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Race report: The Canberra City Half Ironman 12 December, 2010

Posted Dec 13 2010 12:06am
So, here is my race report for the Canberra City Half Ironman on December 12, where I ran the 21.1km (13.1 mile) leg as one third of a relay team for the event. I was joined by Dale, our swimmer for the 1.9km swim leg and Jon, our cyclist for the 90km bike leg.

We had a fantastic time and it was a real privilege to be part of such an amazing event. This was the first time any of us had been involved in a triathlon and we were blown away by the people and how well organised it was. We also had some friends competing in another team (nothing like a bit of rivalry to up the stakes) and some other friends who were completing the whole event as individuals. The course was in the heart of our nation’s capital centred on Lake Burley Griffin.

Registration and expo

In the Transition area the day before the race
 My family came down to Canberra with me for the event and we stopped to stay the night at a friend’s farm about an hour’s drive north of Canberra. We headed into Canberra the next day and booked into our hotel. I left to go to the race expo and registration and meet up with the rest of my team and the other folks I knew who were taking apart. Jon checked in his bike and set it up in the transition area (there were some INCREDIBLE bikes at this race).

All competitors (about 1000 in all) then had to attend a compulsory pre-race briefing from 5:30-6:30pm. Attendance was checked using the timing chips and failure to attend disqualified competitors from taking part the next day. The briefing is now mandatory in the Australian Capital Territory (where Canberra is located) due to a number of fatalities of cyclists competing in road events over the last two years.

Jon and his bike in the teams transition area
New South Wales and the ACT have been subjected to much higher than average rainfall over the last month and there has been widespread flooding throughout the state. Lake Burley Griffin where the swim leg of the Half Ironman was to take place was inundated with huge amounts of storm water brining much debris with it (including partially submerged tree trunks) and effluent which made the water unsafe for swimming. X-Tri Australia , the race organisers, made the decision to cancel the swim leg in the week before the race and replace the swim leg with an additional run leg of 4km – essentially turning the event from a triathlon to a duathlon. This meant that Dale, the member of our team who’d been training to do the swim leg would now have to do a 4km run instead.

Following the briefing, those of us who had our families with us all joined up to go to dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant where there was lots of great food (including lots of rice for carbo loading!) on offer.

Pre race

I usually sleep fairly well before a race, but didn’t sleep at all well the night before this one. I think being part of a team and having to manage the transitions from one member to another was weighing heavily on me and when I did sleep I kept dreaming about missing the start of the run!

I also started experiencing some stomach cramps and had what I will only refer to here politely as ‘GI issues’. At first I thought this was nerves, but Ms Jaydub was also having some issues. At first I thought it might have been the Vietnamese, but the kids were fine. In the end we deduced it must have been some tank water we drank at our friends’ farm – possibly contaminated after some flooding they’d been experiencing. While it was unpleasant, it wasn’t enough for me to feel I wasn’t in a position to compete in the morning.

The view across the lake toward Parliament House
on race day morning
I woke at 5:00am on race day morning and went down to the race start to meet up with Dale and Jon and go over final preparations. I wasn’t going to run until after Dale’s ‘swim’ run and Jon’s ride which wouldn’t see me heading out for my leg until later in the morning, but I wanted to assist where I could and support my team mates.

Much of my angst during my training for the last nine weeks had centred on the fact that this event was taking place during summer and there was the potential that we would be competing in very hot and/or humid conditions. Thankfully, the hot and humid conditions didn’t materialise, (in fact the temperature was close to perfect and the humidity very low) but there was another, unanticipated climatic challenge that did affect the run leg on the day.

The ‘swim’

The race started at 6:30am with the elites heading off first and the relay team ‘swimmers’ commencing their 4km rum in the fifth wave at 6:38am.

Despite having primarily focussed on swim training for the event, Dale put in a sterling effort in the run, finishing the 4km (approx 2.5 miles) in an official time of 16:43 (average pace of around 4:11 min/km or 6:43 min/mile).

Team cyclists waiting int he transition area for T1
Jon and the other team cyclists had to wait in a corral in the transition area where the ‘swimmers’ could come in and transfer the timing chip to the next member. This went off without a hitch and Jon was quickly off to begin the cycle leg. I saw Jon off on the ride before I headed back to our hotel to rest and prepare for the run leg.

