Racing motivation was not particularly high to be honest. I rarely tire of the training especially at this time of year when the load is moderate, the weather is awesome in Australia and I’ve got great friends back from the U.S to train with. However starting racing in January in Panama and travelling to so many races in a very busy year had left my desire to simply be at home with my family at an all time high. The one upside of bombing out in Kona was getting a lift home with Michi and Andi’ Raelerts brother, who told me that Michi was racing Thailand 70.3. I knew much of 2016 had been rough on Michi as he dealt with illness but he was back on track with clear improvements every time he raced over the past couple of months and it sparked my motivation to knuckle down and focus on getting into good shape for one more race so I didn’t cop an arse whooping from the 2 x Ironman 70.3 world champ.
As soon as I arrived in Thailand, any misgivings about more travel disappeared. My fourth time here and my love for the place only grows stronger. With Sunrise Events looking after the athletes racing the way they’ve become notorious for, the Thai people, amazing food and hanging out with some great friends it turned out to be one of my more enjoyable complete race experiences of the past few years.
I had been a little bit frustrated with my cycling since September, unable to hit the numbers I expect of myself. So, in preparation for this race, my coach, Matt Dixon and I implemented a 2013/2014 strategy that really bolstered my cycling back then. The major premise of which involves dropping my run volume a lot. As expected, dropping to 30-40kms week of running my cycling bounced back really nicely and I knew that that my race tactics could once again revolve around a very hard bike leg.
I had a great swim, exiting the 1.9km swim in 22.30 with Eric Watson towing us a long and then headed out onto the ride with Michi Raelert and British Olympian, Stewart Hayes. Stewart suffered a puncture in transition before the race start and the tube must have been pinched on re-installation as he was left behind waiting for a wheel change. Michi evidently had the same strategy as me as we quickly moved away from the field with reports of a 4 minute buffer by 20kms to the chasers who were being led by Matt Burton and Tim Berkel. Berkel had suffered a rough night having eaten something that didn’t quite work well with his Western gut and was starting the race already very dehydrated. I knew it was going to be a really tough ask for him to be competitive at the front of the race. Michi and I kept pushing the pace for the entire first hour. By 50kms it was clear it was a two man race and so we backed off the gas slightly to keep something in the tank for the hot and humid half marathon.
Michi belted through transition at rocket speed. I was unsure whether it was appropriate to strip down to my Buddy Smugglers underneath my suit given the Thai people are still mourning the loss of their king. Michi’s transition made the decision easy and I headed out still in the ITU style suit that I had ridden in. It was going to be hot but I couldn’t risk losing any more time in transition. I did take the time however to ensure I took my Clif Bar hydration and nutrition mix with me as I knew that riding the first hour as we had would make for a tough half marathon especially given the intense humidity. In previous races against Michi I had belted the first 5kms trying do damage early but it had never worked. He has great top end speed and it didn’t seem to damage the rest of his half marathon like many other competitors. So this time I was quite content to sit 20-30 behind Michi and ensure that I steadily ingested my calories and hydration. I knew Michi and I both weren’t going to be at our running best given he was still building back his run milage while I was very much winding mine down. I figured my best strategy was just to be smart and play defensive triathlon rather than be the aggressor. It waited for signs of weaknesses and after the first turn around I could see in Michi’s face that he was hurting. At about 5kms I closed the gap and put in a strong 2.5 kms to gain a buffer of approximately 100-150m.
For the rest of the run, I too was really suffering out there. With the humidity eliminating evaporative cooling and greedily sucking much of the available oxygen out of the air it was a tough slog for everyone racing. In the final couple of kilometres I started getting adductor cramps. I had to slow a lot and take in my anti-cramp formula. The cramps dissipated and I was able to get going again but Michi was getting a second wind and closing in the gap. In complete relief I crossed the finish line with a 15 second margin in yet another too tight for comfort result of which lately, I always seem to be involved in.
It was a terrific way to finish the year. The tougher the race the greater the level of satisfaction when it’s all done and dusted. Thank you to the Sunrise team and to the Ironman Asia Pacifc team for another first class event.
To my sponsors and team it’s been a dream year, only possible because of your support. I’m incredibly grateful. Thank you Saucony, Trek, Bontrager, Alaska, Roka, Clif Bar, Flight Centre Sports and Events, Rudy Project, Shimano, Monica, Evan- BPM-Sport, Matt- Purplepatch Fitness.