After getting back into some running after a long hiatus due to injury and looking for a new challenge I decided that Mandurah 70.3 (a half iron man) would be a great event to tackle. Signing up at the end of June I had a little over four months to learn how to swim again, keep building on the running whilst trying to minimize the impact of reduced time on the bike.
Having only ever done one triathlon before (sprint distance) in 2013, I was a novice but thought if I could get my swimming up to scratch I would be competitive for my age. It took a long time for my body to adjust to the demands that triathlon training places on it. There were numerous occasions where I had typically done a run after work, and then had dinner and it was already nine o’clock and I had to get up at 5am the next morning for either a swim/ride. The winter months did not make this task easier, but thankfully this year Perth was very dry.
I also fundamentally did not enjoy swimming, which made it worse as of the three it was the one I needed to work on the most but had the least motivation to do. I thus had many weeks where I only did one swim in the week as a result.
I had several bike and running lead up events and out of the three I was most happy with my running form going into Mandurah having achieved good times at the Perth Half marathon, City2Surf and down at Esperance. On the bike, I knew my engine (FTP) was well down on previous years but cardiovascularly I was actually fitter due to the cross training benefits. Amy’s Gran Fondo, a 40km ITT and a 160km Mandurah ITT training ride with varying results were completed.
Race day, and guess what, like previous years the forecast was not ideal – 31C with winds starting east to south-east 25-35km/h then turning south to south west 15-25km/h. In my mind however, despite the wind at least it was not going to be 37C like 2013. One thing that becomes very obvious to anyone who does a triathlon is the immense kit and logistics required to compete. In addition to the usual bike paraphernalia I had another bag dedicated to the swim, run & nutrition.
Mandurah 70.3, doubled as the Australian half iron man championships; unlike a full iron man where all the age grade athletes start together; wave starts were used with 3 to 4 minutes between each wave. I was very fortunate to be in the 4th wave starting at 6:41am. My age category was one of the two big age groups split in two waves with approximately 80 athletes in each wave (I was in the 2nd wave).
The swim leg is traditionally very fast with nearly everyone doing a PB for 1.9km. As my first half, any time would be a PB for me. Like most events, when the start horn sounded everyone took off like a bat out of hell, it was only when we were in the main canal that people settled down into their own rhythm. I pushed v hard for the swim and certainly towards the end started to fatigue a little but was very happy with my time (24m37s) which put me 16th in my age category.
Transitioning to the bike, something I did not practice and need to get faster and smoother at doing, the plan was to ride solid but still leave enough in the tank for the run. There was very little bike traffic on the first lap and I was able to get into my rhythm pretty quickly sitting on around 40km/h.
Despite the forecast saying strong winds, this was something I did not experience coming back towards the turnaround point nor when riding due east on the Paganoni road section. Only later (after the event) did I learn that the forecast was a little off, with the temperature getting to 35C with the winds more like 5-15km/h. The 2nd lap was a lot more congested and there were numerous people not obeying the 12m drafting rule (whether they got penalized or not I don’t know but I never saw anyone in the penalty boxes). I was certainly very conscious of not wanting to have to sit around doing nothing for 4 minutes. Official bike time was 2h15m55s placing me 5th in my age category.
Transition from the bike to the run and something was clearly up with the temperature as despite running with a cap it was really hot and there was no shade on the course. Based on the couple of brick practice runs I did, I though the first couple of km’s would be rough and was expecting 4:00 to 4:10 per km but my legs felt good and I was pretty much straight into my target pace of 3:40ish per km. Picked up several people fairly quickly on my first lap and saw Michael Raelert pass me as he went on to win comfortably (he was running 3:25ish per km pace). I had my gel that I was carrying around 8km and picked up water at all stations bar the first (which was at 1km?).
It was great to see and hear words of encouragement from my Dad, fellow SPR traiathelete Stuart Irvins and my running training partner Colin Lindqueue who had all come down to watch the event and support the participants. I noticed a few other SPR people on Mandurah Tce road who also called out – thx guys. There was also a lot of general support from the people who were directly supporting the triathletes. For the general public, having your name on the front of you BIB is a great idea.
Unfortunately at or around 14km, either through dehydration and or lack of energy (probably both) I hit the wall and started walking intermittently and completely stopping at the remaining drink stations. It now became a matter of “can I finish this race”; mind over body, counting down the km’s one by one. As I came into the finishing area, I heard the announcement that Assad Attamani (a Gold All World Athlete) had just finished 2nd in the male 35-39 category. Could I run another 800m to the finishing banner and secure 3rd place? I don’t know what pace I was running at for that last 800m but it seemed to go on for ages and there was no sprint finish, but the announcer called out my name stating I had finished 3rd! Run split was 1h22m33s, which placed me 2nd in my age category.
I had finished and started to try to walk away but felt and probably looked terrible was escorted to the medical tent where I spent the next 25m in the recovery position with ice packs on my body having my BP, temperature and pulse taken whilst taking on board several litres of fluid. There was a female pro athlete in the tent who was in worse shape than me who they were talking about needing to transfer to hospital. I learnt after the race of many DNFs; the run was brutal in that 35C heat.
The awards ceremony commenced at 3:30pm once the final athlete had finished and the course officially closed (3:10pm). There were some super fit looking people waiting around for the ceremony to commence. The pro’s went first and everyone was informed that the male winner had done the 2nd ever fastest half iron man in the world (3h35m), proving that Mandurah 70.3 is a super fast course.
When it came to my category I started to head to the front as the announcer was saying ‘in 3rd place’only to discover that it was Assad and I had finished 2nd in 4h06m39s. Not in my wildest dreams did I think I would come close to a time like this on my half IM debut.
Big thanks in particular to my fellow SPR traiathelets Kizzi Neale and Stuart Irvins and my running training partner Colin Lindqueue who all provided me with much advice and encouragement when I felt down/tired along with Andrew Ballam who loaned me his tri friendly TT helmet.
Great event – have a go!