THE T:ZERO BLOG
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It was an incredible weekend of racing at this year’s Sunshine Coast IRONMAN 70.3. A picturesque morning greeted the athletes with the Mooloolaba Bay offering flatter swim conditions than your local swimming pool. We saw two Kiwi professional athletes take the line honours with hundreds of athletes following them with their own awesome story to tell!
Head Coach Richard Thompson has been heavily involved with IRONMAN racing for almost two decades! Here, he shares his hot takes from the SC70.3 in 2019…
1. 70.3 World Championships close by means stronger competition
When it was announced last October that Taupo in New Zealand would play host to the 2020 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships, hundreds of athletes in the southern hemisphere collectively gave a quiet fist pump and put that at the top of their list of goals. While every year the 70.3 worlds travels across the globe, it does not yet have the history or prestige as Kona does whereby athletes will want to race at that event regardless of the location. So it is common sense that when it comes close to Australia, you go all in to the process to try and qualify.
Sunshine Coast 70.3 was the regions first qualifying race for the 2020 70.3 World Championships and the age groupers knew it. With a combination of a a large contingent of experienced athletes racing, together with everyone's eagerness to get that coveted world champs slot, there was little room to move at the roll down ceremony for all those wanting to head to the North Island of New Zealand in November 2020.
We are proud to see that three of the T:Zero family accepted their spots on the weekend to race at the 2020 70.3 World Championships, a number that will no doubt grow as the next nine months ensues. But, knowing how competitive this Country is in triathlon, don’t expect a spot at the worlds to magically land in your lap. Train with purpose, believe and give yourself every opportunity to reach that goal.
2. A team is stronger than a group of individuals
It was amazing to see over 30 athletes representing T:Zero over the weekend. The athletes, together with the nine of our 12 coaches came together on Saturday morning to share a coffee and a local café, have a chat, take home some awesome products from our supporters (Ener-C and Zen Spray) and generally be motivated to perform when the sun came up the next day.
The overall feeling within the team was just incredible. And the old adage that a team is greater than the sum of its parts was no truer than what was shown on the weekend. Although we are a worldwide coaching group, and although the athletes live all over, the sense of community and belonging was really evident on Saturday and particularly Sunday with everyone encouraging each other to push their limits and live their potential. It also helps that everyone was decked out in some epic new T:Zero pink socks!
3. The role of weather for athletes and spectators
Weather. It is a fickle beast. As a coach on the side lines, it was magic on Sunday. A little breezy but the sun was out and it was a beautiful temperature. It all in all made for a great morning on the side line (compare this to the torrential conditions 12 months prior).
For the athletes, however, the conditions play a much more specific role. The perfect swim conditions lent itself to very fast swim times - example being that the lead swimmers came out in 22mins. The course was true in terms of distance, so it was nice to see that for once, mother nature took it easy for the athletes in the swim (we just need her to come back in June up in Cairns, for once).
The wind on the bike, however, proved to be strong. While not devastatingly difficult or dangerous, it was just enough to make the second lap of the bike a fair bit slower back into the side and head winds. On a global scale, this meant slower bike times for everyone– from the pros to the weekend warriors. So while you may have trained your backside off over the winter, the bike split may not be as impressive as you would have liked. Tip your hat, or your aero helmet as the case may be, to the winds for that. Then the run came and went, the winds weren’t as strong at the beach as they were out on the motorway, and with the temperature being fairly mild to slightly warm – it was near perfect run conditions.
So what I am getting at here? Don't be disheartened if your overall times are a little off. The conditions (and therefore the speed) of the bike is always the biggest contributing factor to the ebbs and flows of your overall time.
Nonetheless, I feel that the conditions on Sunday were incredible for athlete and spectator a like.
4. Drafting is always a problem, but what is the solution?
Ah drafting. It doesn’t go away. When I started racing 70.3s back in 2003 (where you had to qualify for Ironman Australia through a half ironman like you would for Kona), there would only be 600-800 athletes racing at once. We would go off as age groups, over the course of a 60-90mins and there just didn’t seem to be any drafting issues on the road.
Coach Scotty was up on the Maroochy Bridge and witnessed the congestion first hand. I feel for the athletes out there. I assume 99% of them want the ability to race their own race at a true 12m. Unfortunately, with only 22km of road in one direction and dealing with 1500+ athletes racing, the inevitable will happen. Again, not the athletes’ fault at all.
So the question has to be asked, what is Ironman doing about this? Is the answer a one loop bike, less athletes, a larger window of start times, more marshals? I don’t know, and I don’t envy the position that they are in, but it is a problem Ironman have brought on themselves. I just hope that there is much of a desire to fix it from the powers that be, as there is in the age group peloton.
5. Glorious PBs for those who believe
I read a blog article by a coach this week that basically said that qualifying for Kona is simply out of some peoples reach. I found this confronting given my background and how much I believe the human body can evolve over time to become much more efficient and faster.
