Iain takes it home in the Canberra 70.3
Which distance works for you or your body? It’s a perennial question triathletes tend to ask themselves and one that can take time to answer. After three years in triathlon I decided to try a half Ironman, mainly to see what it was like. In this, the getting there is as important as the event itself, so this his half race report half journey.
After a car crash in my early twenties I didn’t run for about 15 years and then only minimally, until 2012 where I would do no more than 3 km any training. In Jul 2012 I upped my running for the Sprint events, gradually increasing into the New Year and my return from Afghanistan. In Feb 14, I noticed a tendency for my left thigh to become sore about 6-7km into a run and trip to the physio in March, diagnosed misfiring muscles, and weak right calf. The physio was great and understanding the 70.3 requirements gave a number of exercises to correct the problems. The next issue was fueling: in short course it’s not an issue, but for 2hours plus I experimented with various fueling strategies to see what worked and what didn’t: in the end High5 gels and SiS products worked best for me.
The training plan was based on key anchor sessions based on the Bilby’s weekly programme, with the Tue Night run, Wed morning threshold ride and long rides on a Saturday. By gradually increasing distance and intensity (but not the two together) the endurance was built and all was on track until late October. A trip on the stairs caused some foot inflammation and an unexpected Noosa entry (won a competition) lost a month of running build up training, which ultimately cost me on the day as my longest ever run was 14 km, two weeks before the event.
Based on the premise that 5 minutes faster on the bike can cost you fifteen on the run, I aimed for a consistent bike leg to conserve energy for the run. I had a session with Guy Jones (thanks) to figure out my pacing, which resulted in 53-minute laps. I then repeated this in another training session the following week. This isn’t my normal approach and slightly different to the normal ‘balls-out’ sprint, but the 70.3 deserved respect, if I wanted to finish well rather than just complete the distance. The ability to train on the course was a godsend and meant you didn’t go too fast out of the Glenloch interchange or out of Coppin’s crossing.
The day of the race started early at with a 4.20 AM rise and drive down with a mate from Nowra. The transition was dark, but sociable and the race briefing took place at 0545. This was followed by a short warm-up, a long walk to the swim entry and a 200m swim to the start line. The swim start was more gentlemanly than any Olympic or Sprint distance, partly because I positioned myself beside the starting buoy so there was no one to my right and had chatted to the guy on my left and ascertained he was about the same speed as me. The hooter went and we were off. After 200m - of less than anaerobic effort for once - I was near the front of the pack and settled into a 3/2/2 breathing and accurate sighting regime. After the second buoy my offsider appeared to accelerate and veer off, and so I concentrated on moving through the preceding waves with minimal effort. On exit I looked at my watch and thought ‘how slow’, whilst jogging to transition.
It was never about speed in this transition for me, more about getting it right and taking on fluid, spare gels and, for once, remembering to wear a race belt on the bike. A short jog to the mount line and the bike began. Not to self: when you have spare tyres on the back you need to swing your leg higher on the mount.. Initially pushing hard I then relaxed and sat up out of the Glenloch interchange reaching the Coppin’s turn in 15 minutes. On reaching the bottom I then relaxed on the way out, taking the time to take one of the five gels attached to my top tube. By this point there were people hammering up the hill, the majority of whom I passed before the end of the bike leg. The splits were three minutes faster than training, but I was in race mode, had deep wheels and an aero helmet. The bike leg was fair, with no drafting other than Peloton overtaking me on King’s Avenue during the first lap, although I did notice a few of them in the penalty box later on.
The bike finished and I felt fresh for the start of the run, having consumed gels and liquid. The support coming out of transition was fantastic, with Defence and Bilby’s members shouting from all sides and my girls running down to the waterline.. The highlight of the run must have been the Bilbys stand, where the vocal support was great and the water much appreciated. At the 7km mark I took the next gel then, continued on a good pace, focusing on form, fueling and cadence. At 10kms it still felt good, then at 14km the lack of running fitness hit, and my pace dropped from 4.20 per km to about 5 mins. It was then a struggle for the next 7 kms, with legs feeling tired, calves cramping and being unable to run tall. The last water stand was great and I’ll have to thank the team for the coke, which I took on for the first time to see me through to the end.
The result was 6thin Age Group in a 4.38, and 65thoverall, which wasn’t bad for my first 70.3. I was genuinely surprised by my 26thfastest swim, but the course was long, which was why I thought I’d been slow. The bike was consistent at about 2.30 (50mins a lap) and then there was a 1.35 for my first ever half marathon. For anybody looking to go the longer distance I would say make a plan, stick to it, understand that you need to practice how you will race, don’t be shy to ask advice and don’t underestimate the mental aspects of racing the distance. Enjoy!