swim 26:46 (17th)
bike 2:21:06 (2nd)
run 1:18:43 (1st)
Next stop Kona...
Ironman 70.3 World Champs
swim 26:46 (17th)
bike 2:21:06 (2nd)
run 1:18:43 (1st)
Ahhh, it feels good to be back racing for a world title again. It's been a while between drinks. Although I'm very grateful to be in this position again, I'm not going to lie and say I'm 'happy' with a 2nd place finish (as I'm sure would be the case with most of the top contenders who believed they could win). 'Satisfied' maybe, but 1st is what I had my sights set on. I've collected 3 'championship race' wins this year (Aus 70.3, Euro 70.3 and Euro IM) and I thought it would be well within my capabilities to win this one too given my current fitness. However, as hard as I tried, I just couldn't match Holly on the day. She built up too much of a lead on the swim and bike for me to claw back in the end. It was a gutsy and impressive way for her to race and it paid off big for her in the end.
My day started off as most 70.3's do... thrashing around in the water for about half an hour trying desperately to locate the swim exit. After about 100m I couldn't tell you where the rest of the ladies went. I couldn't tell you where I went for that matter. But I can tell you that I didn't see the others again till we hit dry land. They could've all swum straight to the beach and sat there waiting for half an hr pointing and laughing at me swimming on my own for all I know. I never watch the race coverage back again post race so I'll never know for sure. But I'm glad to say I did eventually find my way out the water, across the beach, through the sand, up the stairs, around the loo-with-a-view, along Beach Terrace, past the age group transition area, around the corner, onto the road and up the the little hill straight into the pro transition area about 162km from swim exit.
It's here were I took a seat on the fancy black Ironman carpet in front of 'Froggy', my custom-painted, bright green, seizure-inducing Shiv. Removed my wetsuit, grabbed my helmet and said to Froggy 'let's roll!' At this point I was in 17th place, 3:52min behind the leader. It's no secret I typically come out of the water behind the pack, but 4min behind after the swim is a bad day even for me! Out onto the road, the first 50k or so of the bike was flat and smooth highway roads. I was actually pretty chilly for the first 20k and my legs were having a hard time warming up. They gradually started feeling better as I continued, but I was still very conscious to stay conservative for the first half of the bike leg so I could really hit the hilly sections hard towards the end.
I was getting mixed splits called out to me throughout the bike leg. It was pretty confusing and I couldn't get a grasp on what was really happening up ahead in the women's race. I eventually figured out towards the end of the bike leg, that I had been getting mostly splits for me to the 'lead pack'. This was good news at the time because the split was gradually getting smaller and smaller. But every once in a while I would here a split that stayed constant at about 4min. When I eventually caught the main pack at the 70k mark I realised that the '4min' split was actually the split to Holly Lawrence, the leader, waaaay ahead of the main pack. When I caught the main pack, I spent a few k's riding at the back weighing up my options. I counted 8 women in the pack. Pretty big pack for me to negotiate. On the one hand I was at the point in the race where I wanted to hit it hard back to T2 and continue my own race plan. But to do this I would have to try overtake all 8 women at one time and risk getting a 5min penalty if I couldn't make the pass (passing one at a time is not allowed). My other option would be to sit in and trust that whoever was at the front of the pack was pushing hard to keep a good pace. I figured they would be pushing hard at the front, but I couldn't tell what effort we were really pushing as a group while at the back because it felt to me like I was constantly soft peddling or coasting.
Every few k's I would tell myself, yep it's time to make the move and continue racing again. But then I would look across to the draft official and second guess my decision, saying 'can you really push hard enough for long enough to pass the whole pack in one go... and then have enough energy to continue on the front after that?'. My answer kept coming back as 'I can possibly run down 4minutes but 9minutes would definitely put me out of contention for the win, but if I do make the pass I could reduce me deficit to 3minutes'. Yep, I didn't know what to do. As it turned out I was regretting my decision to play it safe once I got back to T2 and heard I'd lost an extra minute in the last 20k to Holly up the road. When I jumped off Froggy at the dismount line I was now in 6th place, 5:16min behind Holly. I ran Froggy from the dismount line, around a couple corners, past the loo-with-a-view, along Beach Terrace, past the age group transition area, around the corner, onto the road and up the little hill straight into the pro transition area about 432k from the end of the bike leg. Said 'good job Froggy, gotta go!', whipped on my Kinvara's and race belt and started running.
The run course took us out of transition, up Alex hill, down the other side and then dead flat 5k out, 5k back, over Alex hill again, and repeat for 2 laps. I tried not to let myself think the gap to the leader was insurmountable. I just kept chipping away hoping it was still possible to achieve my goal, win the race, have a burger and eat some chocolate cake. For the next 21.1k I had the most spectator support I have ever had in a triathlon. It was a bit like competing in the Comm Games in my home country and every time I would hit the lead, 100,000 people in the stadium would erupt like it was the best day of their lives! But this support in Mooloolaba was more personal. The entire run course, people would yell and scream in-depth encouragement, give me splits, advice, weather updates, everything! So many people were pouring their heart and souls into cheering for me. So many people I knew were constantly popping up along every possible stretch of road. For every person I heard and saw I wanted to win it for them just as much as for myself. I am so genuinely thankful to everyone of you for your incredible support. It was like nothing I've experienced before. I hope I can get around to thanking every one of you personally. You all lifted me along the whole way.
The deficit to Holly was slowly coming down as the k's went on, but it wasn't happening fast enough. There just weren't enough k's in the run leg for me to catch back up. In the end I crossed the line in 2nd, 1:57min behind Holly. Like I said, grateful to be fighting for a win on the world stage again... but disappointed at not reaching my goal. Holly just got it all right on the day. She had an impressive race out the front all day and never looked back. And when I hugged her at the end she was rightfully over the moon and fresh as a daisy. Heather Wurtele came in for 3rd, followed by Daniela Ryf and Caroline Steffen to round out the top 5. At the finish line I found my family waiting for me. My parents and brother and sister and their families, and uncle and aunties... everyone was there. I'm so happy they could be there to watch. Great job to Ironman and to the Sunny Coast community for making the event a success. They put on a seamless event in the most beautiful place in the world if you ask me.
Next stop Kona...