I truly believe anyone can qualify for Kona, if that is something they want, and the drive is there. No matter of their ability, if the “why” is strong enough, the how will take care of itself. It becomes a question of 'when' not 'if'.
We had some incredible Personal Best performances on the weekend (despite the slower bike times aforementioned). A particular mention to one athlete who put down a near sub 5 hour performance representing a 45mins PB! This athlete is extremely dedicated to the cause, focusing on the weekly improvements, the daily grind, the 1%ers. They are incredibly focused and determined to see themselves improve as an athlete, as a person. It was so amazing to see them in their element on Sunday.
So, wherever you are on the journey of this amazing sport, don’t put yourself in a box or define yourself. You are far more powerful than you ever can imagine. Remove the doubt, distance yourself from people who doubt the journey and take it day by day.
Thank you Sunshine Coast for putting on a wonderful treat for us on the weekend...until next year.
So stop asking yourself if you are ready – start asking yourself…Are you willing? Are you willing to be doubted, are you willing to be take on every challenge and to pick yourself up from failures and keep going forward?
By Coach Richard Thompson
No matter where this blog finds you in your athletic journey, ask yourself ‘what am I achieving? ‘what is the objective?’.
What has happened in your past, what you have achieved and what you havent – the wins/the failures – they are just that. The past. While undoubtedly, all of these experiences have made us better people – it is what we are going to do with that knowledge in the future that is paramount. Where are you going? What do you want to achieve?
It doesn’t matter if you have a clean slate and just starting to work out what your goals are or you are neck deep in your final training block before taper – take this article as a reminder to sharpen the process of setting your goals for the future and developing your state of mind to become a game changer.
Firstly, let’s accept that society has been developed to embrace comfort over desire and that any discomfort has a negative connotation. In my personal opinion, being able to accept pain is just as, if not more, important as accepting comfort.
There are so many mod cons out there to make life so easy and well, so vanilla. Mediocrity is the name of the game for most –‘don’t aim to achieve much as you are more likely to fail’. Society’s standards of what is generally ‘acceptable’ for fitness, health and wellbeing is scarily low. We are often encouraged to accept the status quo and forget about the prospect of changing the game itself.
What I have seen not only in my stable but the greater T:Zero Collective generally is that no matter where people live or what their ability is, they all seem to refuse to accept being mediocre. This is just awesome. These athletes are a part of a wider endurance family that knows the benefit of being fit and healthy and to achieve things that others wouldn’t even contemplate. However, there is a trap that you can get into that often people do, in that, you accept this new level of average. That you don’t want to push yourself in this sport (or in life generally) to see what you are really capable of, for fear of failure – or because someone has told you that you can’t or shouldn’t do that or you think (insert your excuse here).
So, your goal setting. Within the sport and in normal life, I urge you to break out of the mediocrity and set goals that really make you nervous. Like ‘butterflies in your stomach’ nervous. If they aren’t giving you butterflies, go bigger! In this space, anything is possible. You must think of yourself as a game changer.
Be as specific as you can be with the goals and importantly, WRITE YOUR GOALS DOWN. Keep them somewhere you can refer back to every few weeks.
Once your goals are in front of you, the next step is to be absolutely clear (by writing these down as well) as to ‘why’ you want to make the goals happen.
Now, are you ready to be a game changer? Of course not. No one is ready. No one is ready to endure everything possibly imaginable to achieve their goals. You will never be ready for the struggle and sacrifice you will suffer before you succeed.
So stop asking yourself if you are ready – start asking yourself…Are you willing? Are you willing to be doubted, are you willing to be take on every challenge and to pick yourself up from failures and keep going forward.
If you are willing to take on whatever comes – then go for it - set some massive goals (both in and out of the sport) and go out and crush them like it is your only objective on this planet.
And remember… If you truly want the results that very few people have, then you have to go and do things that very few people do.
My world-beating race nutrition strategy & tips for Mooloolaba Triathlon race nutrition
By Richard Thompson
Triathlon can be an incredibly complex sport with so many different elements affecting an athlete’s race-day performance. Elements such as preparation and managing injury spring to mind, amongst others.
At T:Zero Multisport, we do everything possible to get you to the race in your best possible shape. But once you arrive at the start line, you can’t possibly get any fitter. Only three things can impact the outcome of the day for any athlete:
Nutrition is something we certainly hold dear to us at T:Zero Multisport. Head Coach and Co-Founder Scotty Farrell is a qualified nutritionist and I was so grateful to have him in my corner for the Ultraman World Championships, particularly when it came to developing a plan of attack for my race-day nutrition. Further, having such a wonderfully long-standing relationship with CLIF Bar Australia, it wasn’t difficult to find the right nutrition within their extensive range to suit the plan that Scotty had developed for me. Indeed, their help enabled me to live my potential in Hawaii last November.
