Shepparton 70.3 Half Ironman Race Report

Whack! I saw stars before my eyes then my World went black.
This sort of mishap would probably worry me on most days, but while I’m swimming in a half Ironman it seems par for the course. So instead of panicking I simply rolled left, took a breath and waited for the world to come back into focus.
So began my second attempt at the Shepparton 70.3 Half Ironman!
The Shepparton 70.3 Half Ironman is fast becoming my favourite race.  The organisation is just spectacular, the Shepparton Tri club put on an amazing event.  The course is flat but challenging and overall the experience is excellent. (if you can call 6hours of racing excellent)
I’ve been lucky (?) enough to do six half Ironmans now and I have to say that STC put on one of the best organised events around. They even organised perfect weather for us on Sunday morning. A cool clear day with light winds.
But enough of the congratulations and onto the race proper.
I remember from last year the water quality in Kialla lake is extremely poor. In fact a mud bath would probably have been a more appropriate description and whilst last year this bothered me, this year it actually seemed a bit warm and cosy as you put your head under the water and the lights immediately went out.  Though I am told this is the same feeling you get just before you drown, so perhaps it wasn’t the best feeling to get just before starting my warmup.
The water temperature this year was a balmy 18C so the use of a wetsuit was ‘Optional’ though as the announcer said just before the race. ‘You must be mad if you try to swim in that without one’. As for me, I’ll always use a wetsuit as it makes my swimming a little faster.
As a side note. I have been having some issues with my wetsuit recently and was thinking of buying another one before Shepp but just never really got to it. Instead I was sat with a bottle of contact adhesive to reglue the zip on Saturday afternoon. Thankfully the repair held, but it still felt like the suit filled with water. Yes it is supposed to be a wetsuit, but this got ridiculous and swimming in it was akin to dragging an extra body around with me.
Once the starter gun went off though, it was into the usual scrum. Normally I hang around at the back at a swim start, though this time, being a little more confident and understanding that EVERYONE is trying to hang around at the back and hence it is often more congested there. I simply dived in the deep end (so to speak) and took off into the thick of it.
Of course I got thumped in the back of the head within a couple of seconds of the start but after that, things started to settle down quite quickly, much better in fact than the last couple of races I’ve done.
Again though as the swim progressed, I found it tough. Swimming into the sun in water that is so black you can’t see where you are going makes for some ‘interesting navigation’ and makes it difficult to stay away from other swimmers. Like last year though I did find that you could sense the difference in water pressure as your hand hits the water, if there are a pair of feet just in front of you. Lifting my head out of the water every couple of strokes, did make the whole swim, quite a bit more tiring than normal.
I did manage to run aground again, (like last year) and ran into a tree. Not quite sure what it was doing in the water, but it did give me a bit of a surprise. (Strange but true. Perhaps it also found that there was enough mud in the water.)
In retrospect it may have been faster to walk on the water rather than trying to swim, but I was out of the water in about 37min. Not stellar (Yeppoon as about 31min and Shepp last year took me 35min) but okay given the conditions.
T1 was a bit of a pain for me this time. I’ve just had my orthotics readjusted (2 days before the race) and to be safe I wanted to make sure my feet were properly taped to make sure I didn’t get any blisters. So for a couple of minutes in T1 I messed with a new binding tape., then found that it wouldn’t stick to my wet feet (my old tape wasn’t a problem) and by the time I’d finished my feet looked like a demented embalmer had attacked an Egyptian mummy. Nothing would stick and bits of tape were getting wrapped up everywhere. Eventually I just got frustrated, fell over and finally gave up on the whole exercise, throwing the whole sorry mess into my change bag and decided to ‘damn the torpedoes, let’s just get on with it’. (H’m more on that later)
The bike was tough this year, just like last. I had in my mind Brian’s (my coach) instructions. This was to be an EASY training day. No attempting to set PB’s, no attempting to set new records. And for once I listened. The legs REALLY wanted to go hard on the first lap on the bike, but I didn’t. Normally my Heart Rate on a race can go sky high (in Singapore I spent the whole 6+ hours at only a couple of beats below my maximum), but this time I kept the whole first lap in what is called T1+. That is easy cruise mode and a first for me in any race.
The second lap was a bit tougher though as the wind sprang up, though I will have to complain to the organisers, I certainly didn’t organise a headwind for the ENTIRE course. And given how flat the Shepparton bike course is (dead flat, absolutely positively flat), there is nowhere to hide and nowhere to rest on the course.
When you have a headwind you only have one option and that is to simply grind it out. It did convince me of one thing though and that is that I’ll be ditching my SRAM80 imitation wheels for Busselton and be replacing them with my new Dura-Ace C50 wheels. I’m not sufficiently fast to get the benefit of the true aero wheels and the added weight and difficulty handling them in windy conditions, simply isn’t worth the effort.
The other thing I need to change on the bike is the seat. For the first time ever I chafed badly in sensitive areas on the bike and I’ll be walking like a cowboy for the next week I’m sure.
So after a pretty slow bike (3hrs 7min) but relatively easy bike it was back into transition.
Note to self for next time. Make sure you take a note of which lane you took your bike from! That way you won’t have to run up and down the rows trying to figure out where to leave the bike and where my run gear was. Rookie mistake and certainly got a few wry smiles from other runners as they saw me coming the wrong way up the run chute, bike in hand!!
After getting back to my spot, it was time to wrestle with the mummifying tape again.
Thankfully this time, my feet had dried a bit and I was at least able to tape my most sensitive parts. Some would argue that I really need to tape more than my feet, but I’ll leave that to others to judge. 🙂
Never have I been so thankful to get out and run. After all of the troubles I’ve had over the past few months, tendonitis, bruised feet, calf issues etc etc, all of that simply disappeared.
I had been planning on a walk/run strategy and certainly did that with a 10min run/1 min walk for the first set, but quickly gave that away and decided to run the whole lot.
I had one little bit of sage like advice from a fellow marathon runner last week, who simply said to me ‘start running then let your mind float away and cruise’. And that is exactly what I did. The first 7km almost flew by. I had a couple of short walking stops at the aide stations to take on 1/2 cup of water but otherwise kept running.
While I’m on the topic I’ve revised my drinking/fluid strategy for these types of races.
Historically I’ve always followed the published advice and have been pumping as much fluid into myself as possible on the bike leg. The problem is that this really affects my running.
This race I simply had two small bidons of coconut water and half a small bidon of water on the bike and half a cup of water at each aide station on the run. This worked MUCH better for me and I didn’t feel bloated and heavy at all for the whole race. I also stayed away from sports/nutrition bars on the bike and kept to muesli bars and had 3 gels on the run. Again much better, I had heaps of energy and didn’t feel weighed down at all.
The second 7km really flew by. The SHIM course runs around the lake (the one we swam around) and then off into the bush before coming back to the start finish line.
But it was the last 7km where the training I’ve been doing over the past couple of months really started to pay off.
I’ve always done okay on the swim, okay on the bike, but have really fallen down the rankings when it came to the run and whilst loads of people still overtook me a the beginning of the run, things really turned around in those last 7km. I seemed to be flying past everyone and if I look at my results I overtook over 50 people in the last 30min or so.
If I also looked at my run splits were also pretty consistent. Whilst I didn’t speed up on the last lap I really didn’t lose that much time either.
So what does all this mean for Busselton in a couple of weeks?
Well to tell you the truth I don’t really know.
  • I’d had enough when I’d done the swim
  • I’d had enough when I’d done the ride
  • I could have kept going on the run
So now in under 3 weeks time I have to do double the distance in every discipline.
It could be interesting!