The morning started out well. Yet again my sleep before this race like most of my races is almost non-existent. My alarm went off, I was up and in the mood to get ready. Nik had said the night before she would drive me to the race start. We even packed the night before so I didn’t have to worry about her packing the car too much. Everything was planned out. It felt good. Arriving at check in everything was calm. I tried not to think about what was ahead to much. For the first time I remembered my ear phones and started listening to music that I listen to that helps me get through my trainer sessions on the bike. At the same time I also had a little bit of banter with Brad. Not sure if he appreciated it or not as I am sure he has his own pre race routine. Transition set up, and my timing all seemed to work well. I wasn’t ready to early, but had enough time to chat.
I decided not to do a pre race swim warm up in the water, but rather do a little bit of stretching and swinging of my arms prior to entering the water. I reckon I was in the water for just a few minutes before we were off. I am definitely not a surf swimmer, I enjoy the smooth calmer waters. I felt as though I swam on my own for the majority of the swim leg, I had a couple of little touches from other competitors and felt once or twice I was swimming passed competitors. Was I delirious when I came out of the water I couldn’t believe it, I had just completed the first leg non-stop. Previous races I would stop and look at my watch or give into the discomfort and resort to breaststroke. I wanted to be out of the water within or just on 45mins. Actual time was a tick over 46mins, looking down at my watch I saw 2.5kms for the swim. I didn’t panic, I was only one minute outside where I wanted to be and given the course seemed to measure an extra 500m I was ok.
The run out of the water down to transition felt long, my wetsuit was off in no time. I had my glasses and helmet on in no time. Immediately after taking my bike off the rack I realised I hadn’t put my race belt on showing my number. This only took a few extra seconds. Frustrating none the less though.
I was positive coming onto the bike, I knew I wasn’t last out of the water and I just continued my own race. My plan was to be on the bike for no longer than 2hrs 40mins for the 80kms. I knew I needed to be on 1:40 per lap. This was the first time since November 2016 the family had joined me for a race. I didn’t want to let them down after my first ever half marathon in Newcastle where I ran a 2hr half. Again, back then my ambition outweighed my ability. I knew this time was different, I hadn’t gone out to fast my heart rate was consistent. The bike course was undulating and tough in certain areas, the surface was terrible. I needed to stay focused on the second lap. I picked parts of the course as goals and continued on. I took advantage of the downhills this time and really built momentum. The last 10kms seemed to take forever. My last goal finally arrived which was approx. 7km from T2. I rode about 7km of the course with Brad the day before. I took a look at my watch to check the time, I was on track still. I got stuck in to finish the job. Making the final turn was a little confusing, lots happening with witches hats everywhere, cars and runners. I wasnt sure if I was meant to go slow or sit up, so I did a little of both. I had my feet out of my shoes for about the last 200m, dismount worked well until my pedals spun and I lost a shoe off my pedal I need to turn around and grab it.
Getting my runners on after being on the bike is always a little tricky for me, lots goes through my head, please don’t cramp, shit, I can’t find my gels or whatever. Nik and the kids where standing watching me. They could see I was struggling and starting to stress. “Ben, take your time, its ok. Yeah Dad, you’re doing great.” On go the shoes, the run out of T2 seems to take forever.
Off I set, 5 min pace was my goal to hold. Normally when I run a half marathon I run between 4:20 – 4:30 per km and have my watch set to go off every 1km. I was finding that I was beginning to think and panic to much if I was under or just off the pace during half marathons. So after some discussions with another triathlete mate he suggested I break the run down in to 5km intervals and build throughout to enable a strong finish. My first 5km was done in 26mins. Damn it, outside my target time. I hung on as long as I could. My motivation then switched to wanting to beat Brad’s run split. I remember when I first met him his run was his weakest leg, but during the last 3 months I have watched him turn it around. He has many years more experience and knows what he is doing on course. Me, I was running on not wanting to be embarrassed. I saw him running towards me, I knew my run was done about 6 kms in, he was semi laughing at me saying he was 9kms in. My response, I’m done. You’ve got me. I now running on 6 min pace. The run got harder and the hills kept coming. My option was to quit after the first lap or deal with it and manage myself and just get back to racing. I was still loving it out there and I was not letting it beat me this time around. I was physically and mentally stronger than ever. I did walk some aid stations. I took encouragement from others around me. I saw Brad in around the same spot on my lap, this time it was a high 5 from him. There was no way I was letting him lap me. I pushed on and set little goals ahead again, an aid station, the top of a hill, a grassed section. The beep for 15km went off. Something inside me clicked and I said to myself, this is just a parkrun. It’s time to go home. My pace seemed to become more consistent and I felt stronger. Coming down the final stretch my pace was stronger, Brad is off to my right walking his bike back to the car “Come Juddy” I wanted to finish strong I knew I was close to my 5:30 original goal time, I knew my family was there. I looked at the clock 5:31, I didn’t care like I have before as I had already had my weaknesses handed to me on a silver platter. Race management and running off the bike. Normally when I finish a race I am telling people never again. This is just stupid, or out of course I am already planning for retirement from the sport. NOT THIS TIME. I was already planning to race better, smarter and stronger for Western Sydney 70.3.
Apart from race management and the ability and need to be able to run longer faster and more consistent off the bike my hydration on the bike needs some work. The Gatorade has to go. Using the Endura energy drink at the aid stations on the run seemed to work and sit well on my stomach. I almost vomited at one point on the bike. With my focus now turning solely to the long course events my strength needs some work. Strength is an area I have neglected since I started to participate in Triathlons. I can now see how important it is and would like to make some small changes to my training to accommodate maybe one weights session per week. My run off the bike now also seems to be weak. Maybe I need to do some more running off the bike at higher intensity and HR so I can hold on longer and manage myself better at a quicker pace.