12 months ago, I raced my first middle distance triathlon at Challenge Peguera-Mallorca and learnt a load of lessons about racing that distance. Things like nutrition and pacing became more important than just putting together a good swim-bike-run. It was tough to say the least.
Since that race 12 months ago, I’ve had niggles, raced another 70.3, trained more specifically for 70.3, invested in a time trial bike and learnt how to fuel myself for this style of racing. It’s been turbulent and unsettling at times but it’s what has made me love triathlon and what I am able to do even more than ever.
My build up to Challenge Peguera-Mallorca had been good, swimming and riding was going really well, racking up the miles. Running was a little bit less on the consistent side with a niggling Achilles but from around 7-8 weeks out I was able to get a good consistent block of running. Running some of my longest runs certainly gave me confidence but there is definitely still lots of room to grow from my 3 runs a week.
The morning of the race I felt content and calm with a fire in my belly to get out there and race. Complete trust in my fitness and pacing, I would only have to focus on nutrition and technical aspects of my form. Two peanut butter and jam sandwiches, a biscuit bar and two bottles of electrolyte water later, it was time to line up and listen to Pirates of the Caribbean at the start. Silence fell. Klaxon sounded. We charged into the choppy swell of the Balearic Sea.
I had a great start, out and clear of the majority of the field still dolphin diving and wading their way out. Throughout the swim, spotting the buoys was challenging for the best part. I often spent my time visualising and semi-guessing that I was swimming in the right direction, back sighting to the beach and other buoys I had passed. A kick-ass body surf onto the beach got me a 5-10 second gap on a couple of guys that missed the wave! I exited the water in 2nd, up the heavy sandy beach and through T1.
Challenge Mallorca has the most spectacular bike course; plenty of hills, fast sweeping descents, and fast flat sections. Something for everyone, one could say. I was out pretty much on my own for the majority of the first lap going through the halfway point in 1 hour 13 minutes and backing that up to finish the bike in 2 hours 29 minutes. Admittedly, the wind did pick up on the second lap but regardless, I was pleased with my pacing across the laps.
Through T2 and out onto the run, I was feeling good but the heat of the sun was growing lap by lap. I worked hard to hold on to pace and use the aid stations to focus on running too. The aid stations were most useful with ice cold water-filled sponges we could grab and cool down.
By this point, I knew my nutrition was going well. I wasn’t cramping, bonking or bloated, all things I had experienced in the past with some interesting nutrition tactics.
I crossed the line in 4:29:50, around 16 minutes faster than last year, 3rd in my Age Group, 12th Age Grouper overall, and 40th overall including pros and qualification for the Challenge Championship 2020. I was pretty pleased with my result and hard work. This was definitely a really good personal step closer to my pro licence.
Now it's time to rest and relax with a bit of an end-of-season break before getting back to work and preparing for 2020. Big thanks to everyone who has supported me this year!
About the author: Harrison Rolls-King is a competitive triathlete and Sundried ambassador.
On Sunday 24th of November 2019 I lined up for my second race of the season in the Wellington Triathlon club's series, the Capital City Triathlon.
'Windy Wellington' lived up to its name, with conditions being fine apart from a strong northerly wind which continued to build throughout the day. Apart from the wind, conditions were good for a triathlon, although the water is still yet to warm up lower in New Zealand.
The race begins with a beach start, which felt strangely subdued, but the chaos resumed 100m into the first lap of the swim course. I was excited to line up again with an old friend, Christian Davey, and comparing my swim to his. I struggled to find some good feet to hold onto and felt my focus shifting to trying to keep composure. Solo swim training has great benefits to specificity, but it does negate any chance of practising skills such as drafting!
Exiting the water into our second lap, I found a little more focus and cleaner water where I seemed to be much more comfortable. I noted there is still much work to be done on my swim and I was also 2 minutes down on Christian.
