“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything” George Bernard Shaw
I had arrived in the US on March the 13th for a four-week block of training with my Coach in preparation for Ironman Australia which was to conclude with racing Oceanside 70.3. On arrival, I assumed I would be tapering (albeit maybe a 4-5 day taper) for Oceanside but the boss had other ideas. He told me when I arrived that Oceanside would now be a “training race” with no taper but just a couple of rest days. I wasn’t too fussed at the time as I have raced well before with little or no taper. And I always love a challenge. However, at the time, I also had no idea what training he had in store for me! I usually get my program four weeks in advance so I know exactly what’s coming up and what to expect, however throughout this block I was getting my plan in three day blocks so didn’t know what was going to be thrown at me. I didn’t have time to think about it too much anyway as I was so focused on keeping my head above water and getting through the sessions and resting and fueling properly! (Read: staying alive) Here is a summary of the swim, bike and run volume I completed in the 6 weeks leading in to the race:
Week 1 (AUS) – Bike 490km, Run 70km, Swim 20km
Week 2 (AUS) – Bike 435km, Run 78km, Swim 18km
Week 3 (AUS) – Bike 465km, Run 75km, Swim 11km
Week 4 (US) – Bike 410km, Run 71km, Swim 21km
Week 5 (US) – Bike 596km, Run 97km, Swim 21km
Week 6 (US) – Bike 604km, Run 90km, Swim 21km
For those who are into Training Peaks and data, I was sitting at -69 TSB on the Monday and the race was on Saturday. I had two further big training days to complete on the Tuesday and Wednesday then two easy/recovery days on the Thursday and Friday. I was very tired all week and my bike legs were absolutely fried! I felt good running and swimming the day prior to the race but my legs felt super fatigued and sore on the bike so I was mentally starting to prepare myself for an average ride on race day. But was also praying to the bike leg recovery gods that they would come good within the next 24 hours!
I felt quite overwhelmed and nervous all week about this race and the stellar field. But super excited at the same time. There are still moments I don’t feel good enough to be racing with some of those superstar women but I’m slowly becoming more confident in myself. I felt extremely lucky to have the opportunity to be racing against some of the best in the world. I pretty much sat in the pro briefing in awe that I was in the same room as some of the women and men that I look up to and respect so much.
Everything went to plan I woke up at 4am and had my regular pre-race breakfast. I felt nervous but more excited than anything. I think there was less pressure knowing it was a training race with no real expectations. Jarrod and Dana picked me up and we arrived at the race super early so I just went about getting everything set up in transition. Jumped in the water for my 10-minute swim warm up then was ready to go.
They had changed the swim course this year it was supposed to be a beach start with the first half of the race out in the ocean before turning and finishing the second half in the bay. However, we got a message on Friday night saying they had changed it back to the regular course as 6ft waves were expected on race morning. I was wrapped as I wasn’t looking forward to the beach start. So back to a deep water start and a calm, flat course. I’ve never raced in such a large female pro field I think there were 23 that started the race. I chose to start at the widest/furthest point from the first buoy. Because of this decision (which I was told “politely” (not politely) by Jarrod after the race was the wrong one!) I missed the pack just in front of me and swam on my own the entire way. I could see the pack of 2-3 girls ahead of me the whole time but just couldn’t find the extra gear on my own to catch them and jump on their feet. It was super frustrating. I exited the water in 11th with the pack of 2-3 others including Heather just 50 secs ahead of me. Overall, I am wrapped with my swim. I’ll never be a front pack swimmer but each race we are reducing the deficit to the leaders. I was only 3 minutes behind the main chase pack this race and I know I have another 50-60 second improvement in me simply by making smarter decisions.
Standard. Not the fastest. Not the slowest! It was an epic transition – about a 300m run to the bike in total. But we ran past all the age groupers waiting to start and the cheering and support was phenomenal.
I’m not sure when I knew it was going to be an average day on the bike, I think it was around the…. 5-6km mark! Haha. I felt awful from the get go. Wanted to kick my power meter a few times as I felt like I was pushing so hard but the numbers on the screen were dismal.
My goal is always to front end the bike and push as hard as possible to move towards the front of the race but I was really struggling to push over 210/220 watts (during the section of a race I tend to be up around the 230/240 mark). I knew I was only about 50 secs – 1 minute down on Heather and a couple of other girls out of T1 so was looking out for them on the only out and back section on course which was about 20km in. When I saw them, I did the math and they were already 4 minutes ahead of me.
Now, when the bike leg is your strength and your run is your weakest leg, this is a bit of a stressful situation. I was still banking on the fact my power meter was broken as the perceived effort was high but seeing the other women and my growing gap cemented the fact it was going to be a long day on the bike. I just focused on getting my nutrition and fluid in and pushing as hard as I could and blocked out any negative thoughts.
