Batemans Bay has been a happy hunting ground for me in the past as I have won the Elite Energy Ultimate distance race here twice in as many years. This time I returned to the scenic south coast to race the inaugural Challenge branded half distance race. The team behind Challenge are doing some really great things in Australia this season by providing alternate races to WTC 70.3 events and injecting a nice bit of loot into the series as well. This race was no different.

paradise

My form coming into the race was good. I had competed in Husky Long Course 3 weeks prior and used a solid result there as a launching pad into some race fitness after a brief hiatus from training in January. The line up was loaded with most of the best Australian Long Course athletes including multiple 70.3 winners, duel Olympian, Brad Kahlefeldt and Ironman World Champion, Pete Jacobs. There was also some wild card internationals spliced in there as well. I wasn’t intimidated by the start list, more excited to get out there and see where I am really at. I felt I was fitter, leaner and healthier than I had been in a long time and I had good vibes leading into race morning.

I knew there was huge pressure on myself to make sure I exited the water with the front runners. If you give guys like Josh Amberger and Clayton Fettell an inch, they’ll take a mile and you could end up racing for the minor placings.  I started hard and slotted in next to Josh and stuck to his hip like a newborn to the nipple. The swim was quite surgy with a few guys swapping the lead but I emerged at the back of the front pack, scurried through transition and we headed out onto the bike.

bike

Josh and Clayton got a little gap at the beginning of the bike with myself, Pete Jacobs and Brad Kahlefeldt chasing. I was starting to panic as it looked like my pre race fears were starting to come true. Thankfully Clayton dropped back into our group and the 4 of us reeled Josh in about 25km into the ride. The course was initially hilly out of town to a flat out and back section where the majority of the ride took place, before rolling back through the hills into T2. I’m not going to sugar coat this one but the ride was hard. In saying that though, I am really happy with how far my riding has come. I am able to push more watts than I have done in the past mainly due to a more specific approach to training and showing rubbish miles the door. I was pleased to see our hard work on the bike was paying off as we established a gap of 5min to the chase group which contained some quality runners that I wanted to get some breathing room on. Towards the end of the bike our group started to sit up with everyone looking at one another. Josh managed to worm away and establish a gap of about 1:20 onto the run.

As we donned our run kit I knew I would have to start this run slow. Last couple of races I have gone out too hard and paid the price for spending my matches too early. The bike had also taken a pretty big toll on my legs. I was 5th out of transition and 5th to the first U turn at around 4km but passed Clayton (giving each other a mutual respect fist bump) not long after. I was feeling better as the run wore on and tried to keep Pete Jacobs (3rd) in my sights. It wasn’t until about 5km to go that I thought I had a chance of catching him and making it onto the podium. I focused on staying relaxed and passed him with about 2.5km to go moving into 3rd. There were a lot of age groupers around so I was able to get the element of surprise sneaking up on him.

run

I enjoyed the last kilometre having consolidated 3rd place, but yearned for the finish line and the pain to cease. Brad went on to post a very swift 1:12 run and showed his supreme running ability to win with Josh locking in the second spot on the podium. This race was also my first race in the new Scody Optimise AIR skin suit which performed exceptionally well whilst also making me the most stylish person on the circuit.

podium

On another note I have also signed on with Giant Bikes and Rudy Project for the 2014 season and beyond. I am so happy to have these fantastic companies supporting me in my endeavours and it’s a huge relief to have such great brands covering my racing and training needs. Look out for these at my next race! And as always thanks to my existing sponsors

giant bike

Until next time!

Sam