T1 felt rushed, a few fumbles led to a shift in my composure again, leading to a much overdone mount onto my bike and a heavy landing. I then struggled with the straps on my shoes, having to stop and re-thread the strap which had come loose.
Nevertheless, I continued onto the bike course with the strong northerly wind blowing us further down coast. I was able to make up some steady ground and enjoyed the short, sharp climb in the course. All was going well leading into the turnaround of our one lap course. Unfortunately, I missed spotting some loose gravel and ended up losing my front wheel completely and landing hard onto my right side at the hairpin.
I was aided by the generous help of the course marshals and Christian's father as I took a few minutes to gather myself, check my wounds, and check my bike. It's here you find it very easy to pull out of the race, and with offers of a car ride back I took a few deep breaths, re-scanned my body and bike and decided to carry on. No damage done to myself was going to further hinder my recovery or training in the weeks to come, so my decision was made.
As I started heading back, the wind reminded me it wasn't going to be quick, and wounds soon started smarting, struggling to keep good grip with my right hand after losing a good chunk of skin.
T2 was uneventful; a little slow and little lost, I managed to find the exit thanks to my supporters my partner Holly and my mum.
The first lap of two for the run, I was feeling a little sorry for myself, but again took note as a focused and fast Christian was soon about to start lap 2 and the fact of being lapped was inevitable.
The run route headed north first into an ever-growing and blustery wind, throwing most athletes to a near standstill rounding the corners of the coast, but I found some composure and legs at the turnaround, which continued to grow into what was a fine run and strong second lap, achieving my third fastest 5k this season.
The race was made much more bearable thanks to the amazing support from my partner Holly and my mum, giving me a smile at the end despite the high emotions as I processed a tough day.
I had a race full of great opportunities for growth and looking back, the crash was a mere blip initially shadowing great success: I swam as well as I did at the Tinman triathlon despite feeling off form, I was able to gather enough composure and clear thought to continue racing after coming down hard on the bike, then going on to post my third fastest 5k this season!
About the author: James Harvey is a triathlete from New Zealand who competes at an international level.
On Sunday 10th November 2019, I kicked off my season in Tauranga at the Tinman Triathlon. I'm stoked to say that my first race in over 12 months was awesome!
We were all faced with very challenging conditions on the day; horrendous winds and torrential rain followed the great weather we'd had for the past couple weeks.
Albeit a little nervous having not raced nationally for a while, I think my time over the last 12 months has really allowed me to develop my mental skills. I found my head space to be the best it's been during racing, and that resulted in my best ever open water swim performance to date.
My coach Will and I have spent some time figuring out why I may have under-performed in open water in the past, and it looks like we've been on the money and I achieved a performance I'm very proud of.
Unfortunately, this performance was not enough to get me into a top group for the draft-legal bike leg, but I can't deny the obvious gains I've made over just the last 3 months.
The bike leg was incredibly windy and the roads were very wet. I struggled for the first quarter to find anybody I could work with to make a pack as I moved up the field, but eventually I found someone willing and hungry to get stuck in and fight the wind.
This proved to be a hard partnership as he didn't seem willing to share the work or work with me, instead he seemed to want to work alone, and often put in surges to drop me. I held on with everything I could as the lone wolf strategy was never going to be a good option in the conditions we had. Instead I just let him do all the work and held his wheel!
This left my matchbox pretty empty after 20km on the bike and entering onto the tough run course that Tinman faces us all with. I left Transition 2 with the goal of getting around the course in the best shape I could, with the focus on technical proficiency.
All in all, I put in a very good performance and I'm stoked to be back on the circuit once again. I still have a very long road ahead of me, but everything looks promising for a great season ahead.
About the author: James Harvey is a New Zealand triathlete and Sundried ambassador.
