I arrived on the Sunshine Coast on the Thursday before the race with my Think Fit co-host Mike Robinson who had flew over from New Zealand to experience some semi-decent weather. It seemed like he brought half of the country with him because every second person I spoke to in Mooloolaba was a Kiwi! We had been talking a bit of smack on the show about who was going to win the race. Robo plays a strong mental game and his constant comments about how he hadn’t been training and was feeling sick made me if anything less confident that I would come out on top. The last time we raced this course together he beat me by a handful of seconds. Competing against other people does really not motivate me but I love the banter! We spent the next few days experiencing the course and were lucky to do it with a pretty decent crew including Cam Paul and Simon Cochrane, two NZ pros who I have gotten to know really well. It made the lead up to the race better than ever. I definitely noticed it was much more subdued compared to last year but that was to be expected. It just shows that Iron Man know how to really put on a top level event.
I wrote about how I had been struggling a little bit after Bintan and was doing all I could to get to the start line in tip top shape. I was definitely better than I had been but I was noticing that even little training efforts were making me tired and by about 4pm I was absolutely exhausted. I tried to take it as easy as possible. I also woke up on the Saturday before the race with a crook back and neck. I think sleeping in a different bed had left me a little stiff. There were a fantastic team of masseuses at the expo who spent a good 30 minutes trying to rectify the situation. While I certainly wasn't in perfect shape I was a hell of a lot better.
Now this isn’t me sooking about why I didn't have the perfect race. I am really not that sure whether the back even had much of an impact on my performance. It is just how it was.
We recorded an incredibly honest episode of Think Fit with Dr. Charlotte Durand about her struggles with eating disorders that I encourage you to all listen to as well you can find it here or wherever you listen to podcasts (you should).
I went to bed the night before the race a bit nervous but quietly confident.
The morning of the race the conditions were perfect. I had noticed racking my bike the day before that transition was very very tight. It would pose a bit of a problem if I came out of the water with a big group. I got everything set up and made my way to the swim start. The timing was quite good. We saw the pros leave the water (all swimming about 22 minutes) which told me conditions were good. I was confident of posting a quick swim. As we waited for our wave start I kept going over the plan. I made my way into the start area and waited for the gun to go.
As soon as we were off I ran like a mad man into the surf and settled into a good pace quite quickly. I didn't notice too many people pass me and as we made the first turn I looked up to see the buoy in the distance. As I started swimming I noticed everyone else was going a different direction and I mean EVERYONE. I looked again and saw another orange buoy on my right. I had spotted on the buoys on the way back. I adjusted and put the foot down a bit to make up time. After a few minutes I noticed that everyone was cutting across me, I looked up and realised we weren’t swimming towards a buoy, we were swimming towards a lifeguard! God damn it! I had been right in the first place. I adjusted again and kept going. My back and neck weren’t giving me too much grief but I did notice that my left shoulder was a bit tight. My rhythm felt a little off. Still I felt ok. I noticed there was still a bit of anxiety in my stomach that normally goes away with the start gun. But to be honest, I was having a relatively uneventful swim. I definitely found it quite tough on the way back and even started to think it as taking a long time to get back.
As I made my way out of the swim I was disappointed to see my watch with 29 minutes on it. Damn it! 2 minutes slower than I wanted. I started the run to transition. My total swim time was 29:44
The transition was quite long but I had finally managed to cut my wetsuit arms and legs that made getting it off much easier. As expected, transition was chaos. There just wasn't enough room. I got my helmet on and grabbed my bike. There was literally a line of people WALKING to get out of transition. I was panicking and very very frustrated. I made my way out and struggled to find a spot to mount my bike. My T1 time was 2:51.
