You know, it is usually me talking clients in to doing events.
I believe events bring focus to your training which isn’t always easy to….well focus on! And just because we are trainers/coaches with an extensive background in sport and being active in general, a consistent exercise gig doesn’t always come easy. I personally have to use tricks just like I teach my clients.
So back in October 2016, a couple of mates who also happen to be former clients suggested to me, that I might like to join them in the Mooloolaba Triathlon in March of 2017, which involves a 1.5km swim, 40km bike ride and 10km run. I like this kind of thing, you know former clients hassling me to do something. It means I brought up the kids the right way!
Up until that point the longest triathlon I had done was the Corporate triathlon on the Gold Coast, which requires a 400m swim, 10km bike ride and 4km run. I have done that with clients at least 4, maybe 5 times over the past 12 years, but that is it for my triathlon experience and the last one I did was 2015.
When the email came in, I promptly did what most of my clients do after being asked to commit to something and ignored it a bit and not exactly hoping it would go away but more sat on it for a while. A good while actually waiting for inspiration or more cajoling.
Then one day I really thought about it and the old ‘bucket list’ concept got me. I love the idea of doing as many different things as possible whilst on the planet. That ‘experience collector’ beer ad gets me everytime. My particular belief system is that we only get one shot at this life, so it seems kind of crazy to limit your experiences when we have the ability to ‘have a go’ at so many things. This opportunity fit nicely in to that idea for me. After all, this was an “Olympic” distance triathlon meaning Olympians do it! Cool. I could pretend for a day.
My commitment to enter, which took place on Dec 16, meant that I would look after my health and fitness, perhaps more than I usually would at a time of year when things can, to be quite honest, go a little south. It set up a reason to swim, cycle and run, which are not things I always do, especially not together. It also decreed that over Christmas and the New Year there would be way less chance of over eating and drinking (What??? You’re a trainer, you don’t do that kind of thing???!! Well ah yeah I am human!) because let’s face it, it is very difficult to get your head around an early run if there has been any over indulgence. Case in point below on Jan 3, 2016. A 16km run with my brother that almost killed me when I did it in Sydneyand when I was way under trained for such an undertaking. But yes what doesn’t kill us…and all that
In addition to the challenge-myself-thing, I was quite keen to come out the other end of the holidays looking and feeling fitter than I usually might be at that time of year, after all I’m a personal trainer, right? The spectre of the Mooloolaba Tri kind of haunted me and spurred me on to greater action. As it turned out it, the Tri was one of the best things I have done for a while because it reminded me of the power of the mind and what you can achieve when you use it as the powerful tool that it is. But more on that in a sec.
Also, let me just clarify something. This is not a story of me being a legend or anything. Far from it. I finished about half way in the pack for my age group, which was in the spritely 50-54 year old age category, not exactly the premier event! But it is my belief that unless you are a professional, it is all about the challenges you set yourself as an individual and then the interesting way you either meet that challenge or not. Talking of not meeting it, I set a challenge about 4 years back to run the Bridge to Brisbane in a certain time to try and ‘turn the clock back 20 years’. That was perhaps an example of a stretch goal as was my popular ‘Leather pants’ challenge back in 2009 ish. As it turns out I came close but in the end I came up short on both of those challenges but that is not to say the pursuit didn’t result in good things.
I did 42 mins 20s instead 39 mins 59s for the 10km and didn’t quite fit in to the leather pants all that well, which is perhaps just as well as I might have been tempted to wear them. Sometimes these challenge things work out, sometimes they don’t. I think the most important thing is that you actually set them and then, in the words of the famous archetypal Aussie, “Have a go ya mug!”
So back to Mooloolaba Triathlon 2007 and this Brisbane Personal Trainer’s (Triathlon novice competitor’s) account. Another reason I am writing this blog is because I found great value in reading stories from some other people who had done it before, so I had more than half an idea about what to expect. I would really like to think someone who is doing it next year finds this post and it is helpful. I discovered about 2 weeks out from the event after reading one of the stories from my searches, that the run has 3 hills in it, which I wasn’t expecting because I thought erroneously that the Sunshine coast is pretty flat! As it turned out all my run training was on the flat so I was a little worried. I also found much to my dismay, only on the day before mind you (I know I should have researched it a bit better early in my training plan), that the bike ride wasn’t ‘more or less flat’ either like I had been led to believe, you know Sunshine coast being flat and all that. The statement of ‘more or less flat” may be fairly accurate to a true cyclist but for someone who only ever rode on the true flat of Kedron Brook struggling to hold on to 30km/h for even short stints, hills were a definite concern believe me.
