Wednesday, 15 June 2022

Cairns 70.3 2022

It's been a while since I wrote one of these. I was evidently disappointed with my race at IM Busso in December. Then I sprained my ankle late January, which took forever to recover. Even now it's still not a 100%. I've signed up for this race last year - having done the full distance on this course many times and it is one of my favourite race courses. But it wasn't until a few weeks ago that I decided to go ahead with it. Li-Ann and Sebastian were away for two weeks and conveniently, a work travel to Cairns was planned for the week leading up to the race. So I had my flights paid for, which was handy.

The temperature difference between Brisbane and Cairns was pretty significant during the week. It wasn't until Friday that it started to cool off a bit in Cairns. Once my work week was done, I checked into Caravella Backpackers, about 1.5km from the race precinct. I had my own private room, it was pretty decent with ensuite but boy, it was really quiet. I guess the backpacker crowd hasn't quite returned to Cairns yet post pandemic. Saturday morning, I picked up my race pack, dropped off my bike at the transfer service. Had a haircut at the local barber. Chilled for a while, met a relative for lunch (thanks for lunch!) and then onto the shuttle bus to Palm Cove to rack our bikes. Only to find out that our bikes were already racked and 70.3 athletes were only to bring our bike gear bags the next morning. Could have saved the trip! Anyway, it was useful to listen to the transition briefing as I've never done the 70.3 distance here before. Back to Cairns, takeaway pizza from Dominos for dinner. Then an early night.

Race morning

3.30am alarm went off. First toilet visit. Suit up and then easy stroll to catch the shuttle bus to Palm Cove. There was a bit of chatter in the bus but most, like myself, were quiet. I was trying to catch more shut eye. Got told off by the athlete next to me as I was setting up my transition as apparently I was standing too close to his helmet hanging by his saddle. Mate, we are all trying to set up in very tight spaces here, you don't have to be a dick. If you're so concerned about your helmet, maybe just wait until I leave and you can put it back on. Sheesh. 

Once set up, I went away to eat my breakfast. I may have eaten 2 slices of toast too many as I had a bit of acid reflux for a fair bit of the bike later. Queued up for the portaloos, it didn't take too long. Put on the wetsuit and headed to the swim start. I was able to warm up a bit in the water for a few minutes... and release more excess water. There were some waves but definitely one of the calmest conditions I've had in Palm Cove. Lined up, turned on the GPS and put some spit into the goggles. 10 deep breaths. 

1.9km swim

Rolling swim start at 6.35am, it was about 7 minutes past the horn when I ran from the start line, heading into the water. The swim course is rectangular shaped, swim south for a bit, then turn left out into the ocean and left again with tide assistance for most of the course before a final left turn back to the beach. The full Ironman athletes would have to go through it twice, so their tide assistance gets balanced out. I was swimming mostly by myself when we went against the tide but on the way back I had some company to draft off. One last bit of releasing excess water - I had to stop kicking for a bit to do this, before I get onto the beach. Time clocked was 31:51 with 1,812m recorded on the Garmin, which usually understates the distance. I was pretty happy with the time, I guess the tide assistance helped. But looking at the results after, I was relatively slower compared with my peers. I didn't have any wetsuit practice since Busso last year, so would definitely get more of that in before my next wetsuit race. 31st in M35-39 at this stage.

Transition 1

A bit of running through some rough sand and grass. Also had to watch out for some root branches and drain curbs. Somewhat disappointed that many of the bikes on my rack were already gone, but such is a rolling swim start. Wetsuit off, wipe the sand off my feet, socks on, helmet on. Would have liked to just grab the bike and go but had to pack the wetsuit and swim gear into bike gear bag first as well made sure it was tied securely so that nothing fell out. It was a fair bit to run to the bike mount line too. It was pretty crowded there but I got on without too much drama. It did take me a while to strap my shoes in though. The straps on the Bont Riot Tr+ shoes are very short and tend to come of the buckle easily. Trying to get them back in whilst pedaling proved to be pretty challenging! I lost a lot of time here. Total T1 time 3:34.

90km bike

One lap bike course, starting from Palm Cove, heading north for 30kms and then all the way back to Cairns. With one big climb at the Rex lookout in both directions but plenty of rolling hills in between until we get closer to the city where it was mostly flat. Full Ironman athletes had to do two laps between Palm Cove and Port Douglas and twice the climb at Rex. I felt fairly comfortable on the bike, was building my pace up well past 36kph with the tailwind of course. It would help though to know the course a bit better, so I could just let loose when descending on the corners and not have to brake a bit prior. The road surface was also pretty coarse and I would definitely reduce the tire pressure (I was at 100psi for 25mm tires) the next time. Cairns has one of the most gorgeous bike courses out there, definitely a must do if you haven't done it before. 

With the rolling hills, there were some sections where everyone got bunched up, but overall I didn't see any blatant drafting, at least for me anyway. I thought I was able to get an average of 36kph with a 2:30 bike split. But the hills plus the rough road surfaces made it challenging and when we got closer to the city, although it was mostly flat, it was more exposed to the headwind. So glad I was only doing the half. I then revised my target to a 35kph average (just under 2:35) but eventually I got to the end in 2:37:24, thanks to Garmin recording it as 91.13km. Elevation gain was 450-460m. Average speed was 34.7kph, average power was 179 watts - a little bit lower than my usual race output but not too far off. I gained another 4 spots to 27th in my age group at this stage. Nutrition taken was 2 SIS gels and about 400mls of Infinit Go Far. 

