The race has quite an iconic Swim leg with all competitors leaving transition together at 7.15am and walk the 2km down the beach to the race start. It is quite a sight to see 600-700 wetsuit clad athletes all walking along the beach together. It does play on the mind a little though when you see how far you actually have to swim! 2km in a straight line is a long way. The Elite race has a 5min start on the rest of the field, I got away very well and for the first time managed to sit in the front group with only Andy MacKay and another guy getting away. I was never in real difficulty and felt comfortable sitting on the feet of Tim Berkel and Matty White. The time went really quickly and before long we were rounding the last buoy and heading into the beach. The real bench mark was to have lost little over a minute to Andy, at the Taupo Half IM last December I lost 5mins to him so clearly things have improved nicely here. Good signs that I am developing my swim into more of a weapon that will be very important going forward.
I lost a little ground on them in the run up to transition but quickly joined the group again once on the bike. The course was dead flat but a surface that was rougher the the NZIM course. One guy was off the front but punctured leaving a group of around 7 athletes at the front of the race. I was dawdling in here and decided to hit the front and lift the pace. If I was going to beat the WA Ironman champ Tim Berkel I would have to hurt him on the ride as he is an exceptional runner. There was also 3 guys from the Aussie Long Distance Elite Squad so I wasn't keen to wait around for someone else to do the damage.
By the time we had finished the first of 5 laps I had about a 30 second lead. I was hoping fellow Kiwi James Bowstead would bridge up to me an we could share the pain a little at the front but I was on my own and certainly wasn't going to wait around. I rode hard but well below threshold and at an even tempo. The gap grew with each lap and I could see some real concern on the faces of the bunch as we crossed paths. It was getting very hot with the temperature up to 33C and before long my Tri-suit was covered in white salt from my sweat. I was wishing I had worn a conventional helmet to keep my head cool and not the Aero one that has limited air flow through it. I got through a bottle of fluid a lap and had salt tablets to top me up also so was doing all I could to keep hydrated. On the last leg into town I had a couple of moments of blurred vision and "goose bumps" that freaked me a little. My heart rate was still only 155-158bpm so I figured the intensity was aok and kept on going. Into transition and I had a 3min lead, perfect! I have run sub 1.20 before and new that something close to this would ensure victory. Through the first few kms I was going well with my Garmin showing I was running 3.40kms which was perfect.
At around 5km things went very pear shaped, my hands were tingling, I had more "goose bumps" and I lost all power in my running. I just couldn't run, it was very frustrating, leading a major race but unable to run at my potential. I was literally cooked and after going through the 8km mark eventual winner Matty White went by (giving me a pat on the ass as he went) signalling the end of my tenure at the front of the race.
I stopped at each aid station and douse myself with water and drank as much fluid as possible. This went on for the entire 2nd lap and it was with around 4km to go my core temperature must have been coming down as I could now run and finished the race off with something resembling the form of a decent runner.
7th overall with my best swim ever and setting the course record for the cycle leg was a mixed day out. I took home some cash for the bike prime so at least I have something to show for my efforts! Coming from the single digit temperatures we have had all winter in Taupo it is not surprising that I suffered in the heat. I was a great experience and served as a great lead up to the World Long Distance champs in October. I'm excited by my swimming and cycling form with the increased intensity that Pete McCullum has included at swim squad and the quality sessions Mark Watson has created for me on the windtrainer reaping rewards. My new QROO was sensational and new position on the bike powerfull and comfy. Time to get some heat training done and nail the next 8weeks of training.
Thanks to everyone for your support and kind wishes...