Do you know how happy I am to write a race report about a race where I feel like things went well for me! I have felt like the biggest sook over the last few months complaining about how nothing has gone my way. While the weekend's race provided it's own unique challenges, I geniuinelly feel like I had luck on my side for once.
I want to start by saying that I am so happy and proud of this result. At the start of 2016 I really believed I would be able to get myself down to about a 4:15 70.3 time. So to achieve the result I did on the weekend is incredibly satsifying. Now because I am such a master of the written word I will whisk you back to the lead up to this event with my usual excuses and feelings of self-doubt.
In all seriousness, after getting back from Taupo in December I was struggling to recover. I was tired all the time and was ironically struggling to sleep. My training was putrid and I started to drink a little too much or be a little to festive over the festive season. I decided I wanted to complete the Festive 500. This is something I am incredibly happy I did. I am however also very sure it was a mistake. I was completely exhausted from my month of travel and my long few months of racing so riding nealry 600kms in 5 days put me into a deep hole. I was completley un-interested in heading away from my wife for another trip and going for another race. I am actually incredibly happy that I had arranged to have my Dad and Brother join me on the trip because I honestly believe that if I was going on my own I probably would have pulled the pin (thank god I didn't!) Regardless, this race was never a priority for me. I had seen some of my mates compete this race and it just looked like a good spot to race. Bla bla bla in summary, I did not prepare properly for this race and felt shit but I am so happy I came over and competed.
The few days leading into the race I tried to jam some good habits into my system. I was a saint with my food in an attempt to drop a few Christmas kgs and tried to tap some speed into my legs. Basically I was cramming like I used to the night before an exam. I felt like the course was going to be a good one to go fast. The biggest concern I was having was the temperature in the early mornings. NZ is lovely during the day but as soon as the sun goes down it gets cold. So every morning when we were waiting to get in the water it was cold. I thought it would therefore be cold on race morning. Otherwise, I was excited to see if the hype around this race was deserved or whether I was going to have a long and painful day out there. My main concern was to enjoy the race, I told Robo (who had an amazing and completely not surpising result) that I don't care if I come dead last, as long as I race well. I was also looking forward to racing in front of my Dad and Brother. A highlight of the trip for me was getting to catch up with Scott Taylor, an Auckland based photographer who really understands what athletes need to do in order to get supported. He took some amazing photos of me which I will be sharing over the next few weeks in the days leading into the race. I went to bed the night before the race surprisingly anxious, I think an after-effect of my double puncture in Thailand, but ready to get my last race of my 2016 season complete.
While I was setting my stuff up in transition it was incredibly obvious that it was both cold and incredibly windy. Riding a disc and 808 was going to be tough on an exposed, coastal bike course. When we were waiting to get in the water I was shivering so badly I was literally shaking. The plus side was that the water felt very warm in comparison. The swim course was a sort of rectangle but it was litered with boats. It made for some fun sighting and I even heard about some swimmers crashing into anchors and even boats.
So it was a mass start for athletes under 45 and I definitley noticed the large number of swimmers in the water. It was an incredibly intense start to the swim. I copped smacks, grabs, wacks and elbows and feet all over and was happy to finally find some clear water after about 400m. I made a concious effort to not go out like a bull-at-a-gate but instead aim for a consistent pace. Unlike Taupo I did not manage to find feet to swim on. The big positive for me was that I know I can swim around 28 minutes every day of the week for 1.9km in the ocean (this was meant to be a 2km swim but I measured just over 1900). After the start I found the swim very uneventful. I felt like I was off course for a bit of the race but looking at my GPS file I think I actually swam an incredibly good line. I got out of the water feeling confident and as I ran to the timing mat I was excited to see I had swum right to plan. My swim time was 28:00 exactly.
Unlike a lot of other races transition was very close to the swim start (goodbye 4 min transition times!) I did however feel like I wasted a bit of time doing god knows what in there. Nothing major to report, I just wasn't as streamlined as I would have liked. I know I need to work on this aspect of my racing if I really want to get my times down. I am getting to a point where those 1%ers make a difference. My T1 time was 1:50.
The bike was what I was really looking forward to. As much as I had been suffering as a result of the Festive 500 I knew I was incredibly strong as a result. I also knew that keeping my cool on this bike course was going to be important. I wanted to really try and ride a nice and consistent power but at the same time I wanted to have a red hot crack on the bike, there was nothing riding on this event! Funnily enough, right on the bike I didn't feel comfortable. I can't say I felt bad or anything, I just didn't feel comfortable. Almost like it cost me more to ride the way I did than it normally would. The course was pretty idiot proof. Basically a 2 lap there and back again course with one small section where you take a turn. The good thing about the mass start meant that I knew every person I passed I was actually ahead of in the race. I made an effort to keep my head and really tried to focus on my power numbers. Unlike more technical courses there were a few times that I found my mind wandering and had to shake myself back into concentrating. The only real issue I had on the bike course was a lack of signage. I came to a roundabout where I was meant to go slightly right instead of straight ahead but there was no indication of this so I took the wrong turn (Does that make me an idiot?). In the scheme of things it maybe cost me 45 seconds. Ultimately it was my own fault. I finished the first lap and felt quite good. I still wasn't feeling as strong as I would have liked but to be honest considering the wind had been crazy in the morning and had really settled down I was doing ok.
