Sunny Coast 70.3
A great weekend up on the Sunny Coast for the 70.3. With the World Champs being in Taupo next year the race was pretty much booked out. I arrived late on Friday afternoon in time to check in to the hotel and catch up with Matt Lewis for a quick ocean swim. After convincing Matt that Budgie Smugglers and socks were not a good look we wettied up and hit the water. After swimming a whole 10 minutes with the sun setting, my shark paranoia got in full swing so we called it a day. I decided to register nice and early, I like to be organised so there is no stress on race morning, more on that later…. Dinner with Matt and time to catch up with the coach to talk about the plan for Sunday. For me, the main goal this year is racing in Kona which I am doing for the first time in October. In addition I am still on the return from a long layoff from running with a calf injury earlier this year so I was keen to hear what Nathan had in mind. Apparently Swim – Bike – Run was the plan. Swim hard, Bike too hard (yes ‘over-bike’), 10 k conservative then build for 5 k and try and hold on to the finish. I have been really happy with the work we have done with my swim and bike but my run is still very much a work in progress and with my last real race late last year I was very nervous and did not know what to expect. Had a personal goal to go quicker than my last race on this course, goal time 4.27.
Got up early Saturday for a last bike set with Matt. We had a good hit out despite the enforced love affair with traffic lights. Unfortunately for Matt that was the end of the weekend, he succumbed to a leg niggle and had to pull the pin. I had a run to do so got that done and finished getting organised for the morning. With go time at 6 am it was an early start, so for me again it was about being organised. Caught up with Matt and a couple of other friends in town to watch the race for dinner. Final check of the kit, again trying to minimise pre-race stress, and off to bed.
Race Day – Grabbed some breaky in the unit, mixed my Infinit and threw on the race kit. Now just chuck the tattoo number on and head down to transition with plenty of time. Number sticks to plastic and not skin. Sheldon Cooper tendency kicks in. The number is supposed to be on my arm not on the plastic. I can’t race without the number on my arm… OK, wigging out but have to move on, so I head down to set up my transition with my numberless arm. Please do not under-estimate the significance of this in my head at this point. Matty was down there and had organised a pump for me as I did not have one, one of his mates Matt Slee was racing and setting up near me. I had been lucky enough to be lent a set of Zipps for the race by a legend of a bloke from the Bay called Rob Duffy and was keen to get the tyre pressure just right. So I grab Matts pump and get to work on the tyres. Front tyre no problems turn the bike around pump up the rear and unscrew the pump, and the valve. For the first time in my triathlon racing life I got to hear the hissing sound of an uncontrollably deflating tyre from my bike right in front of me. Luckily I had the number tattoo issue to calm me down. I called out to Matt Slee in potentially the most pathetic sounding voice of all time and asked for help. Luckily the valve screwed in, tyre pumped up and managed to get myself somewhat sorted out. Off to the official tent to talk numbers… long and uninteresting story ending in, no number.
By now I was about fifteen minutes time wise behind where I wanted to be in getting ready for start but decided that the best option was to calm down, talk sh#t with Matt and re focus. A super quick warm up and off to line up for the rolling start. I was feeling a bit out of sorts by this point, the run of things not going to plan leading into race start was playing on my mind. While in hindsight neither issue was particularly bad, at the time I got inside my own head a bit.
Perfect conditions for the swim. Small swell and glassy, water temp was also just right for a wetsuit swim. I am not a fan if the water temp is too warm in a wetty. Got myself a good spot near the front, I had been looking for Ben Bell as I was keen to start near him, couldn’t see him so just lined up. Anyway my turn came around I hit the Garmin and off I went. I hit the water and got into a decent rhythm. I really enjoyed the swim, despite starting well near the front I was consistently passing people for the first 900m or so. As we turned for the return leg I finally found some feet that were going at the pace I wanted so held them back to the water exit. I loved that swim. Quick look at the watch out of the water 26.35… Happy! Wave to Matty on my way up the beach and into T1.
Got in and out T1 without an issue and on to the bike. Coach said to ‘over bike’ so off I went. There was quite a strong Westerly wind which was mainly cross wind heading up the Sunshine Motorway. It kept me on my toes being on an unfamiliar wheel set. I was working hard. Got about 20 k in and began to really feel the pinch. Coach said go above on the effort level, apparently I heard smack yourself into next week and DNF. I backed off a bit with the hope I would make it to the first turn around. I eventually found a decent tempo and my heart rate finally began to settle. There was a lot of drafting going on which was frustrating but beyond my control. I had a group of 4 that were sitting behind me for most of the first lap. Second Lap the wind continued to build and I just focused on keeping my heart rate in the target zone. Before I knew it I was heading back into town to begin the run. My lack of control in the first portion of the bike had taken its toll and I was hurting, I was really wondering what the run was going to deliver. Off the bike in 2:20:47. Pretty bloody happy with that.
T2 was a bit of a rock show for me, had a new helmet and mucked with the visor, struggled to get my socks on, even laughed with a TO at my dressing skills or lack of. Eventually got going off on the run.
The first couple of Ks were brutal. I was hurting so focused on coaches words and tried to hit the goal pace. Passed Matty heading up Alex hill he told me I was in 3rd spot on the tracker – BINGO! Eventually settled and started to feel more comfortable. I was losing places and time on people around me, as tempting as it was to push the pace, with bigger fish to fry this year I stuck to the plan. Just after the 2k mark Ben Bell passed me like I was standing still, gave me an encouraging word and was on his way… last I saw of him! Lack of run prep and the matches I burned on the bike were ringing loudly in my head. Passing through one of the aid stations heading back in on the first run lap I had to pretty much steeplechase a volunteer who was focused on cleaning up discarded cups! It was probably a needed distraction. Made it through the first lap of the run, time to open the taps. Passed Matty again – he gave me another rev up and I was off. Well my heart rate was anyway, the pace not so much. I used to fly Kiowa helicopters and we used to joke that you could not make them go faster, you would try and accelerate and they would make more noise but not give you any more speed, well at this point that was me! I was counting down the Ks to go and working them out at 5 min per K pace as a worst case. The Ks ticked away and I managed to hold it together, ended up running a 1hr30 and managed a small negative split.
Finish time 4.22 and 7th in Male 40-44. Goal time reached, absolutely pumped with the swim – bike, and given the run prep very satisfied with how that panned out. The bonus – a slot for the WC next year in Taupo. Really disappointed for my buddy Matt having to skip the race but grateful to have him around when I was losing my sh#t pre-race. Lessons learned, control the controllable. When something goes wrong or not to plan just move onto what’s next. Thanks as always to Nathan for getting me into shape, mine was a really competitive field and I felt like I belonged which was awesome. Sunny Coast done, back into it!