Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Malibu Triathlon Classic 2010 - Race Report

This was the big one of the year for me. I have been racing this event for the last 4 years and I see this as a great snapshot of how I am performing.

Last year I saw this race as my breakthrough event. I got on the podium for the first time, although technically I finished 4th so this was due to the podium being 5 deep. That being said, it was by far my best result and as the race was very competitive, it lit the fire that has now allowed me to focus on being competitive in the events that I enter.

Up to this point, I have had a great year so far with one second place and three age group firsts. My focus on this race was to improve on last years result.

Before the race

I like to think my pre-race routine is kind of set at the moment and I felt nice and relaxed going into my warm up. I took all of my nutrition as usual and after the mandatory pre-race talk from the race organizer Michael Epstein, I took to the water for a good warm up. The water was cold at 58 degrees F but all of our recent practice sessions this year have been similar so not long into the warm up I felt pretty comfortable. I watched the first wave head off and saw a great swim from Chris Lieto.

After the 3rd wave had set off, I made my way to the start, hooking up with fellow team mate Jamie Specht.


As the gun went off, I raced into the water. Even though I always try to start at the front, It always feels like I am a bit slow off the mark. This time was no exception.
Myself and Jamie on the right
I tackled the shallows well though and made good progress but messed up the negotiation of the first large wave and lost ground. After recovering I got into my rhythm. It felt good and fast but hit lots of traffic from the earlier waves in front. It didn't feel like it affected me much but I did need to sight nearly every stoke. I also failed to get in the tow of another swimmer which wasn't the plan either.

I rounded the last buoy and headed to the beach. I only caught a small wave and felt a little sluggish exiting the water but all in all I thought the swim went well.


I sprinted into a very long transition and did well stripping my wetsuit down to my waste with plenty of time to spare. My wetsuit had a little issue getting off over the timing belt but an extra couple of seconds using my fingers rather than the standard "stand on it" technique helped it off without too much complication. The rest of the transition was swift but I had already seen Josh exit transition at least 30 seconds in front of me and Jamie would have been long gone if his swim was to the usual standard.


The chase was on. Now was the time to try to reel my two friends in on the bike. If I hadn't done it by the end of the bike, they would both probably have me on the run so this was the crucial stage for me.

Sorting out my feet
I got up to speed pretty quickly before getting my feet strapped in. This was the first time this had gone pretty much perfectly. I negotiated the speed bumps with caution followed by the wet temporary bridge that took us under the PCH. Once out on the highway, the race was on.

The boys were nowhere in sight so at first, I did not have the confidence that I would reel them in, but about 4 miles into the course, I spotted what looked like Josh up ahead. I put in a push and closed the gap. The pass was made on a false flat I think and I made sure I had good speed to take him and open up a gap. It was not long before I passed Jamie in a similar move.

At the turn, I realized that the wind had actually been behind and was now a head wind. This was different to previous years and also my recent training.
In a way I knew this was going to be to my advantage due to my strength on the bike but it also meant that my pacing was out. There are normally climbs on the course on the way back that would allow you to treat them as 30mph+ false flats when a tail wind is present that today were transformed into pretty hefty obstacles.

As I rounded the final turn that takes us back into the beach parking lot, I looked out for Josh. It was a good 30 seconds after the turn that we passed each other. This meant that I had about a 1 minute lead.

I nearly lost it on a speed bump on the way on though as I mistimed a pass and had to bunny hop it instead of squeezing around the side. We had been warned against this and it is only because I have been practicing this on my way into work that I was able to avoid a catastrophe. It even gained me some time as I was up to nearly 30mph at the time.


My dismount went well and I made good ground through transition. My shoes went on and I chose to keep the glasses on too this time.
As I was exiting transition to head out on the run, I saw Josh coming in on the bike. This actually put me about 2 minutes ahead.


The run went well. I got into a rhythm and felt comfortable. A couple of people passed me but they were all from earlier waves so I decided to try to keep them in sight instead of trying to overtake them back.

At the turnaround, Josh didn't seem to be taking time out of me so I maintained my pace and tried to finish strong. Josh's brother Zach was also doing great at this point. He was way ahead of me from the wave before. Last year I caught him on the run but this time he was easily going to stay clear.


My Move
I put in a final kick as the finish approached just in case someone was catching. I stayed clear and out of trouble and crossed the line with my new "Simon Gowen" move.

After the race

The race felt good and at first I thought I had finished close to my target time but then I realized that I had miscalculated the finish clock and the 15 minute, wave 4 offset. I had hoped to go 4 minutes faster than last year but in fact, I was 4 minutes slower. But everything felt great. What had gone wrong.

My swim felt good but was actually over 1 minute slower than last year. In fact all of my splits were slower than last year except for my run time that was only 4 seconds quicker.

The bike course may have been slower than last year because of the head wind on the normally fast way back but the only explanation I can offer that explains the other times were a combination of back issues leading into the race and a lack of racing effort. By the latter part, I mean that I don't feel I ever really left my comfort zone and could maybe have pushed harder.