Transition 2

Did a pretty good dismount, legs did feel a bit tight running the bike to the racks. I overshot by a bit and had to back track. Racked my bike, untied run gear bag and let everything fall out. I don't know why but I took the time to pack my helmet into the run gear bag and placed it neatly on the grass. Slipped the shoes on and grabbed everything else (sunglasses, race belt and run visor) and go, putting them on as I ran out of transition. Time taken 2:41.

Run 21.1km

Run course was 2 laps, first going around the marina and then out along the esplanade towards the airport and back. Full Ironman athletes would have to do 4 laps. Virtually flat and pretty shaded when we were running through the park. I always loved the run. The atmosphere was electrifying, crowds were cheering from the restaurants and club tents. I felt fairly comfortable and was holding around the 4:30 per km pace. Not as fast as I was before but given my dodgy ankle, I was pleasantly surprised. I held this pace until about 7km mark, which was somewhere in between the first turnaround and on the way back towards the end of the first lap. I caught up with my friend Nathan ahead and decided to run with him for a bit. The pace slowed but it was more pleasant having some company. We ran together until just before the final turnaround where he said he needed to take a break, so I pushed on. 

My pace didn't get much faster after though. My ankle was beginning to hurt. Again, so glad I was only doing the half. The last few hundred meters was bit of a hobble, hang in there, don't fall apart! Got to the finisher chute and was able to do a bit of a dance before I crossed the finish line. Announcer Pete Murray saw my Malaysian flag on the screen and promoted the upcoming Desaru Coast 70.3. I asked if he would be there and he said he would. Run split was 1:39:06 with distance recorded as 21.23km. Average HR was 148bpm and the max temperature recorded was 27 degrees Celcius. I ran myself into 22nd position in my age group (128th out of 1,434 overall) with total finish time of 4:54:37. About 25 minutes slower than my PB from Sunshine Coast 70.3 last year but in my current form and the more challenging course, I guess clocking sub 5 hours is nothing to be ashamed of.

Post race

Felt pretty sore but generally okay. Had a chat with another South Bank tri club member in the recovery area and then bumped into Nathan again while waiting for the massage. After picking up my bike, I went back and cleaned up and didn't come back out until later in the afternoon to cheer the full Ironman athletes. It definitely did ignite some fire for my next Ironman race but let's see how this ankle holds up as I increase the training load in the coming weeks. I had another day of work in Cairns before flying back to Brisbane. Getting back into the routine again now, next up Desaru Coast 70.3 - see you there Pete!


Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Sunshine Coast 70.3 2021

This would be my 5th year in a row racing this event. We are very fortunate to be in Queensland, with only a handful of COVID cases to have events like this. But the possibility of a snap lockdown happening at any time is very real, so we should really thank our lucky stars that we got to race over the weekend. Albeit being primarily a Queenslanders only event with most of the state borders closed to each other. 

Earlier in July, I decided to engage coach Duncan from South Bank tri club in my preparation for Ironman Busselton later in the year. I've been on coached programs before in the past but this is the first time I've had it done through TrainingPeaks and finally made proper use of my power meter. There were more sessions during the week and I can't express my appreciation enough for the support from my wife Li-Ann and my son Sebastian these past two months or so and going forward as well until end of the year.

The drive up to Mooloolaba the day before was a bit slow with some congestion but at least there was no standstill. Took us a couple of hours but we got there just in time to set up the club tent in the last available spot. Sebastian could not wait to get to the beach, so Li-Ann took him while I had a quick lunch and went to pick up my race pack. Then we checked into our hotel, we picked a nice one this time - a 2 bedroom apartment with 2 bathrooms, so I didn't have to worry about waking the others when I'm up early preparing for the race. Bike racking in the afternoon, a new transition area situated over 1km from where we were staying. Dinner - take away pasta and pizza for myself and Li-Ann, chicken katsu udon noodles for Sebastian, all in the comfort of our apartment. It didn't take me long to fall asleep after.

3.45am alarm. But I was up about 2 hours before and couldn't go back to sleep. 1st toilet visit, breakfast - 4 slices of toast with peanut butter and nutella, 1 banana. Some dynamic stretches (to get the motion going) and 2nd then toilet visit. Suit up and kissed Li-Ann goodbye. Easy stroll to the bike racks. Clip in bike shoes and lay out my run gear. It was still dark but luckily my bike was positioned near the spot lights. There was still time for yet another toilet visit, so why not. Wetsuit on, couple of minutes of swim strokes in the water and it was time to line up for the rolling swim start.