The ride

Flooding had also caused a change in the route for the cycle leg. Instead of two 45 km loops, the cyclists were now required to do five 18 km loops on a course that was far less hilly. While Jon is a very experienced rider, he’d never taken part in a time trial before, but like Dale, he also had a great race completing the 90km (approx 56 miles) in an official time of 2:30:04 (average pace of around 36km/h or 22.3 mph).

The run

Back at the hotel, I had some breakfast and dealt with those lingering ‘GI issues’. An hour out from predicted start time, I had a peanut butter sandwich, a banana and a tablespoon of chia seeds soaked in water. I got into my race gear and headed back down to the race area where I entered the transition area to wait for Jon in the corral. Jon was quicker than anticipated and I was only there for a few minutes before he arrived and we changed over the chip (lucky I hadn’t lingered longer at the hotel!)

I was off! The run was two loops of a very flat course with only one hill that I had to tackle twice at the 7km and 18km mark. The route followed the northern edge of Lake Burley Griffin and is very picturesque.

I quickly found a comfortably hard stride of around 4:50min/km (7:45min/mile). I felt very comfortable and thought I had scope to vary my pace nicely as required between 4:45 and 5:10 and hit my overall average target pace of 5:00min/km (8:00min/mile) for the whole race. That would set me up to come in at around 1hr 45min and hopefully lower.

I maintained that pace range well up until about the 12km mark.


1. 4:40
2. 4:44
3. 4:45
4. 4:52
5. 4:52
6. 5:01
7. 5:00
8. 5:01
9. 4:58
10. 4:46
11. 5:03

The wind had started picking up, REALLY picking up. I’d been fretting for weeks about heat and humidity, but everything was fine in that regard. One climatic factor I’d never even thought to consider was wind speed and direction. The wind had been fairly calm in the early morning but slowly picked up as the day progressed. As I headed to the western end turn around point I could feel the wind picking up dramatically and saw the waves and white caps on the lake. It was behind me at this point for a short while, but that would soon change.

While I still felt strong and fresh at the turn around, the next seven kilometres as I ran into the head wind were a hard slog. By this time the wind was gusting up to 55km/h (or about 35 mph). I can only describe this section as feeling as though I was running along dragging a car tyre behind me on a rope. I was slowing down and using up a lot more energy to run… energy I had hoped would put me in a good position to achieve a negative split in the second half of the race, but that was not to be.

The next set of splits give an idea of what I was up against:

12. 5:11
13. 5:07 (This was where I saw Ms Jaydub and the kids cheering me on! Video below.)
14. 5:10
15. 5:15
16. 5:24
17. 5:13
18. 5:30

I reached the turn around at the other end of the course and looked forward to what would hopefully be a nice tail wind for the final section. My heart rate was much higher than normal for having worked so hard into the head wind, but I managed to pick up the pace for the last three kilometres including a good burst at the end, (with a few stomach cramps at the 20km mark – a little reminder of the previous evenings challenge in that area).

Last splits:

19: 5:01
20: 5:20
21: 4:41

I completed the run leg in an official time of 1:47:14 with an average overall pace of 5:04min/km (8:10min/mile). I had set out to beat my official half marathon PR of 1:48:03 set back in May, and I’d done it, by just 49 seconds! But I hadn’t managed to go under 1:45 which had been my stretch goal.

Our overall team time for the entire Half Ironman was 4:33:56.

Out of 58 relay teams competing, we came 14th. Out of 17 all-male teams competing we came 5th!

With Jon at the end of the race
I met up with my family and Jon’s family (unfortunately Dale had to leave to return to Sydney before the race had even finished) and we stayed at the finish to watch the other teams and individuals complete their race, including my friends Richard and Phil and Jon’s brother-in-law Paul who all competed as individuals.

It was a great day, a great race and we were all very happy with our result. It was a real shame that the swim was cancelled, but I still feel that I had the opportunity to experience a big triathlon event first hand – quite an experience!

Interestingly, this race was the last ever 'half Ironman' to take place anywhere in the world. Henceforth, these events will be known exclusively as an  'Ironman 70.3' .

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