Race Report – Triathlon SA Winter Duathlon Series Race 3

This was my 3rd duathlon of the season. All 3 were exactly the same course, so the idea was that I’d improve my times from Race 1 to Race 3. Of course, that was before Race 2 happened!

Race 2 was done on, as it turned out, not one but two flat tyres. So it could only get better from there!

The weather conditions were significantly better than last time – it was still a bit windy but it was a lot warmer.

It was clearly the bike leg that needed improvement. All I needed to do was have both tyres adequately pumped up, and use my gears properly. Simples!

The day before the race, I got a parcel from Mekong which included my brand new tri-suit! There was nothing wrong with my old one, but the Mekong one was just so pretty, plus I had been assured by several people that it would make me go faster, so naturally I had to have one! And this duathlon would be the perfect opportunity to try it out!

It fit perfectly and was uber-comfy!

On arrival at Victoria Park, I racked my bike and coach Kent (the one who pointed out my flat tyre last time!) came over and checked my tyres – they both got the thumbs up!

There were a few familiar faces out there, notably ultra running mother/daughter team Heather and Ally, both doing their first duathlon. Kristie was back again, and Karen and Daryl were there as spectators this time (Karen having had a bike mishap during the week).

After the race briefing we were split up into our waves – Open and Under 40 athletes in the first wave, 40 and over in the second, and Short Course in the third. (I was doing the long course again – 4km run/16km ride/2km run. The short course was half those distances.)

It was quite warm out there, for the first time in any of the duathlons I did take advantage of the cups of water near the start/finish line on most of my running laps!

On the first run I started reasonably conservatively on the first of 4 laps but then my competitive side kicked in and I decided to try to pass as many people as I could on the run. I would probably pay for it later but it was my chance to get a bit of a head start on the bike leg!

First run leg – so far so good! Official race photo by Colin Graham (Geosnapshot)

According to Strava I finished the first run in 17:59 and got through the first transition in 13 seconds – I’m not sure about that T1 time but I’ll take it!

It took me a few hundred metres for either of my feet to click into the pedals, which was a bit frustrating, but eventually I did get them in! Riding past the grandstand (with wind assistance) I went into a higher gear (as per Shane’s advice from the first duathlon) which really helped to stop my legs from going too fast!

Looks like I’m going really fast here! Official race photo by Colin Graham (Geosnapshot)

The trickiest part of the course as always was the ‘hot dog’ hairpin turn (so named because on the map it kind of looks like a hot dog – they probably could have called it something else but it is a family-friendly event!) It took a few laps before I got it sorted – and as per previous races, as the laps ticked by, there were less and less people left out there to potentially be trying to pass me!

I did get passed on my left a couple of times but mostly people were really good and called out as they were about to pass me on my right.

All in all, the ride went pretty smoothly. My Strava time for the ride was 37:46, compared with 44:08 in Race 1 and 47:43 in Race 2. It was all because of the suit!

Concentration face! Official race photo by Colin Graham (Geosnapshot)

Then I went through T2 just behind Kristie (T2 was 39 seconds according to Strava) and headed back out for 2 more laps of the run course. Kristie didn’t use bike shoes so her T2 was a lot quicker than mine, giving me something to chase in the run!

The second run was a bit slower than in Race 1, maybe because I’d really pushed hard on the bike. Thankfully, it was significantly better than Race 2 (EVERYTHING about Race 2 sucked!)

Can you tell I’m nearly finished? Official race photo by Colin Graham (Geosnapshot)

Gosh, 2km feels like a long way!

On the second lap I decided to try to pass as many people as I could. Although my legs felt pretty heavy, I guessed everyone else would be in the same boat! When I got to the last few hundred metres there were a couple of girls I decided I needed to at least try to pass. I actually ended up passing one RIGHT on the finish line, that was a good feeling – for me at least!

Almost there! Official race photo by Colin Graham (Geosnapshot)

My overall time was 11 minutes faster than Race 2 and around 6 minutes faster than Race 1. So it was an overall PB as well as a bike PB – a great way to end the series!

Thanks to Triathlon SA and all the volunteers for putting on the series, I have learned a lot from the 3 races and I know I still have a lot to learn! One of the things I love about the triathlon scene is that people are really friendly and encouraging, and always willing to offer a tip or two to help a newbie like me!

