Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Busselton 70.3

“Meyrueis, Lozère June 26, 1977. Hot and overcast. I take my gear out of the car and put my bike together. Tourists and locals are watching from sidewalk cafes. Non-racers. The emptiness of those lives shocks me”.
The Rider, Tim Karabbe. Opening paragraph.


This triathlon thing keeps rolling around season after season. It’s not uncommon to be asked by people outside the sport “How long are you going to keep doing those crazy triathalon things?” Which always struck me as a bit strange – you wouldn’t ask a 40-year-old golfer ‘So are you planning on giving up the walky, hitty ball thing soon?’ But the reality is that endurance sports ARE quite a bit different to golf, in that the physical and mental toll to compete at a decent level in endurance sports is…tough.  Part of me wants to be still smashing out tris in my 60s and 70s like most golfers or lawn bowlers.  But part of me says "Enough is enough and you're already on the way down,  just give it up".

I'll probably be doing this when I'm 90 anyway.......
There is something as addictive as crack about this sport that makes it tough to get off it, especially when you’ve had some success. It becomes such a part of your identity and you tend to begin to classify people as being “in the sport – i.e. they “get it” or outside the sport – “they don’t get it”.  After qualifying for Hawaii, it’d probably be fair to say I’d taken my eye off the ball somewhat. How long could I keep the game up? I’ve acheived most of what I wanted to in the sport, I’m well aware of my strengths and weaknesses and what level athlete I am. I don’t have a chip on my shoulder anymore trying to prove how good I am.  Who was it that said, “Satisfaction is the death of desire"? So many of the best athletes have a tough past with a burning desire to prove their value to the world, and I get that, but it's hard to sustain long-term and I don't really have it any more. I'd even gotten tired of the race-reports, my fans had grown worried - not a year or two would go by without someone saying "Hey what's happened to your race reports, I enjoyed those".

I keep hitting refresh, and still no report!
During the dark moments of race days and training sessions, I’d promised myself a hundred times that I was “done with this shit”. But what was the alternative?  To become a ‘non-racer’ like Tim Krabbe’s strangers on the sidewalk? I couldn’t face it. Not yet anyway. So onwards it is to another season.  Like getting older and slowing down – it beats the alternative. The winter had been a long and busy one, and fortunately for us with many large debts to pay off, business had been great. We were up to 5 locations with over 20 staff; there was lots of powder snow to be shredded and good times in a resort town to be had. Training often took a low priority, but the uber-seasonal roll of our lives and the enforced break in training does make this sport more attainable long term. It’s just that our off-season is a bit longer and more relaxed than most. 

Off season double chins
As well as the distractions of a busy resort life and business, with the haemachromatosis I’d donated/discarded more than 6 pints of blood over 12 weeks trying to get my high iron levels under control. I got on first name basis with the nurses and docs at my hospital in Sapporo. This helped me deal with my high iron and was a good long term investment for my longevity, but was not great for  endurance ability and made training even harder and easier to avoid.

Doing ma bit.
To top it off a HK 7s weekend saw me land in Hawaii for our holiday/training camp in a pretty low state of fitness. We had 3 decent weeks of training in Hawaii in April, but unfortunately not enough to make up for all the sins of the winter. Anyway it was on to the first race of the season with a fair bit of trepidation, knowing that all levels were ‘sub-optimal’. I was swimming pretty crap, bike power was well down, and running was below its usual average level. Coach Woody had been doing some more normal periodisation this season with more longer and easier stuff in Hawaii that meant we were still a bit slow.

Seemed like a god idea at the time. Four weeks 'til Busso
Still we had several friends racing there, it was an easy flight down from Singapore, and we’d never done the half in Busso. The Half Ironman there is run by Triathlon WA and was their key event (the Full is run by Ironman in US) it had a reputation of being almost a bigger event than the full, it sold out in about 4 hours and we’d been on our game and entered, so by hook or by crook we were in and racing.

Busselton has really taken to triathlon over the past 8 years and there could be an argument to say it has become the triathlon capital of Australia, with two iconic races every years, the locals have embraced the events and what the events bring to their town. We got the Qantas direct flight down which was about 4.5 hours and our Life Qantas Club membership and the access to the lounge in Singapore made the choice of airline easy =).

We were staying in the terrific  Beds By The Bay Busselton guest house, which is a really special place, the owners Mike and Beth feel like family members now, and our mate Josh Rix was staying too, to make it more fun. We got word great mate Gavin Stuart and his girl Anna and brother Andrew were in as late entrants too, so some post-race fun was guaranteed. 

