What a day! Geelong had everything. I woke up feeling energised and ready to go. I still wasn’t sure what the body would give me when the gun went, but mentally I was prepared. My goal for the day was execution. I wanted to put all my energy into following my race plan but if the body wasn’t going to co-operate, I had no intention of burying myself for the sake of it. Geelong put on one hell of an event. The weather was almost perfect for racing. No wind at the start of the swim made for calm conditions. However, the clouds did roll in during the majority of the bike, keeping things cool before the sun came out for the run and turned the heat right up. The course is a challenging one. The bike is deceptively technical in places and the crosswinds made it tricky at times. The run also has some tough undulations which make managing your pace hard at times.
The swim was an age group wave start. I lined up on the left, taking advantage of the shortest route to the first buoy. We had a short 30-40m run through the shallow water and, after a few porpoise dives we were off swimming. I managed to settle in to a nice rhythm early on sticking to the outside of the main bunch. It was still a little rough over the first few hundred meters, with one other competitor deciding it would be a good idea to grab my leg. Needless to say I don’t think he will be doing that again. Using my Garmin I set the open water settings to auto split at 500m intervals before switching it to multi-sport mode. The data shows a nice build in pace from the 500m mark to the end of the swim. It felt solid and I finished the 1.9km in a shade under 29 minutes which I was pretty happy with.
T1 came and went with no incidents thankfully. The first few km’s of the bike consisted of a steady climb up to the botanical gardens then a half lap of the park before getting out to the main road. It is hard to get any sort of rhythm going and the road surface is far from smooth so getting in the aero bars was hazardous at best. Once on the main road I got settled in and just worked on hitting my power numbers. I got out to the first main turnaround point at Pt. Henry and while I was only 1 watt off my target, I was struggling to hold it. Heading out to the second turnaround point I continued to struggle and was contemplating easing back a little. I hit the next turnaround still just off my target and was getting worried. Then something strange happened. As I accelerated out of the turnaround, 30kms in, my legs suddenly came to me. I all of a sudden felt strong again and got to work on the downhill stretch back to the end of the first lap.
Heading out on the second lap I still felt good, pounding away on the peddles and hitting my numbers quite comfortably. Then, as quickly as my legs came, they disappeared again. From the 60km mark to the 75km turnaround it was a real struggle. I was holding my numbers but it wasn’t easy. I continued to push on and halfway back to T2 I was close enough to smell the finish and pushed on through the pain. I was just hoping that I hadn’t burnt too many matches with the run still to go.
After a 2:22 bike leg and another fairly seamless transition (they get easier the more you do them) I was out on the run. As many people will tell you, the first few kms of the run can be a challenge and it is not what you expect. When you get off the bike and your legs have been sitting on a cadence in the mid 80’s, your legs just want to go fast, too fast! The temptation is to let them go, but you often pay for it later on.
My legs felt conformable turning over just under 5 min pace but I knew that was too fast. The aim was to sit on 5:10 for at least the first 10km and then assess the situation from there. I ended up settling in at around 5:09 for the first 4km and managed to hold that pace through the next 4km as well. I then slipped a little over the next 8km to the 5:10s (which I should have been running from the get go). While the first 8km felt rather easy, the next 8km were far from it. The heat was building and the energy levels were fading. The split from 12km to 16km was particularly difficult. I felt like stopping for a quick walk but I was too close to the finish to walk now. I pushed on, knowing there was one last hill to get up to the final turnaround before a downhill run to the finish.
I took it easy up the final hill, knowing how close I was to blowing then worked the downhill. I then urged myself on over the remaining 3kms which felt like they took forever. On the final loop out along the pier I managed to sneak up to a fellow competitor in my age group. Given my run is still very much a work in progress I rarely get the privilege of passing anyone on the run. I used the added motivation to pass him and got right up on the heels of another. I knew I was close to empty too, so I waited right until the finish shute and hit the go button. Unfortunately, he saw me coming and had far more left in the tank than I did. I let him go and soaked up the finish, happy to get home in one piece. The 1:47 run split gave me a finish time of 4:43. Not my fastest, but my most satisfying given the course is more challenging then where I set my PB of 4:40 on Mooloolaba last year.
The true assessment of the result will come this week when I sit down with the mad scientist, Spot Anderson, and he disects every shred of data and dishes up the truth. I’m not sure I’m ready for that. For now I’m going to enjoy a nice cold one and wait for my flight home!