Ironman 70.3 Cairns was set to be my last race of my very ambitious 8 weeks of racing both in Australian and the USA. The last 8 weeks have been crazy with 3 x Ironman 70.3 and 2 X 5150 events. So as you might be able to imagine, my body was feeling a little fatigued. Heading into the race I was surprisingly feeling quite good in the days before and swimming especially felt better than it had in many weeks. A big thank you to David and Juanita for taking care of me and letting me stay with them in Cairns. Seriously amazing people and a big thank you!
Race morning started early along with some very wet roads due to the heavy rain the night before. After setting up the day before for an ‘Ironman style’ transition (which means going through the change tents grabbing your gear bag) it was time to rock and roll. Most of the strong swimmers started towards the far left side but I stuck to the inside right which proved to work to my advantage as it meant that I soon had clear water and no flying arms to deal with. Once the strong swimmers on the left side merged towards the turn buoy on their right I slotted nicely into the top 6 swimmers finding a good set of feet to sit behind. To be honest the swim felt really slow and not much quicker than my usual warm up pace in training. I exited the water in 6th and headed out onto the bike course feeling great.
After working through some tight turns I hit the main highway at 3km’s in. I noticed that Courtney Atkinson was up the road with New Zealand bike powerhouse Graham O’Grady. For me there were 2 choices, play it safe and sit in the big chase group with the likes of Brad Kahlefeldt and Pete Jacobs amongst others…. or hit the gas to establish a breakaway group and make the others chase. For me the choice was easy and I lay the pace down and made the move up the road being the first to catch Courtney who was leading the race at 8kms in. This move proved to be the key as it meant that Courtney, Graham, Casey and myself were now building up a good lead over big players such as Pete Jacobs & Brad Kahlefeldt. Graham and I worked well to push the pace out to the bike turn around and on the return trip I noticed Tim Reed pulling out the ride of his life. Full credit to Tim to making the move and riding like he did to bridge all the way up to our lead 4 to make it 5 men. The final 10km’s were brutal with the wind really picking up.
Hitting T2 with just our small group of 5 I was feeling pretty good about my chances for a podium finish. Heading though T2 I went to grab my gear bag only to see that mine was missing! My heart skipped a beat until an official shouted to me that he had seen someone else take mine. I ran into the change tent just as Courtney Atkinson ran out again with my bag having mistaken mine for his. I quickly put the run shoes on and grabbed my run nutrition heading out of T2 in 3rd. The legs were feeling good and I was running comfortably at my pre planned half marathon pace. After 4kms I was in 4th and really content with how the race was unfolding. At kilometer 5 however the wheels fell off completely! I went from running at 3.30per/km pace to walking the aid stations and just trying to get home. I was passed by a few more of the pro men and was struggling just to keep the body moving. After so much racing over the last 2 months the legs were fried and this run was the straw that broke the camels back so to speak.
The entire run I battled with myself to just keep running and put one foot in front of the other. I came across the line 9th which was quite disappointing result wise.
Honestly through after so much racing and traveling I expected Cairns 70.3 to be a battle. I made the key move on the bike and once again put myself in the position to stand on the podium. There are a lot of athletes out there that aren’t willing to make the big moves and always play it safe… but I am not one of them. I’d prefer to do what I did and blow up going for a podium spot rather than sitting back and running for 5th or 6th. I am sure that racing this way will reward me sooner rather than later with hopefully my first 70.3 win. As Chris McCormack once said ‘a win comes about by making a move at a critical point of the race’.