Big Day Out #2 – Ironman Cairns 2016

Leading into BDO

We’re 4 weeks out, 29 Days till the 2016 Ironman Cairns. That means it’s time for the second installment of Big Day Out (BDO) of the season and 10th time overall. Since Tuesday we’ve been Nitrate loading with Beet Up. This Beetroot Supplement recommended to me by a good mate who just recently qualified for the Ironman World Championship (Kona), is produced by NutriScience. I have known the positive effects of beetroot from reading an article in LAVA magazine several years ago about its benefits. It will be hard to decide how much, if any impact is felt during BDO, but I figured why not? So far, my pee is redish in color and stinks. And by the way, I can’t stand freaken Beetroot! On Thursday & Friday, I carbo-loaded with nearly 2KG of Carbs: Nearly a full loaf of white bread, 10 cups of fruit, 2.5 liters of sprite, Clif Bars, Winners Bars and 4x180g packages of lollies. Fiona made dinner Thursday consisting of vegan pad thai with tofu and Friday I made homemade Parsley Pesto with 4 types of nuts, EVOO, white pasta, and a fake-meat processed schnitzel.


But, all that sugar and I was still tired and fatigued. As of the day before BDO total hours for the 18 weeks were 359.5 averaging 20hours/week consisting of 20% swim, 57% bike, 24% run, and 11% cross training. My two biggest weeks were only 25.5 hours. 2016 totals so far of 184km of swimming is bigger than my first 3 years in the sport. Cycling totals 6,055kms. Running totals 964km. As a result, I’ll be retiring 2 pairs of shoes in the next few weeks.

That amounting fatigue over my periodization plan leads me to my current state where I’m on that fine line between quality and waisting my time i.e. overtraining. But, it’s also exactly where I want to be.

After the last BDO 4 weeks ago, we had the Tavis Johannsen Ultra. The next week we did a 260km ride the day after running 36km in 3hrs. Then the next week we did a 6 hour ride on the trainer to avoid the rain which was a mental battle having ran 38.7km in 3hrs the day before. Besides the quality runs and rides between, and getting good, but not adequate sleep, I come to my current state: a tired/fatigued state that was able to put out the longest/most powerful ride I’ve ever done on Wednesday afternoon:  1hr52min at 262NP with Z1 HR of 124. Even the next day we did 10x100M in 25m pool w/ pull buoy: 1:26, 1:28, 1:27, 1:27, 1:28, 1:27, 1:27, 1:26, 1:27, 1:26. So things are on track and BDO will be one of the last major tests.


Up at 5AM. 2 pieces of white toast with jam, 3 scoops of beet up in 16oz of water, 355ml redbull. I usually have 4 slices of bread and a banana but was a little filled up with the beetjuice. We put everything together for the ride and because it was pretty damn cold but knew we’d be out there for 5 hours I wore: socks, my Scody USA tri suit, arm warmers, and then my ASTC thermal top (which was incredible made by Champion as well as my old Brooks running gloves. My Scott Plasma with rear disc, Rudy Wing 57 helmet, and Oakley prescription Racing Jackets.

5 hour 114.7mile/185km Cycle 7:05AM-12:05PM


Prep: I tried to get a booking with the town pool for a 7AM-8AM swim but they couldn’t do it. I also called Lasseters but they could only go at 7:30AM and then there was aqua fitness at 8AM. I couldn’t find a pool to use so we had to ride first. This was a problem because it wouldn’t be exactly like race day where I’d be warmed up and go into the bike with a high HR. But we did this once before and with 90minute breaks between legs it was just something we had to deal with.


Plan: The goal and bike plan was the N. Stuart Highway to the Tropic of Capricorn back to town and up ANZAC Hill x 3 hitting the hill only 2x as this is very similar to Ironman Cairns. I wasn’t going to grab Coke Cola since it is not on the IM Bike course and I am not going to use special needs. Because I cramped on the run last time, I believed I was eating too much. So the plan was 3 clif bloks every 20min which would be about 72g of carbs per hour and 150g of caffeine. I’d use clif for hour 1-2 then go to a bottle filled with 3 endura gels, then back to clif bloks. Salt tablets every 30min. I was going to push a higher power on the hills, maintain at goal on the flats, and stay aero into the wind. I’d stay seated climbing ANZAC hill at 17% grade all the way to the top around the flag pole. I’d take off the thermal if it got warm.