The next key moment was at about the 40km mark of the bike – 2 women passed me. I don’t think I have EVER been passed by a female on the bike in a race. Both age group racing and my first few pro races. I could be wrong but I honestly can’t remember ever being passed. I had a 5-minute dark period where I started to stress and worry about the upcoming run. Telling myself I was going to come last because I would have no lead off the bike and everyone would run me down as usual. I pulled myself out of this pretty quickly though and told myself to be present and focus on the bike 5km at a time. It was a super tough bike course. Lots of turns getting out of town, rough, almost “Port Mac” type road surface, and 3 hill climbs in the middle section of the race. I don’t mean undulations – they were “in your smallest gear” grinding away hill climbs.
My average power for the race was only 203 watts. This is about my Ironman target power. As a comparison my average power for Challenge Shepparton Half in November 2017 was 220 watts.
I lost two spots on the bike and entered T2 in 13th
Standard. Not the fastest. Not the slowest! Again, it was an epic transition – about a 300m ide through a narrow-gated section at the end where you couldn’t go any faster than 10km/h
In the 3-week block leading into this race my running had improved out of sight and we were in unchartered territory in terms of the numbers I was hitting in training. All week all I could think about was the run in this race. All I wanted so badly, if nothing else, was to execute a solid run. I am most proud of how well I kept my head together in this race. In fact, I am extremely proud if I can admit it in this public forum. I am so used to coming off the bike and being run down. I focused on my cadence and form, I kept replaying those strong, key run sessions I had completed in the weeks before over and over in my head. I stayed in the moment and kept checking in on my breathing. I started out at my target pace of 4.10-4.15/km. And held this average for the first half of the race. No one caught me. I saw that Carrie had pulled out in the first lap of the run so I knew I was in 12th. I had support all over the course. Jarrod told me on the second lap that the woman in front of me in 11th seemed to be fading and was only 45 seconds ahead. So, I pushed as much as I could on the second lap to try and catch her. In the end she crossed the line just 20 seconds ahead of me. The run course had a few little steep hills that we had to do twice. My last two-kilometer splits on the flat were 4.18 and 4.19/km pace so I am absolutely stoked to have finished so strongly. A 1.32 run for me smashing my prior 70.3 run PB of 1.36 and straight half marathon time of 1.34 on very tired legs.
I was super happy with my race when I crossed that line, the signs for Port Mac are extremely positive. To execute a race like this in a state of such fatigue is very exciting. I already know what I am capable of on the bike, and now I know what I am capable of on the run. I am becoming more even across all three disciplines which is very important if I’m to achieve my goals in the coming years.
I am under no illusion and know that a 1.32 is not a fast run in a professional field, but for someone who only started running 3-4 years ago it is excellent progress. It’s a four-minute improvement over 21km in the space of 4 months. The next goal is sub 1.30 which now seems completely realistic when it once seemed utterly impossible to me.
Prior to the race I thought if I had the absolute race of my life it would be possible to finish in the top 10. If EVERYTHING went right. It didn’t, and to still manage 12th in that field I’m over the moon.
Had an ice cream after the race then straight back into training. 2-hour spin on the bike!
Swim: 28.32 | T1: 3.22 | Bike: 2.38.07 | T2: 2.33 | Run: 1.32.16 (PB) | Overall: 4.44.50
12th / 22
Course & Host Location Overview
Simple course to navigate, calm, a little on the cold side but nothing unbearable.
I really didn’t like the bike course. The road surface was very rough with lots of potholes and lips in the road. Lots of turns getting out of town and coming back in. And some super tough climbs in the mid-section. Overall it just didn’t suit my strengths. The course is about 1,000m elevation gain (my strava data is incorrect) and most of that is in the middle 40km
2 lap course with AMAZING crowd support. Undulating. 3 really punchy little hills per lap which you have to do at almost walking pace. Quad burners on the way down! A great section by the ocean.
Perfectly laid out and easy to navigate. However, a very long run section and funny set up coming in off the bike
Americans just love their sport that’s for sure! The crowd support was absolutely amazing. I would put it up there almost like Kona. Everyone was so positive and supportive. So many cheers and people calling out my name. Even fellow competitors and age groupers. It was so amazing
Pretty much perfect weather for racing. Cool in the morning and it might of hit maybe 21/22 degrees by the end of the run
Host Location – Oceanside 10/10
Easy to get around, good amenities, abundance of places to dine, good pool facilities in the surrounding areas, amazing beaches. Easy to get out of town and on to the bike course for training rides, lots of pretty places to run. Just overall very easy to adjust to coming from Australia, no language barrier, food is easy etc.