so I put in some 3-4 min surges to try and drop Casey. I tried this for the next 10km but couldn't get rid of him. In all honesty I think all I did was tire myself out. I noticed his form and composure and knew he was running strongly. Up the last hill with about 3km to go I tried to apply more pressure but he was all over me like a rash and exploded the final section to crack me. I couldn't respond and fell across the line in 4th.

               

As much as I wanted the podium, I'm happy with another 4th place, but I was somewhat humbled by Pete's performance as he crushed the field to win by 7minutes.


I kind of felt like I was stuck in 4th gear for the run and couldn't shift into my top end speed that I usually have. Being the first race I have done for some months I don't think I had that race fitness just yet. I'm going to dial in now and prepare for Port Mac 70.3 in 5 weeks. It's kind of a local race for me now that mum has moved up there.


Thanks for all the messages and support from Scody, Shotz, Hawkesbury physio, 3D Bike Fit, Blackman Bikes and Bobby Brace for the wheels! Also a big thanks to Kat for doing everything for me and not letting me lift a finger before my race.



Cheers.

*All photos and interview courtesy of firstoffthebike.com