Cairns 70.3 in May earlier this year exposed my weakness on the bike. I got smashed on the ride up there and ran well below my potential, so for Port i tailored my training around getting in some big miles on the bike and building a strength base so i could ride harder for longer, and get off and run fast with fresher legs. I think i succeeded in this and i was pulling out some of the best training sessions in a long time so i was eager to see how i would hold up against some of the best Australian 70.3 athletes with the likes of Clayton Fettel, Tim Berkel, Leon Griffin and Matty White toeing the line.
The day started off as 99% of people thought it would Clayton took the lead from the get go. I swam comfortably, leading the chase pack out of the water about 90 seconds down. I was second onto the bike, got in my nutrition and settled in for the hills out of town. It wasn’t long before Leon Griffin and Tim Berkel went past me which is exactly what i wanted to happen. My pre race theory was that Clayton would be up the road and myself, Berkel and Griffin would ride together to limit the damage he would do. The ride was two 45km out and back laps with hills for the first section and a flat windy section to the turn around. We rode hard out the turn around together and were joined by Kiwi cycling powerhouse James Bowstead. I was thrilled with this as I was feeling great and he would serve as another strong cyclist in our group. The ride was hard sure, but i never felt like i was going to get dropped nor did i feel like i was riding too far out of my comfort zone.
On the way back into town i was following my nutrition strategy and without thinking i discarded my gel wrapper. It wasn’t until about 15 minutes later that the technical official who had been following us for the whole ride came up along side me and showed me a yellow card, stating i had received a penalty for littering on the course. I couldn’t believe it. I was so angry, frustrated and upset. In fact i could probably write a whole page on all the emotions that were bubbling inside of me. I spent the rest of the lap trying to get my head back into the game and forget about it. Whats done was done. But i couldn’t help feeling hard done by. I know it the rules but it just seems like such a harsh penalty, to essentially ruin someones day for this minor infringement.
I served my penalty after 45km and felt a great sense of dismay as i watched the group i was riding with ride back out of town as i stood there in the penalty box of shame (much to the amusement of a few spectators might i add). After what was the longest 4 minutes of my life i set back on my bike, 4 mins down, all momentum lost and my head not in the right place. I completed the ride with another group of athletes including Jason Shortis and Adam Gordon but i knew we had lost so much time on that second lap. I got a time check when we got back into transition, 8 minutes down on the Berkel group. My 4 minute penalty essentially cost me 8 minutes.
After years of ITU experience i blitzed through T2 and was running solo from the start. I went out hard, as i still had adrenaline pumping through me as i stewed over my earlier misadventure. I set out trying to reel in as much time as i could. I had nothing to lose and went for it. I focused on running fast by staying relaxed and keeping up a high turnover to remain efficient. I ran evenly throughout the whole half marathon to finish 5th place and posted the 2nd quickest pro run time of 1:16:49. I’m not saying i would have ran that quick if I didn’t get the penalty because riding with the front guys may have taken the sting out of my legs, but I am disappointed i wasn’t able to test my running form against the guys in front.
Despite this harsh learning experience i’ve taken away some valuable lessons and also boosted my confidence in my ability to mix it up with some of the best 70.3 athletes in the country. The penalty put my out this time, but I am now even more hungry and believe i can go toe to toe with these guys.
I’d like to thank a few people for helping me get to this race. Glen Duggan from VoloSport for his continued hard work and support of my progression as a pro athlete, Paul Dukes from Duke’s Real Estate for giving me a helping hand with nutrition, Sterling Ashbee for letting me borrow his equipment that is worth more than my bike, Scody Apparel for the last minute race suit and Rodney Forrest for his belief in my ability. Without these guys it would have been alot harder for me to get up there on the weekend.
I’d also like to give a quick shout out to my Mum who has always supported me. She also won her age group up there on the weekend so she goes alright for an old duck. And lastly my girlfriend Kat who did everything for me pre race and wouldn’t let me lift a finger up there on weekend.
Next up I’m trying to get a late entry into Shepparton 70.3 in two and half weeks time, and then onto Canberra 70.3 in December. Hope to see you guys there.