Monday, 18 August 2014

Samoa Warrior Half Iron Distance Triathlon – 1st (Course Record)

When planning my race calendar at the start of this year I must admit that I had never planned to race this event. A chat another athlete several months ago during my time up in Cairns for Coral Coast 5150 (2nd place) and Ironman 70.3 Cairns (5th place) sparked my interest. 13 days prior to this event I finished 2nd at Ironman 70.3 Philippines in very hot and humid conditions and so I thought that another half iron distance event in the heat and humidity would bode well for my ITU Long Course World Championship preparations.

I had heard what lay in front of me from those who raced the event last year and was looking forward to racing this very challenging course. Tim Berkel and Cam Brown had raced this event last year with Tim suffering 3 flat tires and Cam with 2. After hearing this I made sure that I was very well prepared and chose to ride my Specialized S-Works Shiv with Roval CLX60 wheels front and rear. For racing I almost always use the S-Works Turbo clincher tyres however with rough roads ahead I swapped these for a brand new set of Specialized Roubaix tyres which I hoped would provide just that little extra security of the added puncture protection.

Race Day:
The swim course was held over two by 1km loops on a triangular shaped course. I knew that last year’s winner and course record holder Graham O’Grady would be the man to watch in the swim and sure enough Graham joined me at the front end of the field early on. The water temperature was very warm and so I didn’t swim particularly hard due to the fact that I didn’t want to cook myself too early on in the race. I exited the water right on the feet of Graham and made the call to put on running shoes for the 600 meter run into transition. Over this run I pulled up my Scody A.I.R tri suit which I had tucked into my HUUB swim skin during the swim leg. I have been loving racing in my custom Scody A.I.R sleeved raced suit as I feel like it actually keeps me cooler by keeping the sun off my back, shoulders and arms.
I came into transition in first and hit the bike leg with a small gap over Graham O’Grady and Ollie Whistler. The ride consisted of four by 5km loops in town before heading out onto the very rough roads of Samoa. I felt strong early on during the bike leg and so I pushed the pace and established a small gap within this first 20kms. The rest of the 70kms was out and back over some of the worst roads I have ever ridden. The entire ride was littered with potholes making it very hard to keep a high average speed. I went through the first hour with an average speed of 39.7kph and keep the pace as high as I could. The heat and humidity were now starting to take full effect and I made sure to keep on top of my hydration. I had some good company during the ride in the form of two police motorbikes (one in front and one behind) which came in handy as they helped to flag motorists off the road that I caught which gave me a clear path. The added bonus was that they also helped to stop the many dogs and one large pig from crossing the road in front of me. The last 4kms towards the bike turn around was up a very steep mountain road and with the humid and hot weather it was quite tough and a total sweat fest. I had a chance to recover on the downhill before the final 30kms flat section back into town over the pothole filled roads. I got off the bike with numb hands and sore shoulders due to holding onto my bars so tight during the ride. The entire ride I pushed as hard as I could to build my solo lead and so I finished the bike feeling quite spent.
At the half way point of the first of four by 5km run loops I had my first chance to see what kind of lead I had on second place. Ollie was looking strong holding onto second place with the gap being around four minutes. The run was scoring hot and reminded me a lot of my race at Ironman 70.3 Philippines just 13 days earlier. I made the most of every aid station grabbing ice and cold sponges to cool my core body temperature down. If I have learnt anything about racing in the heat it is that keeping your core temperature down in extreme heat is by far the most important factor in getting to that finish line.

So in saying this my goal on the run leg was simply to stay as cool as I could and hold onto my lead (two of the pro men were forced out of the race on the run leg due to heat exhaustion). Over the four out and back laps I was able to get a good idea of my time gap to second place and managed to keep this at around four to five minutes for the entire run. I was very happy to hit the finish line and take the title of 2014 Samoa Warrior Half Iron Distance Champion in a new race record time. This course was totally brutal and one of the most honest and hardest courses that I have ever raced on and well and truly worthy of the ‘warrior’ title given to this race.

1. Sam Betten, 4:20:26
2. Ollie Whistler, 4:25:48
3.Stephen Farrell, 4:49:11
4. Jared Bowden, 5:24:58
5. Darren Young, 5:33:28
*Photo Credit MeadNortonPhotography *

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