I feel like all I am doing lately is writing race reports. I suppose that is what happens when you do a lot of races. I headed over to New Zealand for the weekend to race the newly branded Taupo 70.3. Taupo is about a 3 hour drive south of Auckland and is situated on the edge of Lake Taupo (a really big lake). After coming home from Thailand the last thing I really wanted to do was to jump on a plane to New Zealand and do another race. I think I thought that winning 2 races in a row was a nice way to end my year. Alas, I had paid the entry and the airfares and accommodation. I decided I would go but would make a decision on the race when I got there. The main reason I was going for this trip was to catch up with some of my friends who live all around Australia and in New Zealand. Basically it was going to be a boys weekend... with a 70.3.
When we got to Taupo I was blown away by how beautiful it was (after initially stating how NZ seemed just a little bit shit). The lake was amazing and the town had everything, pubs, bike shops and great food and coffee. The only issue I was having once arriving was the temperature. In the mornings it was cold, under 10c and I had just spent a lot of time in Thailand where the only thing under 10c is the beer. Early in the morning it was particularly cold but tended to warm up in the afternoon. The water was also cold. I think on race morning it was 17c which was 10c colder than in Thailand. I also made a decision pretty early on that if it was raining on race day I would not compete. So with all that out of the way onto the race.
When I woke up on Saturday morning it was overcast but not raining. I really did not want to get up and get ready. I went through all the motions and headed over to get transition ready. As I was leaving transition it started to sprinkle. The perfect opportunity to pull out. I decided I would start the race and if it was raining when I came out of the water I would withdraw. I was at the swim start in my wetsuit. It was cold but I was ready to have a crack.
The race was a 1 loop swim with a deep water start. I started to the left of the majority of athletes because it was cold I didn't want to get too involved in all the rough and tumble. The gun went off and as I went out I could feel fatigue in my arms straight away. I knew it wasn't going to be a brilliant swim. At the same time the insides of my feet were cramping (I think because of the cold). I was really thinking to myself I am just gonna pull out. In fact the only reason I didn't was because I didn't want to be the odd one out with the boys that night at the pub. I only had one incident in the water when a guy randomly grabbed me on the arm. I shook him off and whacked him back. Otherwise I came out of the water feeling ok. I knew I had not swum hard enough but considering the temperature and the volume in recent weeks I was happy enough. My swim split was 31:56.
At Taupo there is a long run with stairs into T1. In total it is around 800m and I was lucky enough to run most of it chatting a bit with Terenzo Bozzone who was doing a team event. I got into transition and was so happy I had left a towel over my stuff. My helmet was dry and so was the visor. I ran out feeling pretty good about the bike. The thought of withdrawing did not even enter my mind. It was a long T1 of 4:14.
Everyone who I know who has ridden or raced in Taupo has told me three things. There is a big climb, the roads are terrible and it is very windy. We had gone out for a practice ride on Thursday and the wind had been so bad I was contemplating trying to hire a wheel that wasn't as deep as mine. The course basically goes along the lake before making a big climb out onto the main road you ride on. The climb was not that big a deal at all. I rolled over it and overtook way too many people. Something I was going to have to get used to. My wave start was the 2nd last one meaning the majority of athletes were already on course. Once out on the main road I passed on of my Team MaccaX teammates, Saleh who I noticed wasn't riding in his aero position. I quickly snapped at him to get moving as I passed him. I then settled into a rhythm. The course is very up and down with some really fast sections and some really slow sections. The roads were rough in some parts but overall the road surfaces were good. I definitely noticed a lot of drafting out on course once again. I had some people sitting on my wheel for over 40kms. That will be the topic for an upcoming blog post though. I was passing a lot of people and noticed that there were a big number of E's on their calves (the letter so you know what age group they are in).
At the turn around point I assumed it was going to get harder because there had been some really fast down hill sections. The first 15km back was relatively easy and quite fast. By about the 70km mark where lots of the hills came into play so did fatigue. I could feel my legs getting a little tired. I was just focusing on getting to the 80km point where you ride back past the racing track in Taupo. From there it is basically down hill back into town. When I finally came across the race track a number of people passed me. Some thanked me for 'pacing' them and another said he tried to pull a turn on the front but couldn't handle the pace. I will leave that for you to interpret. I focused on flushing out my legs by riding with high cadence back into town. I tried to avoid free-wheeling and stretched as much as possible. My bike split was 2:26.
