Hamburg Heists

For the 9th time, I trod the road to the North to ostensibly everyone’s favourite stop on the ITU circus – Hamburg. Home of fanatical fans, frenetic racing and pretzels. Mmmm, pretzels. The trip from Aix was relatively straightforward, save for the elderly Swiss lady inexplicably gifting me a banana whilst I was minding my own business in wait at Geneva airport. It came adorned with a bouquet of napkins and a torrent of uninterpretable French, presented reverently with two hands and a smile. I figured she was either a benevolent Swiss with a full stomach, or an organ thief with a well practiced routine. Weighing up both my options and my hunger, I ate the banana. Thankfully, my future did not involve waking up in an ice bath minus a kidney.

 

Arriving in Hamburg and rooming with long-time collaborator Ryan Fisher meant the banter was flowing faster than the lager during Octoberfest. On to the race, and in typical Hamburg fashion, it was over in a flash of lactic, speed and rabid crowds. The rain belted down, yet the crowd was still as abundant and vociferous as ever, emphasizing the Germans love for triathlon, which I’m yet to find an equal to around the world.  My swim was a little lacklustre, and I found myself in the chase pack on the bike. Around 10km into the bike, and the rain started to come down, and the roads turned as slippery as a jelly-wrestling eel. Consequently, the carnage started, with riders dropping like a teenager’s pants when the “Eagle Rock” starts playing at a partly. I navigated to T2 without tasting bitumen, and donned the running shoes. With another 2 weeks of running under my belt since Stockholm, I got around the run in an improved fashion, with a marked enrichment of my aesthetics, and both qualitative and quantitative appraisals. Still a bit of work to do, but it’s starting to feel like running again, rather than surviving, as the previous races have been. Finished up in 43rd, but trending quicker on the run...

 

From here, Project Run continues. Next major race is Edmonton WTS, before which I’ve given myself roving commission to find some training races to keep me interested until then. Stay tuned for what those are – it’s somewhat of a floating calendar at the moment!

 

Take care friends,

Willy

Scandinavian Hell Hole

As alluded to in the previous post, it’s been a long time coming, but the time has finally come where I’m healthy enough stage to don a race suit in anger. Kicking things off with a French GP in Valence with a solid 36 hrs of recovery time from the long haul flight from Brisbane isn’t something you’ll find in any triathlon textbook (should such things exist), but surprisingly enough, jet lag didn’t seem to hit me too badly. Presumably my body knew how raw my running form was, and figured I had enough problems to deal without adding jet-lag to what looked like was going to be an already foul-tasting potion.

 

Pulling on Mulhouse colours for the first time, I managed to get round Valence in one piece, and in the process managed to blow out enough cobwebs to make Indiana Jones squirm. My swim and bike was decent and in the main pack, and in my first run at full effort, it was reinforced to me just how many steps one takes when running 5km. I felt every single one of them – and each required a prodigious amount of effort.

 

By the time a volunteer had removed my timing chip, my calves were experiencing ROMS (Rapid Onset Muscle Soreness), which progressed that night to MOMS (Moderate Onset Muscle Soreness) before settling finally on DOMS (Delayed onset Muscle Soreness) where they remain, albeit to a lesser extent, to this day.

I spent the next two weeks dividing my time between reacquainting myself with Aix les Bains, furiously trying to repair calf soreness, and causing untold amounts of hilarity with my attempts to walk down stairs whilst the aforementioned repair took place. 

 

Then, it was time to voyage North, to Scandinavian waters, to the cobbles and corners of Stockholm. The Norse Gods must have taken kindly to me, perhaps owing to a decent amount of esoteric Swedish music in my library, and granted me the gift of starting next to Raoul Shaw on pontoon. Raul owns arguably some of the finest set of swimming arms ever to pull on a trisuit, and well cognisant of his aquatic exploits when we raced together for St Raphael a few years ago, I knew his feet could be my ticket to the first buoy. As so rarely happens in triathlon, everything went to plan. I took the Shaw Express to the first buoy, and sat in third position for the pretty much the whole swim, before making the terrestrial transition in 5th, and had the rare privilege of exiting a WTS swim without having had my head beaten in along the way. 

 

Onto the bike, and in between the cobbles and corners (upwards of 160 over the 40kms?) it was just as easy (more accurately, just as hard) to be at the front, so I spent most of the time chopping turns with the typically loquacious Brownlee’s and some others in our small group of around 12. It was a relatively trouble free bike, save for dropping my chain over one of the more severe cobbled sections. At this point, Raoul, not content with assisting me out to the first buoy, gave me a push whilst I replaced the chain, before politely suggesting I turn left rather than smashing into the rapidly approaching barriers. 