Swim 1.9km

The age group rolling swim start kicked off at 6.05am, it was just after 6.11am when I got into the water. The swim course is rectangular shape in anti clockwise direction, over on the eastern side of Mooloolaba beach by the spit. Just like last year but at least transition is closer to the swim this time. There was a fair bit of chop in the water. Not extreme but rough enough to make it a slow swim. I swam on my own most of the time as it was difficult to get close enough to any feet to draft of. I think I swam pretty close to the course. Last turn towards the beach, tried my best to empty the bladder, legs naturally stopped kicking, thankfully there were some currents pushing us in. Hit the first timing mat in 32:43, one of my slower swims but it seemed that was the case for most of us. My Garmin 935 tends to under report the open water distance at 1,850m and that was after running up the steps from the beach as well. Showing a pace of 1:47 per 100m, which is my easy pace in the pool. 28th in my age group at this stage.

Transition 1

It was pretty narrow with the bike racks being pretty close to each other and being held in the park, there were tree routes and bumps to look out for. While wetsuit got off the arms easily during the run into transition, it took a bit longer to get off the feet. Wipe the feet, socks on, helmet on and pressed the button of the bike computer as I ran the bike out. Mounting the bike was a bit of a disaster, there were many others around at the mount line and I didn't practise enough with these new shoes. Coach Duncan was at the side giving me a bit of pressure. In the end, I did the basic standing crossover mount and got going. Total transition 1 time 2:18.


Bike 90km

The first couple of kms out of transition was a bit hairy. Sharp turns, speed bumps, roundabouts. There was even a section where the road was flowing wet, I think from sprinklers. Then there were some rollers before we got to the Sunshine Motorway, but it was hammer time after that. 2 laps of the motorway with about 4-5 kms along the Esplanade in town. The conditions were pretty good, started off with light winds but it picked up significantly on the 2nd lap. In contract to previous years, this year it was mainly headwind on the way out and tailwind on the way back, so that made for some fast bike times for most people.

I was pleasantly surprised with how well I was building my speed up, it went over 38kph average for the motorway section and only dropped a bit under after the town section. My previous best split was just under 2:30 and that's a 36kph average. There were a few packs that were barely legal and there was one particular one with the same group of cyclists that kept close to me. They would pass me, I would fall back and then have to do a surge to pass them, only for them to pass me again shortly after. This went on many times throughout the race. Draft marshal did come by a couple of times but I don't think any penalties were given. It was very annoying at some stage dangerous, when the pack came by so closely with some of them cycling two to three abreast. But, such is racing and we do the best we can to the best of our integrity.

Bike split 2:23:07 with the Garmin recording 89.6km at 37.7kph average. I was over the moon! The training is paying off and I felt relatively in control. Even had the confidence to do the surges to overtake the pack and back off again into cruise mode. Average power at 187 watts with normalised power at 203 watts. Nutrition taken - 3 Endura gels and 700ml of Infinit split into two bottles, but I somehow only drank about 60% of it. I'm a bit of a camel this way. 19th in age group at this stage.

Transition 2 

Ran the bike towards the bike rack but had to carry it over the curb. Somewhat disappointed that there were so many bikes back at the racks already despite me improving so much on the bike leg. But I guess everyone else did as well and with rolling swim starts, there could be others finishing earlier despite posting slower times. Helmet off, shoes on and grabbed everything else and put them on the go. Transition 2 time was 1:12.

Run 21.1km

Slight alteration to the run course this year. We did a 2km loop towards the eastern side and then onto 2 laps of 9.5km - pretty much the same as previous years except that we turn around earlier in Alex Headland. This time we run outbound on the road and inbound on the footpaths, opposite from previous years. I'm also glad that they removed the short but sharp climb on the driveway into the caravan park that is under construction this year. It was starting to get hot and the winds were up as well. Just like the bike course, headwind on the way out and tailwind on the way back, although it wasn't felt as much on the run. 

I haven't done much running off the bike in my training and was unsure how I would feel. But I felt great and the leg turnover was pretty fluid. Li-Ann and Sebastian cheered me as I got to the main roundabout which gave me a bit of a boost. My first km was 4:10 which was a bit too quick so I pulled it back a bit. We then got to the hilly section of the course and I went just over 4:20 for a couple of kms but I pretty much settled into 4:15 to 4:20 for most of the course after. I sipped coke for fuel and dunked water over my head at all the aid stations to keep myself cool. I always love the run leg as I can really get the energy off the crowd. There was so much support from people I've met through this sport, from former tri club members to current ones, such a strong community feel.

I was wearing my new Saucony Endorphin Pro, with carbon plated soles. This was only my 2nd time wearing them and on hindsight I should have broken them in a bit more. They felt a bit odd as they were higher and I felt a bit unstable around the corners. But I felt much better into the 2nd lap and they were indeed more responsive and I felt like I fatigued less with the springy feedback. It wasn't until about 6kms left to go where I realised I had a good shot of finishing under 4.5 hours, a target which I thought was over ambitious. But it was going to be close. I dug deep and wasn't smiling as much anymore as I passed the cheers from the South Bank tri club tent. I paced 4:08 for my final km and was relieved to see the red carpet with just a few meters away from the finisher arch.

I crossed the timing mat with a run split of 1:30:24, Garmin recorded a distance of 21.08km with average HR of 161bpm. And yes, overall finish time of 4:29:44 - a PB by 7 minutes, I was super stoked! 12th position in M35-39 and 94th overall, no doubt without many interstate or international competitors. 

