I decided to race Cairns 70.3 about 9 weeks out from the race. I thought that this would have been enough time to prepare myself and condition my body to cope with the demands of racing a 70.3 at a high level and post a solid result. My training leading into the race was solid, and I could see myself getting fitter as I trained through the two months. I was happy with how I was progressing, especially in my run. I increased my volume and was able to train harder and post some really quality run sets that gave me confidence leading into the race.

There was some good names lining up for the 70.3 which included Pete Jacobs, Josh Rix, Luke Mckenzie and Tim Berkel to name a few. I wasn’t intimidated by these big names, but more excited to test myself against some of the best 70.3 athletes in Australia. I got off to a good start in the swim and was leading the first 500m. I have been trying to do as little swimming as I can but making sure i maintain some level of fitness and speed (usually about 10 – 12km per week). I did this so I can focus more on my running strength and cycling which I have targeted as areas of weakness for me.  After 500m Pete Jacobs surged away and i couldn’t respond. Luke Mackenzie came up next to me and we started swimming off each other for the remainder of the swim. I exited the water about 40 seconds down on PJ with Josh Rix and Luke Mackenzie.

After a long run into T1 we started out on the Captain Cook Highway on our bikes. Ex cycling pro Casey Munro came around myself, Josh and Luke and started lighting it up and driving it to catch PJ. We went with him, and it was tough for myself and after 30km I was stinging out at the back trying to hold onto the guys in front. Perhaps it was a mistake to try and go with these guys, but I don’t regret giving it a go. I wasn’t going to sit up and let the group ride away from me.

There was a little out and back section and I was really surprised to see PJ only about 15 seconds up on us. I don’t really know what happened next but all of sudden I was dropped and fortunately for me,  Mackenzie’s aero pad broke so he also dropped off with me. We rode up to the 57km turn around to head back into town for 33km. I was cooked. I was in and out of the saddle and the heat was getting up to close to 30 degrees now.  It was also really hilly out at the turn around and this taxed my legs. By 80km my quads were cramping and I was peddling squares. Mackenzie and myself were caught with 5km to go by John Polson and Matt Bailey.

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Looking back on the ride, and my training leading into the race I believe I did not do enough bike mileage. After racing Huskisson Long Course and Batemans Bay Ultimate I think I got complacent with my training and where I was at. I didn’t change my program leading into Cairns and I think that was a mistake. I kept telling myself I was doing enough riding but I was kidding myself. The level of racing in a 70.3 pro field is a lot different to racing something like Huskisson or Batemans Bay.

In transition I could see the other boys were struggling too. After a somewhat slow transition by all of us that lacked any kind of urgency we set out onto the run. Mackenzie dropped off really quickly and I dropped off not long after. I felt terrible. No energy and just flat as anything. It’s funny how things change in a race. At one point I was looking at a podium finish, and then next I was in danger of even getting there. Mackenzie went back pass me and I was sitting in 7th. There is nowhere to hide in the run in Cairns. It starts in the middle of nowhere and it’s a point to point run back to Cairns along an open highway with no cover. It was scorching. Up the road I saw Casey Munro walking. I passed him at about 5km and was in 6th. The race pays to top 5 but I didn’t even care at this point. I was in all sorts. I couldn’t hold down any sort of nutrition and I could only take water at aid stations. It felt as though I was running at least 5:30 km’s. At 8km I saw John Polson also walking, another victim of the heat and taxing bike ride. I was back in the money, but I knew that at my pace I was running some people were bound to catch me from chasing packs.

12km into the run I started felling better. I’d finally found my running legs. I picked up the pace and started running harder to see what time I could make up. Before I knew it I was in 4th after passing Matt Bailey at about the 15km mark. I felt the strongest I had been all day and I aimed to put as much time between myself and those behind me to hold onto 4th. I kept pushing the pace and in the final  1km I saw 3rd place in front of me, I couldn’t believe I’d run myself back into touch of the podium. I thought for sure the top 3 were ages ahead. It turns out it was Josh Rix who was going backwards in that final few km, although I ran out of road and finished 30seconds adrift.

I was happy to finish 4th after going through those dark patches on the run. I learned some valuable lessons and this race has been by far the best learning experience of my season. I know what I need to work on now over winter and I can’t wait to rip in next season and post some results and get my name out there. My run time was 1:21, which I was quicker than I expected. I thought for sure it was looking to be closer I the 90min mark. Although it was quicker than I expected I know I have so much more left in me, and I think the key to unlocking that quicker run time will come off more strength in the bike so I will be running stronger without being rattled after the ride.

Thanks for reading and thanks to everyone who has supported me in my training and racing, I really appreciate everything that everyone does for me.

Take care,

Sam.