Saturday, January 31, 2009

Battle of the Buldge - Bobby Julich

A very interesting article I found this morning about how to help lose some of those extra kg's found over the "off season" or "recovery time" after a big race.

Also what is interesting about it is the watts/kg of different standard riders. Based on this theory I have two choices:

1. Get my wattage upto 540. (wouldn't that be nice)

or the easy easier option;

2. Lose some kg's.

Choice is simple for me.

Battle of the bulge
By Bobby Julich
Bobby Julich Photo ©: AFP

For all of you who have made new year's resolutions about losing weight, I think that we should dive into what professional cyclists do in the off-season to keep the pounds off, yet at the same time, enjoy some of the foods and beverages that they restrict themselves from consuming during the season.
Over the past 10 years, weight has become the buzzword in all levels of cycling. Gone are the days when we used to eat as much as we could at the table because we thought that the more we eat, the more energy we have for the next day's training or race. The overall goal of every cyclist is to have the best power to weight ratio as possible. A good rider in the peloton has a ratio of 6 watts/kg, a great rider has 6.5 watts/kg and the best can have over 7watts/kg at threshold. But while being lean is important, riders can go too far and actually start to lose power.
This wasn't always the case, however. I remember a rider on my first team telling me, "if you can walk out of the restaurant comfortably, you haven't eaten enough!" Although I never totally agreed with "rolling" yourself out after a meal, many riders did just that. It was a total shock to me when I heard the word "regime" when I started with Motorola. I don't know where it came from exactly, but I would assume that it was handed down from Sean Yates to us young Americans on the team. Regime was just another way to say "I am serious now, I am on a diet" and became a part of our everyday lingo.
A rider's off-season weight is one of the first subjects to come up when greeting a teammate or boss at the first camp of the new season. The conversation never lasts longer than a few sentences before weight comes to the forefront. It used to drive me nuts because I was never the leanest guy and knew that it was just a matter of time before it was brought up. I had a director that, as you were shaking hands, would grab your arm or waist and do his version of the fat caliper test! He wouldn't even say anything, but you could tell by the look on his face if he was happy or if you had some work to do.
Of course the easiest way to get around the weight-gain issue is not to put it on in the first place, but this is easier said than done. After a long season, riders enjoy taking a break from what they have been eating the entire year. Vacations, good times with family and friends, watching football, drinking beer, and not training as much take priority over the "regime" that they have been on for the last 10 months.
Some riders' battles with weight became famous Photo ©: AFP

How riders cope with this period of freedom varies. There have been documented cases ranging from riders weighing everything that they put in their mouth to the ones that stuff their face with enough strudel to feed a small army, but I always preferred to stay in the "gray" zone. Discipline is the key here, if you understand and accept what you are putting in your mouth and the advantages or consequences that come with those decisions, then no matter what choice you make, ENJOY IT! The worst thing you can do is eat or drink something that you obviously craved just to rake yourself over the coals a few minutes after consuming it. This constant calculation and evaluation of what is eaten or drunk is part of every athlete's daily struggle.
I am often asked what professional cyclists do in the start of the season to lose weight. Well, the answer to that depends on how much weight they put on during the off-season. Most riders are very professional and don't put on more than 8 pounds, and they will lose half of that weight during the first training camp. These riders have very little to worry about and can shed those extra pounds by cutting out alcohol or desserts and paying a little attention to the calories that they consume at camp. The riders that gained more than that will have a little bit more work to do.
I have heard stories about riders who gain so much weight in the winter that they can't even fit into the cycling clothes that the team gives them at camp. For riders like this, it is important that they realize that it will take just as long to lose this weight as it took to put it on and maybe more. Many of these riders who let themselves go in the winter are not patient enough to lose this weight in the correct way and wind up doing things that are not only bad for their form, but also their overall health.
While others were infamous for watching every gram. Photo ©: AFP

