Time: 9:20:57 Swim: 50:21 T1: 2:20 Bike: 4:49:43 T2: 1:40 Run: 3:36:54
Race Analysis here.
Though pretty nervous coming in to this race I managed to keep my nerves in check despite waking every 30 minutes throughout the night. This race starts early so the alarm went off at 2:45am. Couple of slices of toast with marmalade and two black coffees before wandering in to transition for just after 4am. Bike ok so found somewhere to relax. Was lucky to find a chair in the marquee and just hung out there.
This race has got to have one of the most beautiful starts. The ocean always seems to be calm, the beach faces north so the sun just rises to the right and with the crowd on two sides (the shore and the jetty) it gives a great atmosphere. Jo was off in the pro start at 5:30am then us at 5:45am.
The course went round the jetty the opposite way from other years, making for a simpler course. I placed myself slap bang in the middle of the start as both sides looked sketch; by the pier gave a slightly longer route and on the right a line of buoys with a rope between angled in across the straight line to the turn around which I thought would cause some argy bargy. As we approached the start loads of swimmers were edging forward. One guy in front of me was exchanging banter with a load of ozzies behind me which made me feel perhaps he was fast. How wrong was I. Gun goes, I go comfortably hard (not redline) and was past him in 10 strokes despite him having a body length start on my.
What a civilised start, stood in chest deep water, loads of room and within seconds I’m on my own. To the left I can see a solo swimmer and to the right I can see a mass of swimmers the front ones slightly ahead of me. I move over and merge with them. I can’t believe my luck – there’s one guy leading and then three guys side by side apparently all fighting for his feet. I tucked in behind them and had an awesome draft. Very soon we’ve broken clear.
It was seriously cruisey sat in there to the turnaround. The only frustration was the guy leading couldn’t sight for toffee. If he’d took a straight line like I can we’d have been a fair bit quicker I reckon ! Nearing the turnaround when he went off course again I chose to go on my own to get some relief from the concentration. I got back on them at the turn buoy. This was confusing as we’d been told to turn at the white and go to the blue but the blue was just in a direct line after further on with an arc of smaller buoys connected with ropes between them. The lead guy just swam over them looking like he was going to cut the course. A few of us bobbed our heads up and exchanged some comments before we all followed the buoys round, the leader having to come back across the rope. Confusing. We’d been joined by another small pack that had started on the left.
Coming back it was harder work to stay in the pack as it had become single line and with the same guy on the front there was a fair bit of zig zagging. If I just kept my head down I’d keep losing them and have to surge to get back on. It took a lot of concentration. So once we got to the kink in the jetty (about 500m to go) and they veered off I decided to leave the group and cruise in on my own. The seconds I’d lose I felt were worth it to just be able to relax and get my mind ready for the bike. I really enjoyed those final minutes of the swim. Seeing the clock as I came up the beach I was VERY pleased indeed.
A I was getting my bike when I heard the announcer mention Jo Carritt was exiting transition. It wouldn’t be long before I caught her. Following last years bike I felt confident I would be one of the faster age group bikers so I’d decided to go comfortably hard but not let any age grouper go by without trying to latch on. The only one I’d let go was Matt Illingworth – he’s been 4:17 here a couple of years ago ! For the first 15k I passed a few age groupers some formed up behind me. Then Kate Bevilaqua (subsequent female winner) who also latched on … in fact for more or less the entire ride if I looked over my shoulder there she was 12m behind. Our group hauled her right through to the front of the womens field. All the time we could see poor old Rebekah Keat coming back along the other side, on her own, with us clearly reeling her in.
Anyway… back to my race. Just after the 15k mark an age grouper came by. He seemed to be going a lot faster than me but I stuck to my guns reminding myself he has to go by quick as he has to get past in 25s so probably sped up. His pace eased pretty soon and it was comfortable. For the the next lap and a quarter (to halfway) we had a few others AGers bridge up and had a decent sized pace line working well with someone always coming through if the person at the front eased off.
At 65k Matt Illingworth came by. He was shifting. At IM NZ earlier this year I went with him for a minute to see what it was like. This time it didn’t cross my mind. I was second in the line and was interested to see what the guy up front would do. He didn’t appear he knew who Matt was as his pace picked up as he went by. I put my foot down not wanting to lose him. Luckily he thought better of it very quickly. Matt told me afterwards we were quite a big group so he put his foot down.
At the turnaround just after halfway I could see Bradley Hoskins at the back of the group. He’s won my AG the past few years going under 9 hours every time. I came off the bike just before him last year. I readied myself that if he went by I would go with him. The next 10k or so was in to the wind and I was on the front. I kept the power steady but I could now really feel it in my legs. It wasn’t easy anymore. At the next turnaround it was good to see we’d dropped a few and now were just 6 riders. We’d dropped Bradley, in fact by the end he was ways off and I reckon we put 15 minutes on him in the second half.
