Quick race report from Wanaka as I’m getting ready to go on holiday…. We headed down to Wanaka on Wednesday arriving late in the evening. Woke up on Thursday morning to a beautiful New Zealand day. Blue skies, gorgeous views over the lake but really strong winds. I went out for a drive round the course. The course looked a little hilly, but nothing that at the time had me thinking I needed to change the 12-23 cassette I had on. However, when I went out and rode the first 35k – the out and back from Wanaka round the lake to a u-turn I very quickly changed my mind. The hills on their own were not too bad – shorter versions of Hatta, but with the wind I was down to walking pace. The downhills were worse. The wind was threatening to put me in the ditch and I couldn’t get don on the tri-bars as the front wheel was moving around so much. I fought my way out to the turn and on the way back was treated to the slight technical issue of how to pass 5 cows who had decided to go for a walk down the road
Friday was the 15’s and my first experience of the cold water of the lake. 16 degrees so not too cold other than when you first get in. The bigger issue was the white capped waves which were coming straight down the lake from the first turn buoy. Smaller than a big day at JBR but just consistent duckings with every stroke and lots of breathing in water. Bike racked and an early night for the 7.35 start in the morning.
Up early of course on race day. I had been fighting a cold from the previous weekend in Sydney so was not feeling too sharp but not bad enough that there was any serious thought of not racing. Headed down to transition in time to see the full course racers go off at 6.30 then got all the prep finished and the bags put away. The wind was still there but much weaker than the previous 2 days
Swim start rolled round and I started in my usual place – second row but 7m or so from the most direct line. Deep water start so plenty of bodies around. One useful lesson – swim booties and gloves are quite rough so try to give people wearing them a bit of room. Only one wave for all of the male half starters so quite a crowd so I was expecting quite a bit of a scrap as we headed off the line. I sprinted the first 50 or so and really was not touched in any significant way – once again the JBR race starts with the likes of Carl, Ben and Gary really helped me to be prepared so thanks for that guys. On the way to the first buoy we were again into the waves so a little tough to get a rhythm but I was in a good group and felt like I was swimming well. Round the first buoy with no issues and then across to the second of 4 buoys. Waves in this direction were much less of an issue but I felt so sorry for the slower full race swimmers. The had had an hour’s head start but some of these guys got swamped by the groups and it must have been an awful experience. Buoy 2-3 was plain sailing down wind but after that we turned straight into the rising sun. I just stayed close to 2 guys I had been swimming with and let them do the sighting. A risk I know but I simply could not see a thing. Out of the swim and into the long transition run. Pick up bag, cross over bridge and into the change tent. Helpers got me out of my wetsuit and helped repack my bag and it was out onto the bike and straight into a headwind.
The plan had been to sit on about 80% through the ride with the intention that this would let me run better so the first plan was to get the heart rate down from the 95% it was at coming out of transition and onto the bike. Not easily done with the first hill and headwind only 1k out of transition and with what seemed like the whole field streaming past. I took a drink, got a gel down and did my best to settle into a rhythm. The first 35k is very rolling and at the end of it I was still averaging less then 30kph. The wind might have been less but it was still plenty and this was going to be a tough morning. Plenty of people were still going past so I wasn’t sure if I wasn’t riding well or if some of these guys were going to blow. I stuck to the plan and towards the end of the ride I started to see a few people again. I got off the bike feeling I had stuck to the plan. I’d taken all my planned nutrition and although I’d been blown around a bit I still felt pretty strong and was looking forward to a good run
The first few k of the run is on road and trail and undulates a little like Q’s run at Longtoot. The plan had been to run 5 min per k for as long as I could and I was pretty much on plan through the first 7k. At that point the track goes into the forest and the undulations get smaller and more frequent. 6-8 foot undulations but lots and lots of them. You don’t take a flat step until about 12k in and by this time you have climbed a 750m stretch of Tarmac straight from Hafeet. My splits rose steadily over this period and by the time I got to the top of the hill my legs were shot. My heart rate had gone up into the 90% range and just was not coming back down no matter how much I tried to relax. Thoughts of times were out of the window at this point and it was just a case of surviving until the finish. I was never at a point where I felt I would not finish but when I got a sight of the finish road only to be directed away for a few more k I did have a bit of a sense of humor failure… Support out on the road on the way into the finish line was really good and lifted my spirits as I finished. Quick kiss from my lovely wife and supporter Queen Vic in the finish chute and finally across the line.
I would recommend this race to anyone. The scenery was brilliant, the support was good and the welcome is awesome, but think very hard before registering to do the full, it would be a very tough day. If you do come think about a shallow front wheel and leave the ideas of a PB at home. I’m still wavering between general satisfaction and disappointment with this race. I felt I swam and biked the way I could but just was not in condition to run fast on a course that rose and fell the way it did. Still – it’s time for our big holiday now so it’s not that important. Thanks to everyone for all the training help and best wishes both in the lead up to the race and yesterday, I was so surprised to learn that some people had been up watching. See you all soon for the build for Abu Dhabi. I’ll be hideously out of shape when I get back so I’ll be struggling round the sprint and then supporting all of you out there. See you in Feb…