I rounded out my 2019 season by racing the Challenge Paguera-Mallorca Middle Distance Triathlon. Set in the small tourist town of Paguera, it is a popular and competitive end-of-season European race. It has a reputation of being friendly and well organised, as you would expect from a Challenge Family event. I arrived with high hopes of a new PB despite the heat and bumpy bike course. Alas, it wasn’t to be.
To start with (apart from the hotel we booked being closed! – Expedia sorted that) all went well. The town welcomes the triathletes, there are a range of events on the Thursday/Friday including Zumba, a kids race, a ladies 5k race as well as organised entertainment of a traditional fire/firework display and concert in the square.
Registration was painless; the briefing was focused and the pasta party actually had good choice! There was a single transition just off the beach, where we had to rack our bikes and leave transition bags on Friday evening – though you could get to both before the race.
The swim is 1900m out-and-back in the sea. At the briefing, the concern was going to be the impact of potential wind. It was very windy. Because of the sandbars, this means there can be a swell; the photo of pros going in doesn’t really do the size of the waves justice.
I would say it was the roughest swim I have ever done where the distance wasn’t reduced (and I’ve been racing for 16 years). So, in this rough sea I struggled with spotting and the rolling waves. However, finishing the swim in 35 minutes meant I was only 5 minutes down on my plan when I got out.
The bike course is 2 laps, it climbs two hills during the first 15km and then is largely downhill rolling until the last 4km where there is another lump to go over. On the 2nd hill the road is narrow, with bikes going both ways, meaning the descent is quite technical.
This started well, my heart was pounding a bit after the swim so I paced my way over the first hill to get myself back in control and then was enjoying the ascent of the second. As I was nearing the top, another triathlete lost control coming down and ploughed into me and the lady behind, damaging my gear levers, cracking the carbon on my rear wheel, and my helmet had a flat side to it from my head hitting the road.
I lost a couple of minutes but got going, gingerly at first, but then had a fantastic adrenaline rush! This soon wore off and I started to feel like my ribs and upper arm were bruised. Also, I realised that I’d lost my spare water bottle and it was nearly 20 miles to the aid station and I only had about a quarter of a bottle left!
This required all of my mental strength to focus, shut out the distractions, re-organise my race plan and keep going. The rolling roads of the lap’s second half enabled me to get back to it and by the time I’d caught up on eating and drinking after the aid station I was in a place to push on a bit. Thankfully, the second lap was incident-free. I made it round in 2 hours 55 minutes (another 5 minutes down on plan).
As I started to put on my running shoes in transition, I knew that my ribs weren’t in a good way. The run is four laps up and down the high street with excursions onto adjoining roads. It’s not hilly but does rise and fall a bit. I dug in and steadily paced my way around as it was now in the high 20s degrees Celsius.
I made sure I walked the aid stations to eat and drink. Although my pace dropped in the second half, relatively this was less than others, meaning that I was overtaking people on the run (something of a rarity for me!) I crossed the line with in 1 hour 50 minutes, guess what, another 5 minutes behind plan.
Overall, I finished in 5 hours 29 minutes (the plan was 5 hours 15 minutes, which would have been a PB). I managed to finish 19th out of 87 in the men's 50-54 age group. In overall terms I was a bit disappointed.
A few weeks on, my ribs are still tender, my bike wheel is back with Hed and I'm researching which aero helmet to buy! However, with some reflection, it was my second fastest middle distance time and there are a number of positive elements about my performance which will help build towards next season.
Finally, a thought to the family of the competitor who died during the swim.
About the author: Stephen Vaughan is a triathlete and Sundried ambassador.
Louella O'Herlihy is a Sundried ambassador and gives us her account of the magical Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.
I qualified for Ironman Kona by winning my Age Group (F50-54) at Ironman Bolton in July. My friend Gill came to support me and on the run was saying encouraging things like, "Don't lose it on this last lap as I've booked the flights to Kona". She wasn't kidding so I had to dig deep as a lady was closing on me, but somehow blew up on this last lap so I ended up winning by 30 minutes.
