Challenge Cairns 2011 Race Report
Saturday, 11th June 2011
There is a reason why I have left it 5 years between Ironman distance racing – they hurt.
For the last 4 and a half years I have focused purely on ultra-marathoning and more recently on the Ultraman Triathlon, which is spread over three days. After the Ultraman World Championships in Hawaii in November / December 2010 the Challenge Cairns was officially launched, and of course being at home, was perfect opportunity to see if the alleged "home town" advantage would be a factor over such a long day against athletes at the top of their game.
However, my focus has always been and is still to qualify and race in the notorious Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley, Nevada at the first available opportunity. To be able to write your name on the application form you need to as a minimum have completed three official 100 mile-running races, with anything extra counted as a bonus towards reviewing your application.
So never having done one, the first 100mile cab off the rank was Moab 100 in Utah. I raced this on the last weekend of March, which left me with about 7 weeks to the Challenge Cairns. Obviously in the build up to Moab my training focus was the run, although I was still clocking enough swim and bike miles so that I wouldn't be starting from scratch with less than 8 weeks to Challenge Cairns.
After a week of travel and accelerated recovery I started my Challenge campaign. I enlisted the help of two gun swimmers – Jason Edwards and big Ted Bunt. Jason planned us a 6-week swimming program, which would have made a national team's sessions look tame.
That was the swim covered.
Next was the bike. Pump N Pedals and Specialized had come to the party and organized me a "you beaut" Specialized Transition Pro and a 606 Zip wheel set. Who said you can't buy speed? Bike sorted.
Having been told that I virtually have only one long slow twitch muscle fibre, I figured I needed to try and make it a bit faster. So I called my neighbor – Steve Chivers, to help me out with some motor pacing behind my Piaggio 125 scooter. Steve owns an Yamaha R1, a Kawasaki Ninja 750, and a Yamaha YZ475, so I was naturally delighted that a guy who can clearly ride a motor bike was happy enough to step back a few kph and sit on the scooter for 60mins or so and drag me up and down the Captain Cook at some phenomenal speed for a bicycle at 5:30 in the morning.
With all of the above boxes ticked, the last remaining item was the small issue of racing at home in front of my home crowd. As the race drew closer, the pressure (in my mind anyway) grew.
Four weeks out from the race, my good buddy, Ed Marbach from Penticton in BC, Canada arrived for some pre-race acclimatization. Ed was my crew captain for Ultraman Canada in 2010 and came out to race the Challenge as his build up for UMC in 6 weeks time.
Long story short, race day arrived as it does – slowly. The weather put it on for us and was an absolute cracker of a day. 10mins after the pro field start, the rest of us were released. As is true IM distance racing spirit, the first 300m were chaotic. The swim start is narrow and we all seem to think the race could potentially be won in the swim. This time I stood on the front line. At 6'3" and toeing the race day start line at 92kgs, I felt that I was prepared for whatever any washing machine affect could have.
The old mantra I always use played in my mind, "go out hard and hang on". I was surprised to find that I exited the first lap of the 2 x 1.9km lap course in 25mins. Not bad. Obviously the nazi swim training sessions had worked. I dropped 2 minutes over the second half and entered T1 in 52 odd minutes. My best IM swim ever by a mile. I spent just under 3 mins stuffing around in T1 before getting onto the weapon of choice for the next 5 or so hours.
I literally felt as though I had just taken a shower when getting onto the bike. In previous races it has taken a while to get land legs – so it was a refreshing change to be able to generate some decent speed early in the piece.
I put in a big effort and managed to get into "no mans" land behind the 2nd lead bunch of pro men on the way back from Port Douglas to the first turnaround. From there on I pretty much rode solo for the remainder of the race. This made pacing difficult, as you can't chase what you can't see. So my only option was to ride as hard as I could right to the end. This seemed to pay off as I reeled in another three athletes within the last 6 km's.
Into T2 in 4:57 with a bike speedo reading of 186km......! WTF. Anyway everyone had the same issue so there was no point moaning. It might have been nice to take off 10mins to adjust for the extra 6km.
I left T2 in 1:55 and had two guns behind me. One of which was Kevin Fergussen. First 2km done in 7:54! I knew that sub-4min pace was totally unsustainable, but hung on for a few more km's to break any contact there may have been to the chasing runners.
It was long and hot into town, and I remember thinking about previous wild statements about hoping that it was hotter and more humid so that it would affect our southern counterparts more. At that point, I wished I was in Melbourne.
In truth I actually enjoyed the run into town and found it far tougher hanging laps around the Cairns Esplanade. Particularly down near the finish area and wharf section which was a bit lonely. We ran through the throng of people around the finish area and along the boardwalk and esplanade Cairns really turned on their support and I felt like there was a lot of energy out there to keep me going.
Despite suffering some stomach cramping I managed to maintain a fairly steady pace and actually came good on the third and last lap. I crossed the line for the marathon in 3:18 with a total finish time of 9:13. 8th overall, 1st 35-39, and 1st non-professional athlete and an IM distance PB of 16 minutes.
With 6 weeks until I race the Angeles Crest 100 in the US, I am just enjoying this week free of exercise.
Challenge Cairns Images