There are some races that you simply want to win. I was having a little ponder as to why Port Mac Half Ironman is so important to me. Like nearly every race in Australia, the prize money is embarrassingly small but there was a much deeper motivation driving me that had me being unusually focused in my preperation to this event. After training with Tim Berkel, Matty White and other experienced professionals in Boulder I saw what sacrifices they would make to ensure that they got to a peak for big events. So I set about sticking to the plan my coach Grant Giles and I had established for me. I raced Maitland tri unrested taking a
fair knock to the ego as Mitch smoked me in his ever largening pipe of success, maximised my recovery between sessions, turned down casual work and turned down catch up dinner’ invitations from my non-triathlon friends to minimise the risk of an innocent feed turning into a vicious all-nighter. Small steps for man, a giant leap for Tim Reed.
The drive that had me itching to win this event is my personal history with Port Macquarie, the main competitors of this race and the event itself. I was dabbling with the occasional triathlon to keep fit through university and it wasn’t until my great friend Ollie Whistler started the sport, was training very seriously and improving on a weekly basis that I got really motivated to give triathlon a lot more attention. Funnily enough, it was only two years ago that Mitch, Ollie and myself battled it out for the 18-24 age group category at Port Macquarie Half Ironman 2008.
People often ask why I didn’t start racing in the professional category earlier and to me I wasn’t killing people in my age group so I didn’t really see it as the logical next step. Ollie Whistler, Mitch Robins, Adam Holborrow and I were always really close. Looking back, when I compare what the 18-24 age group is doing now (no offence guys. Actually take offence- you’re soft) we were a good 30-40 minutes ahead and all four of us were rarely out of the top ten overall in 70.3 and Half Ironmans. Having that competition in my age group played a huge role in my striving to improve and I am so grateful that I was able to train and race with a group of friends who really pushed each other. Consequently, I’m proud to say we have all progressed to the next level of racing professionally and continue to force each other to improve.
Port Macquarie continued its recent form of unpredictable race starts with the horn going while I was still about 20 metres behind the line of front swimmers. No â€˜one minute to go’, no â€˜get in a straight line’, nothing. Frankly, I was pissed off. If you miss the front bunch of guys in an Australian Half Ironman swim you are going to have a very tough time getting back the time on the bike as the 7-metre bike to bike gap still allows for significant energy saving through legal drafting. Additionally, Mitch and I have both been putting a lot of time into our swimming hammering each other with 100m sprints and I was hoping to get up the front with him and really try and push each other in the hope of getting out of the water with some space so that we could attack on the bike. Thankfully my adrenaline allowed me to make up some time and swim over some people to have a very speedy transition and second out onto the bike course.
I straddled Kestrel Kev and set about making back the small gap between myself and Mitch. Tim Berkel caming flying through and set about revving myself and Mitch up to legally work together to gap the rest of the field. So we pushed hard. I was blown away with the surges Berkel was putting in on the bike. For someone who can nearly always run one of the quicker times he was taking no chances in letting the second group get near us and once again increased my respect for him. Ollie Whistler was also in tow pushing his usual cadence of 25 rpm with his elephantitis suffering quadriceps but his usual bike dominance wasn’t showing through so I had a feeling that it was not going to be one of his better days. I took a little bit to get going but the longer the ride went the stronger I felt which is a strong contrast to how I felt in races in the States so I was very happy that more consistent bike milage was paying off despite the very windy conditions and stinging hills heading in and out of town.
As I predicted Mitch attacked with a few kilometres to go to give him some extra time into transition. I opted for keeping him within sight but not going all out to try and close the gap as I didn’t like the idea of getting into transition with lactate spilling out my eyeballs. I also knew that Berkel and Mitch had to put socks on while my Zoot shoes allow a faster transition through a sockless run.
About 40 seconds down on Mitch, Berkel and I exited transition side by side. Memories of Bussleton Half Ironman earlier this year where we ran side by side for 21kms were haunting me as that sort of racing can be quite mentally draining so I decided to give him a little wack with the hurt stick to see if he would come with me. The gastro he had suffered through the week and the pace he had pushed on the bike meant that his run was not it’s usual self and he lost ground quickly. I never think I’ve got Berkel out of the way however as in many races I’ve put minutes into him in the first 10kms only for Berkel to float by me later on leaving me covered in his dust. I also knew that the harmless trash talk I’de put out about him being undertrained was a big driving force in him wanting to teach me a lesson
I started to claw Mitch back and got the gap back to about 40 metres at best. I could tell he wasn’t going as smoothly as usual and was probably not feeling the best after that bike pace however I was unsure whether to close the gap completely as I didn’t want to spend too much of my energy too early and knew that if I pulled up alongside him he would see that I was hurting too and could push the pace up another notch. It can be very unnerving to have someone behind you where you can’t see how they are feeling or judge from their running form their level of fatigue so I decided it was to my advantage that I stayed where I was. I figured I could save my energy till I saw him slowing and then make a strong pass rather that would break him mentally rather than encouraging him by slowly pulling up alongside him breathing like I was giving birth .
All of these tactics went out the window at about the 10km mark as I got a quad cramp and needed to slow to absorb some of my High 5 nutrition. My plan switched to damage control as I took my mind to a neutral place and focused on doing what I could to do to get through the run. Mitch continued to extend his lead although I thought he was much further ahead then the finish times ended up. The Port Mac residents were so supportive that when Mitch was 30 seconds ahead they were letting me know he was 30 seconds ahead and when he was a minute ahead they were still yelling that he was 30 seconds ahead to try and encourage me so I really wasn’t sure where I was but appreciated their generous support all the same.
Mitch went on to delight his home crowd finishing in 3:59:09 and I was hugely satisfied to come in second in 4:00:29. Berkel then proceeded to show his class rounding out the podium a few minutes later despite a tough day for him. To finish on the podium with two great friends was extremely cool and I was so happy for Mitch. I had spent Friday night arguing with his Mum that she needs to get Mitch doing online university and racing overseas where he could make a really good living. Hopefully now she is starting to see my point!
To my coach Grant Giles, you are the man. I feel that I have an unfair advantage against those that have not utilised your genius.
To the small number of personal training clients, friends etc that I coached up to this event it was amazing to see you guys progressed and achieved your goals so well done and thank you for reminding me how cool this sport is and that anything is possible.