The most stunning of locations and we were greeted on race morning with the most neutral of conditions. In a place that can blow a good wind there was no wind and it was about 10 degrees air temperature at race start. The lake was calm and the water temperature about 17 deg. Perfect conditions to race and suffer on a tough course.
For this race prep I had used Grant Giles from AeorMaxTeam as my coach as I felt I had stagnated as an athlete. Using Gilesy as my coach had been amazing not only physically but very importantly mentally. Gilesy and I go back many years are very much aligned when it comes to mind and vibe and I know I have progressed immensely under his coaching.
My mantra or mind set for the race was set for me to relax, reflect and appreciate the opportunity to race Wanaka. Specifically to keep the mind quite when it’s screaming or looking for self pity, force myself to concentrate on form and focus and generally give it to myself while smiling. I had done the work and had faith in the journey Gilesy had put me through to get here. Time to execute.
Swim - I’ve been doing a lot of swimming (compared to my usual) and Gilesy has kept me very honest with not just swimming but having a purpose in my sessions. For this race I was going to swim like I was a swimmer. Have confidence in the work I had done and give it some stick. I took off and felt great. Fast stroke rate and then into a nice rhyme for the rest of the swim. At no stage did I feel out of breath or uncomfortable. Got out of the water in 32 minutes which I was very happy with BUT the most amazing feeling was in that I was not dizzy or fatigued from my effort. I knew this was the result of the many K’s I had done in the pool and set me up perfectly for a great day ahead.
Bike - I got into T1 and pulled the wetsuit off and tried to lower the heart rate from the 400m run from the swim exit to T1. I always cycle with socks and as I attempted to put my socks on I realised I only had 1 sock. The other was missing. Typically this would have been a crisis or a possible distraction. Fortunately I always have 2 sets of socks in T1 in case of a mishap or mood change to the alternate set. I quickly put on my spare pair and off I went with some relief. Leaving T1 in Wanaka there is an out and back. This out and back section is extremely lumpy and on very hard coarse roads. There is no hot mix and you have to work very hard to keep any momentum. I got comfortable and started sipping my Infinit and let the cyclists around me push the huge watts leaving town. I had been instructed in my rides to be smart and control the watts on the climbs. This is exactly what I did. Was not long before my first technical mishap. My Garmin powered itself off and would not come back on. Again, reminding myself of the moment and to stay cool I did not flinch and just left it off. I was ready to race the remaining 75K on feel. I had done so much riding that this was not a problem. For the remainder of the ride I rode on soul and appreciation. I smiled as I got ridden past by faster riders and encouraged those I went past. Positive energy is reflective and I absorb a tone of it when I race. : ) The Haweai flats were fast and open as usual and it was around here that I planned to turn on the pace. It’s about 55K into the race and about the time you should be ready to take advantage if you have paced well. I ripped in and was amazed at how awesome I felt. Back to easy on the climbs and then faster and harder on the flats and down hills. The course has changed from the last couple of years. They have introduced a new out of town section and also a longer harsh road section on the way back. It’s now also 91.5 K of honest riding. Anyway, I had a massive smile as I approached T2 and had a feeling I could be in for a special day.
