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5 November 2014

The Noosa Triathlon with Dan Wilson


Well, that’s it for the year for me. The last few footsteps of racing at the Noosa Triathlon, were the last racing steps I’ll take until next year. Fittingly, they were bloody painful footsteps as well, an apposite way to takes one’s last strides in anger for the year.

But lets get to those strides with some meandering narrative first. Since my last post, it’s been 6 weeks of prodigious amounts of work, with the aim of getting myself as fit as a butcher’s pup for my last two races of the year, Nepean and Noosa. All had been going quite swimmingly until the Wednesday before Nepean, when on an innocent enough 30 minute jog I strained my calf. This put me out of Nepean, much to my chagrin, and had me somewhat perturbed about getting to the start line at Noosa as well. Fortunately, I gave it a bit of rest, and resisted from putting it through it’s paces until the day before the race at the Celebrity Noosa Tri, where it felt ok at race pace in what, I must add, was a fruitless effort, as my team got totally pumped. I’d like to say this didn’t bother me, as it’s mainly just a fun, entertaining race. I’d like to say that...


Anyway, harboring minor melancholy post-defeat, I was able to move onto the also fun and entertaining, but somewhat more serious, and most pertinently well-paid race of the weekend. The swim was relatively uneventful, my arms were kind enough to propel me out pretty comfortably in 4th, and the brutal pace set by Shane Barrie had been unrelenting enough to see a few of the main contenders off the back early. Out on to the bike, and things started to get interesting for me at this point - and not the good sort of interesting either. Pretty much with the first few pedals strokes, I could tell I was in a bit of trouble, with my legs feeling heavier than Kim Kardashian’s make-up bag. For the rest of the ride it was a game of survival, my tactic of trying to spark myself up a bit by surging up the main hill almost saw me get dropped from the bunch, and I was in difficulties and dangling off the back for most of the ride. At this stage, my increasingly desperate inner monologue was telling me to hang in at the front of the race, and fervently praying that I’d come good at some stage. Out on to the run, and there was a bunch of 5 of us, featuring the usual suspects of Good, Kerr, Bailie and Royle. My legs were yet to ‘come good’, but I was moving ok, so once again my plan was to hang around, keep myself in the race, generally be a nuisance, and see what happened. Pete threw down some big surges from around 4km in, and was joined by Bailie and Royle in changing up the pace, which saw Good drop off at about 6km, and then Pete at 8km. At this stage, my legs were still hurting, but at the 8km mark, with a chance of a Noosa crown up for grabs, I felt that at least a bit of pain was to be expected, and somewhat warranted. Nevertheless, I decided to veto any further suggestions of pain from my legs, and decided that I was going to win the race in a sprint finish. Lamentably, Royle and Bailie were obviously also thinking the same thing, and I finished in a Wollongong Wizard sandwich to grab 2nd, in a race I was pretty happy to hang tough and graft out a good result.
Following the race, I had my last uni exam for the year yesterday, and can now officially switch off both the body and mind for a while, and as such, today’s plan involves drinking coffee, eating peanut butter out of the jar with a spoon, and watching Man vs Food all day in my pajamas. Let the good times roll.
Take care friends,
Willy

Check out more from Dan Wilson over on his site: www.danwilson.com.au/

9 October 2014

Chris Stirling: A recap of the Wasdale win




After a long season that started back in March, winning the Wasdale Triathlon was the perfect end to a fantastic year of experiences, racing and training in the hills. Maintaining focus and keeping up the training for the 6 weeks leading up to the race was tough but the result proves it was all worth it.

Like I said it had been an amazing season, 2nd place in the High Terrain off road duathlon series, 2nd place at The Celtman and a trip to Colorado to represent Northern Ireland at the World Long Distance Mountain Running Champs. After Colorado I felt a little tired of structured training so took a short break from it but this only left a 3 week build up to the Wasdale Triathlon. I was unsure where my fitness was at in swimming and biking as I had been focused on running for the last 6 weeks. I hoped the base I had built during the season was solid enough to put in some really hard training sessions, crash style specific to the Wasdale course. This paid off and 10 days before the race I knew I was in really good shape for the bike, probally better than I was for the Celtman. I would like to mention I had also started using CurraNZ as a supplement in my training and I feel this really helped with my ability to recover from the sessions and also how hard I could push during them.