I’m still deciding whether to go to the final race in the Barossa Valley (there’s a hill in the bike ride, but there is wine in the Barossa…). Decisions, decisions!

Race Report – Triathlon SA Winter Duathlon Series Race 2 (aka ‘The Race That Sucked’)

Well, that sucked!

I didn’t want to write about this one, because it sucked. But then, you do have those days, and it would be unfair not to write about the sucky races, because they happen!

The first race in the series went reasonably well after Shane gave me the tip about my gears. I had decided to try to do the whole series, if only to try to improve on my own times. Race 2 happened to fall the day after a very entertaining work function, so consequently I left it until the day to enter, just in case!

It was a windy day but thankfully not raining, so I decided to give it a crack.

The first (4km)  run was just OK – a bit slower than last time, but as I was managing to overtake quite a few people, it still felt OK.

Transition 1 went as well as can be expected. 22 seconds to change shoes and hat, grab the bike and head off onto the cycle course. 8 x 2km laps. Sounds pretty easy, right?

Well let me tell you it wasn’t. The bits where I was riding with the wind were just OK. The bits where I was riding into it were not. On a few laps I was almost blown sideways off the track! That wasn’t helped by the fact that on the first few laps people were passing me on my left – luckily there were no collisions, there could easily have been!

EVERYONE passed me. Almost everyone. The wind was a factor, sure, but everyone else had to contend with that too!

Not many people passed me on the last few laps. That was because almost everyone else had finished by then!

The one positive I could take out of the bike leg was that the hairpin turn seemed a bit easier this time. I had sort of got the hang of it at the last duathlon. I had learned that if you take it as a sweeping bend it’s a lot easier than trying to do a 180 degree turn! That didn’t stop one person from passing me on the inside as I was making the turn! (I would always check over my right shoulder 3-4 times as I approached the turn, to make sure no-one was approaching, and if I saw someone out of the corner of my eye I’d let them past so I had a bit of space. What I wasn’t doing was checking over my LEFT shoulder. Grrr!)

I knew to use the harder gears on the faster parts of the course but on this occasion the gears were just not working for me – the bike was not sounding normal, and I knew there was something not quite right but I wasn’t about to stop, I just wanted to Get. It. Done.

After what seemed like an eternity I made it back to transition. T2 sucked as well. The spot where I had had my bike, now had someone else’s bike in it, so instead of there being a nice gap for me to put my bike, it took me a while to actually find my ‘spot’! I had to wrangle the bike onto the rack and try not to get tangled up with other bikes, which wasted a bit of time. Then because of how the bikes were racked I had to get on my hands and knees to retrieve my running shoes and hat. In the process of taking my long sleeved top off I dropped my sunnies and one of the lenses fell out. Oh well, luckily it wasn’t sunny, I could manage to run 2km without them!

After what seemed like an eternity (59 seconds according to Strava) I was finally out on the last run leg to finish the race. My second run wasn’t too bad although my legs were completely like jelly to start with, more so than last time! When I look at my time for the second run leg I averaged 4:34 pace which is not too terrible. It certainly felt slower than that. I am sure I would have been able to overtake some people if there’d been anyone left out on course.

So that was it – Race 2 done and dusted. Not my finest moment by any means but a good learning experience!

Everyone else did well. Karen and Daryl placed again, as did Ros, who had done the short course. Cherie had successfully completed her first duathlon.

Karen insisted on a group photo, ‘because if there’s no photo it didn’t happen’. (I would have been quite happy to pretend it DIDN’T happen, but as I was in the photo, I guess that means it happened – plus it’s on Strava too so I guess that confirms it!)

Evidence!

As I was back at the bike rack putting my warm clothes on, chatting to fellow athlete Kristie about how much I hate sucking at things and should really stick to running, my club running coach Kent (also an experienced triathlete and Ironman) pointed out that my back tyre was flat (and had been for a good part of the race, if not all of it!) Which was nice because it means maybe I don’t suck quite as much as I thought I did! I suck at knowing and maintaining my bike but if I can get the bike right who knows, maybe I can become an adequate cyclist one day! (It wasn’t DEAD flat, just much flatter than it should be!)

Karen and Daryl showing off their bling. Me, the unwitting photobomber in the background!

So there you have it. Shortest race report ever! Thanks to all the organisers, volunteers and other athletes out there, and I guess I’ll be seeing you again at Race 3!

