When I started this blog about 18 months ago I was chasing a number of goals but the longest had been to go under 4:30 for a 70.3 (half-iron distance) triathlon. I had assumed that I would write the tantalising recap of my destruction of the race over 12 months ago and since then I have come frustratingly close too many times. But before we get to that I want to rewind the clock to a little over 2 years ago. In November of 2013 I went for my first training camp in Thailand. The camp was run by Chris 'Macca' McCormack as part of his race team, Team MaccaX. To assist with the camp Macca enlisted the help of a young Australian pro called Ben Hammond. I met Ben there and liked him straight away. Maybe it is something about being Australian but the first night I met him we ended up out until all hours of the morning on the froths. He was down to earth and obviously loved triathlon. It was about this time that I also started thinking about enlisting the help of a coach. Anyway I came back to Australia and in January I raced Challenge Melbourne. I had just got a brand new Giant TT bike and I was ready to go fast. That day I rode my fastest ever 90km and ran surprisingly well off the bike. But I had swum over 42 minutes for the 1.9km. This meant that instead of smashing a new PB I had barely scraped one in. Standing around after the race I got out my phone and sent Ben an email: "Ben I want to go under 4:30 for a 70.3 and I want you to help me do it!"
Now when I say that I have come close before I mean close. On the Sunshine Coast in 2014 I went 4:33 and in Forster that year I managed a 4:31. Even December last year I managed a 4:34 in Taupo and in Bintan I was well on track to go under 4:30 before I had my crash. I realised that this had become a massive psychological hurdle for me. I know what I am capable of doing and it is well under 4:30. So why was it that I just could not do it? After Taupo and my incredible 3 podiums in 3 races I messaged Benny and said that's it. I just want it done. He told me to pick the fastest race I could find and make it my last race of the season. I think he wanted it done as badly as I did. I knew Melbourne was the course to do it. We backed it off a little over Christmas and come the New Year Ben put the hammer down. When he sent me my program for the week, the email subject was week 1 of 2 shit weeks ;-). He wasn't lying. I actually believe one of the only reasons why I was able to maintain the volume I was doing was because of the high quality products from True Amino that I had started using. Ben set my the work and I went and did it. In the weeks leading up to the race I knew I was finding some form of a short build. I ran a PB for park run and my swim splits were becoming a joke. I thought surely this is it. All that was left to do was actually go out and deliver the result!
In the lead up to the race I felt really good. I was running, riding and swimming fast and it felt easy. Dez and I decided to drive to Melbourne instead of fly. I was so sick to death of travelling with my bike bag and airports I would have rather handled a 8 hour drive than the flight. We had a very easy drive down and the weather was good. On Saturday I went out for a ride and run and was concerned because my legs felt rubbish. If you are a cyclist you will know that feeling where you are sure your brakes are rubbing. I must have stopped to check 3 times. I decided to run off the bike a little harder and while it was hard at first I found some speed and finished strong. I was also incredibly nervous about the weather. Last year at Challenge Melbourne was hideous. It was rainy, windy and cold all day and I was sick for weeks after. I was becoming a little obsessed with checking the forecast. The forecast for Sunday was not looking good. On Saturday night I got a message from Ben with how I was to approach the race. Not go too hard on the bike in the first 30km and not run anything faster than 4:15 pace for the run. We were aiming for nothing other than under 4:30. Ben also told me to take my ego out of the equation. Not to let other people passing me affect me. I went to bed nervous and was terrified when I awoke to some of the heaviest rain I had ever heard. I was devastated that it would be a repeat of last year. When I got up at 4:15 the first thing I did was go outside and while it was overcast it wasn't raining. I could even see some stars.
Pre-race was normal. I was greeted by several people who either read this blog or follow me online (if you were one of them thanks for saying G'Day!). It looked like the weather would be good. I said goodbye to Dez and made my way to the swim start. This was my first race in my new 30-34 age group and it meant I was in the first wave AG wave start 5 minutes after the male professionals and 3 minutes after the female pros. It was time to perform.
