Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Challenge Cairns Half Iron distance

Challenge Cairns Race Report
Bevan: 3rd in AG - 8th overall (ex pros)
Vanessa 1st in AG - by a lazy 8 summfink minutes biatches -  6th overall (ex pros). Ness' report at the bottom.....

Like many Aussie tri-fans we had been hoping that 'Challenge' would put on a race in Australia for a while and once the announcement went out about Challenge Cairns we definitely wanted to be a part of it. Challenge is a triathlon race brand started by the fellow (Herbert Walschofer) who for many years was the race organiser of Ironman Germany, held in a triathlon-mad town near Nuremberg called Roth. After he had a falling out with the US based Ironman guys (one of them rumoured to be over wave swim starts - he wanted them, Ironman didn't - I'm with the Yankees on this one) but Herbert decided to go it alone and start his own race in Roth and Ironman Germany moved to Frankfurt. A newspaper poll was held in the Roth Tattler to decide on the new name and after almost everyone in the town voted; 'Challenge' was the winner. And hence Challenge Roth was born.

Challenge Vs.

Ironman (God is on their side)

Herbert passed away not long after but his son Felix has taken over with gusto and since then Challenge Roth has only gotten bigger and better (they now have more spectators on the side of the road in Roth than any single day of the tour De France - 150,000+) and the Challenge brand has grown to become a major rival for Ironman with 13 different races around the world.  What sets Challenge apart from Ironman is that it is owned still by one guy (Felix) and he's not obsessed with profit like the US private equity owned Ironman, hence the name Challenge 'Family'. Both brands use local companies to license out and organise some of their races, but Ironman are so keen to expand their brand they let anyone who will pay use their brand, which has led to many pretty terrible races bearing the M-dot logo  (IM Japan 70.3, IMUK and Florida 70.3 amongst a few others), and their brand has been cheapened somewhat recently, with most triathletes (including me) acting like the abused spouse who keeps going back for more. They do produce some awesome races (IMWA) and they have the big carrot of Kona that keeps them on top. Felix reckons he gets offers every week from people wanting use his Challenge brand but the only ones that get the go-ahead are well-vetted, and from companies that understand triathlon and are not obsessed with profit. So when you enter a Challenge race you know they are going to put on a good show.

Challenge CEO Felix greets everyone at the finish

Challenge Copenhagen was our first Challenge race last year and we loved it. Like Cairns it was an inaugural race that tends to make the occasion that bit more unique. So despite it being so close to IM China (I thought it was two weeks after when I registered, but it was actually one) we registered for the half IM (1.9/90/21.1). Then China was cancelled (another awesome Ironman effort on choosing race organisers- you will never see a Challenge race cancelled two weeks before the start date!), so we came into the race a bit fresher than we had planned. It was cool they had a half and full together so we could still soak up the experience without smashing ourselves too much, before some bigger goals ahead in Europe (Challenge Roth and Ironman Regensburg).

I've always had a soft spot for Cairns and far north Queensland since coming on a family holiday in my early teens. Vanessa and I had our honeymoon in the area and it's so easy and cheap to get to from Japan (Jetsar had a sale of $200 return tickets from Tokyo recently!). An overnight flight where you can bag a row of 4 seats to sleep well while not missing a day.  Having spent several holidays in the Asian tropics (Thailand, Bali etc) I've gone full circle and would prefer to have a tropical holiday in Cairns over developing countries in Asia for sure. Sure you might have to pay more for a massage, but you don't get hassled every time you walk out the door, don't get sick, the time zones are easier as you have to take a full day's travel to get to Asia, the roads are safer (despite the Aussie drivers still hating on cyclists), you're much less likely to end up in Kerobokan chillin' with Schappelle and Renae, the locals share our mind-set and you've got Australian TV!  Cairns had undergone a real refurbishment since we had been here last and the esplanade was really beautiful with a stylish walkway, free swimming lagoon, art work etc, a really nice area - we could live here easily we were thinking. We were lucky to be staying in Pepper's Palm Cove in a friend's lovely pad and coincidentally so was our mate from Uni Peter Caine, who was doing his first IM as a 40th birthday celebration - he smashed it in 11 hours. Great stuff Pete!

Peppers Palm Cove- highly recommended!

As soon as we arrived in Cairns airport it was obvious the town was right behind the event. The customs and quarantine guys were very keen to talk about the race (the bike bags were a give-away) and after the decrease in tourism after Cyclone Yasi and the floods; the timing of the race was perfect - just at the end of the stinger season and just before their busy ‘winter’ season - they saw the event as their launch back into normal business. As we have similar worries with irrational concerns causing people to leave and stay away from Japan, we were all the more happy to be part of this event. The organisers had scheduled a week of event, including the reef swim at Green Island that we did, which was a fun event and the newspaper was full of positive stories.

