I wasn’t expecting a half ironman race to slip into my blog this year!
Ironman 70.3 Western Sydney was my surprise race of 2015. I couldn’t seriously go 12 months without doing a triathlon and with IMWA being my last race in early December last year a full orbit of the sun was rapidly approaching.
Actually I had at least hinted at the idea, and probably sowed a bit of a seed.
For a lot of reasons, I had dismissed IM70.3 Western Sydney as I race I would do… a freshwater non wetsuit swim, 2x3hr round trips to Penrith required, likely hot, but, without any other races to do and an itch to scratch I had to do something. And so, 1 week out from race day I hit the register button in my browser and headed of on my first brick session of the year. The next day I was in the pool for my third swim of the year.
2015 had brought plenty of racing, mostly in the form of trail running, but virtually no swims or long rides. My running meant I was in good shape but there were plenty of wasted muscle groups throughout my body.
Of course, none of that mattered. I was in this race for fun, just to see how I would go, nothing planned before or after, this race was about enjoying the day with no pre-expectations… except I really wanted to go sub 5hrs… like I always do
As any triathlete will tell you… it ain’t a race without new gear… so over race week I picked up a Roka Swim Skin (I would be needing every bit of assistance possible!) and a pair of Altra 3-Sums (the tri specific version of the Altra The One shoes I have been running on road with)
After a week of swimming at every opportunity, a few rides and a couple of short runs, race weekend arrived. With my tri bike dusted off, tuned and real wheel covers fitted, I packed up the car and headed out to the Sydney International Regatta Centre, Penrith. I had never really been there before but it is an outstanding Olympic legacy site, well looked after and incredibly versatile – especially for triathlons! Too bad Sydney can’t develop facilities like this closer to the population. The value of the Olympics to Sydney was immeasurable and I firmly believe we should chase these opportunities frequently regardless of cost.
It was an 1hr 10min drive minimum from home, more for me since google maps navigation feature seemed to pick the least direct route through the suburbs.
I threw on my swim skin and had a quick swim before heading over to registration and checking in my bike. The venue was well organised and had a good buzz to it. Before long it was time to head home and rest up.
And then it was race day…
3:50am I left home. At least there was no traffic except for a good bit of congestion at the venue itself however the parking marshals were doing a great job keeping everything flowing smoothly. I got my transition gear set up quickly and apart from a brief moment worrying about whether I had forgotten my timing chip, and forgetting a hat, I was good to go. My wave was due to start at about 6:30 so I had about an hour to sit around and relax. It was drizzling a little so I grabbed a seat in the grandstand and chilled out working my way through an energy bar and red bull.
Normally, in the hour or so leading up to a race I have waves of remorse specifically focussed on hatred of the swim and a desire to just get it done so I can get on with the fun stuff of the bike and run.
Prerace this time I was just relaxed. I was really going to enjoy the day.
Before long I was treading water on the start line a few swimmers from the front – without a wetsuit I couldn’t just bob around like a cork.
After getting away fairly cleanly I found a few good feet to sit on for a while before finding some clear water. By the halfway turn I was catching a few of the stragglers in the waves ahead and the faster guys from the the second 35-39 AG wave start were ploughing through. I wish I could swim that fast!
Apart from a brief period of feeling like I was drowning, constantly copping mouthfuls of water, thanks to the reduced buoyancy, things were going well until with about 200m to go my calf muscles turned into a pair of rock hard apples. I pushed on for a few strokes before realising I would have to sit up and stretch them out. Fortunately, the rowing lane ropes provide a convenient standing perch for just this purpose. After a minute my calves were soft again and I could get the job finished. My only concern being that they would lock up again when I stood up to exit.
I got out of the water pretty freely and jogged into transition. My transition time was rather slow but at this point I was still in “enjoy myself” mode. I put on my socks and shoes at my bike and headed out onto the bike leg.
The moment the bike started the tunnel vision arrived. Time to blast away. Of course with many watts missing from my power curve and a lack of conditioning the blast wasn’t quite as intense as it once was… about 10% less than usual I would say.
The bike course is pretty flat but the road surface isn’t exactly fast due to the high volume of heavy vehicles that use it making it fairly rough. With a bunch of 90 degree bends and a slick surface from the rain on the first lap I was deliberately cautious.
My 5k splits kept rolling in around 8:00min to 8:30min which was good but still much slower than I normal. The most telling thing was my inability to drop the serial drafters with my usual ease.
By the 85k mark I was nonetheless really happy with my time, feeling pretty fresh and starting to think about the run, spending a bit of time sitting up, stretching and coasting. I was now firmly expecting my year of running to pay off.
I had my feet out of my shoes will before the dismount line at T2 and got off my bike fast. My new Altras slipped on like a dream and I charged out of transition running at a solid but comfortable pace. A sub 5hr result was on the cards if I could run to my potential.
The first 5k went pretty well with the exception of some irritation from my timing chip drilling into my ankle bone… my right thigh started to twinge with cramp a little also, and before it became a problem I pressed the “go soft” button and had a walk , stopped to adjust my timing chip, twice, and loaded up on gel and electrolyte.
Once I had slowed I just couldn’t get back to the same rhythm. The zero training sub 5hr dream was slipping away, my stomach ways not particularly happy with the gel and every few k my thigh cramp threatened to lock on, electrolyte and coke working wonders at revitalising the muscle.
In the end I finished in 5hrs and 5mins exactly. I really think this good result especially given my training except it was 5 mins too slow to be a great result… Analysing things I think that with the exception of the cramps I got away with the swim however my lack of bike training hurt both my bike leg and run leg. I know where I could have picked up time and next year I will toe the start line ready to fire.
If were to score my performance (relative to me):
Post race day I took the chance to see really how I went relative to my other 70.3s. A quick comparison based on my age group percentile position for each leg confirmed the race was:
– My equal strongest swim (who needs training!)
– My weakest bike other than Geelong although this was still my strongest leg
– A par performance for the run
Overall my final place was pretty much the same as Sunshine Coast – another race where I just missed a sub 5 on a lack of training. Challenge Forster remains my best performance to date but that race was well into my IMWA build so that makes sense.
I really do enjoy the 70.3 distance!