Reunited with Li-Ann and Sebastian just after the finish line. Glad to we stayed one more night, so it wasn't a rush home and I got to catch up with club members at the tent. Also took my time picking up my gear and getting them cleaned or dried in the apartment before the drive home the next day.

I'm about halfway through the training build to Ironman Busselton later this year. If this race was a mid year exam, I reckon I would grade myself an A! Hopefully things go as they plan and I get to perform again.

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Moreton Bay Triathlon 2021

Final race for this season before the winter comes. Coincidentally held on mothers' day - sorry Li-Ann! But I did take Sebastian with me the day before to the registration and bike racking, and we played at the beach until sundown. So at least Li-Ann had time to herself that afternoon. The main race venue was in Pelican Park in Clontarf, just off the Houghton Highway Bridge. It was about 45 minutes drive north from home. I've raced here 2 years in the Olympic distance but this year, the organizers spiced things up a bit by making it a long course - 2km swim/60km bike/15km run. And half that for the shorter distance.

Race morning started with a 4am alarm. I nibbled slowly on my packed sandwiches once I got to the highway. There wasn't any parking at the race site so we had to find whatever was available on the streets. I followed a couple of cars and parked by a school, hoping that I would not get a fine later. Short stroll to the bike racks, got my transition area set up in almost darkness. Nearly left behind my undies that fell out of my bag, luckily my foot brushed it by accident so I noticed. The long course was the first to start and thankfully there queue was short for the portaloos. But there wasn't much light in the portaloos, I just had to get the job done. Brief chat with a handful of club members at the SBTC tent and I had to get going.

Swim 2km

I was in the first wave at 6.20am, there were no open or elite categories and a number of local pros just competed in their respective age groups. Swim was two laps - one full rectangle for the first lap and 3/4 rectangle for the second. The water was relatively calm this year but I somehow felt some currents, which I can't quite determine which direction they were flowing. Water was fresh but pretty comfortable. It was a wetsuit swim but there were a handful who swam without. I found some feet to swim with every now and then but was never in a group. A few super swimmers from the wave after us swam past and I tried to latch on but obviously could not keep up. My Garmin beeped every 500m but showed over 9 minutes each split, which is a fair bit slower than what I would swim in the pool. So I did not pay too much attention but focused on swimming a straight line and getting to the next buoy. Out of the water in 34:40 with recorded distance of 1,808m, average pace 1:53 per 100m, about 10-15 seconds than my pace in the pool. Having checked the results, I take comfort in knowing that overall winner Sam Betten who also had the best swim split swam 3 minutes slower than what he did in Sunshine Coast 70.3 last September, so it is likely my Garmin under recorded the distance.

Transition 1

The run from the beach to the bike racks wasn't very far. In fact my Garmin measured 300m from the beach to the bike mount line. But the bike racks were stacked pretty long and it was quite narrow in some spots. Wetsuit came off and helmet got on without much issues. I was pretty pumped that I left before the guy next to me who came in at the same time. Bike mount line was a bit busy so I had to push the bike further front to get some space before getting on. Total time taken 2:16. I was targeting 35 minutes before I got on my bike, so I had some time to make up. Was 14th in my age group at this stage.

Bike 60km

One of the highlights of this race was the entire southbound of the Houghton Highway bridge. It was a 6 lap bike course, mostly flat with a gentle incline on the bridge and a short climb before the other turnaround at Woody Point. Typically exposed to wind but thankfully it was a pretty calm day. Though I could definitely feel a head wind on the way out and a tail wind on the way back. While I enjoyed the flat and smooth surface on the bridge, I reckon the photographer was rather dangerously positioned at the side of the road with not much visible warnings. A distracted cyclist could have taken him out but thankfully that did not happen. I did witness two cyclists collided into each other at the opposite direction from me, hopefully they were not too hurt.

The first turnaround at the bridge caught me by surprise and I overshot it. I actually had to unclip and stop to make the U turn. The subsequent laps were fine, apart from me usually going a bit too wide and losing my position to those behind me and then have to pedal past them again. I was nearly taken out by another cyclist at the Woody Point turnaround who came too close as he was overtaking me. And then when the enticer distance athletes came into the course, it was a bit chaotic but thankfully I was on to my final lap then. Finished the bike in 1:37:12 for 58.9km at 36.4kph. Average power was 182 watts, could have gone a bit harder but I may have lost a bit of watts at the turnaround. Average HR was 150bpm. Official split was 1:39:00 which included transition time. Gained another 2 spots to 12th in age group.

Transition 2

Squeezed through the narrow bike racks. Bike on rack, helmet off, put on my shoes and grabbed everything else to head off. Only to realize I left my sunglasses behind, so back tracked a few steps to get it and get going again. I must have pressed my lap button too many times, so no transition time for me. Luckily I noticed it before skipping the run.

Run 15km

The run was 2 laps and we ran towards the the foot path section of the bridge. It was pretty exposed but thankfully there was plenty of cloud cover. The legs felt good, no tightness but somehow turnover felt a bit slow. First km was 4:31 which included my time in transition. Thereafter I settled into 4:12 to 4:15. The first turnaround point had me going past 4km, which dampened my spirits a bit. I had an overall finish target of 3:20 and having an overdistanced run could spoil things, especially when I had little to no margin. I must have given up a bit as my pace started creeping into 4:20+.

