My time in Norway has come to an end and was followed up with a couple of sneaky nights of celebrating in Singapore. Tonight in I am in Bris Vegas to celebrate some friends engagement. I've had a week to think about a little race I participated in last Sunday called Norway 70.3. I haven't written a race report for a while so I thought I would give it a crack again this week. I have lots to say about this race as it was one of the most interesting, enjoyable and horrible experiences of my life! This race was for all intents and purposes a 'test' event or an opportunity to see how the body is adapting to the training. The number one goal for the race was to have a smooth race trying to avoid any mistakes. Things didn't really go according to plan.
So if you read my last post you would know that I had some issues with my bike. One of the cables in the di2 electric gear system had been broken before the previous race. On the Monday we took it to the local bike shop I used to use when we lived here. They weren't sure if they could have it ready by the weekend. I had initially thought this was a relatively simple fix. I was starting to worry that it wasn't. The next day they called us to let us know they would not be able to have it ready by Friday. So we had to take the bike to another bike shop called Foss Sport that did an amazing job of getting the bike ready for me before we left for Haugesund. Unfortunately this meant that I would not have a bike for the week and would not be able to follow the taper plan. We wanted to try doing some decent training in the lead up to the race with a long ride, some tt efforts and some hard running off the bike. Instead I attempted to swim (it was freezing). I went for some runs (they were freezing) and felt like my confidence was quite low. I struggled badly in the pool and the 800's I normally run in about 2:45 were consistently closer to 3:00. I knew I had done a lot of bike work so I wasn't too worried about that. In reality it was my swimming which was causing me concern.
This year my swim sessions have become less frequent but longer. Before I might have been in the pool 4 or 5 times a week and swimming about 3 or 4km I am now in the pool maybe 3 times swimming 5 or 6km. I am also not too worried about this as I have been in a massive building phase so it is only natural that there is a drop in top end speed. It is more frustrating than anything else. When you know you can swim comfortably at 1:25/100 or faster but you see that number over 1:40 it is hard to accept. Anyway I wont bore you with the details too much. We got everything ready and drove over the mountains to Haugesund.
This whole trip there has been one thing which has surprised me the most. There has been minimal changes in Norway. I mean Oslo is different near the Central Station but otherwise I am surprised how little has actually changed. Haugesund was exactly as I remembered it. It is a smallish town on the water and it is beautiful. I was very nostalgic being back. I have such fond memories of my first race here. The town really embraces the race too which makes it even more exciting. The only issue I was having was that the weather did not seem to know what it wanted to do. It would go from sunny to raining and back again every bloody 20 minutes. It was also quite cold. I hate the cold but what are you going to do? I was going to do this race.I managed to fit in a swim, bike and run in before the race and went to bed the night before equal parts excited and nervous.
Unlike most other 70.3's I have raced, Norway had a start time after 8am. This meant it wasn't super early out of bed. There was also very little to do in transition. All of your stuff went into a bike and run bag which you collected as you ran into transition. As I was setting up my bike there was an announcement over the PA system. "Due to the water and air temperature today they swim course has been shortened to 1500m." This pissed me off. I had been in the water the day before and while it was cold it wasn't any worse than Lake Taupo in New Zealand. I continued getting ready and went to the area for the swim start. It was raining and didn't look like stopping. This was a self seeded rolling swim start and I lined up with the 30 minute athletes. I knew that I wasn't swimming great. In hindsight I regret this decision only because I spent the whole swim overtaking people. We were lined up and funnelled down to the waters edge. 5 athletes were let off every 5 seconds. Before I knew it the race had begun.
When I jumped into the water I got an instant hit of pain in my head from the cold. It sucked but it was bearable. What wasn't so much fun was swimming my way through people soup. This is the biggest issue I have with the rolling starts. As one of the faster swimmers (normally) I am able to get out ahead and swim with a few other people. This was chaos the whole way. I had to tell one bloke to fuck off because he literally grabbed my by the shoulder. I came out of the water in a time of 28:59. I measured 1770m for the course.
**Now I want to say something about this here. While I know I swam shit on the weekend we all know I am a much better swimmer than this. For this reason I am quite happy to use this race result as a solid reflection of where I am at in my racing. While the race was not in fact 70.3 miles long I do consider my result to be a PB. I know that in any other race when I swim properly I am faster than 29 minutes for 1.9km. Some people may not agree with me but when I saw my finish time on Sunday I thought that it was a true reflection of where I am at the moment.
As I mentioned earlier the transition was not a traditional one with your gear next to your bike. Instead everything was left in bags. First I could not get the bloody bag open after leaving a semi-knot in it to keep the rain out. Once I got everything out and on I then had to put all of my swim stuff back into the bag. The visor on my helmet had come loose so I had to fix that. I ran to my bike and took it to the exit. When I jumped on to take off I realised that the bike was in its toughest gear. I always leave the bike in a gear that is super easy to push off with. I specifically remember doing this before the start. I can only assume someone was curious about the di2 because I had to stop after 2 failed attempts to get going and lift the bike up and turn the pedals to get the gears to change to the correct spot (remember when you were young and told not the change the gears unless you are peddling?) My T1 time was 3:41.
