Monday, November 14, 2011

Powerman - a very unsatisfactory day

(Thanks to everyone for the photos, greatly appreciated)

Great start picture (I'm on the extreme left)
I was bitterly disappointed about two aspects of this year's Powerman. One was about the race itself, not only bitterly disappointed but furious and angry in fact, but I'll come on to that. The second thing was about myself and how I reacted internally to the first point. So what were the issues?

As anyone that was there will testify, the extent of drafting in this non-drafting race was unprecedented. It's the worst I have ever seen at Powerman. It appeared to be condoned by the marshalls and positively encouraged by many of the so called "competitors". Or should I call them cheats? Nay, I shall refer to them in the correct technical term that they duly earned..."CHEATING BASTARDS".

The packs were enormous and blatant and those that chose to draft are a disgrace to themselves, their country, their sport, their parents, their children and anyone that knows them.

As you're reading this, if you think that perhaps I'm referring to you and singling you out then by the fact that you've even had this thought should tell you that YES I PROBABLY AM.

So many chose to cheat, some didn't care and others justified their actions with "because everyone was doing it". People that had trained hard and knocked themselves out to get a lead on the run were unfairly losing out to huge packs swarming past them on the bike. Surely it was justified to tag along? Sorry no, this is CHEATING AS WELL!

If we all have this attitude then you might argue that we have a level playing field and we have a drafting race by default. BUT, the rules state that it's a non-drafting race and so long as there's one person that abides by this rule then everyone else that doesn't is a CHEAT!

So what should anyone have done in such a situation? Firstly, confront every single person in the pack and make it clear to them that they are cheating (including the Pro Women assuming it was true that they were in a pack too - they should know better). There were marshalls and they were taking down numbers, they were just spineless and didn't DSQ anyone. It then becomes easy, try to remember as many numbers as you can and protest them after the race. The marshall's clipboards will corroborate your claim. I can tell you from past experience at doing just this in Powerman, your protest will be upheld.

Other than that I have to say that the race was, as usual, magnificently organised. Additionally, credit to Melody, the race organiser, when I congratulated her on putting on a great race the first things she acknowledged was the drafting problem before I even said anything on the subject.

For what it's worth, I have a solution for future years, I have spent a lot of time (too much time) over the last 24 hours mapping it out in my head. It mainly revolves around managing the competitors perceptions prior to the race. Yes, it will lead to the most hardened and blatant cheats being disqualified, it may lead to some of these cheats being very upset and refusing to ever race Powerman again - AND HOW BAD IS THAT? Melody, Adele, if you're interested in hearing my thoughts I'd be happy to share, let me know if you're interested?

I'll come onto the second point of later, it was brought on by the drafting issue above but the anger an the blame lies solely with myself. But first the race: -

RUN ONE, 11k, 43mins ??Secs

I hadn't slept well the night before nor the previous few nights. I could have done but I didn't focus on early nights and only have myself to blame. I'd also trained heavily the week before which was part of the plan as this race was just to be a tune up for Phuket 70.3 in 3 weeks. However, when I started warming up for the race I realised that I was having trouble breathing, my heart rate was elevated super high and something wasn't quite right. Not to worry I thought, the body will respond, I just have to make sure I'm properly warmed up. Things got better and I lined up at the front for the start.

It was a two loop run and I got in quite nicely with a fast group of locals and expats. I was testing the red line all the way through which is where I wanted to be. In a race this long I don't believe in holding back or "saving yourself" but equally it's essential not to spend more than a few seconds anaerobic (in the red zone) every now and again.

Last time I did this race 2 years ago, over the exact same course, I ran 41:05 and expected something very similar this time (if not a little better). I was shocked to see my time approaching 44 minutes at transition. Mmm, never mind I thought, I'm united with Gladys (my trusty stead), this is where we tear up the road.

BIKE 64K, 1hr, ??mins

I started reeling people in immediately and few were fast enough to even think about guy jumped straight onto my wheel. "NO...!" I shouted and swerved to the right. He backed off. I looked behind ten seconds later and there he was again. "NO...!" I screamed a little louder, if that were possible, and again he backed off. Ten seconds later he was back. I seldom lose my temper but the anger that welled up inside of me was unstoppable, a primeval, guttural "F@CK OFF...!" emanated from somewhere deep within the chasms of my body which immediately saw him drop back 50m in a flash and to be quite honest with you, I even shocked myself. The viciousness and clear threat of imminent violence actually scared me, so I can only imagine what effect it had on him. CHEATING BASTARD he deserved it.

