6 weeks to worlds
“I just read this.. Was it HOT? We need to get you fit” .. with this short feedback to my first (and only) attempt at a MAF test from Guy, I had the sinking realisation I was in for a painful 6 weeks. I had done the test at the end of my “Asian tour of duty”, my yearly work trip around Asia, living out of a suitcase, hopping between countries and various hotels for about 4 weeks, all the while trying to maintain a base level of fitness on the back of too much wining and dining with customers. I had thought my fitness was holding up ok this time around , but Guys words snapped me back to reality.
And then it began … a series of long endurance sessions mixed with high intensity interval running and bike efforts. I had only ever done about 2 fartleck and 3 brick sessions in my life , I was now doing 2-3 a week! I won't bore you with the details but needless to say it was not an enjoyable month, but slowly and surely the speed and fitness improved and I was ready for the first warm up race
2 weeks to world’s.
The Armidale duathlon was scheduled nicely two weeks out from world’s, a good opportunity to test out myself over race distance at pace. It was also the first hit out on the TT bike since Fiji … (what seemed like a simple 24 hr repair on my slipping seat post turned into 3 months …). With Armidale being only my 3rd attempt at a duathlon, I was still learning about how hard to pace myself throughout, but managed to run into 2nd place after strong bike leg. Importantly, I also learnt a lot about how to approach these races before the big one in Adelaide. To celebrate my efforts, Guy “refreshed” my program to include one last brick” session that he described as “ ..evil, but GREAT ..” . Warning to the other GKE athletes – if he sets you this, ... run away ….
3 days to worlds
One last quick bike session at home turned into a 6k run pushing the bike back home thanks to 2 flat tyres… and then it was pack the bags, grab the kids from school, and off to Adelaide we go. With Janine being in the middle of IM training, we decided (on Kate’s suggestion) that we would add to the degree of difficulty by both of us travelling with bikes. Once we arrived, it was time to settle in, register, take part in the parade of nations, which had the added enjoyment of getting to parade with fellow GK e athlete Justine Bolton. Then before I knew it, it was race day
We had just converted all our body clocks to Adelaide time by race day (luckily) so the early start for transition set up was not too painful. A quick warm up run was achieved by the dash to the toilet at the railway station nearby thanks to the organising committee thinking 5 portaloos for 1500 competitors should cover it … And then time to head to the marshalling area. The 40-44 males was one of the larger groups (37 in total) and was also one of the last to start. Some friendly chat with shared amongst the group, but you could see all were eyeing off their completion for the mad dash that was about to happen. The hooter fired and we were off.
Run #1 : Being a short course distance I expected the pace to be high, but within 500 m the first 20 or so guys had cleared out and I was left with the sinking feeling that this was going to be a long, and potentially embarrassing day. Whilst I had not expected to be at the pointy end of the field, I had at least expected to be competitive. The timing chip at the 1Km turn pick me up in 22nd place, but I had I knew that there was still a long way to go so I just had to trust and stick to the plan. The 4.8k run remained hectic the whole way, as the path was narrow and crowded from closing in on some of the waves in front, and also getting caught by the freaks in the wave behind. By the end of the run I had worked back to 12thplace, as the pace was obviously too hot for some that went hard early, but the gap to the leaders was already close to 2 minutes (and I thought I could only get that far behind swimming..) Running into transition, I spotted the guy that had beat me at Armidale 2 weeks prior (Target #1) , and I had the first flicker of hope for the race that was unfolding. My plan had been to run harder in the first leg to not give him as much of a lead and looked to have played out that way.
Bike – the course was fast! Most of the roads had all been resealed, and little or no breeze meant for some high top end speed, only interrupted by a short sharp climb up along Adelaide oval. The family were positioned at the start of the long out and back section, I could hear the cheers and screams but I had entered into some sort of strange zone and was only focussed on the road in front. The first lap was crazy again with bikes everywhere, almost impossible to keep a 10m drafting zone, but within the lap I had caught and passed Target #1. The plan was simple – keep spinning the legs hard, build as much lead on him as possible to at least reverse the results on him. As I neared the end of the second lap I came up on another two guys in the AG – including the guy that had won the entire event last year at Adelaide (Target #2) – amazing what you can find with a bit of google searching . This was flicker of hope number two – he was a freak of a runner but I had closed the gap on the bike. Into transition I then saw Target #3 leaving (also courtesy of google plus I had ridden into transition with him at Busso, before he scorched me with a 1:20 ½ to finish ..) Still didn't know my position but maybe that podium finish we had joked about was a possibility ..? Bike racked, shoes on and run Forrest run …
Run#2 - Target # 3 was gone by the time I left transition, and I knew Target #2 was going to fly past any moment. I had only got a 20m or so lead on him which was going to require something to go wrong for him to not close. Anything can happen in the quick 2.7Km so it was run as hard as I could and be prepared for a last 100m sprint if needed. Target #2 passed me and I had to let him go. It still felt like it could be a good day if I could stay consistent. The standard distance athletes were into their 2nd lap of the first run so there was still plenty of traffic on the path, and the unknown of who might be coming from behind was more of the focus. The sound of some footsteps closing when we hit the road for the final 400m was enough to push me to empty the tank. The finish line was cruel making you run past it, then do a 180 and run back down the finishing chute. The announcer called my name as I neared the line and made some other comments but it was a bit muffled (was probably due to the lactic acid leaking form my ears at this stage) – Did he just say unofficially 3rd place..? Into the recovery tent to grab a drink and a bit of fruit and then straight out to try and find the family. They had been trapped on the other side of the finishing chute so it felt like an eternity wandering around looking for them. Finally I saw Janine running to me with a smile the size of Texas – confirming what I thought I had heard – you got 3rd ! The time 1hr and 27 secs. I had wanted to go sub 1 hr after being so close at Armidale… but the 3rd place was enough consolation. (I will blame the extended transition distances for the extra 27 secs). In total, 70 seconds was all that separated the top 4 – with Target #1 finishing 4th and #3 and #2, first and second respectively. The afternoon was spent cheering on the para athletes, which was a great reminder of how friggin awesome the sport that we all love is, and how it really is for everyone to enjoy. An early family celebratory dinner to make it to the medal celebration was not how we expected to finish the trip, but I don’t think anyone was complaining.
For the next 12 months, I can keep the tag of the 3rd fastest 40-44 “Old Bloke” duathlete in the world (as Janine has affectionately christened me) It was a world wind six weeks, as much of the last year and a bit has been since becoming part of the GKE family. Guy, as always – could not have done it without you mate. I must not be the easiest person to set programs for, but my one redeeming feature is that if you tell me to do it, it gets done! The work you have drilled into me, especially around pacing myself, paid handsome dividends that day. Thank you! Behind every great man is a greater woman – nothing more needs to be said there about you Kate.. thank you too! And the same comment goes for me, as always the person that believes in me so much more than myself is Janine. It's a bit of a running joke when Guy asks me what races I have entered in for the coming season, the answer is “not sure, check with Janine …” But without this “encouragement” it could not have happened. Hopefully the podium moment was enough to make it all worthwhile.
What’s next – well just a minor change of focus from short course duathlon to Mandurah 70.3 .. I was feeling fit and excited coming out of Adelaide, but a minor sudden stop with my bike onto the asphalt a week out from the race has put a bit of a dampener on things, but hey, it is what it is. I may get some even better "pain face" running pictures than Guy produces if I can make it to the start line. After that, there is the biggest challenge for me yet – putting on the supportive dude shirt to cheer Janine though her first IM. She was there every step for me last year- can't wait to repay the favour.