After we dropped my 16yo son Jack at school on Friday morning we set out for the 355km journey to Goodndiwindi for the Hell of the West Triathlon which has been running since 1989.
I have made this journey 6 times before, raced 5 times before with a year off racing albeit spectating due to a rather silly toe injury sustained in the week before which required stitches in the webbing of my toes and ruled me out of that race 3 days before hand. I was shattered as at HOTW you get awards for 5, 10, 15 etc races in a row unbroken and I would have been at 7 in a row with this race and have got my 5 year award 2 years ago but as usual life throws random things at you sometime and you just have to deal with it and get on with it.
We usually stay over for 3 nights from Friday to Monday as I love this town and I love this race and its great to see the town before everybody arrives. Gundy is a very welcoming town and its great to see the community spirit that goes into the race which is such a part of this town after it has been running in one form or another for the last 30 years through good and bad, Hell and High Water lol
We arrived around 1.30pm after stopping in Toowoomba and Millmerran along the way for food and coffee. First thing after unloading the car was to take a dip in the pool and get the aircon blasting as it was around 38 degrees.I had a short and sharp bike session on the Saturday morning to keep the legs dialled in just out of town and then had an easy day waiting for the afternoon to register. My wife, Helene and I had put my tent up just after lunch and then went back to our room for an afternoon nap. When we went outside at 4pm to go and register we realised that there was a dust wind storm coming through which quickly turned into a rain storm. We rushed down to race HQ to rescue my tent and found that some nice people had taken the canopy off and put it under cover at the nearby ammenities block. Thats what I love about this place and the triathlon community in general is that everybody is so nice and supportive and ready to help each other out.
Fast forward to race morning and its always an early start at HOTW to beat the heat of later in the day. Im excited about this race as Im hoping for a PB. Ive been working with a coach, Dan McTainsh, who I met 5 years ago during an Ironman camp up the Sunny Coast and kept in contact since. I am now also an assistant coach with his Junior Squads. Dan has been doing a fantastic job of preparing me ultimately for Ironman Australia in May but these races along the way are good markers to see where I am at. Im feeling at my fittest and have just had a big run training block so looking forward to a much better running performance than previously. Running has always been my nemesis but I was looking to change that with this race. I’ve also recently had a bike fit which led to totally new handlebar setup with risers which puts me in a significantly higher position. My position before was just too aggressive and I would always come off the bike with hips and back that didn’t want to play the game. Today was going to be different.
My swim wave start was at 5.20 however as they had moved the race back a week this year and not adjusted start times we had to wait another 10 minutes for it to get light enough to start. Soon enough we were on our way in nice and warm 29 degree water and I settled into a groove. I felt pretty good and came out of the water with a solid 43.42 swim split.
Its quite a long run up the boat ramp and lower Marshall St to T1 but this was uneventful and I was soon on my way on the bike. Its a pretty simple bike course, go out of T1, turn left, ride 40km, U Turn, ride another 40km back, into T1 and onto the run. I often go too hard on the bike and coupled with my previous fit issues leaves me with no legs for the run. i was determined to make it different this time and rode to heart rate rather than looking at my speed. I ended up having my most consistent ride with my outbound and inbound splits being the closest they had ever been largely as I wasn’t as fatigued coming back in (albeit to a small headwind) due to being both more measured in my effort and the better position on the bike. I was off the bike in 2.26.49, my second best bike split by less than 2 mins but followed this time by a significantly faster run.
Onto the run and I felt a lot better than I usually do, so much so that my first 3 km splits were under 6min/km. It wasn’t quite as hot as forecast, so I managed to run the whole way with short walks at the aid stations to get the water in and ended with a 6.15min/km average and a 2.05.46 which is my fastest run at HOTW. My overall time was 5.16.18 which was a PB by about 5 minutes. I think there is more improvement to be had in my run times to come as I progress towards IM Australia.
There wasn’t much time to hang around and celebrate as we had to check out by 12 and be on the road home as we had appointments in Brisbane early Monday morning. I love this race and was so happy to finally set another PB which previously was in my first race there in 2013 (on a modified course due to floods so 2013 was probably easier). I'll definitely be back next year for my 7th race at HOTW and 5th in a row. See you there :)
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