I reeled in Uncle Don and did a wonderful impression of a police siren as I went past him, it made me chuckle anyway. I reeled in Richard Tang, going past him at a speed that assured me that I wouldn't be seeing him for the rest of the day (oh how wrong I was). I went past Chris Williams, at quite an impressive pace I thought (later that evening he said, "Yeah, when you went past me you didn't look very good", haha, seems he knew what he was talking about and I didn't!). At the first turnaround I started seeing the packs forming, being an out and back course you can see the packs ahead and behind. I started getting angry again, I started painting pictures in my mind in terms of who was in the packs ahead (as it happens, considering how my second run turned out, I should have been more worried about the ones behind).

This is the issue that angered and upset me most about the race, not the drafting but rather the way I let it negatively impact my mind. Normally I'm very good at channeling adversity into opportunity or at least in channeling anger into effort. Today for some reason I didn't do this, I simply let it get to me. It's totally contradictory to my personality and my default way of thinking, I can only put it down to tiredness and a lack of sleep. I'm just so disappointed with myself, I really let this mindset spoil my day. I must not ever let that happen again.

The bike continued and Damian came past me, I've never been passed before on the bike in Powerman, so that didn't help my mindset either. Not only that but a guy I was slowly catching sat on Damian's wheel and that's the last I saw of him. I was even more pissed off!

Heading back on the second loop of two I caught a pack of five guys blatantly drafting each other and shared my thoughts with each one of them. It made not a jot of difference and they continued cheating. Then one of them made the mistake of jumping on my back wheel!!! Talking of thick skinned or what! I screamed at him, and told him if he didn't get off my wheel I'd protest him. He immediately obliged and came up alongside. He clearly realised I was pissed off and in an effort to appease me he explained that he hadn't intended to cheat at my expense but that we could cheat together "We take turns, OK?". That was pretty much the final straw for me. I shared a few choice words with him regarding it being a non-drafting race and I think the term CHEATING BASTARD was used more than once. Strangely that's the last I saw of him.

I got to T2 and considering that I'd managed to persuade myself that there were at least half a dozen people in my age-group in the packs ahead you can imagine my surprise to see the entire bike rack empty. I was in first place. BUT...I was in trouble BIG TIME.

RUN TW0, 10K, 55mins ??secs

I started running and felt my left Achilles tighten all the way from the heel to deep into the calf. It was strained, it felt like it was going to pop at any second. I was running but actually trying not to use my left ankle at all. Thinking about the forthcoming Phuket 70.3 I almost stopped, not wanting to cause any serious damage. I continued on gingerly though, I have had dodgy Achilles for many years and I know that sometimes they can loosen up when you start running, especially on the flat, provided that you're uber-careful. The key is for that to happen (or to stop) before the sinews start tearing. (I didn't get that balance right in Bintang last year, OUCH!).

As I continued running they got slowly better over the next k. The next problem was soon apparent, my heart rate was going through the roof. It was already 10 beats higher than the red zone that I'd played with on the first run. This was going to get ugly. However, in Powerman the second run is always ugly, the temperature was going through the roof, the heart rate was out of control I was getting dizzy but hey, isn't this normal?

Then Richard Tang came flying past me. I couldn't have taken out more than 2 minutes on him on the bike, a reflection that Richard obviously had a great bike and also that Chris Williams was indeed right, I really wasn't looking good!!!

1k into the second lap the wheels fell off. My legs were gone, my heart rate was unsustainable and I did something I have never done before in a duathlon, I walked. OMFG!!! The scary thing was that my heart rate barely came down, I'd start to run again and it was through the roof. I then came across my next door neighbour Nizz who was doing her first duathlon and only her second multi-sport race. DAMN! Now I couldn't even walk until I was at least around the corner haha. She is great, had a big smile on her face and was enjoying herself despite the tough conditions.

Last effort to the finish
Goodness knows how many people passed me. With about a k to go the expat guy in the blue with white sunnies (see the second photo above) came past me during one of my walk breaks. No Ferking Way I thought, he could well be in my age-group and I'm not having it. I took off, ran the last k hard and finished in what turned out to be 13 minutes slower than two years ago, 2nd in my age-group with a time of 2:24:48.