Love this joint.
SWIM 1.9kms 30 min

My swim had not been going very well since Kona for some reason. I think the 50m resort pools in Singapore were part of the issue – it’s hard to push yourself in those type of pools, and trying to swim regularly in winter is tough. A few times I’d driven to the snow-covered car park in the Alpen Hotel in Niseko, sat in the car for a few minutes, been unable to face the thought of swimming and pulled back out of the car park and driven home. It’s tough to train in winter blah blah blah, wah wah wah.

Anyway it was good to toe the line with mates Gavin Stuart and Singapore-based stud Mark Jansen, who I introduced shortly before the start, thinking they would be sharing the podium in a few hours, as they ended up doing. The gun went and I just didn’t seem to be able to sustain moderate effort; the swim was uneventful aside from some directional issues and leaky goggles. It was clam and clear, on it’s day the swim in Busso is up with the best in the sport. I was not surprised to see the clock at 30mins on getting out. Pretty crappy time.

Bike 2.12.53

Onto the bike and I knew my mad bike skillz were not as mad as I’d like but I was hoping for some divine intervention on race day to throwback to my days of 350ftp levels. As I knew my power was way down I put extra effort into free speed for this race and think I had as much possible free-speed as I’ve ever had in a race. I reckon I was the most aero dude on the course. I was rocking my new long sleeve race suit and taped over every exposed rough bit and bolt on my bike, had speed-optimised, but high puncture risk wheel, tyre and tube selection, and a few other aero tricks. The wind don’t confront me none. 

Slippery lil' sucker
Our wave started about an hour after the pros which meant they were on their second lap as we were starting on our first and as I jumped on the bike I heard the terrific and highly amusing announcer Simon Beaumont say  - “Here comes professional Matt Burton – he’ll be looking for one of the fastest” bike splits of the day – look out for a 2.04 for him”. I thought he was ahead of me but then about 10kms in and Matt Burton did indeed come by and I though “ I’m hitching a ride on that train” and tagged on his tail - at legal distance, of course! He was being a bit erratic and I could tell he was tiring with his speed varying between 43-40 depending on his mood, it meant for lots of coasting to keep legal distance. The course for the half was pretty much 2 x 22.5km out and back route.

We turned at 22.5kms and he started to sit up and stretch and slowed to into the 30’s for a bit after the U turn. “Stuff this” I thought and was sick of concentrating so much to deal with this bloke’s mood and went to the front. I put my head down and gave it some gas. 5 minutes later I looked back and he was nowhere to be seen. Damn – I dropped a strong pro rider (albeit a neo-pro) not bad for my miserable state. 

I thought we wiz mates, mate.
That was about the highlight of my day and as good as it got.  I went through 40kms in 57.30 and felt OK but I was pretty much riding the race as hard as I possibly could. Anyway he ended up coming back aside me in the suburbs just as we got back into Busso and I said, “Mate what happened I thought we were a team?” He just smiled and we entered the centre of town together. The power and motivation dropped a bit second lap as I was totally on my Pat, just passing waves ahead, and it was hard to stay focused. I managed to keep the pace enough but was still a minute slower than Gav and Mark J who both went about a minute faster than me.

RUN 1.58
Onto the run and I somehow knew it was not going to end well. The hard bike in combination with my lack of fitness left me pretty vulnerable for a capitulation and so it was. After 7kms I was just about spent mentally and physically could not stride out at all. I could only shuffle home at granny pace and could not wait for it to be over. A bad job finished again.

Bad job completed.
The after party was the highlight of the weekend with a good crew joining us at our place which has it’s own wood-fired pizza oven, for some scrumptious home made pizzas. The pizza and wine party morphed onto the awards party and Gav crushed it with an AG win just holding off Mark J - I was stoked for them both and even more so for Anna who had a memorable day after a year or more of injuries, finally getting to the finish line and in fast time too, fourth in her AG!  She even beat Ness who was in a similar stage of her fitness to me and did not have a great day either. We kicked on to another bar after the awards and after busting some fully sick dance moves there, my hips locked up a bit and together with my fatigue, I bent over with hands on knees to rest, but the bouncer was checking me out and thought I was about to vomit all over the dance floor, so turfed me! Josh and Anna tried to reason with him but I was back in the same state as at the 7km mark of the run. Done like a diner again - time to shuffle home. I am sure that meathead was just jealous of the big moves I was pulling.

My hip was just locked up 'Aiight
We stayed down in Busso for an extra day to get another ride in – when it’s not race day, the roads there are like training on an indoor trainer. You keep checking your watch every 10 minutes to see how long you’ve been riding. Pretty boring!

Anyway next up Bintan to try and make it to the finish line this time and I guess IM Cairns, which I will no doubt have a shocker at, but will give it a crack all the same.

Look forward to catching up with old friends soon.

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