Oh and as a post script I was out today, got caught in the rain so stopped to look at a bookshop while I waited for the rain to clear. Found this. Think the universe is trying to tell me something!

Back in the saddle!

As a cyclist, I make a very good runner. I don’t even like to use the word ‘cyclist’. I prefer ‘runner that rides a bit’. Then again, I’m forever telling people who run, who don’t like to call themselves ‘runners’, that ‘if you run, you’re a runner’. So by that logic I guess I am a cyclist!

I haven’t been doing a lot of cycling lately. And by ‘not a lot’, I mean NONE. The bike has been in its traditional place, racked on the back of my couch, since it was last ridden on New Year’s Day. That day, I did 2 easy 10km rides in between the 2 New Year’s Day parkruns. Prior to this, my previous ‘proper’ ride was my first successful Norton Summit loop. So it was about time I dusted off the treadly again!

During the week I’d made a few pretty big decisions. One was potentially career-defining (and not reversible) and the other one may yet be reversed!

The first decision was to sign a deal to move from my government job (soon to be non-existent) to continue to do the same work in the non-government sector. That was an easy decision (a no-brainer) but still it was a bit weird to sign the form to resign from the public service after over 19 years!

The second one was that I am not going to run a marathon this year. Or any time in the foreseeable future! I had always planned to go up to the Gold Coast where I’d run the fastest 2 of my 6 marathons, to get a sub 3:45 to qualify for Chicago, my second of the 6 majors.

All summer, on Sundays I’d been enjoying whatever I decided to do (mostly trail running, occasionally cycling), all the while thinking about the impending start of the 16 week training programme, and the long road runs that invariably come with it!

I did one long road run in January, in the week leading up to my 50k track race. It was 30k and it was horrible. In fairness though, I hadn’t exactly built up to it like you normally do. I’d just gone from zero to 30 and wondered why it wasn’t a great run! I thought to myself, it won’t be long before I’m doing this every week. And I wasn’t looking forward to it with eager anticipation!

This Tuesday I wasn’t really enjoying my morning run. That may have had something to do with the fact that it was the hilliest of the normally flattish Tuesday run routes. And I’d just come off a pretty hilly trail race on Sunday, and had quite a bit of ‘vert’ in the legs for the month.

Somewhere along the way I thought again about the long road runs and thought ‘Great, it’s only a few weeks before the training programme starts. GREAT!’ (As in, not really that great!)

Then I thought to myself, why am I doing this? I don’t want to do a marathon this year! Marathons are hard! Actually it’s more the training that I don’t want to do, and without the training I’m not going to get the time I want, and without the time I want it’s kind of pointless, so I guess that means I don’t want to do a marathon this year. So then I thought, WHY am I doing this? If I don’t want to do it, why am I doing it? And that was when I decided that I’m not going to do it. If I do decide to enter Chicago it will be either via lottery or a package.

And just like that, I started enjoying the run a whole lot more! (Plus by this stage I’d finished the big climb and was running back downhill).

With no marathon to train for I can continue doing trail runs on the weekends, and training properly for Five Peaks 58km and UTA 100km. I’ve done just over 5000m vert for the month of February, which is a lot for me. I think it’s helping. My hill running has improved a lot!

The other thing I can do, now that I’m not training for a marathon, is get out and do a bike ride on Sundays instead of a long run. That’s what I did this weekend!

The Grand Slam is a series of 5 group rides around some pretty spectacular and challenging parts of Adelaide and beyond. Today was the first of the series. Each ride has 2 options, the ‘Mini Slam’ and the ‘Grand Slam’ distance. The Mini is generally about half the distance of the Grand Slam. There is always the option of entering for the Grand Slam and ‘downgrading’ to the Mini – the course takes you back past the start line halfway, so you can refuel, top up your water, and then if you decide you’ve had enough you can pull out at that point.

Today’s ride was centred on Mount Torrens, in the Adelaide Hills (up until this morning I had no clue where Mount Torrens was!), taking in towns such as Gumeracha, Forreston and Birdwood.

Today’s route!

I decided to do the mini, given this was only my second group ride (after Gear Up Girl, a 55km relatively flat ride for women only) and my first involving hills. And I hadn’t ridden for nearly 2 months! The mini distance was 40km and the full distance was 80km.

