Busselton is a place that I have been lucky enough to race at in the past, starting with my Team Vic days at the National All-Schools Championships. Over the last few years I have raced in Busso for the May edition of the 70.3, but this was the first time I would be in December for the full-distance and excitement levels were at an all-time high.
The lead in to Busselton essentially started the day after Shanghai 70.3 in October. After a great six week block leading into that race I was able to put together a strong performance which, due to the tactics of the race, may not have been reflected in the placing at the finish line (8th), but was certainly evident in the post-race analysis of the data. With six weeks until Busso, it was decided with my coach (Prof Paul Laursen), that we would use the form from some of the bigger sessions that I’d been ticking off and put in a good block of training to target Busso. Along the way, three weeks out, I was able to jump in on my favourite race on the calendar, Challenge Shepparton. I am extremely privileged to have raced at Shep six years in a row now. I always love to go down and hang out with my yearly homestay family, Steve and Belinda Ayton. Although Shep threw a few curve balls, with a career worst swim and a small mechanical on the bike, I was happy to walk away unscathed and with a 4th place, all eyes firmly on Busselton three weeks down the line.
The recovery from Shep proved to be fantastic and I was able to put in a great week until the Friday, when a deep blister on my foot got infected and unfortunately rendered me pretty much unable to train for a few days. Luckily, the podiatrists were able to get it sorted and with that the season was still on and a marathon off the bike loomed…
The trip down to Busselton with my grandpa remained stress free and we were able to settle into a nice little routine in the proceeding days, knowing the town from previous year. Thus, making the race that much easier.
Race morning began with a relatively unappealing 3.30am wake up call before we headed down, made the last adjustments and donned the wetsuit for a 6.15am start in the brisk WA morning air. I made the mistake of not starting far enough left and as such, hit the deeper water a little earlier, whilst some of the other boys got a bit more sand bar to work with, instantly leaving me half a stroke behind. After settling on some feet whilst turning to go under the jetty, a gap opened up ahead and I simply didn’t have the fire power to make it across. Balancing swim, bike and run form at once is always a fine line and that next gear in my swimming is something that I really need to ensure I have dialled back in once we roll into next year… For the rest of the swim, I simply lead the second pack at what was a relatively pedestrian pace but I knew that I was in this race for the long-haul and didn’t want to burn any matches early on.
As an athlete, my strength usually lies on the bike over the half-distance. However, I had decided well before this race that patience was the key and that I was not going to race it with the aggressiveness that I would usually do in a half-distance, where I 100% back myself to get to the front. This meant watching Matty Burton ride off into the distance after about 10km, reiterating to myself the mantra that Prof had given me, “how will this impact my marathon?” In all honesty, I found the first lap quite frustrating, with a couple of the euro boys putting in big surges and me seeing my power shoot well above my desired range just to keep them in sight. However, after approximately 105km, they seemed to have blown themselves apart and after re-catching Blake Kappler, I went to the front and simply sat on a nice, comfortable wattage for the remainder of the ride and felt in control and strong. For those interested in my power file, it can be viewed here (ignore heart rate as unfortunately the strap had a complete meltdown)
After catching Cunnama in transition, I knew that all of a sudden the patience was paying off and I was just inside the money starting out onto the run. I felt fantastic and without heart rate as a guide, it was simply a case of settle in to what felt like a sustainable pace and aim to hold it. Throughout the first lap, I tried to give encouragement to as many of the 70.3 athletes as possible, as ultimately this sport is about the comradery that we all have and I have immense respect for everyone out there giving it their all. This kept me in a great headspace as well and allowed me to truly enjoy the run. Coming through the crowd a couple of times per lap was also a major highlight and I really made a point of enjoying it. Before I knew it, I was at the 32km mark, I had no gut issues and my legs felt alright! Fuelling has been something that I have been working very hard on with Prof, who is an advocate of a Low Carb, High Fat approach to diet on a day to day basis. This certainly doesn’t mean no carbs ever and is something that has taken me a while to get used to and work out how to strike the right balance. It does mean, though, that this entire race was fuelled on 55-60g carbs/hour on the bike and about 50-55g carbs/hour on the run. This is less than many other athletes may strive for but left me feeling strong throughout the race and without gut issues that have plagued me throughout my journey as a triathlete. Back on track, I hit the 35km mark still with a great opportunity to run sub 3hr and forgetting that I had stopped my watch for approx. 1min earlier in the run to do up my shoes! The last 7km home proved to be a bit of a mental battle with a big gap to 5th and a big gap behind to 7th. I walked the last two aid stations to make sure I got myself home without an implosion and really took the time to enjoy the last few km. Ultimately it cost me a sub 3hr run (3:00:20 official time) but I was so happy to cross the line with a consistent day over this distance for the first time that I really didn’t care. Run file can be viewed here:
In the end, I came away with a 6th place, overall time of 8.23hr and a head held very high knowing that I executed a pretty good day. The reality is I was 5.7% off one of the best athletes in the world but I have a renewed confidence that I am chasing an achievable dream and that I can make the jump to the next level in the future with motivation higher than ever. For now, it is time to take December as a month of unstructured training, just doing what feels right by the body. I’m also extremely excited to be officially getting on board with a new bike sponsor in the very, very near future!
For now though, a big thank you to all those who support me. Kaiting, my parents, my family, you all support me fully and for that I am so grateful. Also, Parcours and Cyclespeed, thank you for continually ensuring I have the best equipment possible to race!