One of the weird things about being a professional triathlete…
For those of you who were concerned after reading my…
Scone. Nut. Noodle. Block. You’ve got to love Aussie slang….
Originally, I thought I’d be writing this pre-race blog on…
Get breathless and raise awareness & funds towards Pulmonary Hypertension – Ironman Australia 3 May 2015
In 2006, Ironman Australia was my first IM experience where I found my love and passion for long course triathlon. I was completely inspired by its history, tradition and the life experiences which are unique to the Ironman family. The event has been a significant part of my triathlon career, one of my proudest achievements being Ironman Australia’s Female Champion 2013. It is a great pri […]
One of the weird things about being a professional triathlete is having other people talking and writing about you in the media. Obviously, that can be both good and bad… depending on what they write about you! Phil Wrochna at firstoffthebike.com has just written a profile piece on me. It’s a bit of a retrospective on the last few years of my career – where I’ve come from and where I’m heading.
As strange as it is to read about myself, I reckon Phil captures some great insights – there’s definitely some value in being able to reflect back on these events, get a little perspective and be reminded of the lessons learned all over again.
For what it’s worth, here’s my response to the article, with a few extra reflections and insights of my own thrown in there.
Running hot in Cairns
Phil goes back to 2013 and Ironman Cairns. I reckon he’s right – IM Cairns was a pretty significant race for me. There’s nothing worse than sitting, stewing in the penalty box watching your rivals get further and further ahead. A lot of things go through your mind while you’re waiting for that time to tick away. Fortunately, I was able to control the frustration, keep it together and channel those feelings into a fast run leg.
I think it raises an interesting question for all triathletes – when you get into one of those tough situations, what makes the difference between just ‘losing your shit’ and letting the race go or keeping it together, rolling up your sleeves and getting on with the job?
To a large extent I reckon it comes down to the mental game. In fact, my last two races have highlighted that for me. Both were tough. In Melbourne, I felt bad but kept going. It was a really rough day at the office (link to Melbourne article) but in the midst of difficult conditions and some back issues I was able to keep my focus and persist. The result was a second place and a deeper knowledge of myself. I came away from Melbourne knowing that when I need to dig deep I can do it, even when I’m not feeling so great.
Busselton 70.3 was a different situation. After a good start, my back started to tighten up, aggravated by the icy conditions. The question was- what do you do when your body isn’t coming to the party? When do you push through and when is the best option to pull the plug, walk away and save your body for another day? No one likes to post a DNF, especially when you’re going into the race as the defending champ. It’s a kick to the ego, if nothing else. But on that occasion I decided the best option was to look at the bigger picture, pull out, learn some hard lessons and use them to refocus my Kona preparation.
I know athletes wrestle with these questions in every sport, but it’s particularly relevant for endurance athletes. Let’s face it, IM racing is never easy. It’s always a fight against pain and exhaustion. One of the reasons why I waited so long to go to Kona was that a race like that needs a certain maturity and enough wisdom to be able to judge exactly where you’re up to. You’ve got to know when and how to push through, when it counts.
Staying in the moment is always my aim – being able to keep your head in the game, not over-thinking it, but at the same time, not just acting on your feelings. You’ve got to know when to keep running your own race and when you need to change up and go with the leaders, so you’re not left behind. I try to learn a little more, sharpen my skills and my judgement a little more, every time I race.
On the road to Kona 2015
Phil made a comment in the article that really rings true. He said,
One good day in Kona has some currency but that erodes over time.
Kona is definitely the big goal on my list this year – all roads lead there. 7th last year was a great result. It showed me what was possible and I guess it put me on the radar of other competitors.
This year, I’m heading back to Kona- older, more experienced and hopefully, wiser. But I’m not taking anything for granted. Kona is the real deal. When you’re heading through the Energy Lab it’s about as real as you can get. There’s no room for BS, hype or lame excuses… it’s not about your reputation, your brand or the crowds. All that external stuff is stripped away. It’s the ultimate test of who you really are – as an athlete and as a person.
Thanks to Phil Wrochna and firstoffthebike.com for putting me under the microscope and digging deep. Keep up the good work and keep the insights coming.
