Following a short break after a successful race as Husky long course in February, racing in Cairns was always going to be a motivator to knuckle down and get back in to training. What was evident from the get go was that the four weeks I spend overseas with next to no physical activity and far too much food and booze was going to take its toll. While training in the lead up to the event was pretty solid, I was still much heavier than the weight I have previously raced at. Making matters worse, in my attempt to get back my fitness ahead of the event I pushed it a little hard in a track session two weeks out and strained the medial arch in my left foot. Nevertheless I was determined to give it my best.
I headed up north with Bec and the family for a few days break up at Port Douglas where is finished off my preparation in an attempt to get some sort of acclimatisation to the heat and humidity compared to the bitterly cold Sydney winter. This even included a taper swim at Palm Cove on a choppy afternoon which in itself posed its own set of challenges.
Finally race day arrived and it was an earlier start than usual due to the split transition, something which traditionally i’m not a huge fan off, purely due to logistical challenges it presents. There was a little bit of rain about which cleared by the time the race got underway and made for rather calm conditions on the water. The wave starts work nicely and after getting to the front of the group I hit the water and felt quite good. The faster swimmers shot off the front but I managed to find my rhythm heading out to the first turn buoy. Heading across the the face of the beach was quite calm taking in the sunrise however sighting the orange buoys was a challenge with all the support board riders in orange shirts. Exiting the water I felt in control. It wasn’t my fastest swim but was solid enough.
After getting through a wet transition unscathed I got to work on the bike. Spot and I had lowered my watt target 10 watts from Husky given I was still not back to full fitness and I thought this would have been quite comfortable. I reached the the based of the first climb which was followed by rolling hills out to the turnaround point. I was feeling really good at this stage however my salt stick dispenser had somehow jammed and after getting one out by taking the cover off I managed to lose the rest of them which would come back to bite me later on.
Instead of taking the hills a little more conservatively and sticking to my watt target, I lifted my output a little and stayed with a group of 6 to 7 i found myself in. This too would come back to bite me later on. We all hit the turnaround and it was quickly evident as we headed back to Cairns that the final 60km was going to be directly into a headwind. The group quickly split and I found myself in no mans land. The heat and humidity was starting to take its toll and I was ploughing through the fluids. I managed to maintain the higher output over the remainder of the rolling hills before dropping back to race pace when I got back on the flatter section of the course.
It wasn’t until halfway back to Palm Cove that I realised I was in trouble. I held my watts until I went past Palm Cove and that is when things started to unravel. I was struggling with the heat and found myself still ploughing through the fluids, especially without the salt sticks. I finding it harder and harder to push the peddles and found myself sitting up more and more. There was brief period of respite with a light shower getting close to the end of the bike leg but I was completely cactus by then.
Another fairly seemly transition and I was away. Despite the heavy going on the back half of the bike my split out of T2 wasn’t too bad. I always knew the run was going to be tough given I was carrying an injury however I was still optimistic. I headed out steady to the short turn around at the marina and headed out on my first lap. I got a lift running past my support crew but that is as good as it got. At around the 6km mark I realised that no matter how much I wanted to, I was not going to be able to run the entire 21.1km, no matter how slow I went.
From here on out it was a matter of running as far as I could, aiming to make it from aid station to aid station and walking when I couldn’t run. As I neared the end of the first I was still going ok, despite having to walk more than I would have liked. I made the marina turnaround and headed back out. Despite the encouragement from Bec I knew my day was up but I was determined to finish. I continued to run/walk my way round the second lap, even managing to jog out the last couple of kms. In hindsight, calling it a day early and not doing any more damage would have been the smarter option however a DNF is not in my DNA.
The final time is something I would rather for get but it was the race I needed to have. Preparing for it got me back in my training routine and I learnt a lot about myself and racing which will hopefully benefit me greatly going forward. Once again, having a number of members of my training group there meant I soon got over the pain and enjoyed some of the post race festivities. Onwards and upward to Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast in 3 months time.