Race 1: The Joy of Aquabike
Jeremy Gabe – Santa Barbara Tri Club
Endurance has never been my competitive advantage. In competitive swimming I was far better at 100m races than 200m races. And I’m much better relative to other competitors in a sprint triathlon than on an Olympic distance course. So it sounds kind of perverse to double the Olympic distance and have a go at half-Ironman.
But my first summer in Santa Barbara with Kyle Visin and the Killer Tri athletes ended up with me enjoying an Olympic triathlon (Morro Bay, despite strong ocean currents and wind). Plus, after a month of dedicated run training for the Auckland half marathon (a new PR by 10 minutes), I felt my distance running daemons had been conquered, and in December, I was routinely running half marathons on the beach (while keeping my HR under control, something I had never been able to do when running).
The outcome is a long course triathlon rookie cliché: a tale of two races. Part 1 is when the cannon goes, the nerves vanish and how good it feels to be racing when things are going as planned. Then Part 2, so here’s the first tale of two races.
Race 1: The joy of Aquabike
I felt great going into the race. The goal was to break 6:00, but I planned for a 5:30 based on what I had decided was sustainable while training - maintaining HR in high Zone 2 (bike), Low Zone 3 (run). The plan was a 30-minute lazy swim, a 3-hour bike, and then a 2-hour half marathon.
My pre-race preparation wasn’t ideal. Air NZ kept me stranded where I was working/watching tennis in Melbourne on Friday night, turning an afternoon flight into a quasi-red-eye that meant I went to sleep at 5am the day before the race. But I made good use of the remaining day relaxing, doing some stretching and a light brick just before racking my bike in the afternoon.
On race day, the weather forecast was about as good as one can get for an Auckland summer – mostly cloudy, 23 degrees, with some light drizzle that would arrive during the bike and clear before the run. New Zealand is notorious for wind, and while it wasn’t calm, it could have been much, much worse. I was ready to go, and was excited when the alarm went off at 5 am. As soon as I entered transition to set up, I wanted to just jump in the water and get going.
Finally, an antique ship cannon went off for my swim wave – the first amateur wave. I felt great – about 100 m of hard swimming to get going, then onto some feet to get towed through the first half. The pace picked up after that, and to conserve energy I dropped back and coasted the rest of the way in. 32.5 minutes, a bit slow, but it turns out from post-race banter that the course was estimated at 200m long (2.1km total).
After one of my fastest T1 visits ever, I was feeling great on my new bike and comfortable in the aero position. The plan here was just to settle into a rhythm and keep the HR in the high 140s on average. The bike course is fantastic. Right at the start was one of the highlights – cycling over the harbor bridge. Unlike its counterpart in Sydney, it has always been illegal to walk/cycle over this bridge, a policy that many others and I have spent time and effort trying to reverse, so this was the first time I could legally ride over. Hopefully it won’t be the last. And except for quite a strong crosswind, it was a fun experience, hitting over 60 km/hour going downhill on what may be the world’s smoothest road. As forecast, misty rain had begun to fall, so it wasn’t quite as panoramic as it could have been.
The course had 2 parts – one northern loop that was 45km and an eastern loop that was 22.5km, with the eastern loop repeated twice to make up the full 90km. The northern bit was rolling hills, while the eastern bit was all on the flat waterfront promenade, though the westerly wind meant each return leg would have a headwind. Knowing the geography very well and having ridden the eastern loop hundreds of times really helped me optimize my nutrition plan to the course layout.
Absolutely everything here went according to plan, though I did have the feeling that perhaps my plan was too conservative, as I was getting passed by men/women of all ages going quite a bit faster than me. Either that, or my pace is a good sign that I could really use some coaching on how to bike race. I have no problem generating power on stationary bikes, but for some reason can’t translate that onto a real bike. Foreshadowing into part 2 of this story, I’ll settle on the latter explanation for now.
On the final leg of the bike, I was still pulsing with energy and had to use my HR and cadence monitors to keep myself from sprinting the last 10km (into the wind). The misty rain had kept me cool, so the fear of wilting away on a hot, humid summer day was gone. As I rolled into T2, I saw that I had nailed my 3 hour goal almost to the second, had an average HR of 148, average cadence of 94, and had almost 2.5 hours to run a half marathon in order to break 6 hours. Bingo.
Transition went reasonably smoothly, and so did the first 200 meters of the run. But the rest is another chapter.
(Stay tuned for Part 2....)
So check out Tri Geek Data until we post Part 2! (because you really want to know and this is cool stuff): https://www.polarpersonaltrainer.com/shared/exercise.ftl?shareTag=6a5efcaa154bb127b80541664a29d842
(Editor note: Jeremy is from New Zealand)