For those of you who were concerned after reading my tweet following Busselton 70.3 on Saturday – it’s all good… tits are still attached. Ego is bruised, back is still sore when I bend down and I’m feeling very disappointed about my result. I’ll keep this race report short and sweet.
Rough day today @im703busso froze my tits off and still suffering with a sore back. Onwards and upwards.
— Tim Van Berkel (@TimBerkel) May 2, 2015
A Frosty Start
We lined up for the start of the swim at Geographe Bay and the temperature registered 3 degrees. Apparent temp was actually closer to zero. That’s bloody cold! Having said that, I had a great swim. Back felt okay, I stayed in the front group, sticking right on Sticksy’s heels, and came out of the water in 24:53.
I hit T1 and as soon as I took my wetsuit off, I got really cold. Jumped on the bike and as I headed out onto the course I felt like I was riding like an old man. Wasn’t actually doing too badly, but by the 67km mark I was off the pace by 7 mins. Mentally and physically though it was a real battle. All the time I was telling myself, “It will get warmer… it’s got to get warmer…” And as the bike ride went on my back was getting tighter and tighter.
Chilled to the bone
By the time I got to T2, the temperature was registering 14 degrees, but apparent temp was still only about 10 degrees. I got off the bike and started running. My back was really tight, my feet were literally numb and I was struggling to put it together.
I ran 5km and in the end I felt it was better for the long-term plan to pull the pin- something I never like having to do. Maybe I could have pushed through to the finish, but I was going so slow – just didn’t have my usual spring.
Pulling out the positives
Every outing is a learning experience – it’s always good to reflect, whether it’s been a good race or an ordinary one – on what you did well and where you need to improve.
On the plus side – I had a great swim and stuck with the front group, which is always my plan. I’m determined to get this back issue sorted- going to hit the gym a little harder and work on building more strength in my core, back, glutes and hamstrings. And as always, nothing like getting a swift kick in the backside to motivate you to work harder and get sorted. Cairns 70.3 is coming up next on June 14th.
If I’m honest, Busselton 70.3 was a bit of a dark day. It definitely hurt having to pull the pin. Let’s face it, no one likes to post a DNF. But Busselton has been a good hunting ground in the past and you can’t win them all. And thank goodness – I’ve still got the course record!
Congratulations to the fellas – Sam Appleton, Terenzo Bozzone and James Cunnama – you guys ran a great race. And as I said in my post-race tweet – onwards and upwards!
Scone. Nut. Noodle. Block. You’ve got to love Aussie slang. Where else would you find so many colourful terms to describe your head?
I’m racing the Busselton 70.3 today and if you look carefully you’ll notice that I’m rocking a different brain-bucket. A brand new, hi-tech helmet from Giant is going to be protecting my melon on the course today. It’s called the Rivet TT and it’s a pretty impressive piece of gear.
All jokes aside, Giant have spent a great deal of time and money to develop their most aerodynamic and comfortable helmet yet. They’ve tuned it using a process called Computational Fluid Dynamics and tested it extensively in the wind tunnel and in real-life, on the skulls of the Team-Giant-Alpecin pros.
From the strategically placed dimples on the top of the helmet, to improve laminar flow, to the ‘drag-neutral’ ports and internal-channels, which make up the cooling system, it’s designed for speed and comfort. And not just to benefit the pros. The design was created to work well for a whole bunch of different rider positions and conditions. It’s versatile.
If you want to check out all the detailed specs, take a peek at the Giant website. They go in-depth and explain all the tech stuff that’s packed into this light-weight sconce-protector.
And stay tuned for my article on Going Aero coming up in 220 Tri (with an extended version and some video here on the website). I’ll be talking about how an aero helmet, like the Rivet TT, can be a crucial part of your overall plan to be more aero.
Thanks again to Giant – you guys are always on the cutting-edge, you help me stay competitive and I appreciate your support. Keep up the good work!
To all the triathletes out there – go hard and think about giving the Rivet TT a go. I wouldn’t want to have anything else on my noggin!
