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Joined: 09 Feb 2005
Posts: 2473
Location: Gold Coast, Australia

PostPosted: Thu Jul 17, 2008 7:08 pm    Post subject: Another perspective... Reply with quote

Iíve left writing up this race report for a while now to try and let my thoughts settle down after such a tough weekend. What has become apparent is that the scars from this race will take a long while to healÖ

I approached this race with my highest ever level of fitness and was as prepared physically as I could have hoped for. Iíve been living in Australia for a year now and my last race was at Ironman Western Australia where I managed to clock my second 8hr53min finish. I was determined to better this time and was looking forward to finding out just how my training over the past months had paid off. My training team comprising of my swim coach Graham McDonald at the Sports Super Centre, my physio Mark Barrett of Physiologic and training partner Rebekah Keat were all talking up my chances at Ironman Switzerland. My confidence was sky high, as it should be when in training you are able to complete sessions that previously had you beat. The real icing on the cake for me though was not only my fitness but my lack of injuries. I didnít even have the slightest niggle and once again I have my physio Mark and masseur Brenden to thank for this. For weeks they pummelled me with their fists and elbows and stabbed me with their acupuncture needles then to finish me off covered me in tape to keep my joints (specifically my Sacroiliac joints) in the correct place. Just so there is no doubt I was readyÖjust not quite ready for everything.

Leaving Australia was tough. I married my long term girlie in March and really didnít want to leave her home alone but this is my chosen profession and we both understood that this is just one of those things. My return flight had me back in the UK 12days before the race so enough time to get over the jetlag and recover from my solid training right up to the day of my flight. I landed to a perfect summerís day which I was a pleasant surprise. I had just over a week in the UK before I headed over to Zurich but had a very clear training programme and knew that I just needed to stick to it. Training in the UK is tough especially when you have been spoilt for the past year. Swimming requires a whole new technique as you play dodge the blue rinser during public sessions and of course itís imperative that you remember thereís a wall every 25m not the usual 50m!! I still managed to get a few swims in and some semi decent sets where I could. The riding before the event was tougher than I imagined, the wet weather combined with the jetlag resulted in a couple of miserable rides but I still knew though that all I needed was already in the tank. My running was exactly as Iíd hoped for and it really wasnít long before I headed offÖ

Arriving in Zurich I was hit by the cleanliness and the thinness of the air. Zurich is actually at 300m above sea level which I knew would help for quicker times come race day. Everything was just as I had hoped for in the days leading up to the race. I felt fantastic, with just effortless speed in every discipline and the ability to just pile on the pace during my ďpick upísĒ. This was going to be a super quick dayÖthe weather forecast was a bit of a tetchy point though with the forecast for wet weather to hit over the weekend but my thinking was if Iíve been training in the high 20ís then a bit of wet will just make me even more efficient.

A bit of wet though is quite a lot of wet to the rest of the world in Switzerland it appears. The day before the race was just plain wet but what hit me most was the massive drop in temperature from the days previous. We were down to about 17deg now from the high 20ís. Luckily Iíd packed a fair bit of ďwinter wearĒ and just went about my finals dayís tasks as usual with the weather not affecting me. I did have my fingers crossed that this would clear for race day and in the evening as the clouds began to break up I thought we were on for a good day. I now realise that I could have not been any more wrong. I awoke on race day after a good nightís sleep to the worst rain so far and yet another drop in temperature. I knew that Iíd just need to wear more clothes in the race and just hoped that there would be nothing more to it. Nirvana had arranged a coach down to the race venue and all went according to plan. I met up with David from Zero2Hero to use the pump and wished each other luck and went on our own way. Normally I like to hang around in transition to absorb the atmosphere but today I really wasnít in the mood. It was far too cold and wet to hang around so headed off to put my wetsuit on and try and warm up.

