It doesn’t seem that long ago I was lining up to start Ironman Australia but 4 months have passed and the long dark cold and wet Sydney winter is finally starting to break. I entered the Sunshine Coast 70.3 with one goal in mind – Sub 5hrs. That is 38+ mins faster than my previous best at Port Macquarie but something that was possible.
Training and Leadup
In short, I was undertrained for the race. Over winter I had been pretty much doing everything but tri specific sessions… no bricks, no long rides, virtually no long road runs. I was having a pretty solid motivational crisis post IMOz and it took a while to get the motor running. I had been maintaining a pretty good base having fun – mountain biking, cyclocross racing, heaps of trail running (including the 50k Southern Highlands Challenge), and a couple of road bike races for good measure. What I hadn’t done was ride more than 60k, and I am not sure how the SHC50k 2 weeks earlier had affected me. A solid month of rain in Sydney for pretty much the whole of August being my final excuse… In a last minute fit of desperation I decided to sign up for Trainer Road and jump on the trainer to at least get a little bit of time in the aero bars.
With all that I packed my gear and had Kira kindly take me to the airport on Saturday morning. Flying to the Sunshine Coast on Qantas points means Jetstar + 20kg of luggage. Bike bag + bike + pump and a few other things = about 22kg. Sometimes the checkin staff are OK but I got one that wasn’t. This meant I had to shift a few things into my carry on. Stupid really because my bike bag is the same size regardless, total weight on the plane stays the same and the only impact is less room in the overhead lockers for everyone else. Another #jetstarfail.
How nice it was to arrive to a warm Sunshine Coast. Once on the Sunshine Coast things could not have gone smoother. 20min cab ride, room ready on arrival, bike assembled and off for a quick ride, checkin and bike racking. The only drag was the 10min wait at checkin but I wasn’t in any rush.
Plan was to do a quick run for the 4k back to the hotel but the backpack issued at checkin disagreed, so I walked which was fine on such a nice day.
After a quick trip to the beach I grabbed a very early dinner at the nearby Sizzler. This is clearly a place the morbidly obese like to spend an afternoon grazing as cheap entertainment. I had a couple of plates and decided to rest up early.
I was awake early… too early at 3am. I needed to leave to walk to the start no later than 4:30 so I decided not to risk going back to sleep and studied the course notes instead. Like a changing of the guard a few late night partygoers were stumbling out of town as the march of focussed racers grew heading into town. The walk in was nice enough. Stupidly I had packed my bag with the helmet at the bottom which meant I had to unpack the whole thing before being able to get in to transition. This led to repeated search sessions looking for lost items as I set up. At one stage or another I had lost my electric tape, my entire nutrition, socks etc. I had forgotten that I had stashed half my nutrition in one of my drink bottle which meant even more frantic searching.
Another common prerace issue I experience at the moment is shoe indecision. I had brought 2 pairs of shoes – my trusted Inov-8 255’s which I used for IMOZ and had since retired to casual wearing duties and their replacements, my new Adizero Adios Boosts. On Saturday evening I decided I wasn’t happy with how the Boosts were working with elastic laces so would race with the Inov-8s… In transition I reverted to plan A and set up the Boosts.
With transition set up I got into my wetsuit and checked my bag. I found some helpful volunteers to zip me up. It took 2 of them! While I waited near the start I realised that in studying the course notes earlier this morning I hadn’t paid any attention to what the swim course was. Turns out it was pretty simple – single lap, counter clockwise, keep the first buoy on the right and rest on the left.
I still feel that the swim is my weakest leg. Mostly this is because I tend to deprioritise training for it and in the race I tend to cruise through not really pushing myself. The leadup to this race my left shoulder had been very clicky, something I had known about since my right shoulder was reconstructed 15 years ago… they had manipulated my left shoulder whilst I was under general anaesthetic and concluded it was in a worse condition than my right. Without a dislocation event since there hasn’t really been any reason to treat it further. Even now its not that much of a concern but rather a good excuse for a massage post training.
My swimming is getting much better and I finished the leg with new PB for the swim on a course that was generally considered slightly long/slow. My time was 37:37 not particularly fast by any measure but still a 6 min improvement. Based on pool times I really should have been closer to 30mins but not to worry.