Originally, I thought I’d be writing this pre-race blog on the way back from racing in New Caledonia. My plan was to compete in the Noumea Triathlon last weekend, but in the end I pulled the plug because of a niggling back issue and yes, I listened to the professionals who advised in not racing. So that has given me time to focus on Busselton 70.3 and make sure I’m 100% race fit and ready to go. ‘C’est la vie!’ as they say in New Caledonia.
Back to Busselton
Rewind 12 months and I didn’t think I was even going to get to the start of Busselton 2014. Last year, in the lead up to the race I was sick and had the whole week off training. As it turned out, on the day I actually felt pretty rested, had a great race and ended up on the top of the podium. So I’m heading into this year’s Busselton 70.3 as the reigning champ.
As always though, there’s no room for over-confidence – the field for the event is really strong. In fact, the organisers are saying it’s the strongest field they’ve ever had for Busselton 70.3. There’s no doubt there some big hitters in the line up- my old mate Sticksy, Appo (Sam Appleton who came 3rd in 2014), Alex Reithmeier (2nd in 2014) and James Cunnama (all the way from South Africa) will all be there. Add into the mix veteran Kiwi triathlete, Terenzo Bozzone, and you know it’s going to be a hard-fought, hard-won race. I may be going into the race with Number 1 on my front, but there’ll definitely be a target on my back. It will certainly make for some good racing.
Hustle and bustle
It’s always good to head over to the ‘Wild West’ and the event at Busselton has just got bigger and bigger as time has gone on. The crowd is always huge and vocal, which is awesome for the competitors. Media coverage is good and there’s plenty of pre-race action.
The course is quick and it’s a great place to compete. Last year the swim conditions on Geographe Bay were glassy- I’m hoping it will be the same this time around. The cycle leg will be fast and furious and then the race finishes with 3 laps out and back on Geographe Bay Rd. There’s plenty of opportunity to keep an eye on the competition, which will be especially handy given how competitive this field is.
I’m looking forward to defending my title and hopefully hanging on to the course record for another year. And if you’re there, come and join me for the Q&A session on Friday arvo at Chat with the Pros in the Main Marquee. Should be fun.
Good luck to everyone who is competing. Go hard and I’ll see you at the finish!
Get breathless and raise awareness & funds towards Pulmonary Hypertension – Ironman Australia 3 May 2015
Pulmonary Hypertension (PH) is a life-threatening condition that affects the lungs and heart. It is characterised by high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs which can lead to heart failure and death.
- There are thought to be around 75,000 Australians living with PH and it can affect patients of all ages, including children.
- PH should not be confused with ordinary hypertension (high blood pressure), and it can occur in patients with or without ordinary hypertension
- The symptoms of PH vary in each individual, but common symptoms include breathlessness, dizziness, feeling faint, swelling of the feet and ankles, chest pain, fatigue and cyanosis (blue discolouration of the lips).
- Currently, there is no cure for the vast majority of patients with PH
After a hard training session or race it is always a relief when I can stop to recover and catch my breath. I can understand how difficult it would be to suffer from PH and constantly feel short of breath without having a finish line in sight. I draw great strength and motivation from people who face a different kind of Ironman challenge, living a limited life from chronic and fatal health conditions including those who are diagnosed with PH disease.
Get breathless on race day and help raise awareness & funds towards PH
To help raise awareness of the condition and its symptoms, spectators & athletes are invited to participate in the following race day activities taking place at the Town Green, Port Macquarie, Sunday 3 May:
- There will be a marque where patients with PH will be handing out bells on race day. Come down and be part of all the action! :-)
- Jump on a stationary exercise bike for 1 minute to 'get breathless for PH' and for every participant, Bayer will make a gold coin donation to PHAA
- Encourage IM athletes to ring the 'PH awareness bell' as they pass through the bell ringing zone set up at the Town Green on the official run course. Bayer Australia will also make a gold coin donation for each athlete who rings the bell on race day.
Best of luck to all our athletes on race day. I'll be cheering loud with bells on!
Bec Hoschke :-)
It was great to be a part of another race for Tim Van Berkel. I thought you might enjoy a little post race analysis of how I saw the day unfold for Berks.
