Tag Archives: Triathlon

Teams ‘We’re Lost’, ‘We Must Be Nuts’ and ‘Whoops Witch Way’ are ready to race

After four months away from racing, I am excited to say that I have just entered a swag of events for the first few months of 2013. Here’s how it’s going to look:

  • 1 January 2013 -I have signed up for the Eleven out of 11 Audax Australia cycle. This 100km cycling event will take me across the eleven bridges that cyclists may use to cross the Brisbane River. It’s a non-competitive event, with the goal being to complete the 100km within the 6:30 allowable time limit. I am looking forward to this event to test out my fitness after a lengthy period off the bike. Given This event sets my intention for the year.
  • 12 January 2013 -I am riding the 200km Moonlight Wander, a night-time Audax Australia cycle. It will be my first overnight cycling event and my first 200km event also. The time limit is 11:30, so I should have no trouble finishing if all goes well.
  • 3 February 2013 – I am riding the 100km Brisk Beaudesert Audax Australia cycle. This scenic course will include some hills. While there are longer options for this ride, I don’t want to overdo things by going too hard too early.
  • 8 February 2013 – My partner and I have formed team We’re Lost to participate in the City Raid night-time urban scavenger hunt. I am thrilled to bits that my partner is joining me on this adventure because it will be her first adventure racing experience. She’s been working hard the past four months to improve her fitness and change her lifestyle from being someone who didn’t do any exercise to someone who walks 4km every day and does weights at the gym 3-4 days a week. I’m so incredibly inspired by her efforts.
  • 16 February 2013 – My sister and I have reformed as adventure racing duo Whoops Witch Way to participate in the Kayak Kapers four hour paddlegaine. We will be hoping to gain bonus points for wearing the optional pirate costumes despite our team mascot actually being a witch (don’t ask because we don’t know the answer to the witch thing either). This will be our first paddlegaine so we are sure there will be plenty of laughter and maybe a little swimming.
  • 24 February 2013 – I will be teaming up with a friend from running as We Must Be Nuts in Race 6 of the Qld Tri Series. I have the easy leg, being the swimmer while my friend tackles the bike and run in her first every triathlon.
  • 9 March 2013 – Whoops Witch Way will be lining up at the Kathmandu Adventure Race where we will be paddling, mountain biking, trekking and navigating our way around a six-hour course. This will be our first adventure race since Adventure Race Australia in May 2012 and what will hopefully be the first of many for the 2013 adventure racing season.
  • 24 March 2013 – Whoops Witch Way don’t bask in our glory. No, we go straight back out there and race. So we’re backing up a few weeks after Kathmandu with the iAdventure Spring Adventure Race. This is another six-hour adventure race format including biking, trekking, kayaking and navigating.

Nope, I don’t do things by halves and yes, I am a bit crazy. But after a year of solo competition  in triathlon and running, and then a four month recovery from injury, I am looking forward to focusing on team and Audax events in 2013. It’s going to add a whole new level of fun.

See my Upcoming Events and Travel page for a full list of the events I currently have planned for 2013.

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Tre-X Off-Road Duathlon

Early morning quiet before a fantastic day out

I’ve been looking forward to the Tre-X Off-Road Duathlon for weeks and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Everything about the event was first class; from the friendly In2Adventure organisers who greeted us at registration to the course.

My bike set up in transition pre-race

I turned up to the race early so got a good spot in transition. I left my hydropack on my bike so that I could have hands-free water during the 20km mountain bike leg. The bike didn’t stay that clean for long.

The course was clearly signed

I entered the long course event, which started with a 6km trail run. All the age-group men started together in the 9:33am wave. There was a lot of mud on the first corner of the course and we all tried to avoid it, jumping from side-to-side to keep our feet clean and dry. Looking back, it is almost comical to think about it because we all knew the course was going to be muddy but still tried in vain to start out staying clean.

We had our first water crossing about 300m into the run. Some people tried to jump the water or run around the edges but I just plunged straight in. The whole run course was a combination of mud and water. Early in the first lap I lost my shoe to mud suction, which caused a volley of laughter from the runners behind me when I went back to collect it. Not long after the suction mud we had to run about 300m through a thigh-deep creek of icy cold water. It was terrific.

