Canberra in winter would never be a hot race. I wore base layer, arm warmers and gloves to hopefully keep me warm enough during the Australian duathlon championships. The morning of the race it was cold, and the race organises delayed the start time to allow things to warm up a little, unfortunately this had the added effect of allowing the wind to become quite gusty. However, everyone would be in the same boat, and the paces just wouldn’t be as fast as I was hoping for.
I did a good warm up before the start, running a few kilometers in my tracksuit to try to get some heat into my muscles. Then it was time to line up and see what my body had.
Run Leg 1
The race started, and I went out fast, but still got boxed in. In retrospect, it was probably a good thing, and in a couple of hundred metres, I pulled out and took the lead, trying to push the pace. It would be the first and last time I’d have the overall lead, and by 1.5km in, the leader passed me as I tried to settle into.
My plan for the race was to push myself as the race was relatively short compared to a half Ironman. But plans and intentions don’t mean a lot without application. So I was applying myself the best I could. I was conscious of being thirsty and so aimed to get a sip at each aid station on the run. However, trying not to wet myself (as it was so cold!) and cold hands meant I kept dropping cups as I tried to grab them. So I slowed to get a cup, but I lost the group I was running with as they blasted through the aid station and still I dropped my cup!
It played on my mind after the 3rd failed attempt, so I stopped and walked for the 4th aid station to make sure I could get some fluids. I struggled to return to the rhythm I had when running with the group, but the gap to those behind was substantial. I was in no-man’s-land race-wise. All I could do was focus on executing my performance. I completed the 10km run in 35:31.
Into T1 I overtook someone having a wardrobe malfunction. It was encouraging, and I ran out with my bike hot on the heels of another competitor who’d dropped me in the 1st run leg. T1 time was 40sec.
Straight away, I made the pass as I got up to speed before worrying about getting my feet in my shoes. I got my feet in just before the hill up to the first turn around. Just after the turn I was overtaken as we headed downhill, but I took the opportunity of a negative gradient to do my shoes up (I hadn’t tightened them yet). The gap opened rapidly. I thought I might close it, but I could not. Towards the end of the first lap (of 4) I had a gel. At each turn, I tried to gauge the gap to the leaders, but as more competitors came on the course, it was challenging.
I had power goals for the bike, but I was really struggling to hit the numbers. So I lowered my expectations and just focused on trying to maintain the best average speed I could. It was very gusty, and I was being blown about, making riding in a straight line a challenge. As the 2nd lap past I seemed to hold the gap on those ahead (best I could judge). 3rd lap and the gap closed to one particular guy, but I was also was feeling quite cold. At the start of my 4th and final lap, I had another gel, and then the cramps started in my calves (first my right and quickly followed by my left). Immediately I went from chasing to just trying to ride. The second I tried to push power, it felt like it was going to cramp again. I sat up and tried to stretch out the best I could. I just wanted to get off the bike and warm up. Just before the final turn, Kiet blew past me like I was stationary. I tried to up my tempo, but I could feel the tinges of a cramp. As I dismounted, the cramping hit me again, and I almost fell as I limped into transition, thankful for the crutch my bike provided to lean on. 40km Bike leg time was 1:02:17.
My transition was ok. Thankfully no cramp putting my shoes on (took me a couple of goes to get my foot into the shoe), and I was running tenderly towards the transition exit. T2 time was 39sec.
I quickly put the thoughts of possible cramping behind me and just focused on running best I could. I was tired, which was expected at this point in the race. There was no one else I was racing. It seemed guys were younger or older and so I was confident that the Australian duathlon title was mine if I crossed the finish line.
My focus changed to thinking of it as good training, and being as efficient as possible battling the gale force winds. As I turned for the finish line, I saw Kiet was 20sec behind me. I’d overtaken Kiet in transition, and I didn’t want to let him catch me again. This was good, someone to motivate me to keep pushing to the finish.
However, 1km later and I’d forgotten about Kiet as I battled into the wind towards the finish. I didn’t really expect the gap to close much. I was wrong about that!
800m before the finish, I heard him coming. I was tired, but I knew I couldn’t let Kiet latch on. As soon as he caught me with 500m to go, I bolted. I knew he was going to beat me overall (Kiet started in a later wave), but although my body wanted to curl up and go to sleep, I fought on. My hat blew off in the wind, but I wasn’t stopping. It was a welcome sight to see my son cheering me up a little hill (he said he’d get my hat as I passed), my legs screaming stop, but I could see the finish line.. don’t back off now, so I doubled down and pushed to the finish to stay ahead. 5km run – 18:56.
Total finish time: 1:58:04, tied for 6th OA and 1st in AG.
I was almost 3 mins slower on the bike compared to the last time I raced this bike course. This is in part because of the strong winds, but they also provide a nice tailwind too. The big learning I took away was the effect of being slightly dehydrated. I feel sweating it out in bed wasn’t ideal for my performance the next morning. Add to the fact that I was thirsty the day before also (on the drive to Canberra, and didn’t have access to water for hours.. nor did I do much about it other than a cup or two once I had access), it was a silly oversight to not pay attention to the signs my body was telling me (IE needed more to drink).
Plans are great, but sometimes I need to risk things a little more and just race. There were a couple of points during the race where I decided to not go with the race, but stick to my plan. This is a safe option, but not as fun as keeping in the mix of battling with others, which can inspire me to better performances. That in the end is the goal, to do the best performance that I can.
Finally, I’m overwhelmingly blessed. The support from family means so much to me. Hearing and seeing my wife and kids cheering me on inspires me to keep going, even though it’s hard. It’s a good reminder to keep an attitude of gratitude.