But the end of the first lap clocked under 8kms, so it appears it would be overdistanced by much. So I started lifting again. I kept it under 4:20 for the outbound of the second lap and switched another gear to go under 4:15 for the final few kms. I was able to overtake a few who passed me on the first lap. Coming into the home stretch, getting cheers from the SBTC tent and from Trent from Red Dog, sorry but I was really in the hurt locker - it was going to close! Crossed the line with an overall finish time of 3:19:56! I gained another 2 spots to 10th in my age group and 42nd overall. Run split was 1:06:16 for 15.5km, average pace 4:16 and average HR 159bpm.

Overall I'm very happy with how I executed the race. And also how I performed this racing season in this first half of the year. After racing 4 races in the last 4 months, I was looking forward to a bit of break. Back to doing some parkruns and riding some hills on the roadie!

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Tweed Coast Enduro 2021

Before I start, I'd like to acknowledge the tragic passing of one of the athletes from the race. The athlete experienced a personal health episode during the run and while the medical team did everything they could, the athlete sadly passed in the hospital later that afternoon. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.


This was my 6th time racing Tweed Coast Enduro and it has only been around for 7 years. I missed out of the first one, it was when I first moved to Brisbane and did not know of the event. Located in Pottsville, an easy 1.5 to 2 hours drive from home, depending on traffic. In a small laidback town but the local community really comes out in full force to support the event. I was bringing the club tent and family came along. My wife and son took the train to Robina, about half way there and then we all squeezed back into the car for the rest of the journey. There was not a cloud in the sky and it was hard to believe that it would be raining the next day. I had pizza from the Cabarita Bakehouse for my pre race dinner ritual and my son played at the beach until about sunset and then it was time to head back to the motel and call it a night.

Woke up to the sound of rain. It was an early race start this year at 6-ish am NSW time, so it was still dark. We stayed at the Pottsville Beach Motel, less than 10 minutes walk from transition. It showered a bit as I was walking. Got my bike set up and there was still time to queue up for the portaloos, thankfully they had lights in them. Then it was time to make our way to the swim start, about a 20 minute walk. It showered heavily again and it was quite chilly waiting for our start. Nick was there to keep me company. It was a rolling start and they were strict to make sure we kept to our allocated groups according to our nominated swim times. Nick and I wore pink caps and were told off for lining up with the orange caps who were starting before us. Pink and orange looked the same in the dark to me.

Swim 1.9km shortened to 1.6km

The race organizer had been sending us numerous emails about the potential cancellation of the swim due to poor water quality and sand build up. But I think it the end it was shortened to 1.6km because of the strong outgoing tide for fear that swimmers would be swept into the ocean if we didn't turn towards the beach earlier. We entered the water in about groups of 10+, carefully walking down the wooden steps even thought we have already crossed the timing mat and wade our way through the shallow water until it was deep enough to start swimming. There wasn't much body contact at all as the swim was only in one direction and we had the whole creek to ourselves. 

While I enjoyed the push from the tide, the water wasn't as clear as in previous years maybe due to the rain. Or could be just my dodgy 12 year old goggles. I didn't get to draft off anyone and was mostly overtaking those who started their swim earlier. As we came close to the bridge, the tide flow changed angles and it required a bit more effort to swim straight. For some silly reason, I chose this moment to empty the bladder, so I kicked less and noticed I was getting swept away. Quickly get the job done and made my way back towards the beach. Swim split was 21:28 and Garmin recorded a distance of 1,617m with a crazy pace of 1:18 per 100m. I wouldn't even be able to do that in a 100m sprint. I was 28th position in my age group at this stage. 

Transition 1

It was a bit of a run into transition. Swimskin off past the ankles, brief wipe of the feet, socks on. The paddings inside the helmet was a bit soaked from the rain. Unrack bike and make like a long a U turn around all the bike racks before getting to the mount line. All up, it was about 500m from the beach to the mount line. There were quite a few other cyclists around so I pushed my bike a bit further in front and carefully hopped on without causing too much of a scene. Total time taken 3:50.

Photo credit Rob

Bike 90km

Got a shout out from Philippe as I started the bike. I had the pleasure of racing with him on this course for the past few years but he sat out this year. The bike course is 4 laps in an L shape with two short climbs just before the first turnaround. Typically a headwind on the way out and a tailwind on the way back. There were light showers throughout but nothing too extreme. The roads are a bit patchy but it looks like there were some resurfacing done so they seem pretty smooth this year apart from a small section at the first climb. Nick flew past me about a few kms in and he was gaining about 2 minutes at the end of each lap. I stuck to my own pace and monitored the watts. I reached my typical target of 36kph average sooner than I expected and I was wondering whether I would blow up but the legs felt good and I continue to build up that average.