I don’t yet know my time for the first 6km run but I won’t be surprised if it’s relatively slow given the course. In addition to lengthy sections of suction mud and water, we also had to run along slippery mud sections and up heart-break hill, which was long and slippery. There were a few slippery corners where people fell over, making me think of skittles being hit by a bowling ball. We had to complete two laps of the 3km circuit so we had to go through each challenge twice in the first run leg.

Post-race mud

The 18km bike leg was made up of two tough 9km circuits. The first section of the bike leg lulled me into a false sense of security as we rode along relatively flat double wheel tracks. That didn’t last long; within no time I was struggling down a steep, winding and bouncy single track. Without suspension I really rattled around and my arms got a good workout. Things just got tougher when the track started to climb back up to the top of the double vehicle track, switching back on itself repeatedly. I had to walk a lot of the climb because it was too steep for my skills.

Up on the double vehicle track I flew along again, throwing caution to the wind as I descended the trail. I soon found myself back on tough muddy sections of single track that took all the concentration I could muster. I was starting to feel the first signs of fuel deficiency so sucked down a Hammer Nutrition gel we’d been given by the race directors. While it didn’t hit me as hard as the PowerBar gels do, it tasted good and seemed to be just enough to get me through the rest of the race.

Like the run course, the bike course had a heavy dose of mud and creek crossings. There were a few thrills and spills around the course, mostly innocuous.

I fell off and collected some mud in my pedals

At about 17km I let myself feel good about having stayed upright for the bike course (though I’d had a few close moments) so I took a downhill quickly to get speed for the final hill to transition. I hit the mud at the bottom of the hill, tried to turn smoothly through the corner and skidded out in a manner that would have made a cyclocross cyclist proud. It was funny and I was soon back on my feet running up the hill pushing my bike with grass sticking out of my helmet.

These road-style tyres didn’t make cycling easy

The long course race finished with one final lap of the 3km run course. My legs were hurting so I just cruised the first half of the run, negotiating the suction mud and section of creek. By the time I got to heart break hill I had caught up with two other men and found some extra power to get past them. I kept picking up my pace for the final kilometre to the finish.

The finish chute was one last tough uphill battle

I’ll share my time and placing once the results are released in the coming days. But ultimately that isn’t important. I had a fantastic time racing the Tre-X Off-Road Duathlon and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a bit of adventure.

Results:

  • 6km run – 33:45
  • 20km MTB – 1:33:27
  • 3km run – 17:57
  • TOTAL – 2:25:09

Ouch! Is triathlon becoming an elitist sport?

I just received my annual Triathlon Queensland membership renewal notice today. While I thought (from the organisation’s website) that membership would be due after 1 July 2012, I have now learned that if it isn’t paid by 30 June 2012 it will lapse. Membership renewals don’t open until 9am tomorrow, 27 June 2012 so this is a small window of opportunity to renew memberships. Particularly for those of us racing on Sunday, 1 July 2012.

But the nastiest shock came with the increase in membership fees. They are now $200 per year, up from $160 per year. That’s a $40 or 25% increase. The only explanation offered is that Queensland is moving into line with the other Australian states and territories. That money only buys us race insurance; nothing else. We are still paying between $80 and $200 to actually enter races up to Olympic Distance, and much more for long distance and M-dot races.

So is triathlon becoming an elitist sport? Are the costs going to outstrip the ability of the average person to participate? The fee increase and manner in which the renewal notice has been sent has caused me to go back to the drawing board with my season goals to decide whether I want to make my move to ultra trail running a season earlier. I just don’t have $200 lying around to spend; I already thought the $160 last season was painful.

Yes, I get a $40 discount if I continue to be an active technical official. Or at least technical officials did in the 2011/12 season but there is no mention of the discount in the renewal  notice, so I’m not sure whether or not it still applies. But even with the $40 discount, the increase is still steep (from $120 – $160) and probably more than I want to spend.

I am really keen to move into ultra distance trail running. I  think I have what it takes to be a back-of-the-pack 100kmer and to one day complete a 100-miler. To do this I need to enter long-distance trail events, starting with some 20-30km events, building up to a couple of 50km events and then, hopefully, a metric century. Besides, trail running events are cheaper to enter than triathlons, require less gear and have smaller crowds.

