A week after western Sydney 70.3 I was getting excited by the prospect of racing at Taupo the following week. A fever on Sunday just 6 days out started to change that. I was still hopeful to recover but as the days evaporated, and only 2 sleeps till race day, I was fearful about even being able to finish let alone race. Thank God my stomach somewhat settled on the penultimate race day. A diet of New Zealand honey (yum!) and bread was all I dared eat, different to my normal carb load. I tried to not overdo it on the food, else it brings on the discomfort I’d been experiencing.
I woke up race morning feeling good. More honey on bread and off to transition to get set up. I had plenty of time so it wasn’t a rushed experience. I heard other guys talking about tyre pressure and going for ~100 psi; I thought I’d stick with my ~85 psi. Wetsuit on and a short walk down to the lake edge to catch the pro start. My wave started next, and I lined up for the rolling start.
The start was quick, and a small pack formed. I swam off to the side by myself and for a second considered moving into the foaming action. But I just wanted to get through it. The water was stunning; I swallowed a little, and it tasted like drinking water! After 5 mins the pack seemed to thin, or maybe it’s just I’d really dropped off the pace and couldn’t see them. After ~10 mins I then spotted some bubbles underwater that seemed not too far away. Sighting confirmed that wasn’t the case as the swimmers were still a good 20-25m ahead. I tried to bridge the gap.
It was hard work over the next 5mins (felt like an hour!) as I worked over my threshold for the promise of a tow. I caught them at the turnaround and saw my split of 17mins.. going to be a slow swim I thought (2 x 17=34). On the way back I needed to pee. The thought crossed my mind ‘I must be cruising to feel the sensation’, and I also didn’t want to pee on my new bike. However, I was still going a tad too fast to completely relax (what I needed for the deed haha). So I backed off a little more out of the tow, and relaxed. It took a minute to close back up again, one last turn, and I started to kick hard. I knew there were a few hundred meters run to transition, and I needed my legs to be working. Exited the swim in a time of 30:12 (must have had a current on the way back).
I was running ok into transition and making a few passes. Maybe I’ll be able to race ok after all?!? When I got to my bike, I struggled to get one of my feet out of my wetsuit, so sat down to avoid falling. Only lost a few seconds though, got my helmet on and bolted out of transition in a time of 4:32.
Mounted onto the bike and got up to speed. I wanted to get my feet in before the uphill start out of Taupo. Mission accomplished; I dialled things in as I rode out of town. I was feeling good, maybe I could put together a solid result?! I got to the top of the hill and smelled something foul, did I fart? Nope, it was a thermal geyser blowing just by the road! Time passed, and I still felt ok, I wasn’t overriding. However, it was about 1 hour in, and I just started to go flat. I’d been fuelling more than normal (following my new plan), but just had no oomph. I watched helplessly as my average power kept declining and others started to come back past me. I realised at that point I’d maybe been a little optimistic considering my week and to be thankful that at least I wasn’t leaving a brown trail behind me!
The technical descent back into town was fun with some punchy rollers and I caught back up to two people who had passed me back on the highway. The straight before the transition, I prepared with removing my feet out of my shoes. In my enthusiasm, I didn’t slow enough jumping off the bike at close to 25 clicks. Thankfully, it didn’t end like last time I did a high-speed dismount (taking the top off my foot) and I stomped the landing, bolting into transition. Bike split was 2:29:18.
Transition 2 went smoothly and after a quick change, I was out onto the run course in a time of 1:19.
Any aspirations of running fast quickly dissolved to a singular goal of just getting to the end of the run leg. It was a pleasant sight to see my family halfway out on the first lap. I know my kids would prefer to be swimming then watching dad do a 70.3 so I had to stop and give them a hug. My daughter insisted on a high 5 too, and then I was off running again towards the turnaround.
The wind started to pick up, making the return part of the run loop tough going. The on-course support was ace as I lapped up all the encouragement I could get to keep going. My head said yes but my legs said no. The constant battle raged over each step I took, something I’m sure most runners are familiar with. I started walking the aid stations to give more time to drink what I needed. The kilometres passed slowly, brightened every time I passed a familiar face. I tried to take it all in and enjoy the moment.
On my final lap, I was shocked to see a lady flip over the front of her bike trying to avoid a kid who darted across the course in front of her. It was horrific but many bystanders quickly came to her aid so I continued on. As much as I was struggling it made me thankful that I’d gotten so far without incident. The wind continued to increase, and I was very thankful to eventually finish the run in a time of 1:33:44. Total time: 4:39:03.
After finishing there was a sense of relief. I’d managed what only days before seemed unlikely. This sense of achievement was partially eroded by thinking about what could have been. However, I have so much to be thankful for, it’s hard to remain disappointed for long. I thank God that I was healthy enough to finish, and I didn’t have any further stomach issues (even taking on ~60g of carbs an hour!). I’m thankful for my family and friends who came to support me on course. I’m also thankful that I got to the end without incident.
I take so much of this for granted. There’s a lot that can happen when racing and taking the time to reflect and appreciate everything that worked, helps to create a more positive mindset; rather than just focusing on the negative which honestly I often do. I tested taking on higher carb intake without a problem and also got to experience the Taupo 70.3 racecourse. Both which will be helpful with racing the 70.3 world championships 2020.