Firstly many thanks to Josh for opening up this part of his world to age group stories - it's often written that the accessibility to top tier triathletes is an enormous benefit that our sport has almost all to itself. I could never share what it was like kicking the footy on the same ground in the same conditions as AFL players, or playing in front of the same crowd as NBA players at Madison Square Garden. But all of us age group athletes can share war stories of "the wind on that return run leg" or " the chop heading out to the first swim turn" with the best in the sport. To me, this is a unique benefit that long course triathlon has over short course racing given the separation of the elite ITU races from the amateur races.
Growing up predominantly in Melbourne then Canberra, I played team sports (Aussie Rules football, cricket, basketball) from about 11years old until mid thirties when my body just couldn't back up from the impacts of Canberra third grade football and bade a farewell to mighty ANU Griffins.
I stumbled across the Exceed training squad in Canberra and, despite not being able to swim 100m non-stop, started out racing the local Sunday Triathlon ACT races. I jumped in the deep end riding and running with multiple Ironman finishers and Kona qualifiers. (I remember the first open water swim on the Lake Burley Griffin rowing course where I blew to pieces swimming to the start buoy! The swim hadn't even started!) Again, a rookie to local football can't go and train with the state representative team - which is in effect what I was able to do and soak up all I could. The friends I found at this group are my best mates to this day.
Little by little I would get dropped a little later on the Saturday Man Rides, would be lapped a little less often in the swim squads and be a little less behind on the Wednesday lunchtime interval runs. After expressing out loud in my first summer that I could never see myself training and racing Ironman, I got hooked on the sport - the equipment, the pushing yourself in training, the tangible fitness improvements, the pro racing, the lot.
What I have been able to do is maintain my own training progression while mixing in joint sessions with friends. This summer I had planned a lighter race schedule, with one mid-long distance at Callala Beach (2k / 60k / 15k) - could not recommend this race enough - and two long course races at Huskisson and Challenge Batemans Bay.
I've accepted now after a few hard lessons learned that I need to adapt group training sessions around what works for me. And just as importantly, plan my race week / weekend and of course race execution to suit my abilities and age. Being the only one of my group over 40 I've taken on board advice regarding training intensities and recovery which need to be adapted from approaches that younger athletes can use. I do a select number of sessions with my friends that suit me, but have learned when to stay solo.
This really hit home for me during last winter after some ok but mostly frustrating races last summer. I'd possibly over raced, not been as careful with race nutrition, and executed a poorly paced race at Ironman Melbourne. During last winter I had a really good couple of months of training preparing for a mid distance race in the UK (3rd overall) and executed a good day at the Las Vegas 70.3 world champs. (One of the best memories of the day was seeing Josh bombing off the front at Vegas coming out of the National Park with Keinle and the field trying to reel him in.)
I had quite good races this summer at Callala (4th in AG, just being pipped in the Exceed World Champs despite being older than the rest of the crew), Huskisson Long Course (12th AG and a 10 minute PB for that course) and Challenge Batemens Bay Half this past weekend (3rd AG and being pipped in the rematch of the Exceed champs by a few seconds.) What I am most pleased about is the preparation and race day execution. If I had one thing to offer from my somewhat limited experience is to get a plan and execute it - both preparation / training plan and race day plan. A good friend and Kona Qualifier wisely told me regarding coaching and training to not act like the cancer patient going from doctor to doctor (or coach to coach - or even internet article to article) looking for the next miracle.
Looking forward it's an easy week or two - a mini mid-season break basically - then lock down in an ironman prep for IM Mont Tremblant in Canada in August. I've put it out there that if the stars align, and I execute a great day ('good' probably won't be enough) I may be in the mix for a ticket to the Big Island. Maybe.
Thanks again to Josh for the opportunity to share my story, and all the best to him and anyone reading.
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