Friday, November 11, 2011

Taiwan 70.3

The Taiwan 70.3 was in its second year and we had heard nothing but good reports on the event. It’s a convenient event from Tokyo as direct flights to Ghoashung (or whatever it’s called) are pretty cheap, you only need to spend three nights there and race entry and accom. are reasonable too. After having a ‘less than stellar’ (or 'sub-optimal' in Chrissie-speak) race experience in the Japan 70.3 all the foreigners in Tokyo canned the Japan race and entered Taiwan. There was also a big crew of ex-pats from Hong Kong and Taiwan entered, many who switched their entries from the cancelled China Race to this race. It was held in Kenting down on the southern tip of Taiwan. I knew nothing about Kenting, but it sounded more like some grey holiday town in southern England that Londoners would go to so they could complain about the weather (and everything else), rather than a tropical beach resort with beach-side bars playing party music with clear sea and fine white sand. 

Kenting on Blackpool

Kenting in Taiwan

We were queuing to check in at Narita Airport and heard some whispers of Y40,000 excess baggage fees so pivoted and went into action stations with our well established and patented 'avoid excess baggage fees in 6 annoying steps' plan that has seen us not pay for the past 12 months - put our pedals, pumps bike shoes in our ‘carry-on’ bag to bring it to about 20kgs. Lock up carry-on bag in the locker. Make sure combined weight of bike bags are 47-48kgs (max 46) go to counter with tiny carry on bag only in view. Check in and return to locker to struggle with carry-on bag. Deal with sneers and up-turned noses from security staff, immigration officials and fellow passengers while making way to gate. Try to avoid the eye of the lady who checked you in who is now putting your ticket in the slot at the gate to get on the plane. Put the bags anywhere in the overhead lockers that they will fit. Which they may or may not. Yes we are ‘those’ passengers.
Excuse me m'am can I move your duty free from this overhead compartment?
We had our Melbourne Cup do and Tokyo Physio staff Xmas party in the preceding nights so we were a bit tired and arrived at about 11pm and slept the whole 2 hours on the bus to Kenting. We were staying in the official hotel – the Yoho Resort that was really cool. We were in the ‘Kids Hotel’ section with bright cartoons on the walls and special inbuilt kiddy toilet seat. The buffet breakfast was great and served until 1pm. All pretty fun and we would love to stay longer another time. The swim start and T1 and T2 were about 18kms from the resort, but shuttle buses made it easy. We checked in and went to the pre-race meeting and were glad to see Whit Raymond had made the trip as announcer. They had 1,200 athletes, so it was a big race.
Swim 1.9kms 29mins
 An Australian 2 x Ironman World Champion was a late edition to the start list, I guess he had not made any prize money since winning Challenge Cairns as he’d been chasing his Olympic slot. I’m a fan and always enjoy listening to his interviews, but was interesting to see him just before the swim start, borrow some bottled water to wash his goggles from a cameraman and then use the front of the poor fellow's polo shirt to dry them. We’ll put it down to nerves. 
Treat 'em mean, keep 'em clean.

The swim was a mass start 15 minutes after the pros, on this really pretty beach with one or two small waves on entry and exit, but calm clear waters on the whole. I got a good start and was coming about 4th or 5th after the first buoy. My speed dropped off on the final lap and I got passed by half a dozen more. Judging from the times it was a bit long. Not much more to note except I know I need a few really tough 4km swim sets in the last 3 weeks before a race to swim well. There was a long run up the beach and then a long flight of stairs to the bikes.

T 1 at the top (felt like it anyway)

 Bike 90kms 2.26
I got out onto the bike feeling good, passed a few of the strong swimmers and at the top of the first hill there was a turn around and I saw I was in about 6th overall (AG), only one minute down on the lead guy. I eventually came across, a HK based Slovak whose name I’d seen at the pointy end of some races and knew he was one of the fastest ex-pat triathletes in Asia. He looked back at me about 5 times in 2 minutes as I approached, so I thought he might be keen to hang on for a free ride, so hammered it hard passed him and then was riding on my own for about 50kms.
All lonesome.

I was low on gels (only 2) as our ATM card wasn’t working in Taiwan and we had no cash to buy more. There was only one aid station that was handing out gels and only one guy at that aid station handing them out and he was playing hard to get. Both laps I missed him, despite me slowing down and shouting “gel” he hid himself between some water bearing dudes and looked away and backed right away when I got to him. The blastard, shy, gel-bearing volunteer from Kenting strikes again! Gets you every time. Still you can’t complain they give their time and do their best, it’s just I think they were still getting the hand of the job. I was pretty low on fuel and grabbed a banana and some power bars where I could. 

