Saturday, 16 January 2010

Lake Wanaka Half - Crashing Back to Earth

You never stop learning with this sport, yesterday was another tough race and brought my sky-rocketing confidence levels back down to earth with a necessary bump...

(picture of the swim course last night)

Firstly, what an incredible event in a truly breathtaking location. If anyone reading this ever gets the chance to visit or race Wanaka, don't let it slip as this place is stunning and the whole town gets behind the race. The atmosphere for 16+hrs yesterday was exceptional.

I entered the new Lake Wanaka Half event back in the UK before Christmas. Having heard about it last year I pencilled it in as ideal preparation for Ironman New Zealand at Taupo (in 7 weeks). This was the first year they ran a Half event along side the full Challenge Wanaka but the event ran seamlessly so all credit to the Challenge crew.

4 months ago, imagining New Zealand to be a pretty small place I assumed I'd be able to catch a ferry from Wellington to the S.Island and have a simple drive down to Wanaka for the weekend. Turns out it's 3hrs on a ferry and 10hrs driving. So I soon scratched that idea, took a day off work on Friday and flew down early doors to Queenstown. Renting a car I drove the hour over Crown Range and down Cardrona Valley, trying to stop myself being the tourist I am and pulling into every lay-by to take pics...

I got into Wanaka about noon Friday to find this view from my Hotel bedroom window (from my private deck). That'll be transition , the finish line and lake Wanaka on the other side of the road, perfect!

As a 'proper' event we had a full on registration, briefing and bike and bag hand in on the Friday so I got all that sorted, grabbed too much food and hit the sack ready for what was forecast to be a calm, slightly overcast race day.

Race morning came and the weather was awesome, not a cloud in the sky. 6am it was already pleasantly warm, calm and light. Makes a change from UK racing I can tell you.

We'd been advised in the briefing that the lake water temp was not quite 15 degrees and felt a little fresh!! But the reality wasn't anywhere near as bad as the anticipation. The weather being on our side and the very respectable 8:15am start, made it all very bearable.

As I mentioned in my last post I've been swimming a bit better the last few weeks, so I positioned myself on the front of the 250 odd individual racers with the plan to go hard and try to hold onto some good feet. It worked pretty well, the first buoy was a decent way off, so by that turn we'd spread out and I was towards the back of the main pack (with a few driving off the front). I held my own in this group, avoiding my normal fade and apart from a slight lack of concentration at around 20 mins was very happy with my swim. Coming out of the water in 17th and 29mins, not the best of times, but with the fastest only managing a 25mins it seems it was an honest if slightly long swim - I was very happy.

I flew through the bagged T1 (2nd fastest T1 of the day) taking a few places on the way, so was onto the bike course in top 15, or so. Although I could have been anywhere in the top 100 for all I knew as we were mixing up with full Challenge athletes already.

Then things took a slight downwards turn, there was a small climb out of town to start the bike course and I was overtaken by a couple of guys in the first 5mins, my legs just felt weak. I pushed the first 20k and was just about holding my own, but my HR was high, my legs were dying and it didn't feel sustainable. I don't think I can blame the new bike, Mike, Paul and the guys at capital Cycles have done a great job sorting me out there...

...I'm just not where I need to be yet.

The course was tough, there was no let up, rolling and some decent hills, on really slow large stone chip. But it was the same for everyone. I've only been back on the bike since early Dec, so I guess I'm just a bit weak - or maybe Kiwis are just that much better on the bike than us Brits??

(rough stone chip!)

At about 40k I came down a great hill, spinning out in the 53x11 and managed to lose my chain outside my front ring, it then wrapped itself around the rear mech and I had to stop and unhook it, in total I stopped for a minute, but I'd gone from gaining on the guy ahead to losing 2 places. I told myself not to let it get me down and to push it too hard to get back to where I was. But in doing so I think I dropped off the pace, I lost another 5 - 10 places over the last hour and was pretty despondent when I rolled into T2 with a bike split of 2:44 - my worst middle distance bike leg since HIMUK in 2005!

The good news is I came off the bike feeling pretty fresh, I guess because I'd not been riding that hard! Another good transition, this time 3rd fastest of the day. Onto the run and I immediately started cruising through the field. All the eating the day before the race caught up with me and I had to take a pit stop (another minute lost) at 8k, but I was soon back charging through the field. I haven't worked out my position at T2 (I guess low twenties), but I clocked the 3rd fastest half marathon in 1:25 and was really pleased when i heard I'd got myself back up to 10th overall.

I feel like I should have been 10mins quicker on the bike - there is certainly some work to be done there - but it gives me something to concentrate on for the next 7 weeks until Taupo.

Apparently the bike course there isn't quite as tough, surface or hill wise, so 5 hard weeks on the bike and I should be ok.

All in all, an enjoyable trip to a fantastic event and location. A 10th place is ok and lots of lessons learnt to take to Taupo and consider over the next 7 weeks training I'll get proper race pics up shortly, but in the meantime I'm off for a day or so of rest before getting the bike out. A lot.



Jonathan said...

Hi Laurence,
Great result, sounds like a good race despite the slight rustiness on the bike. 10th is the result to have as Daz was 10th pro in SA this weekend.
Hope it all goes to plan at Taupo - will be watching.

Raouf said...

Hey Laurence, 10th place! great result. Must have felt good to overtake so many people on the run. Wanaka was always high on my 'want to do' list but now its top.

Hope you have a solid 5 weeks training and get to the start line in good nik. Good luck at Taupo.