Five weeks ago I decided last minute to compete in my 2nd ever Half Ironman, the Rotorua Suffer. I knew it was gonna be tough but I was in a base training phase so thought it could add value to the training that I was doing at this time of year. Three years ago I won the Quarter Ironman here, two years ago I won the Aquabike, so now it was time to set my sights on winning the Half.
After my September Conti Cups in Japan I took 3 weeks off training, then slowly started building up some base volume again – perfect time to schedule in a Half Ironman? Coach Tim Brazier agreed and we were into a 5 week build. Time to dust off (literally) my time trial bike! With all this short distance racing I just hadn’t ridden that bike since my last non-drafting event the Tinman Triathlon back in 2018. Evo Cycles got the rig back to its usual steeze and I was ready to go.
I got in some solid brick sessions in the weeks leading up to the Rotorua Half IM and was confident I could put down a solid race. I only had two worries.
1. My wife was going to be 8 days from her due date! This made it an interesting build not knowing 100% whether I was going to be able to compete or not. What if Juliet goes into labour while i’m in the middle of a 4 hour race!?
2. NUTRITION! Nutrition? Something we don’t have to worry about so much in my normal 1-2 hour races. Usually I’ll have a gel or two and some electrolytes in my drink bottle, but with a 2km swim, 90km bike and a 21km run I obviously had to do this properly.
I had a chat to Russell Smith at Go Beyond Physical Limits here in Hamilton and we did a sweat test together with his Precision Hydration gear. This tested my body for how much sodium I lose per litre of sweat. With these results in mind, I put the Precision Hydration products to the test for a few of my bigger training sessions leading up to the Half, and after noticing some good results I decided to use them in Rotorua.
We lined up on the beach and I decided to start out on the opposite side of the faster guys racing (bad idea). Luckily I caught up to the leader after the first 500 meters. Simon Cochrane and I swam together at a comfortable tempo pace both taking turns. I lead out of the water and a quick transition had me out onto the bike with about a 20 second lead.
Head down I pushed over my planned wattage for about the first 10 minutes to create a gap on the field which was what happened. Sweet, now to hold onto my lead…
All that was going through my head now is to keep my nutrition up and stick to my planned power output. With 900 meters of elevation gain throughout the ride there’s some big spikes in effort with all those up hills and descents. I felt like everything was going to plan as I picked up my third drink bottle at the 60km aid station. I noticed that I was beginning to fatigue a bit towards the end of the ride but tried to block it out mentally. I kept pushing within my power zone and most importantly keep smashing back the SIS gels and fluid.
I came into transition for the run and quickly put my socks on and slipped two gels into my Roka tri suit pockets – something I’m not used to doing! I felt good leaving transition knowing I had a bit of a lead. I needed to control this part of the race and not go out too hard like I had done two years ago in my first Half Ironman. 21km takes a decent amount of time and effort so I wasn’t sure how my body was going to handle it.
I love trail running so this was my jam. Into the bush and heading around the Blue Lake I felt good but man there was a huge decent and I knew I was going to have to run back up this brutal climb! I decided to just take it steady on the way back up what seemed like a hill that just kept going. This is when I remembered why they call this event “SUFFER”! That aid station at the top of that climb is hands down the best, most rewarding aid station out there and I went straight for the coca-cola!
One lap down and just 5 or 6km to go now, but I knew Simon was hot on my heels and gaining time on me. If I kept up a good pace I started thinking I could win this! The rest of the course was grueling but I still had enough energy to finish strong. With about 3km to go I started to feel cramp coming on in my left quad and was just praying that it wouldn’t set in. Thankfully it didn’t!
Running down the beach with the finish line in sight knowing I’ve just won the Rotorua Half Ironman was the greatest feeling, just better than the tastiest ice cold beer that’s put in your hand as you cross the finish line.
I’m glad that I decided to compete in this race because it showed me that my training has been building up a foundation over the years. I’m getting stronger and my body can handle this distance now. (Back when I started training I had shin splints after a 2km run).
Next for me is to have a little break from racing for a couple of months and get used to the Dad life and how training and competing is all going to work around that. I still plan to be competing in Sprint/Standard distance ITU triathlons in 2020 as well as a few endurance events like this Half Ironman so watch this space… For me the training for ITU racing is what I thrive off and it seems to complement the Half Ironman distance well.
Thanks for all your support throughout 2019.
Merry Christmas and I hope to see you in the new year!
P.S. Although a few people attempted to put me off my race by yelling out my wife was in labour while I was racing she’s still in one piece!