Race Report – Ironman 70.3 Western Sydney
November 27, 2016
Swim 1.2mi/ Bike 56mi/ Run 13.1mi
Penrith, New South Wales, Australia
This may be the soonest after a race I’ve ever started one of these. Here’s my attempt to make it more digestible and concise.
This was my final race of the year. It was my fourth long course race (70.3 distance) and 10th multi-sport race of the year (including all of the short, modified-distance Kona races only one of which was a proper Olympic distance race). I started the year with what I thought was my best race ever at IM 70.3 Oceanside in April. I wanted to build off of that and get that same feeling at the end of the year. Though my run was slower, I raced a personal best. At this race I used more strategy and less emotion.
Talk of the race built it up to be a hot, boring and non-scenic event. The lake—formerly an Olympic rowing training facility—was flat with precise lane lines to make sighting too easy. The bike course had a couple bumps with a very slight elevation gain overall. The chip-seal (asphalt quality) was said to be poor for most of it. The run course was even flatter with a high potential of some real heat. As usual, all of the talk was mostly just talk and come race-day a lot of that was irrelevant or untrue.
After a 3:00am wake-up and 3:45am departure from the Rea residence 1-hour away with my new buddy Alex Polizzi, we got to the venue with a time to spare. With sleep-deprived headache, we walked around the lake to transition and set up. Before we knew it was time to race.
The swim sighting was too easy (in theory). My watch read 2112yds at the end of my swim. That’s exactly 1.2mi. I felt great during the swim. A nagging left shoulder that stems from almost a full year ago now, gave me a little hesitation, but I thought for sure I’d swim a personal best. With a temperature of 25* Celsius, it was a non-wetsuit legal swim. But I think accumulated fatigue plus my deficit in the elite-swimming ability contributed to my 30 min. split. The water was scummy and people complained of stomach issues throughout the race (which I may have as well, but suppressed it successfully). The lane lines were awesome though! The swim times overall were a bit slow and some people are blaming the thick water and lack of buoyancy in a fresh-water lake (the term “fresh” is used loosely here). I blame one thing—I need to become a better swimmer. No excuses, my swim is not at elite levels and I need to do some real research, correcting, conditioning and work.
My transition to the bike still needs work also, but it’s getting a little better. I felt a bit pessimistic with my swim that personally unimpressed me, but I quickly put it behind me. The temperature was so cool and the sun still hadn’t come out from the clouds. There were a few silly sharp turns within the regatta center, but quickly the course revealed its true profile and we were all in aero on a flat highway for more than half the entire two-lap course. I popped a salt and caffeine pill and I began passing my age-group competition steadily. I ticked them off like a to-do list. The best ones to pass are those with expensive disk wheels. I kept my power within my goal range of 225-245 watts. I was on the high end and felt a little heavy after the first lap, so I turned it down to the bottom end for the second way out. My heart rate goal of 150 beats per minute was right on point. The cool temperature didn’t inspire me to drink so much fluids. I had my energy bar to start, eventually got through a hydration mix with caffeine and electrolytes. The caffeinated chia-seed, energy gel was easy to take in as well. My final hydration mix was barely touched and I really only drank 1.5 bottles of fluids. From start to finish of the bike leg I consumed about only 30-35 oz. of water, about 600 calories, 150mg caffeine and a good amount of sodium and other electrolytes (totals soon to come based on 1.5 electrolyte tabs, salt pill, and a chia energy gel). My final return on the not-so-shabby road (with a handful of potholes and bouncy road) was around a steady 230w and only slightly about 150bpm. I was right on target and never tried to chase anyone or get affected by other riders riding. There was little drafting I even noticed (perhaps a conscious choice of mine to not notice). I finished with a personal best of 2:17.
A few things I’ll do differently next time is to make sure my front water bottle mount is secured properly as it rattled which was very annoying and slightly concerning at times. Also I need to make sure my bike-computer is all synced properly to my power and heart rate censors as it didn’t pick it up so I relied on my watch. Lastly, I need to get a simple storage unit for that wasted space right above the bottom bracket of my Cervelo P3. Many bike frames and storage products are utilizing this space well (Specialized with the Shiv Fuel Cell for years now and all the new super bikes). I need to get in touch with the Wurtele’s to see what they were using on their old P5’s that looked so clever. That’s where I would put my CO2 (and other items I hope I never have to use in a race). This time I stuffed them in my pocket which was fine with the kit I’m using now, but I’d rather have nothing on my person if possible.
