Firstly, thanks to Josh for asking me to post a race report and secondly for the honest advice on bike choice recently, specifically the new Felt IA.
I travelled to Cairns in the hope of escaping the cold that has usually well and truly set in at home in Penrith, NSW Australia by early June, and stepped out of Cairns airport around lunchtime Friday into 28c temps and a growling 30-35km wind. I was hoping for a hot race, not so much the wind though. Either way though I was looking forward to kicking off my Kona training with a good day out in Cairns.
I hadn’t raced since Challenge Batemans Bay in mid-March, and hadn’t really got any decent consistent training in until mid-May where I managed to string three solid weeks of training together but I wasn’t expecting anything special come Sunday.
Saturday morning I went for a quick spin around town on the new IA with mates Mick who was racing the full IM and Nick who did the 70.3, then a quick jog along the foreshore and headed up to T1 at Palm Cove to check the bike and gear in. The ocean was looking very ugly, which I hoped would be the case the next day, it always splits the field to pieces.
I got up at 3:00am race day to catch the 4:20am bus up to Palm Cove, had a couple of extra strong coffees (instant-yuck) for breakfast and went outside to check the weather, it was raining and windy. The bus arrived at T1 about 5:00am and I hid in the mechanics tent for as long as possible before I got changed into my wetty, pumped up the Firecrest’s, ate a gel and headed out of T1 to hide out of the rain until go time at 7:03am, it was cold waiting around.
My age group was third last to go, the sea was choppy with a bit of swell but nothing like the day before, we swam straight out about 450m I’m guessing, and after 100m or so I noticed a gap opening up, I jumped across and stayed in the front group to the first can where we turned right for about 1km. Along this straight we swam through the wave in front and it was hard to know where I was in our group from here on in. After the last turn the swell really gave you a big push and this one was the most fun I’ve ever had in a 70.3 swim. I got out in 28 mins 10th in my age, happy to survive the local Crocs and Box Jellyfish.
Onto the IA and there was some really rough speed humps in the first few hundred metres, I lost my bidon of sports drink, which left me with one of Redbull until I grabbed one at an aid station at about 50km. The bike course is great at Cairns, with some decent undulations along the way and was reasonably windy but not too bad. I’d only done about 150km on the new Felt IA before race day, but I am stoked with how comfortable and fast the IA is, and also how good the Di2 11 speed and new 404/808 Zipp carbon clinchers were, I’m glad I made the switch to the Felt.
I started to struggle with about 30 km to go, as I expected I would. With about 20km to go I got swallowed by a group of about 12 drafting cheats sitting half a metre apart and riding three abreast at stages. I tried about four times to get away but the group is stronger than one and they kept catching me. I eventually got away with a couple km’s to go before T2, but god it’s frustrating.
I rode 2:35 and got off in 16th in my age.
I got off the bike angry, but also with zapped legs and wasn’t sure what to expect on the run, especially the back end of it. I decided to just give it a decent whack early and see how long I could hold on for. I felt pretty good, and was passing plenty of people which is always good for the confidence. The rain hadn’t let up all day, and my shoes were soaking, which made it interesting as there were a lot of U turns on course and every time I turned I could feel the sole of the shoe collapsing. By the last lap the shoes were basically destroyed.
I kept pushing all the way, and thought I was running ok, but had no idea of the time as I don’t normally wear a watch for the shorter races. I finished up with a 1:28 run split and race time of 4:38 which put me in 11th in my age and 64th overall.
All things considered I’m really happy with the outcome, and am looking forward to the Kona build off a positive start at Cairns. I’d highly recommend the Cairns 70.3 or IM to anyone looking for a warm escape in tropical North Queensland. Even though it was wet all day, once the race started it wasn’t cold all day.
Thanks for reading and all the best for your season ahead, wherever that might be.