 

The run was pretty tough. My form resembled a man who has only run as long as 10km once in the past 12 months. Given I happen to be a man that has only run as long as 10km once in the last 12 months, this was somewhat anticipated. Thus, for the run leg I was forced to act like a transgender cemetery worker, and dig in my heels. I crossed for 32nd, which I was happy with in my return to the top level of racing. Well pleased with my swim/bike execution, and the run is just where it’s at right now – plenty of scope for improvement with more training. 

 

Possibly one of the highlights of the trip was Jake and I talking to a gregarious spectator post race, undoubtable under the influence of a range of various substances. He greeted us by inquiring if the Crown would be happy with our performance, before insulting us, discussing the Commonwealth, then befriending us and admitting how tough we were and how proud he was that no-one in the field “bitched out about how hard it was and stopped and cried”. Lastly he admitted that despite having cycled a bit himself, he doubted that he could have kept up with “those British boys”. Indeed. Following this, he proudly showed us his ID, a Hawaiian drivers license, the picture in which he neither resembled, nor admitted to being the original owner of. At this stage he expressed his jealousy that we were to shortly leave this ”Scandinavian hell hole” at which stage Jake and I chose to parts ways with the gentlemen, as he continued to eloquently and enthusiastically express his thoughts on Stockholm and Sweden in general. Fascinating. 

 

From here I’ve got 2 weeks until Hamburg WTS, which will be another furious attempt at recovering from the ROMS, MOMS, and DOMS, and hopefully some good training sessions to take a few steps forward in the my running progression. 

 

Take care friends, 

Willy

Misfires (part duex)

It’s been a while. A similar rhetoric to the intro to my last blog, which had been homogeneously preceded by a similar period of eery silence, bereft of race reports or training updates. As I articulated last post, a dormant blog alludes to the presence an injured athlete as surely as a well-chewed slipper alludes to the presence a guilty dog. 

 

Let’s recap. Last post, I narrated the declining fortunes of the 2015 season that culminated in Achilles surgery, meaning my absence from the Rio Qualification event in August 2015. I believe I concluded with postulation I was still a chance to Qualify for the Olympic team if I was able to heal well, and race with vigour at the second Qualification race at the Gold Coast. If I had been playing a character in a movie, sinister background music would have played at this point. Lets pick up proceedings from here. 

 

It would seem, that even after negotiating surgery, I was like a blind man walking through a highly populated cattle yard - no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t seem to stop stepping in shit. The rehab from surgery went well, minus the insanity of being completely housebound and helpless for the better part of a month. With distinct enthusiasm, I discarded my cast and set about my return to an aquatic environment, jumping into a full-time swimming program of 70kms a week whilst I waited to get the clearance to ride. Once cleared for two wheeled action, I built up my miles with some solo riding. Like getting out an elevator in a baked-bean factory, it was nice to feel the wind on my face again. 

 

Cognisant of my remarkable lack of fitness, I decided to save my frail ego getting euthanised by avoiding bunch rides for the first month, preferring to grovel the slow road to fitness in solitude. Finally, I deemed my form adequate enough to attend one of Brisbane’s harder bunch rides, Wednesday Worlds. Alas, within the first 6kms of riding with other humans, and I had a foot firmly entrenched in another cow pat. Two of the aforementioned humans crashed in front of me, and I went straight over top of them, breaking both my arm, and my Carrera in the process, as it was slung shot across a traffic island and a lane of traffic, landing with a resounding thud on the bonnet of a mother taking her now mildly traumatised children to school. I caught an Uber home at 6:15am, bleeding the whole way, with the driver definitely earning a glowing review. 

 

That put a hold on the return to swimming, and commenced what I liked to refer to as ‘The Shed Phase’. Far more mentally trying than physically taxing, The Shed Phase involved 4 hours of cycling on the wind trainer every day, furiously staring out from the garage door of the shed, sling on, headphones in, and face set permanently to a fierce grimace. Aside from mildly scaring and confusing the patrons of the park across the road, losing litres in sweat a day, and learning to despise every inch of that shed, it did have two positives. My cycling got a bit stronger, and my meditation certainly improved.

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Following 6 weeks of shed-based workouts, I was cleared to return first to the pool, then open road, and finally, permitted to start running again. At this stage, I still had my sights set on striving for the Rio team through racing well at the Gold Coast WTS. A tough assignment lay ahead. Like removing a jumper with a very small neck hole, this was going to be tough to pull off. 

