If you’d have asked me five years ago if I fancied doing an Ironman 70.3, I would’ve, without hesitation, said no. I guess I’d give a similar response now to the same question, instead replacing 70.3 with an Ironman.
So what changed? Growing up as a kid the Olympics was the pinnacle of sport. I grew up wanting to emulate guys like Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett. At the time I didn’t even know what Kona was until my mid-teens, and even then I was unaware how big of a deal it was. I got my chance last year to represent Australia on what I perceive as the most significant stage in our sport, the Olympics. It was cool, I loved it, and yes I want to do it again, and be even better next time! But I also wanted to try the other version of our sport, set a new challenge and test myself against some of the best 70.3 athletes in the world (seriously, check their credentials if you don’t believe me!)
So in August this year, I set my sights on Ironman 70.3 Western Sydney. To be perfectly honest when I penned this race down, I knew it was a big ask with the heavy race schedule leading in; and that’s not to be used as an excuse, in fact, I think it may have even sharpened me up for my debut. But with Nepean, Noosa, Island house (3 races in 2 days with two big days of travel) in the four weeks leading into the race, I was unsure my body would handle the demands. To my surprise, I entered race week feeling pretty good considering, and despite a few nerves about the race, I was genuinely excited to give it a crack.
Roughly 200 meters into the swim I found myself clear. I wanted to push the swim, but I didn’t want to go alone solo. If you’ve ever swum early mornings at the Regatta Centre in Penrith you would know what I’m talking about; if not, picture a blinding light directly in your face all the way down to the furthest turn buoy. I was more worried about swimming the right way than the small group forming behind that could set a pace together and track me down once on the bike.
After negotiating the far turn buoy and regaining some vision, sun safely behind me, I noticed I had opened a gap to the next swimmer. In hindsight, I feel I made a few small errors of judgment at this point, and if I had my time over, I’d do differently.
First mistake; changing my plan mid-swim. I’d hoped for some company, and I planned to work with them to conserve energy and better pace myself. But once I realised I was on my own I decided to push on and I exited the water with roughly 40 seconds to Wilson, Appo and Betten and a further 30 seconds to the next group. I was a sitting duck with some experience taking chase.
This played on my mind and once settled on the bike, I took a gel, some sports drink, and water and readied myself for a long 90km ride on my TT bike. Instead of committing on the bike and trying to hold, or even extend my lead from the swim, I rode at a tempo that wasn’t hard enough to stay away but wasn’t slow enough to be caught by the group quickly. So, in essence, all I did was delay the inevitable, dangling out front by myself until the 40km mark where Monty, Appo, Wilson, and Raelert caught me.
Without suggesting that I have the ability to simply ride away from such a strong experience group of riders, I regret not following through with the decision I made in the swim to push on once I got on the bike. A lack of confidence meant that I was in limbo and a lack of commitment to my decision meant I never really gave the plan a chance to pay off.
Once caught Monty flew by, making the next 20km reasonably solid with high power spikes. At times he strung the group out, but I was able to claw my way back slowly and with 25km to go the pace dropped dramatically with no one willing to take on the pacing.
By the end the bike I was feeling ok. Of course, the legs were tired, but I’d managed to get through my six gels, and sports drink on the bike without any stomach issues – a bonus when that happens in your first long course attempt, even with practice in training.
With heavy legs, I was struggling to find a rhythm. I kept telling myself that there was still a long way and that they may come right; unfortunately, that was optimistic. Branden Currie was the early pacesetter, and I settled into the group with Reed, Appo, and Wilson. At the 5km mark, Wilson put in a dominant surge, which no one was able to respond to. Soon after Wilsons attack, I was dropped by Reedy and Appo, and with 15km to go, I went from racing to surviving. There wasn’t anything pretty about the last 10km, and it wasn’t until the finish when I found out what place I was in.
Sixth at my first attempt at this distance, in what was a very respectable field; I guess I have to be happy with the result. As I say all too often, we always want more from ourselves and unless you execute the perfect race than you are never fully satisfied. So that leaves me wanting more. I’m not sure when my next Ironman 70.3 will be, but sometime next year I’ll give another one a crack.
Well done to Braden and Reedy on 3rd and 2nd and a massive well done to Dan Wilson ending a fantastic career with a massive win.
It’s now time for a holiday, put the legs up for a bit and recharge for a better 2018 and beyond. It was definitely a rocky start to the year with an injury, change in training environments and races were not going my way, but I am happy with how I finished off the year.
Thanks to my amazing sponsors who have continued to support me and believe that the best is still ahead of me; you guys rock!
Peace out 2017,
– Images supplied by Korupt Vision