As their leaner teammates are starting up with some intensity, the riders who put on more weight often make the mistake of doing ultra-long "fat burning" rides with the hope that they will lose the weight more quickly. I have witnessed riders doing 6-8hr rides at 30kph with little or no food before or during the rides. This may sound like a logical technique, but it does not work very often. This technique can lead to major mental and physical fatigue as well as depression. It takes a very strong head to go from eating whatever it was that made them gain all this weight in the first place to eating almost nothing at all. This is a desperate attempt at a "quick fix" and can lead to bigger problems down the road.
The problem with all this emphasis on power to weight ratios is that many riders become obsessive about this and go to extremes. The worst case scenario is that they will go as far as being anorexic or bulimic because of the pressure they, or others put on them to be skinny. Sometimes I have heard riders sounding like female Hollywood stars when talking about their weight! I do feel that there is a serious body/self-image problem in the peloton now that I am no longer a part of it. I say that because if a rider who weighs 69kg with 6.2% body fat thinks of himself as "fat", what does he think of normal people on the street?
Eat, train, be happy, and do the best that you can with what you have. After all, this is a sport and you should enjoy all aspects of it. It is alright to push the limits and be the best you can be, but stay in the "gray" area, you will thank me later....I hope!

Happy reading


Thursday, January 29, 2009

2008 - A year in Review

I thought I would start this blog so that i can look back at races down the track to always remember where i started. If you want to know......115 kgs when I made the call to coach Mat Tippet at I also joined the Footscray Cycling Club which I started in C Grade (only just).

2008 was my 1st serious crack at the longer distance tri's, completed 2007 Shep in 4 hr 54mins which I was happy at the time considering my condition (overweight!!)

In 2008 I competed in 2 1/2 Ironmans and my 1st Ironman (WA).

My first 1/2 for 2008 was Yeppoon. I managed to go 4hr 35mins with a Pb in all three legs with still room for improvement. The highlight was my bike time of 2hr 25min which was 5th in my age group. Managed 64th overall, massive improvment from Shep 2007.

After this follow some smaller races and many races at Footscray with saw me place regularly in B Grade and race off 2nd scratch in the handicaps. My half marathon time got under the 90min mark also, so to date was a good year.

I then followed up competing at shep 2008 1/2 ironman. Achieved another PB going 4 hr 26min and once again having a pb in all 3 legs and my bike time under 2hr 20min ex transition. Highlights of this race were my bike time 3rd in age and 18th overall. Managed 11th in my age and 44th overall, first time top 50.

Shep was my lead up race to Ironman WA, very daunting at the time, however exciting all the same. Few more weeks of training all lead to my 1st BIG one.

My race report follows:


Race Report - Xavier Coppock

Swim - 58.09mins

Ride - 4hr 42mins 27th overall 2nd 30-34 age group

Run - 3hr 41mins

Total - 9hr 26mins 50sec

57th Overall - 11th 30-34 age group

Well, where do I start....(prob from the beginning you say!!) What an awesome experience to go over to WA and attempt my 1st Ironman Triathlon. Had completed 3 1/2 Ironmans prior to heading west with my times improving from 4h 55min shep 2007 to 4h 26min shep 2008.

With consultation from Coach Mat, we decided mid year to make the next step into the unknown and have a crack at WA.

Benny Rob, Ron Z & I all arrived on the Wednesday prior with Ron catching his ZZZZ's when Benny and I got in at about midnight. With the excitement of out 1st Ironman, we were like two kids in a candy store and were high on chocolate and coke from the drive, we decided to set up our bikes when we got to the apartment, after midnight!!!

This done, was time for shut eye and find out what all the hype about doing an Ironman was about on the Thursday morning when we awoke!

With my body deciding to awake at 8am (6am Melbourne time), my eyes stinging through lack of sleep, I arose to see what the day ahead was going to deal me. I discussed the itenary with Ron and Ben to see what we were going/ needed to do. After heading down to the supermarket for supplies, we made sure we got all the carbs we could for the feast we were going to have of the following couple of days. Pancakes, rice cream, pasta and bananas consumed most of our trolley and we headed back to ENJOY our meal (i say enjoy, as after this meal, every meal there after became a chore).

