Monday, 29 April 2013

16.03.13 Orca Auckland Half Ironman

Sorry for the absence of my blogs after the last couple of months but I thought I would give you a quick refresher starting with my last race of the season in the Orca Auckland Half Ironman.

Pre Race
It had been a long week at work yet it was only Wednesday and I still knew that I needed to come home, pack up my bike and get ready for the flight to Auckland the next day.  The bike was quickly put in the bike box (getting good at this now), taped up and the case packed.  I arrived in Auckland on the Thursday evening after a busy day at work, eventually chilling out at my Mother in Law's before having an early night in bed.  I woke up the next morning feeling pretty good and relatively relaxed.  I had to register today and the registration was taking place in town.  It was a quick drive into town to the Triathlon shop where the registration was taking place.  A couple minutes later I was down the road ordering a nice coffee and a muffin and then sitting on Mission Bay beach enjoying the sun.  We went back home and then it was time to do the official gear pack for the following day.  Again this did not take long as after two races already, I had a technique in place.  Before not too long all bags where packed and ready for the race the next day.  This race there were two bags however as for the first time I had to pack a transition bag which is a bag you pick up from transition 2 as it would be located in a different location to transition 1.  You had to ensure that all your gear for the bike was in the bag as if it wasn't you may find yourself doing the run leg with no shoes...  The car was packed and the bike put on the back of the car and after a quick dinner it was into bed.

Race Day
I was really looking forward to this race.  The two main reasons where the fact that it was a low key race, not all the razzle dazzle of an Ironman Half Ironman, and the fact that the swim start was just around the corner from my mother in laws, in fact it was on the beach that I have swum in on numerous occasions.  I was feeling pretty good fitness wise also.  The fact that I was mentally exhausted and this was the last race of the season also provided added incentive and of course there was that cold beer that I had been waiting over 2 months for.  I drove down to the start line with my mum and the first thing I noticed about the low key event was the ability to park right out the front of the start line.  I looked on the grassy patch to my left to see what looked like a fairly small transition area which I thought had not been set up yet but quickly realised that it was finished, just very small.  It was not going to be a big field today, less than 300 competitors on my count.  Low key and I was loving it.  Yep, today was going to be a good day and I was going to go hard on the bike.  I really wanted to get a good time and after all the training I had been doing, felt like I deserved a good time.  That dream was quickly shattered though when the announcer started talking about the course, explaining that it was not a fast course and the bike course was a hilly one that would take it out of you.  The best time by a pro was around 4:15 which in comparison was 30 minutes slower than the pro best time in was going to be a long day!!  I was going to enjoy it though, there was a break from all that training just around the corner, I just had to get through 5.5 hours of pain first.  Whilst getting ready the announcer saw one of the competitors and recognized him as Garth Barefoot who was one of the owners of Barefoot and Thompson Real Estate.  He had just competed in the New Zealand Ironman and unfortunately DNF due to coming in after the 17 hour cut off time, just 5km from the finish!  He talked about his race and the course and everybody just stood there in awe listening to him.  He managed to calm everyone down and by now everyone was pumped for the race start.

The Swim
The weirdest thing about this race was the fact that the race did not start until 8:00am.  The main reason was that it was still dark at 7ish so was unsafe.  By the time that 8:00am came around, the sun was shining and it was warm, not the nicest conditions to be in when wearing a full length wetsuit.  It is race start and everyone starts together.  No seperated age groups or men or women.  If you are racing then you are in the pack and ready to go.  The hooter sounds and I am quick into the water, duck diving before getting into my rythym and heading towards the first buoy.  I have sighted the course already and even though the sun is rising and making it difficult to see I am right on target for rounding the first buoy.  As I round the buoy I can see that there is a pack in front of me and a large pack behind me.  From what I can tell though I am near the front of the pack.  I start heading to the second buoy and half way through I am heating up.  The water is really warm and the sun is now beaming down on me.  I feel like I am sweating and if I am sweating then I am becoming dehydrated, something that I don't want on my first leg of a 5.5 hour race.  I make the second buoy before heading back into shore to complete the first lap.  I hit the beach, get out of the water, run around the turnaround and then back into the water ready for the second lap.  Although really warm, I am feeling good and decide to really push the rest of the swim leg.  Before I know it I am heading back into shore to Transition 1.  I enter transition and cannot find my bike anywhere.  I head up and down the short isles before realising where it is losing valuable time in the process.  I strip off my wetsuit, chuck on my helmet and glasses and bike shoes before packing up all my swim gear into a bag as nothing can be left in transition, it is all going in a truck down to the finish.  I wheel my bike out of transition and the bike leg begins.  The swim has taken me 38.11 minutes, the 35th best time in the open age group.  The swim leg is below
Auckland Half Ironman Swim by IronmanBarefoot at Garmin Connect - Details