I felt as confident and calm as I ever had going into a race. The race plan was to be within 10mins of the leader going onto the run, without riding the bike too hard. Mountain running is my strength and the technical, rough terrain during the run would really suit me.

It looked like a great forcast for the day, next to no wind, no rain, just low cloud on the tops . It was great to meet a few fellow Celtmen (Thor and Francois) at the start. These races really do bring a sense of cameraderie often missing from many other races. Mark decided to put me on the spot at the breifing and asked me what my finishing time would be. I replied 6.55hrs and was confident I could get close.

The swim did not go according to plan exactly. The water was pretty warm for Wasdale, around 14 degrees so cold water was not an issue. As I touched the buoy on the out and back course and turned swim back, I swam straight into the 100 or so swimmers still coming my way! It was chaos and I had to stop, get my bearings and breath back then start swimming again. I came into T1 knowing I had not had a great swim and a little angry. I have learnt that I race well well with a little anger so channeled it into the rest of the race.



Out on the bike I knew I was feeling good and in control. Hardknott (33%!!) is the first test, I stayed in the saddle, kept my HR down and felt good the whole way up. The passes always feel tough and a real challenge so it was great to be feeling strong. I had planned to make the most of the flatter/rolling sections and take it steady as possible on the climbs. The rest of the climbs went by in much the same way, apart from the top section of Wrynose on the return leg! Like last year I suffered, its such a sustained and long effort and really does never get any easier. I picked up a refill from the amazing bottle drop at the top of Hardknott (thanks Guys!! great job:)) and was glad to reach the bottom. I am not a great fan of descending the passes, especially when racing so always have a great sense of relief when I know they are out of the way. They are steep and the surface is terrible in places. Adds to the sense of adventure for the day out though.



Part two of my bike plan was to push hard until Gosforth. The course is flat to rolling with a few short climbs and I felt I could make time here and it played to my strengths on the bike. From Gosforth back to Wasdale Head it was time to dial it down and get the legs ready for the run. I knew I was around 6th place here and coming into T2 I saw a few others just leaving, Perfect!

No need to mess around in transition, sock on, La Sportiva Bushidos on and out onto the climb to Styhead and Scafel Pike. I felt good as the climb steepened and just kept my rythm, tapping it out and limiting walking only to steep rock sections, part one of the run plan. The hamstring cramps of last year were non existent and I passed quite a few people by the time I reached Styhead and was in 3rd place. Little did I know one of the runners in front was a relay team. Another competitor and I reached Scafel Pike at the same time, we had been together from Styhead. I touched the cairn on the top and executed run plan part two. Unfortunatly it did not go exactly to plan!

I had planned to lose anyone that was close on the descent to Mickledore, the steepest, roughest part of the course and then push hard in the scrambly terrain of foxs gully till the top of Scafel. It was then gently downhill with a few technical sections. I had looked on the way up for the crucial split in the path and spotted it. On the way down I decided to ignore it! I came right back down, realised my mistake and looks across to Mickledore and saw nothing but crags. The only way was back up and a short traverse to the correct path. For a split second I thought I had blown it and considered just running back down and quitting. Only for a split second though. Never ever quit (thanks Stuart!) rang through my head and I powered back up the hill and smashed the descent into Mickledore, using that little bit of anger again. I asked Steve who was taking photos in the gully how many in front and he replied one! That is why we never give up and keep fighting. At the bottom of the gully I loked down and saw a bunch of guys at the foot.



I pushed as hard as I could to the top and Scafel and hammered the descent all the way to Stony tarn. Cramps started to kick in but I still pushed. I remember looking back up Scafell and Slightside and seeing no one. A marshal (thanks Kate!) had told me one other competitor was in front, she thought they were a relay runner but was not sure. Again I ran all the way to Burnmoor tarn, willing the cramps not to end my race and looked back. No one. I could not see anyone in front either but the thought of a sub 7hr finish kept me going to the end. I felt so much stronger than at this point last year.

Crossing the finish line I realised someone else had finished in front. I did not realise I had won until I asked Mark a minute or two after crossing the finish line! My brain was probably a little addled. A belated celebration and I felt a few tears welled up. To win this race, in my local area on the mountains I  have loved and  enjoyed in so many ways, so much for the last ten years was a dream come true.



It was great to spend a bit of time at the finish line welcoming and meeting other competitors as they finished there epic day in the mountains. Lots of great people and it was a pleasure to meet them and here some of their story. Some real epics out there and everyone had the same attitude, keep fighting till the finish line.

