As soon as I stepped out of bed on race morning I knew something wasn’t quite right. I’d had a good night’s sleep, but when I stood up I felt light headed and dizzy. I hoped that the feeling would be temporary and would pass, so I continued with the normal pre-race routine. The next sign that I wasn’t feeling good was that I couldn’t stomach breakfast and the small amount I did have didn’t stay down. We arrived at transition just before 6am and I decided that if I didn’t feel better before my 8:05 wave start I wouldn’t race. Being in one of the later wave starts, I headed back to the car to try and get some more sleep. When I woke up again at 7:30am I felt a little better and the dizziness had subsided, but when I stepped out the car I was immediately sick again. There was nothing in my stomach and I was still unable to eat anything, so I sipped on coconut water until the start.
I arrived at the start and looked around for other orange caps on the shore, unable to see any. My first thought was that they must be in a ‘holding area’ waiting to start. I rounded a corner and looked to the start area to see them all treading water, then heard the announcer say there was one minute until the wave start. At this point I had my wetsuit around my waist and had to rush frantically to zip it up and jump in the water. I tried to look as relaxed as possible making my way to the start, although I’m sure I looked like a mad man! Getting to the start at the last moment meant that I had to start wide left, which although not ideal, wasn’t a big issue as I didn’t feel confident pushing the pace on the swim.
When the gun went I settled into a comfortable rhythm and tried to keep my breathing relaxed, taking extra care not to swallow any of the reservoir water which might upset my stomach even more. It wasn’t long before we started bumping into some of the slower athletes who had started in the earlier waves. I cruised the swim and came out in 28:56, feeling much better than I did a few hours ago. The highlight of the swim was that my shoulder held up really well, which bodes well for the coming months ahead of Las Vegas and Kona. If I thought the swim was busy, the bike was even worse.
With waves starting from 7am, we were over an hour behind the first starters and there were 1000+ athletes out on the two loop bike course by the time I was out there. Fortunately most people seemed to be staying right allowing the faster athletes to pass safely on the left, but the course was still very congested. We’d set power targets for the bike leg which I stuck to religiously for the first lap. I intentionally took in a bit less nutrition than I normally would, hoping that my stomach wouldn’t rebel. I upped the power on the second loop, by which stage there were less people to pass. My bike split of 2:17:18 gave up a lot of time to some of those ahead of me – much more time than I’d normally give up. Upon reflection, the power targets may have been a bit conservative, but the benefit of that was that I should have had enough energy in the tank to put out a decent run.
I was slow to get through transition but once I got out on the run I was feeling really good. One of the big aims for this race was to negative split the run (running the second half faster than the first half). I took the first few miles steady, constantly telling myself to slow down and conserve energy. These miles went by at 6:45/mile pace and I was surprised at how comfortable I was feeling. I went through the halfway point in exactly 44 minutes and felt I’d paced the first loop nicely. I immediately picked up the effort to 6:30/mile pace and hoped that I’d be able to maintain that to the finish. I was really enjoying the run leg and steadily increased the pace in the closing miles, completing the second loop in just over 42.5 minutes for a 90 second negative split and run time of 1:26:38. The run was without doubt the highlight of the day, having executed a well paced effort.
The finish time of 4:16:19 placed me third in the 18-24 age-group and 34th overall. Overall, the day was exactly what I hoped it would be – a tough training day and a good benchmark for my fitness. It was good to race another 70.3 race ahead of Las Vegas next month and have the opportunity to test myself over the distance. Although starting the race with an empty stomach wasn’t ideal, I can’t claim that it made a big difference to my performance, as I actually felt quite good once the race was underway. The more I race this distance, the more I realise how fun it is!