The run transition was quick; I took my time to make sure I didn’t pull anything in my groin. I’m still in need of a proper bike fit to maximize my non-running muscle groups on the bike and preserve my running-muscle-groups for the run. Know of anything convenient for a Kona-based guy like me? I started with a pace I thought was conservative at 6:40/mile. I wanted to drop it into the low 6:00’s eventually. It was warming up and my heart rate was quickly at 160bpm which is about 10bpm shy of where I try to cap it out on a half-marathon. I ran with a quick young guy, Jack in the 18-24 age group. We debriefed our goals and times and soon separated to run our races. I left him as my pace quickened and I spotted the legendary Mimi from France (professional female +40-years-old who’s placed in the top 10 in more than 10 races this year). After it heated up more and the interesting parts of the course were over and done with, I caught her as we ran at a 6:30 pace. My stomach was feeling funny and I wanted to stop to use the loo, but I suppressed the urge successfully. My two chia seed gels watered down in a small flask were giving me the energy and caffeine I needed for the first 7 miles and all I took in was small sips of water at the aid stations. Mimi dropped back and I was on my own for the long 10k out and back on the lake. The headwinds had picked up, but the temperature fine. It may have been hot to some, but really it nothing to cry about. #konaconditioned
My buddies, Tim and Benny were rooting me on the whole race. They gave me valuable information on where I placed and the competition in front of me. They later admitted that when I was really in third place, they lied and told me I was in fourth to keep me pushing even when I got to first. Which I did with just about 5k to go. I reeled them all as they were jogging or walking at that point. I was not running at goal pace by any means, but my heart rate was steady at 166-170bpm which is where I wanted it. My form was feeling fine and I was taking in cola. I started slogging it through one aid station and Tim told me “You’re first. If there was a time to go out and hurt yourself in this run, now’s the time! Relax, but do not stop.” It was the best feeling in the world. I surged for a second, but he shouted, “RELAX!” which was clutch. 5k is still quite a bit to go. I kept a steady 7:00 pace and my head up and took it in to the finish chute. I ran a 1:26 which is not a personal best, but my overall time of 4:18 is. The announcer gave me a great introduction including my short trip to Australia and me being a teacher in Kona. I raised my fist in celebration and solidarity.
Turns out I was 3rd overall out of all of the age groupers with a couple 18-24 year olds who beat me by less than two minutes. I even beat a few pros, hey! But I’m not at the elite level at all. I still have a lot of work to do to get there. I may never, but I am loving this journey in disciplined yet-ecstatic self-improvement.
Thanks to the Rea family for hosting me. It would not have been possible without them. My family in California was rooting me on the whole weekend. I feed off that stuff! All of my friends from Hawaii and the mainland and beyond really keep my fire alive. Bikeworks Kona hooked it up big time with a solid and reliable hard-case bike case. Thank you to Don for letting me borrow your rear wheel too! Team Bioastin gave me a huge supply of supplements I’m taking including some awesome, green, plant-based protein mix. Thank you all! Keep fighting and keep striving to be your best. I kept telling myself during the race that even though two super-fast weapons were racing in my age group way in front of me off the swim and bike, that anything could happen. And it did! The fastest swimmer had to pull out due to bike issues. The first-off the bike speed-demon fell apart during the run somehow and I caught him as he walked! Anything did happen and I was able to leave with a slot to next year’s Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Chattanooga!
I raised my fist in celebration and honestly in solidarity with my friends at Standing Rock protesting the pipeline that is slated to be built under an essential water supply in North Dakota. Find out more about the NoDAPL movement here. My race success was due to clean water. All of our lives are, and that epiphany surged through me that water is life as I soaked in my first ever Ironman 70.3 Age Group win.
There may not be many more race reports any time soon. This was my last race until next year. I am shrinking my race count for next year majorly. I’ll post my calendar soon so I hope to see you at least one of them! Time to rest, recover and eat and drink things I’ve been avoiding for quite some time. (Hint: it rhymes with, “Go nuts!”