Massive thank you to the team at Wasdale, all the amazing marshalls on the hill your friendly faces made all the difference on the day.

Also thanks you to TrecNutrition, PushCartel, Zone3Wetsuits, LaSportiva, Julbo and CurraNZ health for your support so during this season, it makes such a difference having such amazing race kit and nutrition. I can then concentrate on the training and racing. Also my amazing support and media team www.movieit.co.uk :)

1 October 2014

Surf's up at Ironman Wales

Triathlon coach and Zone3 customer Mark Kleanthous goes in search of a big challenge for his 37th Ironman race – and gets some massive waves

e on hootsuit
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I wanted to celebrate my 30th Ironman season with a new challenge, and heard that the Tenby course was tougher than most, with 5,100 feet of climbing and 20% climbs on the bike and a hilly run. What I wasn’t expecting were the waves…

Transition from the swim is about 1km away from the shore, so the faster swimmers need to be the first to arrive at transition on race morning, get the bike ready then walk down to the swim start and make sure they’re at the front ready for the start.

I’m one of the first to enter transition, pump up my tyres, place my drinks and food on the bike before going to the swim start. On arriving at the ‘zig zag’ stairs I hang up my shoes ready for my run back to transition.

Mark Kleanthous in the water ahead of Ironman Wales
The sun is just rising with an amazing (and calming) pink sky. Instead of the normal flat sea there was a 1.4 metre swell, so it promises to be not only a tough bike and run but also a tough swim. With 30mins to go I warm up in the sea to work out the best way to tackle the waves with a faster than normal hand entry.

The swim

I would normally warm up for 10mins but spend only 5mins due to the relentless of the waves. Just before the 7am start the Welsh national anthem is played and you can see the emotion on athletes’ faces. Beginners not knowing what to expect, some worried about the cut-off, and experienced triathletes who have never competed in such wavy conditions. The pink sky has now turned red and is an ominous sign of ‘red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning’. 
Red sky at start of Ironman Wales 2014
At 7am the horn sounds and it’s a mad dash into the sea like your life depends on it! Just getting to the first buoy about 25 metres from shore in waist high water is brutal, you really have to make sure you are on top of the wave to look ahead, otherwise it’s easy to go off course as the waves push you back.
It takes what seems like 20 minutes to get to the first big buoy about 600 metres away, then it becomes interesting: the congestion at the first turnaround buoy is due to competitors trying to get around the buoy as the waves push you back. The next section parallel along the coast is a little easier and swimming back to shore for the first time is fast if you know how to swim on top of the powerful waves.

Lap two

I glance at my watch after exiting the first lap, 35 minutes! It seemed much longer, I decide not to sprint back into the the water and get overtaken by at least five competitors. I soon realise on entering the sea again that the waves have picked up so the next loop is going to even tougher.
I sight at every opportunity to make sure I take the shortest route. During the second loop I catch at least 20 swimmers, some have overtaken me during the run in and out,I also witnessed numerous life guards with swimmers hanging onto their life rafts and jet skis rescuing swimmers. I overtake some lap swimmers on the way to finally leaving the 3.8km swim, I think to myself, “I really hope I manage the cut off.”

T1

The run to T1 at Ironman Wales 2014
I get out of the water and run up the steep zig zag slope, collecting my spare running shoes on the way to run the 1km to transition. I remove my wetsuit and run to T1, but what I did not expect was thousands of spectators cheering out loudly. I swiftly reach transition, get my bike shoes and helmet on and am soon grabbing my bike and exiting transition. We retrace some of our way back on the bike to loud crowds cheering – and I’ve only just started the bike!

The bike

The Ironman Wales bike ride along the Pembrokeshire coast is amazing. I can see the waves and have to keep remaining myself I am in an Ironman. In Switzerland they use cowbells – in Wales most of the locals use pots and pans to bang and make noises.
Every small village has spectators cheering, especially along the big hills of Narberth Wiseman's Bridge, and there are so many crowds up Heartbreak Hill three to five people deep that it becomes single file for competitors – you feel like you are climbing a stage during the Tour De France.
Triathletes cycling outside Saundersfoot