After my personal experiences walking the Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane 2011 and watching teams running it in 2012, I know it’s the sport for me. There’s something free about trail running. Maybe, instead of paying my annual triathlon licencing fees I can spend the money on a proper pair of trail running shoes so that I don’t have to keep wearing my old worn out pair of $50 joggers. While I am a barefoot runner, I think that trail shoes would be beneficial for ultra-distance events.

I can still race the odd off-road triathlon because day licences are relatively inexpensive. They are currently $10 for sprint distance races and $20 for Olympic Distance races. It actually is cheaper for me to buy a day licence for the few events I would race.

So tonight I will use my sickness-imposed down time to re-consider my 2012-13 race calendar and to identify which events I most want to participate in. There are some fun-looking MTB enduros and trail runs on offer in South East Queensland and Northern NSW …

What a difference a year can make

On 1 June 2012 it will be exactly 12 months since I found myself sitting in a psychologist’s office struggling with anxiety and certain unhealthy compulsive behaviours. My life has changed beyond my wildest imagining and I am proud of the work I have done to achieve these changes.

30 May 2011: Unfit with a rounder shape

One year ago I was unfit and starting to settle into a heavier, rounder body. I didn’t like being unfit and was starting to make sure I was sitting in photos or only shot with head and shoulders. But I didn’t know how to change my life. The grip of anxiety had frozen me. I put all my energy into my insecurities, and escaped my pain through compulsive masturbation and hours wasted online.

June 2011: Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane – a life changing event

When the psychologist first suggested I put my energy into some sort of sport I dismissed the suggestion. I had no excuse to justify my dismissing her sensible suggestion but such was my state of mind at the time. Fortunately, I had entered the Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane; a 100km walk to raise money for charity. I was seriously undertrained but with the help of three fantastic team mates and some determination I made it all the way in just under 33 hours. I stopped engaging in the compulsive behaviour almost immediately after completing Trailwalker.

July 2011: Second bike training session with a bit of a belly bulge

The next morning I decided that I was sick of being unfit. I had been fit most of my life, only letting myself go when the Black Dog and anxiety took hold of me about five years earlier. So I had something to draw on when deciding how to get fit and what to expect. I started looking for events to use as motivation; I knew I wouldn’t train if I didn’t have a specific goal. I had been a triathlete as a teenager so, after considering a range of other sports, I decided I wanted to get back into triathlon.

But there was a barrier for me: men have a bulge in their cycling shorts and triathlon suits. I felt subhuman because, as a transgender man, my body doesn’t look like that of biological men. I felt like I was somehow wrong and less worthy than others. And, while I knew other people wouldn’t say anything about my body, I felt it was abnormal and freakish. I had a conversation with the psychologist about this and then went away to think about it further myself. It was a huge achievement for me to buy a pair of speedos, cycling shorts and a triathlon suit; and a bigger achievement for me to wear them in public.

August 2011: Wivenhoe Dam Triathlon – My first triathlon in 14 years

One month later I completed my first triathlon in 14 years; the Wivenhoe Dam Triathlon. All I wanted to do was make it to the finish line in one piece. August is the coldest month of the year here in Brisbane and an icy wind was blowing on the rainy day. The water temperature was somewhere between 16’C and 19’C. I didn’t (and still don’t) have a wetsuit, so the swim was painfully cold. But I gutted it out and proved to myself that I can do anything. The furthest I’d swum in training was 400m in a whole session but the swim leg was 750m. The furthest I’d cycled in training was 12km but the cycle leg was 20km. The furthest I’d run in training was 3km but the run leg was 5km. And I made it! In a respectable time of 1:24:59. Words can’t describe the way I felt that afternoon.

September 2011: Rainbow Beach Triathlon

A few weeks later I raced the Rainbow Beach Double Triathlon. I raced a sprint distance triathlon (750m swim, 20km cycle, 5km run) on Saturday afternoon and then backed up to do it all again on Sunday morning. It was a real physical challenge for me but at least I had increased my training so that I was now able to complete these distances in training (just). I had also stopped seeing the psychologist on 31 August because I had worked through some important personal issues relating to my body image and being transgender. I completed both races that weekend; again in the respectable times of 1:15:31 and 1:19:38.

