With the level of uncertainty and general fear in the world right now I feel very fortunate to have been able to compete in two world-class endurance events in the past fortnight. Some things have a tendency to make sport seem trivial, but at the same time I find sport has a wonderful way of lifting the human spirit and giving us a positive distraction at times when its needed. So with some initial hesitation, I decided to forge ahead with a bit of an account of my Ironman NZ and Motatapu Off-road Tri experiences.
I entered IMNZ a day before the professional licence cut-off which happened to be the Wednesday before Coast to Coast. Gordon (coach) had given the notion a nod on the understanding it wouldn’t distract me from the job at hand at the C2C. Nothing could have distracted me from C2C but as it turned out I was glad I had thrown an entry into IMNZ after my disappointment on Feb 8th. I knew I was as fit as ever and so provided I could stay healthy for the next four weeks and get back in touch with my swimming, I felt I could go alright at Taupo. A 57 minute swim was quite satisfying in the circumstances. My best ever time over the distance is 52 minutes, so off the back of 3 weeks of swim prep, I was pleased to be just 5 minutes shy of a swim time that came off the back of many months of 20-30km/week swim training. As I climbed on my bike I was in a positive mindset.
Unfortunately, my bike legs were once again missing in action. I couldn’t work out why the performances I am showing in training on the bike were not showing on race day. But it was never going to threaten my enjoyment of being out there on race day and giving my best. After a solo swim, it turned into a solo bike. I passed a few of the professionals as they were sporadically spat off the back of the pain-trains at the front of the race. Cam Brown was the last pro I would pass on the bike, approximately 165km into the race.
I left TA2 with a minute or so on Cam and a couple minutes behind Braden. I was in 6th place, but I didn’t really think about it much. Instead I just focused on run form and holding my pace back a little for the back half of the marathon. Cam passed me about 7km into the run which I expected. He barely makes a sound so I didn’t hear him coming, in fact I am not even sure if his feet touch the ground. As he disappeared away ahead of me I made some run form goals in my head while watching the 47 year old showcase perfect form.
I plugged away for the rest of the run, acknowledging familiar faces who screamed support and keeping an eye out for my own athletes out there striving towards their goals. I really found myself enjoying the run and with 5km to go I made a pass on Mark Bowstead who was starting to fade. Moving back into 6th place so late in the race felt great. But only a couple kilometres later I spotted Cam Brown! A few supporters said he looked to be in bad shape which gave me a rush of intent. Before I know it I was back at about 3.45/km pace and closing fast. With only about one kilometre to go I managed to pass Cam and cross the line 5th with a 2.51 marathon. After 8.13hrs virtually alone from start to finish I was ecstatic with my performance. It was pretty hard case to offer condolences to my good mate Braden on his 3rd, knowing how much he’d wanted to win, as he congratulated me on 5th! I also got the bonus of being 3rd in the NZ long-distance national champs standings, behind Mike and Braden.
As was the plan I rolled on through the week with a few easy sessions and showed up on the start line of the Motatapu Off-road Triathlon a week later. My expectations were low and desire for enjoyment high. After a 1km swim I popped out of the water around 5th. Climbed on my MTB and set off into the stunning Motatapu Valley. It was a beautiful day and once again I was loving it, although for the first race day of the summer I finally had good bike legs! By the time I went through one hour on the bike, I noticed I had averaged over 400 watts and felt comfy. With only Sam Osborne ahead of me by now, I figured I might even catch him.
As I entered transition to the run, Sam was just leaving. I had pulled back good time (in fact if I had entered the MTB-only event, I would have won) but was conscious he would have to blow up for me to catch him on the 8km run. I pushed the climb to see if I could pull back time, but as I hit the downhill from the tops and still couldn’t see him, I chose to pull back on the throttle and protect my feet. I have been dealing with some plantar fasciitis this summer and thought it made sense to limit how much I smashed my feet given I was never going to catch Sam from that point.
Coming second was cool. I love this course and Sam is on another level in the off-road tri/Xterra format. He had a faster swim, both transitions and run split. I was surprised and really happy with how my body responded a week after an ironman and can now also lay claim to being runner-up in the national off-road triathlon championships too.
The way things have now transpired with virtually all events being cancelled for the coming months, I am hitting the off-season switch. I was very lucky to get to compete in these events before everything changed and am now ready to kick back and see where things go. “Training” might be renamed “physical activity” for the time being and probably involve scooters and BMX bikes with my kids rather than time trial bikes and wetsuits.
I hope everyone is able to stay safe and look after each other over the coming months. As I tell myself and my athletes, it is important to stay focused on the controllables. Sport has many wonderful teachings for life in general and this would be one I will draw on for now. Spend your time and energy focusing on what you have control over and do not let yourself be stressed by the things you cannot. If nothing else, the Zwift sessions should be a good exercise outlet!