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Vanessa Murray Western Sydney 70.3 Race Report

The last time I raced Ironman 70.3 Western Sydney was five years ago when we were hit with a 38-degree day, so heading into the race this year I was hoping for a few degrees cooler which as it turned out we got....

Race morning arrived and at 6am the air temperature was about 17 degrees with minimal wind, so perfect conditions with the day only expected to reach about 24 degrees.

The official call on whether age groupers would be starting with or without wetsuits was left until race morning with the water temperature sitting right on the cut off of 24.5 degree’s the evening prior.  I was comfortable with whichever way the call would fall, but being a stronger swimmer, my preference would have been non-wetsuit, but as it turned out the water temperature had dropped a degree over night so wetsuits it was.

Being a competitive age grouper, the rolling age group wave starts wouldn’t be my pick of start types as you don’t necessarily end up “racing” side by side with your main competitors but rather race very individual races not knowing where or how your competitors are going. What this does enable however is a very self-focussed and self-motivated race plan where you simply focus on yourself at all times and have to just ensure that you are doing everything in your power to go as fast as you can. 

This time I was lucky enough to be the first age group wave up and managed to seed myself at the very front of the wave which was my plan – start in front and go as hard as I can all day (in a controlled fashion of course) and get to the finish line knowing that I had given all that I had to give, as with the rolling start you never really know how you are sitting in terms of overall placings.

I dived off the pontoon into the water where myself and a fellow 30-34 age group athlete, albeit a male one (yep male’s and females started together this time) swam side by side for the first half of the swim, pretty much stroke for stroke.  Around the half way mark, he picked up the pace and I slotted in behind him – this is where drafting practice pays off.  We were only passed by one other age group male (I think!) so I knew we were swimming strong. There was also another male sitting on my feet, so we were a line of 3.  At one stage a surge was put in and I lost feet for a couple of minutes, before making sure I pushed to get back on and then we pretty much exited the water together. Entering T1 I knew I was the first female out(thanks to Pete Murray’s update), but with the rolling start this is never confirmation you swam the fastest.Swim 00:27:52.

I moved through T1 fairly quickly, jumped on the bike and put the head down.

I never usually like changing anything too close to a race but two weeks ago I spent some time with Adaptive HP working on a new bike position which is quite drastically different to my prior one.  With the main aim being to get more aero and getting this done nice and early before Ironman New Zealand, so of course the trade off was racing the 70.3 in Sydney with not much practice in the new position.

During the race I focused on my hand, neck and head position and pushing within my target power range. I felt great on the bike, was pushing good numbers and maintained these throughout the ride.  Being the first AG wave I had a very clear road on lap 1 with a bit more traffic to contend with on lap 2.  The wind picked up a little on the bike, so we ended up with a tail wind out and head wind home, but nothing to be too concerned about.  As far as wind goes, it was all very manageable.  Another key focus during the bike was my nutrition with fuelling to the clock to ensure that I was getting enough in (having recently re-assessed my nutrition plan) and there were no hiccups here, I managed to get everything in and felt good.

Approaching T2 I felt in control and felt like I had had a solid ride. Now to see what the run legs were feeling like.Bike 02:24:57.

I had a goal run pace but am always aware that with racing sometimes you have to roll with how the body is feeling and to not be put off if you can’t immediately hit this pace.  The main thing is to keep the mind strongwhen it comes to the run. I am also the type of athlete that does better building into a pace rather than going out all guns blazing.

I managed to settle into a pace that was slightly slower than my goal pace (by about4-5seconds).  My legs were actually feeling great but for the first 5km of the run I felt quite wheezyto the point where I could hear it in my breathe. This isn’t usual for me as I don’t suffer from asthma and have had no prior issues on this front. So, I decided to stick to that pace and let the breathing settle which it did.  Post race I found out that many others suffered the same symptoms, potentially due to the smoke haze which has been affecting air quality for the week.  So that likely explains that.

There were a couple of rolling hills at the start of the run course which came a little unexpected, so I paced myself up these (while I felt a little wheezy) and used the downhills to get some good momentum and leg speed going. 

About mid-way through the run I was feeling at my best – my breathing had settled and was back to normal, my legs had accepted their dialled in pace and I was pushing to hold it but feeling strong. The back end of the run being completely flat around the regatta centre enabled me to find a really good rhythm, I was still fuelling to time and felt like I had the fuel intake spot on.  I grabbed a cup of water through every aid station and focused on ticking off each km.

Around mid-way through the run I knew I had taken the overall age group lead (thanks to hubby giving me a few splits on the sideline) but regardless I pushed hard until the end as my run is where I have made my most gains over the last couple of years and is always where I have something to prove to myself. 

With the finishing line in sight I was pretty much running side by side with another competitor and we had just enough breath left to ask each other why the finish line didn’t look to be getting any closer! With 1km to go that finish line sure did take a while to come.  Run 01:29:18.

Crossing the finish line I was elated with my day and the performance I put out.  I’d had a great training block with Sean and although IMNZ is the main goal of my season, I really wanted to give Ironman 70.3 Western Sydney all that I had and to see where I was sitting on the swim/bike/running front and of course nab my ticket to the Ironman 70.3 World Champs back home in NZ next year. Total Time: 04:25:09

It was great to see friends and fellow Fluid athletes around the course all day and the sideline support was top notch! The volunteers, as always were amazing and Ironman definitely put on a fantastic 70.3 event over in Western Sydney.


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