Share the love brother!

The wind really picked up on the second lap, and I ended up getting swallowed by a group of 4 guys riding in a pace-line, with the Slovakian hanging on at the back. I joined in and three of us took some turns at the front,  two sat at the back trying to pretend they were invisible. I eventually went to my mate and asked as politely as I could “Are you going to go to the front and do some f&%ing work?”.

Kodak moment

I hate it when people who won’t go to the front more than blatant drafters, when they’re doing both it’s even worse. “I’m not strong enough, I’ll slow youse down” he said, which is really the only acceptable response and hard to argue against. When I saw him sprint up the hills with a smile on his face it was a C & C Music Factory Thing that me go hmmmm. Funny thing was when we came into T2 he pulled his feet from the shoes early and sprinted to the front of the group to get into T2 first – “The hide of him!” my mum would have said. He ended up getting out of T2 first and ran into 2nd AG place overall I think.

Cyclists: Conniving & work avoiding are part of the sport......Triathletes: most have more integrity.

Run 21.1kms 1.49
The run was a really tough slog. It was 17kms point to point back to the hotel then a heart-breaking 4 kms out and back past the finish line. It was mostly head wind and more up-hill than down. I was pretty smoked from the bike and felt terrible from the first step. I was struggling to even hold 5min k pace and kept waiting to be swamped by the ‘runners’. I took some heart that I’d only been passed by one guy in the first 10kms, and was pretty sure I was still leading my age group. I ended up being passed by only about 7 or 8 guys on the run, three in my age group. The last out and back was mentally tough, as the turning point never seemed to be around the several corners. I was lucky I had two big cups of coke at the 14 and 18km aid station that got me finishing at sub 5min k pace. When we finally reached the turnaround I was surprised to see there was no timing mat, only a few teenagers taking numbers on a sheet.

Ness looking aero as bro.
I was glad there were no big dramas for me but if I was honest with myself I never really pushed myself deep into the level of pain I would have needed to if I was to perform really well. I was bit shy of the real hurt after the ‘Nightmare in Murakami’. I was so depressed I was running so slow that I was thinking to call my season with that race, as maybe I’d 'trained off' in horse racing terms and was ‘smoked’ in triathlon terms.  My run time was crap over ten minutes slower than Cairns but it was a lot harder course. Hot as hell too.

I was surprised when I entered the finishing area and saw an ex-Tokyo resident in my AG  on the medical table getting some treatment, as I never saw him pass me on the run and there was no way I could have missed him – he had is name on his ass and I was wondering if he would pass so kind of looking out for him and getting a good look at all of those who did pass. I knew he didn't come in off the bike ahead of me too as I saw all those guys that did at the turn around on the bike. I didn’t think much more of it until I saw he was awarded 2nd in my AG and then a mate told me the same guy was running just ahead of him and then he was staggering around at the 18km mark and turned around without doing the out and back, with everyone at the aid station shouting at him he hadn’t reached the turnaround point yet, but letting him go as they thought he was calling it a day. Controversial and familiar! I'm pretty sure he was delirious like me in Murakami and thought he was at the turnaround point but wasn’t. The investigation is on-going…but I understand he didn't take a Vegas slot which makes it simpler.

Where is your evidence? You're an idiot!

Vanessa had a great race and did the fastest AG female run split of the day, won her AG and was 2nd fastest AG female. She’s in good form now and seems to do really well in the warm half ironman races. We didn’t have an interest in going to the Vegas race (this was a qualifier) so we didn’t go to the roll-down ceremony. She's our big hope for a Kona slot in Busso.
The finish area was a bit dusty and dirty but they had Asahi Super Dry and Red Bull, so it was OK by me. I had a massage but had to abort half way as the guy was obviously a panel beater not a massage therapist and hell bent on causing an injury by twisting joints in whatever direction they were not designed to go. I hear they are going to move the finish into the resort next year, which will be great. All in all this was a fantastic race and I can see it becoming one of the biggest  in Asia, which it already is I guess, but maybe even bigger. Next up we’re back to Aus and heading for Ironman West Australia, compared to some of my other races this year. May as well do the event..... how bad could it be…wait a minute don’t answer that.

That'll do.

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