Tim’s prep was very solid. He’s often not a big fan of the full Ironman prep in the sense that he likes to race. This prep however, I thought that we had to look at the entire year and the ultimate target of the year of course, is Kona. He had booked and paid flights to Dubai to race halfway through this prep and I managed to talk him out of this because of the benefit I thought a good full prep would have on his year in terms of rebuilding solid strength, racing well in Melb IM and then having the strength that he built through this prep to carry him onto Busselton 70.3 and then onto Cairns 70.3 before he flies to the US to do his Kona ground work through July and August.
The race in Melbourne saw him really have some pressure on him as one of the favourites and his media commitments were probably a little stiffer than they have been in the past. We kept him grounded by running some visualisation sessions in the days leading up to help him control nerves and look at what he had to do.
On race morning itself he was well placed in the swim early on until the group really started to pile the pressure on and Berks started to feel very ordinary and got dropped from a group that went on to post the swim record. It was worrying to see him 2.5 minutes back so early in the race after I had witnessed him swimming so well in the month leading into the race. It was perhaps the best swim form I had seen him in to date.
This left Berks with some chasing to do to make the chase group and he managed to shut that gap down relatively fast, but nevertheless he wasn’t feeling too great and he knew it, and so did I. He was able to hold the group while not feeling good and then, towards the end, found the energy to get up the road from the chase group by 40 seconds. He managed to average 39.8 km’s for an average power of 257watts. Berks said later although he felt bad it didn’t seem like the bike leg was particularly fast. In the power curve graph its plain to see Berks chasing hard at the start of the power curve and then levelling off. At this point I had suspected that all wasn’t totally great with an 8 min gap to the front 2 riders but I still felt that gap was ok if he had the runs legs for it.
Once the marathon started Berks seemed to be moving ok but not as fast I have seen him move before nor as freely but he still looked solid when I got to see him. At the 15km mark he was still in 3rd but only just to a whole raft of runners behind him and an ominously good looking Jeff Symonds a little ways back. Berk’s words were he was feeling bad, so I encouraged him to stay present and maximise what he had to work with. From that point I started to leap frog him with the car and at about 20km the gap to the leader, Nils, had reduced to around 7mins and 2nd placed Luke Bell has dropped back. I got into Berks ear about the reducing gap but he still looked uncomfortable even though he was now holding down 2nd.
At about the 25km mark that gap had fallen to about 5.5 mins. At this point I started to get a bit vocal about his chances of winning this race and not far back Jeff Symonds looked to me like he was killing himself to get on terms, so in my mind I thought he would cook, “woops”. A few km’s further down the road and the gap to Nils started to tumble. All of a sudden it was down to 3mins and Jeff Symonds was breathing down Berks neck still looking like he was killing himself and I kept informing Berks that Jeff looked like he was working very hard. Another few km’s down the road and Jeff and Berks came together and were running shoulder to shoulder with Nils now right in front of them crumbling.
When all 3 came together there was a scrum of media, people on bikes following the race and it was a moment of madness. I was screaming at Berks to stay patient and fully realise he could win this race. Another leap frog down the road and Berks and Jeff were now running shoulder to shoulder with Nils gone. The next athlete a few mins back turned out to be Berks training buddy, Brad Kahlefeldt, who was moving well at what seemed like the same speed Berks and Jeff were running. I could still see that although Berks was jointly leading with Jeff that he wasn’t firing on all cylinders, so I continued to scream at him some queue words that we had worked on to keep himself grounded and in the moment. A few further kms and Jeff made his move and dropped Berks who although running well clearly wasn’t having his best day. Brad was still hovering a few mins back and so we have the end result.
For me as a coach, although this race didn’t go to plan for Berks, the way we had envisioned it, there was a tremendous sense of Berks again stepping up in terms of maturity. Dishing up an 8:07 and finishing 2nd on a less than great day at the office is a great sign for Berks’ goal of becoming a major player on the Kona black top.
Hope you enjoyed the read and feel free to post any comments below and I’ll have a go at answering them.
I thought it would be interesting to get a coach’s perspective on the athlete/coach relationship, so I’ve grabbed the microphone, put on the interviewer hat and asked my coach, Grant ‘Gilesy’ Giles, some hard-hitting questions about coaching in general and coaching me in particular.