Bike Leg
I jump on the bike and am looking forwards to the course.  I know half the course as when staying at my inlaws, I have regularly ridden it.  Past that point though, I have no idea of what is ahead of me.  I am feeling good on the bike.  I look down to see what speed I am doing as well as distance and realise that my watch is not working for some reason.  It has jammed and whilst the timer is working I have no idea of distance travelled or current speed.  This is going to be a tough bike leg.  What is making it enjoyable however is that all the supporter cars are now making their way to the finish line and with no roads closed for this event, they are cheering you on as they drive past.  It is nice to see my mum and wife and son drive by, stopping every now and then to allow me to catch up and cheer me as I go past to do it all over again 10 kilometers down the road.  I finally make it to Kawakawa Bay which is the half way point.  There is a crowd there and we get a good cheer as we go past.  Despite it being hot during the swim, the conditions are no longer that bad and it is quite a comfortable ride.  That is until I turn out of Kawakawa Bay and hit a hill.  This is a huge climb and something that I was not expecting.  After what seems ages, I see cars at the top of the hill clapping people and come to the conclusion I must be near the top.  As I pass the cars and turn the corner I begin my decent down hill.  It is starting to spit so I am careful heading down the slippery road.  I hit the relative flat and it is now a 15km time trial until the turnaround point.  The rain is pouring down now but it is humid and although I am soaking wet, I am very comfortable.  As I hit what I think is around 10km to go a person goes past me and I confirm there is indeed 10km to go.  He asks why I don't have a speedo and I quickly point out the issue with my watch.  He goes past me for a bit and then I catch him up before I disappear in front of him again.  I hit the turnaround and know that I have 25km to go and again it will be another 15km time trial back until the start of the undulating hills followed by the climb.  My back is killing me now.  I am over my bad position on my bike and decide that no matter what, after this season it is time to start looking for a new bike.  I make it to the base of the climb and begin stomping on the pedals.  The chain slips off as I am halfway up and I can't get it back on.  I am not pulling out of the race this close to the finish line and eventually manage to get it back on.  I continue the climb before reaching the top and my decent back down to Transition 2.  As I reach transition my back is really hurting and I can't wait to get onto the run.  I pull into transition, see me family who ask how I am and I tell them about my back.  I grab my back that I packed earlier in the day and put my bike on the rack.  I take my helmet off, put on my Vibrams, grab some energy gels and I am away.  It is a 3 hour 16 minute bike leg, my longest yet.
Auckland Half Ironman Cycle by IronmanBarefoot at Garmin Connect - Details

The Run
I am glad to be off the bike.  After the bike leg however, my watch has started working again.  At least I will have something to judge my pace on for the next two hours.  I begin the run and start to feel really good from the start.  It is a 3 lap out and back course so I begin to break it down.  It will be 3.5km to the turnaround and then 3.5km back to complete the first of 3 laps.  3.5km...I can do that easily.  I pickup the pace whilst feeling good and am averaging around 5 minute kilometers.  I pick up the pace before finding the nearest bush as I am busting to go to the toilet.  I hit the first turnaround and begin heading back to the finish.  There is a mixture of slight uphill and down hills but mostly flat and I am finding my rhythm.  I hit the finish line turnaround for the first time before heading back out onto the course.  As I head out I start to recognize the faces of people coming back the other way.  There are people hurting out there and I am starting to now overtake a few of them in front of me.  I go past one lady who yells out 'Geez, you are light on your feet.  I am like a bloody elephant compared to you'.  I reach the turnaround and one of the volunteers asks if I am on my way to the finish and I quickly explain that I have one more lap to go.  I am starting to hurt now but know that I have around 10km to go.  Knowing I am only halfway hurts mentally but as soon as I make it back to the finish line turnaround, I only have 7km to go.  I head back and see my family before heading back onto the course one last time.  I am passing quite a lot of people now, some people are really suffering.  My pace has dropped but I am happy with the 6 minute kilometers I am producing.  I hit the turnaround and remind the same volunteer that I am now on my way to the finish.  As I am heading back the thoughts that this is my last race for a while bring on emotions.  I am enjoying this last 3.5km.  On my way back I see Garth Barefoot and yell out to him ''C'mon Mr Barefoot".  He gives me a smile and waives.  I am heading home now, I can see the finish and really push the last 1.5km.  I reach the finish chute and see my wife and son cheering me on.  I grab Lachlan and run to the finish line with him.  Three Half Ironman races are now complete in my first season and it is time for a break.  The run has taken 2 hours and overall it is the longest race I have ever done at 5 hours 55 minutes and 8 seconds.  Auckland Half Ironman Run by IronmanBarefoot at Garmin Connect - Details.  Attached is the photo of me and Lachlan at the finish line.

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