I can hardly believe that just under two weeks ago I finished my first 70.3. Seven days ago I could still hardly walk. I’m still feeling a tiny bit stiff and rusty, but that could easily be all the red wine I've consumed in the last few days. But it has taken me this long to filter through the event in my mind and really figure out how I felt about the whole race and the weeks leading into it.
I really began training for this event, without knowing it, in July 2013. I think my Coach knew it and planned accordingly! It wasn’t until January when the rest of my team began committing to the race that I also gave it some serious thought. As I have mentioned in a previous blog post the longest race I ever envisaged for myself was an Olympic distance. The registration deadline for Ironman 70.3 Cairns was looming, my teammates were getting excited and I didn’t want to feel left out. Who said peer pressure doesn’t exist in your thirties! Ha. So I paid the fee and signed up too.
The six or so weeks of intensity training leading into race day were extremely hectic and I just couldn’t think or plan beyond race day. I fell behind in just about everything. Work, family and catching up with friends didn’t exist. Training becoming the number one priority. Saturdays were pretty much a write-off. Spare moments were for injury management and prevention activities like yoga and massage. Looking back, it was pretty bizarre! But despite the hard work, I never felt better or more fit (hello abs!!), and boy did we have some great group training sessions!
Loved the group training. Here we even entice Ironman Cairns 2013 and 2014 winner the amazing Liz Blatchford to act the goat with us
Coming into race week I was really looking forward to the taper! I kept waiting to feel that energy high some of my team mates were experiencing…but it actually never happened. Instead, my mind just kind of shut down and I started moving really slowly, perhaps it was my way of conserving energy but I did feel pretty exhausted. My sister arrived on the Tuesday before race day and we did a few team sessions like open water swims and short bricks and runs but mostly we just hung out and chillaxed as much as we could. The best thing was that we got to hang out with Ironman champ Liz Blatchford and Olympian Courtney Atkinson! Getting tips from the pros was just fantastic!
We spend a wonderful day hanging and training with Courtney Atkinson. What a nice bloke! Happily signed merchandise for our upcoming Charity Auction
I really felt like I had a home race advantage. We had trained in those open waters in much rougher conditions, and had ridden and run on those roads in the pouring rain. Walking through both T1 and T2 the week prior, I visualised what they might look like sopping wet and full of mud. I was glad I did. We also knew that punctures were going to be highly likely on certain parts of the bike course, so we knew where to ride to minimise that. We also know the tightest corners and the steepest hills so we also know where to conserve energy and where we could gun it. I didn’t really have a fixed race plan, just to go with the flow whatever happens, and get over the finish line. I figured that the swim would be OK, the ride would probably be OK, but I just had to survive the run.
And then it was race day! T1 was a five minute walk from my house so I had a bit of a sleep in…unheard of!! And we woke up to pouring rain and mud. Mud everywhere. But the thought I had put in before race day really paid off, and I felt like things during the race couldn’t have gone more smoothly. Instead of a blow by blow race account, I’ve compiled a list of things that, based on my race experience, will really help for my next race, and might also help you plan for your first 70.3!
Race day ready! Amazing how much gear you accumulate!
1. If you are going to draft in the swim, then please learn how to do it properly. I don’t mind someone hitching a free ride off me, but DO NOT slap the feet of the person you are drafting off…nothing is more likely to earn you a big fat kick in the face. That might ruin your entire race. JUST DON’T.
Nothing can ruin a good swim like someone who can't draft properly.
2. Don’t put dissolvable things like salt tabs in your trisuit pockets, then put your wetsuit on, then jump in for your swim. Everything still gets wet under your wetsuit…and your nutrition plan just went out the window before you even hit T1. I heard one of my team-mates did this….so don’t you make the same mistake. I think this type of thing comes down to not thinking very hard about your race plan.
3. This might sounds like a no-brainer but make sure you grab the right bike in T1. This didn’t happen to me but a friend told me that a girl ran out of T1 to mount her bike, only to realise at that point it wasn’t her bike. Dang. There are thousands of bikes in T1 during a big race. I memorised my row number, but in the heat of racing, its easy to forget. When I checked my bike in on the Saturday, I put an old blue cloth nappy over my saddle so I could easily distinguish my bike from the several hundred others in my row. It worked (and as a bonus I remembered my row number!).
4. Taking the time to visualise my transitions before race day really helped. We knew it was going to be wet and muddy, so we planned for those conditions. We decided to leave our bike shoes clipped in to our pedals in T1. I saw so many competitors put their bike shoes on in the transition tent, then slosh through the mud to their bikes, then have trouble clipping in at the mount line because their cleats were full of gunk. I had also put a towel and water bottle in my run bag in T2. This meant I was able to wash and dry my feet before putting my socks and run shoes on. Having at least my feet comfortable really helped me get in a positive frame of mind.
5. Have a look at the quality of the road after the bike exit. In Cairns, there were rocky and narrow speed bumps spaced only metres apart along the road for the first kilometre. A lot of people including pros lost their nutrition and hydration going over those humps. Bang, no hydration or nutrition for the first 30km’s. I reckon that could have been super demoralising for some, especially because I saw quite a few nutrition plans taped to bikes, like a kind of security blanket. If you need to, tape and secure your stuff down. Also see the item below - be flexible!
