This is my first race report so before I begin a bit of background…..
I chose Geelong 70.3 as my “A” race for 2017/18. I had raced the course before in 2016 (5150/Olympic) and way back in 2008 when it was the Vic stop of the "Challenge Series" (Olympic). This summer I chose to ignore the smaller “Gatorade” races in Melbourne and focus just on being ready for the 70.3 distance.
I have done a couple of races at the Half Distance before (2010 Switzerland 70.3 in Raperswil finished in 5hrs 50mins) and in 2011 Alp D’Huez Long Course (finished 8hrs 41mins. I literally disintegrated after the bike to run/shuffle to the line on both occasions.
Basically; I hadn’t truly “raced” a 70.3 and both of those performances were about just getting to the line. I am fitter now and have more structure in my life with work/family/training/sleep/food balance than I did in 2010/11. I felt that with some decent training I could go to Geelong 70.3 and enjoy “racing” rather than “surviving”.
I do almost all of my training alone and although I am a member of BCB Multisport in Melbourne I can’t get their sessions to match my training times. With 3 small kids and a wife that works full time too my training has to fit neatly in my daily commuting window from 730am-930am most days. At the weekends I have to make sure I am back for kids sports by 10am so 6am-930am slot is my best opportunity. I know I am lucky to even have these slots as many people have a more sporadic schedule.
Last year I experimented with some paid coaching with i4 Coaching (previously CF Racing) and had Mitch Kibby give me advice and weekly training plans. The coaching was fantastic and having another person to bounce my experiences and feedback off was really valuable. Reminded me once again that by not being in a club I am missing the valuable advice teammates can provide. The reason I gave up the coaching to develop my own schedule was occasionally I will have 2/3 week periods when my head is elsewhere and I almost completely stop training. This is normally during very busy times at work or when I have a lot of work/family travel. I wanted to have the freedom to do these “all stop” weeks when I needed to without having to explain it to a coach.
I have reasonable base fitness. I love to run and crave my run sessions if I miss them. They are a great head-clearer and running has been part of my weekly schedule for years. To prepare for 70.3 I followed this intermediate 3 month training plan and completed about 70% of the sessions as instructed. I liked the simplicity and I could feel myself getting stronger and growing in endurance as the weeks went by. I would recommend it for somebody looking for a free and simple plan with limited training time available.
I couldn’t sleep much past 4.15am. I was nervous but had got a decent 6 hours in so decided to get up and eat my usual breakfast that I have every day: 3x weetbix, natural yoghurt, honey and strawberries. Not a meal I hear the Pros consider but one that I knew would suit my stomach and kickstart my bowels. I sipped water on the way to the venue and got to transition. No gremlins had attacked my bike overnight and setting up my spot was straightforward. I made the decision to follow my usual routine of setting the bike up for a running mount after T1. I have done them many times in Sprint/Olympic distance and I knew my shoes would be fine to wear without socks for 90km. I strapped on my nutrition (4x gels, 1x nut/caramel bar and a snickers with bottle of SIS sports drink and bottle of water) and pumped my tyres. All-set. My transition space didn’t look anywhere near as elaborate as those alongside me who seemed to have a whole plethora of kit, clothing and nuitrition ready to grab. In retrospect I wish I had some spray on sunscreen like the chap next to me; would have saved me some time later in the day.
I do have a head torch but left this in the car; very frustrating as this looked to be the ultimate pre-dawn transition set up accessory. Highly recommended.
I don’t think I could have asked for better conditions. Very little wind, calm water and day’s top temperature not looking at more than 25 degrees. As a red-head who feels the heat this was a massive blessing.
Pre-swim I ate a banana (I hoped this might prevent any swim cramp that I sometimes get when kicking hard towards end of swim leg) and took a gel.
I am 39 but this is my first race in the Male 40-44 age group (apparently, it's your age at the END of the year that they use!). The starter announced this was the largest wave of the day and if we were hoping to get one of the 3 World Championship places then we better race quick! The 40+ category certainly looks like the cornerstone of Ironman’s profit centre and home of you’re a-typical 70.3 age grouper.
The course is an out 800m following 200m interval buoys before a right hand turn in to the sun for 700m before another right turn for 200m and then a left turn in to shore. My focus in the first few hundred metres is always on breathing. I have realized that once I get my breathing rhythm going the rest of my swimming falls in to place. I am not a great swimmer. My body rotation and front quadrant timing (not enough catch-up drills) is poor. My legs sink and my sweetspot for swim speed is only about 1:50 per 100m. I took the first 200 metres easier than usual. I knew thrashing to stay at the front would really hurt me after 500 metres (usually my mental low-point of any tri) so I felt good after the usual rush. MY next concern was sighting. I did a few polo strokes and realized I couldn’t see next buoy. When I did finally see it I realized the sun was going to make sighting really hard. I was breathing in to the sun (I can breathe both sides but I prefer right side every stroke) and this meant I was permanently dazzled even with tinted goggles. I just didn’t have the comfort level to start breathing on the other side so took blindness and comfort over sighting and discomfort. I felt good at the 800m turn but sighting got worse as we faced sun head on and my goggles steamed up. I did have a massive stray off course (I only noticed as the noise of splashing from other athletes got quieter). I did a couple of breastrokes to take a proper look and realized I was 30metres off to the left of the pack. ****! ****! ****! Used the anger to up my speed and had a nice tempo coming to the end of the swim. Did a 35min time; pleased with that even though its no improvement on my usual 1:50m / 100m average. I reckon I only went to 80% too as I knew I had a long day ahead. Plenty of room for improvement.