CAPTION: In Australia, each one of these blocks is $1. lol what a joke.

Actuals: 7:05AM Start. We headed out to larapinta then the N. Stuart Highway. Fi does her own testing so I didn’t really look back. The temperature was 48F or 8C at the start. Cairns will be a hell of a lot warmer than that but it is what it is. I got to the tropic in around 56 minutes at 22.4mph or 36kph. This was much lower than the 40kph I had 4 weeks ago. Turned out there was more of a headwind from the north on this day. I took my first leak past the campervans at the Tropic, remounted and took off. I saw Fiona who was round 8-10minutes back. Down the hill hitting 35.5mph or 57kph and into town. My empty Anytime Fitness bottle jumped out and then was pancaked by a car. I knew that would cause a problem with my nutrition plan. Up ANZAC hill. I stayed seated to keep the HR low and was able to keep the HR to 147 below my LTHR of 152. I went all the way to the top, turned around and then rode my bike into the gas station across the street. Took leak 2 (certainly hydrated from the beet juice), filled up my 2nd bottle. At 1:48 into the ride I pulled forward the bottle of endura gels by an hour so I had 2 bottles of fluids. Back to the tropic and avg pace picking up. 90km in 2:29:47 which I wasn’t thrilled about with power that was 14watts greater than 4 weeks ago. Just before this time, I realized I was having my salt tablets every 30min vs the 1hr planned. Shit. So I stuck with the 30min and know that I’ll do that in the race instead of every hour. Back up ANZAC hill again seated and harder but HR only 149 at the max. Great! Another leak (3rd) and filled the bottles up 1 more time.

And for me, this is where the real test began! Last season I had 2 really bad BDO’s. My power completely fell off after 3 hours. Obviously, this is exactly what happened in the race. Even though I went 4:45 in Busso, the last 2 hours were difficult with 5mile splits falling to 224, 217, 217, 218 over the last hour. I’ve focused on this critical weakness by: Strength training, longer mid-week workouts working at Z3/Z4 in strava pursuits, and pacing better the test effort. Now to see if it worked.

It was getting warm now as the desert temp rose to 71F/21C and climbing to 79F/26C. Again, still cooler than Cairns so kept my thermal double layer on to simulate humidity and heat around the core. This is the reason my HR climbed on lap 3 resulting in a poor decoupling of 8.9%. So pacing the test effort better, I finished the last hour with splits of 243, 241, 232, 241 while descending the “hills” at 40-42kph on average over the last 30min-45min. I finished near hungry jacks having just passed Fiona. I reset the garmin and followed fi. She picked it up so she was still testing. I turned off across the RR and got a flat. Unbelievable. Regardless, I covered 180km in 4:53:44 which means I picked up 6 minutes on the back 90km and was only 1 min slower than 4 weeks ago.

My TSS of 330 says that I would blow up on the run according to Joe Friel, Coogan, etc. So I need another FTP test because holding 82% for 180km is 2% higher than the pro’s and will bury me.


Transition 1: Brown rice protein, Vega Recovery, frozen banana, and soy milk for recovery. And then a coke.

Swim 3.665km 2PM-3PM: I compared a set of 10x100m I did and realized that I’d be 5s slower inside the 25m pool w/out a wetsuit than the 50m pool w/ wetsuit. Add 1 second since we were swimming an hour, add another 2 seconds since I held the plank position for 5 hours before the swim. I was looking for 1:35/100m compared with 1:30/100m from 4 weeks ago but really didn’t know what to expect. I wore a sleeveless ASTC tri suit, cap, goggles, and pull buoy to better simulate a wetsuit. Fiona and I both had our own hired lanes even though the pool was practically empty. (I didn’t want any disruptions). No wetsuits; too warm inside. We made that mistake in Horsham, Victoria last season during our 40 hour training camp.

I don’t trust my Garmin 920XT either in a pool or on a treadmill. It is not correct but I had to know what I did today so I used my Timex Ironman watch with lap feature and then my Garmin on the other wrist as a backup!

