I can’t quite put my finger on why but something about this race ignites levels of motivation to win that are unequalled by other races. It’s easy to motivated to win on race day, I’m sure ever pro athlete feels that desire. However, it’s not so easy to be motivated many weeks prior when the motivation can really make a difference to your training.
My great friend and training partner, Tim Berkel often talked to me about how young athletes needed to ‘do their time’ and ‘have respect’ for the older or more experienced athletes. Initially I scoffed back with “what are you talking about, you’re only a year older than me” and didn’t really agree with what he was saying. After 2 seasons in the States however, I now think I have a much greater understanding of his meaning. Many age group athletes are unaware of the many sacrifices you make. Having to travel with a bike every second weekend, sleeping in your car before races or staying in cheap hotels, the constant pressure of turning up to races when you know you’re not 100% because you have to turn a buck or you’re going to be lucky to afford the flight home. It’s about dealing with the massive lows of racing poorly and dealing with injuries.
However, I still argue that this life is a fairy-tale compared to what most other people have to do and I draw on my experiences as an age group athlete to really get me ready to battle on race day. While on the start line I take immense pleasure in thinking back to the my first years in triathlon where I would finish University and then wash pots for six hours in a restaurant before going for a run at 11pm. I think back to training for Hawaii while working full-time when training at night was the norm. Age-group athletes do this sort of thing every day and many pro athletes don’t realise how lucky they are. I have this time racing age-group to thank that I still wake up at 4am an hour before my alarm goes off excited to get out the door to go training.
Since getting back to the melanoma fertile shores of Byron Bay it’s been a solid few weeks of really enjoyable training with the Aeromax Team. It’s been a nice change to have some casual teaching work to take the financial pressure off my cash flow but most importantly I’m so happy to be back with the Moncat who is so amazingly patient, loving and supportive.
I was confident about Port Macquarie 70.3. I know this course really well. I knew my competitors strengths and weaknesses. I knew that physically I was in good shape but more importantly, mentally the desire to hurt was there. There were some big names racing but I wasn’t fazed as it’s been a long season for the US based athletes and I knew my forced lay off at start of the year should leave me in good form while others are counting down the days until their end of season break.
Both Matty White and Tim Berkel withdrew from the race with ailments and Mitch Robins copped a puncture in the first 10kms. Normally I might feel some relief that quality athletes like these guys weren’t on the same starting line however when I’m fit and healthy I want to race the best and try and beat the best so I only felt disappointment that they were out. Hugely impressed with Mitchy Robins who put the disappointment behind him and still seemed genuinely happy that the other Aeromax boys raced well.
Clayton Fettell and Josh Amberger are easily the two best swimmers in long course triathlon. By the end of the 1.9km swim they had put close to two minutes into the main group. I exited the swim at the tail end of the a fairly large group and after an awkward wetsuit removal dance was onto the bike about 40 seconds down from the main chasers.
Immediately I knew the legs were working and closed the gap passing Luke Mackenzie on the way who after showing what a world class athlete he is in Hawaii was understandably nowhere near his best.
To remedy my previous poor technical bike skills I’ve spent a lot more time on my mountain bike, raced Xterra and rode the long winding Colorado descents a lot harder then I find comfortable through the season. Hence, I went to the front heading out of town to try and shell some of the athletes looking to hang on for a cruisier ride. I went for it heading out of town and thankfully by the time we got to the flat section the group had whittled down to Ambrose, Lampe, Kemp, Bell and Hackett. All guys that I wanted to be riding with, who I knew would keep the pace high throughout the 90kms, hopefully minimising our time loss to Fettell who would be giving everything to get onto the run with as much breathing room as possible.
From there the ride was fairly uneventful. Luke Bell dropped himself by going to the front, lifting the pace and then when rolling to the back he proceeded to continue to lose time. While I felt a little bad for Luke I was quite relieved that he was evidently not on his game as he has been ripping people’s legs off all season.
On the final climbs heading back into town Kemp attacked and Ambrose and I hung on splitting the group futher so that we entered transition a little ahead of Lampe, Hackett and Amberger.
The three of us hit the run course close to 6 minutes down on Fettell. Ambrose soon pulled out leaving myself and Chris Kemp running side by side. Kempy has some serious pace so I figured it could be a long and painful 21.1kms.
I didn’t want Chris to have any mental ground so I stayed one step ahead despite the disadvantage of taking the wind. The course change now means that over 80% of the run course is up and down hills which normally I would detest. However, when I heard of the course changes several weeks earlier I switched my long run from the flat cane fields to running up to Byron Bay’s light house and down so that I could give my quads a weekly pounding like they were going to receive at Port Mac. I also chose to switch from the more minimal Zoot Ultra Speed which is needed to get the responsiveness to run a in the 31-32 minute range for Olympic Distance racing to a more cushioned and comfortable Zoot Ultra TT 4.0 which would allow me to really attack the down hills without decimating my final 5kms with micro muscle tears. The choice paid dividends and I dropped Kempy on the first significant down hill but not before he gave me some wise advice about Fettell who I had figured was too far up the road to catch. He said something along the lines that “he only has to have a walk for a 30 seconds and we can catch him”.
So I went for it, going through the first 10kms extremely hard. I started to to eat into Clayto’s lead so that by 11kms it was down to 3 minutes. Right about that moment I got the split I could feel my muscles grab as they reached the point of cramping and knew I had to back it off or risk being reduced to a walk however I kept my pace as high as possible hoping that Clayton may be suffering from his courageous bike effort. No such luck, with the closest split I got being a minute and fifty seconds I had to settle for second.
The crowd in Port Macquarie is so amazingly supportive. It feels like everyone is yelling out your name along the entire run course. The finish chute is packed which made for a truly special run to the line. A huge thanks to the people of Port. I was very proud of my race despite falling slightly short. I left it all out there having the 2nd quickest bike and fastest run.
Thanks to my main sponsors Kestrel, Zoot and Vision/FSA. I’de like to also announce a new sponsor. Following meeting the SIS crew who sponsored the race, I’m excited to be working with them going forward to help promote their incredible sports nutrition range while their products help promote my performance.