Port Macquarie Ironman Oz is one of those races I am drawn to. It’s a tough honest course, with a sea swim, situated in a small welcoming town - a great way to finish off the Southern Hemisphere season of racing. Last year I placed 3rd and I was eager to get back out there and see if I can do better this year. It was also my first race in the Pewag team colours and using their equipment so I wanted it to be a good one. And I believe it was.
My recovery from Ironman NZ went well and I got back into training pretty quick, maybe too quick as at about 4 weeks post-IMNZ and 4 weeks prior to IMOZ I went from going very good to going very bad. In all honesty, I did not nail a single session for 3 weeks, but I always believed come race day I would be ok as long as I listened to my body. I was obviously in a bit of a box so I took days off, I cut caffeine in order to not mask any fatigue, I ate well and I got as much sleep as I could. I finally started to hit some normal numbers. I don’t think any Ironman build goes perfectly and everyone is different, and I am glad I have gained the experience to handle these sorts of situations better.
Everything went smooth in the setup race morning thanks to the help of Rene the Pewag team manager and Paul the Pewag Australia director. The swim was probably what I was most nervous about as there were some great swimmers in the field. But the gun went off and I felt straight away I had good speed and swam side by side with Matt Franklin at the head of the race. After about 1km of swimming side by side, I tucked in behind him and was comfortable there. The first weir crossing came at about 1.8km, this is where a slight lack of swim fitness peaked its head. I felt like I fully lactated up getting up and over the steps and back into the water on to Matt's feet. The next section was 800m until we had to do it again, and the 2nd time was even harder. Luckily over the final 1.2km to the end of the swim, I fell back a little through the pack but managed to stay in there.
Out of the water in 4th and this year, I made sure I grabbed the right gear bag (last year I grabbed the wrong one and had to go back). On to the bike in a pack of 7 (Matt, Denis, Tim, Clayton, Luke, and I). I stayed towards the back of this for the first 10km through the hills out of town, then when I felt the pace dropping, I went to the front. I was feeling good so I held my power until about the 45km mark where Tim Reed came around for a turn. At this point, we were all eager to see the time gap to the best cyclist in the sport, Cameron Wurf, and it was still 1-1.5min. He caught us just past 60km and flew by. Rightly or wrongly I tried to go with him and lasted about 10min before I decided it was too hard and reckless for my race. Now I am still not sure if it was the right thing to do or not, but at the time I knew I would not last long, but I mainly wanted to break up the group of us as most were not doing anything. Unfortunately, no one else had tried to go with Cam so I was in no-mans land for the next 120km. I never really knew what my gap over the others was but I think the max I got was 90 sec, so in hindsight, it probably was a mistake. I eased up 10-20w at the far turn (135km) when I realised I didn’t have much of a gap, but that wasn’t enough for them to catch by the end of the ride. In the end, I felt good on the ride and did pretty much all of it either solo or on the front but only had 25sec on Tim Reed, Denis Chevrot and Clayton FeBell off the bike. As I was finishing up in T2 when they came storming in. By a km or so I was in 4th.
I believed I was in the same run form as IMNZ where I went 2.54 for the marathon, so I stayed patient hoping one (or more) of the 3 in front would falter. However, I faltered a bit and had a bad 2nd lap of 4 and Clayton passed me. I passed him back at around 23km. The marathon felt hard, and I was disappointed with the pace I ran, but I held strong in 4th and was satisfied to cross the finish line in 8.29. A couple of minutes slower than last year but the conditions were a lot tougher this year. The three guys in front are all truly world class and have won Ironman’s before so I will not be too disappointed and will keep pursuing my best performance and chasing the top.
Thinking about exploring some trail runs but not sure where or how to start?
One of the strongest trail runners in the world has a humble perspective when it comes to just getting started, here are Joe Gray’s best tips for beginner trail runners