Prior to racing my first HOTW last year, I had heard so many stories of people returning year after year. I had no idea why they kept going back and I think neither do they but I am starting to learn why. There is just something that draws you back.
We ventured out at 7am on the Saturday morning to tackle the 5hr drive to Goondoowindi. As with the previous three years, the race organisers have been thrown a curve ball with the flooding and have had to make changes to their race. In the week leading up, they were amazing in keeping everyone up to date on course and race changes as well as affected roads leading into Gundy from all directions.
We arrived at about midday and checked in to our small and cozy motel. After sitting in a car for 5hrs, all I wanted to do was laze about all afternoon but had to get up for a light 5km run in the afternoon followed by a 40min spin on the course to make sure my bike was running smooth. I am so glad I did this as this kick started my energy and felt so much better after.
One of the unique things of HOTW is the early start. Rise and shine at 3am to get ready and head down to check in at transition and set up for the race. Due to the change in course because of the floods, the swim had been moved as per the previous two years to the botanical gardens which is 3km away. It was onto the buses at 4:30 to be ready for a 5am start.
The swim is 3 x 700m laps with a very crowded swim start. There was 220 starters in our wave starting between two buoys placed about 30m apart. This was sure to be a crazy start and was. As the gun went off, I got a great start and pushed hard with the main pack. It was very congested for the first 300m and I could see the leaders swimming off the front. I settled into my own rythym and found a group to pace off. I sat on their feet for the majority of the swim which was great as they navigated their way through the slower lapped swimmers. I exited the water in tenth in my AG and 39th overall so had some work ahead of me.
Swim : 31:55
Run to Transition
As with last year, my plan was to run the 3.2km run back to transition as hard as I could. I had 80km on the bike to attempt to recover. In the run back, I could see a couple of guys who are strong bikers about 1min ahead of me but wasn't able to make any ground on them. During the first 500m whilst trying to push hard, I could feel my hamstrings wanting to cramp so I had to back it off slightly. I thought this could be a long day with cramps already but they quickly disappeared after I got going.
Run : 12:38
Getting onto the bike, I could see a pace line about 500m further up the road and was riding as hard as I could to catch up to them. My heart rate did not drop below 170bpm during the chase. There was times where I was out of the saddle sprinting to make up some ground. It took me about 10km to catch them and what a relief it was. Once in touch, I jumped on the back maintaining the 12m draft zone and worked on recovering as quickly as possible. In the group were several guys I have raced regularly and knew they were strong riders.
The pace on the bike was varied at times getting up to 45km/h but also dropping down to 37km/h at times. The first 20km I had averaged 40.9km/h but this was slowly coming down as I settled into a rythym. The pace dropped off on the second 20km and we were caught by a few more riders at the turn around to start the second lap. One of these guys was uber biker Speedy Steve Schofield who was not interested in anything but riding fast.
He put the hammer down heading out of town for the second time. I worked hard on staying in touch with him as this would hopefully take some time out of the leaders in my age group. I knew that Peter Court was further up the road but wasn't sure where I sat in the age group. I could judge however that I was in the top 5 or 6 overall. This pace put the squeeze on quite a few of the group who dropped off and left a group of five for the trip back into Gundy. Coming into town the pace was still on and we were very spaced out.
Bike : 2:07:29
Due to the extended run from the swim to T1, this distance was taken off the final run leg therefore it was reduced to a 16.8km run.
I have been luckily enough recently to be selected as a wear tester for Asics shoes and have been trialling many different models. I decided to wear a trial pair from the Asics 33 series that will be released in 2014. I had not run in these without socks prior to this but due to the number of guys coming into T2 together, I passed on the socks and slipped them straight on. I will throw in a shameless plug and say that they felt like an absolute dream to run in without socks. The most comfortable shoes I have run in without socks.
I was first out of T2 in our group of 5 and was aiming at maintaining sub 4min/km's. I was quickly passed by the evenual third place quite early who was flying. The beauty about this run leg is the 3 x out and back laps therefore you get to see what position you are in and try to take time splits. On the way out I had judged that I was in fifith place overall and to my surprise I was leading my age group as Peter Court had pulled the pin after the bike.
I maintained my pace throughout the run leg and came home averaging 3:55min/km. I was very pleased with my time but more pleased with how I pulled up at the finish line. 12 months ago, I hurt all the way to the finish and took my time to recover. This year, although spent, I felt fresh and recovered very quickly.
Run : 1:06:00
Total time : 3:58:03, 1st in age group, 4th overall ( I crossed the line in fifth overall but unfortunately my mate Alex Rigby was DQ'd for turning too early on the run course).
I was extremely happy with my race considering my hampered build up due to the power outages in Brisbane and working 12hr days in the week of the race. At the end of the day, Triathlon is a hobby and sometimes (but not ideally) work has to come first.
For now it is a little over 7 weeks until Ironman Melbourne. This race has been a great kickstart building into the most important training block of my triathlon life.
Photos courtesy of Andrew Reardon. http://www.flickr.com/photos/pharknuckles_photos/sets/72157632706828364/with/8452197778/