I saw more than a few nutrition plans taped to bikes and had considered doing it myself. Glad I didn't because I'm not sure how permanent they were with all the rain!
6. Attention men – check your ego at the swim start. It is highly likely for many of you that you will be passed at some stage and beaten by a chick…deal with it. If a female competitor comes up behind you and indicates she is going to pass you, just get out of the way. Oh, and learn how to swim straight.
7. When I got off the bike, I ran into T2 with my gear bag, sat down and shooed away the first volunteer that offered to help. I tried to open the bag and my hands were shaking and I was in a daze. Luckily she ignored my protests and proceeded to get my gear out of the bag for me. Remember to smile and thank your volunteers. Even in a race induced haze they are there to help so let them! It will save you time. THANKYOU!!!!
8. Bonking badly during training meant that I needed and had a pretty detailed nutrition plan….I had cookies and salt and vinegar chips and vegemite sandwiches and gels and lollies and everything else. But during the race, I couldn’t stand most of it. I reckon don’t force your nutrition, if you can’t stand the look of something you probably won’t keep it down. But do take whatever you feel you can stomach before you think you need it. I ended up grabbing a banana with water and electrolytes at just about every aid station on the bike and run, and I had way more gels than I thought I would. Oh yeah, and timing is everything. I took my last gel about 2km from home…and the dang thing kicked in while I was on the massage table about 20 minutes after I finished.
9. Liz Blatchford has said it here…and I will say it again because I nearly ran up the rear end of someone who stopped suddenly right in front of me….when you come out of T1 to mount your bike, keep moving to a vacant spot beyond the mount line, don’t stop right in the middle of the lane and cause a bottleneck because you will likely cause a crash…same goes for coming into T2…if you don’t have a lot of experience, move to the side and take your time there.
10. If you suffer terribly from blisters during a long run, try using bodyglide to lube up your toes. It is amazing. I tried it out in training a few weeks before the race because I was desperate. I actually packed a little bag of different sized compeeds into my race belt, but didn’t need them at all. I was so amazed… I pulled up from my race with NO blisters or rub spots. Happy feet!!
11. I tried to pee on the bike. I mean, I really tried. But I just couldn’t. I kept thinking about urinary tract infections and the fact that I would then have to run a half marathon covered in pee. Peeing in your wetsuit however, is super easy. Tee hee hee. But try it in training first.
12. Race plans. It's kind of like giving birth. Anything can happen, and at the end of the day stay flexible. I had to take this approach especially with my run. If you have read my previous blog posts you will know I am not a strong runner. My plan for the run was to stay as strong as I could for at least the first 10km, and after that, well just get to the end with a smile if that was possible. So I got to 7km and really started to hurt. My splits showed exactly that. I started out at a 6min/km pace, and ended with a 7.30min/km pace. My team-mates would go past and be jumping up and down yelling at me, but the best I could do was lift my left index finger in a minor salute. I had to zone everything else out, focus on my form and just use every ounce of energy I had to get to the end. One friend told me she was yelling at me, trying to get my attention for a photo, but that I didn’t even look up. Wow. Not like me to pass up a photo op!!
My friends were yelling support but I didn't hear them. I was so in the zone and focused on that finish line I blocked everything out! Except the aid stations.
Every single race I have done so far is different. I think the most important thing is to be flexible and go with the flow. Puncture? Stop and fix it. Two punctures? Sucks, but keep your cool, deal with it and keep on going if you can. At the end of the day you make snap decisions on the fly, should I push harder, should I go easier, but anything can happen come race day. I heard so many hard luck stories after the race. A friend of mine had a chain come off two km into the bike. Even two mechanics couldn't fix it so that was the end of her race. I was so proud of her for her amazingly positive attitude.
The hard luck stories I don’t like are the ones that start ‘Yeah if I wasn't injured, or if I hadn't got three flat tyres, I so would have gone sub whatever in the run’. That may be true…but you were injured….and you did get three flats so why not just accept that was the race you had come race day. Everyone can have a bad race and it’s horrible when it happens, but that’s one of the things I love about triathlon. There is always room for improvement the next race round.
In case you are interested, here is my race summary:
So loved the feeling of accomplishment at the end! Could hardly walk...but hey that medal, towel and t-shirt were so worth it!!
So what’s next for me? I can honestly say that I didn’t have ‘fun’ during my first 70.3. I was wet, stinky, sore, and I had that ironman shuffle going on big time at the end, but will I do another one? Hell yeah!! The best race moment? Giving Courtney Atkinson a big hug when he gave me my finishers medal. I did enjoy the training, the friends that I have made and the feeling that I am training for life. Mentally I feel amazing. Over the next six to twelve months I want to improve my run base and do maybe two half marathons. Once I have done those, then I will think about doing another 70.3. I am keen to race an Olympic at the end of November, so until then, its back to base training and fitness building!
So glad Mum was able to make it up to see Hannah and I race. Celebratory drinkies on the beach the night after were perfect!
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