Although the times were not exactly to my liking, the podium was a much better result. Although I only finished 16th Overall, I finished 2nd in the M30-34 age group. To make things even better, Josh Wills finished only one place back in 3rd and to round off the podium, Jamie managed to pull off a great performance to grab 5th. Congratulations to Tyler Willingham for taking first place by a convincing margin.
Myself, Tyler, Josh and Jamie

Zach pulled off an equally great result grabbing 5th in the M25-29 age group  to get himself a podium position.

Lots of things to take away from the race but a great day had by all.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ready to race

So we are 3 days away from the big race of the season for me. I say big not because it is necessarily more important that the others throughout the season, but because this is by far the most competitive event I plan to enter this season, with over 2000 competitors.

I also use this even as a reference to how good my form is and how the seasons training has improved me over previous years.

I have done this race each year for the past 3 years and it was the first triathlon I did in the US when I came over from England 4 years ago.

Last year I finished 4th in my age group and if all goes well, I intend to do even better this year. I have done well this year in other races with three 1st place age group finishes so hopefully I can keep this form going.

My taper is going well and I am holding off a cold I think so fingers crossed, I will make it to Sunday fighting fit. My markers also look positive with both my swim and run paces looking good in training. If I can go into the race relaxed and recovered, it should be good.

I am also leading the Sony Pictures Triathlon Team into this race so from a team point of view, it is looking like a good year. We have over 100 competitors fighting it out against the likes of Disney, Warner Bros., Paramount, NBC Universal and Dreamworks. We have raised nearly $50,000 for the Childrens Hospital LA and hope to pull out some fast times on the team this year.

Hopefully I will be reporting a positive race next week.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Strawberry Fields Triathlon 2010 - Race Report

This was my first trip up to the Strawberry Fields Triathlon. The Breath of Life triathlon was just up the coast a month before and I used that primarily to get used to the flat courses in this area. It actually shared a large part of the bike course so I really felt at home with this before we got there.

This would be my first proper ocean based race of the year. Breath of Life was in the ocean but was sheltered inside the Ventura harbor.

So back to this one. I actually nearly pulled out as I managed to pick up a cold since the "Keep LA Running" 5K. My head was bunged up but I seemed to be just about holding off a transition to a chest infection. I decided to go for it anyway as a friend of mine had told me that you tend to feel better during activity and it will come back afterwards.

My wife Sam and my son Ben, were packed into the car and off we set up the coast. We were staying just down the road from the venue with a beautiful view of the marina so I was quite excited.

I had new wheels for this event and for the first time ever, I was racing with a disc wheel. It was actually going to be a set of Zipp 808's with a disc cover at the back. This is an affordable alternative to getting two rear wheels to cope with different wind conditions. As it happened, it was really windy by the race venue when we checked in on Saturday afternoon. It is typically less windy early in the morning so after a discussion with race director Jamie Silber, I decided to stick with the disc.

That night we chilled out at a local restaurant. I had been told that the transition is fully allocated which means that there is no fighting over prime spots. You have your space allocated and you go with it.
Other than having less of a scrabble in the morning, it also means there is no rush to get to the venue.

A relaxed and very quiet night meant that I was feeling pretty good in the morning. I was to ride to the venue on my own and Sam and Ben would have breakfast at the hotel and walk down later.

The ride in went well and I still arrived pretty early but things didn't go quite to plan with regards to pre race preparation. I rushed down a small energy bar and half a breakfast cookie. I intended to eat a lot more than this but I didn't feel like eating and I was rushed for time. I also missed my usual GU gel and only just squeezes in a GU just before the swim.

Due to a long toilet queue, I was now running really late. I was using a new wetsuit for this race so I had been hoping to allow a good amount of time to warm up and get used to it. Unfortunately at this point, I was rushing to get into it with only 5 minutes left before the start. I ran down to the beach and jumped straight in. The water was really cold. I'm normally good with cold water but this was really really cold. I submerged myself quickly and took a couple of strokes. For some reason I just couldn't adapt. I needed much longer and I didn't have the time.

We all lined up for the start. Luckily they were running behind otherwise I don't think I would have been able to get into the water at all. The countdown started and the gun went off. I don't feel I got off too fast but at the same time, it wasn't too slow.

As we hit the water, the cold hit hard again. As usual, it was much better the second time but I didn't navigate the surf particularly well. I seemed to go from being near the front before the waves to seeing at least 20 people ahead of me. Not a great start. Once I was swimming, things calmed down. The first buoy arrived really quickly and wasn't even clear of the surf. I went slightly wider to avoid the break and arrived at the second buoy really quickly indeed. After the final turn to shore, I heard a panicked shout before being hit by a big wave. I didn't have time to react and got tumbled but I stayed in the wave and finally got released right in the shallows. I stood up and looked across to my left to see Josh, my training partner, also standing up. We exchanged a funny hello and set off up the beach.

My run up the sand towards transition was solid and I had a good pace going. In past events I have felt that this was a really weak part of my race but Breath of Life was a real turn around for me and I kept this going into this race.

The clock showed that I pulled out 10 seconds on Josh just running up into transition. Josh made up a bit of time during transition where I had a slight fumble getting my wetsuit off over my timing chip. I think I had it too low where it should have been under the wetsuit. Something to remember for next time.