I took off. 500m splits: 7:53, 8:09, 8:13, 8:12, 8:14, 8:16, 8:17, 2:44 (165m) at an avg of 1:38/100m. I did 30:49 for the 1.9km which means that this was a very consistent swim. I’m very happy with this swim. Fiona had pulled ahead of me but wasn’t making any distance on me either. This would have to be one of the best swims I’ve done.

This season we’ve focused more by doing nearly everything with a pull buoy and more paddle work, doing our standard medley for our warm up. And not following “the book” doing more 100’s than the 250’s and 500’s of the past. We’ve also really reduced the long endurance swims as well. In fact, we’ve only done 6 swims of 4k or longer and 2 of those were 5k. Versus Busselton where we had 15 4k swims or longer including 2-5k swims, and 7 swims of 6k or longer! But I’ve become such a better swimmer since last season making some large strides in my form/technique while building off the endurance built up over the last 5 ½ years. Thanks to Rob, Chris, and Fiona for your support.

Transition 2: A full bottle of Endura and Vega Recovery, a Clif bar, and a coke.

Anytime Fitness Treadmill Run (2hours 16.3miles/26.1km)


Since November 2008, I’ve done 129 – 2 hour runs or longer. This test was the 16th fastest at 7:23/mile or 4:35/km.

4 weeks ago I cramped from the first step which caused me to stop several times during hour 2. I tried to fix that by fueling better on the bike and approaching my fuel for the run. The plan was a Winners gel every 20min vs 15min, salt tablets every 30min, and then coke during the 2nd hour. I would listen to music from my MP3 player and look at the wall. J I started off on 4:45/km for the first 20min to sort of warm up. The HR picked right up into Z2. After my first gel, I started increasing one level every 10min. By the end of the hour I was running 4:32/km and I felt awesome. Pit stop time.

Back on it and I still felt really great. I brought it back to 4:38/k and then increased. 20minutes later I was cramping in my lower right core. I knew this was dehydration. At 82KG, I’m a big guy and lose 1-2kgs of body mass per hour. With the 1 bottle of water in the first hour, I knew it was that. I started drinking every 5min vs 10min and 20min later it was gone. My HR was doing great at 132-134 right near the top of Z2. With 10min to go I started increasing to 6:53/mile or 4:16/km and held it there for the last 5min. the HR climbed from 132 to 142 or Z3. I was getting some intestinal issues towards the end as well but believed that to be due to lack of hydration as well.

In Summary:

The swim was consistent and faster than BDO 1 & 2 in 2013 that were in the 50m pool with a wetsuit. It was also faster than what I did at IM Busso of that season in 1:02:46. It was consistent and I felt strong.

The bike was the 2nd fastest after 4 weeks ago with HR the 2nd highest of all 10 BDOs. Power was equal to BDO #1 from Busso 2015 where I completely fell off after 3 hours. It was equal to the power held at Port Macquarie and 1 watt NP lower than Busselton 2015 but held the same avg power. Again the muscular endurance held and I didn’t fall off. However, at 2BPM lower, I could argue that this was the all-around best ride I’ve ever done.

The Run was strong. I felt good, was positive, I got faster as the time clicked on by all while having tested for 6 hours already during the day.

18 weeks ago I was very unfit. I was nearly 200 pounds after my drink/eat/gorge-fest on our 2 week cruise. Everything was sore and I felt and looked like shit. But as a self-coached athlete, I knew what to do. Now, I’m 180 pounds 81.8kg and am faster, stronger, fitter, and healthier than I’ve ever been, period. By using a mostly whole-foods plant based diet and putting in the work necessary to help me achieve my goals, my results through winning all of the ASTC triathlons and having my best ever training sessions are proof of that effort.

With 4 weeks to go, I’m sort of excited about not having to do another 3 hour run or 6 hour bike ride but of course, I have some things.  I need to work on. So I will consult my coach, Sydney and ask for a high 5. And while all focus and my #1 priority is Ironman Cairns, I am looking forward to Coaching my wife Fiona to her first Ironman World Championship, the Alice Springs Marathon, and then Ironman New Zealand in 2017.



If you have enjoyed reading this, please consider giving to the cause that I’m raising money for in this Ironman Season, the Wounded Warrior Project. Thank you.


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