It was pretty cool at the start and there was even a bit of rain on the drive up to the start at Mount Torrens. I was a little unprepared – I didn’t have any cycling arm warmers (and none of my running ones matched my cycling kit!) and for the life of me I couldn’t find my rain jacket! I did have a long sleeved running top which I threw in the car just in case. I ended up wearing it for the first half of the ride.

The start was a wave start, with Karen, Daryl and me starting in the last wave. None of us were planning on setting a cracking pace, and were happy to let the fast ones have a clear run! Just in front of me was a guy in a T-shirt and shorts (ie not bike shorts!), illustrating perfectly how inclusive these rides are. They cater to everyone from the elite to the complete newbie! As long as you have a bike and can ride it, you’re in!

The obligatory start line selfie!

It was a challenging course, and although partway through the loop I thought to myself that I might have been able to give 80km a crack, I was glad by the end that I hadn’t opted for the long distance! After all, my longest ever ride was the aforementioned 55km Gear Up Girl ride, which was a much easier ride than this one, and other than that I hadn’t done anything over 30km!

At first I was RIGHT at the back, and trying to keep Daryl in sight, but as my legs got warmed up and I got used to being on the bike again, I gradually caught up and passed him.

The ride was quite hilly but manageable. Karen had previously told me that some people stopped and walked their bikes up some of the hills! I was expecting that I would be doing the same at some point but I didn’t want to be the first, I was hoping that I’d see someone ahead of me hopping off their bike and then I’d feel like I could do the same!

I was pleased to pass the guy in the T-shirt. Although I’m not competitive when it comes to cycling, I did draw the line at a guy in a T-shirt and shorts being faster than me!

I did most of the ride on my own, except when I was overtaken by some of the faster late starters, or overtaking some other runners. It was actually really nice, and being not particularly busy roads, I felt quite safe even on the 100km/h roads with hardly any shoulder!

I even managed to get a bit of speed up (and I’m not talking anything particularly rapid here) on some of the descents. Some of the roads were very smooth, and I could ‘fly’ down them without even contemplating using the brakes! My previous hilly ride, Norton Summit, was on a day when the roads were covered in debris from a recent storm, so I was quite cautious on the downhills. One stick could result in disaster! Today though, the roads were nicely clear for us!

Of course, getting some speed up on the downs helped to get some momentum to get me up the hills too!

There was a refreshment stop at about the halfway mark. Unlike in running events, where most people either don’t stop at all, or only stop for long enough to grab what they need and keep going, in these events people tend to stop for a decent length of time. You get off your bike and have a decent rest. This was the first (and only) time I ran into Karen, she being quite a long way ahead of me, and when I arrived at the checkpoint she was bonding with one of the volunteers’ dogs! Karen was doing the full distance (Daryl, like me, was going for the short option) and she set off not long after I got there, saying she’d see me back at the start, where she’d stop for refreshments before heading out on the second loop.

At the refreshment stop.

I had one of my 2 Clif bars and waited for Daryl who arrived not long after Karen left. I took the opportunity to take off my long sleeved top and tie it around my waist. I’ve got those pockets in the back of my cycling top but my top was a bit bulky for that.  (I don’t use the pockets after I lost a Clif bar on the very first bumpy section of the Gear Up Girl ride!)

Daryl, who had ridden this course before, kindly told me that the second half was harder than the first! Apparently there was a particularly nasty hill around the 30km mark. I decided at that point not to look at my watch until I was finished. It would come as a ‘nice’ surprise!

I commented to Daryl that as we approached each of the towns, where the speed limit dropped to 50km/h, I would instinctively slow down (like I would if I was driving)! AS IF I was doing more than 50km/h!

The second half was a bit hillier, but I hadn’t encountered anything particularly brutal. Then I came to a point where I had to make a right turn, and I heard another cyclist coming up behind me. I was going to let him pass me but he was happy to sit behind me. That was when he asked me if I was intentionally riding up hills in the hardest gear. (Apparently some people actually do do that!) Of course, I was not! I had thought I was in the easiest gear and I was just a bit unfit! He kindly gave me a few pointers to get myself into the right gear, and after that (surprise surprise) it got a whole lot easier!

