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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Ironman Auckland 70.3:Asia Pacific Championships

I am back home after a great experience racing in Auckland. I have never had the opportunity to race this race before, and I am grateful that I was able to, given that this is the last time this event will be held. It is definitely a shame Auckland is losing this event (as I would love to race this race again). The event was so well run, covered a brilliant course with a great atmosphere. I have never been that keen on bigger city races just because I find them a little stressful (usually they have two different transitions and logistics can be difficult), but this event had none of that. The Viaduct Events Centre was the focal point, and it was actually one of the least stressful races I have participated in. I really enjoyed being a part of it, and as a pro athlete we were looked after so, so well this weekend (staying at the Crowne Plaza which was a great place to stay with pretty amazing breakfasts!).

I had recovered reasonably well from racing in Tauranga the week before. But unfortunately on the Friday (2 days before the event) I went and did something rather stupid, which resulted in me having very, tight and sore calves. Being the budget person I am, I decided to run with a backpack to the swimming pool, there and back (rather than taking a taxi). This is something I have done many times in the past without troubles, but for some reason on this occasion, the extra resistence of maybe a 3-4kg backpack with wetsuit etc sent me over the edge. I then went into desperation mode the next day trying to loosen the calves which probably made things a little worse. I have never, ever gone into an event with anything that tight before, and I wondered if I should still race, would it be a stupid decision that could jeopardise future races? There was nothing pulled, just tight, I couldn't put my heels flat on the floor and bend calf, and they were sore to the touch. Basically it just felt like I was post race before the race started. But I told myself that if I were to do an ironman and stop halfway through the run with 21k to go and assess my muscles, I would be in a far worse a state then starting my Ironman 70.3 race. I have never had any injury issues in the second half of any marathon I have done and I have done oh so many ironman races before, so therefore I should be ok (well I hoped so!)

The swim: There were not many of us female pro competing, which made for a very enjoyable start. I was not fast enough off the blocks to get onto the speedy Meredith Kessler's feet. I enjoyed the first half of the swim, but after we took the 3rd turn buoy I started mistrusting my navigation again. I knew I was looking for a red buoy but I just couldn't really see it, with foggy goggles I couldn't see Meredith or the kayak with her and so I started thinking is this really the right way? and losing focus. I was so glad when I did finally see the buoy and could get on with the rest of the swim. It was beautiful and flat and really peaceful, and again I felt so comfortable in my Roka Wetsuit. I came out of the water in 2nd position. 75 seconds back from Meredith.

Onto my Ceepo and the first part of the course was a little technical with a few tram tracks which were a little wet from the night's rain. I went very cautiously. Once I made it onto the Harbour Bridge I could relax a bit. There were a few climbs and I was really enjoying those. At around 10k there was a man calling out splits which was nice. I found out I was 73 seconds behind Meredith, so I was pleased I was not losing any time. About 10k later I saw Meredith in the middle of the road frantically trying to get her chain back on. I hoped that she would be ok. The last thing any athlete wants is to win a race because of another athletes misfortune. It would leave one with a very hollow feeling indeed. So I was pleased to see her again a few km later. I stuck with her for perhaps another 10k. At that point I had a little misfortune finding myself off the road, with the road being about 2 inches higher. I had to slow down and come to a near stop in order to get my bike back up and lost her. I was clawing my way back up a climb, but once the downhill started that was that. It wasn't many km until I would hit the technical section though, and I definitely didn't want to be going at anybody else's pace on that section. It was not the turning, I quite enjoy that, but there were quite a few tram track crossings and I was just overly cautious. There is just so much to lose if you crash, and for me I think it is far better to be safe than sorry. Once through that section you head out onto a flat piece of road for about 12k where you turn around, come back, technical section around the Viaduct again and then repeat. I have got to say it was really nice to be riding a nice flat section of road in New Zealand that was tar seal not rough chip. Not too many races like that around in NZ!!! All in all I was pretty happy with my bike ride. I felt good throughout, consistent energy levels thanks to Powerbar. I had a fast machine in perfect working order thanks to Ceepo, Rolf Prima, Keywin, and I felt super fast and comfortable out on the bike thanks to SOAS, Rudy Project, Cobb and Sweetcheeks.

Off the bike I started the run about 2 minutes behind Meredith. My transition was not good and I lost 30 seconds to Amelia there, and she was perhaps 2 minutes behind me out onto the run. I really didn't feel good on the first lap of the run. It felt very hard work, for not much progress, heavy legs, heavy all over in fact. Although my legs were heavy at least I had some of the lightest shoes with the Asics DS racers, so that helped! As like the week before, I came right for the second lap. That was just as well. Amelia was only 1.5 minutes behind me after the second lap, and Meredith now had a lead of 3.5 minutes. Analysing my splits afterwards it was interesting to see I ran exactly the same for both laps, at a speed of exactly 4 min 6 seconds per km. That pretty much sums up my run. It was hard on my muscles, but felt easy on my lungs and when I got to the end I felt I could keep going that speed for a while longer. I finished in second place just under 3.5 minutes back behind Meredith. Meredith was in a class of her own and thoroughly deserving of the the Asia Pacific Title. Sore calves or not I would have had to settle for second. Amelia stayed in 3rd finishing just under 3 minutes behind me. she has a big future in this sport. She is only 23 years old!!  I hadn't even started this sport at 23 years old, in fact I was doing no exercise whatsoever!

For me when I finished the race, I felt my calves and they felt so much better than before I started, and a few days later I have much less soreness than I did pre race, and feel really good. So it seems, I was lucky; running the race seems to have sorted me out! Now I get to hit a new phase of training, that I am pretty happy about. Thanks to Purplepatch I feel like I am in a good place for the time of the year, and hopefully with Matt's help I can work on a few issues and make a step forwards over the next few months. Next up for me will be Ironman 70.3 Geelong on February 8th!