I left transition just before Josh and just after the lead pack. Unlike Breath of Life, I could see all but one of the riders ahead of me. One rider passed me while I was still securing my feet in my shoes but once in, I was able to hold him about 20 yards ahead of me. We seemed to be pulling away from the rest of the pack which felt good but at the same time, I didn't feel like I had the zip in my legs like the previous race.

On the back of the course, I put in a slight push. I was able to take the place away from the other guy. At this point, I was wondering whether I was leading the race. This was soon corrected by a motorbike and the leader passing us going the other way after the turn around point. He was about 1-2 minutes ahead. It did mean we were running a close 2nd and 3rd with another pack about a minute behind. I didn't see at this point, but Josh was in this one.

The rest of the bike course went smoothly with the other guy just passing me again. I had a great running dismount taking the place back on the way into transition. This transition was really fast and I grabbed my stuff and just went for it.

We left transition together again and set out on the run. My legs didn't feel great at this point and the other guy quickly passed me. Unlike the bike leg, I didn't feel like I was able to hold him.

This is still a problem for me but it is one of the main focus points to my training now. About 4 minutes into the run, another guy passed me. He was going really fast and passed both me and the second place man pretty quickly. I was now in 4th on the road but luckily I was fast enough to hold on to this place to the finish. As I came up to the final turn, I saw Sam cheering me on with Josh's wife Leandra. It's always nice to see this and I gave Sam a high five as I passed.

Josh was still a minute back and we did a near identical run. I think Josh was 3 seconds faster than me.
The good thing was that I was the first to finish in my age group. Josh was second just a minute back at the finish. We had talked about this being our goal for the race and a 1-2 finished meant a good race for us both.

Overall, I was pushed down one place by the time the later waves had finished, but I was pleased with my 5th place finish.

With better pre race preparation and a clean bill of health, I am pretty confident there is a better performance in me for next time.

Next stop, Malibu.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Keep LA Running - 5K - Race Report

So technically this was a training day for me, but I decided to spice things up a little and enter a 5K road race that was located close to where I live in Playa Del Rey.

It was a perfect morning. Slightly damp in the air and overcast. The start for the race was about 2 miles away so I decided it would be a great warm-up for me to run there.

I was due to start at 8am so I tried to time it so that I  wouldn't be hanging around too long but this backfired on me a little as the race organizers delayed the start at first by 15 minutes but eventually by 30 minutes.

I must have warmed up 4 or 5 times that morning. In contrast, I normally do not warm up enough at all and really suffer in the races so this actually wasn't that bad. It was also somewhat closer to the situation in triathlons so it was great practice.

The delay also allowed me to meet one of my running heros growing up. The great Zola Budd (Pieterse), who was at the event as a special guest and would be participating in the 10K.

Zola is a middle distance runner and has some very impressive times under her belt. Check these out:

1500m - 3:59.96
1 Mile - 4:17.57
3000m - 8:28.83
5000m - 14:48.07

She also won Gold at the 1985 and 1986 IAAF World Cross Country Championships.

For more info on Zola, please check out Wikipedia.

I had a really good opportunity to chat with Zola before the race and we talked about our new love for Newton running shoes and also my travels around her homeland, South Africa. I also managed to get her to sign my race bib and a fellow LA Tri Club member, (Thanks Beth), kindly took a picture of me with Zola.
As you can tell, I was already having a great day.

So, finally it was time to head up to the start of the race. The expo was in the beach car park where the finish line was but the race would start up on the main road that passed along in front of the airport.

While warming up, I bumped into my good friend Simon Gowen, who has coached me on my running and really helped me realize my potential. He was scheduled to run in the 10K but due to the delays, switched to the 5K at the last minute. At first this was great but all of a sudden I realized that I knew someone racing against me which put the pressure on. Simon's friend Brent was also there next to me on the start line so this was turning into a real race for me. In previous training runs, both Simon and Brent have been faster than me, but this was last season so I had no idea where we would stack up.

I felt like I did a great warm-up. I ran to within 1 minute of the start. The clock counted down and the gun went off for the start.

I felt good right away. One guy was clear at the front but I was keeping at the back of the front pack. Even though I felt good, I has a feeling I wasn't going to be able to sustain the pace so I slowed slightly. My Garmin watch later told me I had started off at a 5:30 pace but slowed to 6:00.

Just before the first turn around point at 0.75 miles, first Simon and then Brent came past me. It was a steady pace but it was still hard for me to latch on to their heals. As they started to gap me I felt that I had to stay in contact with them. This was just like my last triathlon. I knew I had been able to hold on before so I made an effort to catch up to their heels.

I was able to pull in the gap, but at the same time, Brent was catching Simon so I looked up the road and decided to but in a push to catch the next runner ahead. This was about 10 yards further but I was able to close the gap fast.

At this point, I was afraid that Simon and Brent would have seen this move and as I slowed to a steady pace, would jump on my heels again. I spotted the next couple of runners and decided to repeat the move. One at a time, getting on the heels of the next person, recovering slightly and repeating the process.

