Brace yourselves, this is going to be a long one!
A great race report from Tim Ford. Check out the full report on his blog here.
The lead up to Bintan did not start out too well for me. About 10 days out from the race the start list was released and there were some really good athletes in my age-group. I mean, very fast. My coach told me to not think about the things I couldn’t control and to go and race the smartest race I could. I decided to go but i had lost all interest in the event. I
I was in a bad way mentally, I did not want to race at all. On Saturday I went out for a easy ride to make sure the bike was ok and I came across a kind of look out where the water was so blue and there were palm trees along the coast, it was beautiful. It made me realise how selfish I was being. I had been hoping for a free ride almost and I had forgotten how lucky I was to be able to even race, or travel. Something in me changed. I became excited about the race.
The Swim – 29:20
I was unusually calm at the start line. We were told that because of the low tide the start had been moved about 50 metres into the surf for a water start. I positioned myself on the far left as it was a series of left hand turns and there was a good line of buoys to follow. I made sure that my Garmin had GPS locked on and was set on triathlon mode as I didn’t want to have it miss the swim leg like it did in Melbourne earlier this year. As the gun went off I decided to try and shallow dive as many times as I could before swimming due to the depth of the water. I think I did it about 6 times and noticed I was out the front of the start group. Once I started swimming I put in a serious effort and was leading for a good 200m. Then I started to settle into my rhythm and saw a few other green caps pass me. I was ok with it. My swim has become very strong recently and I was curious to see what I could do. Very quickly we started swimming through some of the slower swimmers from the other wave starts. I actually found it quite difficult to navigate through them as there were many doing breastroke. I had someone try ad grab me at one point as well. I found sighting quite difficult as there was a kind of haze meaning it was light but it wasn’t bright. I just kept going buoy to buoy. I could have swum a better line but I was heading in the right direction. As we started to approach the beach I picked up my pace a little and once we hit the shallow water I started diving again like I had at the start. I came out of the water and was happy that my arms were a bit sore. I had swum hard.
The Bike – 2:27
I had heard horror stories about the bike leg at Bintan. I had been very worried about it and had gone away from my normal 90mm aero wheels to my 40mm wheels which I usually only use when road racing. I put on an 11-28 cassette to make climbing easier. What I noticed quite quickly though was that these hills were not going to be horrific like I had expected. I was expecting climbs like I had to endure at Challenge Phuket. Instead this was the definition of a rolling bike course.
It was starting to get hot after 90 minutes on the bike and I was trying to focus on staying hydrated. After about 60kms a rider on a road bike overtook me. I looked at his number and he was in my AG. I noticed that he was faster than me on the climbs but not on the flats or downhills so we started our game of cat and mouse. He would pass me going up a hill and I would pass him going down again. This must have happened 10 times and was becoming a little frustrating. Before turning on the major road that would take you towards transition there was a long climb and he put maybe 20 metres into me. So when we got to the top I hammered the pace to catch back up to him. Coming down the other side of the hill there was a 90 degree right turn. Nice and wide, plenty of room to go around quick. I slowed down a bit and took the turn. Something went wrong.
I am not sure exactly what happened but my back wheel locked. I managed to get one foot unclipped and then there was pain and a hard bang on my head. I had gone down HARD abut 5km from the finish line. Moments before I was thinking I might of been on track to go under 4:30 I was looking at a 2:20ish bike split. Next thing I know I am on the ground. It is amazing how adrenalin kicks in. I was up right away and couldn’t feel too much pain. I knew I had done some damage because there was a lot of stinging and there was a big scratch on my handle bars. But the bike seemed ok. I was trying to get the chain back on but the police there (marshalling the course) were panicking, trying to take me and my bike off the course. I don’t know what I was saying to them but lots of F’s were used. I eventually managed to get my chain on but then the wheel wouldn’t turn. At this point I thought the race was over because I had done something serious to my bike. But luckily I am quite logical and after I took a moment to impose myself I noticed the tyre had come off my rim I race tubular tyres where there is no inner tube, the tyre and tube are one and they are glued to the rim. Well my tyre was wedged between the rim and the bike frame and was still fully inflated. I knew what had happened now. The try had rolled off the rim. I assume it was because it was so hot that the glue had melted. When I checked the wheel yesterday the glue had stuck again. So I deflated the wheel until I was able to snap it back on the tyre then I jumped back on the bike and carefully rode the 5km back to transition.
Run – 1:42
I stared out feeling awful like normal off the bike but expected it to go away. I also noticed that it was incredibly hot. The course was 3 laps of the lake. My pace was ok for the first couple of kms but it was becoming harder and harder. I was struggling to run the way I wanted to and the heat was killing me. The mental games started then too. “Mate you crashed, if you pull out you have an excuse” I just kept telling myself that no doubt the others might be struggling in the heat too and 21kms is a long way. The first 7km was one of the hardest runs I have done in a triathlon. I just kept hoping it would get better. It was impossible to cool down as well. The sponges would warm up so quickly. On my second lap it became a matter of survival. I stared to walk the aid stations and drink anything cold. I thought if I could just stay in 4th position I might get a slot at the role down. I also knew that there were a lot of people tracking me online and the thought of them watching my splits kept me going. At the end of the first and second lap I saw Dez and she said “You are in 3rd place! Keep going” I thought she was mistaken as I was sure I was in 4th. But she was right. Somewhere along the way I had passed the leader who had obviously been struggling with the heat. By the last lap I was running over 5 min kms but I just kept telling myself, “5km is nothing, 3km is a cool down” I was starting to feel sick with about 3km to go and stopped drinking and eating at the aid stations. I threw out the sponges with 1km to go so I would look good for the cameras and I came into the finish area. I didn’t realise but they were letting all the athletes cross with the tape across the line but I got bloody out sprinted by another guy. I didn’t care. I was happy to cross the line. I heard the announced say I was provisionally 3rd in my age group. What was going on?
Total Time – 4:42
When I crossed the line I must have looked in pretty bad shape. There was blood all over me and they came rushing up to me. All I asked was “which way to the medical tent?” They insisted on walking me over there. The guys in the medical tent were sensations. They cleaned all of my wounds and dressed them. I realised the extent of the damage because I came out of there looking like a mummy. As I made my way to the recovery area I saw the results were being pinned up and I had 3rd place. I couldn’t believe it. I found Dez and she was ecstatic. I was speechless. Another friend of mine from Team MaccaX Timo found me a while later and knowing I wanted the WC slot told me the guy who own my age group wasn’t taking his. We had to wait around for about 5 hours after the race but it didn’t bother me. I got changed into my Thanyapura shirt which always gets me lots of looks and questions. Going up on stage to receive my third place award was surreal and was only outdone when my name was called to accept the World Championship slot. I could not believe it. I had qualified. It still hasn’t sunk in yet.
It has now been a couple of days since the race and my body is pretty sliced up. So many people are saying that they can’t believe I crashed and still managed to finish let along get on the podium. When I went down there was only the briefest moment where I thought I wouldn’t finish and I forced myself not to use it as an excuse on the run. The support, congratulations and comments I have received from people literally brought tears to my eyes on Sunday night. I have written in other blogs how I have failed often. This time I succeeded. I set myself a goal and worked hard. It is funny but even though I had so much success over the weekend I am still disappointed that I didn’t race to my potential. Who knows what would have happened if I didn’t crash. Would I have gone under 4:30? Would I have won the age group? At the end of the day I will never know. Instead I think back to the advice my coach, Ben gave me “Only worry about the things you can control”. So that is what I am going to do.