With half of the purplepatch pro squad racing over the last two weekends, it's a sure sign that race season is in full swing. Emerging from the northern hemisphere winter, these races represent a stepping stone in the build up to 'A' races in coming weeks for the pro squad, and it was certainly some global racing. Spreading across Australia, China and the USA, this was a busy two weekends of tracking the racing.
2016 was one of the best collective seasons of performances purplepatch has had, yet success can breed complacency, and I was eager to ensure we sought routes to continue to evolve, refine and grow. Success can be a tremendously hard thing to follow up, but we headed into 2017 confident of many of the changes and refinements we have made to the overall approach for the pro squad. With less volume, but more speed, in the pre-season, as well as a threading of our highly effective ‘end of range’ and ‘strength endurance’ work on the bike and run training, the personality of the progression has certainly evolved. It is early days, and we still have plenty of very hard work ahead, but the preliminary signs are highly promising. Of the races the pros have hit so far this season, we have captured:
- 2 x Champions
- 4 x 2nd Place
- 4 x 3rd place
- 3 x 4th place
- 1 x 5th place
- 1 x 6th
- 1 x 9th place
A nice platform to build from. Let’s look at the quick summaries from the last two weeks of racing:
Sam Appleton led the way with a terrific win in trying conditions. A very solid swim and the bike was followed by a career-best run performance to take the overall win. Two races with two wins so far for Sam, which comes as no surprise to me following his form and preparation throughout the front part of the season. We now get Sam back to the US for another camp and prepare for some spring racing in St. George and Chattanooga.
Tim Reed and Laura Siddall are preparing for Ironman Australia next month, the race would serve as a hard training day in the middle of their final build towards the longer event. The Melbourne race was not even on Laura’s radar until two days prior to a last-minute invitation to race was too attractive to pass up. However, it did leave Laura exposed, having ridden a hilly four hours just two days out from race day and not having completed any of her usual pre-race routines. To Laura's credit, she went with the flow and took a risk in racing without being fully prepared either mentally and physically: "it was exciting and daunting at the same time to make such a quick and almost flippant decision. But then it was about learning and taking opportunities." Laura thrives on advance planning and usually follows a precise taper and specific race prep for the half distance so this race led her into uncharted territory: "it was an unknown again of what may or may not happen but if I didn't take a chance, I'd be none the wiser."
Tim suffered a little IRONMAN-itis and did not enjoy the cold, but even a rough day leaves Tim with a fine podium performance.
The great part of the Challenge Melbourne event was the inclusion of the 20-meter draft rule, ensuring a much more honest and fair race globally.
IRONMAN 70.3 Liuzhou
Jesse Thomas and Sarah Piampiano made the trip to China for IRONMAN 70.3 Liuzhou, one of five Chinese 70.3 races that have been added to the IRONMAN racing calendar in the past 12 months. Both athletes are in the middle of builds for full distance races in May and June respectively so the race served to some extent as a gauge.
Jesse had an extremely positive day, with a race that suited him in many ways. Coming off some good quality training, he capped a solid swim and bike with a super run performance, leaving us with great spirits as he looks toward a defense of his IRONMAN Lanzarote title.
Sarah headed into her China race, quietly confident in how her training has progressed so far in 2017: "while certainly not in any sort of peak fitness, I feel like I am in a better spot than past years at this point in the year." Over the last months, we have finally captured real improvements in the swim portion, and her pool splits have radically improved, but it didn’t translate in this downriver swim. Time to transition to integrate the all-important open water sessions that served her so well ramping into KONA last year. A solid day, and a rust breaker, but not good enough for us. It is time for Sarah to step up and be the athlete she can and wants to be. Time to bring the bike she can deliver, but also run well under 1.20 on a course like this. I have no doubt she will step up to the challenge.
IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside
Malindi Elmore is another athlete that is in the middle of an IRONMAN build and using Oceanside as an important rust buster and last ‘tough day’ as she heads into Texas in two weeks. Malindi had a solid day in Oceanside, finishing inside the top ten in a very high-quality field with the second fastest run on the day, but certainly, plenty to learn from and evolve in the run into the key IRONMAN. I felt this was an important race for an athlete such as Malindi, who needs a race before being at her best. I am excited to see her race in Texas and see what we can get out of it all.
There is plenty more racing to come, and we are excited for the march ahead.
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Photo credit: Witsup.com