I wanted to start this week with what is possibly one of my favourite quotes. It comes from a comic book character called The Flash. I feel it is important for me to reflect on this quote as I am sitting down to write my race report because to be honest I am pretty disappointed and maybe even a little depressed about it. I try to keep this blog as honest and real as possible so I apologise if this week is a little sombre.
I would like to get something out of the way at the beginning. I do not draft. I never have and I never will. I am not out there racing for money or for anything other than beating the clock. Drafting is cheating and by doing it I would simply be cheating myself. With that said lets get into it.
Sunshine Coast 70.3 is my favourite race. I love the location, I love the course and I love the support. I have done this race the last three years and I plan to do it again as many years as it runs. In fact the sole reason why I chose to attempt a World Championship qualifier is because it is on the Sunshine Coast. This year saw a huge field of 2200 athletes and instead of the traditional age group wave starts they opted for a self seeded rolling start. This means that you select how fast you will swim and then they let groups of 4-5 athletes go every 10-15 seconds. I will get into how this impacted on the race later.
I found the lead up to this race very unusual. I have never backed up from a race so quickly before and while three weeks is enough time I discovered that my body just wasn't dealing with the quick recovery, attempt at some decent work and then taper. In retrospect I believe that the crash at Bintan may have taken more out of me than I realised or was willing to admit. I have also found my mind very busy over the last few weeks. Ask my mate Matho and he will tell you I have changed and re-changed my mind several times about my races for the rest of the year. I have earned my slot for next year's big race. The rest of this years races are non-consequential. In the days leading up to the race I was very relaxed. I think maybe too calm. I definitely noticed on race morning that I had no intensity at the swim start like I normally do. I was relaxed with what I ate and drank in the lead up to the event. I am not a saint but I do at least try and attempt some sort of reasonable diet. Well not last weekend. I lined up on race morning feeling almost nothing. No nerves, no excitement.
The Swim - 29:19
I had recently swam a 29 at Bintan without a wetsuit and was expecting to deliver at least a 27 minute swim here. With the rolling start it was difficult to warm up properly as there was a good 15 minute wait to get into the water and there was no room to roll the arms over. When I was let into the water I went hard to start with. It wasn't flat out there but it wasn't too bad either. I will say that the buoys were very hard to spot making sighting hard. The biggest thing I noticed was how quickly I was overtaking a lot of swimmers. These people obviously did not belong in the sub 30 minute wave start. With a normal wave start you find the stronger swimmers surge ahead and the weaker swimmers fall behind. It generally gets a bit rough at the turning buoys but is pretty easy for the majority of the swim. Well not this time. I think my HR would have been elevated for the majority of the swim as there were constantly people around me. I found it quite difficult to get into a rhythm and I noticed when I came out of the water I was really tired. I had to walk a bit to try and get my wetsuit off. While still a sub 30 minute swim I know I am significantly faster than this.
T1 - 2:46
It is a decent little run down to transition at Sunny Coast. As I mentioned I had to walk a little to get out of my wetsuit as well as attempt to slow my heart rate down. Once in transition I think it was actually one of my better performances. My Rudy Project Helmet with a visor is super easy to get on.
The Ride - 2:30:35
Last year I came into the race without a solid cycling base behind me and managed to ride a 2:22. This year with the huge bike volume I put in for Bintan I expected to crush that split. I was feeling very good on the bike and it didn't feel like there was much wind. I was able to maintain a pace in the vicinity of 40km/h. I thought I would make up for the less than stellar performance in the water. As usual I overtook a few cyclists early who would then pass me again. This usually only lasts about 15kms. At the turn around point I noticed that there were some BIG packs coming up from behind. I had settled in with a group of maybe 5 other riders where we would stay close enough to each other to maintain a decent pace WITHOUT drafting. As the first of the big packs overtook me I could not believe how close they were to each other. Honestly it was like the Tour de France. You know what, if you want to do that good luck to you. But what frustrated me was that the riders at the back of the pack would pass and then slow down. This meant that I was constantly having to slow down to exit their draft zone. To avoid a drafting penalty I passed the group maybe 2 or 3 more times only for them to pass me again 5kms later. The effort to get ahead of them meant I would struggle when I would pass them. This continued for a couple of minutes until they passed me again. I could hear a motorbike was near us meaning that the drafting officials were there. I started to pull back as I had done several times to here them say "177 report to the penalty box" I looked at them in shock and asked "what does that mean?". All I got back was "drafting penalty, penalty box just off the freeway". Then off they went. I was gutted. I instantly slowed down and wasn't sure whether I should even bother. The mind games started here. After a couple of minutes of feeling sorry for myself I decided I was going to have a break so lets smash it to the penalty box. I put the hammer down hard and went as hard as I could all the way to the penalty box. The ladies in the box were lovely and very helpful. I was surprised to see that the same group I had been around were also coming into the penalty box with me. None of the group however where there.
