I was quite relaxed leading into the Hobart 70.3. Although, training had been going well I’d been travelling + had some sickness in the weeks prior. I wasn’t as fit as I might have been otherwise, but on the upside I wasn’t really fatigued either. My focus was on getting a good training stimulus and seeing where my current fitness was at. No expectations, and no limits on what I was ‘supposed’ to achieve.
I arrived Thursday before the event, which was a nice change from the usual arriving the day before. However, the weather had me a little anxious as I really struggled riding the course with 45-50km/h winds on the Friday. Thankfully, come race day, the wind was much kinder and although it was noticeable it wasn’t so dangerous.
I got down to transition nice and early, got setup and my wettie on with plenty of time before the start time. I moved near the front of the rolling start and got ready to race. 5,4,3,2,1 Go! I didn’t hesitate and dived off the jetty into the cold waters of Hobart.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that it really wasn’t as cold as I had anticipated. To avoid any panic attacks, I settled into my rhythm and then after 1-200m started to look for some feet I might be able to sit on.
I found some feet and plugged away to the first buoy, cruising behind them. I thought about going around, but decided I could always push on the way back to transition. At the buoy I lost the feet, things were a bit messy swimming through chop and swell, as the wind was making a mess of things the further we got from shore. I saw people swimming off to my side, but they weren’t going straight, so I opted to just follow my own line.
At the next buoy things came together and then split apart again. Swimming the shortest line always seems best to me than trying to save energy on feet that are zigzagging everywhere (or maybe that’s just me zigzagging). Finally made the turn to head back to the dock, I noticed a huge improvement in the conditions as the chop/swell reduced. I was drag racing someone about 2m to my left, I thought about slowing to jump on their feet, but I was enjoying the challenge and motivation of swimming side by side though with my own clean water. With 100m to go a bit of flurry ensured, I’d a couple people come past (after tapping my feet for a while) and it was on. I was content to just sit in the white wash, trying to relax my breathing and preparing for the efforts ahead. Time: 31:30.
The stairs out of the water were tricky. I stumbled up them, got my bearings while trying to remember how to take my wettie off. Then I forced myself to run passing all those who’d overtaken me at the end of the swim. Had a bit of trouble getting the wetsuit off (losing the time that’d I’d made up running), then I practically sprinted through transition, bagged my wettie, helmet on, grabbed my bike and bolted to the exit. Time: 2:01.
The roads were wet, there was lots of changes in surfaces and painted white lines. No risks, keep it upright and just push hard on the hills – my constant thoughts were as I settled into the bike taking my time through the technical start of the bike. Out onto the first open road and I got to work, riding to perceived effort rather than any specific power numbers. With the cooler weather is was nice to push.
The course quickly became quite technical again and I was cautious as I didn’t want any repeats of certain incidents I’ve had. I was passed by a couple competitors, but I let go of my ego and waited till the road opened up to get to work again. I really enjoyed the highway sections, I was comfortable in my aero position and easily held +40km/h which is always the goal. At the first turnaround I saw several people on the side of the road with issues. Volunteers were saying slow, slow , slow! Of course I’m going slow, its wet and doing a u-turn. I made sure to avoid any white lines, and as I tried to accelerate I almost lost it… a huge drift which I rapidly counter steered and managed to keep it upright. Phew.. head down and back to work.
First time over the main climb and I found myself lacking confidence to really bomb down the other side. Even feathered the brakes as I felt a slight speed wobbles with the cross wind and hitting 70-75km/h. Riding out to towards the next uturn I dropped my chain, which was another scare as I slipped trying to pedal (big flashback to racing in St George.. eek). Thankfully had the presence of mind to change to a granny gear and slowly spin which managed to get it back on, while still barreling down a hill doing 50km/h.
I’d been loosely riding with Gareth, who seemed to thrive on the hills dropping me for dead. I’d take a good 10-15mins to catch back up, and I’d take the lead for a few minutes before another climb and then the pattern would repeat. So although we didn’t really get to help each other, it was enjoyable just having someone you could see up the road to chase and help keep focus. Especially after 2hours of racing when the fatigue is starting to build.
