I heard you asking for it and I aim to please so please find enclosed my edge of your seat race report for Bintan 70.3! Before we get into the finer details let me say that despite not achieving the result I wanted and expected, I am incredibly pleased with this race. I hate having to write about all of the excuses why I didn’t manage to achieve a certain outcome and today I really don’t think I will. That is simply because I am not entirely sure what went wrong. What I do know is that I gave the race absolutely everything I had to give. If you can’t be happy with that then what can you be happy with?
Bintan is a significant event for me. I raced in 2015 and qualified for the 70.3 World Championships. It was also the 1st time I ever managed to make the podium at a race. In 2015 when I raced I also had a pretty bad crash with 5km left of the bike course. If you want to read about that race you can find my race report here. So needless to say, there were lots of feelings going into the race.
I remember the race being very hot but also very pretty. I wanted to make sure I was as well prepared as possible and get in some quality training before Sunny coast as well so the decision was made to spend 10 days in Phuket at Thanyapura before the event to get used to the heat. The training there was great and I was feeling pretty confident. I even managed to record an amazing episode of my podcast with Chris McCormack (You can find the episode here.) If anything, the only negative I have about Phuket was that it actually wasn’t that hot and was quite wet. I was still feeling quite confident about the event. I was swimming, riding and running very well. I was determined to achieve my ‘mini’ goals for the race: to swim well, to ride higher power than usual and to try and run sub 90 minutes in the heat.
We arrived in Bintan on Saturday Lunchtime before the event and I went through my usual process of a little ride and run. I had had a few late nights before arriving and I was suffering from the usual pre-race nerves that I hate. I remembered a beautiful little spot by the ocean that I had found last time and went there to settle myself down and reflect on what was going to happen on Sunday. It worked. I was calm and in good spirits about the race. A few miscommunications with my friend Momo meant that I had a mini panic attack when I thought she had missed the last shuttle to the race with her bike but it turned out she was already there and we all managed to get checked in and ready to go. I went to bed the night before the race surprisingly calm and actually slept really well.
I woke up on race day early and also had a mini panic attack when I realised I had to run to make the bus. No breakfast, although Dez got me a mini croissant when she arrived. I set up transition and was feeling confident. I was ready to race. I really wanted to have a solid hit out and obviously, this time not crash. I made my way out of transition and saw a number of my friends. I wished them all luck and made my way to the start.
The Bintan swim is perfection. Warm water, they said 29c so no wetsuit. Clear with next to no waves and you swim over coral so you can see fish underneath you. It was a very clear morning so sighting was going to be easy. The only slight issue with the swim was that it is very shallow for a while. I positioned myself at the front and to the left as I breath to my right and waited for the gun to go. I noticed the sunrise might be a slight issue for sighting on the way back but I would cross that bridge when I got to it. They counted us down and I was feeling really good. The gun went and I ran like a madman into the water. It was a combination of running, duck diving and swimming for a little while. I was with a few people who were quick into the water then as soon as I started swimming I did not see another competitor in my age group again. I was completely solo and it suited my needs. I wanted to focus on some of the technical changes I have made to my stroke and swimming by myself allowed me to do this. I have learned that I do not put enough power into my pull and my arm leaves the water too soon. So I focused on really loading up my arms and getting maximum propulsion from each stroke.
As I passed the first turn buoy my watch buzzed. I am not a huge fan of Garmin products because they just don’t last and have stopped working on me in the swim countless times. This time however it had decided (apparently on its own) to give me 500m splits. I was shocked to see they were all under 7 minutes. Each time it buzzed I would check and one of them was even under 6 minutes! I was FLYING. I had absolutely zero dramas in the water and seeing my times made me super confident. All of the swim work I had done was paying dividends. I turned the final buoy and started running, diving and swimming my way into the shore. I noticed the watch buzz a 4th time (2km) while I was still swimming. As I exited the water I checked my time and I was still well under 30 minutes. BOOM! First goal achieved. My total swim time was 29:26 (my Garmin measured 2121m and an average pace of 1:23 – STOKED)
I ran into T1 and knew I had swum hard. My heart rate was crazy high and I was dry retching. I had once again left my shoes attached to my bike which meant it was run in, strip off my swim skin, put on helmet, glasses and race number and leave. I was in and out in a flash with a T1 time of 1:34 (Fastest in the Age Group)
The bike, oh the bike. If you read my race reports you will know I have had a few ‘dramas’ in recent times. Flat tyres, issues with valve extenders. Fuck it frustrates me. I spend SO much time working on my bike so I am still waiting for an event to really nail the bike leg. I started the ride and noticed that my hydration system was spilling a bit which is pretty standard. I got on and had a smooth mount. As I rode I was still feeling the effects of the swim. My HR was high and I wasn’t comfortable. I made it out onto the main road and tried to get my head in the game. I passed a few riders quite early then settled in to what would become a pretty much solo ride. I think it took me a good 10km before I was settled and then the bike course become quite undulating. It is a beautiful, honest bike course with the majority of roads smooth and fast. However, I think for the first 30km there were next to no flat sections. I was either climbing or descending. My power was a bit all over the place. I was also concerned because there was still a hell of a lot of liquid spilling from my hydration system. When my first 30km split came through I was at 48 minutes. 3 minutes behind the pace I wanted to be at. At the same time though, the course had started to open up and I was able to really TT some beautiful long stretches of road. My power was where I wanted it and my speed was higher than expected.
