Since racing Ironman 70.3 Geelong on Sunday I have taken some time to reflect on what was for me, what I would consider to date one of my more successful half Ironman distance races. I went into race day feeling fit and strong, however, you never really know how your 'fit and strong' compares to everyone else's. It had been almost 18 months since I last hit the start line for a half Ironman distance race and despite having truly itchy feet, boy was I nervous, especially once I saw that start list and the incredibly talented girls I would be racing!
I have always set high expectations for myself, I am competitive and love long distance triathlon because I get to push my body to its limits, something that I get a deep satisfaction out of. What I wanted most of all out of Sunday was to know that I had left everything out there, to hit the goals I had set myself and to really just empty the tank and give it all I had.
I had THE BEST support crew on Sunday – the Trichicks girls were INCREDIBLE and more than anything I really wanted to show them that with commitment, consistency and hard work, you can achieve a lot, regardless of what achievement means to you. So how did my day pan out?
We had a pancake flat swim on Sunday and the water was simply stunning! It was a beach start (not my absolute favourite) and a packed field. The gun went off and off we went. Super fish (and friend) Alex Brown was quick to get out in front and although I had hoped to hold onto her toes for a bit, her pro dolphin diving ability definitely ruined my plans there!
I was quick to find my rhythm and I was pretty sure I was out in front of the main pack with no one on my toes. So head down, I just focused on my own swim and navigating through the men who started in front of us. It’s fair to say I got quite beaten up in the swim trying to get through the men, so much so that I almost lost my watch and got a nice elbow to the head at one stage! Other than that, my plan was to get through the swim as fast as possible, hoping to create a decent gap between myself and the girls behind.
Swim Time 00:27:48.
As I entered T1 I focused on getting the necessities done as smoothly and quickly as possible. While there, I could hear a few of my competitor's names being called out as they exited the water, so I knew that I didn’t have time to waste as I headed out on the bike.
Geelong is a two-lap bike course and has a bit of everything. Some flat smooth sections, some rough chip sections (reminding me of NZ roads!), a couple of hills, but one of these provided a pretty awesome downhill with a tailwind as well. I caught 1st place about 20 minutes into the bike and from there knew I had taken the lead. At the first of a few turn-around points I was able to time check my competitors and I quickly knew that my buffer was not as big as I would have liked. I knew my cycling was going well, so I pushed mostly based on feel but also working to power. I felt strong, holding a consistent power number and was nicely under control.
Then on the first lap of the downhill tail segment super cyclist, Krystle Hockley came flying past me and so it was on! I pushed hard to stay within reach of her, which I managed for a while, but then I really had to take stock and realise that I was pushing well beyond what I knew I could sustain and so backed it off. I had her insight for the remainder of the bike until she really pushed away at the end – a great ride from her! While this was going on I was continuing to time check the rest of my competitors at the various turn around points and realised that in most cases I was gaining time so stuck to the rest of my game plan, coming off the bike in 2nd.
Bike Time: 02:29:36
My running off the bike ability is something that has improved over time. My biggest downfall used to be letting my mind get the better of me knowing that often there were some faster runners out on course than me. My mind basically used to tell myself that I would be caught long before actually being caught, which is not a recipe for success at all. At some point over the last few years, I began to trust in the work I had done and it was amazing the difference it made to my mental strength on the run. So, although I am not always the person on the start list that has the fastest pure running times, I have learnt that this is not what triathlon is about – IT IS NOT about being the BEST swimmer, the BEST cyclist or even the BEST runner but it is about who can pull these three disciplines together the best on the day, whilst managing all other facets of triathlon.
When we arrived in Geelong on Saturday (having never been there before) I quickly realised that the run course had a few more hills in it than expected. With this realisation, I did adapt my target pace a little knowing that I needed to be realistic whilst still stretching for a strong run. I dialled in my pace early and put everyone else out of my mind. My goal was to focus on my own run and see how it played out. At the first turn around point, I could see that the girls behind were not too far back and I made an active decision then and there to not let this affect how I was going to run this race. I was feeling good, I felt like I was pushing but at a comfortable and sustainable level. Upping my pace may have only resulted in my blowing up later on.
It wasn’t too far into the run that I caught sight of Krystle in front of me and when I did reach her we ran side by side for about 5 minutes (saying hello to each other of course!). As we approached the longest uphill segment I managed to get a little edge on her, pulled away and took the lead. From there I had to stay focused. We still had a fair way to go and I needed to stay in control of what I was doing.
The run course was incredible! I had so much support out there and can honestly say that I have never enjoyed a half Ironman run as much as I enjoyed this one. Don’t get me wrong, they always hurt, but you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I was just so happy to be out there on a beautiful course, in a beautiful place, doing what I love, with so many wonderful people around me.
Continuing with my time checks at the various turn around points, I realised with about 4km to go that if I just held my pace and didn’t blow up I could take the win. I really got to enjoy those last few km’s and soaked up the vibe out there, which believe me is a lot nicer than having to sprint finish or contest position in the final km’s! I had a blast and definitely enjoyed that finish chute feeling!
Run Time: 01:33:37
I finished Ironman 70.3 Geelong in a total time of 04:35:44, 1st in the 30-34 age group and 1st female age grouper overall. But taking my place out of the equation, why do I consider this to be one of my most successful half Ironman distance races? And, why does this 1st place mean more than other podiums have in the past?
Simply put, I proved something to myself out there on Sunday. After a decent break, it took a long while to get my fitness back this time, especially with the running. There were definitely training sessions in the beginning where I wondered if I had the backbone, grit and determination required to get myself into top podium contending shape. I was self-coaching (with review and input from hubby) and had to work harder and smarter than I have before. And if I’m honest I had to put my coaching hat on a few times to remind myself that good things take time.
I learnt to be less stressed about training sessions, to smile more and ultimately always remember that I do this sport for the love of it. I get to coach girls every day who are so new to this sport and if I am honest, most of my renewed energy has been drawn from them – their passion, their positivity and as much as I am there to support them as their coach, they have supported me in this build more than they know.