I dropped my second gel at about the 55km mark as I was fumbling to tear it open, I only packed three so I decided to take my third one anyway and hoped that it will last me to the end of the bike. There were a couple of big packs on the course, one in the opposite direction and one slower one which I managed to overtake but I had to cross over to the other side of the road as they were riding two abreast. There wasn't a lot of draft marshals covering the course, not that I saw anyway. I finished the bike in 2:27:12. Garmin recorded 89.4km, average speed of 36.5kph, average power 192 watts, average HR 151 bpm. It was a PB for 90km ride and I gained 9 places in my age group. I'm glad that my cycling has been improving progressively. Official bike split was 2:32:28 including both transitions.

Photo credit Rob

Transition 2

Got off the bike feeling a bit stiff but felt better after running for a few steps. Rack bike, shoes on and everything else on the go. Do the long loop around the bike racks again, also about 500m between the dismount line and the run timing mat outside of transition. Time taken 2:30

Run 21km

Waved to the South Bank crew as I started my run. The legs and form felt good. The rain has stopped and the sun peeked out of the clouds every now and then. Temperature rose to a maximum of 27 degrees that day. The run course is 3 laps shaped like a T. As the transition layout has changed a bit, so the southern turnaround was extended a bit further. Mostly on foot paths and there were a couple of flooded and muddy patches, which I avoided at first but couldn't be bothered and just ran through later.

Photo credit Rob

I went through the first km in 4:16 and thought perhaps that was too quick. But I managed to hold under 4:20s for most of the first lap. There was no twitching of the quad muscles this time round, just managing the energy reserves. Second lap was a bit slower averaging just under 4:30. Managed to catch Li-Ann and Sebastian before I started my third lap. I somehow gave in a bit after that and started creeping past the 4:40s. I knew that finishing under 4.5 hours was in the bag, which would be a course PB even after adding 10 minutes for a shortened and fast swim. So I didn't quite get into the hurt locker as much and steadily took it home. My run split was 1:33:39 for 20.9km according to Garmin, average pace 4:29 per km, average HR 168bpm. I gained another 9 spots, finishing 10th in my age group and 68th overall. The field this year was massive, it was a sold out event and my age group had 2-3 times more people than the previous years. My overall finish time was 4:27:37. A bittersweet feeling that I can't quite claim this as a PB with the shortened swim but I think the bike run combo may have come close to a PB.

This is truly a top notch event put on by organizers with a heart, that always give back to the community. Next year's race dates have already been released and I'm pretty sure I'll be back again for race number 7!

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Hell of the West 2021

First race of 2021... well it was supposed to be Robina Olympic 4 weeks ago but that got cancelled no thanks to a 3 day lockdown in Brisbane. My last race here was 5 years ago, just before Sebastian was born. This is my 3rd time racing Hell of The West and I felt that I was in good form to break a PB, target was to go under 4 hours 20 minutes. And after some sub par performances in my last two races of 2020, I was almost desperate to do well this time.

Goondiwindi is a good 4 hours drive from home. I took the South Bank tri club tent with me, so there wasn't a lot of space for the family to come along. Plus, it isn't quite a tourist destination so it was decided that I would travel solo. Just have to make sure that I take plenty of breaks on the return drive after the race to stay awake. I left home on Saturday morning just after breakfast and arrived just in time for lunch. The motel was ready for check in and the reception was kind enough to extend my check out time the next day by another hour, so I could shower after the race. We had a bit of fun in the afternoon by recreating a shot from 2 years ago of jumping into the river. We managed to set up the tent just before heavy downpour, which is pretty uncharacteristic for this area at this time of the year. I had an early dinner and got into bed, ready for an early start the next day.

3am alarm went off, had a pretty decent night sleep surprisingly. Packed sandwiches and a banana from home. Short 700m ride to the race site in the dark, I didn't have my bike lights with me but thankfully the street lamps were bright enough. After racking my bike and setting up in transition, I still had some time to queue for the toilet for my 3rd sit down that morning (race nerves!). Met up with the other South Bank tri club members and made our way to the boat ramp for the swim start. 

2km swim

Deep water start in the Macintyre River. The river is actually the state border between New South Wales and Queensland. And because of daylight savings, you could be moving between time zones throughout the swim, if you found that interesting. Also, it was still dark when we started our swim at just after 5am. I had my Garmin 935xt on for the first time and I wasn't familiar with the light function but it seemed to stay lit on it's own. Maybe it's sensitive to water or the dark, I don't know. There were only two waves for male age groupers - under 45 years and 45+. So there was plenty of contact for the first few hundred meters before it started to clear out a bit. I did get a good pair of feet to draft off on a number of occasions but spent most of the swim on my own. 

The course was out and back, there was only one turnaround buoy, which caught me by surprise as I was expecting two so that we make a 3 point turn. Traditionally against the current at first and then current assisted on the return. But I honestly cannot say I felt I any assistance, the swim just felt heavy throughout. It was time for me to get new goggles, this pair is over 12 years old and the lenses are very worn. I couldn't see clearly on my watch, so I couldn't track my progress but it beeped every 500m, so that gave me an indication of how far into the swim I was. Came out of the water in 35:07, which is right on target for 35 minutes. Garmin measured 1,935m at 1:48 per 100m pace, which is slower than usual but it seemed to be the case for everyone. 10th in my age group at this stage.

