Triathlon can be a cruel mistress. Sometimes she will slip her hand down your pants and give you a little tickle. Other times, she will grab hold and give you a hard yank by the balls. Unfortunately the later occurred for me yesterday. I didn't have the ideal race. I didn't get the result I wanted and the worst part about it was that it was completely out of my control. About 40km into the bike leg I had a mechanical issue which saw me out of action for just under 20 minutes. But we will get to that later. I was coming into this race with some high expectations. I have felt really strong the last few weeks and believe that I was peaking at the right time. The heat hadn't been affecting me too much when running and my bike has never been stronger. I was equal parts nervous and confident that I was going to drop a fast time. I knew all I had to do was put in a semi-decent swim (for me) a strong bike and a consistent run and I would do well. Alas, the triathlon gods had different plans.
The swim course was completely changed from last year with the lagoon section being removed and the entire 1.9km swim taking place in the warm ocean waters. There were no wetsuits and there was no need for them with the water so warm. The race had rolling starts which meant athletes went off every few seconds. I was probably one of the first 25 athletes to start and as I started swimming I could tell I was going to have a good day. This is the first rolling swim start where I have not had any issues. I swam in a lot of clear water, followed some feet and generally found the course easy to navigate. There were a few jellyfish in the swim which spiked my heart rate and the usual sea lice gave me a few nips as I went. As I turned the far buoy I was surprised how quick I felt I had gotten there. I am not sure if there was a tide or anything. On the trip back I found the sighting a little harder as there was a decent swell and the sun was coming up directly behind transition. As I exited the water I was very happy to see I was exiting about the same time as many of the people who I went into the water with. I swam a 28:16 and measured the course almost exactly 1900m.
Transition for this race was on the beach with some carpet laid. It wasn't great to be honest with sand everywhere. They also did not have bike racks but instead had a box which your bike wheel sat in with a box for your stuff. A cool idea but man it was cramped. I ran into transition and decided I would run with my shoes to the mount line in my hand. There was a bit of running on sand and I didn't want to get sand in my cleats. This worked quite well but I ended up having my feet covered in sand for the bike. The run itself was quite a distance so I was pleased with my split of 2:04.
This is where things get interesting. I was determined not to over-bike this course. I wanted to stay in control and make sure I had decent legs to run well off the bike. The first 19km to the highway was quite technical with some rough road surfaces and sharp turns. Despite that I was able to minimise any spikes in my power and felt like I was riding strong. Early on I was joined by Daniel and David, some of the coaches from Thanyapura and found that the three of us were legally riding quite well together, each taking turns at the front. We crossed the pedestrian bridge and as we did I saw the lead group of maybe 8-10 athletes were maybe 2 minutes up the road from me. I was confident that we would be able to ride up to them. Once we got onto the highway the speed increased but the power didn't. I was really focusing on my aero position and maintaining good cadence. I felt amazing. It is probably the strongest I have ever felt on the bike. I was surprised that the road surfaces were again a bit shit but it was turning out to be a dream ride.
The pace on the bike remained the same all the way up to the loop we had to complete. We went through a checkpoint and I lost part of my hydration system going over a series of bumps (its a piece of rubber which holds your straw in place). We got onto a cycle path and just kept doing our thing. As we approached the 2nd last u-turn of the race I was excited to see that we had really brought the lead group a lot closer. Things were going really well and I still felt super strong. As we made the U-turn Daniel shouted "It's sharp". Oh how right he was. I took the turn and noticed my bike starting to shake. I hoped it was nothing, then it got worse. Fuck! A puncture! I stopped and yep, my rear wheel had gone. At the time it wasn't that big a crisis to me. I knew it would cost me a few minutes but it wasn't the end of my race. I removed the wheel, checked inside the tyre, replaced the inner tube and inflated it with my CO2 canister. I got the wheel back on and started riding maybe 3 metres when I heard a god awful BANG! The inner tube had blown up and was shredded. I used all manner of language because I didn't have another spare. Maybe I had been dropping too many watt bombs all day and one finally exploded! I stopped, took off the wheel and removed the inner tube and was lost. What the hell was I going to do? I didn't know what to do. Were their mechanics on course? A marshal stopped after a few minutes and told me to move off the road so I picked up my stuff. I then started shouting at all the passing cyclists if they had a spare inner tube I could have. Looking at my watch (which paused) I think I spent about 16 minutes stationary and the whole thing took about 20 minutes. I thought my day was over and started to wonder how I was going to get back. I had tears in my eyes. I was lost.
