Flying down the final stretch of the Mount Festival 70.3
Recently (last weekend) I did my 4th Half Ironman in Mount Maunganui (New Zealand). The Mount Festival included two triathlon distances: Enduro (3k Swim, 120k Bike, 25k Run) and the Half Ironman (or 70.3). It also had two run distances (21k and 10k).
The course is known as a ‘fast’ course, however, when @run.vince.run and I did it in 2018 it was anything but fast. That day there were strong winds and the temperatures ended up unpredictably high- because of the conditions it ended up being the second slowest running of the half ironman that they had had. That day I discovered (15k into the run unfortunately) the glorious relief of throwing water over my head after a volunteer threw water over me and I was able to finish strong in a run that had been more walk until then.
The 2020 race ended up being ‘near’ perfect conditions. The swim was flat, the bike course had been altered to three 30k laps which decreased the time we spent on the rough roads further out and the run course had a set of stairs removed that in previous years you had to go up and down on each lap of the run course which we predicted would add at least a minute onto each lap not to mention further tire already tired legs. The wind did pick up on the second and third lap of the bike course - so there was a head wind on the way out that made the last 5k out tough, however, it meant an awesome tail wind on the way back into the transition area, and for me speeds of up to 35k an hour!
Recently I talked about doing my first Olympic distance triathlon (1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run) as preparation for the Mount Festival Half Ironman. During that race I got down onto my aero bars on my bike for the first time. Four weeks later I was looking forward to seeing what difference (if any) it would make on my bike time and overall race time.
My previous best time was 6:13 at the Taupo Half Ironman in March 2019, at the time I was really pleased with that race and my effort since it was almost a 19 minute personal best. Soon after that race a close friend of mine made the comment that based on the ‘little’ training I did I shouldn’t have been able to go that fast. I had been training for that race consistently since my 50k ultramarathon 5 months earlier. I think 5 months of consistent training is enough- she meant the amount of hours I spent training each week (I probably maxed out at 8 hours a week).
Starting the second lap at the Taupo Half Ironman in March 2019.
Like a lot of my triathlon friends she had a coach who had told her (and apparently this is common practice) that in training for a triathlon you should be doing swims that are the same distance as the race, your bike training should be longer than the race distance, and for the run your long run should be at least three quarters of the race distance.
I had not done anything like that for my bike training. My longest training ride had been maybe 60 kilometres long- or about 2 to 2:30 in length.
For the Mount Festival I started training consistently for it about 7 weeks out. I had a marathon (Queenstown marathon) 8 weeks before the race and had been focusing on that until then. So 7 weeks of training (but keeping in mind I had endurance from my marathon training) and for about 5 weeks I did two “long” rides a week (approximately 50k or 2 hours long- and one or two that were longer than that- we did a 70k ride on Boxing Day), we swam between 5 to 7k a week over our three weekly swims, and I ran 3 to 4 times a week and did maybe a max of 12k of running at a time.
I went into the race hoping to get a personal best time, and would have loved to go under 6 hours, and if I couldn’t go under 6 hours beat the personal best of my close friend (we are great friends but also super competitive with each other) of 6:09.
Race day: 2k swim to start, conditions were pretty flat. I managed just under 36 minutes for the swim which is more than 2 minutes faster than my previous personal best (that I got at Taupo Half Ironman). I was so busy in transition that I didn’t even look at my watch to see what time I had done.
Through transition and out onto the bike. I think Vince and I were both concerned at how I would go being down on aeros for that long, since I hadn’t really spent a great deal of time using them (and had only been on them for 4 weeks) and whether it would get too painful or too much strain on my neck and shoulder muscles. Because of that, I made sure I spent some time off them at turn around points, or going over the speed humps.
As I said earlier the wind picked up on each consecutive lap but it also meant a nice tailwind on the return leg of each lap. After I completed the first of the 30k laps in one hour I couldn’t believe it. I was well on track for the 3:15 bike ride I had hoped for (I did a 3:25 bike on the Taupo course). I knew I could afford to slow down and still make my time but I held on and finished the 90k bike ride in 3:03! Thats right! 3 hours and 3 minutes! That was a whopping 22 minutes off my bike.
On my aero bars!
So onto the run. Last time I did the course at Mount Maunganui in the heat I completed the run in 2:15. As I came out of transition I came across a competitor completing the first lap of the run and heading out on his second lap. It turned out to be one of Vince’s work colleagues. I said to him at the time “I think I am on track to get under 6 hours!” He was hoping to finish in under 5 hours (which he did). He ran with me for a kilometre or so before I couldn’t keep the pace up (we were doing nearly 5 minutes per kilometres!). He told me that Vince was not that far in front of me (but he was also on his second lap). I ended up completing the run in 2:04. Not a personal best for my run but enough to get me under my goal time of 6 hours.
Out on the run.
I finished my 4th half ironman in 5:50!!! That is a personal best of 23 MINUTES! And I smashed my “A” goal of under 6 hours. I am still buzzing about my race a week later.
So although both Vince and I don’t follow conventional training programs we are both evidence that training smarter and not harder can pay off, and our unconventional training has definitely worked. Vince managed to do his second best time, and met his goal of going under 5 hours again! And to make it even better we both got 12th place in our age groups.
What next? I am really looking forward to seeing further improvements in my bike (If I can improve that much with 7 weeks of cycle training then I can’t wait to see what else I am capable of) and I am going to work on improving my run off the bike. In training for the Mount Festival Half Ironman I only did one run off the bike, so I know I can improve that with some further work.
Vince, me and his workmate in the recovery tent post race.