The course was a big rectangle which you had to swim out to so one left turn then 3 right turns. As soon as I hit the water I wanted to try and get away from all the bullshit and I was very happy to do so. I had a really un-eventful swim. No rough stuff, no one kicking or punching me. The water was flat and it was so easy to sight. What's more I was feeling incredible. Honestly, paint some gils on my neck and put a fin on my back I felt like a body shark. I don't remember too much about what was going through my mind in the swim. I know my shoulder started to give me some grief towards the end and I also thought to myself not long before exiting the water that there is no way I would want to do that again. I guess IronMan isn't too high on my hit list at the moment. I came out of the swim and didn't even have any dramas getting off the top half of my wetsuit. I was sure I smashed the swim. When I looked at my Garmin I was gutted to see it say 32 minutes. After the race I checked my file. I swam 2345 metres instead of 1900m I am not sure if I swam way of course or if the course was long. But my average pace was 1:20/100m which meant if I swam 1.9km I would have had a time of about 25 minutes. Regardless I got the result and I knew I had swum well. That swim was actually the biggest take away from the day for me. I was finally able to put in a solid pace in open water, out of the pool. TOTAL SWIM TIME - 32:06
There is a little bit of a run up to T1. Once I got there I had no issues getting ready I got my wetsuit off and helmet on. Grabbed my bike and started the run to the bike exit. The last two years this has been quite a trek. When you consider there is a perfectly good access point right near the majority of bikes. I seriously think that hike adds a minimum of 60 seconds to your time. TOTAL T1 TIME - 2:07
Ahh the bike. My friend the bike. I knew what I was told to do by Ben so I really tried to focus on doing it. Maybe it is something about the raw speed of my Giant Trinity but I had to focus on not overdoing it during that first lap. I was overtaken by several people one in particular who was BLATANTLY drafting. He would play a bigger part in my day later on. The conditions for riding where perfect. No wind, not too hot and smooth roads. Looking at my bike splits, of the 6, 5 of them were all 23 minutes. I definitely was riding consistently. The main focus remained for me to focus on my own race and not get caught up in other people's races. This was hard sometimes with some riders passing me only to slow down again. But I think I did well to stay consistent. On the second lap of the bike I noticed the wind was starting to pick up a bit which made the riding harder. God knows which direction the wind was going because one second I was riding 60km/h and the next it would be down to 30km/h. The course hugs the coast so there were some points where a real gust would hit. I had played the first lap safe and knew that because my swim had been a fair bit slower than I had expected I was going to have to ride something faster than 2:25 to remain in contention for the 4:30 barrier. My effort definitely increased but at the same time I was conscious about saving something in the legs for the run.
Now back to my drafting mate. I caught up to him during my second lap and passed him as he had obviously been dropped by the faster rider. This became a cycle which would repeat itself. I would pass him and ride only to be overtaken by a rider from a team relay (these blokes were moving) and guess who would be sucking their wheel. My mate. Overtime he would pass me I would catch him again 10 or 15 minutes later after he was eventually dropped. On the last lap as I passed him I thought it would be for the last time. He was obviously riding above his skill level trying to draft. After I passed him and maybe 10 minutes had passed I turned around and what did I see? The bloke was sitting on my back wheel. Not 5 metres no, he was right there. I was quick to turn around and tell him to fuck off. He obviously didn't like this because as soon as another rider came past he jumped on their wheel. I yelled that he was a cheat and a disgrace as he passed. He just shook his head at me. Right. I decided then and there that he would not cross the line before me. I came into T2 with sore quads. I had pushed quite hard at the end of the bike to give myself the biggest window of opportunity to hit that sub 4:30. I knew I wasn't going to ride another 2:19 but that wasn't the plan. The plan was 4:30. I was actually very happy with my bike split considering how tough I found a. conserving on the first lap and b. the wind on the second two laps. TOTAL BIKE TIME - 2:22:42
T2 saw me endure the same long run with the bike. I had come in behind my mate but was not too worried about it. I have put some serious work into improving my transition thanks to the help of a new pro and triathlon coach at Thanyapura, Clint Kimmins. I racked my bike got my gear on and raced out while putting on my hat (backwards of course), sunnies and race number. TOTAL T2 TIME - 1:57
By my calculations I had to run under 1:31 to hit sub 4:30 and as Ben had told me, to do that there was no need to run faster than 4:15 pace. That became my obsession and while my first km was a bit faster I made sure not to focus on the other runners who were passing me. One of whom was, yep you guessed it! My mate from earlier. While these runners pulled away I focused on my own race. The run course is three seven km loops. Simple, do each lap in 30 minutes and I should be golden. There was a stretch of the course which was maybe a little over a km which was trail and mostly mud and sand. It was very windy and I became worried because it was near impossible for me to maintain my pace in that section. Instead I would attempt to make up the pace a little on the top 3.5km section which followed the running path. My first lap was almost exactly 30 minutes and I wasn't doing it tough. I thought I had it in the bag. I was elated to see Dez and my Dad out on course and even a number of my friends too. I also noticed I was starting to pull back some ground on my mate. The second lap was much the same with my pace dropping down through the trails and increasing on the top half. I don't know where I got the number from in my head but I was convinced I was on track for a 4:27. During the trail section on my second lap I managed to pass old mate again and thought that would be the last I saw of him. My second lap was a little slower than 30 minutes but it wasn't over 31. I was doing it.