These burst of speed were around 5:30 pace with some as low as 4:45. Each one felt good, but as the lead pack disappeared, it left fewer and fewer runners to track down that were in my range.

As the 2 mile marker came into view, I slotted in behind the last runner in range. My breathing was a lot heavier now so remaining at this pace felt good.

At the entrance to the parking lot, a volunteer cheered me on and told me to up my cadence. They were right of course. The first thing I do when I get tired is drop my cadence which creates a snowball affect which makes me more tired.

We had dropped down on to the beach parking service road. This was the last stretch and I felt like I wanted to finish strong. I was still right behind this one last runner with the lead pack way ahead, probably already finished.

I decided that I was going to stay with him until the 3 mile marker and then make my push for the line. I glanced at my watch and I realized the pace was dropping to a 6:20 pace and my average was reading 6:02. I decided to go earlier and picked up the pace with about 0.2 miles to go. I wanted to make sure I was not followed so I made sure the pace was fast for me. It was under 5:00 pace with a maximum pace of 4:18 reading on my watch. It felt good and I have realized that as long as I know where the finish line is, I could probably keep that pace going for longer if I needed to. Something to remember for next weekends race.

I finished in a time of 00:18:56 with an official average pace of 6:05 but my watch measured the course to be slightly long at 3:17 miles this worked out to be a 5:59 average. This finally beat my all time best and broke the 6:00 mile mark I had targeted for the season.

I have also never been competitive before in a road race. Although the really fast guys were nearly 4 minutes faster than me, I still finished 4th in my age group and 21st overall. This was my best 5K by far.

In comparison, the last 5K road race I did, about a year earlier, had me finish in a time of 21:13 and placed 13th in my age group and 102nd overall.

Things are looking up for me in the world of running. It was fun.

Incidentally, Zola said this was her fastest 10K time in 10 years. She finished second overall in a very fast 36:41. Good work!

The full results can be found here:   5K  10K

Next up, Strawberry Fields Sprint Triathlon.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Breath of Life Triathlon 2010 - Race Report

So my next race should have been Redondo Beach triathlon a couple of weeks ago but a trip to England forced me to change my plans. As a result, I filled my schedule with another race I had been considering, Breath of Life up in Ventura, CA.

It was a new race for me but it was also a new venue for the race which made it a level playing field. As with all my races scheduled this year, I am doing the sprint distance so that I can continue working on my speed. Looking at the course, I was very pleased this was the case. The swim course for the Olympic distance race looked very complex and I heard lots of nightmare stories of athletes getting very lost out there.

I got to the race and while in transition, realized that I was surrounded by hoards of 15-16 year olds. One of them, next to me had been doing triathlons since he was 4 years old and had done hundreds. This was going to be my 9th triathlon ever over a span of 5 seasons so not really in the same league. He was only 15 though and actually looked younger so I figured it was all a bit of fun.

The sprint distance event was going to start 10 minutes after the last wave of the Olympic distance event. This put me in wave 8, the latest start I have had so far. This was the first sprint wave, putting me with the 34 and under bracket, but more interesting was that we would be linking up with one of the later Olympic distance waves as we shared the last part of their course.


The gun went off and I must admit, I didn't react as fast as I thought I would. I wasn't in the front row but just behind what looked like some fast young swimmers. Even though I was in the middle of the row, I still managed to find some clear water but I failed to latch on to anyones feet which I was disappointed with.
I was amazed just how quickly we got to the first buoy though.

We knew we were going to connect up with the Olympic distance swimmers but I didn't realize there would be so many colored hats out there. Actually, we ended up linking up with about 5 different waves so it got a little chaotic. As far as I can tell, the majority at this point were missing the last buoy. All of the youngsters in front of me in my wave seemed to head straight back after the 3rd buoy which I wasn't very pleased to see. There was a lifeguard on a surfboard telling people to round the last and 4th buoy but not stopping those that didn't. If it was this confusing for the sprint distance competitors, I don't even want to guess at how bad the Olympic distance swim was.

The exit from the swim led us up the beach and around some sand dunes. This part the day before had looked pretty bad but in reality it was fairly easy. I have really eased down my kick in the swim so my legs felt strong at this point.


The transition area was pretty well organised in a parking lot just off the beach and with the help of another competitors balloon, my bike was easy to find. As expected, the kids surrounding my area had all already gone and the area looked surprisingly empty. I didn't think my swim was that bad so I can only assume missing the last buoy saved more time than I thought.

I had a smooth transition with just an additional squirt of water to clear the sand from my feet before continuing.


My bike mount was my best so far. Back to basics and making sure my feet were firmly on my shoes before continuing. I got up to speed before putting my feet, one at a time into my shoes. It felt good on the course. I quickly got up to the 25mph I had as my target and set out to catch those ahead of me. One by one I overtook all of the kids I had seen in transition. One of the USA twins was ahead of me blatantly drafting on the bike. Again, it was very disappointing seeing something so obvious not get picked up. Apparently, he and his brother are on team USA and allowing this kind of cheating to happen at that level is upsetting.

Anyway, it didn't affect me as I blasted on by, still feeling very comfortable.

