Having not raced over the 70.3 distance for almost 18 months, it was with nervous anticipation that I lined up in Geelong. It really did feel like I was going into the unknown, with the only certainty being that this would be a hard and fast race. As the gun fired 19 male pros ran into Corio Bay, all of us seemingly fighting for the exact same space in the water. Having focussed specifically on my swim towards the end of last year, I definitely felt more confident in my ability to have a decent swim leg. I quickly found a rhythm and was sitting within a large group quite nicely. After a few hundred metres the pack seemed to split slightly, with the stronger swimmers really pushing the pace. Fortunately I was still in the smaller chase group, although we were losing time to the front pack. After an all out 1.9km effort, I came out the water in 22:57, just over a minute behind the front pack.
After making the error of coming out of the water at the back of the chase pack, I was behind the eight ball in transition. I left T1 with guys up the road, who were quickly working hard to bridge up towards the leaders. In hindsight I should have been more aggressive towards the end of the swim and/or through transition, which is a lesson I'll take away with me. I had a good idea of the power numbers I would be capable of holding for the bike, but with little recent experience over the distance and being conscious of the run, I was perhaps a little conservative. With a slightly different position to last season following my trip to the Drag2Zero wind tunnel, I settled into the task of holding my watts. The course climbed out of transition then was predominantly flat with a few rollers.
The first lap seemed to pass by quickly and conditions were proving to be ideal for fast racing. The race up ahead has split up into a couple of smaller groups, making it difficult to make up time alone and bridge up towards them. I focussed on holding my watts and taking in my nutrition, always conscious of the impending run. After pacing the first lap conservatively, I upped the power slightly on the 2nd lap for a 2:15:52 bike split, coming into T2 in 10th place.
A relatively swift T2 and I was out on the run course. It's definitely fair to call this a rolling course, with numerous gradual inclines and declines, as well as some shorter, sharper climbs. I felt a touch laboured in the opening mile, clocking a 6:07. Fortunately things picked up from there and I held a pace that felt comfortably hard. I'd done relatively little training around this pace and wasn't sure how much room for error I had. After going through the halfway mark in just under 39 minutes, I moved into 9th place. With my gel flask in hand I kept taking in the calories and held a constant pace, moving into 8th place with a few miles to go. At the last turnaround I saw that 7th place was a few minutes ahead and making the catch was unlikely, which proved to be the case. A slight negative split got me over the line in 3:59:37 with a 1:17:16 run.
On the face of it an 8th place finish isn't all that impressive, however on this occasion I wasn't focussing solely on the result. The performance itself was filled with positives – I stayed in contention on the swim, executed my plan on the bike and came through with a well paced run. Equally important - and especially so with an Ironman coming up - with the help of High5 I really dialled in my nutrition strategy. Although I'm happy with the performance, I'm in the business of results. I'm realistic that my talents don't lie at the 70.3 distance – it's neither my focus nor what my training is specifically tailored towards. In less than three weeks I'll be wearing #4 at Ironman New Zealand – a race which I've been excited about for some time. The performance at Geelong has cemented what I've seen in training in recent months - everything is on track.