70.3 World Championships
Race Report Nice 70.3 WC As soon as Nice was announced as the host of the 2019 70.3 WC it became the season goal to get there. The place holds fond memories for me having lived there during Uni and spending many weekend breaks there with family and friends. It was also the location of my first and only Ironman in 2008 and I had vivid memories of an amazing bike course and running (more like shuffling/walking!) along the Promenade des Anglais. I was fortunate enough to bag a spot at the race late-ish in the season at Port after a nervy wait at the roll down ceremony. After that it was a case of getting in as good shape as possible as the bike course was going to be unforgiving! I arrived in Nice a few days early, initially without my bike which was still in Paris… and then the bike arrived later that day but with some minor damage. Luckily the mechanics at the expo managed to get the bike race ready and I had opportunity to ride part of the course with a fellow Australian athlete Anibal on the Thursday morning. We got lost a few times and even ended up on the motorway (!) but managed to sample the first couple of steep climbs on course and have a few laughs to calm pre races nerves along the way! As more and more athletes arrived from around the world you could feel the anticipation rising. Unfortunately the issues I had with my bike were not isolated and news filtered out of many athletes either losing bikes in transit or arriving to find bikes with severe damage and only a couple of days to find a solution. Luckily everyone seemed to have a plan B to at least get to the start line and participate. The format at the 70.3 WC sees the female athletes race on Saturday and males on Sunday. I made a point of heading down for the female race start to get a feel for conditions and soak up the atmosphere. It was amazing to see the top athletes running along the Promenade and Daniela Ryf putting on yet another masterclass in racing. With 3500 male athletes racing I got racked early to avoid the crowds and headed out for a short run early evening to calm my nerves. Race morning arrived and being the first wave to go after the pros I decided to rack early and relax and take everything in. I was just about to put on the wetsuit (the female race was wetsuit legal and water temp 24 degrees) when the announcement went out that wetsuits were not permitted! Given swimming is my weakest discipline I was a bit thrown by this and a frantic call was made to my brother to bring my swim skin from the apartment. One advantage of being first wave after the pros was our pen was immediately next to the start line so we were right there to watch all the big guns walk through to get started and then the melee that ensued when the gun went off. Swim – 33:48 Given it was a non-wetsuit swim and I was expecting a slow swim I positioned myself right at the back… and by that I reckon I was almost last in the water! I decided to work my way
up the field and try to relax into a good rhythm. I sighted frequently and for a change felt like I was swimming pretty straight and gained confidence as I passed other competitors. I felt the Garmin vibrate every 500m and resisted the temptation to look at my time and just focussed on getting round. With 200m to go and feeling quite fresh I gave it one last effort and was relieved to see a team of volunteers helping swimmers out of the steep pebble beach exit. I glanced down at my Garmin and did a double take as I’d swam a PB by over a minute in a non-wetsuit swim. OK… don’t get carried away there’s plenty of racing to come! Bike: 3:05:02 The transition was HUGE and took a good few minutes to navigate through.. then it was out onto the Promenade for a few very fast KMs before turning right and heading towards the hills. Prior to the race I had set myself the goal of just going firm but nothing silly as there was a lot of climbing and some really fast descents. About 25kms in we took a right turn to begin the main segment of the bike leg – the Col de Vence. This was a 9km climb at an average gradient of 6-7%. I must admit I had thought about this a lot before the race and knew it was going to take a lot out of the legs. The truth is the gradient isn’t that tough and for the most part the climb was enjoyable but it is very long compared to what we get to train on in Australia and the last couple of Kms I could really feel the wear on the legs! About half way up the Col we got caught by the top 35-39 age groupers and it was a sight to behold with them flying past like we were literally stood still. I was glad to make it to the 45km mark which is when the course finally started to descend – my legs definitely were in need of a rest and I was looking forward to not having to push to hard for the next hour or so! The descent wasn’t too technical however the top age groupers from other waves continued to fly past and this made things a bit nervy. There were no shouts of “passing”… you could be going at 50kmh and all of a sudden someone would go past on the aerobars and fill into the gap between you and the cyclist in front. I decided the order of the day was to be conservative and just get down in one piece. This was reinforced seeing four athletes put into ambulances on the descents into Nice. I breathed a big sigh of relief as we hit the Promenade again and looked down to see the timer ticking towards 3hrs! A few fast Kms later and it was back into transition ready to hit the Promenade. Run: 1.26.18 I was really looking forward to getting out on the run and seeing where my form was at after some focussed training in the build up to this race. It was an amazing atmosphere and I tried my best to not get carried away by going out too hard. The run course was a two lap out and back along the Promenade to the airport and back. The first seven kms I settled into a decent pace that felt firm but not too hard and was focussed on trying to run under 1.30 which would have been a PB run split. At around 8km I started to notice my place slipping a little and the fatigue of the bike leg started to build in my legs. I decided to back off just a little and focus on getting adequate nutrition in and try to limit my losses.
By around the 14km mark I was hitting the coke and Red Bull (not a good sign!) but I needed the extra hit for the remaining Kms. Once you hit the airport turn around for the last time it was great to know you were on the road home and the finish line was visible in the distance. The party atmosphere was amazing and a few tough Kms later the finish shute was in sight. I gave it one last push to cross the line in 5.12 and was stoked with a 4 min run PB. The whole occasion was incredible, the organisation was first class and to see so many athletes from around the world taking part made it a really special experience. I want to thank my amazing race support crew – mum and dad, Mike, aunt Maria and Phil and niece Cara and Henry! Thank you to Nathan for getting me in shape to get around and achieve a couple of PBs along the way! Finally thank you to my amazing wife Eugenie and my girls Erika and Skye for being so supportive of dads fitness pursuits : ) !!!