TB: So Grant, coach of Tim Van Berkel and Director of the Aeromax Team, welcome to this interview. Are you ready to go deep?
GG: Fire away!
TB: The athlete/coach relationship develops over time. Can you tell us how your relationship with Tim has changed through the nine years you’ve been together?
GG: It’s evolved from working on everything to working a lot more selectively on what needs to improve in the moment to move the whole thing forward. For a younger athlete it’s about building the platform to create a stable and consistent athlete. Once that’s achieved, like it is with Tim, at 30, then I look a lot more at what we need to get him to do not just to be consistent, but to place in world-class fields.
Having put down a good platform and foundation previously, we have a lot more flexibility to look at each individual key race and make training calls based on that.
TB: What’s the ‘state of the nation’ at this point in time – how would you describe your relationship with Tim in a few words?
GG: Collaboration with regard to calendar, mentorship with regard to mental prep, more-focused planning on both sides.
TB: How do you see the coaching relationship evolving over the next stage of Tim’s career?
GG: I’m the sort of person who likes to think outside the square of the norm and I really like to observe and make calls from that space. I think the best thing in this case, is simply to observe and see what we feel is lacking. From that point, we can make adjustments to suit the level where he is.
I think the biggest shift will be developing further power on the bike. Not only so he can keep the race under control and manage the gaps, but also to give him the opportunity to make better use of his run segment. Better bike strength always manifests itself as a faster run split, because the legs simply have less neuromuscular damage.
TB: Given that an experienced, mature athlete may have as much technical knowledge about their sport as their coach (maybe even more) what do you think a coach brings to the table for an elite athlete? What kind of an edge can a good coach give an athlete?
GG: I think the biggest thing a coach brings to the table is simply the Truth. The athlete needs to know they have someone in their corner that they can trust 100%, without BS or ego, who will act always in the best interests of their athlete. I think that’s a rare kind of relationship for most, but to me that is coaching.
As far as the edge goes, I feel that anyone who has spent a lot of time with the same person will learn a lot about that person simply by being present and observant. Anyone who makes it this far realises the Technical is just one side of a multi-faceted gem and certainly the Psychological aspects take more of a role as the performance level increases. Let’s face it, at world level, it’s as much about the mind as anything else. Possibly more so, because everyone at the highest performance level is approaching a fairly even physical fitness match.
TB: If there were one piece of advice you could give to athletes when they’re thinking about a coaching relationship, what would it be?
GG: Very simple answer – 100% trust or nothing at all. It takes time to build a relationship of this sort though, so you have to give the coach time to develop a game plan from what they see and hear from you, and only you. You have to put the opinions and thoughts of others on the backburner and let that coach do the job by simply having the belief that they will do their best.
TB: Nice work, Grant Giles. Once again, you’ve brought the truth and shared some valuable insights with us. Thanks Gilesy!
Get it right and it can be an athlete’s greatest asset, get it wrong and it can have the destructive power of a marriage made in hell, with the details splashed all over the media. I’m talking about the relationship that an athlete has with their coach.
This is a follow-on piece from my recent article in 220 Triathlon where I talk about the importance of the athlete-coach relationship. If you are like me you’ll probably want to subscribe and read the whole magazine on your iPad.
For me personally, my relationship with Gilesy (Grant Giles) has been a long-term partnership, now 9 years, and definitely worth moving across the country for. I started working with Gilesy as a fresh-faced 21 year old. Over those years our relationship has changed and developed, but it continues to give me a competitive edge.
The Key to Success
A Canadian study, conducted after the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, interviewed 27 elite athletes and 30 coaches about the factors that they believed contributed to successful performance. They identified five key factors. The first four were:
- Athlete self-awareness
- Optimal training environment
- Strong support system
- Ability to cope within the Olympic environment
No surprises there. However, the fifth factor was the one that all 27 athletes considered to be the most important in winning an Olympic medal or producing a PB. What was it?
A strong athlete-coach relationship.
