An Experience I Will Never Forget
As requested for your reading pleasure, my highly anticipated race report from the Laguna Phuket Triathlon!!!
Hold your applause while I start with some background information. LPT (I am using an acronym) is a real bucket list race. It has been raced by some of the biggest names in the sport and is known for its brutal conditions and tough climbs. It is also known for its big after party. I am happy to start by assuring you that on Sunday I was not disappointed by any of those things. The race is a 1.8km swim, 55km bike and 12km run. I had originally not signed up for the event because I was not sure when my exams would finish for uni. But once I knew I would be able to race I signed up and was excited to come and race both the LPT and Challenge Phuket.
On Saturday we rode our bikes down and racked them in transition. It was hot but I was feeling pretty nonchalant about the whole thing as I was really just here to experience the races and use them both as training for Taupo 70.3 in December. We left the bikes racked and headed back to Thanyapura for the night. That evening it absolutely pissed down which is normal in Thailand at this time of year but this was crazy rain and it didn't go away. I was completely confident we would awake to clear skies the next morning but I was worried that the roads might be a bit slippery for some of the intense down hills. I wasn't wrong.
Race morning meant a very early 3:30am wake up with the shuttle picking us up at 4:30. We got down and set up transition then had about an hour to kill. I waited it out before jumping on the boat over to the lagoon. The water in the lagoon was very warm but the ocean water was crystal clear. We also learned that we would be doing start groups based on estimated finish times. This meant that I was in the first age group wave start. We were ushered into the start area and I wasn't able to get myself right to the front which pissed me off but I had a swim, bike and run to worry about. As the gun went off I thought to myself "lets please enjoy this!"
I am not a fan of the self seeded wave starts and this race reconfirmed why I do not like them. For the first 1.2km ocean swim I could not get out of the hustle and bustle. I was getting kicked and punched and swum over the whole time. The swim pace going out was quick which was fine but as we turned the far buoy it was obvious sighting was going to be an issue. The sun was coming up directly over the swim exit meaning you could not see anything. I decided just to follow the group and hope they knew where they were going. After 1.2km you jump out of the water and run across the beach to a fresh water lagoon which you swim across to complete the swim leg. Trust me when I say that going from salt to fresh water is an interesting experience. You feel like you are sinking and have forgotten how to swim. Much like the ocean part, it was impossible to see where the exit was so I was just swimming buoy to buoy. In the freshwater things had spread out a bit. I was happy to get the swim out of the way. I came out with a time of 30:38 and my Garmin measuring 2.1km
It is a semi-decent run into transition and as it is a non-wetsuit swim I used this time to get my swim skin off and the top half of my tri suit on. When I came into transition there were a lot of bikes still there which made me think I had come out in a pretty good position from the swim. Total transition time of 2:10
The bike has the big hills roughly 5km into the race. I was told by my coach to conserve for the first 5km then get over the hills and start to race. I was rolling comfortably at the start and was passing a few athletes. Having ridden the course a few days prior I thought I had a fairly good idea of how to handle the climbs. My approach was to have all the gear changes made before starting. These hills are seriously hard and I didn't want to have any issues with being caught in the wrong gear. Great idea in theory, but terrible in practice. As I would hit the start of the climbs I would quickly change to my easiest gear. When you are travelling at 40km/h and you hit the bottom of the hill you start spinning very quickly. It didn't really matter and I probably lost maybe 1 or 2 minutes total as a result of this approach. I did not care. I wanted to leave nothing to chance on these climbs. As I started the climbs I wanted to remain seated and just maintain a steady pace up and over. I was happy that I managed to do this. On the first serious climb I was overtaken by two people.
The funny thing about the hills in this race is that the downhills are just as hard as the uphills. As it had rained hard the night before the roads were very slippery. I was really using the brakes and still found my back wheel sliding. One of the 2 people that passed me on the uphill crashed hard on the down. Ultimately I could have gone harder on the downhills but I really wanted to play it as safe as possible. I have found that ever since my crash in Bintan I have been much more conservative and this was very obvious on Sunday. After finishing the hills the rest of the course was actually quite fast. There was a section which was quite narrow with lots of turns which made the speeds lower. What was making me worried though was that I wasn't catching anyone on the bike. I had not been happy with my swim and was sure there were a few people up the road from me. I just didn't seem to be able to catch them. I finally caught some people about 7km from the end of the bike and was surprised to see they were pro women. I put my head down for the last few kms and tried to get myself ready for the run. When I consider my average speed was 35km/h with the hills and tight turns I think I actually rode really well. I was going to find out just how well later that day. Total bike time of 1:34.