October 2011: Agnes Water Triathlon – The belly is getting smaller

In October I traveled six hours north to Agnes Water to participate in the sprint distance triathlon there. I’d set myself a goal to participate in a triathlon every month for the whole season. I didn’t have any time goals; I just wanted to complete the courses with a smile on my face. I thoroughly enjoyed both the race and my five days camping at Agnes Water. My time for the event was 1:11:33.

November 2011: Rainbow Beach Trail Ultra – This event opened so many possibilities

I couldn’t find any triathlons that piqued my interest in November so I entered the Rainbow Beach Trail Ultra (nominally 43km but my course was 45km). It was important to me to keep up my momentum and the idea of running to the Double Island Point lighthouse intrigued me enough to give this event a try. I had only joined the Brisbane Bayside Runners and Walkers club about a month earlier and had increased my training runs from 4-5km to 7-8km. I entered the event just 10 days before race day after I had completed a 15km club training run. One week before the race I did an 18km training run and then spent a week eating well in the hope it would enable me to complete the race.

The Rainbow Beach Trail Ultra was an extreme event for me. It was longer than I’d ever contemplated running before and I only had 10 days to get used to the idea. I ran as much of the course as I could but allowed myself to walk up all the hills and to walk when I hit the wall. Somehow I managed to complete the event in 7:30. It was a long day out on my feet in the sand but it was worth it. All the barriers I had built for myself were shattered that day – I realised that I could enter any event that took my fancy because I have the determination to finish. After the Rainbow Beach Trail Ultra I started expanding my training and racing experiences.

December 2011 – Toorbull Triathlon
(Image copyright The Run Inn Brisbane)

In December I traveled to Toorbull where I completed my fourth triathlon in five months. I was starting to feel stronger on the course and was not regularly training longer distances than the 750m swim, 24km cycle and 5km run that the race involved. I finished strong in 1:25:13 on a hot summer day. I was now training 5-6 days a week and had cemented my new positive outlook on life. I was a changed man.

January 2012: My first half marathon

In January I made a snap decision to turn up at a local half-marathon and run it. I hadn’t specifically trained for it because I hadn’t planned to race the event. I literally turned up on the day and entered. And then I finished the race in 2:10:57 on a stinking hot and humid day. I had now broken another mental barrier for me; the long road running race. It helped me feel like a proper runner. I felt proud of myself when I crossed the finish line; a new sensation that I had been working on accepting since my first visit to the psychologist.

February 2012: Making the outdoors a normal part of life again

By February I had started to expand my exercise regime to include more off-road exploration. Training ceased to be an activity that I did merely to lose weight or complete triathlons, it was now a normal part of life. I started exploring different ways to exercise that allowed me to enjoy the outdoors again like I had when I was growing up.

I also completed my first Olympic distance triathlon (1,500m swim, 40km cycle, 10km run) at Kingscliff. My goal was to finish within 3:00 and I achieved it when I finished in 2:25:53. I almost cried when I finished because I was so amazed at the change in my life. I had gone from struggling to get through the day to living an healthy active outdoor lifestyle.

March 2012: I smashed a half marathon

In March I made another break through. I smashed the Twilight Half Marathon in a time of 1:46:33. I had all these mental limitations set out about the pace I’d need to run to complete the half marathon. I figured that I would struggle to make two hours but once I got going I put all my doubts aside and found myself pushing hard.

April 2012: Sailing the Whitsundays

April was a month of change. During March I had started to train much harder and had lost touch with the real reason I got involved in sport. I was fatigued and had developed a bad attitude. The attitude was a result of me forgetting to be myself; I’d got caught up in the part of triathlon culture I don’t enjoy. See, there is an element of triathlon that is focused on results and single-minded intense training. I was starting to train twice a day and was trying to ‘make every session count’. And it took it’s toll.

