About Me

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Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia
My Blog is a self-indulgent, part journey, part training log, part hindsight account. After experiencing first hand, the terrrorist attacks in Mumbai I made a promise to myself to fulfil an ambition from many years ago to compete in an ironman triathlon. I was reminded that life isn't as predictible as a sine curve and a chance encounter with the most unlikely of people can change ones course forever. I hope you get something from my shared experience.

Mumbai to Port Macquarie

Hi and thanks for popping by. Maybe you stumbled across my blog by coincidence of a few key search words or possibly you were pointed in this direction. Either way you are here now...

This is an account of a my personal sojourn though life with it's many twists and turns. As you may later discover (if you're not already awake to the idea) , the universe has brought you here through a series of yes responses from yourself.

Chance is a concept I subscribe to... never is it luck.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Job Done

When a tree falls in the rainfores it may be the first time that light has hit the forest floor in 50 years or more. Within weeks seeds that have laid dormant, waiting for such a moment, begin what in some cases is a 200 year journey to the to the top of the forest. Some of those seeds grow into vines and may grow 8m a year. These sadly pass on within a few years, however they make way for the much slower growing hardwood trees. These trees spend the time to develop a strong core and have little competition for the canopy - the ultimate space and the engine room of the forest.

The analogies found in the forest and the rest of nature are obvious. I look for them everywhere.

This year I have finished a long and hard journey. The goal was to finish the Port Macquarie Ironman and in doing so this beacon I was aiming for would take me on a course of action that would forever change my life. I have thought long and hard about what I would write in the race report, for this is the final chapter right? Wrong. There is no final chapter. The race was important however by the time I was floating in the water, waiting for cannon to fire, this leg of the journey was done. Mumbai killed the worst parts of me, Ironman spawned a new me or perhaps dug up the relics of the best of me and re-fueled the fire that has long been but a flicker of light.

The helicopter flew over head, the pro's started to swim, then the cannon went off - in that order. Game on. I swam conservatively then rode with reckless ambition. One by one I went past the better swimmers until the 90km mark. Then 'bang', no, not the sound of an exploding tyre, rather the sound my heart made when a group of 40 odd triathletes ride back past. I was in a world of hurt. I rode the whole way on my own and watched as this group sat up, tucked in and took a free ride to the marathon. 3 motor bikes went with them and few, if any, got pinged for drafting.

I made it to T2 in a little better shape and began the marathon. Any ideas I had of beating a rounded hour time were long since gone. It was simply survival. The sun was unforgiving as it fought desperately to cling on to it's time in the southern hemisphere. Damn it did a good job of it! Lap 1 down and I was feeling ok, lap 2 down and I saw the first PIS member finish 3rd overall to a roaring and excited crowd. I knew my time was to come but first I had to learn something out here. Humility? Tolerance? perhaps many more. The 3rd lap was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Every step was harder than the one before until Scam gave me some encouragement 2km from the finish. I found a last reserve and enjoyed the finish of the race with seemingly fresh legs. The last 100m is a drug, both addictive and anesthetizing.

I have written all but a white paper on the race. I have considered everything I did in preparation and there is long list of things to put in place for next year. But for now at least I get to have some well-earned rest. I may even get to know Dr Phil and the others as people and not training machines!

Today marks 12 months until my next attempt. I have entered - Bring it on!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Greatest Show on Earth

Richard Dawkins refers to the evolution of life as "The Greatest Show on Earth". I would find it hard to argue otherwise. However, for the sake of this blog and in the spirit of Mohammad Ali I am going to refer to the last 15 months, for myself anyway, 'the greatest show on earth'. My personal evolution from a defeated and battered individual who made excuses for way things were and justified hanging around people who liked it that way to the person I am today. I am but 14 sleeps away from the end of this chapter. 'Mumbai to Port Macquarie' is nearing the end with only a few sleeps, some easy training, some mental rehearsal and final race preparations and of course, the Ironman race, are all that remains in this stanza.

Pictured: I have gone to all sorts of effort to prevent another flu.

I thought by this stage I would be on edge, rippled with veins, a chiseled jaw and a distance look with eyes firmly on the prize. I would suggest that these things are partly the case but far from what I envisaged. I guess I thought I would be more emotional about it all now the journey is nearing the end. The reality is the emotional experiences came throughout this journey. Training for the Ironman has been the humbling, personally hypertrophying experience I'd wished for and the race is the last paragraph in this chapter.