After I exited the penalty box I noticed that my gears were not working. I had done something while standing next to my bike. I had to pull over again to fix it before taking off again. On the second lap I found myself passing many athletes I had already passed. On the way back from my second lap the wind had picked up and then low and behold what happened? Another bloody pack passed me. Now you know there is drafting when there are 50+ year old women passing you while freewheeling... I had no choice though, I could not afford another penalty or I would be disqualified. So I decided to just slow down and drop off the back. You can see that my last splits almost 6km/h slower than the others (excluding the penalty). I was really disappointed to see all of these packs and the serious impact they had on my race. Some age group athletes, especially those who are sponsored by well known companies need to be aware that they are super easy to identify out there. I saw certain athletes who I will not name in the pack that passed me. I was hoping to see the drafting officials come and ping ALL of the members of the pack that passed me. But I did not see them for 15kms. When we passed the penalty box there they were having a laugh with the girls in the penalty box. I yelled at them "This isn't the Tour de France" pointing at the pack that was 30 metres up the road from me. All they yelled back was "watch yourself".
There were a lot of crashes out on the course as well. Now when you consider this is basically a straight course on beautiful roads you need to wonder why there were so many crashes? Maybe people riding too close together. I am really happy that the course will be changed next year to include some climbs which will spread it out.
T2 - 1:06
I came into T2 thinking to myself, you have had a shocker on the bike lets just get something out of today with a decent run split. I was quick through transition and I opted for my Mizuno shoes that I normally train in instead of my race fits because I think the Mizuno is the best shoe I have ever run in. Overall it was a nice and fast transition.
The Run - 1:36:28
While my run split is an improvement on last years run split I am running much faster now. I was determined to not overdo it at the start so I focused on form and attacked the first hill. I was amazed by how many spectators were cheering for me. It was an amazing atmosphere I felt good and when I checked my Garmin I was holding 4:05 pace and it felt easy. Right, this was going to be a good run. The first 5kms I felt really in control. After 5km I noticed my pace start to slip a little and this is where I was exposed. As soon as it started to hurt the voices in my head started, "you have your slot for next year", "you got a drafting penalty", "you wont go under 4:30". This stuff is normal, your mind doesn't always like what you try to do to your body. I pride myself on my ability to conquer the mental games during a triathlon. On Sunday, I lost. No sooner did it get hard did I give up. I contemplated walking, I would not push the pace. I just kept running. I have run fast and know how much you suffer for it On Sunday I was not willing to. It wasn't entirely mental. I was surprised how quickly my legs ran out of juice. But it was definitely a mental decision to stop pushing.
I continued on the run and at the far turn around point I yelled at some police on bikes "Officer help, there's been a robbery! Someone stole my running legs!" I mean what the fuck?!?!? Clearly this shows just how my mind was not where it needed to be. I came home with a disappointing 4:40:14. Even without the penalty I was slower than last year. One of the highlights of the day was having another competitor named Leigh running next to me and say "this is only a warm up for next year? You're Tim Ford I follow you on Instagram". I crossed the finish line and I was gutted. I was disappointed because I didn't fight. As soon as it got tough I backed off. Last year at Western Sydney I exploded and had the worst day of my life. That was different. That day I could not force my body to cooperate. Today came down to me being mentally weak and I will tell you that this hurts much more than last year's race did.
But, I am not about excuses. I always try to look for some positives and I think this race showed me some. I know that I had not recovered properly from Bintan so racing too close together might not work for me as an athlete. I also know that I am not strong enough off the bike. It is good to gain insight from these failures so I am able to address them and make sure they don't happen again in the future. I will work with my coach over the next 12 months to make sure it doesn't happen again. A man I have great respect for suggested that I am not going to make those beginner gains anymore and I think he is 100% correct. All gains from here are going to be hard fought. I am going to really start looking at how I fuel my body as I think that some of my habits are not going to help me get to the next level. I also want to start to build some strength. I am shocked at how weak I have become. I am looking forward to reading the book by the very same man, Andrew Read, "Run Strong." I think that by starting to focus on the smaller details like diet and recovery I will not only continue to improve, I will also ensure I have longevity in the sport.
At the end of the day, I had a shit race. I have now completed 13 70.3's and to have only had 2 bad ones is still pretty good. I am learning so much about myself both as a person and as an athlete. So there really isn't too much negative stuff to say. I refuse to let this keep me down. Whenever I do I remind myself that 5 years ago I could not run 500m. So even a bad triathlon is a win in my books. As always I want to thank those people who I couldn't do this without. Firstly, my wife, Dez who allows me to travel to the glorious Sunshine Coast without her for a weekend of Swim, Bike and Run. My coach who is an absolute champion and is graduating University today, Ben Hammond. I have complete faith he is the man to help me reach my goals. Finally I want to thank all of the people who read my blog and support my journey. This really is the greatest sport in the world. Bad days happen. But I am happy to say that the god days outnumber them.
Thats it for this week. Sorry I am feeling a little sorry for myself.
Stay safe, KEEP MOVING FORWARD and remember to TRI!!!