On the bottom part of the loop, I was caught by some other bikers. I had eased down slightly to take on fluids and a GU gel. Once back up to speed, there ended up being about 5-7 of us all together. I think it was about 50-50 sprint and Olympic distance athletes but there was no way of knowing.

We exited the loops and headed back to the finish. It was actually quite hard at this point as there were so many of us together but I am really pleased with everyones ability to avoid drafting by spreading out sideways. I'm looking forward to seeing the photograph that was taken as we all came back into the harbor.

My dismount was nearly perfect. They had two lines marked. One as a warning and the second the official dismount line. This confused us a little as we all got ready to dismount too early but after coasting a little bit further, I had a clean dismount and headed into transition.


The bike of the 15 year old I talked to before the race was already there. I underestimated him. My T2 went smoothly as well and I set off through transition at a fairly good pace.


As I said in my last post, my run is by far my limiter in terms of being competitive in a race.
My breathing felt heavy even though my legs felt pretty good at this point. I was caught by a 22 year old in a UCLA outfit. He seemed pretty nice and muttered encouragement as he passed. I increased my speed slightly to try to stay with him. I did, which made me feel better. On one of the corners however, he didn't round one of the cones that stated, stay left, and he gapped me by 5 or 6 yards. This made all the difference and he started pulling away from me. The next part of the course was a nasty little thing they called the maze. A zig-zag section presumably there to stop cyclists.

It was just after this section that we saw the 15 year old. He was flying. Out in front on his own. The turn was only around the corner but he had a lead of over a minute.

At the turn around, a number of guys ahead of us continued straight on, leaving me in 3rd place. There was a little gap behind me to the next guy and I was holding the UCLA guy ahead of me. As we approached the maze again, we were guided around the outside, but instead of taking a tight right to get back down onto the path, the UCLA guy went straight ahead. It wasn't his fault as the marshals on that bit of the course did not tell him where to go but I still lost out another 15 yards or so.

To make things worse, the guy behind me, Josh, was reeling me in. With about half a mile to go, he overtook me. I looked down at his ankle and saw 33. The same age as me. I had lost 1st place in my age group. I have to admit that I hate this feeling. At first he gapped me but I put in a burst and tucked in behind him. I was at 100% and he kept pulling away. I kept putting in burst to stay with him. He seemed to have a fair bit of support which didn't help me.

I saw the finish line to the left and put in a final burst to put me on his heels. As we rounded the corner, I knew we only had 30 yards to go. I drew all my effort and kicked hard. To my surprise, there was not a counter kick to match mine. I pulled out a couple of seconds and claimed my 1st place in my age group.

Josh was a really nice guy and we talked for a while afterwards about different scenarios where he could have won. With me just behind him on the run he had admitted to being on 100% as well. I had no idea that by sticking with him, I had been draining him of energy. He had nothing left at the finish.

Overall, this was a great race for me. I would say my best performance yet and I was really happy with the result. Here are my times:


Overall: 5th
Age Group 1st
Swim: 7:24 (Includes run up beach to transition)
Bike: 36:09 (Includes T1 and T2. 24mph est on bike)
Run: 19:33 (6:18 Mile)
Total 1:03:07.8

How is my training going?

It's been a while since my last update. I raced this weekend but I will do a separate blog for that one.

So how has my training gone since my last race in April? My perspective on this would be, better than previous years, but not on schedule at all. My biking has picked up again to how it was last September. My swimming that had previously jumped up early in the year has plateaued, maybe even taking a slight step back and I have been plagued with calf tightness that is hampering my running.
The backwards step in swimming could be accounted to training fatigue which a taper may help with, but I am also having issues with a slight tweak in my right shoulder and tightness in my back. I have a feeling I am messing up my catch so I will aim to address this as I resume my training today.

As I have said, I am happy with my cycling and on the flats, I am slowly increasing my pace. I also did a climb in the Santa Monica hills a little while back which I impressed myself at. I was on my tri bike and still managed to stick with some on my friend Geo's race buddies. Although my HR monitor messed up its readings, the course data can be found here.

My run is my real issue. I haven't been able to settle in to any consistent run training as I continually get slight injuries. I am not sure what is causing the issues, but I feel that if I drop back to training for good form and as soon as it feels like it is slipping, stop, recover and start again with good form, this should hopefully improve things. I think I get injured when my form falls apart. I should also try to up the frequency of my runs and maybe reduce the distance for a bit, while I recover.

Anyway, time for my next race report.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

LA Tri Series #1 2010 - Race report

My second race of the season was another new one for me. Out in San Dimas is a small but popular family run race series that is set at Bonelli Park. It's a beautiful setting and I would recommend this race for good experience without the huge crowds.

I had planned to drive out here on my own on race morning as it would keep the costs down by not getting a hotel and would allow my family to sleep in peace. It's also good for me to practice being able to race with just the stuff I need. In the past, I have carried around way too much and now that I am a lot more organized and have a good transition bag, I am finding the whole experience a lot more enjoyable.

So I woke up at 4:50 after a slightly disturbed nights sleep. This didn't bother me too much, I have been given good advice that the important nights sleep is 2 nights before the race and I new I was well rested in that respect. I also knew that the car was fully packed with everything I needed for the race and all I needed to do was get into my race clothing and set off. Being prepared and organized is one of the best lessons I have learnt so far.

