Husky 2019 - Ultimate
The Lead Up
My last long course race was 24 months prior, consisting of a decent swim, negative split of each bike lap and then a solid run that faded in the last 4km. In the two years since I had improved my swim, expected to be stronger on the bike, and had some running injuries (preventing me racing the long course in 2018). Husky 2019 had now been changed to the more universal 70.3 / half ironman distance, so this was my first attempt that that distance.
Saturday morning, the day before the race, I went out for 10 minute run before a 15 minute ride. A few minutes into the ride I heard *crack*. I got off my bike and had a look around, didn’t sound like a tube, the frame was fine, ah, a spoke. I turned around and headed back into town to the Shimano mechanics who were on course. Yup, I’d broken a spoke. If I couldn’t get a replacement wheel the Shimano guys could lend me one, but that was the last resort. I walked my bike back to my accommodation as the panic started to set in. I rang a few bike shops, only one answered and I was on my way with my wheel to Sanctuary Point. I put the call out online and the Transitions Triathlon community had sourced me two wheels inside 10 minutes, one in the next suburb! After a few hours and a nervous wander around town, the bike mechanic called and let me know that he wouldn’t be able to fix it with the parts on hard.
Plan B was to head back into town and pick up the local wheel and head back over to the mechanic to have it installed. I was glad to have the mechanic put the wheel on because the breaks on my bike were not playing nice and he was able to sort them out. Most of the day had passed as I stressed and worried, but now at least I had a bike I could ride.
Back into town to registration and check in, I grabbed my stuff and headed back only just realising it was my 4th or 5th walk around Huskisson on top of the my run. I had been running around, stressed out and hadn’t managed to put sunscreen on my neck. Determined to get a few minutes in the water, it was one more trip into town. While walking back from the beach I realised that I wasn’t given a swim cap at registration. A quick Facebook message to Elite Energy and they confirmed that I should have received one, so another detour back to registration to pick up my cap. Urgh, more walking.
Time to setup my bike and get my bags together. I realised my speed sensor on my rear wheel needed to be moved to the new wheel. As I attempted to tighten it onto the new wheel it kept turning, and turning and turning until the housing for it was in two pieces. I had never really had anything go wrong in or around a race, but my spoke, swim cap, sensor, sunburn and an extra 8km on my feet combined made for a real grumpy Brian. It was about this time as I was trying to get some gear together when Georgia decided she would cheer me up. My friends’ (who we were staying with) daughter had detected that I was stressed and she wasn’t having any of that, she hung onto my neck and cuddled me until I had calmed down.
With some newly found perspective, dinner, a spot of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and a good night’s sleep I’d be ready for my 4:40am alarm. The miraculous top of 21 degree February day had arrived! A bit blowy, but overcast and cool.
Swim - 1.9km… maybe - https://www.strava.com/activities/2170708811
A normal half ironman starts with a leisurely 1.9km paddle as the entrée, or novelty portion of the event, usually comprising around 10% of the race time. Perhaps the measuring tape was misplaced, as an extra 400-600m (depending on who’s GPS you’re measuring with) was added much to the delight of the handful of swimmers and to the chagrin of those with speedy legs. While I’m not quick in the water, I do enjoy the swim portion but getting out 2 mins down on my “worst case” made my heart skip a beat until I noticed the extra 500m on my watch.
The swim was the usual 2 lap triangle at White Sands Beach on an overcast morning. Behind the first buoy there was a boat waiting to aid in sighting, this made life easy. After the first turn I followed feet as I failed to spot the next buoy after 3 or 4 attempts in the chop, when I did see it I felt like we had (along with a line of others) swum way too far left, probably assisted by the current. Emptying my googles just after the second turn I headed back to shore with the current washing against my face as I continued to breathe to my left. Round the third buoy and out for lap 2. Across the back I took my own course which looked straighter to me, while a line of swimmers took the same line as the first lap. Was it quicker? I thought so, or at least shorter, but who knows, may have been quicker in a pace line. After that turn it was straight back to the beach, again plotting my own course making a conscious effort to give my arms a good workout because the majority of their work for the day was coming to an end.
Over the timing mat, hit my lap button on the watch (1/1) and into T1 in 42:34! For a 1.9km that is disappointing, for the 2.4km my watch had, I was happy enough.
T1 - https://www.strava.com/activities/2170708813
While heading up the stairs and along the foot path to transition, I had the usual goals of getting the wetsuit off my upper body, not dawdling and turning my watch around so the face is on the inside of my wrist. When I ride and run I like to be able to see the face without turning my wrist around. I managed to undo the watch while taking my arm out of the wetsuit sleeve, but getting it back on I only managed a half job, leaving the band of the watch flailing around and not tucked into the little loop that secures it against the rest of the band (you can tell I had a decent day because I’m spending time on this).
I struggled and eventually got the wetsuit off and hung it over the rack next to my bike (so much nicer to have a dry wetsuit at the end of the race!). I got my shoes, socks, jersey, helmet and glasses on and decided I needed to get my watch on properly because doing it while riding with my bike handling skills is a recipe for disaster. So I stood there and struggled for what felt like minutes (probably seconds) trying to get the band secured. I trotted up the remainder of T1 while feeling like a baby giraffe (try running in cycling shoes with cleats!), over the timing mat, hit my watch (2/2), over the mount line, got on my bike and was off.