Once my suit was on I made it down to the swim start and only had time for a couple of hundred metres to try and get going. Even though the water was warm(ish) I still felt really cold and this shows in my swim time. I was aiming for a 51min swim but missed the pack and ended up leading round the second chase group. By the end of the first lap I just backed off and swam in the group but this easing off was probably the beginning of the end of me as I was actually getting cold now in the water. As it was I ended up swimming the second loop in the pack and on feet knowing that the race would be won out on the bike and run as most of the race favourites would still be exiting the water behind me. I had a fairly slick transition and was out onto the bike and tried to settle down into a decent pace. What I was hit with I truly didnít expect. I was riding okay but my heart-rate was just super low, about 15beats down on what Iíd expect. The effort was still there so just did my best to ease into the ride knowing that once I warmed up Iíd be able to start making some time up. Along by the lake the eventual second place finisher Stefan Reisen as well as Petr Vabrosek and Nick Saunders rode by but there was no way I had the change of pace required to go with them. I was stuck in a rut and had no change of pace at all. This should really have been a signal to me that all was not well. I figured that once I hit the first climb and the wind chill was no longer an issue my body temperature would work its way back up to a more acceptable level, by this stage I was struggling to not shiver. The first climb was just a steady rise and I waited patiently for everything to warm up but before I knew it and now had to contend with an even lower effort level and more wind chill. The next major climb was the Beast and this really was nothing like as hard as what Iíve been training on and yet my legs just felt like lead. This wasnít right, and certainly what I had planned. The race was slipping away from me but as Jason Shortis regularly states you never, ever, never give up and so I just kept plugging away. When we were back down onto the lake I was really struggling to keep focused on the task at hand. The urge to shiver now was stronger than ever and it was everything I could do to hold it off but by the time Iíd gone past transition and started Heartbreak hill I had the shakes. As I came back round to finish my first lap I heard my Mum at the roadside and just had to stop so doubled back and put some more clothes on. I was now wearing arm warmers, a race top, road jersey and a water proof jacket and was still shivering. Now is not the time for stepping down and giving up though and headed off on my way again. My legs by this stage just had nothing and I felt like I was just rolling along on an easy training ride. It was as I reached the bottom of the first climb by the end of the lake I could tell my legs were done but waited until the Beast to see what would happen as I tried to salvage my day. By the time the Beast approached I was done. My hands were blue and I had no control over my fingers making my bike handling really quite questionable. It was now that I realised that even if I made it to T2 my body would be in no fit shape for the marathon that lie ahead. I was doneÖ

I pulled over to the side of the road full of thoughts and disappointment and removed my number and chip and rode on to try and find an English speaking medic or race official. At 160k I pulled into an aid station and waited for my lift back. As I arrived back at transition I was whisked into the medical tent and was given two bags of warm fluids. I just lay on the medical bed distraught, a shadow of what I had planned for myself. How can you go through all the pain in training, and sacrifice and end up like this. As Iíve told people this story since the event two words regularly crop up, fair and luck though generally with the words not and bad prefixing them respectively. These are not words I want to be associated with, I want a level playing field with no excuses but I know now after 2 years in the sport this truly does not exist. It is this and the lack of payback for my work and sacrifice that is driving me away from this sport. Whilst I do believe you get what you deserve and you deserve what you settle for I am not sure how much more of this I can take. My life is turning away from this sport as a profession such as it is (I still joke that Iím more FREElance than professional triathlete)Ö

I am now in the process of building all my training again to take on the Big Woody where I will race the full Ironman distance event. I am looking forward to the challenge of the event and catching up with some familiar faces. I will be travelling around a bit this week to try and catch up with some friends and sponsors and then it will be head down for the run up to what will more than likely be my last race as a professional on British soil.

I would of course like to thank my sponsors for all of their support, High5 care of, Forsport, Elagen Sport whose new product will blow you away, USE and my new pimp'd pods, KCNC, BlueSeventy for their new Helix and of course Zero2Hero who without their support I certainly wouldn't have been able to experience and discover all that I have.

Kulia i ko Ikaika
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Joined: 01 Oct 2006
Posts: 11598
Location: walking in a Wigan-Wonderland..

PostPosted: Thu Jul 17, 2008 7:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good report James on what must have been a huge disappointment for you.....BUT, no matter if you are a professional triathlete, mechanical engineer or bin man, everyone has their off-days and days when things just go wrong......and there aint nowt you can do about it.

The true sign of how good you really are is how you bounce back from things like this ....... how you deal with the crap and bad days.....and come back better and stronger...

Good Luck and I am sure you will nail TBW !!!
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Joined: 26 Jul 2006
Posts: 9987
Location: Wupass

PostPosted: Thu Jul 17, 2008 7:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry to heat that James, I figured you'd had a mechanical or something like that (hit a hole maybe). But each and every one of us gets bad races, at the front or the back of the back. From Stadler's puncture in Kona, Paula's problems in Athens right down to the other end of the pack where people like me have illness problems leading up to a race or Rach (Mrs Slacko) gets whacked in the head during the swim. It can happen to anyone.

My aim in the sport is to get a perfect race out of me, not hit a time or achieve a target but just get a perfect race out where I give everything and nothing goes wrong. In 40+ races I've still not done it.