The run

After six hours 29 minutes of cycling (I have only taken longer on two occasions) I arrive back at transition. Cycle shoes and helmet off, run shoes on and I am ready for the hilliest ironman marathon I’ve ever done.
Four laps mean I can keep track of athletes I have coached and those I know competing. With each passing lap the crowds get bigger and louder – presumably after watching the bike spectators have come to watch the Ironman marathon.
I run along the red magic carpet to the finish line and get goose pimples to the sound of emcee Paul Kaye saying: “Mark you are an Ironman”. It was certainly a tough day as I finished in 12:7hrs, coming tenth in my age group and 257th overall. I shower, have some food and am back out cheering all the athletes, those I know and those I’ve coached.
Mark Kleanthous after racing Ironman Wales 2014
Among those athletes I’ve coached racing Tenby include Sophie Radcliffe (14:06hrs), Simon Dodd (15:51hrs) and Irish schoolteacher Catherine Galvin (15:03:25), who came across on the ferry, raced and then went straight back to work teaching. I also coached Hollie Cradduck (13:47) who was third in her age group and has qualified for Kona 2015. Of the 2,090 competitors that entered, 1,612 competitors completed the course in under 17 hours.
The race day surprises were the rough sea, the amazing number of spectators and the camaraderie due to the “Toughness of Tenby”. I found out later even the locals do not swim in Tenby when it’s that rough! Ironman Wales is one of the toughest Ironman events in the world, Tenby really embraces the Ironman much more than many of the cities I have raced in.
(Images: Dirty Green Trainers / Dave Bolton / Clare Kleanthous)
Did you race Ironman Wales this year? Let us know in the comments!
Article courtesy of Mark Kleanthous & 220 Triathlon

24 September 2014

Job Done. GB Paratriathlete Clare Cunningham fills us in on her 2014 season



The 2014 season has probably been the most testing triathlon season I have had yet. Whilst preparing for a review meeting the other day the best way I could sum it up was: “It’s been very hard but I got the job done in the end”.
2013 ended with the announcement from the ITU that from 2014 athletes would need to qualify for future World Championships by competing at ITU World Paratriathlon International Events (WPIEs) where we would earn points based on finishing position and ranked in each category according to the total points from the best three events. Each category was allocated a quota of the number of athletes that could qualify this way with 10 places being reserved for wildcards which would be awarded at the discretion of the ITU. This in itself was not a problem for me and one I welcomed as it encouraged more international racing and would hopefully help to raise standards in paratriathlon. However, there was also the rule that only two athletes per country per category could qualify for World Championships. Having just finished third in the 2013 World Championships to complete a British podium with my team-mates Faye McClelland and Lauren Steadman, I had a lot of work to do to secure one of the two British spots in my category.

2013 World Championships podium
I came through the winter in great shape having trained consistently and had been able to train in Lanzarote for a week pre-Christmas with Sarah and Barney Storey and their race team and then again in January for two weeks with the British Paratriathlon Squad. I was excited and looking forward to race season.Famara
As a result of the new point system and all athletes starting on zero points, the British team decided to race in Yokohama in May so athletes could secure points to rank them for the European Championships in Kitzbuhel and avoid what would otherwise have been an entry lottery. With European Championships worth double the points earned in the ITU WPIEs, it was important to at least be on the start list to race in Kitzbuhel.
Then, in April, everything seemed to fall apart. Within 24 hours I received confirmation of a stress response in my foot which required me to wear a boot for two weeks and so preventing me from running and then news from BTF which looked like I would have to return to work full-time and hence affect my ability to train as effectively as I had been. Five days later the start lists for Yokohama were released and I was not on it. The athlete quota for my category was full and as the third Brit I was on the waiting list. Having these three things thrown at me in quick succession was simply too much and I seriously questioned why I was putting myself through this. I have a Paralympic gold medal, I have nothing to prove to anyone and, at 36, surely it was time to move on with my life outside of sport. However, I don’t do triathlon just because there is an opportunity to go to the Paralympic Games in 2016. I do it because I love the sport. I love the process of training, pushing myself to become a better athlete and ultimately I want to see how good I can be.   I am also fortunate to be surrounded by incredibly supportive people who believe in me. David is top of the list and he found a solution which has enabled me to continue working part-time during the race season. I would not have got through these few days without him.
A week later my foot was healing very quickly, so I was able to start rehab sooner than had been anticipated, my name appeared on the Yokohama start list and I was enjoying two weeks of training with my coach’s T2Coaching squad in Mallorca – things were looking up again.
Race season started promising with a third place in Yokohama behind Faye and Lauren but with only just over a minute separating the three of us and the injury in the preceding month, I was happy that I was closing the gap and making real progress. The following week I travelled to France to race in a second WPIE. I was the only Brit to back up racing after Yokohama, but saw this as a real opportunity to win a race and stake my claim on a wildcard should it be required. I recovered well from the race and travel to and from Yokohama and was delighted to win my first ITU race since the 2009 World Championships.