I did another fancy dismount coming into transition and was actually overtaking people as we ran our bikes in to rack them. Grabbed my hat and race number and noticed that my legs were feeling good. As I left transition I noticed Scotty, one of the blokes I was staying with was there. He had double punctured and had to pull out. He was reminded of this for the rest of the trip constantly. My T2 split was 1:20.
I wanted to run well in Taupo. My run has plagued me as the weakest leg and I have been doing lots of work on it. I sometimes forget that 4 years ago I could not run 200m let alone 21.1km but still I have big goals and expect a lot. Speaking with my coach he set me a 7km split of 31 minutes. I came out and felt really good. I did have to stop for a quick piss break but then was off. The run course, much like the ride was tougher than I had anticipated with some serious climbs. I tried not to look at my watch too much but focused on running well and what felt slightly conservative. The course is 2 loops and there are sections where you are running next to athletes going the other way and parts where you are by yourself. I felt like I was running well and even passed some of the people that I 'paced' on the bike. At the 7km mark I saw that my time was 29 minutes. I was overcooking myself and was probably going to pay for it. The support on course made it easy to get a little carried away and I was constantly hearing shouts for go Tim! Near the finish line and end of the first lap there is a steep hill (the same one you go up from the swim to transition), I felt pretty good and set off for my second lap. I might be able to go under 1:30 for the run split.
Obviously not. After about 13kms I started to slow down. My pace was dropping and I was now watching my Garmin a lot more to see my pace. As I came out of town I was passed by a Kiwi bloke who said "come on mate, come with me" I did. I sat on his shoulder and just focused on running with him. It started to feel easier and easier. I ran with him for maybe 3km and when we got the the far end of the run course I was feeling good. I thanked him so much for his help and tried to run home strong. My pace was a little all over the place the last 5km but I was definitely pushing it. I had a blast running through town and spotted most of my friends and teammates at some point. I really wanted to attack the hill before the finish line so I went for it. From the top of the hill to the finish line is maybe 400m. Those 400m hurt bad. I got to the top of the hill and was doubled over with a stitch. Like I had been stabbed on my right hand side. I was breathing like I was in labour and hobbling doubled over in pain. I made it to the finish line unable to high-five anyone or anything. I can't wait to see the race photos because I think they will be hilarious. My run split was 1:31 (a run PB).
I headed into recovery and saw a few of my friends. I then went and got my bag and once again I noticed my phone had exploded. The first message was from my wife "You're insane". I had no idea what she was on about. She told me I had come 3rd in my age group. This was my third podium in as many races and my 4th for the year. I was over the moon and it was completely unexpected. My total race time was 4:34 which was tantalisingly close to that sub 4:30 I have been chasing for too long now. But to make the podium again and to do it in New Zealand was awesome. The race was much tougher than I expected and it made me feel like I have really overcome a plateau in my performance. We all headed down to the finish area to cheer people home. One of our mates and the bloke who I stayed with in Phuket, Matho, absolutely smashed his PB by 18 minutes and did it after struggling on the run. As he came in we actually made him a tunnel to run through. It made an amazing day better by spending it with such a good group of friends.
To me, this weekend is something that most of us should try and do at leas once a year. It is going away with a bunch of your mates to do something you love that reminds you to have fun and why we do this. I could not think of a better group of blokes to spend the weekend with. To Scott, you are a bloody legend mate. It is not often you can meet someone and within 24 hours feel completely comfortable with them. To Matho, mate you were seriously inspiring to watch on Saturday and I cannot wait to watch you race Port Mac. Saleh, you did not give up despite all the other stuff going on and also managed to crush a PB. To Aaron, I am glad you got what you needed to out of the weekend, both on and off course. Robo, you are such a positive guy to be around. I really hope this weekend has made you want to stick with triathlon because if you leave, the sport will be worse off.
Thats it this week. No list of thank you's because I have done it so much lately. I would like to add that I have recently partnered with an Australian husband and wife company called True Amino who make some of the best supplements I have tried. So if you do use protein or anything else, head to their site and make sure you tell them I sent you.
Train hard, have some fun and remember to TRI!