15 minutes later, I was on my way. I was so chilled out that I had time to fill the car up with gas so that I definitely had enough for the journey.

Once on the open road, I started on my pre race fuel. I started with a banana and followed this up with a breakfast cookie. I wanted to keep things light in my stomach as this was a short distance race. I sipped on water as I drove. I would take 2 GU gels before the start of the race as specified on the packet.

The roads were foggy which did trigger an element or worry about the race conditions but as the sun came up the mist burnt away and we were left with a beautify setting. The temperature was rising fast but for racing it was just right.

I was relatively early to the venue so I took my time to pick up my race packet and get my bike sorted. I got a pretty good spot in transition. My race number was also pretty good, #111. In Malibu last year I had #444 and finished 4th in my age group so if the pattern continues I could be in for something special. As it happens, I wasn't expecting to be this good today. I had been nursing a torn calf muscle. I have been able to swim and bike without too much issue but have struggled to run. This has resulted in no running at all for the 2 weeks leading up to this race. The hope is that I will be warmed up enough after the bike phase to be able to run and get through the race.

As usual, I headed down to the swim start for a warm up. I have changed what I do here and instead of doing basic swimming to warm up, I mimic more of the drills I have been doing from my swim training. This consists mainly of balance drills but I think it works well to recalabrate my stroke to wearing the wetsuit.

After my focused but rather brief warmup, I headed to the start. I got a last minute tip from my good friend and coach, Ian Murray, about how to best position myself for the swim start. With his advice, I lined up to the left at the front. I was in wave 1 so I had a clear course ahead of me.

The gun went off and I ran into the water with the front guys. I have changed my racing technique recently to a much more relaxed and more balanced movement, with breathing only every 2 strokes. This controlled breathing has helped me in the open water swims. The last race I did, I found myself very close to 2 other competitors that always seemed to splash me when I went to breathe. As a result, I lost my rhythm and lots of time. This setup has resulted in an even faster pace while keeping it sustainable. I don't feel like I am gasping for air anymore. The ultimate result was being able to see the first guys come out of the water and knowing that I was not too far behind. My split was 6:58 which equated to a 1:23 pace for 100m. This is by far my fastest pace yet and I was less that 1 minute behind the leaders onto the bike.

The exit of the water was up a hill to transition. It looked steep but was actually quite manageable. My transition went smoothly and I was out on the bike in a good position. I had not practiced the mount all year and this has been a bad part of some of my previous races. It went slightly better this time although still not smooth or fast. It helped to have a gentle down hill out of transition.
The one thing I did do differently this time was have my glasses taped to my bike. This is supposed to save a couple of seconds in T1 but it resulted in a partial disaster. To open up one of the arms, I flicked the glasses and as a result, one of my lenses flew out. I saw it land on the side of the road but it was not the time to turn back so I continued on with one lens in and the other missing. It must have looked weird but it deflected enough wind to do the job I needed them to do. [Note to self. Do not try anything new on race day.]

The course was unknown to me so this was a bit of a disadvantage. I wasn't sure when to push and when not to. The good thing however was that we were to do 2 loops of the course so the second time around would be much better. Not long in, I felt a real lack of energy. I have experienced this before and I had an idea why. Two things, as a "B" race, I was training through this one. This means that I was not due to peak for the race and I wasn't supposed to taper either. I did stack up my more intense workouts earlier in the week but I was still not rested for the race. The second reason was that I don't think I was very hydrated. I realized the day before the race that I hadn't been drinking much but when I tried to correct this, I still forgot to drink the fluids. It's amazing how important the right amount of hydration can be.
The course was described as flat but I would disagree. Okay, there were not too many hills but the way the course is designed, the first short climb was right after a hairpin corner that due to the dirt across the corner, it made it really hard to get a run into the hill. This was then followed by a long flat stretch around the airport that should have been great, but a strong headwind knocked the pace out of everyone. The riders in front were moving away from me but at the same time, I seemed to be moving away from the riders behind. The end of the loop consisted of a relatively long but shallow climb which I liked and a very fast decent where I hit 43mph before returning to the start and repeating the loop again.
The second time around felt much better but my overall pace was only 22.5mph. A little less than I had hoped.

The dismount went much smoother this time too. I got my feet on top of my shoes with plenty of time to spare. I also didn't get lost in transition like the previous race. The one thing I did decide to do was to put my Garmin Forerunner in my back pocket to try to record some of my run. This added 5 extra seconds to T2 and resulted in a heavy(ish) object bumping around behind me. [Note to self. Do not try anything new on race day.]
As it happened, one of the bumps had turned it off so it wasn't worth the hassle but looking on the positive side, I used it as a gauge of how much up and down motion I had when running and was able to correct it.