On my final lap at the first aid station I attempted to grab a coke and the guy fumbled meaning I grabbed an empty cup. This legend of a volunteer grabbed another cup of coke and ran it up to me. Random little story but it was another highlight of the day. This is also where my day became a little fun. I had noticed my second lap was a bit slower so I was going to need to pick up the pace a bit. At the same time the guy who had been battling with me all day came around me almost like he was sprinting. It actually put a smile on my face. He was racing me as much as I was racing him. He had worked to stick with me after I passed him and was now trying to drop me. The timing was perfect because he provided me with someone to keep pace with. I knew he was trying to drop me too because he kept looking over his shoulder at me. We were not setting the world on fire with our pace (about 4:25 at this point) but I had a feeling it was hurting him. As we turned to make the little climb for the last time he slowed right down and I went around him. I was up onto the trail section again only this time my pace was much slower. I was telling myself to get it together. This was the perfect opportunity to break 4:30 and not to stuff it up. I couldn't pick up the pace through the trails so thought that instead of picking up the pace for the last 2km like I try to do in every race I would do it for the last 3km. As I made the turn at the far end of the course I passed another competitor who asked "Are you Tim?" He read my blog and told me enjoyed it. Again, the timing was perfect. Nothing like an ego boost as you go into the hardest part of the race. I zipped up my tri suit and made my final assault.
Those last 3kms were not going as fast as I thought but I felt like I had plenty of time. When I got inside my final km of the run I started thinking to myself, man the finish line is still pretty far away. I decided to flick my Garmin from my run split to total time. Thank Christ I did this. It read 4:28. I hate to think what my HR did when I saw this. There was nothing to do but grit my teeth and go for it. I gave it everything and managed to cross the finish line with 42 seconds to spare. I screamed "COME ON!!!!" as I crossed the line with fists clenched and was happy to see a familiar face at the finish with Jo Baxas being there. She gave me a hug and directed me to Dez who was there too. The back half of this season saw me shift from racing in different shoes to the shoes I train it and my run splits have improved time and time again. The Mizuno's are doing the job brilliantly. TOTAL RUN TIME - 1:30:24
It took a while for me to realise what had happened. It was finally done. I had aimed to go under 4:30 and I had done it. Could I have gone faster? Possibly but that wasn't what the race was about. The race was about ticking the box and getting the monkey off my back. I gave Dez one of the biggest sweatiest hugs she has ever gotten. I was also happy to see old mate cross the line after I did. I gave him a smirk and while I do not like the way he rode the bike, he actually helped to get me to the finish line as quickly as I did. The first person to call me after the race was Ben and I love what he put in his blog post this week "this weekend was one of my most stressful, anxious and happiest days as a coach." As always I was blown away by all the support I received. It is so funny to see all the conversations people are having about you while you are racing. TOTAL RACE TIME - 4:29:18
So Now I suppose the big question is what is next? The big focus for this year will be the 70.3 World Championships on the Sunshine Coast. But as always I want to go as fast as I can. I will start focusing on going under 4:20 and will keep setting new goals until I hit that 4:05. It is one-step closer today than it was last week and while it took me a little longer than I expected it to it has made the achievement even more satisfying.
I think this is a good spot to leave it this week. Set yourself big goals and never stop chasing them and remember to TRI!