Onto the bike and the rain was still there. The course is made up of some of the smoothest most scenic roads I have ever ridden. I want to take a moment to also say how impressed I was with the other competitors on Sunday. I saw one marshall on course on Sunday in 90kms and while I had some people who frustrated me a bit by overtaking me and slowing down I saw minimal drafting. I assumed with the rolling start and fast roads (as well as being in bike strong Europe) it would be an absolute draft fest like Sunny Coast last year. I was delighted to see this wasn't the case. So well done everyone! The bike was a truly unique experience. It rained and rained and fuck me was it cold. I was so cold at about the 40km mark that my hands could barely use the brakes. I was ready to pull over and warm myself up next to one of the multiple bbq's I smelt as I rode past. I was shivering on the bike and I was hating life. I kept thinking warm thoughts remembered that life is too easy so I need to be tough and after about 60kms the rain started to clear.
The other little surprise I got was that there was a lot more climbing on this course than I remembered. I think there was about 750m of elevation gain and what it showed me was that my bike strength training is working. I would be overtaken by the same rider on nearly every flat section only to pass him on the hills. Come on mate, you live in Norway and I live in a part of Sydney where the biggest climb is Elizabeth Drive on the M7! The constant changes in elevation meant that it was hard for me to get a true understanding of my power. Ben had set me power zones for each 30km and I had it auto lap with my average power for each lap on my garmin. This is the first time I have raced with power and it was quite a learning experience. I think my normalised power for the ride was a little over 260 watts for this race. I also know that I need to work on my head position while I am in my aero position. I am not used to keeping my head so low when riding and my neck was starting to hurt a bit. I am sure that after a few rides back home paying attention to this it will be fixed.
The bike wasn't as fast as I would have liked but I really tried to follow the plan for the race. The last few kms before we came into T2 I increased my cadence to flush out my legs (thank you to Clint Kimmins for that tip). I rode back towards transition and spotted Dez. I rolled into to T2 feeling cold but happy. My ride time was 2:21 and now it was time to run.
My feet were properly number when I came off the bike and it was an odd experience trying to run on them. I needed to take a piss really badly and instead of just pissing while I ran like I normally do I decided to stop and use one of the portable toilets. This is a decision I would regret later. I got my gear and struggled to put on my shoes and socks with numb feet and cold hands. I got my gear on and left transition. My T2 times was 2:26.
Out onto the run and the plan was to sit at 4:15 pace for the first 7kms then see what I could do. I knew the first KM was going to be faster because you need to settle down. One of the best pieces of running off the bike advice I have ever received was from Mike Robinson and it is to build into the run. Don't go hell for leather from the start. I really try and do this when I race now. The only problem I was having though was that my pace was much faster than 4:15. It was more like 3:50 and when I would focus on slowing down a bit the pace seemed to stay the same. My pace eventually settled down around the 4:05 mark and that is where it seemed to stay for the rest of the day. The run leg at Haugesund 70.3 would make any person feel like a superstar. On the finish straight area near the water there are literally thousands of supporters. You get to run through 5 times during the race an it was the thing I was most excited about. So imagine my disappointment when I ran through at about the 3km mark to find the area basically deserted. I assumed that the rain had turned a lot of people away this year. The other highlight of the day for me was my wife's family. Dee's stepdad had taken his gigantic fishing pole and covered it with Australian kangaroo flags. So I could spot where they were from about 400m away. As I ran past them every time they went mental and man did it give me a boost.
This race really was all about the run for me. I was so impressed with how well I was running. I didn't feel great for the first chunk of it but I managed to keep my pace much higher than I had before. As the day went on and more and more competitors got onto the run leg the number of spectators grew too. The crowd support turned out to be exactly what I remembered and more. The run leg also welcomed the first time we saw the sun properly. In fact I don't remember it raining at all on the run course. I was highly amused to see the aid stations offering cold sponges to people. I asked a volunteer if they were kept in hot water because it was so cold. We all had a good chuckle at my incredibly funny joke (that's my story and Im sticking to it.) In fact as the sun became warmer I felt better and better. I really ended up enjoying the run leg. I spoke to spectators and bowed to my in-laws. I really just enjoyed that part of the race.
I am so surprised to see such an improvement in my run split. I think I realised with about 2km to go that I was going to come well under 1:30 for the first time and as I crossed the finish line the first thing I did was look at the run split. My total run time was 1:25:55 for an average pace of 4:04! This is 5 minutes faster than any other 70.3 run I have ever done. It was also the first time I raced in my Mizuno Hitogamis and I was so impressed with how they performed. I finished the race in a time of 4:22:27. I am so happy with this result. I feel like it showed my training is working and I also felt like there was plenty of room for improvement. The result gave me a lot of confidence leading into Sunny Coast later this year.
After the race I was excited to see that I had managed 4th in my age group and was 31st overall. I wasn't racing for places so this made me really happy. I did however discover that I missed out on 3rd place by only 21 seconds. That bloody piss in T2 was coming back to haunt me. This is the main reason why I do not like the rolling wave starts. I bet you if I had known I was so close to 3rd I would have pushed harder and I bet the guy who came 3rd would have also put in a stronger effort if he knew he was so close. While age group athletes are there to enjoy their experience, the rolling start does take away from the competition and ability to push yourself harder. I really don't mind though. I just wish the gap was a little bigger!
So there you have it. I really really cannot say enough good words about this race. I would have liked a little more of that 24 hour sunlight while I was out on the bike but I think the fact I can be so wet and miserable and still speak so highly of the event should be a good indicator of how great a race it really is. If you ever get the opportunity to do the race then jump at it. Triathlon is really starting to boom in Norway and it is exciting to see. There is an upcoming race in Tonsberg being run by Challenge which I was also keen to race in the future.
But for now it is time to head out and see a bit of Bris Vegas so have a great week everyone, train hard and remember to TRI!