As I set off on the run, I struggled straight away. My left calf was strapped but felt like it would cramp if I didn't let off. Another competitor passed me and recognized me as one of Ian Murray's friends. His name was David Lee and we exchanged happy thoughts about finishing the race soon. Although I had to let him go, he acted as a rabbit ahead and as the calf muscle released slightly, I was able to focus on staying ahead of those behind me. One other competitor passed me, (Mathieu Gonin), with a pace that was 5:44 per mile and I just hoped he was the last. Luckily he was.

The run course was a loop with a small out and back built in. This out and back was the main hill on the course but also gave a brief snapshot of who was ahead and who was behind. The leaders were coming back down the hill as I was heading up. They were setting a really fast pace. Just before the turn around, David passed me heading back down. As we passed, we high fived each other. Although this is primarily an individual sport, I cannot emphasize enough the benefit of racing as part of a team and making friends out there.
The turn around point had revealed that I was in 11th place in my wave. It also revealed that there was a gap behind me. No-one looked faster than I could run but I didn't know for sure, so I dug in and made sure I gave it what I could.

I finished with at least the same gap I had seen at the turn around point behind me. I was pleased with the finish but slightly disappointed with my legs on the day.
As the results came out, although my name was nowhere to be seen, I realized that my time in my age group was better than the printed fastest time. I asked the timing stewards and they went away to investigate. On returning, they said they had identified my timing chip but it had not been associated with me. A quick correction and the result was confirmed. I had won my age group for the first time.

To be fair, my age group on the day seemed to be the least competitive of the main ages. If I had been 5 years older or younger, I would have finished just off the podium, but I will take the win.

More importantly for me was my overall placing. This was much closer to how I thought my performance had gone. I finished 19th overall, 2 places behind Ian Murray. This is the area that I am hungry to improve. My swim was great today but my strong point, the bike, let me down and the run did also.

Finally a big congratulations to Drew Haberkorn for finishing first overall. We hung out together after the race and we realized that we live a couple of miles from each other. Hopefully we can do some training together sometime soon.

The race results can be found here:

Friday, March 12, 2010

Working on my swimming

For the first part of this year I have really been working on my swimming technique. I have been swim training for about 3 years now and before this season, have seen very little gains in my overall pace. Okay, I have improved my fitness, but I always seemed to have problems with getting faster, especially as most of my friends at Masters swim training are going considerably quicker than me.

This year, I thought that I would look into my swim stroke and get it analyzed from a third party point of view. For this, I turned to TTS and coach Ian Murray for a 4 week swim clinic. Essentially for me, this was a back to basics course with the important point that someone was going to be evaluating every step I take.

Their drills work on balance first then slowly develop to introduce efficient propulsion. Slowly is the important word here. I have always been impatient with my swim drills and never really understood what I was doing or aiming for, but as the weeks moved on, this all came together and I was already starting to feel much better through the water.

The video camera came out in the final session and filmed our progress. At this point, I was hoping to see a complete transformation in my stroke but I could still feel old habbits coming through and it was stressed to me that this was just a start and that I had a lot of practice to do before this became totally natural.

This was by no means a put off however. In the pool, my times were already coming down fast and with all of the pointers I was given in the classes and the issues highlighted when being fimed underwater, I have a lot more speed still to come.

I did my first Threshold swim test (T1000) today. This is a way of determining my 100m pace. I swam 1000m continuously in a 50m pool. The time for this was 00;15:18. To get my T100 pace I just need to divide this by 10, (being careful to convert to seconds first). The result is 1:31.8.

Last year, although I had never done a test like this before, I would have expected this T100 pace based on a T1000 swim to have been closer to 1:50.

With technique changes alone, I am guessing I have gained 20 seconds per 100 and I would also add that the pace felt really comfortable and sustainable. This was not the case last year.

My target for this year is to try to get down to 1:15 T100 pace.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Desert Triathlon - Race Report

So many positives and negatives from this first race of the season, but to be honest, without the negatives, I wouldn't have so many things to improve on for the next race so I see these as positives anyway.

So the weather was a big question mark for race day. We are out in the desert and they rarely see rain but this time around, it was on the cards. I was in the first wave of the day, kicking off at 7:30am. This was such a blessing as the skies were clear but it looked like the weather was rolling in.

Without warning, the horn went off for the swim. Normally there is a 3..2..1.. count down but for some reason this was missing for the first wave. This caught a lot of the swimmers out, not least myself but I was towards the front so I went for it anyway.

The start was brutal. I had never done a lake swim before and the first big difference that I noticed was how tightly packed everyone was. I was right in the middle and I now realized that I would have done better starting towards the side and maybe swimming a little further but in clean water. I was cut off so many times by athletes swimming in random directions. With nowhere to go, I needed to sit up a couple of times to get space to swim. After turning the first Buoy, I found clear water and started to get into a comfortable stroke. After the second buoy, I found clear water to the outside and started picking up places. I wasn't in the lead pack but I headed out of the water at the front of the chasing group.

With numb feet, it's hard to tell how sharp the shingle was, but after the race, it seems that I has cut up my feet a little on the swim exit. This didn't bother me for the entire race so I'll leave this part there.