The last few weeks have tested me physically and probably more so, mentally. After The Huski Long Course I had to attend a conference in Port Douglas for 4 days. I didn't miss a beat of training. The swim on Monday was perhaps, the hardest thing I have physically done yet. I battled up and down the pool in the resort at a rate of speed I think a 8 year old would be annoyed with. I accepted it as just a day post half ironman thing and trained through it. I did my 2 runs on Tuesday and swim on Wednesday. I returned home for the big 3 days - Friday swim 5km, Ride 135km and run 10km. Saturday 140km ride / 20km run (including 10 x 1 mile efforts) and 3km swim. Sunday 160km ride. I was sniffly, coughing and struggling to sleep. My temperature was up and I was as moody as ever and that was on the Friday so why I persisted with the weekend I'll never know exactly but it resulted in me having the next 5 days in bed with the flu and the subsequent week with post viral symptoms. I am so annoyed with myself for getting that way especially as it was not that long ago I promised I would recognise the early symptoms. I spent the last week on a conference in Hamilton Island struggling with a chesty cough and general lack of wellness.

That brings me to the weekend we are in the twilight of. I got back from the second conference on Friday night and eventually fell asleep before starting what would be my last 'decent' training session before the final 2 week taper. My last hitout with the PIS squad was spent on my own all day. I hadn't the energy to go out hard in the 140km ride so I had to drop ego and spin around on my own. We then had a small jog before the 8 x 1 mile runs. Surprisingly they came quite easy and I was able to hold a better pace without the effort than what I have previously been able to do. Maybe the forced rest has been needed and for the good. I have to believe this. Today I limited myself to a 20km run in the national park.

Mumbai feels like it almost never happened. The other crap before it feels even less real. I guess this sojourn of mine has served it's purpose and my evolution has been 'the greatest show on earth', in an egocentric kinda way!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Lone wolf in a lone wolf pack

One of my favourite movies from 2009 was 'The Hangover'. Without a doubt it was the perfect bucks weekend and should I get the opportunity to have one then I hope it plays out something like it did in this movie. One of the lines early in the movie was 'I was a lone wolf in a lone wolf pack'. It was made by a character that had he not been part of the family he would never have been invited on such a trip. He was explaining (quite humorously) that he never felt like he fitted in and finally he did - out of politeness.

We are tribal by nature. We wear the colours of our team or sing the songs of our club and country. People attend church and political rallies and are indoctrinated into disliking or not trusting competitor companies. Many have sacrificed their life in the name of tribalism. I now find myself part of a new tribe and it has forced me to have a deeper think about why and how this happened. My new tribe is the gaggle of people I train with on the weekends. The people I slug it out with for hours at a time in the pursuit of the perfect Ironman. It (being part of a tribe) is a primitive yet imperative part of out survival and evolution as a species. Being part of a tribe meant that people could have different jobs within the group so we all didn't have to be concerned with collecting food and staying safe. Being part of a tribe is to be human and important and perhaps many of societies ills are a result of people feeling disaffected and not belonging to any tribe. These people are left on the outer. These are the people who may wish harm on themselves or others - the bullied becomes the bully.

I remember seeing a BBC doco about cooperation with chimps. The study found that 2 chimps would solve a problem and cooperate to get the booty (banana). This worked each time until only one of the chimps got the banana and the other missed out. The chimp that missed out refused to help the next time around - a single event which resulted in one chimp missing out on the reward was enough to condition that chimp into not helping again. The author concluded that this is where humans evolved and chimps didn't - humans would still help for the good of the tribe and chimps would always require the extrinsic motivator. And this is where the doco and I parted agreement. Perhaps it is right in many cases however I suspect we still carry this legacy of our distant ancestors. We all turn up each Saturday knowing that the group helps each of us and when it doesn't serve our needs we do our own thing. Today I did my own thing and hence became the lone wolf in a lone wolf pack. I hope this doesn't go against my record and I can still wear the club colours at the ironman!

The last couple of weeks have been the usual turbulent 'days of our lives' journey towards Port. Only 3 days before my last big hit-out before the Ironman I was getting blood taken from me and put into vials for testing. I was left completely depleted and virtually unable to move for a few days following a Saturday session. This wasn't just a matter of being sore or tired it was more like systemic inflammation, leaving me with asthma and soft tissue and joint pain. Like the half ironman my ITB was as tight as fat person's jocks. I tried to go for a jog on the Tuesday before, only being able to get to a canter for a couple of k's before being reduced to a slow walk. Things slowly improved and on the Saturday I was able to get a light jog and ride in. I was not expecting anything great from the next day's race which doubled as the 'Australian long course championships'.