Besancon podium 4

Having raced two weeks in a row I elected to miss the London round of the WPIE but was thrilled to be asked to assist with the on-site commentary in Hyde Park and witnessed Lauren win the PT4 category, the first athlete to beat Faye in an ITU race. Racing just got exciting and I couldn’t wait to be back in the mix at the next race; European Championships, two weeks later.
During this time I had to decide which, if any other WPIE races I wanted to do. Having raced two already and qualified for Europeans I had three races and, barring disaster in Kitzbuhel, I would comfortably be ranked in the top eight in my category. However, the results of Europeans would basically decide which two Brits would qualify for Worlds. If I finished third Brit in the Europeans I would need a wildcard to race Worlds. Given UKSport podium level funding is based solely on performance and results at World Championships it was imperative that I was at least on the start line and able to influence my own destiny.   With this in mind, my coach, Tom, and I decided to race the Chicago WPIE, the week after the Europeans. The plan was simple; go for the win in Chicago so that if I was ranked third Brit, with two WPIE wins I had at least done everything in my power to ensure neither BTF nor ITU could ignore me for a wildcard place at Worlds.
As it turned out Kitzbuhel was not the race I had hoped for. I finished fourth. The first time I had not finished on the podium in a paratriathlon race. I was devastated. I don’t feel I had a particularly bad race and gave it everything I had on the day. I was simply not good enough on that day. It has since been suggested I was suffering fatigue from the travel and racing in May. The large amount of travel and racing had certainly prevented me being able to push on with training. The five weeks leading up to Europeans had been all about recovering from one race and resting for the next. It was a case of damage limitation, staying healthy and maintaining my fitness.
My challenge now was to bounce back and race well in Chicago the following week. I was the only British athlete racing in Chicago but I had the support of Tom and my best friend who lives in the US and came to Chicago for the race. I managed to get my head straight in the week and thoroughly enjoyed the whole trip. Winning the race by four minutes was the icing on the cake and a timely reminder that I am still capable of winning.

Chicago podium

It was now a case of waiting and hoping that firstly BTF would select and put me forward for a wildcard to race at Worlds and then secondly that the ITU would offer me the opportunity. I had met the BTF selection criteria with my race results and was put forward for a wildcard spot. However, I would not know my fate until three weeks before the race. In the meantime I had no choice but to train as if I was definitely going. Fortunately all the racing and travelling paid off and my name finally appeared on the start list for World Championships. Combined with the announcement in early July that my category, PT4, would definitely be one of the six medal events in the Rio Paralympic Games, I was very motivated.
A few days in Kelowna, British Colombia, before travelling to Edmonton gave us the opportunity to recover from the journey and adjust our body clocks in a relaxed environment away from the event. Come race day the weather conditions were perfect and I was ready to race. Throughout the season I have worked hard on my psychology with BTF sports psychologist Yvie Ryan. The key to my success in this race would be remaining 100% focussed on me and executing the processes I knew worked to produce my best. As I entered T2 I had absolutely no idea where anyone else was on the course but I was told I was in third position. The run was painful. I exited T2 just ahead of the two British female PT5 pairs and was conscious of them just behind me for the first half lap before they went ahead. I then just hung with them best I could to the finish.

Edmonton run

I crossed the line, was saved from collapsing on the floor by a couple of officials and finally heard it confirmed over the PA that I had finished third. I had got on the podium. My initial response was relief. In fact that is still how I feel about the result. I don’t believe I produced the race that I’m really capable of but I had done what I needed to do to help secure my future on the British squad. It was great to share the podium with Lauren and Faye again, having missed out in Kitzbuhel.