RM1000 (USD330) richer but not happy with myself
If I'd have raced well I have been happy with 2nd, hell I'd have been happy with 10th but with the poor sleeping habits leading up to the race and especially the negativity during the race I only have myself to blame.

I expressed this on Twitter and Facebook and I really appreciate the words of support from friends but I'm not sulking, I'm not looking for pity, I'm definitely not making excuses and I'm absolutely NOT being too hard on myself. I've reviewed the aspects that went wrong, I've evaluated them, dismissed what I couldn't have affected and hopefully learned from my mistakes.

Blame is good but only when it is accompanied by learning and then most importantly executing solutions. Good sleep in the days leading up to the race I could have ensured and channeling the anger in the race positively rather than negatively may have made me faster but it certainly would have led to a more enjoyable experience.

I'm looking forward to next year's race already and be warned I'm gonna ride with a mini video camera for all you CHEATING BASTARDS.

Disclaimer: - I'd like to apologise to anyone that was drafting that I have NOT offended. It was not my intent to be politically correct, increase readers to this blog or make any any new friends with anyone that thinks cheating is justified. I just thought it imortant to make that clear and to hopefully upset the last few thick-skinned drafting cheats that may have read this far without being thoroughy upset with me.

PS Be upset with yourselves and do us all a favour go do another sport.

PSS The facial growth is only temporary and is in conjunction with Movember (Google it if you don't know what Movember is).


TriStupe said...

it's the facial hair Simon. it's the facial hair. :)

Joke aside - i agree with you. drafters are cheater. it is ingrained in them because they are too used to cycle in a pack aka pelatons. if Powerman is a team sports, then well and fine, but it is an individual sports that you race to outdo yourself physically and mentally.

Cheers bro! You had a terrific race - too bad i wasn't there else i would had cheered all of you on!

Perfectionist said...

Buddy, that's a good write-up. I scolded 3 bastards who sucking on my rear too. Wasted few seconds of my concentration (and breath for shouting at them) because I have to keep looking behind every couple of minutes as soon as I overtake a cyclist.

Remember, race day is about execution and not fitness. Don't ever let anger spoils your race. Else you will loose another coke to me again :D

Julie said...

Well written Simon, i cant believe there are so many blatant cheats out there, how can they live with themselves when they know they have cheated.

Matty O said...

So it's not just WTC races that people cheat like sons of bitches now? This pisses me off too, my blood is boiling from having read this.

I agree with you... except I would give one penalty, and if they do it again, DQ. They need to hire more race marshalls as well to keep up with all this bull shit anymore.

I get so pissed off when I race that my runs are pure anger and fury and all the cheating bastards.

Thank you for calling them out. I will promise to do the same in my future races, we can change this!!!

Simon said...

Thanks for your support regarding my comments guys. I'm very hopefully that it will be better next year due not only to my comments but everyone that has rallied and implored the organisers to get on top of it.

I've received loads more support via Facebook and Twitter. A bit of grumbling behind my back and one direct unhappy email. Oh well ay!

My intent is solely to prevent this happening again next year, this is one of the few non-drafting races that is left in Malaysia other than Half Iron Distance Desaru which was also a drafting farce this year I understand.

Cheong said...

The drafting problem happen even way back in 2009 when I did my 1st powerman. However, as a participant with a mid pack result, my feedback just land on deaf ears. I wasted alot of energy trying to shake them off but like flies they keep coming back.

I also saw drafting among the sprint participants.

I did not expect the drafting problem to creep up to the top pack participants. Thank you for writing this and pursuing it with the organisors.

dsmith1031 said...

I hate drafters so much and I had a similar experience at my first iron distance last month. About mile 55 while stopping to pee, I got passed by a couple of folks including a young women. Over the next 30 miles as I observed her draft on every wheel she could find- including several times mine. Each time I noticed her back there I gave a shout- eventually a get the F&%K off my wheel. She really did not even seemed fazed by my comments at all, and she finished 3rd overall female. I did mention her behavior to some race officials, but she is still listed as 3rd overall woman. And yeah- for 30 miles or so on the bike her cheating behavior really pissed me off.

I hate cheaters! Thanks for writing such a good post.