So in keeping with my way to late race reports here are some shots and thoughts on my race at the 70.3 World Championships in South Africa.
This had been a race I was targeting for a while. When I switched coaches last summer my last race as Weymouth 70.3 in southern England. My goal for rounding out the season was to nab a spot for next years championship. I had a great race and walked away with 3rd place in my AG and qualification which gave me nearly a year to prepare. Obviously my training adjusted once I decided to enter IM Barcelona but I wanted to perform well and it would a good test in my lead up to the full Ironman a few weeks later.
We had managed to book reward flights on the way down so the 11 hour flight from London to Johannesburg wasn’t that bad in business class and with the time change only being 1 hour the flight was ultimately turned into an ‘off’ nights sleep, We had a transfer in to Port Elizabeth and once in Joburg started seeing a lot of triathletes making the same journey. Our final flight was easy and we seemed to be continuing our string of good travel luck. Then, a bit of disaster…. as we were waiting… and waiting…. and waiting for our bags it became obvious that my roller bag had not made the flight. This was supremely frustrating as Carly’s and both my bike bags had made the transfer unscathed. But in the scheme of things I had my bike and was far better off than a lot of others there that seemed to be missing bikes and more. After a long line and few forms we were off to check into our hotel. I was stressed, trying to deal with the hiccup in stride but was not a great start to the trip.
Having signed up for the race almost a year in advance I had booked the hotel a long time before and had actually forgotten what the place was like. It turned out to be a fabulous room with a great view of the ocean and race course and with lots of other triathletes in the place a good vibe. We dropped our bags and walked down towards the main event area to check in and sort some temp clothes for me to change into after being in the same ones for nearly a day. Checking in took no time but we were really unsuccessful in finding anything for me to wear. Needing Carly had a few running shorts and tops that I decided to just borrow some of her clothes for a shake out run and then deal with it after a little run and a shower.
Thankfully once back from the run we had an update from the airline and it seemed like my bag would actually be in Port Elizabeth that evening!!! I felt so much better but would be great once I had it in hand. We sorted dinner at a place near the hotel and then off to the pre-race safety briefing. After the briefing we drove to the airport and I was able to snag my bag! The only real loss was that it seemed my Garmin watch had been stolen from my checked bag which while really frustrating wasn’t the end of the world. I think the major take-away both for me (and others) is that there is only so much you can control. I did a good job of managing the stress this caused and left myself the ability to adapt and roll with the situation.
For Friday Carly had sorted a game drive North of the city so we jumped in the car and drove north by about an hour for a half days drive and lunch at a lodge. It wasn’t as good as our honeymoon but our guide was great and we saw animals and pretty countryside. On the way back into town I stopped at a pool and got in a quick pool session (really proud of myself for making that happen actually). That evening was low key around the hotel as the ladies were racing Saturday so pre-race jitters were already settling in for most. After dinner I took the evening to put my bike together and make sure I was all sorted with my setup.
I only had a short ride and run on Saturday so I was up rather early to get that out of the way when the roads where quiet. With that done and my bike all set up I was finally feeling ready for Sunday’s race. Despite the stress around the bag I had settled well and gotten the few workouts in that I needed to do before the race and all my gear was together and a felt ready. Carly and I went down to the course and cheered on the women for their race for a few hours. It was really quite warm and they had great weather for their day!!! Carly needed to do a long run and I had to check my bike in so in the afternoon we parted ways so I could make my final prep for gear check.
With my bike and gear sorted at transitions we met back up at the hotel and had some Saturday drinks and chilled out. Nothing more that I could do now!! We had a easy dinner in the hotel and early to bed for Sunday!
Race day came early. I had been sleeping well and woke up feeling pretty good. I’ve been making more of an effort for starting races properly fueled so I started the day with some honey stinger waffles, banana, and PH drink. We were out the door to T1 as rain fell…. it was going to be a wet day. I was able to sort my bike quickly but had made a mistake and didn’t pack enough of the wafers that I had wanted to consume on the bike. I decided to raid one that I was going to have before the swim and found another in my bag so I was able to stock a few and figured between that and the pre-mixed gel/PH/water bottles I had my race would be fine. All in I consumed about 250 calories/hour on the bike, lower than what I had wanted but not terrible.