When I came into T2 I was greeted by the screams of my darling wife and her cousins. These two (Stian and Jeanette) first experienced my triathlon racing last year at Western Sydney when I was in tears and I was determined to show them I could actually run. I came off the bike and into transition and it was actually desolate. Shit, I could be in with a shot at the podium. I threw my stuff on and took off. Transition time of 1:02.
I came out of transition feeling good. I knew this wasn't going to last long as it had really started to heat up. I knew there was a big group cheering for me but it was game time and I was DETERMINED to run well. I only recognised one face, it was Justin Granger, one of our Team MaccaX coaches. I left the race compound out onto the road. This run is all about staying cool. I specifically wore a trucker hat as I thought I could put a sponge under it. This was not going to work though as the sponges were just too big. I instead kept one on my chest and would squeeze it over my head when needed. Sure enough it got seriously hot quickly. The first 2km I was running quick and I thought I will not survive this race or next week if I keep going like this. I backed off a bit. Aiming to stay under 4:30 pace which I know is not quick but trust me when I say it is a very decent pace for this race. There was a stretch of the run which went around the golf course and this was horrible. Lots of little ups and downs which made my calves burn. I just kept focusing on two things, my form and staying cool.
On this run course there are lots of opportunities to see other athletes. I was looking around and saw people coming but it was near impossible to know who I was actually racing. I decided simply to try and not let anyone pass me. Coming through the run turn around I was again greeted by my own personal cheer squad. I was running well and I only had 6km to go. The biggest mistake I made was discarding a sponge about 500m before the golf course loop. I thought for some weird reason that there was another aid station before it. I was wrong and nearly paid a price for that error. Coming out of that golf course I could feel myself struggling. I got to the next aid station and took 2 sponges and 3 waters all of which went over my body. With 2km to go I thought I would increase the tempo. I was passed by a pro female just before this point and felt guilty that she thought I was being an egotistical bloke not wanting to be chicked. I zipped up and went to work and passed her again. The last 2km were hot and if I wasn't focusing on pushing myself the pace would drop right off. I came into the finish area and was elated to see so many familiar faces (and the bloody finish line). As I came across the line the race announcer called my name and spoke about how I had lost 50kg through the sport. I crossed the line and was stoked. I had not had the best race, hoping to ride and run a bit quicker, but I had executed a responsible race. I had held back and not destroyed myself before the longer race a week later. Run split of 53:51 and a finish time of 3:02.
The Big Surprise
I have always said that my favourite part of race day is cheering on the other competitors (and finishing) so that is what I did. I hung out and cheered on my friends and teammates racing. Once we all came across the line we stared to look up our results. There was something odd with my result. Next to my name there was number 1. I could not really understand it to be honest. I had won the age group and done it by 4 minutes. I genuinely thought it wasn't possible. Between you and me I didn't really believe it until I was called up on stage that night to accept my award. The awards ceremony is a big party and I took advantage of the unlimited drinks in the first hour. We later went to the after party which did not end too well (enjoy a few not a few too many). The whole experience was incredible and something I will never forget. The fact that I am able to stand on the podium is something I only ever imagined and to stand on top is a dream come true.
Now to the thank you's. Firstly as always to my beautiful wife Dez. She is the most supportive wife and genuinely wants me to succeed. The fact she was able to be there for my first win made it even more special. To my coach Ben, this result clearly demonstrates that what we are doing together is working. I am looking forward to taking it to the next level next year. For my family, they might be starting to get a better understanding of the sport and I think they get that number 1 is pretty good. Especially my Dad who complains I don't mention him enough in my blog. To my friends and teammates and idols at MaccaX, the support and inspiration you provide me on a daily basis gives me the motivation to keep moving forward. To the crew at Thanyapura, for taking a risk on me and giving me the support you do is something I will never forget or take for granted and I hope I can give you back as much as you give to me. Finally to all of the people who read this blog or follow my antics and sent me messages of support, thank you too. I am constantly blown away by how this sport is able to bring people together and it is why I love it.
That will do I think, it is getting a tad too long and a little too emotional. I will leave you all with this one final thought. Never ever think that something is too hard or too difficult. When you work towards your goals good things will happen. It might not be today, it might not be next year but it will happen. If I can do this, anyone can.
Thank you all and remember to TRI!
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I lost 50kgs though triathlon and completed the 2016 70.3 World Championships. Aiming to hit 4:05 for a 70.3, the same time it took me to complete my first Olympic Distance Triathlon. I want to bring as many new people to the sport as possible. Whether you are fit and active or want to make positive changes to your life.