Edmonton podium 3

My initial plan was to continue my season and race a WPIE in Madrid in September. However, after returning from Canada my body finally succumbed and I was ill. Given the amount of travel, racing and general stress I have gone through this season, my body did well to keep going without illness up to now. Mentally I was exhausted so I withdrew from Madrid and ended my season. They say you learn more from testing times than easy ones and that is certainly the case. I have no doubt that I am mentally a stronger athlete after this year and I now look forward to restarting training and attacking 2015.
Big thank you to my sponsors for your continued support – Deloitte UK, PACE Rehabilitation, Dassi, Zone3, PowerBar and ZeroD

18 September 2014

Dan Wilson recaps his weekend at the Sunshine Coast Ironman



Friday
The Wilson of 3 months ago was undoubtably an optimist. He never doubted the logic of racing a World Series race in Stockholm, jumping on the plane with scarcely enough time to wash the remnants of powerade off his chin, and traveling to Canada to race in the World Championships Grand Final. Additionally, the Wilson of 3 months ago thought nothing of then traveling another 30 hrs back to Brisbane, and try to a) get over jet lag, b) learn to ride a time trial bike, c) find a time trial bike with which to learn how to ride, and, d) figure out how to race his first 70.3 race as a professional.

The current-day Wilson is slightly more pessimistic, and is now somewhat wishing he could go back in time and have some stern words with the Wilson of 3 months ago, who decided to enter the Sunshine Coast 70.3, and explain to him the detrimental effects of traveling, racing, and jet lag. Never-the-less, I’m committed now, and with 3 days to go, actually quite excited about the prospect of trying something a little different after a long season of ITU racing.

My day starts with an easy jog before breakfast, trying with increasing desperation to loosen up my muscles a little, which have been an absolute abomination from the traveling and racing of the last 3 weeks. After that, I have my customary breakfast of fruit and yogurt while staring at my bag, convinced that I’ve neglected to pack something of vital importance. Preparations for ITU races are relatively autonomous these days, but this 70.3 business is a different kettle of fish. I’ve got a boatload of extra nutrition, an aerodynamic helmet I’ve never worn before, and I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that wearing socks is the go among the 70.3 cognoscenti, although I’m not entirely sure. I make a mental note of trying to surreptitiously ask someone before the race, without appearing stupid. Above all, I don’t want to look stupid this weekend...

I pack up the car, pick up Tash from uni, and we drive up to Mooloolaba just in time for the press conference, where I see some old sparring partners in Brad Kahlefeldt and Clayton Fettell. I haven’t seen the fellas in quite a while, but within 5 mins Fettell has brutally appraised my wardrobe and superficially judged the rest of the pro field, so it’s just like old times, and we sit on the couch and continue the banter until it’s time to answer some questions from the media. Taking advantage of the situation, I cunningly pretend to tell a joke, asking if it’s a good idea to wear socks for the event and everyone laughs, whilst I desperately hope that someone takes pity on me. Radka eventually comes to my rescue, and informs me that it’s a good idea, but with the jovial nature of the room, I’m still not quite sure. Looks like I’ll have to do some more undercover research...

Saturday
I enjoy a bit of a sleep in on Saturday morning, but still employ the services of a single origin espresso to expedite my awakening process, as I wonder down to lend a hand at the Ironkids event at the river. The kids are absolutely tiny, and are cuter than a puppy holding a ballon, so I have a whale of time handing out medals to the finishers. I cast a shrewd eye on the ratio of socks to no-socks being worn, although when one young lad crosses the line wearing sailboarding shoes, I decide that perhaps emulating the equipment choices of 8 year old first-timers might not be the most salubrious of decisions for my race. Never-the-less, I ask my sailboarding friend how his feet feel, and he tells me he is in a lot of pain, which surprises me, more so because of the broad grin on his face rather than my faith in the cushioning properties of his footwear.

Inspired by the youngsters enthusiasm, I head out for a ride myself, and spend half the time tinkering with my still-not-quite-comfortable-position, and the other half practicing taking waterbottles in and out of the waterbottle mounts on the aerobars and behind the seat, which is all new to me. By the end of the ride, I’m super-hydrated and have the bike-position in the right ball park, so I have a idiosyncratic pre-race lunch of an amalgamation of simple carbs, largely involving banana’s, white bread and honey. It’s a meal choice bereft of nutrients, but a good choice for pre-race as a precaution against unwanted gastrointestinal ailments for tomorrow, and strategy I use for my ITU racing as well. After lunch, I stroll down to the beach for a swim, and am pleasantly surprised by my arms, which feel vaguely fresh after spending the last 2 weeks feeling heavier than a Metallica riff. Feeling optimistic, I spend the rest of the afternoon prepping my race gear, and googling ‘70.3’ and ‘socks’, with ambiguous results. I start to ruminate about how sore I could be at this time of the day tomorrow, and raise the possibility with Tash of getting a small bell I can ring to alert her when she can bring morsels of food and drink to my position on the couch. Her reply is surprisingly polite, but get the impression that it is an unlikely eventuality...