I hadn’t ridden since New Year’s Day, and on that day one of my friends had set the bike up for me on the right cog so I wouldn’t have to change cogs during that particular ride. I had mistakenly assumed he’d set me up on the easiest cog, but no, it was the hardest one!

I managed to climb all the hills (helped by a few nice descents in between) until I hit a particularly steep climb at the 35km mark.

(I later checked Strava and it was in fact the steepest grade of the whole ride, so it wasn’t just the fact that my legs were getting a bit tired that made it so hard!)

I got to the point where I couldn’t ride in a straight line, I couldn’t get the pedals around smoothly and I was riding all over the road. So I decided the only option was to get off and walk. At the same time a girl in front of me was doing exactly the same thing! I managed to get my left foot uncleated before coming to a stop, but couldn’t quite manage to get off the bike while still remaining vertical. I did a very graceful stack to the left, with quite a soft landing and no damage done!

It was only a really short climb so probably 50 metres max of walking before the grade levelled out and I got back on the bike again to finish the ride.

I got to the start of Mt Torrens town, back in familiar territory, back on the road I’d driven earlier in the morning. I realised at that point that it wasn’t 40km but actually only 38km. That was plenty! I put myself back onto one of the harder cogs as by now I was back on the flat.

I rode past my car (always good to see it’s still there!) and back to the start line, where Karen was about to set off for her second loop. I managed to get off the bike successfully this time (a good thing as there were a lot more witnesses this time!)

Done!

After finishing I went inside to check in and grab a quick bite to eat before going back outside to wait for Daryl. We then got in his car and went to follow the route of the second lap, to catch up with Karen and take her some sustenance! Driving along the second lap route we were both glad we’d opted for the short course!

I was really glad to have gone out and done this today. I was pleased to have managed most of the ride without having to get off (despite being in totally the wrong gear for most of it – clearly I have much to learn!) and it was a beautiful course with some stunning scenery! We rode past quite a lot of vineyards – the Adelaide Hills being a well known wine region – but fortunately no cellar doors, otherwise I may not have made it back to the finish! We did get a tiny bit of rain, and I’d never ridden in rain before so I’m very grateful that not much came of it!

I’d like to thank Bicycle SA for putting on this event, which is, as I said earlier, really for anyone! The volunteers were fantastic, and the course was so well marked that even I could follow it! (Hot tip: when doing one of these rides, always follow the arrows rather than other cyclists – not all cyclists are actually part of the event, and who knows where you might end up!) The refreshment station was well positioned and very much appreciated!

Some of the fantastic volunteers at the refreshment stop!

For anyone who’s thinking about joining in a group ride but doesn’t think they’re ready, give it a go! (I didn’t think I was ready!)

See, it’s not that bad!

I’m hoping to get out and do a few more of them throughout the year but unfortunately the next one is the day after the 58km Five Peaks Ultra. Yeah, I don’t think that’s going to happen!

 

Influencers…

image

As it’s a bit of a quiet period in terms of racing/training, I thought this week I might try something different and reflect on a few people who had a big impact on my sporting (and personal) life in 2015. I’ve just picked out 6 because otherwise this would be an incredibly long post!

I’ll start with Karen. Karen has been mentioned before and probably has been the biggest influence on me (for better or worse!). She is a truly remarkable woman, ridiculously generous and selfless, a never-ending source of useful information, a great listener and giver of advice, and always up for crazy adventures and silly dress-ups!

When we first met I thought she was insane (and intimidating!) having just done 160km in the 24 hour event. History shows that I have now completed a 100+km ultra so now that doesn’t seem so crazy. But at the time – wow! She said that when we met she thought I was scary. Fair enough, I’d just shaved my head so I imagine I was quite a sight!

So in particular this year Karen’s influence has allowed me to (and this is just the tip of the iceberg):
– complete the 6 hour event 6 days after the Gold Coast Marathon (most people would have said that was nuts – for her part she went one better and did the 24 hour event 6 days after a 6 day desert race!)
– enter the 100km track race which is coming up at the end of this month – time will tell if that was a good idea!
– complete the Heysen 105 ultra – her advice and pre-race pep talk were invaluable.
– work on my swimming – encouraging me to enter an Aquathlon, and also letting me come to swim at her exclusive health club as a guest!
– get into cycling – my first ride with her was memorable for the fact that I fell off at 7.5km and wanted to quit, but she insisted that I keep going and made it all the way to Goolwa (25km – by far the furthest I’d ever ridden!). She then insisted that I needed to come for another ride 2 days later which was much more successful, with no ‘unscheduled dismountings’! Oh and she also gave me some cycling kit so I can at least sort of look like a cyclist!
– be a running diva (in a good way) – even if the running is not going so well it’s important to look good doing it, preferably in colour-coordinated lululemon gear! However, her influence will only go so far here – hair and makeup done before a 6am group run is a bridge too far for me…
– go to Thredbo for the Fun and Fitness week – that is coming up next week and promises to be a fantastic week away (and no doubt material for a future blog post!)