The locals were pumped up

The swim and transition area took place in the quaint, albeit curiously named ‘Yorkey’s Knob’ that was about 15kms north of central Cairns. We just missed out on the "Festival of the Knob" (really) that was happening a week after the triathlon. We were to swim there, ride 45kms up towards Port Douglas and back to ‘The Knob’, to put our running shoes on and head out onto a 21.2km point to point run straight into Cairns.

Crowning the King and Queen of The Knob (Duke and Duchess of Yorkeys?)

 Swim 1.9km 27.12
The swim was in a wave start format (Signature Challenge format and NOT my favoured style) with the full iron distance pros going at 6.40am, followed by all the Iron distance AGers, teams and relays , then  the Half Iron distance waves, each age group was to go a couple of minutes after the next of which the male 35-39 was one of the last at 7.43am, so I knew I would be swimming through a bunch of slower swimmers from the half AND full for the whole swim. Awesome.

Yorkey's Knob - suspiciously blue water.

The gun went and I sat behind a fast Irish guy (I had a quick chat with him before the gun) - for the first 200m but eventually had to let him go  -Too quick for me this Paddy - But I'll see you lader on de bike; allright yeah? As I was swimming I was weaving through the slower swimmers and plotting a wider than normal course and was thinking to myself - I should stop moaning about these wave starts and learn to deal with them better, Murakami has the same as will Roth so just deal with it better you pussy, I was telling myself. So I was swimming through slower swimmers and taking a wider course sighting more often (it’s not their fault it’s mine….they’re doing their best etc etc..) just as I was thinking all this I came to a turning buoy and ducked inside a ‘purple cap’  (over 40) who timed a perfect breast stroke kick that struck me in the face right at the strongest point of the kick-phase -POW – right in the kisser – it was the worst kick I’d had in a swim and my mood soon changed 'bloody slow-arse swimmers, breast stroking should be banned blah blah blah' so much for the more accepting version of me that was there a minute ago - when under pressure refer to familiar behaviour I say.

The ‘M’ shaped course worked pretty well and I used the 'tempo trainer'- (essentially a metronome) to keep the stroke rate high and I came out 5th in a pretty decent time, and was feeling very fresh heading onto the bike…. We had been swimming a lot this season and  even if swimming high k’s doesn’t make you faster (which it almost certainly will) it will put you on the bike fresh as a daisy and ready to ride your best. 

Bike 90kms 2.18
Vanessa’s brother Mark is making a really classy video of the event (keep an eye of for it soon – it will be pretty special) and he wanted to mount a “Go Pro” camera on my bike but after a few tries to find the best spot it was decided the ideal place was where my bike computer(Garmin 305) normally goes, in between the aero bars so I decided to do this race totally naked – without any info on speed, cadence, time distance etc. Just focus on riding the steed as hard as I could throughout was all I needed to worry about. I had the bike-fit adjusted to the Tokyo Physio Triathlon Coaching specifications -
i) Slide the saddle bracket as far as possible forwards on the seat post
ii) Slide the saddle as far as possible forward in the saddle bracket
iii) Use short cranks (165) and have correctly fitting bike (thanks Ben Distel at T1 bicycles) so knees don't hit elbows
iv) Hide from the wind and pedal hard

Link to Go Pro Bike Video here - may or may not contain some actions that may or may not be indegressions of some triathlon rules concerning where a bicycle can be ridden; please do not show to Triathlon Australia officials. Happy to sent a tweet of my Weiner on request in exchange for non-action

Due to aforementioned wave format there were a lot of people on the course when I got on the bike, so the first 40kms was mostly me shouting out “on your right” and going through a few hundred of the early starting waves in the half ironman and middle and back of pack full ironman guys. It made me feel like a stud; but I had to remember these guys were not in my race and to stay focused on riding hard. I eventually shot passed the Paddy and another guy I recognised from the swim so knew I was now leading the AG. I thought if I could get a 5 min lead off the bike and run a low 1.30 I should bag the win as I doubted someone would run under 1.25 in the heat. It was easy to back off when flying by so many people and I did a bit too often (yes that's right Bike-Slower Tri Nazis - I didn't ride hard enough!). I had hoped to go under 2.15 (avg 40kph) hopefully double that time on the faster Roth course.
View from the highest point of the ride lookout 15kms before Port Douglas

The ride was really stunning with some amazing views at several difference points. There were a few decent hills and the road was all chip seal and bumpy (making my Go Pro footage tough to use for a professional operation - sorry Mark..) but with a bit of wind it was my kind of ride and I was feeling about as strong as I ever had on the bike - liking the 'naked' ride and views - I didn't want it to end. Us Half distance guys turned around just before Port Douglas and after that turnaround we left the full distance guys and was pretty much on my own for the rest of the ride. I took a slightly wrong turn coming into the transition that caused me to have to do a U turn and cost me about a minute – didn't learn my lesson after doing the same thing in Busso last year - learning the course is the athlete’s responsibility blah blah, but throw me a freakin' bone here policewomen and let me know you were pointing at the car behind me with your exaggerated pointing to the left when I point to my chest and make a shrug 3 x when riding straight towards you. I did a pretty quick U turn after a hundred metres so it probably cost me a minute - but in the end possibly 2nd place.

