My first experience at racing in a World Championship event was definitely an eye opening experience for me. You may find this strange but I was reminded of when I first came to Wellington and started University. I had been doing well in events in my age group here in New Zealand but going to Mooloolaba for the Ironman 70.3 World Champs was next level, much like the transition from High School to University.
When I arrived on Mooloolaba Beach there were so many focused and fit looking people swimming, biking and running their way along the beach. Now I know that some were probably still making that fatal mistake of doing too much right before race day, but it was still intimidating.
Although one of the reasons why I was feeling intimidated was because deep down I wasn’t happy with my build up to this race. I got a chest infection a few weeks before the race which prevented me from training and I also had some personal events to overcome. This left me feeling fragile and under prepared. However, I tried to put that behind me and focus on getting myself into a good mind set before race day. I was actually really looking forward to a bit of summery weather, swimming in the sea, and some nice outdoor biking. I got all of that and some sunburn to boot!
When we arrived in Mooloolaba the heat and humidity took me by surprise. I had been doing a little bit of Hot Yoga to prepare, but the difference in temperature coupled with very high humidity made even a 30min jog a lot harder. That did make the sea very refreshing at least! The day before race day the temperature got up to around 27 degrees and the wind reminded me of back home. I thought that race day would indeed be a true “warm up” event before going to Kona!
Luckily when I woke up on Sunday morning the view from the apartment was like a holiday post card. As the sea was almost dead flat all that practice a body surfing went to waste! I felt relaxed and ready to go out and see what I could do and hopefully come away with some lessons to take into the next race.
As my age group start wasn’t until 7:55am I had a bit of a wait and got to watch the others go off first. I didn’t feel too nervous and when the time came for my age group to get into the water and swim out to the start line, I was ready along with about 170 others!
The start was a lot more chaotic than I was expecting! I had all the punching and kicking that I would expect with a bigger mass start. I even had to dive under the buoys marking the course as I had no space to get back on the right side of them. Now I really understand why people say that my age group is competitive! But in spite of all of that I was really pleased with my swim. This was only the second time that I had been back in the open ocean since training for the New Zealand Ironman. What I needed more re-training in was getting out of my wetsuit! I felt like I took ages getting out of it and onto my bike.
Once I was out of the water an on the bike I focused back on my race plan and how I was going to keep an even wattage throughout the ride of 170W. After the last Ironman70.3 that I did I think I may have biked a little too hard and burnt out on the run. This time I really wanted to have a good run and, in turn, control things on the bike.
The first 40km or so of the bike course is out and back along the Sunshine Motorway. So to start with it was quite fast, but I was a little disheartened about how soon the later age groups started to pass me – there must have been some very fast swimmers in those groups! Still if I kept up this pace I knew I was going to do a good time. However, at the turn to come back along the motorway I was confronted with quite a strong head wind. I thought this area was meant to have light winds! Still, nothing like the wind in Wellington! But it did bring the speed down a bit.
The second half the course was in the hinterland (the land behind stuff…). I had driven this part of the course a couple of days ago and was prepared for a very steep hill about 55km in. I hadn’t biked up it before but was confident that everything would be ok – I train in Wellington after all. But even in my easiest gear it required my whole body to get up the hill. There were people in front of me who looked like they were going to stop and fall off…so I yelled at them to keep going. If someone have of stopped we would all have to and then we would had to walk the rest of the way. I must admit though, it was quite amusing watching everyone reach the top and SLOWLY start the decent because their legs were buggered!
I really enjoyed the rest of the bike course after that. There were hills but it felt more like what I am used to and I could surge up the hills and use my strength to my advantage. My legs also felt good and I hadn’t tired them out. I was feeling positive and I wasn’t even bothered by the heat. I was ready for the run.
I started out for the first few kms at 5min pace. This was on purpose so that I could build into the race. In past races the middle part of my runs has suffered a bit, so I was hoping that this would be the cure. I was able to hold that pace quite comfortably for about 3km and then I started to pick up the pace, but man it was hot! I started chucking ice on me almost straightaway. There was also a decent wind on the run that made the 5km back to Mooloolaba Beach a bit of a challenge. I got to the end of lap 1 and I hadn’t really been able speed up by as much as I had hoped. Still I thought that if I did under 1:45hrs that would be ok.
My body was not so accommodating to that plan. I started slowing down even more, I tried to eat and drink but that didn’t seem to be the issue. I felt hot, but also cold and started to shiver when in the wind. This feeling was all too familiar and I didn’t want to end up sick and in shock and the end of the race so I decided that the best thing was to ease off and just focus on finishing. Still, I couldn’t help a bit of a sprint finish to make sure that I finished in under 5:30hrs.
A day after the race I was coughing up phlegm and had a nasty cough. So that might explain why I started to feel rubbish during the race. I have now spent another week off training and am desperately trying to get better so I can get back to training for Kona. But the race was a good experience and it gave me a bit more insight to what it might be like when racing in Kona – but that will be on another level yet again!
I do hope that there is a “Chocolate Country” in Hawaii as well – this was the best thing about the hinterland. It made for a good all round recovery. Check out more photos from my race and trip on my FaceBook page.