So yesterday was my big race for the year. The Western Sydney 70.3. I went into this race honestly not hoping, but expecting to finally crack the sub 4:30 barrier that I have been aiming for. By the title of this week's blog you can probably guess that things did not go according to plan...
I went into this week determined to rest and make sure I hit the start line at 100%. I took it easy and followed my program like a saint. I kept saying to my wife how calm I was about the whole thing and I was surprised by the fact I wasn't nervous or anxious. I felt good, real good. On Saturday I went out to rack my bike and bought a new swim skin as it was not going to be a wetsuit swim. This made me worried as I know I can swim a lot faster in a wetsuit, but I also thought the fact that I have swam at the Regatta Centre so many times and know the tricks (follow the lane ropes from the rowing) meant that I could still swim fast. Anyway come Saturday night and I was suddenly really nervous. Nervous about a mechanical or getting a puncture. All I kept thinking was get off the bike at about the 3 hour mark and with fresh legs I could run a sub 1:30 half for the time I wanted. I couldn't sleep on Saturday and probably had about 3-4 hours. I got up at 3:15 and was on the road at 3:45 with the music playing and I was genuinely excited. I set up transition and did a practice swim, I felt really good. I knew I was going to kill the race.
The swim started and I took off at a solid pace. I had my plan to follow the line and it was working well, until I realised that my 'local secret knowledge' was not so secret. Everyone seemed to be following the wire and it meant I was constantly overtaking people. Anyway the swim felt good, I didn't swim as well as I wanted but I felt like it was ok. I got out of the water and my garmin had me at about 32ish minutes. OK, not as fast as I wanted but acceptable, it was a non-wetsuit swim after all.
I raced through transition and onto the bike. I noticed straight away I was working a little bit harder to get to my cruising pace of about 40km/h but I got out onto the road and pushed a little bit harder. I was flying now. Considering how flat the course was, I found it a lot more difficult than I expected with some tight turns and other riders practically slowing to a stop to go around the turning points. The road surfaces were rough in parts but I was only slightly behind where I wanted to be. I realised that I wasn't going to ride the 2:15 that I wanted to so instead starting aiming for a 2:20. I was going ok and looked like I would make the time until about the 60km mark. This is when my day started to fall apart. I noticed I was getting a bit of a stitch, I never get a stitch on the bike. I figured, it is hot, I will just drink more water. My pace dropped right off at this point as I was dealing with it and therefore really pushed the pace for the last 15kms. I got sick of sweet stuff about 75kms into the ride as well and stopped using my redskins.
I came off the bike and again had a quick transition. As I crossed the timing mat my Garmin hit 3 hours exactly. I could do the sub 4:30 but I was going to have to suffer for it. I didn't think it would be a problem. I started running and felt a bit off, this is normal off the bike. I was running sub 4min pace but it was really hurting. I ran past my family (the first time they have all come to see me) and I realised I was in a bit of trouble. The stitch from the bike was back and had gone form being on my right side to all across my diaphragm. 2kms into the run it became so bad I could not run. I stopped. For the first time since I was over 120kgs I was walking on the run. I thought, its ok, get it sorted and push the pace. I breathed deep and started running again, BANG, it was back and even worse. It brought tears to my eyes. I made it to an aid station and stopped again, walked and drank and iced and drank. I took off to run again and it happened again. My day was over! Goodbye sub 4:30, I could not run.
I went to a negative place. What should I do? walk the run or make it to the turn around point, hand in my timing chip and hide? I had literally a hundred competitors during the day ask if I was ok, ask if they could help, encourage me to keep going. I kept going and realised that I could run, just a lot slower than I wanted. At the same point, one of my mates, Ali, spotted me and started cheering "Go Fordy!" I kept going. I wanted to quit. But my whole family was here. I started to jog and I walked the aid stations. As I started heading back to where they were the stitch became even worse. I sat down and started to cry. Another mate of mine who was racing came past and said "One foot in front of the other" I kept going. The worst part was when I came to where my family were. My wife knew that something was wrong because I had not come past and my splits were so slow. She saw me stumbling through an aid station and all I hoped was that she wouldn't spot me. She came and said "Whats wrong?" I burst into tears again "I can't do this". She said "Yes you can" I kept going and as I ran past them all I really started to cry. What the hell was going on? I am not a crier! At this point I was about half way. I was starting to be able to maintain about 5:30 pace. I kept going and only walked the aid stations. The second time I passed them I even managed to give them a thumbs up. I realised that I might be able to make a sub 5. The last km I gave it everything and crossed the line in 4:59. I collapsed and had the medics come over to me. It took me 15 minutes to get form the finish to the recovery area with a combination of me crying, cramping and collapsing. My wife and mate came in and kept saying how proud they were. I was embarrassed and when I came out of recovery my Mum was there. For about the 10,000th time I cried again. I had finished. I reached the lowest point I ever have doing sport and I had finished....
As I am writing this now my stitch is still there. My legs are not sore but I am still gutted. I am absolutely motivated to train even harder so this never happens again. All of my family kept saying how proud they were of me and Dez told me she has never been prouder of me because I did not give in. Its funny because I was really worried about contacting my coach and telling him what happened. Luckily he reached out to me and simply told me he was gutted for me but told me to remember I have had an amazing year. It meant a lot. I know I expect a lot of myself and hold myself to a high standard. It didn't work yesterday but I learnt a lot about myself as a person and athlete. I know I can't put everything that happened in a blog but yesterday I quit triathlon about 10 times. I was in a negative head space and managed to work my way through it. It was horrible, but in some ways it is good that it happened. Everyone has a bad race. I have had mine. Onwards and upwards!
Thank you to everyone for your messages of support both before and after. It really means the world to me.
If you are reading my blog for the first time ad thinking of doing a triathlon don't let this put you off. It is the greatest sport in the world. So go on give it a go and remember to TRI!
I lost 50kgs though triathlon and completed the 2016 70.3 World Championships. Aiming to hit 4:05 for a 70.3, the same time it took me to complete my first Olympic Distance Triathlon. I want to bring as many new people to the sport as possible. Whether you are fit and active or want to make positive changes to your life.