My race wasn't actually that bad in the end. I was still flat which mainly affected my swim and ride, and somehow I perked up for run (thanks caffeine!). I ended up in 28th place. Initially I was somewhat disappointed however upon reflection I realised that what I have done is fantastic. I have come from hell a year and bit ago. I have lost 28kg. I have retrained my mind and reshaped my body. I have prepared to complete my first Ironman and in the process taken 28th place overall in the Australian long course championships (2km swim, 83km ride, 20km run). And with that, I got on a plane for Port Douglas and spent the next week on conference and training in a tropical wet season.

This weekend's training was virtually the same as everyone of the last 12 weeks - heaps of it. I have 28 days to go so my priority is to get and stay healthy. Nothing stupid - just take the K.I.C. approach (keep it corporate) and keep my head low. Until next time - au revoirre.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Defining success

So just what is it to be successful? The obvious examples I think that most would give are probably concerned with comparing a person with someone else. "Wow Johnny you beat everyone in your race. You're so successful!". I am sure success is often considered on achievement of an award or standard. Maybe these examples are OK however I would like offer an alternative to the definition of success. This isn't a "I can't win so let's lower the bar success" rather perhaps more rigorous and difficult to attain. If one considers the starting point of any task then measures success based on the difference between this and the finish then you may find a starkly different group of people that you consider to be successful. I'll give an example...

I went to the University of Western Sydney and studied to become a teacher. I received my degree a few years later and did in fact become a teacher. Many of my friends at Uni were part of the first generation in their families to do this, unlike myself and others who had parents with a degree. I would argue that being first generation degreed is more successful than second as the gap is wider. My father may define success - he grew up in a 2 bedroom housing commission home with 2 siblings. He did his leaving certificate 3 times to get a high enough score to go to teachers college. He then went on to have a long and happy career as a teacher in some of Sydney's less affluent suburbs. The gap between his start and finish is far, far wider than my own. Society may argue that a lawyer is more successful than a teacher. I reckon my dad is more successful than most high court judges!

The reason I thought about this was the result of a few remarks I've had recently about my size. I have had a few mates suggest that I need to lose more weight. I spent the 11 years prior to the events in Mumbai working-out to become a big forward for Rugby Union. I managed to get up to 106kg and I am sure that most would have come off second best in a contact on the pitch (if I say so myself!) Following Mumbai I made a transition back to an earlier love of mine, triathlon. I started training to complete an ultra distance triathlon (Ironman). I am now less than 6 weeks away from this and I have (so far) got down to 79kg. That's a loss of 27kg. In the process I have ridden over 9000km, run over 2500km and swam about 500km. Now I am not saying that I wouldn't love to win my age group in the Port Ironman or get a spot for Hawaii because I would. I love to compete. I am just feeling pretty successful having achieved what I have. There is no medal, no pay cheque or no article in the newspaper about it yet I still feel remarkably successful. To do well at the competition would be icing on the cake. The journey so far has been my defining story.

My training was going great until last Saturday. I did something I have done before and gone too hard for too long without adequate recovery. It has cost me another few days of training as I can't even get up to a canter at the moment. My fault. I accept it and as soon as I am done feeling like this I will be back... and unfortunately, I will probably do it again!

I am nervous, I am excited, I am healthy, I am sick, I am certain, I am unsure, I am living.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

4 weeks into camp

I can't believe my last post was 4 weeks ago. This simply means that training is going well. So well in fact that I am too shattered most days to even think of something to write let-a-lone participate in the act of blogging. A Lazy Sunday afternoon has finally arrived and with it the opportunity to get this thing up to date.

I will start by saying that each Saturday for the last 4 weeks I have gone to bed knowing that I have just completed the toughest day of training in my life. I can only imagine what I will be thinking in 7 weeks from now... I will also point out that this weekend I was reminded what little control we have over some events - more on that later...

My key sessions are:
Tuesday - double run
Friday- swim, Long hills ride and Run
Saturday- Long firm ride + run, swim
Sunday- long ride.

Amongst all of this during the week are treadmill runs, swim sessions, light rides and runs. All up leaving me pretty smashed most of the time.

The week just gone may give a good insight into my training for my first ever attempt at an Ironman distance triathlon.