Fuelling during an Ultraman is different to a standard Olympic distance triathlon in that you have the opportunity to fuel during the swim with the assistance of an escort in a kayak paddling next to you and further, there is no run off either portion of the bike leg; the result being that you can afford to eat heavily in the backend of the ride knowing that you won’t be running until the Day 3 double marathon. For Ultraman, our fuelling plan was based on grams of carbohydrate per hour.
SWIM – DAY 1 (10km)
In the swim, our plan of attack was to hit roughly 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour. Following the adage that one should consume small amounts often as opposed to a large amount at once, I was aiming to fuel myself with 15 grams of carbohydrate every 15 minutes (versus having one big hit of 60 grams at the one-hour mark). There are obvious benefits to this, most notably not overloading the stomach when you want your blood to be directed to other parts of the body as opposed to your digestive system only.
Obviously, it’s pretty difficult to chew under water and I didn’t want to stop swimming completely so the Citrus CLIF Shot Energy Gel (with 25mg caffeine) was my go-to here. To prepare, I squeezed the required amount into a drink bottle and added water, shaking it up until it became one consistent liquid. I then marked the bottle, indicating where I’d need to drink to for each 15-minute increment. This had worked perfectly for Ultraman Australia where we broke the world record and again worked well in Hawaii at the World Championships.
BIKE – DAY 1 (145km)
Both Day 1 and Day 2 were very similar in that we were trying to hit 80 grams of carbohydrates per hour. Again, I was aiming to digest something every 5 to 10 minutes, following the principle that consuming carbohydrates when your body is working hard is a lot easier when they’re ingested in small increments as opposed to one large hit.
I managed to execute my bike nutrition plan with precision on Day 1, consuming only the CLIF Bloks in Mountain Berry, Strawberry and Margarita (extra sodium boost) flavours, aiming to take-in 1.5 packets per hour (roughly).
Once I crossed the finish line on Day 1, I went straight into recovery on the wind trainer to ensure I cooled down effectively, not dissimilar to how professional cyclists warm down during the big cycling tours. I also immediately consumed both carbohydrates and protein in the form of CLIF Bar’s greatest flavour of all time – Chocolate Almond Fudge.
BIKE – DAY 2 (275km)
We always knew Day 2 on the bike was going to be a long day, and during the first half of the ride my heart rate and effort was going to be much more controlled than in the back half. Therefore, whilst we were trying to maintain 75 to 80 grams of carbohydrate per hour, we were happy to consume some more solid food in the first hour of the day. This constituted a combination of CLIF Bars and the ever-trusty vegemite sandwich. Once I began climbing up the volcano (a 40km climb), I diverted to my Day 1 method of 1.5 packets of CLIF Bloks per hour. This continued until the latter stages of the day, whereby – for a complete variation - I changed to a bottle of diluted CLIF Shot Energy Gels.
This strategy and well-paced nutrition plan not only allowed me to feel full of energy but also maximised my ability on the bike without having sluggish side-effects at any point in time.
In the final 40 kilometres of the bike leg, I managed to average 303 watts; and this was after 7.5 hours of hard riding. I attribute a lot of this to both a well-developed nutrition plan and high quality nutrition products that complemented it perfectly.
RUN – DAY 3 (84.4km)
A much more difficult prospect came in the form of the double marathon run from Hawi to Kona (point to point) on Day 3. Again, the plan of attack was to hit 70 to 75 grams of carbohydrates per hour. Throughout the day I relied solely upon CLIF Bloks, moving to Coke only in the latter stages of the run.
Often, it’s not until the run leg that we as athletes get “found-out” on a nutrition level. On the bike, it’s generally always too early to know whether or not you’ve paced your nutrition well. Too much nutrition and you’re going to feel bloated as you head off out of T2, but too little and you’re going to feel lightheaded and despondent. Whenever I feel that my mind is turning negative on the run, my first thought is to my nutrition. In my experience, the mind turning against you is the first trigger that you may need more fuel and it’s a good reminder to ask yourself how well you’re fuelling at that current moment in time.
My race at the Ultraman World Championships was executed with precision by my entire team and we were thrilled to cross that finish line in first place, in such a great state. While I couldn’t walk properly for a few days following, at no point in the race did I feel like I had a carbohydrate deficit or surplus. We planned and implemented our nutrition strategy to perfection and I am so thankful to CLIF Bar Australia for helping me perform at my peak.
Nutrition Tips for Mooloolaba Triathlon
As always, when it comes to nutrition the overall principle is: do not try anything new on race day. Practice makes perfect so keep testing your nutrition and honing your plan until you’re 100% confident it’s right for you; then you won’t go wrong.
T:Zero Multisport wishes everyone all the best for their training. Stay safe, and have a wonderful race at Mooloolaba.
An amazing collection of training and racing advice from the T:Zero Multisport coaches- with the occasional guest blogger! Read this blog to help you live your potential!