While I was away for the Julia Creek Triathlon I found myself again. Two weeks away on my motorbike, a fun tough race at Julia Creek and a day sailing on the Whitsundays brought me back to earth. I decided to focus on bushwalking, mountain biking and enjoying myself. I decided to get out every day into the outdoors for the fun of the outdoors, not for the training. The biggest influence on this was my day sailing on the Whitsundays.

May 2012: Adventure Race Australia

The Adventure Race Australia last weekend best summarises my transformation from internet addict to outdoor athlete. Not only that, but I am much happier today. I am no longer gripped by anxiety or depression. I am no longer paralysed by insecurity. I am me. I have come a long way. And I’m proud of my journey here.

It’s been a big year. An important year in my life. One that has led to positive changes. In the next 12 months I hope to maintain those changes. I no longer have to improve my fitness because I am where I want to be. I’m fit enough to tackle any physical challenge and know I have the determination to achieve it. And I am determined not to go back to where I was 12 months ago.  I want to keep smiling 🙂

Byron Bay Triathlon

Main Beach Byron Bay

Byron Bay is one of Australia’s iconic beach destinations and home of the final triathlon in my 2011/2012 racing season. The race was both beautiful and frustrating, all at the same time. There were things about it that were fantastic (the location) and things that made me feel ripped off (cars on the road, appalling road surface and high entry fees). Overall, I enjoyed my race but I wouldn’t do the event again and think the $170 entry fees were too steep for what we got (up to $100 would be fair).

My transition set up

My day started with a quick 150km drive down the highway to Byron Bay. On the way I collected two geocaches and enjoyed some amazing views over the northern NSW hinterland. Once at Byron Bay I registered, got numbered and racked my bike in transition. I kept my transition set up simple, opting not even to put down a towel because I have learned that I always seem to be able to remember my place on the rack without it. This simple set up also makes me feel more comfortable during the race; there’s less that can go wrong. Being early I was able to find a place near the end of the first rack to give myself the clearest run in and out of transition.

Being early had another upside – I was able to spend a few hours enjoying the clear waters of Byron Bay’s Main Beach. The water was calm but there were some small waves that broke perfectly for some gentle body surfing. Big silver fish swam in the waves and around my feet; the scene was like something from a holiday advertisement.

The mount line clearly marked

The race started at 12:01 when the elite men’s wave hit the water. My wave started four minutes later at 12:05pm. There were about a hundred men in my category; by far the biggest wave start I’ve been in this season. We started at the high water mark about 50m from the water’s edge and had a running start into the water. I had a relatively long wade through knee-deep water before the sand bank gave way to water deep enough to swim it. It didn’t take long to swim through the small breaking waves and out into the open ocean. We swam 400m off-shore before turning north with the sweep and swimming 700m to the turning can where we turned back to the beach.

The swim was tough and I went out hard. There was a lot of kicking and hitting going on today, especially when the small pack I was swimming in turned each can. At the second turning can I took a heavy blow to the middle of my back, momentarily winding me but I know the swimmer didn’t mean it – he was probably as surprised as I was when he made such heavy contact. The rough and tumble doesn’t bother me because I’m sure I have kicked or hit my share of swimmers too without any intention to do so. It’s almost impossible to know exactly who’s near you in the swim because everyone drifts around quite a bit. Despite the rough and tumble the swim was still beautiful and it felt good to be out in the open ocean.

The run from the water to transition was long and taxing, especially the sections where we crossed soft sand and then climbed the short steep hill off the beach. My transition was fairly slow because I took a moment to calm my out-of-control heart rate. It was a long 150m run to the mount line where I jumped on my bike and bounced along the most pot-holed road I’ve ever ridden. The pot-holes had been poorly patched so a mountain bike would have been more appropriate.

Cycle leg: Through the forest

Cycle leg: Through the cane fields

Cycle leg: Out through the wet open forest

The cycle leg for the race was shortened from 40km to 36km for reasons that were not clearly explained and was a mixed bag. The roads had not been closed to traffic and the traffic controllers were only working select intersections so I was almost cleaned up by an elderly lady in a black car who didn’t seem to realise that I had right of way on the main road (not because I was in a race but because I was cycling on a main road and coming from her right). I had to scream at her to stop because I was traveling too fast to stop as she careened towards the main road. I am probably really lucky that I did scream at her because she seemed surprised that I didn’t stop.