I had done my numbers and looked at my best times for each leg from my training when trying to predict my overall time. I had done the 1500m swim once only in my training. I know not nearly enough. When I did that one too, I was wearing my new tri suit. Think old style weight lifting get up but cooler! If you are ‘tri person’ then you already know what I am talking about. But if you were like me and are thinking about it. Just get one. Man does that thing make a difference to your swimming. I even bettered my best 1km swim pace per 50m and felt better at the end of the sole 1500m swim with a time of 30 mins 20s. For a pretty crappy swimmer, if I am to be frank here, I was going to be very happy if I could get anywhere near 30 mins in the event. Even though we all know a calm pool is very different to the ocean, I had read that you could be around the same time for the same distance if the surf conditions were kind to you. I wasn’t so sure. I alluded to some cycle times earlier and the best that I could do on the Kedron Brook was to be able to maintain somewhere between 30 and 32km/h for short distances. Admittedly I did some longer rides on computrainer, with the longest being 30km, logging an average speed of 32km/h, but again, I wasn’t sure what it was going to be like on the day to follow a 1.5km ocean swim with a run into and out of transition and then a 40km ride with some hills! Gulp. The last leg is the run and in my training the hardest session I did was a so called ‘brick’ session ( your legs feel like bricks. Well named) which was an 8km run after a 30km computrainer ride. I was able to painfully hang around the 5min per km mark on a very hot day. I didn’t really hold out hope of 5min k’s come race day, not after a 40km ride at least. In retrospect, out of my total number of dedicated training sessions from Dec 16 to March 12, that ‘brick’ session (aptly name because your legs feel like bricks after trying to run after a bike ride) was a critical one and I think it made a big difference. I tallied up all my training sessions from when I entered, right up to the day and it was 48 sessions in total, over about 12 weeks of training, including 11 swims, 22 bike rides and 15 runs. No surprise then that my bike ride was my best leg!
But the thoughts through my head on the day of the event were this: I would be super happy with a 32 min ish swim, 3-4 min transition, then on the bike, the dream being to maintain 30-31km/h on average for the 40km resulting in about 1 hour 20, another 2-3 min transition mabye and then, factoring in the hills, do something like 5mins 15s per km for the run for about a 52.30 run. If I totalled all that up I was thinking 2 hours 52 mins would be great for me – As it turned out everything went right. But as the veteran triathlete said to me at the start line, after observing the virtually ideal conditions, that it was indeed “PB” weather and there are ”no excuses today”. He did put me off a bit too I gotta say when he asked me how many tri’s I had done….this season!
My final time was 2 hours 40s (32 min swim 3 min ish transition, 1 hour 12 ish bike around 33km/h average, 2 mins ish transition and then 50mins 20s for the run) I really couldn’t have hoped for a time like that to be honest. As I said, I would have been very happy with 2 hours 52 ish mins and even that was hard for me to visualise pre-event. I must admit I got super lucky too as I broke the cardinal rule of trying something on race day that I hadn’t practiced at training and that was the fluids and carbohydrates I ingested. The problem was that I hadn’t trained enough to test this stuff out properly and the one time I did try a carb product, it was something I couldn’t find again in any shop, as it was an old sample given to me from somewhere I couldn’t even remember. It was probably out of date. I ended up trying some Endura and yes feeling very bad in the stomach towards the end of the bike leg. I wasn’t sure what was worse, my glutes or my stomach when I first got off the bike and I seriously wondered how I was going to walk led alone run! Luckily both the glutes and the stomach both settled before I got up the first hill of the run and the only thing on my mind after that was the first 1km marker because it meant I was really over the hill.
So what was the lesson here? Well I used a mental trick that I used quite a few years back when I was running the City to Surf and trying to break 4min per km pace. I chunked it down. What I mean is, I looked at each little section and focussed on that and nothing else. When I got to the end of that section, I would simply focus on the next one and the rest of the race was a series of repeating this. It was a real ‘here and now’ thing, process focus not outcome. The swim looked daunting (it didn’t help only ever having swum 1500m once in my training) when I walked up the beach from where I was staying. I walked on the sand past the exit point of the swim right up along the beach, to what I thought couldn’t be the start, because it was SOOO far away. When the race started, I thought about the first bouy and that was all, not the sharks (maybe a little), not the occasional kick to the head or slap to the face. I did the same all the way for the rest of the event, the M shaped swim, the bike (which was out and back) and the run (a threepeat of a lovely hill). This ‘segmenting’ of the event in to little discrete and manageable units was very effective because I am sure that if I sat down and thought about every bit of the course that I had to go over, before heading off, I would have literally freaked out and tightened up.
As for all my friends who did it, they ALL achieved the goal they had set for themselves. But I reckon the real win was when the trigger was pulled to say, “hey I’m in!” back in mid December. When you commit in your head, magic happens. It is good to know that when you do a few things like this, the confidence that it can build from actually doing what you set your mind to, is quite liberating.
Your goal may be something different. It may be bigger or it may be smaller but the key is to set your sights on some thing and then back yourself, to be able to do it. Whether you do or do not achieve the dream goal is okay. You did something and I can tell you, that is way better than most.
The beauty of the community event (well done btw to the organisers of the Mooloolabah triathlon 2017, it was superbly run) is that you get to hang out with a lot of other people who value the opportunity and the joy we can get from being active and using the capabilities inherent to this amazing piece of machinery we have, called our body.