So, what makes a strong relationship? Well, here’s my analysis of the ‘anatomy’ of a great coaching relationship. Starting from the top down let’s look at the different parts:
At the elite level, psychological aspects can be as important as your physical performance. Aussie Olympic swimmer, Tommy D’Orsogna, summed it up really well when he said:
Having the right mindset and the right support structure in place is imperative in attaining peak performance. You can’t achieve peak performance if your focus is on ‘not failing’ as opposed to succeeding, you can’t achieve peak performance if you are more concerned with others’ performance over your own, and you can’t achieve peak performance if you don’t focus correctly.
A good coach is going to help you improve your mental game by:
- Developing a solid race strategy.
- Providing valuable insights and assisting you to see problems or challenges with fresh eyes.
- Helping you to get into the right headspace when it’s race time.
- Giving you some balance so you can avoid the trap of ‘over-thinking’ it.
Grant has provided me with some great insights and some powerful tools to lift my mental game. One of those tools has been using visualisations. Mentally rehearsing the race and ‘seeing’ myself doing it was a key in my preparation for Kona made a huge difference in the race itself. Using visualisation continues to have a powerful effect on my performance.
Super Bowl–winning NFL coach, John Madden said, “Knowing his coach likes him is more important to a player than anything else.” At the heart of any successful relationship are things like trust, respect, honesty and encouragement. It’s no different when it comes to a successful athlete/coach partnership. Let’s face it – no one is going to give their best when they’re coached by someone who doesn’t seem to care or worse still, doesn’t seem to like them. There’s got to be some kind of positive emotional connection. That’s going to be different depending on the individuals, their ages, their personalities and their coaching styles.
My relationship with Grant has certainly changed over time. It started off as just being an athlete and his coach. Now it feels more like two mates looking to be successful together at our chosen events. I’d describe him as my trusted partner for success.
Shooting From the Hip
Two things build trust – time and honesty. A good coach will give you both. In this sport, and many others, it takes years to become good. So don’t just throw your coach out the door if you don’t see immediate results. Give them time to get to know you and understand you. You’ve got to take a long-term view and work at building mutual trust in your relationship.
Honesty is a crucial ingredient in building trust. It can be hard to hear it at times, but we all need someone telling us the truth. I appreciate Grant’s ability to tell it like it is. We’ve been working together for a long time now and he knows me really well. He shoots from the hip and there’s no BS or ego involved, so I know what he’s telling me is for my own good.
Obviously for both the athlete and their coach physical preparation is where the rubber hits the road… literally! But for a coach it’s about much more than planning sessions, crunching numbers and yelling from the back of a motorbike. A good coach will be constantly evaluating, using all the ‘tools in their toolbox’ to tweak the program and get the best out of their athlete:
- Wisdom gained from past experience
- Expertise and technical knowledge
- Awareness of the latest advances and research
- Knowledge of the individual athlete
- An understanding of how each session fits into the short, medium and long-term plan
- The ability to judge when to push, when to hold back and when to say it’s time to stop
One of the great advantages of having a long-term relationship with Grant is the way we’ve matured together. As I’ve grown as an athlete, he’s been able to change and adapt my training. He talks about the way my training goals have changed over time in our Q&A session. Together we can focus on both my short-term goals as well as the big-picture career aims.
Feet on the ground
Finally, no matter how much you mature as an athlete, it definitely helps to have someone in your corner who believes in you and in your ability to bring it on the day. Sometimes just having them there when you compete can make all the difference.
Ironman Cairns 2013 was a tough race for me. A slow swim and a four-minute drafting penalty left me 21:58 behind Luke McKenzie coming out of T2. I was a man on a mission! One of my vivid memories of that race was being on the run leg and coming past Gilesy. He was going crazy at me from the sidelines, shouting at the top of his voice. It was hilarious, but it gave me some serious encouragement just when I needed it most. He did the same thing at Kona last year, when I was in a world of pain at the end.
As well as being a mentor and supporter, a great coach will believe in you and push you to succeed even in those times when you don’t think you can. They can be the familiar face and the encouraging word, in the midst of the crowd, which lift you beyond what you think is possible. Let me finish with a special thank-you to my mate and mentor, Grant. You’re a bloody champion!