 

Unfortunately, another cow pat had my name on it. Ridiculously early in my return to running, and highlighting just how much the surgery had weakened my body, I developed stress fracture in my heel going for a cruisy run on Christmas day, narrowly ousting the magnifying glass of 1995 as the Worst Christmas Gift Ever. At this stage, I was struggling under the weight of metaphorical cow pats, and the Gold Coast WTS looked like about as likely as a taco at a Trump rally. Although we attempted to get there, it ended up being one cow pat too many, and I didn’t race the Gold Coast, or have any chance of putting a foot forward for the Olympic team. It was disappointing. For the second Olympic cycle in a row, my body imploded on me in the lead up to the qualification to something I’ve spent my whole athletic career trying to achieve. Prior to London 2012, I felt as good a chance as making the team as anyone, yet a bike crash, knee surgery and three stress fractures meant that campaign fell through without so much as a whimper, without racing any of the qualification races. No cards were laid on the table, I didn’t put everything on the line, I didn’t ‘leave it out there on race day’. I simply watched from the sidelines, and wondered if I would have had what it took. Same again for Rio. Achilles surgery, a bike crash, a stress fracture, and more wondering. Sport, huh.

 

So, in an effort not to make this blog post as negative as the flat end of a battery, let’s talk about the future. I’m about to do something I haven’t done in a while. As a triathlete, I’m about to compete in a triathlon. I’m on the plane to France as I type, and will compete for Mulhouse in a French GP this weekend. Following this, the plan is to race the rest of the World Series, with legs in Stockholm, Hamburg, Edmonton and Cozumel. 

 

I’d like to thank all my supporters, the family and friends, personal sponsors, as well as my coach and the support of the QAS, TA and AIS. Lastly, my amazing partner Tash, who has been a rock for me as always, and makes whether this season holds more cow pats or none an ingsignificant contributor to a very happy life. 

 

Until next time, take care friends. 

 

Willy

Misfires

22/09/2015

2015. A year, it would seem, that has had more misfires than a period piece musket. The more astute of you may have picked up by the distinct absence of website updates, that things haven’t been going as planned. The blog-reading cognoscenti are well versed – a quite blog ain’t a sign of good things. Perhaps, I guess, one could be so busy lifting trophies that one’s arms get too sore to type, but I’ve had little experience to add any credence to that hypothesis.

 

Let’s recap before we arrive at my current predicament. After a pleasing pre-season, I arrived at the first race of the season with slightly more form than I expected, starting with a solid 12th in Abu Dhabi. “Ah ha!” thought the Wilson of March, stroking a cat borrowed from a passer-by to add to the scheming intent of his inner monologue, “The season is mine, wait until I unleash my full potential on these hapless fools, I shall crush my competition like I crushed that easily crush-able thing last week!” Sadly, no sooner had this fictitious soliloquy taken place, then both myself and Aaron Royle contracted Swine Flu, and I’d barely set foot back on Australian soil before spending the next eternity firmly under the covers of the sick bed.

 

Cue then, somewhat struggling to get back on form over the proceeding flurry of racing through to May. “Ah ha!” thought the Wilson of May, this time forgoing the need to accrue feline accompaniment, “The crux of the season will still be mine - time for a uninterrupted training block to lead into the Rio trials, then I will crush my competition like that slightly more difficult thing I crushed the other day!”. Cue a few months of hard work, and the return of some promising form. Lamentably, shortly before I was due to leave for the Olympic test event, I developed some pain in my left Achilles, and any thoughts of crushing was put on hold, as I floated through no-mans land for a while, getting little bits done here and there, before having the pain return again. I was first out of Rio, then Chicago, and at week 10, with symptoms not improved, we had reached the point at which simply resting the leg was clearly not improving symptoms at all. Not wishing to try the same thing as we already had and expect to get a different result, a week ago I went in for surgery. “Ah ha!” thought the Wilson of September, not quite sure why he was still saying ‘ah ha’ and looking of a cat to punch, “Seems like 2015 isn’t the year of the crush then, looks like it’s 2016 for me!

 

The injury was a bit of a strange one, my Achilles tendon itself was ok, but there was persistent banding and tethering in the sheath surrounding it. The surgeon labelled it ‘weird’. Actually, come to think of it, he labelled me weird, I presumed he was referring to the injury, not myself as an entity, but I’ll have to check on that, and rethink my opinion of him if necessary.

 

So, at the moment, I’m not doing too much, aside from furiously crutching around Tarragindi and getting some uni work done. From here, I’ll get the cast off next week and get back into training, starting with some swimming and biking, and then the run last of all, looking to get back in shape for the start of 2016, in what will hopefully be a much more salubrious year.

 

Thanks to the support crew at the QAS, TA, sponsors, friends and family for supporting me, and an extra big thanks to Tash for being an absolute superstar support for me at times when I’ve been frustrated.

 

Hopefully better news next time!

 

Take care friends,

Willy