Sunday
When the alarm goes off at 4:15 am, I seriously consider DNS-ing in favour of staying in bed. This is really early! I give myself a stern talking to, and partly because I envisage the future humiliation I would endure when explaining why I didn’t start, I extricate myself from the blankets and nibble on a few energy bars whilst thoughtfully eyeing off the socks sitting on top of my race bag. Still undecided, I saunter down to transition area, banter with Fettell for a while and note that everyone else has laid out socks in their transition area. Deciding that it would be overly paranoid to suggest the entire field was laying out fake socks to send me down the wrong path, I too put out my socks, then complete my warm up.

The start line is definitely a bit less intense than an ITU pontoon, with no helicopters or heart beat music to contend with, yet there’s clearly an abundance of nerves around, and I’m as edgy as a dodecahedron. The gun goes off, and we’re off and swimming. I’m sitting comfortably in third, and not interested in pushing the pace early. It’s a 4 hour race, and unchartered territory for me, and am trying my best to ignore Fettell’s ‘advice’ to race it like an ITU race. As I run up the beach, I come to the startling realisation that in all this constant rumination about whether or not to wear socks, I’ve neglected to consider which transition I’m supposed to put them on! Trying to see what everyone else does leads to me absolutely butchering my transition, first losing a water bottle and then realising I’m not sure if I can clear my rear water bottle when I leap on to my bike. Once I’ve mounted, the rest of the bike goes relatively without incident, the pace is pretty strong, with Fettell, Munro, and Bell putting out enough Watts to power a medium sized village. I come to the realisation that my seat height is a bit higher than ideal, and spend the 90 kms on the front 2cms of my saddle to try to reduce the effective seat height. Finished with 2 wheels for the day, we’re a group of 7 as we hit T2 and rip through transition, Atkinson, I note with interest, doesn’t put on socks...

The pace on the first lap is pretty strong, and it quickly becomes myself, Sticksy and Atkinson at the front of the race. I’m content to bide my time a little longer, still a fraction fearful of a Wilson-shaped explosion littering the course if I go on the charge too soon. Courtney surges up the hills at the end of the first lap, and Sticksy drops off the pace, leaving just the two of us at the front of the race. I decide the time is nigh to see what my legs are made of, and try to inject some pace over the next few kilometres. I’m feeling pretty strong, but Courtney is all over me like a rash, so I slow a little and hand over the pacemaking to him for a while. Or not. He’s not too keen to lead either, and, and doesn’t come round me. After the pace has slowed quite significantly, I’ve had enough of dawdling along, and start to push the pace again until the last turnaround. I’m aware that there’s a bit of a headwind on the way home, which I’m not particularly keen to lead into, and so I slow the pace again, trying to lure Courtney into taking up the pace. Once again he declines, and the pace slows and slows, and we jog along at little over 5 minute pace for quite a while. At this point, we’re both probably stifling a giggle at the ridiculousness of the situation, and even engage in some dialogue articulating this point. It fails to resolve the issue of who’s responsible for setting the pace, and I eventually blink first, reasoning that I don’t flog myself in training everyday to jog come race day. I vary the pace the whole way back, trying to drop a bomb big enough to rid myself of Atkinson, but we’re evenly matched, so with 1km to go, we’re still on top of each other. I keep throwing attacks in, before pulling the trigger with everything I have with around 100m to go, and lead right the way up until the last 30m, where Courtney gets a shoulder in front, winning by a purported 0.1 of a second.

It was an absolute cracker of a race, and although I would have liked to be 2 steps quicker, I had a ball out there, although much to my chagrin, it now means I’ve lost a 70.3 title, as well as two Australian titles to Courtney by a combined total of about a second! Dude’s got a sprint on top of an all-round package, and rightfully claimed a well-deserved win. It was a great weekend out, thanks to the guys for having me up at Mooloolaba for a fantastic event, I’m looking forward to having another go at another 70.3 soon! In the meantime, with all the experience of a single 70.3 under my belt, I’ll be happy to answer any sock-related queries anyone has for their next race...

Cheers,
Willy.