Just when I had given up hope, Carolyne, who had been staying at Thanyapura this week rode past and asked what I needed. When I told her she stopped and gave me a spare inner tube and co2. I was going to be able to keep riding. It is just another example of why I love this sport. So much generosity! I got it all sorted, wheel back on and started riding again. It is funny what your mind does when you are under pressure. I had seen the lead group after riding North and turning around pass me just as I started to ride again. I wasn't sure how long I had been waiting or how far ahead that meant they were. But in my head I thought I might be able to try and catch back up to them. I went ballistic. I rode as hard as I could for as long as I could. The only thought in my head was that it is hot and people might fall apart on the ride. In doing so, I forgot everything I had told myself about this race. I needed to be conservative so I could run well in the heat off the bike. I came into T2 and as soon as I jumped off the bike I knew I was in trouble. My bike split was 2:37:22
As I ran my bike back into transition I was slightly happy to see that there weren't a lot of bikes in yet. I grabbed my stuff as quick as I could (forgetting to remove even more sand from my feet before putting on my shoes) and took off. The first 200m were on soft sand which wasn't great fun but I completed T2 in 2:20.
The run was a disaster. The new course was not very pleasant and they had no cokes at the aid stations. I don't know why but the 10.5km loop felt very very long. It wasn't too hot but it was muggy and there were some sections on the run where you had to dodge giant puddles and uneven surfaces. I felt kind of ok for my first 2 kms and again, I spotted some of the guys in my age group and thought that maybe they weren't too far ahead. I had a glimmer of hope that I could pull of something extraordinary. Those thoughts were short lived. The bike ride had cost me a lot. My legs fatigued super quickly and my pace dropped from 4:10/km to over 5min/km. I tried to lift a few times but just couldn't increase my pace. The damage had been done hours before. I tried to focus on my technique and had a friend tell me to now treat the race as a training day, something I hate to do, but honestly there was nothing else to be gained. I went through the motions of the run and am happy to say that despite all the setbacks I was never super negative during the run. I didn't really want to quit and I certainly didn't even think about giving up triathlon like I normally do when I am suffering. Let me assure you, suffer I did. I made the final run along the sand to the finish line where they held up the finish tape for me as I crossed. I threw it away in disgust. My run time was a dismal 1:40:12. I finsihed the race with a total time of 4:50:14, which was about 30 minutes slower than I had hoped to go.
After the race I became very angry very quickly. I was surprised. I have been sad and emotional after a race but never angry. It was weird too because I knew I was angry, I was almost external to my body and wanting it to stop. I am really ashamed of this because so many of my friends had amazing results and I was too caught up in my own bullshit to be happy for them. I am actually quite disgusted with myself about it. But even now, I am still pissed off about it. I really feel robbed. I had the opportunity to put together a fantastic swim, bike and run and wasn't able to. I had received many messages during the race from people asking if I was ok and instead of comforting me, it pissed me off even more. I really wasn't being rational. I even said to my wife, I am sick of people telling me that this stuff happens and at least I am not hurt. I just wanted people to leave me alone to feel sorry for myself.
At the end of the day, the puncture thing was always going to happen at some point. Yesterday was my 19th 70.3 and probably my 40th triathlon and it is the first time I have punctured in a race. So it is probably good to get it out of the way. Another silver lining is that because I didn't run hard I do not think my legs will be as fatigued. So I am going to focus all of my attention on Taupo 70.3 in two weeks and try again to deliver a strong performance.
Despite all of my feelings about the day I am just happy to be able to race. I had a shit day but a shit day on the beach in Thailand isn't too bad if you really think about it. Dez volunteered at Western Sydney 70.3 and had a man have a heart attack right next to her. So in the scheme of things what are a few punctures? I think it all just comes down to the high expectations I have for myself. Oh well, onto the next thing. I am leaving Thailand tomorrow after what has been an amazing two weeks here with some very high highs and some incredibly low lows. This trip has been so valuable to me as a person and athlete and I look forward to coming back again next year.
That will do, the report is long enough!
Have a good week, thanks for checking up on me and remember to TRI!