Sunday, November 17, 2013

Race Report: Ironman 70.3 Shepparton

Reader's Digest Version: Good day, 4:30 and change, 10th m25-29, 60th Overall (1400 competitors), 42nd Age-Grouper. No WC ticket :(

NB: In interest of keeping this race report succinct, I wrote separately about the lead-up to the race HERE.

NB #2: Not many pics at the moment, I'll update soon :)

Lead Up:
This week we had a couple of days of Professional Development at uni - which then I spent Thursday and Friday building my new bike (which was a bit stressful and took trips to no less than four bike shops!). Packed up Friday night, then headed out for a cold one to relax before hitting the hay. 

Saturday was spent on the road, mostly, arriving in Shepparton around 3pm for check-in. Bed early to catch some Z's.

4am alarm. Ugh. We stayed in Benalla, about 45-50 minutes away, and had to hit the road early to make it there on time. Got to transition by 5:30 and got my race morning 'needs' out of the way. Phil announced shortly thereafter there were some changes made to the wave starts, and athletes should be looking for update start times posted around the site. m25-29 were initially set to go at 7:02am - just after the PRO wave - but instead would now be the second-last wave at 7:31! Still don't understand how the waves were re-shuffled like that the night before a race which was sold out for 6 months. Disappointing. This would have a few implications, with the main one being 'traffic'.

Nevertheless, can't stress about things outside of our control - so roll with the punches. I said goodbye to my folks and set about walking over to the swim start. Got to see the first few waves take off. Clayton and Josh stretched out the pro's right from the get-go. On their way around past the start, the lead kayak lead them off course, then proceeded to tell them to backtrack around a can - what a joke - poor girl was mortified. They kept most of their advantage over the main pack, but Hodgy got back on their feet in the process.
Cool and glassy conditions on the lake race morning.

What was evident at this point, was the congestion in the lake, as the boys began navigating their way through large packs of lapped swimmers. It's not a big lake, and to get 1.9km out of it, the course loops around 1.5 times and has a pretty awkward shape, hugging all the lake's edges. 

So my day began there, in the turbid and cold water with 1400 pairs of thrashing arms.

SWIM - 1.9km: 32:01
As I've said, the water was really flaming turbid (that's muddy, for you non-geographers) and pretty chilly (18 degrees). I jumped in and did a quick warm up, but nothing huge. We took off and it was an absolute shit-fight from the horn.
Old-mate Lake. Pretty cramped with 1400 athletes spaced out over only 30 minutes.

A couple of guys lined up on the front row in front of me and after about 10m it was pretty evident they shouldn't have been there. I got stuck behind them for the first 100m or so as the pack took off. Anyway, we merged in to a bit of traffic and began working our way through a lot of slower swimmers from prior waves. This continued and throughout the whole swim it felt like there was always someone to navigate around. 

Anyway, was chuffed to get out, even though my split was a few minutes slower than I hoped for.
Getting out the water with folks.. look at that milkshake of a lake

T1: 2:18
Classic T1 for me - pass people on the run in, lose a bunch of time struggling with my wetsuit and fumbling with my helmet. Quick bike mount and we're off.

BIKE - 90km: 2:24:40
I was really happy with my ride, for once. Without a good prep, I was lucky that the course was very fast and flat (allowing undercooked people like me to get away with it, to a certain extent). 

Having been in the last wave, there was a LOT of traffic on the course. A lot. I passed a huge number of competitors on the first lap - and a lot of them were in packs. For the entire first lap I didn't see a single Technical Official. Just a bunch of wheel suckers. To be fair, there were a lot of folks where were just 'stuck' - not intending to draft, just stuck without anywhere to go. The road was very narrow in certain sections, making it often unsafe to pass.
I know, I know, aero weenies - no disc and not a very good 'turtle' 

I rode to my watts, but was often soft-pedaling to keep a good distance back from those in front, before passing or whatever. A dude on a Shiv Tri and I kept passing each other, taking turns to pace and guide us through the field. He fell off about 10kms into the second lap though. 

Final numbers were 187 AP, 188 NP (i.e. steady effort), IF=0.75, 1605kj of work, and two pisses. I wasn't quite in shape to push more watts, though it would have been nice to get a few extra minutes. Next time.

Oh yeah, new whip was a dream! 

My Garmin shut off (no idea why) for a minute or so, right where it looks like I cut a corner through the paddocks ;)

A few notes on the course: The roads were chip seal, not the quickest, but still in pretty good shape and very consistent.  Some sections were pretty darn narrow. 

T2: 1:59
Fumbled with my socks a bit, but otherwise pretty standard.

RUN - 21.1km: 1:29:28
3 lap course around the lake and along the creek, plenty crowded. Bring it on.
I felt pretty ordinary from the get go. I drank plenty and got in 250g - 300g of carbs on my ride so I knew it wasn't that. Just fitness I think. I due to the stress fracture this year and lack of run prep, it was always going to be a battle. Jog on.
Dem crowds

Lap 1 was probably the toughest, mentally. Felt like it was going to be a long one. There were a lot of people on the course, and on the out-and-back section it was a constant battle getting around people. Most people stuck 'on-the-right', but it's certainly not a course where you can jog alongside your mate two abreast.

Was really cool seeing Terenzo, Bergs and Hodgy heading for home, then being passed by Matty White as he trucked it in for fourth.

Lap 2 hurt the most, physically. Gut was a bit bloated so getting in the coke was a little bit of a struggle. Suck it up. Was feeling the heat quite a bit, too, by this stage.

Lap 3 was the best. My legs felt great for the first half of it and I felt fit for a while, which was fun. I took on a bit of coke at the turn around, gritted my teeth, and headed for home.

 Didn't start my watch until a few minutes into the run. Dem satelites.

Crossing the line was really satisfying. Before the race I was a bit anxious with regards to how I
would actually go, but I was relieved to be able to run an OK half-marathon on crap preparation.

This felt good.

Off to get some water, protein and a massage (AMAZING!) as soon as possible. Felt pretty good, certainly not too dehydrated like my two previous long-distance races. Mum showed me the tracker, which indicated I had finished 10th in my AG. 60th overall, but only 10th in my AG. So take out the pro field (18), and 10/42 top age-groupers were m25-29 and we only had one slot for the World Champs. Ugh.

I went to roll-down anyway, knowing miracles can happen. Unfortunately (for me), Gerard Wild (1st in m25-29) also showed up and grabbed the slot, leaving the other five guys in our AG a bit heartbroken. But, hope remained as there were 25 slots, and only 28 people who showed up to roll down, meaning only three people would go home empty-handed. After all initial slots were allocated, including two m35-39 slots to a couple of chuffed competitors who finished 69th and 120-something-ith in their age-group, there were four roll down slots. We got an extra one, but old-mate who finished fourth grabbed it. Spewing.

At the end of the day, I'm still very happy with the outcome: I came to lay down all my cards, and I'm confident I got the most out of my body today - I just didn't have the fitness to go to that next level.

Now I've got two-months to prepare for the Asia-Pacific Ironman 70.3 Championship in Auckland, NZ. There will be a lot more spots there, so I'm crossing my fingers I'll get a shot at competing next year in Mont-Tremblant.

Finally, I must acknowledge Shepparton Tri Club and the rest of the team including the fantastic volunteers, and the town of Shepparton and the amazing residents - this was, in terms of atmosphere and athlete experience, one of the best races I've ever been in.

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