Ahh the bike. I was a man possessed. I know this course very well and was determined to ride as strong as possible but not over do it. The first few little hills out of town pinched as usual but I knew what was on the other side. I hit the highway and immediately started watching my power. 250-260 watts is where I wanted to sit and sit there is what I did. The great thing was that my speed sat at about 45km/h with those numbers. Starting quite late meant that I passed a lot of people and I was not surprised to find the usual thing of some riders coming with me. One guy in particular would pass and slow down. I wasn't surprised to see him very close to my back wheel in the race photos. Once we left the highway after 40 odd kms I didn't see him again. There was another rider who I rode with most of the bike course and it was actually great. 100% no drafting from either of us and it was good to have someone to focus on during some of the tougher sections of the course.
I came off the highway at the 40km mark with an average speed of 42km/h and it had pretty much felt effortless. I was really trying to focus on the position Ryan from 3D Bike Fit had shown me and it seemed to be working. I did make one mistake though. At the 30km mark of the bike I was curious to see my average power and have my watch set up to give me average power when I hit lap. So I did, forgetting that in triathlon mode hitting lap switches to the next sport. This wasn't too big an issue until later on in the race.
The loopy section of the bike course was fun and much tougher than the highway (no surprises there) and I was happy to see my mate Charlie leading the age group field on my way to the loop. After the loops I found the return to Mooloolaba quite tough but again, I made sure to focus on cadence and get the legs ready for the run. My total bike time was 2:19:08.
The same issues as T1, it was very tight and some people were going very slow. I have really put a lot of time into my transitions and was in and out in a flash. My uneventful T1 time was 1:55.
Am I a cracked record if I start by talking about how I was expecting to deliver a really solid run performance? I came out of transition feeling amazing. My pace was right where I wanted it to be. It felt effortless. FINALLY! I was going to put together a good run on this course. I noticed very quickly that I had forgotten to turn the auto lap function on my run setting. This happened last year (yes I didn't learn to check) so I tried to fix it while I was running. It didn't work so I decided to finish my triathlon on the Garmin and start another run and turn on the auto lap setting. I am glad I did, it meant that I wouldn't have my overall time though. I was running really well and now my splits were coming in around 4:05 per km. Exactly where I wanted them. Today was going to be a great day despite the ordinary swim! Then at 7km I got a stitch.
Now I have had stitches in more races than I haven’t so I know how to deal with them. My pace dropped and I focused on my breathing and took in some electrolytes at the aid station. It seemed to be under control. The only real problem was that my pace had dropped right down closer to 4:30 pace and I couldn't seem to get it to increase. The middle 7km of the run was incredibly frustrating and my mind started to go to a dark place as it always seems to on this course. I just kept trying and refused to pack it in. By the 14km mark I was feeling much better and was able to pick up the pace. It was hard but maintainable and my pace was around 4:15. It would do. I kept focusing on my breathing and technique and waved for my mate Scottie who was a race day paparazzi popping up everywhere.
By this point of the race I was starting to try and work out what my finish time would be. When I couldn't be bothered trying to do the maths ( I study law not maths!) I decided to base it on my start time. I thought this was 6:32 so I figured as long as I came in before 11:02 I was under 4:30. I got really annoyed when it looked like I was going to barely scrape in under that time and with a few km to go I really gave it everything I had. The thought of going slower on an easier course than last year when I know I am better was not making me very happy. I made my way onto the finish chute and crossed the line. I assumed I had come in at 4:28 so I turned around and saw my name appear on the screen with 4:22:56. My run time was 1:29:18.
I think I was surprised when I saw my time that meant that any disappointment I felt was sort of short lived. I spoke with my coach after the event saying I was a little unhappy with my swim and run. Ben then gave me some great advice. He said, mate you have set a strong benchmark. 18 months ago you wanted to swim under 30 minutes, ride sub 2:20 and run sub 1:30 today you did all three. This really put things into perspective for me and as always I have walked away from this event even more motivated to prepare for my next race. The timing of this race at the start of the Australia season is a great boost to get re-focused and to get prepared for the rest of the year and this is no different.
I am really looking forward to the next 6 months of work and seeing what I am capable of delivering. I was also super happy to see Robo exceed his own expectations with a 4:36 and Charlie crush the race with a 4:11. Lots and lots of positives.
I think this is long enough for this week. I hope you enjoyed!
Have a great week and remember to TRI!