Gold Coast Half-Ironman – Race #1 in Australia

Two weeks into my time in Oz and race number 1 has come round. I’m starting out with the local Half-Ironman and part of the Aussie Half-Ironman series. I raced another member of the series, Port Macquarie Half, last year and will be at that one again in November. My schedule (which is updated by the way) doesn’t allow me to race the full series unfortunately, but I’ll get a few in. For this first race the goal is just to have fun and see what happens, I’ve no specific expectations for placings.

Fun doesn’t mean pain free or easy after all so once the race starts it’s all about getting to the end as quick as possible. It’s a training race which for me means little or no taper and then go as hard as I can. My pre-race prep consists of taking the Friday before as a rest day and training at lower volume on Saturday. Otherwise I stuck to my normal training plan for the entire week, conceding a shorter mid-week long run than usual. A single rest day clearly isn’t enough for any serious recovery to take place, but hopefully clears the worst of the fatigue and muscle damage. I’ll not be on top form for this one, but I’ll be able to go hard when I need to. That’s put my excuses up front.

Whilst at the very least I’ll get a solid, intense training session from the race there are a few other things I’m looking to take away from it. Any race gives feedback on current fitness, you can throw in caveats about fatigue or whatever, but ultimately you do get some clues as to what’s going on. Worst case I’ll come away with things to work on, but hopefully like Worlds it’ll also give a confidence boost.

It’ll also be this year’s first exposure to conditions here and a chance to get some idea of how I’ll cope with heat. The weather is promising to hit around 30C. I claim to race well in heat, best to test that one out before we really enter the summer here. There may well be a fair wind too which I think will be significant on the bike. I’ll be interested how I go in this, Worlds and the way I’ve been riding lately have been making me question my particular strengths on the bike. If I’m going well on a flat course in hot and windy conditions it bodes well for WA.

Looking more specifically at the stages of the race. I’m feeling great in the water after only 2 weeks of heavy volume. I’m not going to put any times up, but I’m pretty happy with the way things are going in the pool. World records are in no danger of being broken, but I’m feeling close to the best I’ve been in the pool! So when it comes to the swim I plan to place myself near the front of my wave and go out hard. The worst that happens is a lot of guys swim over me, but I want to give myself every chance for a good swim. I’m not expecting a breakthrough here yet, but I’m optimistic of a good swim.

When it comes to the bike I don’t really have any specific focus for the race. All I can say is I’m going to ride the course hard. I’m actually hoping for strong winds because I think they’ll play to my favour. Recent training and racing leads me to believe a tough course works to my benefit. Having something to work against helps give me mental focus and stops my mind drifting mid-race. If I want to see anything in the bike section of this race it’s more confirmation that my biking has improved significantly over the past year.

Lastly the run. I will be wearing the knee-high compression socks, I’m not convinced they make much difference to the run, but I am convinced they improve recovery. I want to be getting back into training straight after this race so it’s important I do anything that speeds this up. For a half I can get away with a simple run strategy of go as hard as you can till the finish line. I’ve run enough halfs to have a good sense of my pacing and how long it should last. What I’ll take away is some idea of how I’m performing in the heat and how my running in general is going.

If I get anything else from this race, it’s another chance to practice the calm, relaxed approach that worked so well at Worlds over the stressed, tense approach that led up to Switzerland. One day to go on that and so far so good. I know I’ll race to the best of my ability on the day. That I’m doing this because I enjoy racing and it’s a stepping stone to my overall goals. Stressing over particular times, placements and results is simply counter-productive. At the end of the day if things go wrong I’ll still come away with a free running singlet, towel and more of a tan!

And as for what you do on a rest day? Well, for a start you don’t entirely rest, instead you go on a coffee shop ride, an hour in the small ring before stopping for coffee. Not entirely resting, but not entirely training either. The other things to do are watch a movie and eat a lot. To get this out the way and move onto the up-coming race it was Into The Wild. I read the book and commented on it a while back, the movie closely resembles it and is pretty good, though a bit long for my taste. I’m not commenting on the eating, I’m saving the subject of food and diets for another day.