A ride to make sure everything was tight and wheels intact soon followed. After lunch headed down to see the longest pier ever and then realised how far 3.8kms actually is.....A long long way to swim.

We registered at the compound and this is where I realised how big of a deal an IRONMAN is.....from the finish shute to the transition area to the registration area.

Ron, Big Boy, Ben and myself headed in the water for a swim which was choppy and actually had me questioning weather or not I could actually do this thing. With the water quality so clear and seeing schools of fish swim under, it made me realise that there could actually be some BIG fish out there......

Thursday arvo was just chewing the fat with the boys and getting advice from Ron about different things that we should prepare ourselves for during the race. Ron had some advice that I would never have thought of.

Friday followed along the same lines as Thursday with some clowning around and eating and eating on the hour every hour, this became a massive chore for me. We had another swim and small ride during the day also. Ben and I decided that we would take a look at the run course, which was prob not a good idea, as witht he swim, i realised that a marathon is not for the faint hearted normally and us silly fools were attempting one at the end of 3.8km swim and 180.2km bike!! (Why would we do that?)

We heading down to the carb load party, OH MY GOD, Glutteny!!! 1000 athletes enjoy the spoils of endless pasta, rice dishes and desserts. This was a great experience that I would suggest that everyone experience at least once. We didn't stay for long, just enough to eat and enjoy some entertainment.

With Saturday dawning and the weather just starting to peak for race day, the entire ETPA crew including coach headed down for a swim together. Coach Mat lead the way, with Ron, Komo, Big Boy, Jimmy D, Monas, Benny, James Harvey (enjoying the view from the spectator side this year) Kenny, David, Ben and myself had a good hitout in the water before heading off to relax for the remainder of the day.

The 1km swim race on the Saturday afternoon, which Mat smashed and took the chocolates set the tone for what was to follow on race day.

Checked in transition bags, which gave me instant nerves hoping that I remembered everything needed for the following day. Once checked them in, had to forget about that side of things as nothing could be changed now, just look forward to the experience.

Pre Race briefing was another eye opener seeing athletes from 1st timers like myself and many others to some totally crazy fool who having a crack at his 107th Ironman (not a typo) yes, 107 of these things!! The word sharks was mentioned a few times, which made my stomach a bit uneasy, afterall 1.8km out from shore is shark territory. Briefing went for 45mins and was rather enjoyable amoungst the standard race rules etc.

The remaining of Saturday was spent by Ron, Ben and Myself throwing random objects in the ceiling fan in our room, trying to not expend any new found energy from the carb loading.

Saturday ended with an early night, 7.30pm, thinking that I would toss and turn with nerves, however had a magic sleep and awoke just prior to my alarm at 3.30am.


After consuming my usual liquid breakfast, Ron, Ben and myself heading down to transition to finally attempt the Ironman. Bags packed and off we went. Parked the car and headed to the bright light, only transition was lit up, and upon seeing this, my stomach churned and started to vomit!!!! Yes, vomitted everywhere with Ben and Ron laughing at me, the nerves had finally got me. My thoughts of around a 10hour Ironman (all things going right) went straight out the mind set with just finishing on the agenda now.

After setting up bike and getting into my wetsuit, headed down to race start with thousands of spectators also waking early to see endless hours of pain ahead. The pros took off 15 minutes ahead and then the count down was on and the butterflys going berserk in my stomach. I positioned myself reasonably wide to try and get a clear start to my swim.

