It just wasn’t my day today!
The day started as it usually does: wake up, coffee, last minute packing, drive to the race venue, set-up, warm up. This all went pretty well, then we all heard the announcement. “There will be no swim today due to the combination of high winds and swells present.”
I pride myself on being a ‘half-decent’ swimmer. I was a swimmer before I became a triathlete. I’m not always the first out of the water, and if you put me in a pro race of any level I probably wouldn’t be in the first pack out of the water, but I can certainly hold my own. Which means that news of a cancelled swim (one that would’ve been to my advantage due to the amount of chop!) was disappointing. But, those are the race conditions – everyone has the same race, may as well get on with it!
The race ended up being a mass start, with everyone lined up looking rather goofy whilst wearing helmets and cycle shoes. As the hooter sounded, everyone started the fast, short run through transition to get onto our bikes for the start of the now 40km bike and 10km run race. I had a great start, clipping in quickly and going solo off the front from the get-go. A strong tailwind was present, allowing speed to quickly set in; looking back, I had a gap to the next group, which was an excellent start! However this was short-lived, and I was caught by a group of eight or so about 1km into the ride. This group came together, and then the fun began. Every person in the group had to prove that they were the biggest and best man there, with attack after attack quickly tiring us. At the 10km turnaround, the group was still together but all were rather weary. The return trip had a block headwind for the first 5km, then an extremely strong crosswind for the remainder of the 20km lap. I was sitting in the group and still having to push power into the pedals just to keep moving forward. At the 15km mark, the group was still at sub 55 minute pacing for the 40km tt – considering the speed we were coming back in, this was quite a success! The 15km mark also contained a left hand turn, which was where the crosswind set in. Half of the group went through the turn, willing to risk all for glory, and the other half tried to be sensible. With the wind, previous rain levels, and other riders around, I played it safe. Unfortunately, this ended up splitting the group up!
The rest of the ride was rather uneventful. The same pattern repeated itself – a tailwind section that was incredibly fast despite the rolling hills and corners, then the turn around, a 5km headwind section that sapped the strength of all of us (for reference, and one point I was sitting at about 310w and going about 22km/h), followed by 5km of hanging onto the bike for dear life during the crosswind. And finally, off the bike! I think it’s safe to say that we were all glad to be off the bike in those conditions.
A solid transition let me lead the 4-man group onto the run, and immediately I knew that I’d probably gone too far into the red on the bike. But it was a race, so time to soldier on! I was hoping that the deficit I had to the lead group wasn’t insurmountable to finish in the open placings. The first run turnaround was at about 1.7km into the run, and I saw that 3rd and 4th weren’t too far ahead. Spurred on by this, I tried to find some semblance of run form and resolved to try to catch them. Upon completion of the first lap, I was told that I had a 1.45 gap to first. Not the worst odds I’ve ever had to win a race, but certainly not great ones. The run turnaround came up quickly, and I was moving fast enough to pass one of the group in front of me to claim the 4th place spot. However I wasn’t quite content, so I kept pushing in an attempt to move up another placing. At the second run turnaround, the gap to first was 1.15 – meaning I wasn’t likely to catch him, but I was closing down on the gap to the group of fast cyclists who had left us for dead. I could see third, was gearing up to pass him, then my body decided enough was enough and it was time for a walk. Rather embarrassing, but that’s what happens when you push the bike pace well beyond what you should over 40km. I was re-passed by my earlier 4th place man, then by 2 more. Finishing off the run was miserable, painful, and altogether not was I’d hoped for. But that’s what happens when you don’t race smart!
Initially post-race I was relatively miffed at the missed opportunity from today’s race. Upon reflection, it actually turned out relatively well despite what the scorecard says. If someone had told me last year that a 41 minute 10km off-bike was going to be a ‘bad day’ I would’ve been pretty happy! It shows that there is a bit of work to do, especially on the bike to compete with the top level cyclists, but overall there has been a lot of improvement from last season to now.
Now time to rest up, work on the bike for a while, and get ready for 70.3 Taupo!