And so it’s the Australian domestic season again... With nearly 6 months off racing this was always going to be a race to blow out the cobwebs and see what needs to be done. It’s not really that ideal when you the races available are top tier races that possibly others have done considerable preparation for.. but then again you have to start somewhere and there is no better way to find out where you are at against a quality field.
I am really out of practice! It’s the little things, like do I have new goggles, what do I need to pack? and argh! Packing the bike! Ok bike packing is a big thing as far as I’m concerned. And lucky for me Russ had got started on it before I got home from my post work run. He really is good to me :-)
So first race back and I’m travelling solo, I got the little airport bus to Melbourne airport. It’s nice to have someone else take care of the commute to the airport, but I’m sure if I was driving I would have got there a lot faster! Patience isn’t exactly my strong point. I had myself sorted this time pre-flight, all my excess baggage was prepaid so I didn’t have to deal with the extra hassle at the airport. Lucky Qantas have made this a lot easier these days with giving you the option to pre-pay before your flight. I was there pretty early as usual, but that’s was okay as it meant I had time to walk around get myself a morning coffee. I had a connecting flight in Sydney, so a brief stop before stepping onto the little pencil plane! You know, the skinny little planes with the propellers that are scary as hell in windy conditions. Yep, one of those little jiggers! It’s a pretty quick trip, so 50 minutes later I have arrived in Port Macquarie. As they were bringing out the luggage I noticed there were not too many bikes…and many triathletes standing around waiting for bikes! The aircraft was way too small to accommodate the number of bikes for that flight, so only 4-5 made it on board. There was a small queue at the service desk of triathletes all giving our accommodation details for our bikes to be delivered later and arriving on a later flight.
Making the most of the time I had, which I was originally going to use to build my bike. I decided to hit the supermarket and load up on all the food I need for my short stay. Finally at 8.30pm my bike got delivered and I was advised by the Qantas staff member that they had put on another flight leaving Sydney to bring up all the bikes! Maybe they will fly a slightly larger aircraft the next time an event is on.. By that time I was far too tired from travelling to build my bike and it could wait until the morning.
I always like to do a test ride the morning before my race. I like to get my legs moving and ensure that all my gears are working on my bike. My test ride also reminded me how awful the roads are at Port Mac! Honestly the road surface and patch jobs really are not the best and I would hope that they are looking to resurface them before the next Ironman event. My cassette was a bit loose and the rough roads didn’t help, so it appeared that I had to make a trip to the bike shop to get my wheel sorted. Thank god for the test ride! Always do it you won’t regret it. So after returning from my ride it was going to be a busy morning, getting wheel sorted, gear organised and then in the afternoon bike check-in and briefing. It always busy the day before race day. I got my wheel back around midday, which meant I really had to do another test ride. Lucky I bumped into long time friend, former bike shop owner and now commentator for USM, Noel Phillips. It’s amazing how at times the right people appear when you need them! My gears were jumping all over the place with the extra spacer in my cassette! Now I can actually adjust my own gears, but I happened to be in a bit of nervous panic about the time I had left and the anxiety was not helping my mechanical skills. So I tracked Noel down and asked him to help me out. Gears sorted, and I really felt that I needed to do one last test ride to put my mind at ease. I finally got my bike checked in, attended the briefing and then it was time to put the feet up and relax. The bonus about my stay in Port Mac was my accommodation; my motel was in walking distance to transition, race start, race finish and the shops. Perfect!
Race morning came around and I awoke before my alarm as per usual, got fuelled up and walked down to get myself sorted for the day ahead. I wasn’t overly nervous which was great! Just enough on edge to get everything organised and get down to race start. We had separate pro women’s wave 2 minutes behind the pro men, and then the age group men were only few minutes behind. Not a big enough gap really as I feel the slower swimmers really get an advantage when the guys come through. I had been doing a bit of swimming training and my start was quite good, but I didn’t seem to have the strength or acceleration to hold onto the front pack which is where I would normally be. I decided just focus on myself and try to hold a solid swim. I have been having some issues with my wetsuit over the past year or so, as a swimmer I really would prefer a bit more flexibility in the suit and found my arms and shoulders getting quite tired by the end of the 1.9km swim. Maybe that also had something to do with the amount of swim training I had done prior to the event to! Out of the water in 4th, it wasn’t so bad. I had the usually battle with my wetsuit in transition, finally off and onto my bike.
Now the bike was a surprise… I honestly expected this leg to go a lot better than it did. I found myself struggling climbing the hills, and I had a few problems with my breathing during and after each climb. I did have a cold the week before however, I thought that it was well and truly out of my system and I wasn’t about to use it as an excuse. Gauging by the number of snot rockets I shot during the race………it was possibly not out of my system! I seemed to lose quite a bit of time on the bike and it’s not something that usually happens. I can usually hold my position quite well and keep good pace. So again I found myself saying, it’s okay just try to keep good rhythm, stay strong and get through best you can. I had my new bike a Specialized Shiv, and also new shoes. Racing under pressure is a good time to determine whether everything is okay with your equipment, I feel you always ride differently in race conditions than in training. So with the ride done I was able to gauge what changes may need to made. I think I was still sitting a bit low, and when moving forward on the saddle to the TT position I didn’t feel that I had full leg extension and generating the power I wanted. So that will be something to rectify in coming weeks. There were a few moments on the bike where I struggled mentally, when having a bad day this often happens and pulling off to the side of the road crossed my mind a few times!
Back into town to start run and I was keen to just get this race done. I started running and my heart rate must have been sky high! My heart felt like it was beating out of my chest! Haha! My breathing again was shocking, it was like I was having an asthma attack something that I haven’t had to deal with since my teens. I was convinced that this must have been residual from the cold and the plan now was just keep ticking those legs over and get my rhythm going. Fuel wise I felt good as I had consumed my Shotz gels throughout the ride and I was pretty happy with my nutrition. My legs on the other were taking quite some time to get going, I had some bad patches of walk/run and they finally came good around 9-10km. Okay for an Iron distance race, but in a 70.3 the race is half over! My friend Andy came flying past me and told me to jump on; I yelled “dude you running too fast”! So I started to play the game of run as quick and fast as you can to the next aid station, grab fluid taking time and then get going again. Looking at my watch my time was going to be super slow, both ride and run times were not the best. But I was keen to get the race and long training day in the bag. Funny thing was that once around 15km I actually started to feel ok and started think what if this was an Ironman? I could run at this pace and possibly faster for some time now. Half distance has never been my forte! The longer the better… Crossing the finish line felt good and I was proud that I didn’t pull the pin even though I was having a rough day. I proved to myself that mentally that I’m bouncing back and from here it can only get better. After 6 months off racing it felt good to finish even though it was a slow day for me.
So next on the cards is Shepparton 70.3 in 3 weeks. I have couple of weeks to go over my equipment and make some changes. Also get some quality training done as I now go into Ironman build for next year.
Thank you to Russ, my family, friends and sponsors Shotz Nutrition, Saucony and Cyclespeed for your continued support.