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I’ll be talking more about the importance of aero and the things I try and do to ensure I have the edge over my opponents in the coming weeks. Being aerodynamically optimal needs to take into consideration your position and equipment, but also factors like comfort and hydration. Another one of these factors for racing is thermoregulation, something which was vitally important in my recent trip to Ironman Melbourne.
Anyone that was at Ironman Melbourne can attest to the extremes in temperatures seen throughout the day. It was single digits when we started in Frankston, and low 30’s (approx 90f) when I crossed the finish line. It was ridiculously hot at some stages. One of the great things about my Scody Optimise AIR tri suit is that as much as it is aero, it is probably the most cooling suit I have ever worn. The sleeves provide added sun protection, and the fabric retains a very small amount of moisture to help cool me down. With this in mind, I do have some tips for everyone racing in the heat, ensuring you stay cool whilst in no way compromising your speed and performance.
- Trick your mind. Much of our perception of the heat is a central nervous system response, proactively protecting the body. We can actually deal with a lot more fluctuations in heat than you would realise, we just have to trick the mind. A couple of ways I did this at Ironman Melbourne was wearing my Oakleys to create a sense of shade, and putting ice in sensitive areas such as hands, tops of my head, and well, ahh, the genitals.
- It’s not about flappy clothes. It’s a little bit of a myth that flappy or baggy clothes are cooler in hot weather. All they will do is slow you down as they are extremely susceptible to drag. What you need is ventilation in key areas that will take on as much wind flow as possible, whilst offering no aerodynamic disadvantage. On my tri suit I have a fabric known as Dynamic Mesh through the side panels, and a front zip that when down give me complete cooling on the run.
- Thin is good. I have been fortunate to learn quite a lot from the guys from Scody. One of these is the importance they place on thin fabric. Basically, the thinner the fabric, the less restriction to heat transfer. If you feel clammy and restricted across the chest in your current suit, it probably uses fabrics that are too thick for your needs.
Staying down, all the time
Keeping on the aerodynamics theme, it’s important to touch on the need to be able to prepare the body to get in these contorted positions, and stay there. It’s a huge ask on the body and definitely doesn’t come naturally. There is no point wearing the best tri suit Scody has, and having to come out of my “optimal” position all the time because my back cannot handle it. Apart from practising holding this position in training, during the countless long rides and interval sets Gilsey gets me to do, I also spend a lot of time in the gym strengthening and stabilising. Look, you may already be doing this, and if you do then awesome. If you don’t, have a look at the exercises that I do as they will probably help you stay as aero as possible in your next race.
What it works: Transverse abdominus (TA), Lower Back, Shoulders
Why it works: Helps with maintaining position during long rides and time trials.
How to do it: Come up onto your toes and forearms, keeping back flat.
What it works: Transverse abdominus and obliques
Why it works: Improves pelvic stability, reducing lazy hips when fatigued
How to do it: On your side. Raise your bottom off the floor, keeping your side straight.
What it works: Transverse abdomius, Rectus Abdominus, Hip flexors
Why it works: Improves pedal efficiency with activation of core muscles during hip flexion and extension.
How to do it: On back. Touch elbow to opposite knee, the alternate, fast.
What it works: Transverse abdomnus, rectus abdominus, hip flexors
Why it works: Like the bicycle, only this time more dynamic!
How to do it: On all fours, alternate one leg forward, one leg back. Fast!
What it works: Thoracic spine and erector spinae
Why it works: Prevents stiffness caused by prolonged positioning, reducing reliance on hips
How to do it: On your back with a tightly rolled towel between shoulder blades and waist.
Now that you are ready to be more aero, I have a great offer for you. For a limited time, my great friends at Scody have provided me a discount that I can share with you. All you need to do is use TIM2015 on the checkout for a 10% discount on any made to order kits. Of course you should be buying mine, right?
Photo: R. Dobson
Yesterday was an epic day in Melbourne. It’s funny in this triathlon game. Some days you go out to race and as hard and painful as it is, you feel good. Mentally, you’re in the zone and the race just flows. Sometimes though, it’s just a tough day at the office. And that’s certainly how things went down for me at IM Melbourne.