I found my bike without a problem but messed up the bike mount. I didn't cleanly get my left foot on and my shoe flipped over jamming between the pedal and the ground. I fumbled 3 times to recover before stopping and putting my left foot in the shoe and starting again. This time I got going and quickly picked up the pace. On the way out to the main 10 mile loop, I got up to 30mph which felt great. As the course got a little windy though my speed reduced to about 22-23mph. For early season, this still felt good so I was pleased with this. No-one passed me and due to the duathletes that got out on the bike course early, I had plenty of riders to chase down. I'm not sure if I actually made up any positions, but I definitely did not lose any, so I was doing well.

The dismount caught me out as well. I hadn't taken my feet out of my bike shoes so on seeing the dismount line, I quickly got my right foot out and removed my left foot after stopping as swiftly as possible. Only a second or too lost but still something to get right for next time.

T2 resulted in a couple more seconds lost as I initially got the wrong bike rack to return my bike. Lots of empty racks which make it hard to identify your slot, also give you confidence as you know you are one of the first back off the bike.

A smooth change and off on the run. There was no-one around me. I couldn't see anyone in front or behind. It was a strange situation to be in. As I passed the first water station, I asked how many were in front. I was told Seven. I had no idea whether these were all triathletes or duathletes but regardless, this was far better than I had expected coming into this early season event.

The start of the run course does a small loop before heading around the lake. This was the first opportunity to see where the competitors were in front and behind. The lead runners were a good distance ahead but more importantly for me, as a runner that needs to improve his pace a little over the coming season, the next runner back was a bout a minute behind. I had 3 miles to go to stay in front of him, with no other runners in sight.

Half way around the lake, I could see that I was being reeled in. The last race of last season saw me get overtaken on the run with less than a mile to go to the finish, resulting in me being pushed back into 4th place. I was gutted and that feeling started to build up inside me. I didn't know if I was in a podium position or whether I was actually racing this guy, but that sinking feeling of finding out that I had missed out by such a small margin was giving me the will to fight for my position.

Everytime I looked around, he was ever closer, but with less than 1 mile to go, I picked up the pace. I was holding him off and once we got on the sand for the final quarter mile, I gave it all I had. The gap remained at 20 seconds or so and I felt that I had a great race.

The rain had held off just long enough for me to finish and to top it off, I had placed 2nd in my age group and 12th overall.

A great start to the season and a lot of positives to walk away with.

I felt sorry for the International distance racers who had to tolerate a very cold and wet course but on this day, it seems I was racing the weather too and won.

Finish Time: 01:09:37
Overall Rank: 12
Age Group Rank M30-34 : 2

500m Swim: 00:09:16
Rank: 22

T1: 00:01:31

14 mile Bike: 00:38:05
Rank: 18

T2: 00:01:14

3 Mile Run: 00:19:31
Rank: 22

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


So, I went to the doctors yesterday to try to find out what has been plaguing me for the last 6 weeks. The evidence points towards a trapped sinus infection that won't let go. I had tried easing down my workouts, giving myself days of rest but nothing was improving. The fact the the infection is trapped and the usual clear out process is not happening makes sense. I have a nasal spray and a course of antibiotics so I am hoping over the next week or so things start to improve,
Luckily for me, even though I have a race in 4 weeks time, I am in the stage of training where I can lay off the intensity and concentrate on improving technique.
Fingers crossed things get back to normal quickly.

Friday, February 5, 2010

2010 has started

So we are already one month in to 2010. I would normally be in my off season right now given my past 4 years of triathlon seasons as reference but this year I have aimed to be a little more organized.

For the first year, I am actually trying to follow a good periodization schedule which takes into account the years intended races. This means two things. One, I have to know what races I intend to do before I start this schedule, and two, I will be starting the build up as of January. In comparison, I only started training properly in April last year with my first time in the water coming in the Redondo Triathlon in May. To help me out, I am using the online training package, TrainingPeaks.

This year, I plan this race to be my third of the year so hopefully I won't be caught out by my lack of swim fitness.

As a result of this extra planning, I am also addressing some of my weaknesses in the sport. For the most part, this is done by addressing efficiencies in technique rather than adding quantity.

I have been working hard on my running cadence. I downloaded a nice application called BeaTunes that is a variant of iTunes. It is primarily designed to help you fix and analyze your iTunes library. I am using it to add Beats Per Minute (bpm) information to all of my songs. With this done, I have made a playlist of all songs that have a bpm of 180, (or 90). I can then play these songs as I run and I have a perfect beat to try to stick to. I am naturally running a little slower than this at the moment, but I am feeling the cadence getting faster over time.

I can listen to the same playlist on my way into work on my bike as I am aiming for 90 bpm here too.

As for the swimming, I am going back to basics. I am currently being coached by Ian Murray from TTS (Triathlon Training Series) as part of a 4 week clinic. My session today for example was 40 minutes of balance drills without taking a single stroke. It's addressing some crucial basics so I am pretty confident with how things are already feeling. We'll know in 4 weeks.

Finally, On the bike, I am doing drills as well. One legged drills are helping iron out any dead spots in my pedaling which my left leg nerve damage hasn't helped with.

Anyway, back to my schedule. My first race of the season in next month, (March 7th), at the Desert Triathlon where I will be doing the USAT sanctioned sprint race. Let's see how things improve before then.