We stayed together till about 20k in to the final lap. Two guys pushed the pace on the front of the pace line and I tried hard to go with it but couldn’t. I settled back and found the remaining four working at the right effort for me. As with last year everyone I saw was clearly trying to ride legal, sitting up and stretching legs / eating if they found they were closing on the person in front or speeding up to pass and take up the front position. In doing this though there are definitely occasions where you enter the draft zone (12m at this race) but ease up and thus don’t pass. Strictly a drafting infringement but I feel it’s people doing their best in the circumstances and is within the spirit of the rule. Anyway as we head back along Tuart drive the ref comes along beside me, I sit up for him to have a word.
He tells me he’s seen me several times getting to 9m and that this is officially a warning. I thank him (though I must admit that 9m or 12m is difficult really to judge) and he tells me other groups have been “complaining” about our group. I did wonder who they were as I saw much bigger pacelines and the odd pack going the other way that didn’t look noticeable further apart from each other than we were. As I’d slowed it meant Kate Bevilaqua had more or less caught me. The ref told her to go through and told her she’d better pass our whole group as she can’t sit back there the whole ride. I then saw him talk to her and the other two guys. For the rest of the ride I must have kept 20-30m gap not wanting any possibility of drifting into the draft zone.
The wind had picked up the last lap which made for hard going. I did the first two laps in 1:35:xx and the final in 1:38:xx to get me just under 4:50.
The aid stations on the bike were expertly manned. They had loads of young kids lined up perpendicular to the road ready. When you shouted water the front one would peg it along beside you. At one point the lad went a little early and a little quick and had to ease up for me !! I didn’t miss one bottle whole ride !
Transition was quicker even with putting my Vibram Bikilas on. The faster swim meant I was out on the run in more or less the same time as last year – 5:44 on the clock. So an 3:15 required for sub 9. More on the cards than last year, still very challenging but not beyond the realms of possibility.
I’d decided I’d show willing. Last night Jo and I had discussed this tendency of both of us to head off fast and we agreed that you need to try it as today could be the day you have it in you. First 5k in 22:xx and it felt comfortable.Through 10k in 45:xx and was thinking this is game on. There are lots of turnarounds and in the early laps it was easy to spot my age group. I was in second with Matt ahead and I was closing. I passed him at about 18k and was in the lead. Through half in 1:39 which was now slightly off pace but still heading for low 9 hours.
The support was superb. The new course definitely helped weaving around the town and water front. A guy we’d met on The Five Passes came by a lap behind and exchanged a few words. There was also this chap on the course, who I guess was an IMTalk listener, has he gave me a big cheer and even said “Go Madman”. At one point he said something like “3 Epic Camp win, this is nothing” to which I said “yeh, in theory it should be a walk in the park” which got a laugh from a lady nearby. Each lap Mum, Lorraine and all there family and friends gave me a massive shout. It was just near one of the turnarounds. So I got big shout, then through the aid station Neil was on (so I got another shout), then back by prepared for the next spell of them going bananas. It’s great and helps really make the race.
After halfway it started to fall apart. My legs just wouldn’t allow me to raise my HR. I had to fight for 5 min /k. Then for 5:20, then 5:30 and even saw the odd one close to 6 minutes. Those behind started to catch. Brad Hoskins went by at 22k (he went on to run 2:57), Tim Bishop went by at about 26k (he went on to run 3:14). I was now in third. I felt there’d be 3 slots in my age group. I was in an automatic one but Tim had told me he wasn’t taking his and last year Bradley didn’t take his (and I heard someone say he never does) so I felt that the slot was there for me to lose. There was a guy in my age group who’d been probably 1.5k behind me for the first couple of laps but I knew was closing.
On to my final lap I saw there was 8:21 on the clock. 5:30 Ks and I’d be close to a PB. I tried but I just couldn’t do it. Whenever I picked up the pace my heart and lungs could easily take it but I very quickly felt like my calves would cramp. Carle came by and told me to run with him, I did for a bit but again I could see myself just grinding to halt with cramp if I did. I ran to the final turnaround thinking the pass was going to happen any time but it didn’t. As I headed back I could see the guy 50m behind. Clearly he was suffering. 3k to go and I try to pick up the pace thinking it may demoralise him to see me pull away a little. I can’t sustain it without twinges of cramp.With the 40k marker in sight he comes by. I try to go with him but same problem. He ended up putting over a minute into me.
I was worried about another guy catching me as I’d lost track off him as the route got crowded. So entering the finish chute I kept looking over my shoulder to check for the need for a sprint finish. There was no one there so I enjoyed it.
9:20 – an M-dot PB and I really feel that was as fast as I could go on the day. I was pleased as I felt I’d got 4th and a Kona slot. Later my mum told me I was fifth. Some one must have gone by me and I didn’t realise. So … fingers crossed for 2 roll downs.
[Later – there were 4 slots, the first 4 didn’t take them so I got the first slot !]