The second lap of the bike cost me a bit. I actually wore a heart rate monitor for the first time in a race ever and would have been super interested to see my HR but for some bloody reason my garmin didn't register it. My 920 didn't even record my power numbers. To be honest, I have been having more and more issues with my Garmin devices lately but that is a topic for another blog. Onto the second lap and I managed to actually start doing some work with another athlete. I sat well back from him, probably closer to 25m than the legal 12m but just having someone to focus on helped to keep me paying attention. With about 20km to go we were overtaken by a pack who were suspiciouly close together. They passed and the pace dropped right off. I decided to go to the front and really try and drop the hammer. The wind was picking up a bit at this point to making riding quite tough. I was happy the other rider came with me and we managed to ride away from the pack. The last 7km I lifted again really hoping to ride a new bike split PB. I was so happy to come in off the bike with a time of 2:18:15. This is a new bike split PB for me.
I knew I wasn't going to have a perfect day and coming off the bike was yet another example of the sort of things that can ruin your day when you are in the wrong frame of mind. As I dismounted and started to run with the bike, my front wheel turned HARD and I went down with the bike. I took off some skin and did a bit of damage to the bike. If I was really stressed about this race that could have been enough to put me in a bad place. I got up, picked up a shoe and instead of worrying about the fact my wheel wasnt turning, picked up the bike and ran it to the rack. I got my shoes on, stayed calm and made my way onto the run. My T2 time was 1:23.
I didn't really have time to think about my spill when it happened but as I made my way onto the run I could feel some sore spots. The most painful was under my foot. Basically I assumed from the get go that it wasn't going to be my best run. So I clicked my Garmin from split time to overall time and was shocked to see it at 2:49 as I was running (it had paused when I crashed and thus my T2 split was 1 second) regardless, it meant that if I managed to run around a 1:30 split I would crack 4:20! What the hell? This was a race I wasn't focusing on... Time to focus. Throughout the run I could not run as fast as I wanted and running the way I did cost me more than it normally would. But I am so proud of the fact that despite everything I stayed focused and present. I didn't let my mind wander, I was constantly doing the maths in my head. It also helped to have my Dad, Richie and my Brother on course as well as Penny (who is sooo much fun after a few frothies ;-)) and Robo's supporters cheering me on. I just kept focusing on what I could control. My cadence, my breathing and of course my headspace. I had asked my brother to abuse me everytime I passed him and he jumped at the opportunity. It meant I was actually looking forward to the banter as I approached and it made me run stronger knowing I was approaching friendly faces.
The best (and hardest) part of the run course was going around the base of Mount Maunganui. The 3km loop was very hilly and a loose surface and again, I wish I had my HR data to see what was doing. Getting through it at the end of my first lap was a huge relief, but knowing I would have to do it again in about 6kms was an intimidating thought. I finished the first lap and was convinced I had some how slowed down so much I would miss the sub 4:20. I really tried to pick up the pace on the 2nd lap but in reality I stayed basically the same. I did however manage to go faster the second time around the mount and as I went back on the road with about 1.5km to go I changed my watch to overall time. I was shocked to see just how well under 4:20 I was. But still the doubt in my head told me that something must have gone wrong when I fell over. I decided to go for it.
I reckon I would have looked pretty funny that last bit. Running what I felt was as fast as I could, grimacing in pain but in reality really not running very fast at all. I heard people shouting my name and remember seeing my brother. I came to the finish line giving it everything I had and was spent. They took off my timing chip and I heard them say my name and what sounded like 4:17.... Get fucked! No way! Almost instantly Luke was there giving me a hug, then Dad was there who said "Did they say 4:17?!?!" I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT!!!!!! I had to go to the medical tent to get my wounds dealt with but it was true. I managed to run 1:28:30 for a total time of 4:17:57. I had crushed the 4:20. Serioulsy, it took me over 2 years of specifically trying to break 4:30 to achieve it and here I was breaking 4:20 at a race I had not prepared for, feeling tired and out of form.
After the race I was so happy to hear Robo had managed to SMASH the race and deliver an incredible 4:10!!!!!!!!!!!! His coach, Simon Cochrane had also managed to come in 5th place and smash the sub 4 he wanted to as well. We got to spend the afternoon debriefing, celebrating and drinking. Days later I am still over the moon about the result. I really did not feel prepared for this race so to deliver that time gives me mountains of confidence. I completely exceeded my own expectations. The result also demonstrated that to go fast I do not need to crush the bike or run like a Kenyan. If you deliver a strong performance across all 3 disciplines you will get a fast result.
The other thing that makes this result so satisying is that it puts me only 12 minutes away from my goal of a 4:05 70.3. To me that means that my goal is really achievable now. I know that if I continue to put in the effort that I am I will get there and then who knows what will happen. I know I am excited to see what does.
As always I want to thank everyone who helped me to get here including all of my sponsors: Thanyapura, Mizuno, Giant Sydney, True Amino, Pioneer and Suplest Shoes. I also need to give a big shout out to my coach Ben Hammond, who only a week before had me doing a soft sand beer mile (I came 2nd). To Dez for letting me take yet another trip away. My Dad, Brother and Richie for travelling over with me to support and of course to all of the Kiwi's who continue to make me feel so welcome here. Also to all of the people who read my blog or follow my triathlon adventures. I am so grateful for all of your messages of support and encouragement.
So there you have it. That is my race and I guarantee you, I have big plans for 2017!
Happy New Year, Kia Kaha and remeber to TRI!