Arriving in Kona
Gill and I travelled to Kona together; this was her 3rd time racing at the Ironman World Championships whereas this was going to be my 3rd Ironman full stop. We arrived 2 weeks before the race to acclimatise to the intense heat, get used to the strong winds that buffet you while on the bike, and practise the non-wetsuit swim. As this was my first time in Hawaii, it was also exciting for me to to turtle spot and keep an eye out for dolphins while we swam in Kailua-Kona bay at Dig Me Beach.
Unfortunately, the Airbnb we had booked was not fit for purpose so we put a plea on Facebook for accommodation and were put in touch with Karlyn Pipes,.an inspirational and lovely lady, who is also in the swimming Hall of Fame and has over 200 FINA Masters world records in every distance and stroke. She introduced us to the spirit of the island, Ohana, and especially the female strength of Madam Pele, the goddess of fire. Ohana means extended family, love, compassion and respect for all and this is the overriding experience I got out of racing in Kona. The spirit of Ironman, where anything is possible, was so inspiring.
The oldest lady competing was 72 and there were 3 men in their 80s! Then there were the 5,000 volunteers that had given up their time and holidays to come to Kona to help out the athletes. It's all so amazing, with continual smiles and everyone willing you to do your best.
Race day started at 5.30am in transition doing last minute bike checks, then my swim wave started at 7.20am.
There was quite a swell but I set off and settled into my stroke and looked for some feet to follow. It wasn't long before I followed some pretty much all the way to the first turnaround buoy. This was lucky as my toes cramped within 5 minutes of setting off, so to get a 'ride' was great.
Unfortunately, I lost these feet in the melee at the turnaround and had to battle the next 2km into the current on my own steam. It took me longer than I had hoped to complete the 3.8km swim: 1 hour 24 minutes. It was then into transition, grab the bike and head out onto the infamous Queen K highway to start the 112-mile bike leg.
Temperatures were now getting into the mid 30s Celsius with humidity 80%+. My plan was to go as hard as I could for as long as I could. I had unfortunately come off my bike 5 days before the race and strained my thigh so I was only able to bike for 20 minutes 2 days pre-race before cramping up. Luckily, I'm an acupuncturist so treated myself with needles which gave me enough movement to start the race and see how long I could hold on for.
By halfway at the top of the famous climb up to Hawi, the cramps were starting to set in. I wasn't going as fast as I was hoping but I was halfway now so time to hunker down and battle the winds on the return leg to Kona. I was relieved to make it back without a puncture and made it in 5 hours 59 minutes (and 59 seconds!) My legs felt like jelly as I got off the bike, made my way through transition and started on the 26.2 mile run leg...initially on the famous Ali'i Drive.
My leg was really tight now so I kept opening my eyes and savouring where I was; I was racing here in Kona, a dream for so many triathletes and I was here doing it! There was no way I was going to be miserable; sure I was frustrated that I wasn't racing as I had hoped, but I was still giving it my best, and that's all you can ever do.
I saw Gill on the bike and on the run twice and was pleased to see she was looking strong – which she was as she smashed her age group to take the win and become F55-59 World Champion. I also saw Annie and Jean from my club Zoom Tri Bournemouth who were running well and about 8 more of my friends who were out there racing. I took in the amazing sunset as I came out of the famous Energy Lab and had about 6 miles left to run. I had been really slowing up to this point but seemed to get a second wind – the spirit of Hawaii seemed to be with me – and I had a strong last 3 miles.
I relished approaching the most famous finish line in the world of triathlon and high-fived people while running down the finish chute. I had made it! My leg had held out. I had just completed the the Ironman World Championship in 11 hours 47 mins, a PB for me, and come 11th in the World in my AG.
The whole race experience was out of this world, but the spirit of the island and the people I met were what made this a truly extraordinary experience. I felt like this was my spiritual home, and I will definitely aim to return to this soul-enriching island as soon as I can!