Whatever you chose to do I wish you well but consider staying in IM for a while yet. I'm still a supporter of Zerp2Hero and I've offered my assistance there and I'd renew my membership for 08/09. Stick with it James, you've got it in you.
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dr dre

Joined: 03 Jun 2003
Posts: 15079

PostPosted: Thu Jul 17, 2008 7:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

dude you need some pies in you to give you a bit of insulation

seriously tough day at the office - good luck for the bw
Racing triathlons with both direction and magnitude
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Fully Ferrous

Joined: 07 Sep 2006
Posts: 706
Location: Mining for Medals in Iron Mines

PostPosted: Thu Jul 17, 2008 7:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

James - I feel your disappointment and can relate to it. Many years ago I was a very good rugby union player. I played at the highest level save for international representation. And I never made it to that top level. At the time I felt bitter and angry that my talents weren't recognised and that injuries and seemingly biased selection procedures seemed to conspire to keep me from achieving my potential.
Yet looking back, those days of trials and tribulations and struggle formed the man I am today. I fought and fought and, although I didn't succeed in my goal to achieve an international cap, the very process of the struggle has - I'm sure - contributed much to later successes in career, life and - relatively speaking to your own high levels - triathlon.
Do what you need to do but do it knowing that you have truly, truly given it every ounce of effort you can give. And if you have then you have nothing more to give and can walk away with your head held high, knowing you've done the best you can.
If you feel you can do more, then relish the English winter, train in the appalling conditions that we have to live with, enduring purple hands and frozen feet and crying when we jump into the shower on a cold January morning following a century bike ride. Run on the fells and the beacons of the countryside, daring the foulest of weather to slow you down. Seek out the Lake District and Snowdonia passes in February and ride them at pace relentlessly. Prepare for the worst of conditions because Europe is almost certain to provide them for you. Warm will be a bonus - that's in your blood after your time in Oz.
Whatever you decide... know that you're a fabulous athlete and that a disappointing day in poor weather doesn't change that.
"Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?"
Triathlon, Life, Movies and everything in between.
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Joined: 11 Jan 2006
Posts: 2314
Location: TUnbridge Wells

PostPosted: Thu Jul 17, 2008 8:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rough luck James. Is there a medical explanantion ? Sounds like all was not well for some other reason than the water was cold and caused what you went through ?

Worth checking out before you throw in the towel ?
Life is free - take it in big chunks.....

2006 IM CH, 2007 IMF, 2008 Norseman, 2009 100 hour Raid Pyrenees, 2010 Marazion, 2011 AXtri, 2012 - White Horse Challenge, Tonbridge, 2nd baby, 2013 - Aberdeen to Southampton bike, 2014 Gauntlet

2015 ?
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Nicholas Van Holman

Joined: 15 Apr 2008
Posts: 738
Location: Surrey

PostPosted: Thu Jul 17, 2008 9:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

James -- so sorry to hear your news and your decision to call it a day, triathlon wise. I hope that turns out not to be the case. You simply have too much raw talent to let it go to waste, but I can fully understand your frustrations. Its like investing your hard earned cash for years and years and then getting nothing back by way of a return.

And perhaps I am speaking out of turn, but I have always felt that you fell between two stools (no, not that kind!). On the one hand, you are head and shoulders above the age group fraternity in terms of your training, commitment and results and turning professional was clearly the logical step. But on the other hand, you weren't brought up with the kind of lucky breaks that sets the likes of Don and Clarke into the top notch elite ranks from an early age. YOu've had to graft your way there and as we all know, its been far from plain sailing. For anybody outside the funding regime to turn pro is a massive step and I have always admired you for being prepared to take that risk and live your dream. I would love to be able to train full time and devote my whole life to triathlon just to see how far I could go, but I am too much of a coward and simply wouldn't take the risk.

What I am trying to say, I guess, is that nobody here will think any the less of you because things didn't quite turn out the way you expected. I'm not a religious man, but I'll say a little prayer tonight that you will blast the woody and re-kindle that flame that burns inside you. You said yourself that you were on the start line in the best shape of your life. It was the weather and the conditions that beat you, nothing else.

Nicholas Van Holman, though you probably remember me as Dale Cannonman, or Giantman, or.......
Tried steel. Tried aluminium. Tried carbon. Now bring on the titanium!
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 17, 2008 11:36 pm    Post subject: Re: Another perspective... Reply with quote

'I will be travelling around a bit this week to try and catch up with some friends and sponsors and then it will be head down for the run up to what will more than likely be my last race as a professional on British soil.'

