I’m on my second vino, so I’m a warning this could get a touch deep. Let me start with some cliche dribbling. I would far rather ride out the massive highs and massive lows of doing something a little different and prone to failure then be lying on this couch at 50 years of age wondering what would have been possible if I had just given something a really good crack.
I’m almost certain that highs of triathlon such as winning races, magic days in training belting along a bush trail, enjoying a Sunday ocean swim, riding breathtaking mountains in Colorado, having the flexibility and time to spend quality time with loved ones or friends and much more is cancelled out by the lows of triathlon. Constant travel, pushing your body to the edge of sickness, dealing with injuries, financial insecurity when you’re racing poorly, the extra pressure it puts on partners, staying motivated to get through 20-35 hour training weeks, non-triathlon friends and family just not getting that it’s your job and much more. So when you iron out the hills and valleys the triathlon experience is possibly completely neutral. I hope this doesn’t sound negative because I think neutral is great. I can’t think of many other jobs that are neutral. When I weigh up most other occupations the negatives far outweigh the positives. I’m sounding pessimistic but grant me a few more lines to further clarify or confuse.
Big high’s and big lows allow a full spectrum of feelings and emotions. It’s true living. I wouldn’t give up the last couple of years for anything. This is a job I truly love for the entire experience it provides and geez I hope I can keep doing it for quite a while.
Canberra 70.3 was a complete contrast to how I felt in Phuket. I had trained so hard to peak for Phuket and it paid dividends on race day. In a relative sense, everything felt comfortable. Obviously I’m disappointed that I lost 5 minutes on the bike with a puncture and a crash but to get back into fourth, against some of the best over this distance makes it by far the race I’m most proud of.
Canberra on the other hand was up there with some of the most difficult hours of racing I’ve done. I felt horrible in the swim but decided early that I was going to stick with Ollie Whistler for the first two laps of the bike so I tucked in behind him. When Ollie’s head is right, he can push some incredible power through those pedals and back it up with a very solid run so I wanted him to be my target to stay with on the bike. I swam up alongside him twice to try and share the load and to minimise the time to the small group of front swimmers who got away but he didn’t get my hint and we just ended up swimming side by side slowing each other down so I settled in behind him and let him do the work. We exited a little over a minute down on four guys including a major threat Joey Lampe who despite being only 22 years of age is rapidly improving every race and is a threat over both short and long course racing.
I was fairly relaxed about the time gap as I’m confident about my cycling form. Prior to Phuket, my functional threshold power was up 40 watts from where it was when I returned from injury in March this year. My confidence was instantly dashed to pieces as I put in my first few pedal strokes. They felt tired. However the main issue was my head would not shut up. I take pride in being able to quieten my mind into a state of calm focus but my brain would not stop throwing up reasons why it didn’t want to push the body through another 3.5 hours of racing.
At about 5kms into the bike leg my saviour appeared in the shape of a course marshal who directed Ollie and I down the wrong road. We had only ridden about 30 seconds before a h0nking van pulled up alongside us and told us we were going the wrong way. Another extremely slow 30 seconds ticked by until we were back on the correct road. I had calculated that a week after a 70.3 that I could afford to lose a minute in the swim to Joey and hopefully get off the bike together or a little ahead to try and hold him off on the run. I hadn’t factored in two minutes, hence I was pissed off. All of the excuses dried up. I could handle pulling out if it was my own fault but I didn’t want a course marshall ending my day. In a weird way the marshall reignited my competitive nature and saved my race from my uncooperative brain.
I started crunching the pedals with rage and thankfully my average speed came up. I soon calmed down and was able to get back into a good mental state and maintain the average speed I knew was required on this tough bike course. Ollie was struggling in his new bike position (he had never ridden his new bike before) and then his Shimano Electronic shifters wouldn’t go up to his big ring ending his day.
At 30kms I passed Joey who was on the side of the road with a puncture. I didn’t feel any relief, only disappointment as I had pictured a good battle between myself, Ollie and Joey.
I gradually reeled in the other front guys. I guy I really like, Michael Fox gave me a thorough briefing on where everyone was so I yelled at him to stick with me and he did for quite some time. Former ITU athlete, Josh Maeder was having a good 70.3 debut but was lucky not to cop the wrath of the draft busters as he really pushed the permitted drafting distance. I predict a big future for Josh over this format as he matches his speed with greater strength endurance. I was shocked at one point when Monty Frankish, a super friendly bloke whom I first met in Boulder this year, powered past me with his thundering thighs forcing me to lift my pace a little.
I hit T2 as the highly talented swim/biker Matt Bailey was putting on his running shoes. Having backed up 70.3 events before I know that I have about 10-13kms of good running in me before the accumulated fatigue of back to back races starts to really set in and the spring in my step disappears. So I went for it, holding a good pace for the first 12kms. I didn’t feel good but I knew I was moving well enough to put decent time into the other guys. From 12kms onwards it was war between my legs and mind with my legs winning and slowing my pace every kilometre that passed. Some people asked me if I switched off during the last 10kms because I had enough of a gap for the win. I absolutely didn’t. I didn’t trust my legs to carry me the entire way and was simply looking at the ground as I ran, willing off impending cramps.
The burn in my toasted legs quickly evaporated as I jogged down the finish chute to my first 70.3 win. It was so special to have my beautiful fiance Monica and my great friends Phillip and Michelle Whistler waiting at the finish line. Phil and Michelle introduced me to the sport and have been incredibly supportive as I’ve steadily progressed. Fittingly, Canberra Half Ironman was my first race in the elite/pro category where I finished 3rd a minute behind Pete Jacobs. Now, a few years later it is the race where I had my first win over this distance. To have so many podiums at this distance but never quite being able to get the top spot made this race almost a relief to tick that goal off.
My finish line speech was fairly composed until I went to thank Monica and got a little choked up as she has really ridden the rollercoaster with me over the past c0uple of years and has provided amazing support and belief.
Thank you to my sponsors. Zoot have helped me out from the start and as I’ve progressed have steadily increased their level of support. It’s a literal pleasure to wear their shoes, wetsuits and clothes.
Despite Steven from Kestrel bikes, not being in the best of health of late he still does all he can to look after me in the bike department with the slickest, quickest bikes on the market. Thanks Steven and the other people behind Kestrel.
Budgy Smugglers are still the most comfortable item of clothing to race in. There’s no argument. Old school is the only way.
I’m excited to now be working with Vision/FSA. Their marketing manager is second to none doing everything he can to ensure I’ll be riding pure speed, with everything from race wheels to chains to bars to head stems to cranks and more. I just received many crazily fast Christmas presents from them which I’ll be posting pics of up on facebook soon.
Thank you also to my most recent sponsor SIS sport nutrition. I always hunt down the sponsors with the best products and these guys certainly are the leaders in sports nutrition.
To my coach- Grant Giles, my US parents- Pam and Warren Shuckies, my real parents, Karl from www.trizone.com.au, my manager Chuck Dender (www.dendersports.com) and the people I coach. I owe you guys big time. Thank you very very much and Merry Christmas.