Here’s how the race for the Asia-Pacific Championship unfolded…
It was a nippy start down at the Frankston pier- about 12 degrees, but felt a little colder with the wind. Thank goodness the water temp in Port Phillip Bay is still up a bit.
I had a good start, stuck with the front group and didn’t let off, but started to sting pretty early on in the swim. Something wasn’t quite right with my back and that kept going all day. The back end of the swim was tough. As always, my aim was to stick with the front group in the swim, but we ended up in single file and pretty stretched out. I came in at 48:06.
Congrats to Marko Albert, who broke the course swim record by 4 seconds with a split of 45:18.
My back was very tight getting on the bike- I found it hard to stay on the saddle and I was 2:35 off the pace. I knew I had some serious work to do.
Nils (Nils Frommhold) and Luke Bell were out in front and the second group included Sticksy (Brad Kahlefeldt) and Marko. I was in the third chase group with Robbo and Cal (Peter Robertson and Callum Millward). The guys out front set a blistering pace. Conditions were great out on the Eastlink Motorway – Melbourne certainly delivered on the promise of a fast bike leg. When we hit the turnaround point and headed into Lap 2, Nils and Luke still had about 4 minutes on us.
I felt like we were losing time and by the 135km mark Nils and Luke Bell had a 9-minute lead – they were certainly cranking it out. When it got to 40km to go, my back was feeling alright, so I thought I’d just give it some stick and see how I felt. I was surprised when no one went with me.
I went hard and got off the bike at 05:15:23. Nils had come in at 05:04:36 with Luke not far behind. Now they had more than a 10-minute lead which I needed to reel in.
I was really hurting and it’s times like this that you realise 80% of triathlon is about the mental game. You don’t know how the guys in front are travelling, you just know that you need to keep going and persevere. And that can be tougher on a point-to-point course, like the one in Melbourne, because there are no turnarounds so often you can’t see who you’re chasing.
After 15km Nils still had 9:30 but at the17km mark I ran into 2nd place. After really pushing it, Luke Bell had imploded and was walking. I went past him with Sticksy on my tail and he had Jeffrey Symonds on his.
By 21km Nils was 6:30 ahead and I was starting to reel him in. Jeff and Sticksy were hanging in there behind me. At 25km, I just put the pedal down and by the 30km things started to get really interesting. The race was really on!
If you read my last post, you’ll know that I had a Plan B- if things got ugly at this stage of the race. I was going to drop in to Luke Bell’s place for a cold one (his street is right at the 30km marker). Let me tell you – that was a pretty attractive option, but it didn’t happen!
I was in 2nd place but I wasn’t exactly sure how far ahead Nils was. Then someone said he was just around the corner and sure enough, all of a sudden, there he was. I could see he was slowing and couldn’t hold the pace. By this stage, Sticksy had dropped off and now it was down to Jeff Symonds and I.
Over the line
I took the lead with 13km to go and then Jeff and I had a real ding-dong battle. All credit to him – he was running my legs off and I was in a world of pain. I ended up running my quickest marathon, but it wasn’t enough. Towards the end Jeff turned the screws and it was all over for me.
Obviously, I’m more than happy with a 2nd against a tough field and it’s a great step on the road to Kona. Congratulations to Jeff Symonds on a top effort and a great result.
Like I said, for me – it was a tough day at the office. But that’s triathlon – I’m glad I stuck it out. Ultimately, persistence builds mental strength – strength that you need to achieve any worthwhile goal. And the good thing is, I’m validated for Kona and I earned some extra points along the way.
As tough as it can be, slogging it out on the course, results like this don’t happen without support. So-
- Thanks to the guys at Giant in Hampton for tuning up the beast – it’s a sweet ride!
- As always, thanks to all my sponsors – I appreciate the fact that you’ve got my back and give me the freedom to do what I do.
- To the IM Melbourne team – you ran a great event. I heard lots of good things about the coverage. Keep up the good work!
- And as always, thanks to my coach Gilesy for the ‘gentle’ encouragement you provided along the way. Thanks mate!
And finally, special congratulations to everyone who made it through their first Ironman – you’re bloody champions, well done!
Photo: Korupt Vision