Run 21.2km - 1.38
The run was pretty much a straight run from The Knob to Cairns downtown along the Cook Highway. The first 15 kilometres were pretty lonely and hot until you hit the outskirts of Cains. The head wind never really eventuated, but it was a tough run mentally right from the start.
Words are easy to write

I tried to keep the pace close to 4.10min k’s for as long as I could, but that ended up being about 5kms then it dropped towards 4.30’s then 4.40’s and close to 5 for a few ks. I got passed by a couple of younger guys who started in front of me and then by a guy in my age group and with about 5k’s to go another guy in my AG, so after coming off the bike first, I dropped down to third before the finish. Once we made it into downtown Cairns they made us run an extra km up and down the pier and I saw another guy about one minute behind me with about 1km to go. I thought if I do a 4.30kms I should be right unless he does well under sub 4 min kms which would have been impressive on his behalf. Luckily I did and he didn't so it was my first podium in a big(ish) race, so I was pretty stoked, but still not really my perfect race. I felt a bit of a disappointment thinking it was a good chance for a double Colless AG win and felt I let the team down a bit with a typical slightly sub-par run. One of these days I'm going to run true to my training form in a race and that will be a sweet day.

Temps up to 33 now.....ouch

Getting on the podium was great and I was stoked for Vanessa – going under 5 hours and winning her competitive AG (40 starters) easily was pretty awesome for her after her tough year last year. So a great day all round. We stayed until midnight and watched the late finishers come in, which is great to see the raw emotions involved - massive respect to anyone who finishes an Ironman - that sh!t ain't easy. 
Never get sick of this moment

The event was a big success and despite a few small (understandable) grumblings about the road closures - the Captain Cook Hwy is a major road to close for a few homos in wanky helmets -  the local community REALLY embraced the event and it was lead story in the evening TV news as well as in print media before and after the event. With Macca (world champion and biggest current name in triathlon Chris McCormack) signing up to race the next three years, it looks like the event will only go from strength to strength. It should become a real classic and would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to race.
Podium time
Anyway, not much time to rest as we’ve got to get back into training for upcoming races. We’re really looking forward to catching up with family in Sydney and finally meeting our excellent coach Woody face to face, and spending a few weeks training with him in Austria, before Roth and Regensburg.

Post-race front page

Ness' report

The swim
Wore the cadence gadget - I think it helped a lot, I set it at a reasonable pace (was really unsure at what pace to set it at as I was now swimming with people in a wetsuit in the ocean)  It was helpful to keep me focused on my stroke, otherwise I think I tend to slow and do a panic ineffective stroke when I am surrounded by people or it is choppy.
The swim was a little rough at times and a little hard to navigate.  Though I think I pushed myself a little more than other swims I have done (I feel i could prob have even pushed harder)

I made a pretty grand exit up the red carpet out of the swim - I tripped as I was running and did a spectacular belly flop flat onto my stomach, it shocked all spectators (and me)  it certainly woke me up a little to start the ride!

Not so good I think.  Not sure why.  The first 40min I was cold, I definitely felt this affected this part of the ride.  I could not get aero, I was not pushing effectively, due to the cold my bike handling was also pretty clumsy.  I was better after warming, though i did not get to push myself enough to ride with a quad burn.  Not sure what it was, definitely did not bonk.  The course was full of undulating hills with stretches of flat.  It was windy at times and the road was rough.  My speedometer was not working.

Felt good as soon as I got off the bike, legs did not feel heavy.  Though what I did feel was a slight calf strain very early into the run, which i then held back a little speed in thye run in fear of making it bigger.  I don't usually have problems in the calf.  I believe it was from my new bike shoes that I had not worn before (the old ones fell apart just before th race), the bike shop put orthotic in this side, I think the orthotic put too much stress in this area.  I will take the orthotic out)

ANyway, besides the slight calf strain, the run felt good, had good energy power most of the way, it was hot, but liking that.  I did feel a slight energy drop half way, so I had a gel/coke/water and salt next aid station - energy & power was back on track.


  1. Bev + Vanessa...awesome job, really great to read such an inspiring report....makes me miss the time i had off even more....going back to working 13 hour days...I know it will be a long time before I can get myself back into the type of racing shape I was in last year. I will be rooting for you both this year, as I know Kona is top of the priority list. Keep up the hard work, I will be following your progress...this is your year...I know it!

  2. Excellent blog you’ve got here. It’s difficult to find high-quality writing like yours nowadays. I really appreciate individuals like you! Take care!! You can visit my site.
    Starting out in triathlons


  3. Cairns mates ratesMates rates property maintenance, provide garden maintenance cairns, lawn mowing cairns, pressure washing cairns, office cleaners cairns and lawn mowing service cairns