Cold. How I would describe my race in one word. When one thinks of summer in Australia, words like hot and humid come to mind. But mother nature had different ideas for race weekend in Ballarat. The days leading up to race day were bloody freezing!! The conditions on race day were almost identical to the previous year with a cool start at around 8 degrees, a fresh cool southerly breeze and broken cloud burning off as the day rolled on. These conditions combined with a water temperature of 16 degrees ensured heat exhaustion wasn't going to be a problem.
I am not a huge fan of cold weather so these conditions made me a bit anxious. Nonetheless you have accept that you will have numb feet and hands for the swim and bike and go about your race as best you can.
The swim warm up had the opposite effect of its purpose. My aging wetsuit has several large holes which ensures a steady flow of cold water cycles through. With a large-ish sized pro field I was confident I could comfortably slot into the main pack on the swim and not lose to much time to the front pack. The gun went and the plan, well, went to plan. I had almost no feeling in my face, hands and feet for the entire swim which made it difficult to tell whether my mouth was open or close. Regardless of the lack of feeling I exited with the second group of about 8 athletes, about 75 secs off the leaders.
Fortunately our pack contained a strong athlete in the form of Tim Van Berkel. Out of T1 and Tim was on a mission from the get go. At this stage my body was still trying to raise it's core temp and the lack of feeling in my hands and feet made time trialing interesting. Our group of 8 quickly disintegrated with several other guys falling off the back from the watt bombs berks was dropping. At the far turn on the first lap of two, Berkel again put the power down and this move ultimately changed my race. I managed to stay in contact until around 35 km but due to the effort needed to bridge a small gap to stay in contact with Berkel (and one other athlete) I was digging a small hole and had to ensure the hole didn't get to deep. I decided to let Berkel go which looking back now I regret. He went on to post the fastest bike split. I rode the second lap solo holding a reasonable pace that left me about 4 mins off the leaders into T2. By this stage both feet had no feeling and felt like solid blocks of concrete! Running was going to be interesting!
One lesson I learnt from Sydney 2 weeks prior was that my body needs more calories then I had been previously supplying it on the run. I burn calories at serious rate of knots when racing. My stomach is a fiery furnace that can handle large amounts of nutrition without giving me an untoward feelings. I added another 200 calories into my nutrition plan for the run with the goal to take on 100 calories at the 3.5, 7, 10.5 and 14km marks. The goal with this nutrition plan was to prevent any drop in blood sugar in the last 5 km of the run.
Out of T2 and I knew I would have to run hard from the start to be any chance of top 5 or better. Unfortunately the running legs just weren't there at the start. I was still quite cold and felt as if the mind and body couldn't work together! The pace for the first lap of three was around 3:50 per km. Well below the planned 3:35 pace. Passing through the crowd and past transition on the first lap I got a bit of a pick-me-up from my parents,
fiancée and daughter. That, combined with the body starting to warm up, enabled me to pick the pace up. The pace increased to around 3:40 for the next 1 and half laps. By this stage in was still sitting in 10th place, the same position I had come off the bike in. With about 4km to go I felt the best I had all run! I managed to tick off the last 4.5km in 3:30-3:35 pace. In the process I slipped up into 8th place. The promising sign on the run was the ability to come home strong in the final 5 km and having the extra gel I believe enabled me to come home strong. I am excited moving forward with how my running is progressing and my ability to run off a hard bike. Good signs!!
Crossing in 8th and being able to come home strong gave me great satisfaction and belief that what the training I am doing both physically and mentally is heading in right direction. The event was very well run and a big well done to Ironman and and all the volunteers. From here I will have some easier weeks before hitting some more longer course races next year.