Wollongong really turned it on for the Australian National Standard Distance Championships. The weather was fantastic and there was a really good atmosphere with a large contingent of BondiFit athletes there to compete. Even many of those who weren’t competing on the day, did their long ride from Sydney down to the race to provide additional support.
It was an age group wave start, split with the first 5 waves off at 7am with the remainder off at 8am. I was fortunate enough to be in the first wave of the 8am group. The benefit of being in the later group was being able to get a couple of quality warm up efforts in. This was even more important as it was a non-wetsuit swim, my first race without a wetsuit ever in 12 race starts. After a couple of ins and outs with a bit of pace, I was soon on the start line and ready to go.
I was really focused, more so than any other race that I can remember. This was supposed to be a B race, with Cairns my next A race. With so many of the squad racing and plenty of banter in the lead up to the race, I was really determined to execute my race plan and hit all my numbers, so when I crossed the finish line, no matter the result, I knew I would have given it my all. The gun went and I got off to a good start. After minimal biff and barge in the first couple of hundred metres I found myself in a bit of open water and not far off the lead pack out front. As Coach Spot always reminds me, most athletes get carried away, go out hard early and fade late in the swim. I knew if I stuck to my race plan and continued to build slowly throughout the swim I would be able to hopefully reel them in.
As I made my way on to the second lap of the swim I was on the heels of the pack and still feeling strong. By this time, the group had split in two and with another two guys further out in front . Making our way through the heads the second time and starting to wind it up, I got through the second pack and headed for the shore line. I got out the water knowing that I’d had a solid swim and was near the front but was surprised to find out after the race I was up in the top 10. No wetsuit made the transition a little quicker than usual and before I knew it I was out on the bike and grinding away up Cliff St.
The bike felt really short as I broke the 3 lap course down into 6 efforts. The obvious goal was to push harder than half Ironman pace but I wasn’t sure exactly how much the legs would give me. The race plan was to start out on the conservative side and reassess as the race went on. I was hoping to be able to build throughout the bike leg but unfortunately I just didn’t have it in my legs. I managed to hold the base level we had targeted pre race which got me through the 40km is 1 hour and 30 seconds however I would have really like to sneak under that elusive 1 hour mark. The ride was good enough for 4th best in my age group and lifted me up into 6th in my age group by the end of the bike.
The big positive from the more conservative effort on the bike was that my legs were in great shape for the run. The goal was to run at 4:45 which I knew I could hold quite easily fresh but wasn’t sure how that pace would go running off the bike. It had been 18 months since I had raced over a shorter than half ironman distance so knowing how hard I would be able to go was always going to be the test.
The legs took a few hundred metres to get going and I got through my first km right on target. I felt surprisingly good and picked up the pace a touch over the next couple of kms, knowing full well if I started to run under my target pace, Spot would skin me if I blew up. Now 3kms in, I was still feeling great so kicked it up a gear and did the next 4kms in the mid 4:30s without placing too much strain on my legs. I could see a runner not far in front of me and going by his race number I thought he may have been in my age group. With only 3kms to go it was all or nothing. I kicked another gear and my pace dipped into the 4:20s and I still feltunexpectedly comfortable. I wasn’t making ground so with 1km to go I gave it everything, covering the last km in 4:08 but it wasn’t enough to reel him in. As it turns out he wasn’t even in my age group but it was great motivation, helping me to finish of my fastest 10km run leg to date.
In the end, I finished with a time of 2:13.08 which left me 7th in my age group and 56th overall which I was extremely happy with! The plan now is to get back to training and keep as much momentum up over the next 5 weeks which will see me all over the place. Over three consecutive weekends I will fly to the NSW-Victorian boarder, South Korea and Melbourne. Then after all that I will hit the start line in Nowra, pumped for another big race.