I have worked hard all year, and have been on the podium many, many times and put in some great PB performances, but up until now had not stepped onto that highest step of the podium. I am so happy to take that first victory of 2014 now, in one of my favourite races.
For those of you who don't know about Metaman Bintan here is a quick overview. Bintan is a little island just off Singapore. So it is really easy to get to for most people. I have often wanted to race more in Asia, but as soon as you have to add connecting flights from New Zealand the price sky rockets. So here there is just one flight, into Singapore and then a quick taxi straight to the ferry, and 50min later you are on this beautiful island. It is not crowded here, and you can safely bike around to train no problem. The race takes place at Nirwana Gardens Resort Hotel I love races like this as it is very low stress in the days leading up to the race and the race itself. We swim on the resort beach, we bike from here, out around parts of the island and back (2 loops) with police escorts warning anyone of our presence. The bike ride is fantastic as you pass through many villages with children all dressed up in their uniforms waving flags and cheering. It makes you feel pretty special, and for a girl who really struggles with boredom on a 180k bike ride this kept me well entertained. We then run 6 loops around the resort tracks, some off road on hard packed sand (easier on the legs!). There is also a half distance which is very popular and the Blitz which is a bit longer bike than an Olympic event, but a shorter run, so that is great to get as many triathletes involved as possible. The Metasport crew who put on the race look after us pro athletes better than anywhere else in the world. Accommodation at the resort, meals, ferry, transport....it has all been taken care of, and in a sport where every time you travel to a race you are taking a huge financial risk, it made it very easy to choose to race here. They also put on a fantastic prize purse of 134 000 USD. Probably the best part of this whole experience is I get to spend time with the other fantastic pro athletes before the race and really get to know them. Such great people with so many interesting stories.
Last year where I raced here I had a build up which included training in Queensland, Australia (highs in the mid twenties), racing the Samoa Half Iron in very similar heat, and racing Ironman 70.3 Yeppoon again in quite warm temperatures. This year I was coming from the NZ winter. Much, much nicer in Wanganui training than in the South Island (I have had a fantastic bock of training), but still 10-15 degree high temperatures is pretty different to 30-35 humid Asia. I did a few saunas at the swimming pool after my swims, and wore a lot of clothes when I biked and ran, but really I had to go in with a different approach. I think a lot of people are a bit fearful of racing in the hot conditions of Asia, but really you just need to approach the race differently. If you go out there storming on the bike, pushing up every hill, forgetting to hydrate adequately at the aid stations then yes you will suffer, but if you race sensibly you will get to the end in not bad shape. Of course if you are fully acclimatized to these conditions then you can really approach the race quite normally. But for me it was better to be a bit cautious in order to avoid catastrophe on the run.
So to the race. The swim was a bit different from last year. Last year there were some really fast male swimmers who I worked my butt off to keep up with . The swim last year was quite hard, there were lots of surges and the like and I ended up with a 50 min split. This year I was still in that lead group of men, but it was a very cruisy speed. All the top men were together so really it was up to me if I wanted to increase the pace as I was the one trying to get a lead on the classy women behind me, but I didn't, my mistake. So anyway it was a very comfortable swim, but I ended up with a 55 min split. Of course you can't know if the buoys were in the exact same places as they were last year, but it did mean for me I didn't get the lead over people such as Diana that I wanted. But that was completely my fault. I was first women out. Thanks Roka for my swim skin which enabled me to have such a comfortable swim.
Coming into T1 I had a bit of a disaster. I know I don't have a great track record in transition but this time was not my fault. Someone had taken my bag and not returned it to the rack once they realised their mistake, so I was looking through all these bags and then I saw my stuff dumped on the ground at the changing area. It felt like I wasted a heck of a lot of time, but looking at the results it was only perhaps 45 seconds.
Onto the bike and I felt good. The course starts with quite an undulating section. In a less hot race, or one in which I was fully acclimatized I would go hell for leather up these climbs, but I held back more than I would usually. At the aid stations I would come to nearly a stop in order to make sure I had enough electrolyte drink and water to throw on me to keep cool. I always felt much better after I did this, just a nice cooling effect and then I was off again. I was basing this around my experience from last year in which the run was very hot, and I saw many top athletes really suffer and some have to pull out. Of course on the bike I didn't know that the run this year would be overcast and rain for the first part making conditions quite a lot easier. At around maybe 65k I was overtaken by Diana Riesler. She was biking very well indeed. In a less hot race I would have really tried to stay with, but I wanted to follow my own plan in this race. I had a very good bike ride. The first lap was just about 2.31 and then my final time 5.03, so that is very even, even though the wind picked up quite a bit in the second half, and I was a bit overly cautious in the wet conditions on the turns. I have quite often been an athlete who races well in the first half and falls apart in the second and I don't think I have ever put in such an even performance ever before. So that is the most encouraging thing I can take from this race, and I think that is due to the work I have done with Mat Dixon and Paul Buick throughout the year. If I can come off these iron distance bike rides feeling so much fresher, then that is good news for my running. My bike split was also about 9 minutes faster than I did last year. Thanks to these sponsors for enabling me to have such a good bike section. Ceepo (my bike!), Rolf Prima (my wheels), SRAM (groupset), Keywin (pedals), Rudy Project (helmet), Sweet Cheeks (anti chafe creme) and Cobb (my bike seat). Cobb is a new sponsor. I have been riding their seats for the last few years after trying so many seats, with so many issues, but now I am officially on board as a sponsored athlete (lucky me!). Cobb is the perfect seat for me, really comfortable, and that is pretty important when you are sitting on it for over 5 hours!
No disasters in T2 and onto the run! I was 6 minutes down from Diana. In a cooler race I probably would have put the foot down straight away and try and get that deficit down as soon as possible, but I didn't. I concentrated on running with good form, staying cool and hydrated. This was a 6 loop course with 2 out and back sections each lap where I could see how I was progressing. I saw Diana's lead slowly decrease although she did look very good and very comfortable in the conditions. Unfortunately at around 17k I had to make a toilet stop which wasted a bit of time (a bit of a dodgy tummy the last couple of days) but slowly but surely I was making ground into her. I caught her with about 10k to go and went on to claim the victory. The course was a bit muddy in patches with the amount of rain. I run in the Asics DS racers which are a very lightweight running shoe, and they faced these conditions really well, with great grip and no chance of slipping. Throughout the race I used Powerbar products to fuel. Actually on the bike I put my non-caffeinated gels in a bottle with a bit of water. Then instead of having a whole gel every 40mins or so, I had a gulp of this every 20min. It really seemed to help with my constant energy levels on the bike especially. And thanks very much go to SOAS who got me the SOAS crop top to wear for this race to help deal with that heat as best as I could, I was really comfortable in these hot conditions despite coming from a NZ winter.
A huge congrats to Diana Riesler on her great performance, really dominating on the bike and then running so well too. I think we put on an exciting race together. And so happy to share the podium also with fellow SOAS athlete Michelle Gailey who had her first race back after a tough 14 months away.