I have now been lucky enough to race many races in Australia and around the world and I’m going to officially go on record and say that Busselton 70.3 (and Busselton Half Ironman last year) is the most professionally run and competitor focused triathlon currently in Australia. It is hugely refreshing from a professional athlete’s perspective that Triathlon Western Australia and the race directors recognise the value that can be gained from ensuring a strong professional field not only for the race but as a general presence in the days leading into the race. With most pro’s racing getting a lot of assistance to be there to race in return Triathlon WA has the vision to build the sport through getting us visiting schools, ‘chat to the pro’s’ evenings, helping with the kid’s triathlon and more. It is little wonder triathlon is booming in the West.
Race morning produced a light breeze and a temperature that would have been fresh for normal people but downright cold for most triathletes or ‘pencils’ as my fiance’s father calls us. It warmed up to a pleasant temperature on the run and the light breeze grew to more of a challenging counter cycling force the later your wave start or slower your swim.
After copping too many elbows to my already ugly head last week I decided to start very wide to avoid swimming with the pack as I had confidence in my swim and my brand spanking Zoot prophet wetsuit that I wouldn’t need to draft too much to get through swim to be where I needed to be. Bryan Rhodes, Dave Dellow and Guy Crawford made the expected break soon after the first turning bouey. Guy put the surge on Rhodsey pipping him for the swim prime with Dellow getting out on their feet.
I exited with a huge chase group hot on my heels meaning that the bike pack was going to be big and tactical. With so many riders and such a flat fast course even at a 12 metre drafting distance there is a small advantage by riding with the group. Guy Crawford was putting it on the line a couple of minutes up the road and held that gap to T2. I tried to keep my legs fresh waiting for what I thought would be imminent attacks from Ollie Whistler, Rhodsey, Josh Rix and possibly Matty White however no such attacks materialised until 5kms to go. I think Ollie Whistlers recent patch of illness and a lot of guys backing up after a really tough ride last week at Port Macquarie 70.3 had left everyone a little bit conservative. 5kms to go and Rix and Jamie White got away. Most of the field didn’t see them slip aways as the course was getting pretty crowded with 1 st lap competitors so only Ollie and I really noticed. I wasn’t fussed opting not to chase as I was too busy looking down admiring how sexy my Kestrel 4000SL was looking beneath me J and I felt that I could run Josh and Jamie down. Ollie considered chasing but after consuming 8 bottles of fluid was too concerned with getting through his 12th ‘on the bike excess fluid removal’ procedure.
Berkel tactically moved to the front towards the end of the ride and I got caught a little off guard as we hit transition and he gained a small gap of 15 seconds from the outset of the run. I was in the chase group with Matty White, Leon Griffin and Dave Dellow. Matty’s recent record speaks for itself and Leon is a former duathlon world champion who when uninjured and feeling good has ‘Crowie’ run speed. Both had taken it easy last week so with Dave Dellow a gun over both ITU racing and non drafting racing I was pretty nervous and knew the run ahead was going to hurt. Aerobically I felt fantastic but I knew with my run session distance peaking at 12kms in training and the fatigue from last week that my muscles weren’t going to have the strength endurance so I had to make hay while the sun was shining. I started winding the screws before the inevitable fatigue set in.
Matty and Leon dropped off so that by 8kms it was just myself and Dellow holding the 15-20 second gap to Berkel with Jamie, Josh and Guy having been caught early on. Dellow was breathing like a four pack a day smoker so I was thinking in the next km or too he would drop off. Instead, he surged and dropped me! That guy is seriously tough. Not long after that he pulled up short holding his calf area. I’m not sure whether it was cramping or whether an Achilles injury was plaguing him. Commiserations are due because he was looking strong and I was starting to fade.
At 14kms I had kept the gap to Berkel under a minute but I was done. My quads felt like they were filled with glass and my calf muscles were starting to cramp. I had negotiated with Grant Giles that we would get me fit for the States through a lot of racing and not much run training to ensure I fully recovered from injury but still got to do what I love. I still think it was the right way to go but now I was paying for not doing those longer runs. Matty White was just getting started and cruised past me to get 2nd. Matt has been knocking out some really big 120km run weeks which should hold him in really good stead for the upcoming Challenge Cairns. Berkel went onto win recording another blistering half marathon time (1.13!) after only 6 days of rest from his last race. His running technique and biomechanics is nothing short of majestic, I just wish I could have been closer to him to watch him glide around the course for longer. I was happy to hang onto 3rd, Josh Rix 4th, Jamie Whyte 5th and Guy Crawford 6th.
Honourable mention to Dr Mitch Anderson who backed up after racing Ironman Australia last week to finish a freakish 7th overall with a sub 4hr time. I’m sure after 18 months of injury that completing a half ironman a week after an Ironman was against the Doctors orders, unless you are your own Doctor and not worried about the litigation ramifications against yourself.