Durban 70.3 Race Report – Being Perfect

“Being perfect is not about that scoreboard out there. It’s not about winning. It’s about you, and your relationship to yourself and your family and your friends. Being perfect, is about being able to look your friends in the eye and know that you didn’t let them down, because you told them the truth. And that truth is that you did everything that you could – there wasn’t one more thing that you could’ve done. Can you live in that moment? As best you can with clear eyes and love in your heart. With joy in your heart. If you can do that – you’re perfect!”

– Coach Gary Gaines (Friday Night Lights, 2004)

Brief Race Report
My goal for this race was to try to be perfect as explained in the quote above. I knew that the competition would be tough and I would have loved to be on the age group podium but given the number of my competitors who run a half marathon in under 1hr30 I knew that would be a stretch. In the end the stretch was too far and I was 7 minutes off the podium, but what I can say is that I did everything I could. I pushed on the swim, I hammered hard on the bike and I held on for the run. I was particularly proud of how I managed to run the second lap of the run as I held a consistent pace from the beginning of the run to the end and ended up setting a PB for a half marathon, either as part of a triathlon or standalone (1hr38). I also set a new PB for a 70.3 completing the 1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21.1km run in 4h38.
Long Race Report
This was the first race I have done where there was a wave start in which competitors are sent into the water 10 at a time. I found it to to quite effective and it definitely reduced the stress of a mass start so I think I am a fan of the approach going forward. The one draw back is that you don’t know where you are relative to your competition as you cannot tell who started when and therefore what anyone’s elapsed time is. Wave starts turn the race into more of a time trial.
The conditions were pretty tough with big waves and a strong back / side wash. I have the greatest respect for anyone who completed this triathlon as those conditions were pretty brutal. I felt like I was pushing pretty hard but my pace was for some reason well below what I can normally swim in a pool (and when not in a wetsuit). I was 14th in my age group after the swim.
This was pretty uneventful except for the fact that I couldn’t find my bike. It was exactly where I had left it but for some reason I ran straight past it. After wasting a bit of time I was relieved to eventually find it and be on my way.
Because of my slow swim (and the wave start) there were a lot of people ahead of me on the road. This made it quite fun to ride up behind each person then slingshot my way around them. I pushed pretty hard from the start – occasionally checking my (normalized) power to ensure that it was in about the right zone. I had checked before the race what I power I had pushed in Mont Tremblant last year (both normalized and average) and given my FTP test results before Mont Tremblant and before this race I knew I was in about the same bike shape, if not a little better so I was pretty comfortable pushing on. It felt like a long way to the turnaround point (35k) and I wondered if I would be able to hold my power but soon after the turnaround the same power just felt easier so I just kept pushing. I had no idea what speed I was doing and my heart rate monitor was reading incorrectly so I just kept going on feel and occasionally the motivation of chasing down people / groups ahead of me. In the end my bike power was spot on based on my testing and I completed the 90k on 2hr20 at an average speed of 38.5kph. I finished the bike in position 3 in my age group.
This was less dramatic than T1 as there was less for me to lose. I changed shoes, popped into the loo and was on my way.
The first part of a triathlon run is always the same for me. I run way faster than I should as I am used to the speed off the bike and then I wonder why running is such hard work. Once I realised that 4:15/km pace was unsustainable for me (after about 2km) I settled into a more comfortable pace (I ran the remainder of the run on feel as I didn’t want to limit what I could do by knowing my pace). My legs felt fine but my back and arms hurt quite a lot (I’ve had lots of back pain recently). I didn’t know anything about the run course before the race so for the first lap everything was a discovery. I loved the public interaction and managed to avoid the kids on scooters while drawing energy from the crowd and other participants. It had a good time chatting to people and high-5-ing random strangers while running past. I kept thinking through the first lap about how the race was about to begin – my challenge, my goal of being perfect was about to begin and I loved it.
I am eternally grateful to be able to push my limits, to be able to swim, bike and run and to be in a position where even though my body is screaming for me to stop my mind allows me to continue.
The second lap was tough. It was hard. It hurt. A lot. And I loved it! I managed to hold my pace to complete the half marathon in a PB time of 1hr38 at an average pace of 4:40. This was well faster than my wildest dreams! I don’t think I would have got close to that time had I known what pace I was running as it was so much better than any previous race I have done. If you had asked me on Saturday what pace I could hold for a 21k I would have said 4:50, at best. Another thing to note is that I made sure to slow down (and sometimes walk) at aid stations to take on cooling sponges, water, coke and anything else I felt like. I know this lost me some time at each aid station but the fact that I could get things under control and take on nutrition and cooling properly means I could run faster between the aid stations.
Congratulations for making it this far 🙂 While I didn’t make the podium (an outcome goal) I gave it my all (an input goal) and therefore I am very happy with the race. As I get older I’m getting faster so what else could I ask for?

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