Writing this blog 4-5 days after Husky on the back end of a very mild “man flu” I’ll try to keep it short and interesting! HOTW and Husky were my 2nd and 3rd professional races thus far and the learning curve has been fairly steep but that’s exactly what I expected.
Hell of the West (2km swim, 80km bike, 20km run)
Leading into HOTW most people that I’d spoken to who’ve competed there before typically responded with “oh yeah I’ve done that race once, I don't plan on going back any time soon!”. Fortunately, this wasn’t my experience (maybe because we had great conditions and not 40+ degree heat!) and I’ll plan on heading back next year.
One of the differences most people talk about between professional racing and age group racing is the swim and the different dynamics that may occur in a professional field. My coach (David Tilbury-Davis) and I had been working on this for months to prepare me so that I would hopefully be able to swim in the main group at most races and not be shot off the back and left on my own. With Max Neumann 1-2 mins ahead, I came out of the water with Sam Betten, Fraser Walsh and Ben Cook after what felt like a slow but fairly comfortable swim. I was pretty happy with my position and wanted to make sure I got out of T1 quickly to get onto the bike with these 3.
Out of transition behind Fraser and Ben, Fraser took the first 5-10km of the bike like it was a 20km TT and I couldn’t stay with the pace even when Sam came around after a couple of km’s. At this point it was a mental battle to try and stay in the race. I did my best to shut out my negative thoughts and focus on putting out a great 60 and 90 minute power hoping that this would keep me in the race. At the 40km turnaround Max wasn’t too far in front of the group of 3 and I was surprisingly close being only 30-45 seconds back. For those interested in numbers I held around 4 watts/kg for an average speed on ~41km/hr and lost 90 seconds to the group of 3 and 2 minutes to Max at the front.
The most disappointing part of my HOTW race was coming off the bike with already extreme muscular soreness in both quadriceps meaning that I felt I couldn’t run to my full potential. Looking back at my TrainingPeaks file I went through 10km averaging 3:40/km (not exceptionally fast) and faded to average 3:45/km for the 20km run. The most frustrating part being that at one point I was probably 20-30m away from Ben in 3rd place heading out onto the last lap but my quads had imploded and the slow fade continued to finish in 4th place.
HOTW main takeaways:
- Not too bad for second professional race with top 3 all training full-time
- Swim is coming along well
- Bike needs work
- Bike position needs a small tweak of cleat position to offload both VMO’s/quads to allow for a better run
Husky “Ultimate” (1.9km swim, 90km bike, 21.1km run)
The southeast part of New South Wales is a beautiful place and I’ve spent a fair bit of time just north of Huskission in Kiama on family holidays so it was fantastic to get to race down there. I knew the field for Husky was pretty solid including the likes of Craig Alexander and Pete Jacobs. To top it off, as Hannah and I headed down to the ocean pool on Saturday afternoon for a quick dip we met Joe Skipper in the pool who’s been spending the UK winter training in Perth and now in Noosa. It would be safe to say that I was pretty excited to test myself against this field and see where I am currently at.
Having not swum in my wetsuit for months it felt good to get into my Zone3 Vanquish and feel the extra free speed and buoyancy of the wetsuit. The swim start was fast but I was with the front group for the first 100-200m but couldn’t hold their feet. Shortly after losing their feet I recognised that the athlete coming past my hip was Crowie. I decided to let him try and stay on the front groups feet and try to stay on his once he passed. This worked well and I spent the first 1500m feeling comfortable on his feet. However, the swim course at Husky is 2 laps and on the second lap I lost Crowie’s feet as we turned a can and got mixed up with age group athletes on their first lap. I came out the swim ~20 seconds behind Crowie being pleased with my position but frustrated that I had lost his feet.
The Husky bike course changed this year and was 3 laps with plenty of dead turns, dead/rough roads and around 3 short hills each lap. Onto the bike Crowie was moving away slowly extending his gap and catching Pete who was 1 min up the road with 2 others (James Davy and Mitchell Cunningham). Levi was also moving fast behind me and given his recent form I knew he was going to be riding himself towards the front of the race so I decided to try and stay with him as long as I could (maintaining a legal 12m draft zone). I stayed with Levi for almost the first lap and we passed Pete around the 10-15km mark. However, Levi was riding too strong for me at this point in the season and I decided it would be suicide to try and stay any longer and went back to trying to maintain my power and effort. Joe passed me around the 50-60km mark leaving me coming off the bike in 6th with Pete in 7th and our gap staying roughly the same at each out and back section.
The data: 4.1 watts/kg – best 90 min power. Still lost 6-7 minutes!
To my surprise I came into T2 with James Davy who had raced Geelong 70.3 just 7 days ago and was suffering with bad cramping I believe. Out of T2 before James I knew that put me into 5th and my goal was to at least put in a solid run and try to maintain 5th if not get higher in the field. With a small cleat adjustment after HOTW my quads weren’t destroyed and I did my best to settle into a fairly solid pace. However, with Pete in 6th I never felt safe knowing that the 2012 Ironman World Champ wouldn’t give up easily. The Husky course had far more undulations that HOTW and I finished with an average of 3:42/km (not bad but know I can run faster).
Husky main takeaways:
- Find 15-20 watts on the bike to be competitive
- Everything slowly moving in the right direction
Challenge Melbourne will be my next race on 14th April. I'm looking forward to heading back to my home town to race in front of family and friends. It feels like a long time since riding on beach road!
Thanks for taking the time to read!