Transition 1

Run up the boat ramp and fairly long trip to the bike racks, about 500m. Swimskin off all the way past my feet - didn't forget them this time! A bit of a wipe of the feet, socks on, helmet on, unrack the bike and off we go. Carefully mounted the bike at the mount line as there was one other cyclist next to me. And ready for the ride! Time taken 2:57.

80km bike

The organizers decided to switch to a new road this year. For the better. The road surface was smoother and there were gentle undulations which helps break up the constant, monotonous pedaling on a completely flat road. It was still a one lap, out and back course. So for the first half, once you've overtaken (or been overtaken) and settled into your position, it was a mental game to stay focused when there was no one else around you. It my the first time getting HR data on the screen during a race, I was averaging 160bpm, which surprised me as I normally only hit this high on my runs, not on the bike. But then again, I rarely get to hit this sort of intensity on my outdoor rides in training. The weather was exceptionally good this year, with overcast skies and low winds. I was holding around 38kph average and in sight for a sizable improvement for the bike split. 

Nick and then Alex overtook me around the 30km mark. I was able to pass Alex again but Nick continued to increase his distance. The turnaround point caught me by surprise, it was just a single cone in the middle of the road. I didn't brake early enough and went past it a bit. It felt like a bit of a headwind on the return trip, but only just slight. A large train of cyclists passed me somewhere around the 50km mark, I hung on trying my best to keep legal distance. This went on for about 10km or so and then it happened. The draft marshal came by on the motorbike and showed me a blue card. I accepted it as I was definitely pushing the limit but I was a bit annoyed that I was the only one in the group who got penalised. Anyway, nothing I could do. I lost a bit of rhythm and my last 10km or so was a bit slower. Checked into the penalty zone, which was conveniently just by the dismount line. And waited - the longest 5 minutes in my life! The Garmin stopped at 2:07:41 for a distance of 79.3km, average speed 37.3kph and average power 194 watts. Official bike split was 2:13:23 with the penalty, 22nd in age group at this stage.

Transition 2

 I've unstrapped my shoes before and kept them clipped in so I could just run my bike to the racks. Had a brain freeze moment after putting on my shoes as I was wearing my run visor. I could put the rest on while running, so I should get moving! Time taken 1:15.

20km run

I was still feeling positive. I calculated that I had to run just under 4:30 per km pace to have a shot of hitting my target. Which I should be able to do as I usually hold this pace in my long run training. First km I went out in 4:10, probably a bit too quick! I settled into 4:20 something for the next couple of kms. And then, my quad muscles started to twitch. Reluctantly, I slowed down the pace to around 4:45 but tried to keep the efforts steady. 

The course was 3 laps on foot paths, partially shaded and shaped like a T. The sun started peeking out of the clouds later in the day and temperature started to rise. Whilst my target time was no longer within reach, I switched my focus to catching Alex and Nick in front. Nick wasn't feeling the best and I passed him about halfway into the 2nd lap. I had to dig deeper and it wasn't until the start of the 3rd lap that I managed to pass Alex. Mentally I gave up a bit after that, I started to creep past 5 minutes pace, looking over my shoulder every now and then to make sure Alex wasn't catching up. Finally, I got to the end with a 1:32:30 run split, Garmin recorded 19.7km with an average pace of 4:41. 

My overall finish time was 4:25:11, about two minutes slower than my last race here. Not that it meant anything, even deducting 5 minutes for the penalty, I would have still fell a bit short on my target. I placed 8th out of 25 in Male 35-39 and 59th out of 311 overall.

The Goondiwindi triathlon club put on a great event and this event really gives back to the local community. I am glad I am part of the 30th anniversary of this historic event and hope to be back again. If the drive wasn't so far, I would do it every year! Overall, despite not achieving my target, I'm pretty happy with how I executed the race. Looking forward to Tweed Coast Enduro in 4 weeks time!

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Hervey Bay 100

I've not done this event before mainly because it always clashes with some other event late in the year. But I've heard good things about it. With Ironman Busselton cancelled, I was looking forward to another long course event before the year ends. The event sold out on the same day entries were opened, I got myself onto the waitlist and fortunately scored a slot. I was probably among the last few, as soon as I registered, the race organizer started sending out emails on race packet pick ups etc.

Hervey Bay is about 4+ hours drive from home, it's a nice spot and I've been there a couple of times for work. So I thought it would be good to bring the family along this time. The traffic was pretty good on Saturday and Sebastian didn't make a fuss at all (thanks to pre downloaded Netflix videos)! We had an early lunch break in Gympie and arrived in Hervey Bay just after midday, to be greeted by strong winds and the scorching sun! I was bracing myself for some tough racing conditions the next day. I met up with the South Bank tri clubbies at the race pack pick up while Li-Ann and Sebastian played at the beach. We had takeaway pizza and Japanese for dinner and soon it was time for bed.

Race morning, 4.30am alarm goes off but I was already awake for over 30 minutes before. Our accommodation was conveniently close, about 200m from transition. I racked my bike and then went back to the room for breakfast and final toilet visit. The swim was a point to point swim and I was in the second last wave at 6.47am. I still had plenty of time and sat at the beach for about 15 minutes before going in for a quick warm up swim. Even then, I probably did it a bit too early and was shivering in the wind while waiting for my wave start. 