With the horn sounding, off I was to attempt my 1st Ironman. Hoping to break 1 hour in the swim, i found a really good rythm in the swim and enjoyed, yes enjoyed the first k. From here, race tactics started to enter my head knowing that there was going to be large amounts of people in front of me on the bike and then trying to decide how i attack the bike course. I continued my comfortable swim and found some feet to sit on to conserve engery. Getting to the end of the pier was no stress and with this in mind, I knew i was going to get through the swim in under 1 hour. Towards the end of the swim, about 300m to go, some nuff nuff decided he wanted to swim over me, WTF??? SO with some hard kicking, think he got the picture and sat off me until the end. Standing to see hundreds upon hundreds of people cheering on their loved ones. Looking at my watch.....58mins, you beaut, swim went spot on plan and gave me some confidence.

Grabbed T1 bag and into the tent, emptied the bag, hoping that I had the essentials, number, helmet and shoes, check, check and check. Had some nutrition and off I went...180.2kms of bike to go.

My mindset on the bike was to ride 5hours give or take a couple. So I took off the first 30kms to ride passed some slower riders who had out swam me until I found a good rythm and then just switched off. I never really gave much thought that it was 180k's just a three lap bike course and as i went passed transition, i just ticked off anther lad. Was great to get support from fellow ETPA's on the course and the surprising and yet so distinctive Coach's booming voice over the PA system in town also was supporting (thanks Coach!!)

Seeing a few drafters made me think that there was no way known I was going to be "one of them" (sorry Ron!) Into the last lap I really enjoyed it and just made sure I had enough nutrition to start the run, had my final bottle of water and High 5 and left my bike with the handler at transition. Bike Time: 4hr 42min AWESOME - 3rd in age, 27th overall and onto the run in 26th spot....(WTF this was never expected, all of a sudden I had 4hr 20 to do the marathon to go under 10unders, I am a chance here)

Into the run, grabbed my fuel belt and off i went, just ticking over at my own tempo, with runners 1 by 1 starting to pass me, but did not bother me at all, was just there to finish my 1st Ironman under 10 hours now!!!

Still getting massive support from all the support crew from ETPA (wives and family) kept me ticking along and even managed a 1hr 40 min 21km, wow, that is not much slower than my 1/2 marathon pace. Starting to do the Maths, I was on track for sub 9hr 30mins, this cannot be right, I must be miscalculating, I cannot go that time ever, not at all in my 1st one. Got to 30km and still haven't stopped and seeing all the boys on the course made me start to really enjoy it, knowing the training that I had done, week in week out. I knew I was becoming an Ironman. By this stage I was taking nothing for chance, so I started to walk every aid station and consume plenty so that I would not BONK!! So with walking 50m and running 2 km i was still going to out live any expectation that i ever thought i could achieve.

With 2km to go, I decided to miss the last aid station and really enjoy the finish, with people lined up for a good k out from the finish chute, I knew this was going to me amazing. I took off my glasses and zipped up my suit and heard the commentator call me up to the finish, the words - XAVIER COPPOCK - YOU ARE AN IRONMAN, was just a awesome feeling and sense of achievment.

When he called out my time, 9hr 26min 50sec, I had to look at my watch to make sure it was real. Yep sub 9hr 30min 1st Ironman, and a 3hr 41min marathon, WOW. Surprised myself and everyone else that I spoke to. Just goes to show that if you back your training and your ability you can go fast - Even at 94kgs!!!!

With realising all this, I have to thank many people who have helped my journey:

Ben's Wife (Tammy) see above

Ben - for being an awesome training partner and experiencing the journey with me

Coach Mat - I know he doubted me going that fast, as we all did, did a fantastic job getting me to the line in A 1 condition.

The ETPA crew - even though I trained alot in isolation, just the support you gave me.

And all the supporters on the day.

I have alot more that I could have written, but some things I am keeping to myself for future reference, when something this big goes so correct, you can't give all secrets away, but hey feel free to ask!!!

So, where to from here: A good season of 1/2 Ironmans and then attack Busso '09 and onto bigger things from there!!

I am also going to focus more on my riding to try to get in to A grade at Footscray and race some open races, melb to shep.

Also my running, see if I can get my 1/2 marathon run time down to mid 80's.

For now enjoy my blog and feel free to comment and ask any questions you may have.