As I stood up to get out of the water my left leg cramped and locked up. Fortunately I stretched it out almost instantly and I nursed it into transition.
T1 was a little slow by my usual standards as I fumbled with socks but soon enough I was out on the bike. My favourite leg. After a few brief hills heading out of town the course heads out onto a fast and flat motorway. I was setting some extremely fast splits early on enjoying myself. At one stage I thought I would crack a 40km hour. At the turn around however it became clear there was a bit of a southerly blowing helping the northbound leg. In the end I managed 38.6k in the first hour of the bike.
Most of the first lap was also enjoyable as the road was pretty clear with very few draft packs except for a couple of guys who every so often would pass me, and then proceed to slow down on the sight of slightest up-ramp. Eventually they dropped off however. As I headed out on the second lap a frustratingly paced bunch of about 7 riders was riding around me. It included one girl who had seemingly glued herself 0.5m behind whoever’s wheel was ahead of her. Whenever she passed me she would cut in instead of completing he pass all the way to the front. The other 5 riders in the bunch would do the same both drafting and blocking. This meant the lead guy kept getting tired. Avoiding drafting, blocking etc I would drop back per the rules and then pass to the front and typically drop them for a while before the whole thing would repeat the next time I would grab a drink. Eventually I heard a motorcycle behind me as I was dropping back. Of course its pretty hard to miss the sound a Ducati Diavel so if a TO on one of those gets you you really are a fool.
The group continued on oblivious. He carded them all – they deserved it.
The girl just went to pieces tried arguing and disappeared out of sight but still with the benefit of 50k worth of free ride. The lead guy protested too and to be fair he had at least done the majority of the work!
I recorded a new PB of 2:28:15 for the bike an improvement of about 16 mins thanks to the fast course despite my lack of training. I do wonder what I could do properly trained and tapered 🙂
Not a PB and quite frankly I was not digging deep enough. Its interesting that despite plenty of running over winter the lack of tri-specific running really cost me. I think I really only felt natural about my running between kilometers 5 and 10. This meant a few too many walk breaks.
It amazing how much preparation for the preceding leg influences the subsequent one in a tri. My improvement in swimming helped me massively on the bike but my lack of bike time hurt me on the run.
Back to my earlier shoe dilemma… I made the wrong choice. As comfortable as they are, the Adios Boosts had 2 big problems. First and foremost they don’t drain water – at all. From the first aid station when I doused myself in water to the finish my left foot squelched. A few other competitors happily pointed this out to me as the passed. Like I didn’t know. This also caused my sock to bunch up and become just another irritant. The other issue with the Boosts is their flimsy tongue. There was no way it was staying open and straight with the elastic laces. The tops of my feet ended up raw. So whilst in normal conditions on roads (and even on trails around Manly Dam) the Adios Boosts are comfy fast shoes, they are terrible for long course tri’s. Its back to Inov-8s for me (unless Salomon come up with an S-Lab Sense road shoe… mmm that would be nice).
Slowly the 5hr line crept further and further ahead of me and as I couldn’t find the toughness to claw it back.
Eventually the finish arrived. My time was 5:04:05… the 5 hour barrier a mere 800m ahead of me. The result is still a massive improvement for me – exactly 34mins better than my previous best at Port Macquarie. A very pleasing improvement in less than 12 months. Challenge Forster now looms as my next shot at going under 5hrs. Forster will also be an important warmup race for IMWA for me.
Its interesting that the lessons from this race are almost identical to the lessons from Port 70.3 last year… 1. More swim training, 2. More Bricks (and more time on the bike in general). Happily my switch to High 5 nutrition has solved the stomach issues. What a great product 🙂
It was very sad to hear that one of the competitors in my age group passed away in the swim 🙁
Another important stat – I was also set to race against retired swimming great Geoff Huegill. His bike was supposed to be racked a few spots up from mine but come race morning it was vacant. Our head to head stats are now 1-nil my way.
The final wrap… Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast is an outstanding event. Racing there was every part a good as Port and way better than Geelong. The organisers ran a slick event. I get why they will host the 70.3 World Championships in 2016. I am very tempted to come back next year… Very tempted.