I feel sick....Ive never known you as anything other than a Pro (Oh and my hubby!!). It scares me to think of life without you training. Take it from me world, this man is a nutter when it comes to triathlon. I know its not easy honey, and I certainly couldnt have jumped over all the hurdles you have, however I married you for who you are now..Im proud and privileged to be your wife and If I had a money tree Id be kicking you in the butt right now and telling you to go pick some more cash, swallow your pride and get out there once again. I miss you terribly but I want you to put every last drop of enthusiasm into the Big Woody. Enjoyt it, Have fun...maybe we will find that tree then this can become your full time hobby Very Happy xx
Never regret,just learn from...
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markie r

Joined: 07 Apr 2005
Posts: 12909

PostPosted: Thu Jul 17, 2008 11:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

good grief, get a room will you Wink
ffs I don't actually live under a bridge in Norway.
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T-rex of Tri

Joined: 13 Jan 2005
Posts: 5893
Location: Wellington, NZ

PostPosted: Fri Jul 18, 2008 12:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

JP... honestly I don't think moving to this end of the world helps with dealing with cold conditions... I get chills at 5 degrees here in Welly, you won't even get that in the gold coast, I used to be silly good in cold conditions (relative to people who would go at the same speed as me normally), that won't be the case now.

I'm not sure it's luck that meant that you pulled out, with what seems to be hypothermia, but training in reasonable conditions and then ending up in what you couldn't have predicted must be a big contributing factor.

Do some training for the Big Woody, give it a blast, there's plenty of races throughout the world for you to do.

And as Markie R says... could you guys get a room (glad to see that your relationship is so strong that she'd even sign up for Tritalk for you Smile )
'Mon the Biff
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 18, 2008 6:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kin ell, i was disappointed that i did not win Ironman Austria but i'm not giving up and packing my toys away. If you dont enjoy it, give it up...thats fair enough but dont pack it all in just because your last race went badly.

Look for some sort of change. If you do what you have always done, you always get what you always got.

Try training for a double, it makes IM feel like a sprint
1 day until tomorrow
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 18, 2008 7:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some other pro athletes have been complaining of the cold getting to them... a product of low bodyfat I would guess.

Macca could have quit after having been beaten for 5 years in Kona , so could Mark Allen when they got beat year in year out by Dave Scott... but persistence and determination made them focus and rise to the top. Although they are two totally different athletes, of course.

I am no pro... nor much of an athlete, but the lessons you learn by this and the changes you make will make you better, as crap as you might feel right now. I have only recently (under 2 years) pulled my lethargic arse off the sofa and onto the asphalt and ran a bit... 100 metres without stopping the first time (wow!), then....200...300, soon after the big 1km. I carried on running, even though I could have easily stopped. I ran my first marathon 5 months after not being able to run to the end of the road. Oh and it was mighty slow, but it got done Very Happy My struggle is by no-means unique... and I am sure that loads of people here have similar stories about a time that it would have been easier to give up due to a bad experience than keep going.

I don't mean to compare me to you, but my little molehill pales beside your sub-9! But I hope you understand what I was driving at.

Remember the wise words Lance Armstrong said to Peter Lafleur in Dodgeball "Well, I guess if a person never quit when the going got tough, they wouldn't anything to regret for the rest of their life. Well good luck to you Peter. I'm sure this decision won't haunt you forever"

That was a very well written piece by the way.

Andy (ex-fat bloke)
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Location: Harrow

PostPosted: Fri Jul 18, 2008 9:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Too little body fat and a tendency to get cold quickly is something that has affected Andrew Johns several times in his career, most recently at the Olympic qualifying race in Madrid. His race report is here

IM can be cruel you don't get to race many in a year (unless you are Petr Vabrousek) and they are so easily derailed by injury, illness, mechanical problems, weather and you seem to have encountered most of them. Take some time to think it all through but I'd be sorry if you called it a day.
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Location: alles was ich bin, alles was ich war

PostPosted: Fri Jul 18, 2008 9:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Conan, I hope you don't bow-out too prematurely; this sounds like a crushing thing that happened to you and I hope that you're able to get back from this asap. I think time will help.

It's interesting to see the whole weather angle. The one thing I would say, is that whilst the weather in Europe might not be as good as Oz, all of us here in Central Europe had been training in temperaturres in the 30s for most of the build-up to these IM races. I did my longest ride in 35 degree heat and it was often still high 20s at 6pm, then race day brought 12 degrees at Roth on the bike. I'm not trying to make any other point here, than to say I think it was something more than the weather, I think you were unfortunate and hope that whatever it was that 'hit' you last Sunday doesn't come back again.

Good luck for the BW, don't call-it-a-day too soon Smile
26 Years since it all began....
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Location: Tooting (hopefully not for much longer)

PostPosted: Fri Jul 18, 2008 9:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mate, am gutted for you. Big hug and I hope things go well at the Big Woody.
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