This race was yet another milestone. This time marking my first race at the full 70.3 distance as opposed to the Husskison long course which is lightly shorter, mostly on the bike leg (2.0km swim, 83km bike, 20km run). After sneaking in just under the 5 hour mark earlier in the year at the Husskison Long course earlier in February earlier in the year, I set my sights on achieving the same feat at Forster. This was also my first race after taking up swim coaching with BondiFit after the shocker I has a few months earlier in the Yamba olympic distance event. It was also my first outing on the new Avanti Chrono Evo II after picking it up a month earlier which made the race even more exciting.
With the additional swim training under my belt over the previous two months and a solid hit out on the new bike two weeks out from the race gave me a sense of optimism that I would be able to hit my goal of breaking 5 hours All I had to do was hold it together on the run.
Bec and I arrived in Forster early, making an extra long weekend of it. This was also the first race Bec had come to watch. Mum and Dad where also there and on this occasion, my Brother Paul also managed to make the trip up. Being there so early allowed me to familiarise myself with the course, which I had never seen before. I also did a much longer reconnaissance ride that usual, with a slow ride from the finish in Forster all the way to the far turn around point that we would reach on the first lap. The course was fairly flat overall with only a few rolling hills.
My first experience with a split transition made for a few extra nerves on the day as I wasn’t exactly sure how it would all work. As it turns out, the logistical challenges are mostly in getting yourself organised so that you have everything you need allocated to the respective transition bags well ahead of time. Before I knew it, race morning had arrived and we all loaded into the car and headed up to the race start at Forster Keys in complete darkness.
As we walked down to the swim start, I was a little more relaxed than previous races. I think this was down to the fact that I was much more confident with my swim compared to previous races thanks to the extra swim training. Into the river I went for a quick warm up and we were ushered to the start line. The swim was a two lap course so the plan was to head out easy, leaving a little in the tank for the back end. Before I knew it I had rounded the last buoy and after eventually sighting the exit point on the river bank I was out of the water and into transition. Mum yelled out my swim split time as I exited T1 and I couldn’t really believe it, under 27mins! I later found out that the swim course was a little short but it was still my best swim to date.
I got on to the bike and immediately let rip. I had only done one long test ride on the new bike and had a rough idea of the watts I should be able to hold. That all went out the window as I powered up the road with reckless abandon, passing anyone I could see. I was loving it. I has slowed up a touch on the way back into the turn around at Forster Key where I got a lift after hearing Bec and the family cheering me on. Unfortunately, not long after exiting the turnaround, I started to learn a valuable lesson. I was paying the price for ignoring my power metre and going after the first lap on the bike.
My average watts were slowly dropping as I headed out to the second turn around point at Blueys Beach. By the time I headed back towards Forster and T2, I was starting to get passed regularly as my legs continued to fade. Despite the poorly managed effort on the bike, I got into T2 with a sub 2:30 bike so I was pretty happy. All I needed now was to get through the run.
I looked at my watch leaving T2 and my total race time was 2:58, more than 15 minutes ahead the time I had projected before the race. Instead of settling into the run with my goal in mind, the legs just wanted to go. In a similar scenario to the bike, I went out much faster than anything I had done in training. I was thinking that I was going to crush the 5 hour mark at this rate!
Oh boy how was I wrong. Half way back to town after the turnaround at the far end of the break wall I started to get a blister on my left foot. I stopped for a second to settle myself and adjust my shoe. It was only just over 5kms into the run! I knew I had to press on. Unfortunately in doing so, I adjusted my foot strike to alleviate the pain which meant I was landing harshly on my heel rather than aiming for a mid to fore foot strike. Another 6km later and my left quad completely blew. Over extending myself on the bike, going out to hard on the run and he constant barrage of impact from striking my heel with the additional force shooting up my legs caught up with me.
I was shattered! I started walking wondering what the hell I was going to do. Fortunately I was so far ahead of my planned time, I did a quick calculation and worked out how slow I could complete the last 10km to get under 5 hours. I figured I was close enough so I had to give it a crack. I ran as far as I could, walking the next couple of aid stations. I was struggling. I was walking more than running and the clock was ticking. I made sure I ran through the main part of town to Bec and family didn’t see me walk but I couldn’t hid the pain.
As I made my way back past them for the last loop out to the break wall I knew I had enough time to make it, I just had to get through it. Despite the pain, I willed myself on, knowing all I had to do was get back over the bridge into town and seeing my crew would be enough to get me home. Bec, Mum and Paul had were already making their way to the finish line but Dad was in the same position. As I ran past he broke into a bit of a jog and gave me a fist pump, something which is completely uncharacteristic for him. It was exactly what I needed and gave me the lift I needed to get home. I broke into what felt like a sprint over the last couple of hundred metres and there I was, at the finish.
I crossed the line and had made it, sneaking in just under 5 hours. The outpouring of emotion was something I had experience for a long time. Part of it was pain as I could barely walk after crossing the line while the other part was elation that after so much had work, I had made it. Sometimes it is as much about the mental battle not just the physical one.
I’m looking forward to a long recovery now. I suspect running will be out of the question for a little while at least. Lucky I have plenty of time up my sleeve before I take on Husskison Long course for the second time.