I met back up with Carly and got my wetsuit on and walked down to the starting pens. I tried to position myself in the middle of my AG for the start. After a few nervous minutes it was my time to go and I was off! Pray for no sharks!!
Given my missing Garmin I didn’t have a watch for the swim (not that I check during the swim) but it left me a bit blind as I was exiting in terms of how I had done. After the fact I swam right at 30 minutes which is not great. I really had been hoping (and need to be) swimming about 2-3 minutes quicker. My race will certainly never be won in the water but I’m giving up way to much time on the swim in comparison to my closest competitors.
But that was done and now its the bike, running into T1 I could see my Dimond at the end of the rack and immediately felt jazzed again. Helmet on and I’m off.
My age group had been one of the first to start so between a quick T1 and my initial bike effort I was quickly passing some of the earlier waves and slower guys in front of me. About a quarter of the way into the bike I generally found myself biking ‘alone’ and could see the Pro’s coming back along the road the other way. Despite a few drops on my powermeter I averaged just under goal wattage at 227/246NP. I think I’m leaving a bit out on the bike. I’m always concerned that I’ll burn too many matches on the bike and not have anything left in the tank for the run so thinkI tend to not push it enough. Still a work in progress to get up to that line but not over and have enough left in the tank for the run. Bike time: 2:23
After handing off my bike to the catchers at T2 I had a dilemma: socks or no socks. Carly had been giving me shit the day before about how my feet are always a disaster post race because I don’t wear socks. I countered that I don’t have enough time to put them on and they’re not going to make me that much faster during the race (I just ignore the pain till the end). I grabbed my bag, threw on my shoes, grabbed my apple watch (so I had some idea on pacing) and left the socks in the bag. No time!!!
For the first loop the course was pretty empty with only the pro’s and a limited number of the faster age group athletes from the earlier waves out in front. I quickly settled into a solid sub 6 pace. I knew it was likely a bit aggressive but really wanted to push the run not knowing how my swim had been and with the knowledge my bike hadn’t been ideal. I knew of one or two athletes that had previously placed well at this race and so I tried to gauge where I was based off of how far back/in front of them I was running. I immediately started taking water and a bit of coke on the run. I didn’t want to over do it but knew I was running at a loss from the lower fuel on the bike. The problem was that I didn’t want to turn my stomach with too much while running.
My pace was taking its toll by halfway through. I felt my legs starting to go and with the coke and red bull I could feel my stomach turning. I just put it out of my mind and kept on just counting down… 6…5…4….3. With two miles to go I knew I could suck it up but it was going to be rough. I was still holding a near dead on 6:00 pace so I knew I had run well and likely made up places. I just wasn’t sure where I stood overall as by now the course was full with people pouring on to the course from the bike.
Down the final miles I started skipping the aid stations and just pushing towards the finish…. just needed to get to that red carpet. Down a quick hill, around the back of transition I was pushing hard, with the finish line just in front of me I was trying to pick off any final athletes in my group as well as stave off any that might be making a push at the end on me.
I crossed the line exhausted with a run time of 1:18 and hoped that counted for something. Walking away from the finish through the finish area I found Carly, she delivered the happy news that I had finished 9th!!! Amazing!!! I had hoped for a good performance but finishing in the top 10 in the world in my age group was certainly an ‘outside’ goal. I waited for a few minutes refreshing the results to see if there were any others from my age that happened to break into the top. Fortunately my time and place stood, I had indeed finished 9th!! Looking at the final results 14 seconds separated me from 10th and only another 5 seconds to 11th, all time saved by not putting on socks!!
We relaxed that evening at the hotel bar for a while before finding a place for dinner and a bit of celebration. As soon as we had made our way back to the hotel the storm that had been a light rain all afternoon turned into downpours and high winds. I was really glad to have been off the course!!! The next morning we packed our things and were off to Cape town for a week of relaxing and sightseeing!! With my IM race only a few weeks away I wasn’t able to really ‘enjoy’ the success as I needed to keep moving to not loose any fitness and keep a good head of steam going for Barcelona. Carly (as usual) was epic in putting up with my need to workout during our vacation and we found some great places to eat and things to do around Cape Town before flying home.