After winning my age group in the Singapore Half Ironman back in March this year I recently travelled to Las Vegas for the World 70.3 Champs. Having never been to Sin City and having never set foot in a Casino let alone having no idea how to place a bet, my preparation for a holiday in Vegas was different to most peoples ideas of a trip to the Oasis in the Desert. I was in great shape for racing but wouldn’t have lasted 5 minutes in a Vegas all night party marathon! All I was taking with me was a Kenny Rogers line that kept playing in my head "you’ve got to know when to hold ’em, you’ve got to know when to fold ’em". The course was going to be hot and hilly so the plan was to take as much of the gambling out of the equation as possible to avoid folding. Thanks Kenny.
After flying to LA and picking up a car to drive to Vegas we stopped in the middle of the Mojave Desert and it really hit home how hot it was going to be. Standing in a blast furnace was an apt description. A couple of days training on the course had me honestly scared of the heat. 36 deg at 7pm and a hot dry wind that instantly evaporated your sweat and left your throat dry and rasping was a concern. On top of that there were really no flat sections on the bike course and a hill in each of the three laps of the run. Welcome to the Hurt Locker!
The biggest difference that I noticed in the days leading into the race compared to smaller races was how fit everyone looked. I guess that’s what happens at races that you have to qualify for. Mental note to remind myself that I qualified too. Race day started well with the swim in Lake Las Vegas- a man made lake- hey it’s Vegas, what else would you expect. I went 29.30 for a non wetsuit freshwater swim which I was happy with. On the bike the plan was to keep the heart rate down given the hills and the heat. This went well for 75 k until it started to heat up. One small oversight was the bottles they were handing out at the drink stations weren’t the usual bike bidons but smaller sized water and Gatorade bottles that bounced straight out of your bottle cages. Guzzling as much fluid then ditching the bottle wasn’t enough and I could feel myself struggling for the last 10k on the bike. Copping a blocking penalty and a stand down certainly didn’t help the rhythm and I got off the bike and started the run feeling less than average. Having only one ride on my new TT bike before leaving probably didn’t help either. On the positive side there were no signs of the cramping issues that had plagued me on my last two races at this distance, despite the heat and hills. Whether its the bike position, controlling the effort on the bike or a better adaptation to training its hard to know. Probably a bit of everything. After the first of three laps on the run the legs started to feel like they belonged to me but by now it was getting really warm, nudging 40 degrees. With no shade and a good hill in each lap I really felt like I was crawling and made it to the finish in a pretty cooked state. I crossed the line in 19th place, 4hrs 46min, not too bad for a World Champs but I still have a lot to learn about racing over this distance. A reasonable result but not a great performance was how I’d describe it.
Vegas was a great experience on a very honest course. Don’t go here looking for a fast time, my Garmin showed 1150m of climbing at the end of the bike leg, but if you want a great race on a challenging course then it’s a great fit. It’s fantastic to finally have a legitimate 70.3 World Champs after the drafting debacle that was Clearwater. Looking at the depth of the pro fields and the timing of the race in relation to Kona I think that this event will really grow in stature and I’d encourage anyone who qualifies to give it a go. Plus it’s a great excuse for a holiday in the States! It was described as the best pro field ever to assemble for a 70.3…Crowie, Kienle, Raelert, Bennett, Potts, O’Donnell, Bev Docherty, Joe Gambles, Faris, Amberger and Matty Reed in the mens and in the womens Mirinda Carfrae, Leanda Cave, Melissa Hauschildt, Lindsay Corbin and Jo Lawn to name a few. Having a chance to race against these names was awesome. After a few days of sore legs, sunburn and chaffing and a week of taking it easy in the howdy partner good ol’ USA, it was time to hit the "go" button again and start preparing for the ITU Olympic Distance World Champs in Auckland on the 22nd October.
Thanks to Brent and Lance from Footpoint and Simon Cron from CWX for their support.
Happy training and racing