Racing Flat – ITU Long Distance Tri World Championship Report

I’m pretty much convinced that I won’t try this experiment again. Two weeks between two big races doesn’t work so well for me. Not least with all those miles spent in the air in between. I’d committed though and I’m not one to skip out on races lightly. Besides I figured what better way to kickstart myself back into training?

Being based with friends a little way out of Perth CBD has plenty of advantages. On the other hand come race morning I have to get a taxi in. Not a huge inconvenience, but it means committing to going to transition earlier. I’ve been spoilt by my Kona experience! I turned up at 6:45 and was done in five minutes as usual. Leaving me with over an hour and a half before my race start. Fortunately the sun was out and it was a pleasant morning. All the waiting had the benefit of letting me calm any nerves.

Eventually the swim start came around. We were being set off in relatively small waves. Unusually male 30-34 was going right near the end. Potentially lots of people in the way down the line! There were a couple of bizarre wave starts where the horn sounded and nobody went. The announcer having to repeatedly tell them to go! By the time you got to my age group this was never going to be a problem. Plenty of drifting forward before the start.

Such a small group and a nice wide start minimised the issues of where to place myself. I figured behind the front line with the bulk of the swimmers. The theory being I’d have a good chance of catching a draft. The theory worked well for the first few hundred metres and then things started going wrong!

My first mistake occurred before I even got in the water. It was a true rookie error. As we stood in the pen waiting to enter Swan River I put my goggles to my face. This was when I discovered a nice big smear over most of the right lens. The left was fine though so I’d cope. Once in the water a combination of opting for a dark tint, the smear and a little bit of fogging and sighting became a nightmare. Add in a strong easterly wind picking up lots of chop to make things harder still!

I’d love to know the exact course I took. The way I weaved about must be pretty entertaining. I remember at times realising everyone seemed to be way over to my right only to find them all way over to my left five minutes later. I must have zig-zagged the entire course! The aforementioned chop added to the difficulty and then there was he occasional jellyfish too. Mostly just a little unpleasant to touch though I’d swear one did sting me right on the chin.

A lot of the return leg of the swim involved hoping the next buoy was the final turn buoy. After four or five that weren’t I eventually arrived at the swim exit. Looking down at my watch showed 56 minutes. Definitely not a fast swim, but who knows where that places me. Into transition and the bike rack is emptier than I’d like. Of course with wave starts that wasn’t entirely unexpected. Having debated wave versus mass starts in the past this race has started to turn me towards mass starts more.

I was pretty leisurely in transition. Something to work upon for the next race. Perhaps I should set a goal for transitions in Busselton! It was uneventful though and I was soon out onto the bike course and getting up to speed. That strong easterly was still blowing, but at least it was a tailwind for the initial portion of the lap. The bike course was flat, not quite Busselton flat, but close enough.

Straight away I started to push hard. Whilst I’d really not set any goals I was keen to at least try to do a solid bike. The heart rate sky rocketed, but I stuck with it and decided to see what would happen. Not unexpectedly over time my heart rate dropped and to an extent so did my power. I’ll save the numbers for another time, but I’m not too disappointed with the drop off that occurred considering. Downloading data later did reveal that despite perceived exertion and heart rate my average power was really in Ironman territory. It’s fair to say I’ve had better biking performances during training.

One success of the race was testing out my bike setup for Ironman Western Australia. Nothing radically new, but the addition of a Wheel cover to my Powertap training wheel. It’s a little quirky and by no means as nice as a real disc wheel. Value for money though? I’ve got power and the aerodynamic benefits of a disc for a fraction of the cost. There seem to be some minor issues with the largest cassette rubbing on the cover. Effectively you can’t really use that gear during a race. Not an issue when it’s a flat course, but something to consider. I’ve opted for a white cover which is great for spotting in transition, but shows up dirt in no time!

I quite enjoyed the bike course. Four laps made it easy to monitor performance. Whilst I was seeing drop off on each lap it wasn’t unacceptably large and I seemed to be moving forward relative to the field. Hard to tell though when there are so many different waves out on the course. I witnessed some shocking drafting from a pair of pros out there. Blatantly working together. I’m pleased neither of them made the podium even if they’re in the top ten.

A solid bike done (with that caveat of perceived exertion versus actual performance) and it was back into transition. Leisurely again as I messed about with compression socks. All ready and it was out onto the run. As with the bike there were four laps ahead, each of five kilometres. I thought that should make pacing relatively easy. The heat had built up and the wind was dying down by now making for hot conditions out there. Perfect for me.

The first lap went well, I was on the sort of pace I wanted. Unfortunately my legs didn’t have it in them to sustain that sort of effort and the pace dropped. Rather than running close to my half-marathon pace I was hitting closer to my Ironman run pace. Disappointing, but I couldn’t get anymore out of them. I was overtaking plenty of people, but yet again had no idea of relative position.

I just kept on working pleased to be running so comfortably when I’d effectively had a couple of weeks break from it. There was a worrying moment in lap three where a dead turn set off some pain in my left shin. I began to have fears of shin splints and wonder how stupid I was for racing! Fortunately it soon vanished and let me continue worry free.

I tried to push the last lap. It was another case of perceived effort going up whilst pace remained the same! All accept the last couple of kilometres where I managed to focus enough and get myself going. The motivation of just getting it over with is a powerful thing! I crossed the line, clueless of my position other than I’d managed to take back one more place in my age group in the final 500m or so.

I was glad it was over. I’d not been greatly motivated beforehand, but had still managed to work as hard as I could. I knew I’d not had a great day in terms of relative performance, but I also knew why. I’ve already mentioned taking some positives from this in my mini-report. The bike performance was pretty solid and leaves me optimistic for Busselton. As does the run to be honest, if I can manage that pace now then I should be able to for a further 22km in December. The swimming is disappointing and really needs to be a focus in the coming months.

So I wouldn’t recommend doing a big race two weeks after Kona. Though having finished this report I’m a little less certain of that. It was in a way fun. Just turning up and seeing what would happen. I think I’d opt for a smaller race if I was to do it again. Really I’d like to see a better performance at a World Champs! I’m taking it easy today, but you can consider my Busselton training kick started!