Once out of town the cycle leg was pretty. We rode through forest, sugar cane farm lands and wet open forest. I had forgotten to bring the GPS bracket for my bike so have no idea what speed I rode at but suspect it was on the slow side because I was just enjoying the scenery. I have raced hard the whole season but today I wanted to combine that with enjoying the experience so I pushed hard but was also kind to myself. The road surface often didn’t lend itself to racing hard, particularly close to town where the road had been patched over and over again, creating a surface that required care.

The race was a draft fest with pairs, trios and packs passing me throughout the race. I think triathlon is reaching a point where it should just be made draft legal to make it fair; we athletes who chose not to cheat are at a huge disadvantage compered with the many athletes who get away with drafting or for whom a 3-minute penalty is small change compared with the gains they make while drafting.

Hooray for the finish line

The 10km run leg was four laps of a 2.5km course. Someone had used chalk to write motivational messages on the road, which was fun. I particularly liked ‘shut up legs’. A group of women staying in an apartment had speakers set up with music pumping out of them, which made me smile. The run course took us on footpaths, gravel paths and roads. There were two water stations, which was great because it was a hot afternoon on the course. The course made a large ‘S’ near the lap turn around point / finish line, which made it fun to run through.

As is usual for me, my first lap was slow and tough. It was a mental game to keep running but I knew I’d be disappointed in myself if I gave up. Towards the end of my second lap I started to find my groove and then ran hard for the final 5km.

I was pleased to cross the finish line. I have no idea what my final time was but I gave the race all I had and was totally spent when I crossed the line.

I enjoyed the race and feel I had a good outing. Hopefully the race results will be available quickly because there was no time clock at the finish line to give any indication of time.

Would I recommend the Byron Bay Triathlon?

  • The entry fees are too high for the event. The cost is similar to Noosa or Mooloolaba, which are international level events with road closures, good road surfaces and full complements of marshals. The cycle course at Byron Bay is fully open to traffic, has road surfaces that are more fitting for mountain biking and lacks marshals in the run course (the organisers announced they desperately needed 5 more marshals just an hour before the race started and clearly didn’t get them because there were key parts of the course that were not marshalled, making cheating simple).
  • On the plus side, the location is stunning.

Total:

  • 1.5km swim – 27:26 in a big field in the surf – 21/137 age group
  • 36km bike – 67:30 or 32kph avg speed – 87/137 age group
  • 10km run – 50:55 or 5:05 pace – 65/137 age group
  • Total time – 2:28:30 – 64/137 age group

 

A morning swim

My running friends went to the pool this morning so I decided to join them. Yes, it does seem strange to go swimming with running friends, but it’s definitely more pleasant than swimming alone.

Warm up: 500m freestyle

Main set:

  • 500m as 50m kick, 50m pull
  • 5 x 100m as 50m fast, 50m recovery with 10 seconds between each

Cool down: 500m freestyle

Total: 2km

10km run and geohunt

Feeling good after my run

After a fortnight in northern Queensland it was a bit of a shock to feel the temperatures in the low twenties (Celcius) today. The great thing about it was that I could go running in the middle of the day without worrying about carrying water or being too hot.

I used the Geocaching website to set myself a 10km route through Cleveland that would also take me past 13 geocaches that I hoped to find while I was out. I set off at midday from a carpark near the Cleveland Lighthouse, near which I bagged my first cache. It was a tiny micro that was about the size of my thumbnail. From there I followed paths along the waterfront, creeks and urban bushland.

The run was fantastic. I ran from cache to cache, stopping to walk as I approached within 20m of the cache coordinates so that I could hunt for them properly. I found 10 out of the 13 caches I set out to find. It was a pretty good haul.

I think this kind of training is good for me. It is interesting because I find my course as I go by navigating to the next geocache location. It also is a really solid workout because it’s a bit like fartlek with periods of concentration in between while I hunt for the cache. It’s probably a bit like the combination of skills necessary for adventure racing or orienteering.

Total: 9.89km @ 5:15 pace plus 10/13 caches found (approx 1 hour geocaching)

Geocache total: 79