Fox Tales; European Lessons

Michael Fox is back home and ready to attack the local season all the wiser for his European racing holiday.

Europe in Review – Lessons Learnt

After returning from my European Triathlon season, I’ve now had time to look back and reflect on it.

For those that don’t know my results, they were:

Staffordshire 70.3 – 6th
Challenge Heilbronn – DNF
Challenge Poznan – DNF
Embrun Short Distance – 5th
Challenge Walchsee Kaiserwinkl – 10th

Whilst my results weren’t what I had originally hoped for, it was an invaluable learning experience. I’m going to go through my Top 3 “take-aways” and how you might be able to learn from my experience.

1. Euro’s ride hard!
Yep, we have all just seen the World 70.3 Champs and Kona this year. The successful athletes all set up their race in the bike leg and the majority of them were European.

After racing some of these guys over the summer its not surprising. I was blown away by the intensity of the bike leg and the different style of racing they had. It’s all about the bike and if you can’t ride with the best, then you’re unlikely to get back into contention.

This became a focus for me very quickly after I arrived. I began riding with more purpose rather than just more distance. My training became more specific to race demands one day and then very easy the next to recover. For example, one of my last sessions was on a 3% uphill. 3 x 15mins @ FTP with every 5th minute above 120% of FTP.

Pic: Col del la Colombiere

My ability to ride hard and therefore my confidence in my bike leg is something I improved on significantly by my final race. Whilst I finished 10th there, I managed to ride hard and get away from the group into 2nd at the 65km mark, before blowing myself up. Ok, you may think that sounds like it was a silly move but it was a big step forward for me… Coming from a strong swim background I’ve never been aggressive on the bike. Instead I’ve always conserved, protected myself and sat with the group on the bike. Perhaps next time I’ll have the strength and confidence to continue on with move.

2. Be adaptable!
Most of you will notice 2 DNF’s in there. Something new for me…. Previously I’d only ever DNF’d due to mechanicals. In hindsight, it was a simple travel mistake. I wasn’t able to get my normal pre-race meal and changed to something I thought was appropriate. I didn’t work this out until after the second DNF, I realised pre-race nutrition was the only thing I’d changed from Staffordshire 70.3 onwards. I normally eat chocolate muffins on race day but when I couldn’t find them at Heilbronn or Poznan I changed to muesli with a bit of milk, which is my regular breakfast on a daily basis. Turned out with training it worked, but on race day with higher intensity it wasn’t digesting properly and saw me come to a stand still (or sit still in the Porta-Loo if you like).

So, I came up with my plan B. White bread, Banana and Honey. I found that a Banana and honey sandwich worked perfectly for me in training before my hardest sessions. So, I then carried this to race day in Embrun and Walchsee.

I know some athlete’s that will pack their preferred breakfast in their bike bags. But, for me having a few options will hopefully make this experience, a thing of the past.

3. Race shorter!

Pic: Top of the Mountain on the Embrun Bike Leg.

After 2 poor showings I needed to get back to basics and I needed to get it right, FAST. I went to Embrun and raced the Short Distance Triathlon. Not only was this a fantastic race but it was also great to race a shorter distance again.

The more we race the more experience and practice we get. We can’t recover quickly from Iron Distance or Long Course Races. So, why not throw in some shorter racing to refine your skills. This helped me avoid another embarrassing DNF and built some confidence in my ability before my next bigger goal. This is something I’ll be looking to do when I prepare for longer races this season.

Cheers, Foxy. 

ED: Foxy is hoping to toe the line at IM70.3 Port Macquarie this weekend, if you are there keep an eye out for him and give him cheer. 

Text and Images: Michael Fox


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