Monday PM swim ~ 4km including plenty of kick and drills (just what my legs felt like after 400km of riding over the weekend!).
Tuesday - run ~30km in the Glenbrook national park as part of the Australia Day fatass event (thanks to the organisers of this I loved it) and a firm 14km in the arvo on a treadmill (It would have looked pretty ugly to anyone else in the gym at the time - I was in a world of hurt). Wednesday AM swim ~ 3.5km, again drills and a decent main set.
Thursday - Swim ~4km, Ride ~130km including 2 laps of Old Bathurst Rd, and a lap each of lapstone hill and Bellbird hill over in Kurrajong. (mountain climbs) and 13km on a treadmill at my optimal fat oxidising Heart Rate - these runs can get boring as I basically have to get to a speed and only shift it by .1km/hr as needed to keep my HR constant.
Friday- I switched Friday for Thursday this week due to a work commitment so only a got in a 70min hills run in the morning.
Saturday- 140km firm ride with P.I.S. (Penrith Institute of Sport) followed by Run -10 x 1 mile repeats and a 3 x 1km swims.
Sunday- 160km firm ride (with P.I.S.) taking me up to Bell and all the hills and mountain climbs it includes.

And now I get to relax... Tomorrow AM it all starts again...

I am starting to feel OK on Mondays. From Wk 1-4 I was tired, grumpy and moody for the first day of the working week. (I generally stayed that way until Thursday- sorry colleagues). Wk 5-8 has seen a remarkable improvement in my adaptation to training - and mood. Next week is the beginning of wk 9 and it marks the beginning of the heavy 4 weeks that is February... I am slightly nervous but really looking forward to finding out what more I can do.

I had 2 unfortunate experiences over the weekend which again reminded me what little control we have over so many things. The first was something simple yet it required myself and a whole bunch of other people to get their wheels trued. A cyclist in front of me didn't see a crater the size of the grand canyon- he managed to narrowly avoid it while the rest of us rolled on in. Their was plenty of cursing as the sound of one bike after another took the same route. Bottles went everywhere and bikes had to be ridden for remaining 100km on wobbly wheels. The next unfortunate incident occurred about 150km into today's ride. About 15 of us were just finishing up a tough, wet day in the mountains. At about 60km/hr the cyclist behind me clipped my wheel. He went over his bars and skidded along the highway but was OK. The physical damage was done to my new machine - he disintegrated my back wheel - it was a twisted mess of broken spokes. I can't believe I didn't have a fall. Thanks to Sleeptrain for picking my wet sorry ass up and getting me back home. As far as stacks go these were both very mild however the last one particularly has been a timely reminder of how potentially fragile we are. Also... very glad I can still get out on my road bike while the boys at Panther Cycles get my TT bike back on the road.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009- My Year in Review

The biggest lessons come from the most extraordinary of circumstances. The past year has been my most significant in terms of personal growth. It could never have happened without the 3 or 4 years I struggled through before finding myself running and hiding from a terrorist in November last year (2008). I truly had to bottom out before I could begin my ascent.

The fading light of 2008 saw the ushering out of a period in my life that I was glad to see the back of. It was happening like so many new years eves previous; a few drinks with friends before heading down to see the fireworks display on the river. I was still pretty shaken up from the events in Mumbai a little over a month before however I had taken some pretty positive steps and I felt like I had turned a corner. I had every reason to celebrate - I was alive and I was with good friends. We finished up at the holiday house and began making our way down to the river to see the fireworks. I was a few steps behind my friends and feeling pretty pleased with life when I heard a 'boom' then 'crack, crack, crack'. I froze. I knew (rationally) what I heard was peaceful however hearing this brought back the recent memories of Mumbai. My 2009 began with tears streaming down my face. I was frozen in fear. Not exactly how I had planned to start a year that I anticipated was going be great. I know that we often use the new year as a starting and stopping point for things however i was clearly in a 'through' point. This turned out to be one of three major episodes of post traumatic stress that I would go on to experience. My good friend Lins realised I wasn't with them and figured out pretty quickly what was happening and came back to help. I had to go through the next two on my own. They were both fairly similar experiences which I thought someone was shooting at my house. I again thought it probably PTS but it was so real I had to get certainty. On one occasion I layed and waited until daylight before going outside to see if there were any bullet holes in my walls or empty casings on the road. Like with so many other things in life I needed some help. I did exactly that and thankfully loud noises gradually became just that and not a threat to my life.

