Vince, Dani and I arrived in Port Douglas Friday afternoon, greeted by the sun and the wind. I was excited by the prospect of a solid hit out in hotter conditions and to practice some race day routine in preparation for Kona (and to see some Crocs, but hopefully not while swimming!). We knew this race had been used before by athletes preparing for Kona and with the expected hotter conditions, wind and tough run it was an ideal setting to prepare 5 weeks out from Hawaii. We arrived in plenty of time to check into our accommodation, go out for some food and have an easy ride on part of the course after unpacking the bikes. We stopped off at rego on the way back from the ride and had a quick dip in the pool before heading out for dinner.
Unfortunately, on arriving to transition we were told that due to unsafe water conditions (it was pretty windy) the race would now be a Duathlon format 7km/90km/21km . Usually I’d be licking my lips with this news, but with Kona in 5 weeks I wanted to test what level my swim and bike were at and hoped to be able to just run quite comfortably. In addition the course has also had to undergo some other changes due to local events making the road section of the run inaccessible, meaning that the run would now be completely on the beach. The race organisers were very light on volunteers and were trying to put on a safe race with the resources they had, this laid the foundations for what was to be a mentally challenging and tough physical day for us all!
Swim Run 1
The first run was an out and back loop down the beach that we would also navigate later on the second run. They were kind enough on the first run to not make us run up the steps to the lookout point. The run was tough and it was already quite hot by the start at 9am and with the tide still in we were a little limited for beach space to run on and I ended up getting rather wet. Nevertheless, with my Saucony Kinvara’s primed I decided to just get on with it and run smoothly at my own pace which ended up giving me a little advantage over the rest of the field coming back towards transition. The only unfortunate thing was that on trying to get into transition the entire Olympic distance field was stood under the Cairns Croc archway waiting to start their race, blocking my entry - after a few quick agility drills I managed to get by and to my bike (and also say hi to the wife!).
The bike course went out and back mainly along the Captain Cook Highway, with 3 short loops added out at the turnaround point, it was also open to traffic which proved a little difficult in places. After a quick transition I was pleased to be out on the bike first (this is the first EVER occasion it had happened), but with cones blocking the end of the transition road I got confused and went the wrong way at the first turn??? I quickly got back on track and stuck into my much needed SIS Nutrition and I headed out along the Highway still in the lead.
After passing through Mossman (The double SS Mossman’s high street is just as busy as the Sydney Mosman) and getting toward the 30km mark I was pleased to see that no one had passed me yet. As I got to the turnaround point I was once again struck with confusion as my Kona buddy was already there! Vince kindly slowed for a moment as we discussed in a strange French/Englishtriathlon language how this had happened? I presumed that the Planet-X wheels he was using got him there super-fast and undetected!
Now with 3 loops to complete on this outer road loop we switched the lead a bit until Vince decided to make things hard for himself by missing the next turn around (while in front of me) and continuing straight on (YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP!). This then left me and Jarrod (eventual winner) riding relatively alone. I was also pleased to see by this point that we being joined by others including the rest of the Long course athletes, a stray dog that was running in the road chasing the bikes and the 2 volunteers who arrived to set up the bike aid station. Vince was also back on course by this point and giving me Hawaiian shakahand signs!
With 20km to go we headed South back to Port Douglas and I was still in the lead, I got on the SIS caffeine gels to perk me up, but the headwind was taking its toll on me a bit and eventually I was overtaken by Jarrod who would end up taking a couple of minutes out of me on the ride back. I ended up riding my target normalised power which was very pleasing.
By the time we got on the second run the tide was out and there was lots of sand for which to choose your favourite line for the 3 laps. I was chasing Jarrod pretty hard in the first 5km (probably not a smart move), luckily my Saucony’s had dried off from the first run and I had sufficient SIS GO Gels to keep me company in the heat. Keeping to the days form, I managed to go the wrong way twice on the first run lap, once with Jarrod as well (SERIOUSLY YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP), but I just kept me head up and tried to keep a smooth pace going. The steps to the lookout were also proving to be a challenge and I was bit concerned that the tourists were walking up their as fast as I was running (and for the record I didn’t appreciate the elderly couple who were clearly drafting off me on the last lap up to the top).
By this time it was pretty hot and I was trying to keep cool by hitting the aid station, but eventually Jarrod pulled away from me and remained there until the finish. I managed to get in a couple of high five’s with Vince as we passed each other along the beach and was pleased to see Dani cheering on the side (even though every time I passed she thought it was my last lap).
The day was a success! Through all the changes, mishaps and constant challenges I had to try and stick to my race plan and focus on little improvements all day. This was why it was a success, regardless of finishing second, or that I never got to swim. I mentally had to face some difficulties in the race and it was just the challenge I needed at this point before Kona.
HUGE congratulations to Dani who smashed the women’s field (and most of the men) in the Olympic distance, and to Vince who put together a good race in tough conditions and had his own challenges to deal with on course. Also thanks to Dani for dropping Vince and I on the recovery ride the next morning!
Massive thanks to Bruce and Energy Link Coaching, SIS Australia, and Saucony Australia for their continued support to help get me through these tough days.
Just over 4 weeks to Kona! #timetostartbrickingit