Then we have Natalie. Nat is one of the organisers of my Thursday running group, a staple of my weekly programme. During this year in particular she has been great at listening to my issues during runs and giving some great advice (not always taken I must admit) – I tell you, group runs are the BEST therapy and also FREE!

Nat is also an excellent cyclist and was the one who first got me onto a road bike and using cleats. She has shown great patience and has always been willing to fit me in for a lesson! Not to mention let me use her son’s VERY NICE bike and also shoes! I have had 3 lessons with Nat so far and while she was away this past week she very generously allowed me to borrow the bike. I went out for the two aforementioned 20+km rides with Karen and the stuff Nat taught me is starting to fall into place! Look out world – my first triathlon is getting closer!

Also part of the Thursday running family is James. He is not only one of the group leaders along with Nat, but also the social organiser of the group – always keen to arrange dinners and impromptu Sunday drinks. And let’s not forget the legendary post-run breakfasts in his backyard!

But James’s biggest influence on me this year was two seemingly small but extremely significant gestures. Firstly, the night before the 6 hour event, at one of our regular group dinners, he asked me if I would like him to bring me a coffee during the run (the forecast was for cold and wet) which I gratefully accepted. And when he arrived with it, about halfway through the 6 hours, my spirits lifted and so did my performance – that coffee was just magic! Then at Yurrebilla, which was on a warm day, he messaged Beck, who I was running with at the time, to ask us if we wanted him to bring us anything. To which I quickly responded, ‘Lemonade Icy-Pole!’ And OMG if that was not the best damn Icy-Pole I’ve ever tasted… and again gave me the lift I needed at the time. Maybe it was the caffeine in the coffee. No doubt it was at least partly the sugar in the Icy-Pole. Either way, the man that brought me said treats had a massive impact on how well both of those events went for me!

Next let’s talk about Beck. Beck and I have run together a lot in the past year, on roads and trails, and in training and in events. We seem to have very similar pace so it was great to run all of the Yurrebilla training runs, and most of the event itself, with her. We were also going to run Heysen together at least to start with (Beck was doing the 57km but we all started together) but that didn’t quite work out – she did end up finishing second in her event though – not too shabby! Yurrebilla we ran together until 38km, I don’t know how things would have gone had I not had Beck’s company for that first part, but I’m sure that it would not have been as enjoyable! As a fellow physio we always have plenty to talk about, and with all the time we’ve run together there’s been a fair bit of ‘running therapy’ thrown in as well!

Speaking of Heysen, one person who had a massive impact on my run that day was my buddy runner Kirsten. From the time I saw her just out of Checkpoint 4, to the time we crossed the finish line around 4 hours later, I had such a great time! (Hopefully she did too!) We had run together at times but never for a particularly long time. As a result we hadn’t really talked in depth before but by the end of Heysen there wasn’t much we didn’t know about each other! I really have no idea what my race would have been like without her help! Hopefully I can return the favour one day!

Last but not least I’d like to mention Barry, a local ultra-running LEGEND and one half of the Yurrebilla Race Director team with his lovely wife Bev. Not only did he direct the event that was the highlight of my running year, he was so encouraging and supportive to me and to all the other Yurrebilla newbies. One of the most memorable moments was between Checkpoints 2 and 3 at Heysen when we found ourselves running together (having also run together for a short while after Checkpoint 1). Barry said he was not surprised that we were running together as he saw us as quite similar athletically. That blew me away as he is such a great runner! He also said, when I mentioned that I had selected the 8:30 start group for this year’s Yurrebilla, that this was the right group for me as it is the elite group! Massive thanks to Barry for all his support and filling me with confidence!

So there you have it – six of the best from 2015!