Uneventful and was through in 2mins 45secs with a good running mount and felt good to be on the bike.
Horrible bumpy surface and twisty park roads for the first 2/3 km (which I had ridden the day before as part of a brief course recce) but once on the road out of town you can dig in and settle in to a rhythm. There is a short section (about 5km) with horrible rough surface but otherwise it was great to be time trialing on closed roads. I ride by Heart Rate and speed. My aim was to ride in the top of Zone 3 – normally 3.6 (160bpm) on my Garmin which I knew on flat would be about 36km/h. Climbs I had to prevent myself going in to the red zone (4.5+). This worked OK and I was pleased that my heartrate was giving me average speed over 5km splits of about 38km/h. After the turn and with a light head wind this only slowed to 33km/h. I began my nutrition/feeding almost every 10mins with a mouthful of bar, sports drink or gel. I find rotating these and mixing them works best for me. I was barely drinking the water I had on the front of the bike.
First lap of 45km went well and at the turn back at transition I wondered how I would feel after another loop. I had seen the same riders for most of the race. I was being passed by quicker athletes but a group of 4 athletes in my wave (carrying K age group marker on their left calf) were in an ongoing rotation of pass, overtake and re-pass. I don’t draft and I am quite particular about the “spirit” of the race. I enjoy playing my part as a responsible and supportive competitor and I try to show that throughout the race. I am never going to win so I prefer to concentrate on being the best I can be, without cheating. I noticed that a guy was sucking my wheel for a prolonged period and making no attempt to pass in the designated 25secs. I slow (freewheeling) and make him pass and realise that he had a train behind him! I am not a yeller. I normally tut and shake my head and that’s about as much outrage as I ever show. This happened a couple of times. I climb a bit faster than this group so I try to make a break stick after the second climb but they catch me again.
I was starting to feel the exhaustion of holding pace for 2 hours so decided I needed to conserve for the run as I was in danger of wiping out my reserves. I eventually let the group go and focused on getting my heartrate back to Z3 (trying to fight off this peleton had pushed me in to Z4 for about half an hour). As I watched them pull away the course Marshall motorbike passed me and rode alongside them issuing a bunch of penalties! Karma wins! Hooray! Passing them in the penalty box gave me a boost but letting them go in the final 15km probably cost me a sub 2:30 bike. I roll in to T2 at 2:35 a bit concerned about how the hell I was going to hold it together for a half marathon. I take my final gel off the bike and put it in my tri-suit pocket.
Straightforward again, socks on for the run and out I go. I consider "borrowing" some sunscreen from the athlete next to me (who has factor 50 aero spray neatly laid out on his towel) but decide against it......that Karma bitch again......
I feel OK for the first few hundred yards; the jelly legs feeling not as bad as after an Olympic bike leg. As I am getting in to stride Sam Appleton breezes past my right shoulder and the marshall on the mountain bike at his heels radios in "male lead athlete in final kilometer; standby finish line team". His stride looks hurried but effortless; the only sign of exertion the salt stains on his tri-suit. Seeing him gives me a boost and its great to watch him run in another great win. My run splits are telling me I am running 4:30min/km which is faster than I want to be going. I try to find my target pace of 5:00min/km but struggle to bring pace down for the first 5kms and then it drops like a stone. I have a toilet stop and cant get going again. I struggle through to a really painful 10km with average pace of about 5:30min/km. I stop to get sunscreen (from a volunteers handbag as they didn’t have any on the aid station – thanks to the kind young girl at the station by the yacht club). I take a gel at 6km and 14km but getting some stomach pains. The hills become like mountains and as I enter the final 5-6km I am giving it everything to stay on 5:15min/km. My quads feel like rocks but I am pleased I am close to the finish. I know a sub 5 hours time has gone but I am pleased with my performance. With the exception of a couple of breaststrokes and a sunscreeen and toilet stop I have pushed the whole way and (just about) managed pace and nuitrition effetctively. I cross the line and just want water, cold iced water.
I collect my bag from the GPC tent (thanks to those guys for keeping it safe as I had missed the street bag drop off deadline that morning). Reminds me again that these events would probably be more fun if part of a club set up. I chat to some other athletes. Many others using the race as prep for doing the full distance at Lake Taupo (Good Luck Mario!) or Port Mac (Good Luck to the girls praying for the same conditions at that race). Having just turned myself inside out to get through the run leg I cannot imagine doubling the race distance. One day I would love to have a crack but I want to see if I can hit a few of these goals at the Half Distance:
Sub 5 hours finish time
Being able to really attack the swim knowing it will help my time and wont compromise my race.
Sub 2:30 bike
Properly managed run pacing with target times hit from 1km to 21km (more and longer BRIC training required I suspect).
Next race will be Sunshine Coast 70.3 where I will see if I can put a few of these in to practise.
Any tips or observations would be great to receive. Sorry its such a long report.
I hope all of the other athletes and supporters had a good day. The atmosphere and crowd were great and Geelong is a great place to spend a weekend and run a great course.