Before each u-turn I spotted Owain, the person to beat in my AG. I closed the gap across the first 60km of the bike, getting down to ~40sec behind although on the last u-turn I realised to my dismay that the gap was back over 1min. No matter, as I was really focusing on my nutrition during this phase of the bike, and trying not to do anymore muscle damaging efforts. Maybe I’d been drinking too much, as I needed to pee.. the heavens had opened and it was properly raining at this point of the race, so I did something I’ve never done before. I relaxed and let nature do it’s thing. I cruised back into town having well and truly lost sight of Gareth. Bike split: 2:27:35
I ran to my rack, hooked my bike up and sat down. I didn’t trust to remain standing and not cramp. Helmet off, socks on, and shoes on before grabbing my hat with race belt and gels, running for the exit. Time: 53sec
I started the run and heard of the loud speaker Owain leading the 40-44AG.. hang on that’s Owain just there?! I was surprised to see that he was just ahead of me. I was confident I’d catch him, however I didn’t need to do it immediately. I checked my pace (3:30/km) and restrained myself from getting too carried away. I actually felt good for having ridden a hard bike for me (264W NP). The goal was 3:35/km, but this was also quite an ambitious goal considering my current fitness. However, I thought it may be possible.
The gap to Owain was rapidly closing, and just before 2km mark I made the pass. I encouraged him to come with me, as competition always gets the best out of me. Unfortunately, in a brief exchange I learned he’d had a fall on the bike, and was just battling through the run, although he was clearly in discomfort. Slightly disappointed in what might have been ‘race wise’, I cracked on. The hill and the head wind made achieving my goal a tough challenge indeed.
I readjusted setting myself new goals to go after. Ultimately, I settled on trying to run sub 80min. The crowd support near the finish area was amazing, (though the support from my family was the best!) combined with the fact it was sheltered from the wind and flat, I often found myself comfortably in the 3:3x running through that area. I was surprised with the amount of support, as it really wasn’t a nice day with almost constant drizzle.
With about 5km to go, the sub 80 goal was well within reach. However, with 3km to go I noticed that the course according to my GPS was going to be long. I’d already been pushing ‘effort wise’ since the start of the final lap (~7km to go). Though I didn’t want to finish being a few seconds over 80mins if I could have potential run faster. I committed, mentally making a deal with myself to push 10mins all in. 3:50 (headwind), 3:47 (uphill/downhill), and 3:32 (flat in town). I finished the run in time 79:54. Sub 80 – Tick 😉 Overall time: 4:21:50. Very thankful to finish without any incidents, and winning my AG was an added bonus.
You need to avoid incidents first, to test yourself to the finish line, and potentially have a shot of the win. I’ve had a few races in recent years when I’ve hit potholes (double flatting) or crashing effectively destroying my race performance. As an AGer racing, I’m more interested in testing myself. Getting to the point where its really hard mentally and physically, to see whether I can still keep going or not? So ultimately taking risks isn’t necessary for me to test myself. Winning is always just a bonus, but it’s not possible if I take too much risk and come off.
I need to start working on my transitions a little more. Overall, I wasn’t slow, and it wouldn’t have changed my result, however I did give away free time that I could quite easily improve on with a little practice. This will be more important as I look to do some faster racing in the coming months.
Swimming I need to keep working on getting comfortable being just a little uncomfortable. I’ve been worried about panic attacks swimming, although ultimately I know I’ll be ok, I don’t want to stop to get myself under control. Or even slow down. Instead like I would with cycling or running, be able to realise what is going on, and force myself to slow my breath while continuing to move, bringing things back under control. I find this incredibly hard to do with swimming, but practice makes perfect right?
Focusing on the process rather than the outcome, removes a lot of unwanted anxiety. There’s so much that I cannot control, but when I just focus on doing my own process of just trying to execute my best on that day, it makes everything quite simple. There’s no stress, as I’m just testing / challenging myself to see what I can do? Some days that might be a personal best, other days maybe not. Ultimately, I enjoy the sport of triathlon, as it provides an opportunity to challenge myself (outside my comfort zone) and see what I’m truly capable of.