Jason Gray : Busselton Ironman70.3 Race Report
At registration the day before the race, the official announcement was made for compulsory wetsuits in the swim. With the water temperature down a couple of degrees and the ambient air temp low, the organisers were no doubt a bit worried. They needn't have been though, as the race morning was cool, but certainly not too cold to worry about.
At the race start I positioned myself a row or two back on the beach, which I thought was about right given the MASSIVE age group (40 - 44) wave of 264 people. I’m a strong swimmer but certainly not in the top 20 of a field that big (edit: I was 21st in the swim results). I’m not sure if my positioning was the cause, but I got caught up in probably the toughest swim start I’ve ever had. For about 300 or 400 metres I got kicked punched and even dragged down in what felt like a massive washing machine. I swallowed a big amount of water and no matter what side I breathed on, I could barely catch a breath!! I also stopped twice to empty water from my goggles due to being struck by other swimmers. As a relatively strong swimmer I have never really been able to relate to other triathletes who have told me about panic attacks or their struggles with the triathlon and adventure race wave starts - until yesterday. I managed to keep my composure but I was genuinely starting to struggle… After about 500m I found some good clear water (sadly no feet for a draft) and got into a rhythm with my stroke. It was at this point that I begun passing a lot of the guys that obviously sprinted the start and swam over the top of me. Someone was tapping away at my feet for a long time, but it didn’t bother me as I would have liked to do the same thing if I could find someone. I sighted well and rounded all the markers with a problem. I hit the beach timing mat with a time of 28 minutes, and considering the start, that was a pretty good swim for me :)
Transition to the bike was smooth. I took a gel, and a few extra seconds to put some socks on as I knew I’d need them for the run anyway. I headed out on the ultra flat and very smooth asphalt bike course (2 x45km laps). I knew I was supposed to hold 210W as an average, but I allowed it to creep up a little bit, but no too much. The course was so flat, I didn’t need the BestBikeSplit info on my Garmin so much. It was coming up on my screen but there was not a huge amount of variability and I ignored it early in the ride as I knew what I had to do. I found a couple of guys who were riding at the same speed as me, and we paced each other keeping the 12m gap and passing each other within the required 25 seconds. This worked well, and I’m glad we didn’t draft. there was always someone in the penalty box when I rode past, and in one instance the officials penalised a group of 8 riders at once!!
I felt comfortable on the bike for the whole ride. I rode within my limits, but only just, for the whole way. I tried very hard to keep my power consistent and I was a worried that I was breaking the power limits set by Filip as part of our race plan. However, I was holding the power without too much trouble and not getting fatigued badly. I decided to take a risk and keep the power slightly higher than planned. I was getting tired towards the end, but you get that on a 90km ride. Something that I hadn’t thought about was the long distances in passing and this caused me to have some extended efforts. With each rider generally 12 metres apart (often they were much closer than that), to pass these groups of 5 or 6 riders you need an extended effort, and you can’t just dump your bike at the front of the line, so you have to keep pushing for a while - not something I’ve had to worry about in past shorter races.
I finished the ride in relatively good shape, but I’ll admit that I got quite tired in the last 5km. At this point I did take an opportunity to fuel up, hydrate and spin the legs up in these last few km so that I could be ready for the run.
Bike: 2hr 26min, 37kph average, 219W average
I went through transition smoothly without any problems. I raced with lace up shoes as I decided the week before that I needed the support from my favourite training shoes rather than a pair of light weight race shoes that sometimes give me blisters over the longer distances. I’m happy with that decision!! Out on the run and I felt very comfortable. The race was 3 laps of a 7 km course (3.5km out and 3.5km back). I passed my friend in the first 500m of the run, which is great for confidence. I looked at my garmin and I was running 4:20 min/km - too fast!! I slowed it down as per Filip’s instructions. Ignoring the aid stations (they were every 1.5km!) I knew I wouldn't need any water until after the first lap, I hit the first official split and my watch said I was doing ~4’30ish” min/km. I knew it was a tiny bit too quick but I felt very comfortable. Second split at the 7km mark exactly the same very consistent… At this point I decided to slow down to 4’45 or so, but to my surprise I began to struggle and averaged 5 min per kilometre. At the half way mark of the run it began to be a mind game for the rest of the run. 5 min kms drifted to 5:20 on the last lap has my hips (as they always do on long runs) begun annoy me. I continued to push but the pace was well down on the opening laps. Turning for the last 3.5km to the finish chuteI kind of knew I’d get a lift from the very noisy crowd, so I wasn’t too worried. I hung on, and did a 1ht45min Half marathon. It was only 5 minutes slower than my 20km training runs that didn’t involve the previous swim and bike legs, so I think I can be happy with that. Looking back at the run, I would have liked to have held a 4’45” min/km average for run, but I left absolutely nothing in the tank. I couldn’t have gone any quicker!
Total race time 4 hours 45 minutes and 5 seconds! That is quite a bit quicker than expected and we were aiming for something close but under 5 hours.
Note: The nutrition and hydration plan that Filip developed for me went very well. At no time did I drop low as I have in the past. There were bidon exchanges out on the bike course which I completely ignored. I had 2 bottles of drink on board and enough gels to keep me going. In my mind the bidden exchange with an untested (on me) electrolyte added, was just a distraction and something that could slow me down to collect or not agree with my stomach. My drink included calories and electrolyte as we have discussed in the past, as the test we did some time ago showed that I burn calories much quicker than the general rule of thumb and needed more in my drink. This strategy continues to work for me on the long races.