PPF Pro Update: Displays Of Excellence

by: Matt Dixon

Headline News

I'd like to acknowledge Sam Appleton. In 2017, he is batting 800, with 4 wins out 5 races - an athlete evolved.

It was a tremendous weekend of racing for the purplepatch pro squad with six athletes racing on three separate continents. Headline news includes yet another win for Sam Appleton at IRONMAN 70.3 Eagleman, as well as second place podiums for Sarah Piampiano at IRONMAN Cairns and Laura Siddall at Challenge Herning.

Challenge Venice
Top billing this week goes to Davide Giardini, not because of a win or podium finish, but his very first IRON distance race at Challenge Venice. I believe it is special for any athlete to finish their first IRONMAN, and Davide had a great swim and bike, with a solid run to finish in 7th. A solid platform to build from, but his own worst fears came true when we reviewed the race and I let him know that I believe this to be his best-suited distance. More tough races to come captain.

IRONMAN 70.3 Eagleman
Hot and humid conditions are always the norm at IRONMAN 70.3 Eagleman so it was a great venue for purplepatch 70.3 specialist, Sam Appleton, as he prepares for the 70.3 World Championships in Chattanooga in September where steamy conditions are predicted. He has been collecting wins all season and Eagleman was no different as Sam continues to affirm that he is world-class over the 70.3 distance. With fastest swim, bike, and run splits to take the overall win, Sam has shown tremendous growth in further swim and bike development, as well as continued speed and resilience in the run. To be a true contender in September there is still plenty of evolution needed in areas of Sam’s bike resilience, as well as ability to run to the speed of the very top World Championship contenders, but he is certainly on the path toward the pinnacle.

Newbie purplepatch professional, Cecilia Davis-Hayes, also toed the line this past weekend and had her best professional finish to date with a 5th place finish and fastest bike split. My advice to Cecilia in advance of the race was to “let it flow” as I felt she had been guilty of trying to force her performance in her first couple of pro races. “I tried to just let the race come to me,” explains Cecilia. “While I didn't feel great the first 20 miles of the bike, I gradually warmed up and just started to let it flow.” It was great to see Cecilia build into the race with her second half power 20 watts higher than the first half feeling really strong towards the end of the bike. It was the perfect set-up to have her best run over the 70.3 distance to date.

European Middle Distance Championships, Challenge Herning
What a difference a week makes! Earlier this week, I was writing about Learning from Failure, after a disappointing weekend of performances from purplepatch professionals, including Laura Siddall. One of our takeaways from last week’s Challenge The Championships race with Laura was the fatigue from recent transcontinental travel and a training build for IRONMAN Roth. While Laura may not have felt physically tired heading into that race, there was some mental fatigue that comes with all the travel. Laura admits that not much changed from last week to this week in terms of her race preparation and physical resources but she was in a “better frame of mind” and “changed her headspace and mental approach.” We always talk about the impact of travel and life stress on amateurs, but its accumulation can have a very real effect on the pros too. Last week was too much travel and jostling close to the race, and Laura simply wasn’t race ready. A week of stability and a refreshed mindset allowed Laura’s mind to clear and the body to follow. She is now back on the charge toward Challenge Roth.

Just over a week ago, I received a message from Sarah Piampiano to say she was in the emergency department of a local hospital in Cairns receiving four stitches in her arm after crashing her bike on a training ride. Accidents happen but it was not great news just 10 days out from her ‘A’ race of the season at the IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championships in Cairns, Australia. These situations force evolution and adjustment, with two key components. First, she had to heal and allow the stress of the crash leave the body, then we could evolve the plan going in over the last few days. The key was for Sarah not to panic, and the general approach was to truly heal and rest, then we built into the race with more than usual volume of work. It allowed her to feel like an athlete and race ready on the day.

Sarah is understandably disappointed with the result having come into the race “gunning to win.” Her preparation leading into the race had been going very well until the crash in training 10 days out created some additional mental and physical stress. IRON distance racing is hard and accidents do happen so it’s a credit to Sarah for staying in the moment and executing the race to the best of her ability on the day. “It was a real test of mental fortitude to just stay the course and believe I could still win the race,” she says. “I didn't win, but I fought for it until the end and I'm proud of that.”  With all this said, it is important to acknowledge the performance of Sarah Crowley, the eventual winner, as she was glorious all day, and executed a fine race, leaving as a deserving winner.

Escape from Alcatraz
Racers at this past weekend’s Escape from Alcatraz race were thrown a curveball at the last minute when race organizers canceled the swim just as the boat was set to depart for Alcatraz Island. High winds and a small craft advisory in effect turned the iconic triathlon into a bike-run event for the first times in its 37 years. Purplepatch pro athlete, Kevin Collington, had mixed feelings about the changed event. He had been working hard on his swim ahead of this race in the hope of staying on the feet of the Olympians and ITU swimmers that were also competing. He was understandably disappointed that he was not able to put that swim fitness to the test. However, the change eliminated his weakest discipline, potentially improving his overall chances: “I had been telling people for weeks that if I come out of the water 3 minutes down again then my day is over, so that was no longer an issue. I was able to get down to the business of racing the bike and run.”

Kevin ended up with the 3rd fastest run on the day and finished in fourth overall among a very strong field of Olympic distance specialists. It’s a highly respectable result and a great warm-up for Kevin ahead of next weekend’s IRONMAN 70.3 Costa Rica.