3:45 with about 300m of ground covered.
Bike – 90km… maybe - https://www.strava.com/activities/2170708847
I had fully intended to go and scout the new course but with Saturday being filled, I never got round to it so the first of the three laps would be my scouting effort. The bike continues to be my strong leg so it is quite humbling to watch people blast passed you and not go with them. I’d love to give it a go and see what kind of bike split I could come up with, but, I struggle on the run at the best of times. Pace yourself. Spin to win. Take it easy. You have a half marathon to run. All useful in keeping your head.
While the bike is the longest portion of the race, it was pretty uneventful, which is always good. Taking each of the laps easy but reminding myself to keep tension on my chain in the head wind and to spin up the inclines. I stayed on top of my nutrition, even adjusting for the cool day and taking in less fluid. On the last lap it became evident we’d come up a few kms short, essentially making up for the long swim. In the end my watch 86km.
I rolled into T2, hit my watch (3/3! Pitching a perfect game!) and got off my bike with my legs feeling pretty good. I managed to negatively split each lap 55:42, 53:06, 52:15. Beautiful!
Off the bike in 2:41:03.
T2 - https://www.strava.com/activities/2170708817
My cheer squad had been out in force all day led by my beautiful wife. As I ran my bike into transition they were waiting by my rack and it was great to have them…. Whoops, I got distracted and ran passed my rack! Strike 1. After backing up and racking my bike I got my helmet off, changed my shoes, picked up my hat, bib/race belt and gels and was off, then I dropped my bib. Strike 2. After picking it up I’m off again, 50m down transition I had that sinking feeling that I had forgotten something. Ah, I was still wearing my cycling jersey with spare gels and tubes in it. Strike 3. So I turned around and ran back (the wrong way!) up transition to dump my jersey at my spot. Stupid mistakes. Back down transition we go, this time I dropped a gel. I kicked it in frustration and let it go. How had I managed to mess up that many things in one go? Oh well, nothing I can do about it, I have 21.1km to run.
2:02 (an extra 40 seconds wasted in turning around)
Run – 21.1km - https://www.strava.com/activities/2170708837
The mantra for the run, “whatever my body has to give, I will take it, and I’ll love it”. Off the bike my legs were still ticking and I enjoyed seeing the first few KMs tick off at 5:22min/km or less with my goal being 5:45min/km. Having taken a bottle off my bike I skipped the first few aid stations and sipped on water as I wondered when the turnaround was coming. I seem to spend a bunch of time doing math when I run, just trying to calculate times and distances based on current speed or targets. Turns out, trying to work out turn around points based on a 2 lap course totalling 21.1km is too much for my brain. After hitting the turnaround I made a point to stop at the aid stations and add a few cups of powerade to my bottle.
A 2 lap out and back course affords you the opportunity to see your supporters and then reset for the back half of the run, the part that makes or breaks your day. The second lap was a constant focus to reset on “form over force” and remaining “supple” especially in my upper body. Usually at this point the temperature is closer to 30 than 20, but we had a nice cool day with a good breeze, and I had banked some time on the first lap, things were looking up.
Nothing in particular was hurting, or maybe it would be better to say that nothing hurt significantly more than anything else, but that overwhelming desire to stop had started to set in. I had managed to keep my heart rate mostly below 150bpm on the first lap, but as it got slightly warmer and I continued to fatigue it had started to rise. Reset, form over force, supple, focus on the process. My body was still handing me what I was after and even with refilling at aid stations, I was still hitting my target pace.
After the final turnaround, I had managed to maintain my pace and for the first time (ever in a run!) I was overtaking people, not as many as had passed me in the early stages of the run but some. I felt like I was going forward. The final 2km or so contains some rises in terrain (they feel like mountains to me) but I was welcoming them as they meant I was almost home. I had been running just behind another gentleman, I tried to go past him but he went with me and we ran shoulder to shoulder for a bit. At the last pinch I said “why are there always hills?!” at which point he made a barely audible grunt. It was then I decided I was feeling decidedly better than him, there was only a few hundred meters left and I needed every second if I wanted to get this run done under 2 hours.
I gave it everything I had spurred on by the crowds lining the course but the last 300m still seemed to take forever. As I entered the finish chute I had some company in front of me and I was in two minds, steal someone else’s finish chute or stay put. I felt like I was flying and that I’d pass her and she would still get her moment, and then I felt like I was standing still. Argh! I couldn’t make up my mind. I basically ended up shadowing her into the finish line due to my indecision for a somewhat anti-climactic finish. But I was done.
2:00:54, with my watch reading 21.3km @ 5:40min/km.
At the end of the day
Aside from messing up in transitions, I feel like I controlled what I could control and executed well. While going under 5:30 and running under 2:00 would have been nice, I felt I battled and held in there on my run for the first time in a long course race. Super stoked.
Overall - 5:30:21