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By Coach Em Quinn
For many years I had raced sprint and Olympic distances and had done quite well over both and been fortunate enough to have travelled the world doing what I love. In 2013 I decided to run a couple of half marathons, it seemed to be the natural progression and I was so sick of people asking me “so when are you going to do a real triathlon…” I assumed they meant an Ironman. After doing quite well in some half marathons I took the plunge and in 2014 I entered Busselton 70.3 and Challenge Gold Coast, both of which were covering the half ironman distance. So for the summer months prior to that scary date May 1st 2014 I swam and rode and ran A LOT. In fact, that was all I did, literally joined the army of people devoted to this sport who sleep, train, work, train, eat repeat.
I found the training quite enjoyable and in all honestly other than an extra hour on the run and ride on the weekends it wasn’t much different to what I had been doing. Luckily for me, my other half was doing the same race so I had a constant training companion and sometimes training rival.
Luckily for me, my nature is a little OCD and I was very consistent in my training and preparation, an element which I think is vital if one does decide to challenge themselves with the longer distance racing.
When race day came around I did what every triathlete did and convinced myself I hadn’t done enough training, should have changed this or done more of that. Reality was I was fit as a fiddle and this day was about having no expectations, it was about discovering the longer distance and enjoying what the hype that Busselton provided. So, what I learnt in my first 70.3.
Nutrition matters: It was my first real experience of proper “bonking” I had an amazing swim, bike and 11km run, however that last 10km well I’d prefer not talk about it. I learnt the hard way that unlike sprint and Olympic distance racing, nutrition cannot be neglected. A gel here and there and a sip here and there was just not going to cut it.
Pacing: This too was something that hurt me on my first 70.3, I was so use to riding 40km as hard as I could and then running with whatever was left, well over 90km and 21km that just doesn’t work. You need to be conservative whilst going hard, and I think I am still trying to find that place to this day
The importance of spectators and the crowd: I was overwhelmed with the impact the crowd had on race day and the enormous “lift” complete strangers can give you. This was an atmosphere I hadn’t experienced, even at world championships. This was people for kilometres cheering, clapping, playing music, dancing, there was evening a dog doing acrobatic tricks It is amazing what people can and will do for someone they have never met nor will ever meet again.
So did I love my step up? Yes, absolutely I guess that is why I went back for more in August and I did practice everything I had learnt in May and I managed a win at the Inaugural Challenge Gold Coast.
This year I will return to the 70.3 distance and I have no doubt I will learn more about the sport, the distance and myself. I admire those athletes who do this sport so much, no matter the distance from enticer to ironman we all carry baggage that others know nothing about and to just complete a race of any distance is such an enormous achievement. Until next time, stay safe, keep smiling and train hard!