From here I basically got my head down and trained. I got plenty of things wrong like doing too much, going too hard or the opposite in some cases. I got sick, I got healthy again. I won my age in the Dean and Dave race triathlon which doubled as my birthday in April - my best one yet. I got a third in the 30-34 in the Port Half Ironman. I was starting to get fit again. I would wake up every morning throughout winter and be excited to get out training. It had taken on a whole new meaning. No longer was training about winning races (though this was on my mind). Training was food for my soul. I particularly loved the winter runs with the Blue Mountains Marathon Clinic (BMMC). At that time of the year we would stop and have a stretch at one of the lookouts on our run and see the sunrise over a chilly Sydney. We would then descend into the Nepean basin before returning up the escarpment to start another working day. This is why I now run and how I live the 'healthy mind, healthy body' mantra.

I am now less than 14 weeks from my first Ironman. I am training really well and resting when I need to. I have also managed to drop ego from my training as I keep my eyes firmly fixed on the prize. A couple of weeks ago I had a big week of training finishing up with a firm 110km lap of cobbity (bike obviously) on Saturday. In the afternoon we had the Matt Fisher race (unofficially now). It was my first one as I quit triathlons after he was fatally hit by a car out riding in 1998. I thought of him the whole race. I also felt how much pain I was in as the morning ride and week of hard training made it's way to my atherant senses. Man it hurt. Again I loved it. I got out for a 25km run the next morning and gave myself the afternoon off. The next week was also a good week of training before another solid weekend. Saturday started with a 110km easy bike with the fist, 10km run off bike and 3km bridge to bridge swim in the river. Sunday The fist and I rode the 160km loop which takes us to Bell and Mt Vic along Bells Line of Road. It is without doubt my favourite ride. It would want to be as we will be doing it every Sunday until the Ironman! I have also began to incorporate 'double run tuesday' into my program. It includes a 2hr+ run in the morning and a 1hour solid run in the afternoon. Talk about opening up your 'hurt locker'!

I have to go and meet the fist for a swim and ride now. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and remember 'dream, believe, create, succeed' - Marc Allen

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I've had an amazing few weeks. In essence the last leg of my journey to IMoz has begun.... Today we are down to 14 weeks, 5 days and man they will fly (and hurt).

This post in titled 'Surrender'. So many of our words have negative connotations when in fact they mean something so wonderfully positive. An example is the word 'no' - learning to say it is perhaps the most positive and powerful thing a person can do. I sometimes I wish I had learnt to use it a long time ago; I would have prevented many hangovers! To surrender is to accept what it is you cannot change, or in some cases such as training for the ironman, to accept that this is my life and I want it. I first read about this in a book from south Asia titled 'surrender to your marriage'. By surrendering to things we cannot change we are better apt to take control of what we can. Simply put, I have surrendered to the next 15 weeks. I know that I have embarked on a trip of a lifetime. One I am sure will be a part of my DNA for the rest of my days. I have resigned to the fact that Christmas will probably be a lap of bell, a gatorade and a few gels to celebrate. This is my life now. The funny thing is, I have never felt more in control, healthier or happier. I think my life has become extremely simple - sleep, eat, train and work thrown-in for good measure. Incidently, I am enjoying my work more than ever.

Pictures: 'brothers in arms' the Flying Fist and The Animal on the way to Bundeena. (top) and Scam Bullant leading the way along one of the beach sections of the run.
A couple of weeks ago the last leg of this prep for IMoz began. It is hard to say exactly what day that actually was however I would like it to begin with a the BMMC day out - 29km run from Otford to Bundeena. It was extraudinary. Rugged cliffs, ocean, wildlife all within a coastal national park. On a beautiful day. Thanks for organising this Scam - you are truly the man when it comes to getting our group out and about. From there it (my training) has stepped up. A day out fishing after the run, with P Ryan and on Sunday we headed out for a 120k ride then a I went on a 15k run in the Glenbrook Nat park. The usual swims, BMMC runs and riding Laps of the Hakesbury bends with the Fist followed. Then last weekend perhaps the beginning of the end of feeling healthy! 160k lap of bell, 3k swim Saturday, 25k run and 110k ride on Sunday - man it was hot! Both rides with the Fist - He's riding well. It's good to have someone to go through this with. Much like the experience in India, this is a personal journey made better by being able to share it with someone.

I have truly surrendered to this. It made it easier to drag my butt to the pool this arvo.