Noosa may struggle to get results out on time, but Port Macquarie Half-Ironman had the results online in a matter of hours! Which makes it much easier to get on and do a race report on the day. I very nearly wrote another piece last night as I waited for the race, I wasn’t entirely happy with the last post. Some of that will end up in here instead as I’m starting the report with the day before the race.
After arsing about trying to decide what to do for training I ended up going out on the bike. I rode most of the course, would have ridden it all, but for a puncture. Yet again the Aussie roads take their toll on my bike, this time a thin piece of glass buried in the tyre. One puncture wasn’t enough though, I rolled back to town and registered for the race. I get back to my bike on the rack and the rear wheel has punctured again. After an awkward walk home with the bike I decide the rear wheel needs an overhaul. Fortunately there’s a cycle shop a minute from my motel so new tyre and tubes were easy (but expensive) to get. There are so many cuts in my old tyre I couldn’t rely on it anymore, I’d spend the whole race paranoid I’d puncture again. Back in the UK amongst the bike bits I left behind is a box of about 20 spare tubes… Here I’ve run out and they cost twice as much! There is a conspiracy between the Aussie roads and the bike shops to keep us buying.
Needless to say everything got sorted, bike into transition and relax. Once again I got everything ready early on in the evening so I’d not have to rush and then tried to chill out. My pre-race nerves remained at a reasonable level and I considered the objectives for this race. Last year I raced Port and came in around 4:42 (checks own results page!) if I had any objective this year it was to beat that. Other than this I wanted to make the top 10 in my age group.
I should qualify a couple of things about that 4:42, firstly I was riding a tri bike with Xentis TT wheels and my aero-helmet. Secondly I punctured and experienced my first emergency tubular change and then rolled my ankle on the run (they’d filled in that pot hole this year). I’d made the call not to race with aero equipment and instead go for power data again. I just hoped the nasty headwind I experienced returning to town wouldn’t be there race day. I’ll come back to this particular choice later on. Opting to go with no aero gear had a potential impact on my bike performance, but aiming not to roll my ankle could only help my run! To add a little bit more to the challenge the race would take me up to 60 hours of training and racing in the past 2 weeks! I’m very aware I’m far from fresh right now.
Enough preamble, onto race day. Firstly another alarm based apology. I’d like to apologise to anyone staying at the motel who got woken by my smoke alarm at about 4:45 in the morning. What can I say it’s clearly very sensitive, there wasn’t any smoke, it was just the toaster! My motel was ideally positioned about 10 minutes from transition so I wandered down and set-up without fuss.
Water temperature was 21C so nice and warm, but meant I got to use my wetsuit for the third time since I arrived here. Port is a mass start in the water with a self-seeding system based on estimated swim time. I have no idea what I estimated, but it put me up the front just behind the pros. As it was I swam 29 minutes which isn’t particularly impressive. I really don’t seem to be making progress with swimming, well rather in performance. The odd thing is my comfort in the water had improved markedly. I am definitely lacking top-end though, not having a good squad to swim with hasn’t helped here. Something I noticed in the swim was I struggle in the first part, finding I come off badly in the initial frenzy and tend to flood myself with lactic before the first few hundred are over. I clearly need to work on this and find a way to minimise the impact of this initial stage. Once I’m in clear water and my breathing settles I get into my stroke and start to move up the field a little. For long distance swims I’m not actually in too bad a shape, but clearly the skills of swimming in a bunch is something I need to work on.
Onto the bike and I can’t say I felt great! At the same time the powermeter told me that I was putting out a reasonable effort for me. Riding with a powermeter is great for controlling your race. I spent a lot of my time reminding myself to hold back and measure my effort. Initially this meant I watched a few people go by. Later though it started to pay back dividends as the second lap I picked up a lot. My power output seemed to increase a little and I was able to push more on the hills. I started to take back a few places I’d lost and move up the field. The previous days wind was gone and replaced by a headwind in the other direction. This really cut the speed as you headed south, again with the powermeter I knew how hard I was working and didn’t let this worry me.
Unsurprisingly packs formed though I was shocked on lap 2 when a guy invited me to join his group of 4 working together! I politely declined and powered away. I was a little worried the group would come flying past me, after all they had an advantage, but I’m pleased to say driven on by anger and feeling better on the bike I never saw them again. I have to say that was the most brazen attitude to drafting I’d ever encountered in a race. I raced clean to finish the bike in 2:40 according to the powermeter. The heavy winds this year made the bike course much tougher so whilst I did my puncturing the day before the race this year I wasn’t surprised not to have gone faster than last year.
I’ll admit I am left wondering what difference an aerohelmet and my Zipp 404s might have made over my normal helmet and open pro box rims. Enough to try to look up some information online and not get any clear answers. I think I can fairly safely say I would have gone faster with the aero stuff, possibly by several minutes. I can’t really say how much faster so it’s all speculation. The way I view it though, this race and power data is great feedback on my condition at the moment. Come race day in Busselton the bike will be set-up with the aero gear and I’ll be ready to reap the benefits when it matters.
T2 was once again a slow affair on my part. I wasn’t racing the Zoots after the problems in Noosa so had opted for the knee length compression socks with my Saucony type As. The socks add at least 2 minutes to my transition times though! That said I felt great the whole run, not sure if they contributed or not, but my recovery should hopefully be quicker too. I don’t have too much to say on the run. I took 1:26 which isn’t my fastest, but isn’t too bad on the course and again with fatigued legs. I felt pretty strong throughout and wasn’t feeling tired when I picked the pace up towards the end. I wondered how much longer I could keep up that feeling and pace… I’m looking for a sub-3:10 in Busso, I don’t need to run that fast, but can I keep a slightly slower pace for the whole marathon?
On the run I used the women pros as markers to pick off, managed to beat all but the winner Charlotte Paul. She had a couple of minutes on me in the end. My time was 4:38, so I achieved the aim of improving on my previous year’s time. I was also 10th in my age group so that gets me the top 10 position too! Overall I’m pretty happy with that result. I think I’ve put up enough excuses for reasons I might be slow, but that was a solid enough performance. I’ve some good race data on the course for one of my Ironmans next year. I also know I can run well here which gives me a lot of confidence for next year. My run was 17th fastest overall, I think a slight improvement on last year. Generally I think that whilst I’m tired and my muscles are tense my performance is definitely on the up and hopefully ready to peak in December.
This is getting long so I’ll save further thoughts on the race and the data I’ve collected for another time. I drive back tomorrow and try and get some decent training for my first day of my big week. So I’ve tried to eat plenty of good food (feeling a bit too full now actually!) and next to get plenty of sleep.