Run - I no longer use elastic laces and am also a new user of Hoka shoes. It’s something new for me and the feel of the new shoes. This was my first time racing in them. Anyway, I got off the bike and my legs were great. Racked the bike, put the shoes on, fuel belt with my Napalm nutrition, cap on and off I went. Saw Anna as I left T2 and her smile put me in an even better place. I’m not a fast starter so moved aside as we left Wanaka centre and ran out towards the marina. Felt amazing and looked at my watch and saw 4m45sec pace and was hoping my current feelings and pace would hold. About 1 K into the run a guy who looked about my age caught up to me and we ran next to each other for 4-5K. He would stop at each aid station and I would keep going after picking up water. He would quickly catch up and run past me. Every time he ran past me I would keep him just in front of me as a prompt or perhaps a reminder of running my own race and not giving in to a better runner. The run in Wanaka is stunning and brutal. Many many ups and downs and the way you feel now could be very different to the way you feel in 10-15mins. I had faith in my training and preparation so I kept chipping away. I overtook many runners whose day was perhaps not like mine. I shared a few taps on the arse and words of encouragement to these runners but nobody came with me. Anyway, we left the trail and approached the infamous Gunn Road. This hill is insane. As you come out of the trail section there is a false flat and then the mother of all hills on bitumen. It climbs for about 1K from bottom to top. Every time I race here I make a point of running Gunn Road. A sense of beating it per say. It’s also about the 11K mark in the run. The guy who had been in front of me was still in front but he was now walk/running the hill. I ran past him on the hill as we got to the top and we exchanged words of encouragement. From the top there is another section of 3-4K on gravel that is false flat and exposed to wind and sun. He again pulled away from me but I stayed close by. At the 15K mark I pulled up right behind him and actually questioned myself about how amazing I was feeling. In the past I would have probably sat behind him or even self doubted myself but not today. It was here that I got quite emotional in how awesome I was feeling. It’s GAME time in a Long Course triathlon and where races can turn bad for you or perhaps you shine like a star and get the race you deserve. I had to remind myself that I deserved to feel this good and quickly regathered myself to refocus on my form and the remaining 4K. The last 4K hurt as I expected but I held on and finished with nothing left.
1. Mind preparation is key. If using a coach you have to trust and then trust again the journey you are on. In previous races my race week was basically a week of doing no physcial activity. With Gilesy I kept training right up to the day before the race. The right intensity and the right pace. A good coach will know how to NOT fatigue you before a race but rather keep you engaged and your body activated
2. Be prepared for the unexpected. Don’t ruin your race by not being prepared for a curve ball. My Garmin failed. No problem. Keep going and have faith. My sock was missing, no problem as I’ve got a spare pair. I attribute being able to being able to cope to being mentally prepared to race and embracing the journey and not looking at the result. The eventual result is a by product of the journey and in getting to the race and executing according to situation/weather and state of mind.
3. Overcoming injury. Four weeks before race day I injured my calf doing speed work. Yep, I was concerned when it seemed to not get better. I had it treated with needling and together with Gilesy removed speed work from my program. The aim had changed to now starting the race and not doing the aquabike. Up till the week before the race I was contemplating changing over as I could not run as I wanted. I could run 8-10K but the calf was sore. I held faith in my recovery and training and committed to Long Course on the 8th Feb. The lesson learnt here is to not beat yourself up mentally. Stress etc. does NOT help recovery or the injury. Stay calm and take it as it comes. I was fortunate as my calf held out during the run and I appreciate my good fortune.
4. Never give up when racing. Plan your race and execute. Let nothing distract you from your execution. Leave your ego at your hotel. If your race plan is sound and you have faith in your journey it will come together. At no stage did I chase anybody or feel angry if anybody overtook me. I had my plan and I was sticking to it. Cyclists and runners went past me but NEVER did I give up hope on me catching up when the time was right. I had complete and utter faith in my journey and plan.
5. Have faith in your nutrition. Like a high performance car you need to fuel right. Regardless of the weather you got to keep drinking or eating. I have complete and utter faith in my Infinit nutrition. At no stage throughout the race did I have anything else apart from water. I had planned this perfectly and the only consumed water to wash out my mouth or clean myself on the bike.
6. Thank the volunteers. As I say, positive energy is reflective. When it comes back at you grab it and don’t let it go. It helps when it really starts hurting.
7. Stay strong mentally from 60K on the bike and 12K on the run. These are the zones whereby mental and physical fatigue takes hold. If you have done the work and have fed well it’s time to party. At Wanaka it’s where I planned to execute my strengths and it worked. I ripped in and felt amazing.
Swim: 32m 11 sec
T1 4m 47 sec
Bike 2hr 45m 09 sec
T2 2m 53 sec
Run 1hr 44m 17 sec
Total Time 5hr 09min 19sec
2nd in Age Group 50-54