Probably my worst race day experience happened in South Africa last year. I never felt as bad during a race as on that day. Lead up to it was far from perfect. There were many set backs and, by chance, in my biggest training block I had many obligations outside of the sport. It all led up to me being over-trained and quitting the race after the bike. Memories of that day were still fresh and the thing I wanted to do the most was to replace them with more pleasant ones.
I had a good swim for my standard, exiting the water in the second group. On the other hand, we lost quite a lot of time to the front group and that group was huge. Last year it was often the case that the second group overpowers the first group on the bike and they merge. It was obvious that won’t be the case in this race.
Few kilometers after transition Boris Stein passed me. The pace was hot, but I waited to see if he will settle into a more sustainable one. After 5-10 minutes it became obvious that settling in was not his plan and I had to back off. Part of my swim group caught up with me shortly after and we formed a group of 4. The pace was still quite high and unsustainable for this distance. However, if you want to stay in the race you have to follow the group. Once you’re left on your own it’s all over.
Not much happened for the remainder of the ride. We passed some guys that fell of the front group and Joe Skipper managed to break away, however he didn’t gain much time on us. As predicted the pace was constantly going down because of the fast start. The least ideal way to race such a long event, but the only possible way if you want to be competitive.
There was not much wind on the bike course and the course itself is not very selective. That allowed the front group to remain quite compact until the end of the bike ride. Even though the drafting is not allowed it can still be felt at 10m distance when the group is big enough. Especially if it is followed by media vehicles. I was in a group as well but it was much smaller and with far less “horsepower” so I was at the front for long periods of time.
Things didn’t look promising at the start of the run. I was in 18th position with the big group more than 10 minutes in front of me. When I started the run, most of them were close to 3k mark. I didn’t came there to give up so I started my chase hoping that some of them expanded too much energy trying to stay with the group on the bike. Wind was still absent and it was quite hot. Whoever was suffering would suffer even more because of the conditions.
I felt very good and the gap to most of the guys in front of me was coming down. It took a while to start improving my position. When I finally started passing others the course got crowded with people just starting the run what made me lose count. Entering the last lap I knew I was not far away of top10 so I tried to keep the pace high. In the last stages of such a long race it’s hard to motivate yourself. The legs are screaming and only thing you think about is the finish line. In order to keep the pace strong I set myself a goal of passing Wurf and Cunnama who were not too far ahead. As I was unsure of my position, I wanted to push till the end so I don’t have any regrets if I finish outside of top10. I managed to pass them both and as I entered the finish area announcer said I was in 9th spot, so the pre-race goal of top10 placing was accomplished.
I’m quite happy with the outcome of this race. However, I’m aware I still need to improve in all disciplines if I want to be competitive for a top10 place in Hawaii. Since I earned only 855 points with this race, I’d have to do 2 more full Ironman races to qualify for Hawaii this year. Looking long term I think it would be better if I work on speed for the first half of this season and then do an Ironman in fall that would give me good starting position for qualification in 2018. If I do too many races I will end up too tired to do well in Hawaii, just like last year. So, I decided to quit the points chase this year and do things that would help me in the long term.