I was genuinely becoming concerned at the 30km mark by the fact my hydration system was still splashing me. I was checking to see if there was a problem when I realised the top was dry? I suddenly realised that the hydration system had not been leaking for ages. What was splashing on my legs was my own sweat from my upper body (what a sexy image hey.) It was hotter on the bike than I anticipated. But at the second 30km split I was back on track. I knew I would need to push the pace a little bit if I was going to post a decent bike split.
The back end of the bike saw us ride along the coast where the wind was high. I managed to pass a number of female pros. One of the highlights for me was as I passed a female pro her police escort left her and started escorting me through the little villages. It made it much easier. I also LOVED the local support, all the kids screaming for us as we rode past. I spotted one young boy on his bike and as I rode past him I yelled, “come with me, come with me!” He replied, “Yes mister” and pumped his little legs as hard as he could. I think I will remember that moment for a long time. I also knew I was getting towards the big climb up and descent down to my 2015 crash site. I was still riding hard (perhaps a little too hard) but made sure to be careful on the descent. As I passed the crash site I screamed out at the top of my lungs “YEEEEEEEEE-HAAAAAAAAA” and made my final approach to T2. My final bike time was 2:20:39, a little bit slower than I wanted but the course was much tougher than I remembered.
I had a smooth dismount (the volunteers were impressed) and ran my bike in. I spotted what looked like 4 bikes already on the racks in my age group area. I was either 4th or 5th place at this point. I got in and put on my shoes and socks, grabbed my hat full of goodies and was on my way. My T2 time was 1:23 (again the fastest in the AG.)
Everything was looking good. I had swum well, ridden well and was expecting to run well too. I 100% believe I was capable of running a 1:28ish run on that course in those conditions. The triathlon gods however had other plans for me on Sunday. One of the first things that I do when I leave T2 is take a Revvies caffeine strip. These can be a little tricky to open and on Sunday I basically could not do it. I seriously think it took me a km to get it in my mouth. I should have seen the writing on the wall. My legs were not too sore but fuck me I felt lethargic. My pace was around 4:20 at the start, which I thought was about right to begin with. I decided to go out super conservative and build. The opposite happened however. By the 4km mark I was really struggling. I could feel my hamstring ready to cram so I shortened my stride and really tried to focus on what I could control. I was tired, hot and my body would not cooperate with my mind. Despite this, I noticed I passed a few other competitors in my age group. I was sure I was on the podium somewhere at this point and thought that if I just kept myself in control I would eventually come good. I now realise I had run myself into 2nd position about 6km into the race. I was so sure that I was going to come good that I danced my way past the stage at the end of my first lap and high-fived Vince as I ran past. I was hurting but at least I was still in control.
I had realised that the race was no longer about a good time so instead I wanted to focus on my place. Just keep doing what you are doing because everyone is hurting. I took in as much liquid as I could and tried everything I could think if to stay cool. At the 15km mark I realised one of the other guys I had passed was getting closer to me so I really tried to hold my form and pace. By this point I was really starting to struggle. I was hot and just exhausted. I have had races where my body was fucked or in pain or needed to walk. I wasn’t experiencing anything like that. I just wanted to lay down and sleep. I think at about the 17km mark I realised I was in real strife. I knew if other people passed me I would not be able to react. That is exactly what happened. At 19km I was passed and I couldn’t do anything about it. Inside the last km it happened again. All I wanted to do was quit but I was so close. I have faced much worse than this before and managed to keep going. I focused on my feet and was in the hurt locker so badly I did not notice my mate Vince at the finish chute. I raised my hands in relief, crossed the line and finally got to lay down (collapse.) My final run time was 1:42:28 and my finish time was 4:35:32. I was 4th place in my age group and 21st overall.
I was a proper mess. I was assisted by 2 people into recovery where I could not really make sense of what was going on. I got my bearings and headed for the ice baths. I managed to meet and congratulate some of the other competitors which was fantastic. I then started to come good and made my way back out onto the course to cheer my friend Momo home. I had an absolute blast cheering on other athletes and even managed to get in a sneaky beer. I wasn’t disappointed with my performance. I was happy that it was hard. It was a perfect opportunity to learn and I think I learned a lot. Earlier in my racing career you can read about how my mind always got in my way. I am proud of the fact that I am now able to silence those voices when they start to make noise. They say 4th is the worst position to come because you are just off the podium and for me, in recent times, I have made a bit of a habit of it. I do not believe I had a podium worthy performance so I am at peace with coming 4th. In fact, to run so poorly and still finish quite high is something I am quite proud of. The race has given me lots to be happy about before my next race. I was delighted to see Tim Ballintine, who I had the pleasure of getting to know at Thanyapura dominate the age group and win. Expect big things from him in Kona this year.
I think that ultimately I am excited by this race. Sunny Coast is a race I always try and put my best foot forward at and I am thinking that if I can deliver the sort of swim, bike and run that I am capable of I could be delivering a significant PB on September 10. I think the issues I had on race day are also part of the allure of this sport. Another riddle that I need to try and solve. I am an optimistic guy and that is probably why I am being positive. One of the things that frustrate me with triathletes is that we always have an excuse why things went wrong. I think on Sunday I did not have any excuses. I put forward the best performance I was capable of delivering on that day in those conditions and ultimately, it wasn’t good enough. I am ok with that, it is all you can ask of yourself ultimately.
So I have my head held high. I didn’t crash, I didn’t quit and I still posted a decent time. I am still chasing that perfect race and if I keep having imperfect races that are pretty quick who knows? Maybe that perfect race will deliver me a time of 4:05…
I can’t recommend racing in Asia highly enough, it is hard brutal and fantastic so rip in and as always remember to TRI!