Swim 2km (supposedly)

The event prides itself with a unique whale tail shaped swim course. However, due to high waves, the swim was shortened and it was shaped more like a trapezium. The wind was coming from the north so the first outbound swim was tough. But once we turned right, though it was still very choppy, I felt that there was a bit of current assistance. There were only about 30 or so people in my wave start, so it was difficult to draft or to sight, made even more challenging by the choppy waters. But I didn't waste too much time finding my bearings. Overtaking different coloured caps from the earlier starts always gives a bit of a confident boost. The swim back after the final turn didn't seem much easier as I felt as I was being pushed away instead of doing a diagonal swim back to the beach. I hit the lap button as soon as I got onto the beach, to give me an accurate reading of the distance and pace. Garmin recorded 27 minutes on the dot for 1,543m. Average pace of 1:45 which is pretty much an aerobic pace in the pool for me. Given that the pros were swimming just over 20 minutes, I'm pretty happy with how I swam comparatively. The first timing mat was another couple of hundred meters away and official results had me clocking 27:53 and 7th in age group at this stage.

Photo credit Nicci

Transition 1

I was disappointed to see that there weren't many bikes left on the rack and then I realised that most of those who were on the same rack as I were from earlier wave starts. I spent the extra couple of seconds wiping the sand off my feet and put the socks on. Only to realise that I haven't taken off my swimskin, not going to make that mistake again! Mounting the bike at the mount line was a bit scary as we were very close to the actual bike course. I looked back to make sure no cyclist was zooming towards me before I got on my bike. Time taken 1:14.

Bike 80km

Pretty straightforward bike course. Four laps out and back. I was expecting a fast and flat course. The winds were not as bad as the day before but it was still strong. The outbound journey had some deceptive inclines and there were a few roundabouts and plenty of corners that I had to get off my aerobars so that I could steer better. There were a few speed bumps at the start and concaved surfaces at the other end to look out for as well. My Garmin Edge 500 cycle computer went totally flat despite having fully charged it before. Probably time for a change as it is about 7 years old. So I relied on looking at my wrist every now and then to get some data feedback. It didn't help that it was on auto scroll! But I kept to a pretty consistent effort for each lap. It just over 17 minutes on the way out and just over 16 minutes on the way back. And that included a the infamous short steep climb on Gatakers Hill on the way back. I initially planned on just cycling in the big chainring but the climb came so suddenly that switched into the small chainring each time, praying that the chain doesn't drop! Interestingly there was one other cyclist from Redcliffe tri club who would always pass me on the return lap but I would overtake him again towards the end of the outbound lap. We never rode near to each other but this went on for all four laps. 

Photo credit

I finally got back to transition with a bike split of 2:14:50, averaging 35.5kph and 185 watts. Probably a bit conservative. Clocking closer to 36kph and shaving a couple of minutes off would be better. Distance was pretty spot on at 79.8km. Official results included transition time at 2:16:00 and I gained a spot to 6th in my age group.

Photo credit

Transition 2

After racking my bike and removing my helmet, for some reason I froze a bit. My helmet visor was broken before from getting knocked off my bike. So I took that extra care to place it gently on the tarmac and ensured that it wasn't in anyone's way. Then back into game mode, shoes on and grabbed everything else - sunglasses, race belt and run visor putting them on the go. Time taken 1:04

Run 18km

3 lap course on the foot paths, starting from transition in the middle. Mostly shaded and thankfully it had been overcast skies mostly throughout the day, except towards the final run lap or so where the sun started peeking out. But it was certainly warm and humid. I have been struggling a bit with my long runs lately, been breaking it into smaller distances as I haven't been able to execute them in one go. And it showed on race day. I started off at around 4:30 per km pace, which is usually what I do in training but couldn't sustain it and dropped it to just under the 5 minute mark. We were told to ensure that our cups made to the bin and there was one section in the middle of the first lap, I was so focused on looking out for the bin until I missed the intersection and almost ran back into the transition area, I even crossed that timing mat again! Quickly turn around and went back out on course, could have been disqualified if officials were being strict.

Photo credit

Seeing Li-Ann and Sebastian cheering from the playground did lift my spirits. And so were the cheers from the South Bank tri club tent and Greg and Cathy from my former Logan tri club at the run turnaround. But there is only so much my tired body could do. At one stage I dropped even further to 5:30 per km pace. I was surviving on the (warm) coke from each station. The final lap came and I found a bit of a second wind and started clawing back to the low 5 minutes pace.

Photo credit Nicci

Finally crossed the line a run split of 1:30:02, official split of 1:31:04 including transition. Garmin recorded 18.3km with an average pace of 4:55. Overall finish time was 4:14:58, falling short of my sub 4:10 target which I had plenty of time after the bike but it all came apart after that. Surprisingly, I gained another spot and placed 5th in my age group. Fourth place was a fair bit away and it was unlikely for me to beat even at my best.

While I am somewhat disappointed with the results, especially since I felt I under performed at Sunshine Coast 70.3 two months ago and was eager to redeem myself, I truly enjoyed the experience. The race organizers put on a good show and it's hard to believe that this is an event organized by the local tri club. The family enjoyed the trip and if the race calendar permits, would definitely have another go at this race again!