70.3 Port Macquarie 2013

Background: We were living in Cebu, Philippines at the time and after doing 70.3's in 2011 and 2012 (both in Phuket), I figured why not do one every year. (I’m still going strong in 2019, so far so good). I wasn't so consistent in my training in the early years and pre-Strava, I don't know what sort of distances I covered. I know I spent a lot of time on the trainer for this one as biking in Cebu was a bit of a crap-shoot. I swam in a free-form pool, so no idea if I was even swimming the right distances, but I was always a runner so that part was okay.

Travel/Sydney: We flew in from Cebu via Manila which always adds to the logistical stress – same airline all the way, but you have to claim your bags (and bike) in Manila, exit the terminal before going back inside and checking in again. Anyhow, we got to Sydney more or less in one piece.

We loved Sydney and were lucky enough to stay at the Shangri-La for four wonderful nights. Can’t remember too much aside from the main sights, but we were active and ticked off all the right boxes. It was an idyllic time – we had a lot of space in our family suite and distinctly remember lazy mornings watching the Red Sox in the Baseball Play-offs, and I especially remember the 'Big Papi Slam' into the Bullpen in Game 2 of the ALCS. However on the fifth day, things got a bit more serious when we picked up the Camper van from a place out near the airport. We filled in the forms, loaded up and headed off tentatively, firstly through the city, then up the coast for the six hour drive to Port Macquarie. Looking back, we took a bit of a risk on this, but we pulled it off and loved the whole experience.

Rookie mistake: Five hours into the drive, we realized the one big triathlon-related mistake that I had made. ‘Did you pick up my wetsuit from the closet’, I asked. Needless to say, it was still hanging in the closet, and too late to turn around. Still, I had a couple of days to get something else sorted. In hindsight, it might have been a good mistake as I’d been putting off the ‘wetsuit problem’ for a long time and the one left in the closet was a poor quality Speedo one bought at the last minute as it was the only one I could find in warm-water Cebu!

Port Macquarie: Port Macquarie was great – a buzzing touristy town and the home of Ironman Australia in May, (this was October, but the 70.3 has now also switched to May). We found our pre-booked Camp site, which was well set up. We soon established pretty much the only van rule – no major ‘deposits’ at all, and no minor deposits unless absolutely desperate. I had no intention of cleaning out the chemical toilet at any stage of the trip.

Registration was the following day and I hit the Blue Seventy tent to get my wetsuit problem sorted out. I had a budget of AUS$200 in mind and the guy knew his stuff. He showed me this beauty which looked great until I asked the price which came in at $800. We went through a few more models - $600, $400 before I revealed my budget and we settled in a ‘sprint’ version that was around $250. I tried it on at the Camp site and even jumped in the freezing swimming pool. But it worked, so I was good to go. As it happens, that wetsuit lasted through my two IMs in 2017 and 2018, before finally giving up the zipper 10-minutes before the start of 2019 Challenge Roth – that’s another story.

The Race: Race day came along with the usual nerves. We were up early and I drove the camper van to downtown Port Macquarie and parked in a side street within walking distance of the swim start. Not the most relaxing of race mornings, but I got there in one piece.

Swim: The water was freezing at 19-20 degrees and being a deep water start, I was not in great shape by the time the gun went off. Within 20-30 seconds I was at the back of the pack and churned my way through the swim in an official time of 59’58” – just two seconds before the cut off. I was shockingly slow and this was easily my worst swim of all time. But who cares, I didn’t DNF. I exited with the relay swimmers who fortunately had the same colour swim cap as me, so I sneaked back into Transition without too much spotlight.

Bike: The Bike consisted of lots of rolling hills as well as ‘Matthew Flinders Drive’ – a short but steep hill in the middle that we had to do twice. I remember seeing some of the MOP (middle of the pack) guys walking up the hill, so I was pleased to get up there still on the pedals. No major hiccups on the bike, but it was long, tedious and slow, with a sticky road surface.

Run: My run was easily the best of the three disciplines and I slogged out what is still my second fastest 70.3 run. Great to finish, great to have the family there and I look back at the whole race with pride – so glad we did it.

No rest for the wicked, after an hour or so, we jumped back into the Camper van for the 6-hour drive back to Sydney before the following morning’s flight. We stopped a couple of times and eventually parked in the car park of the Camper van place so we could drop it off first thing and be on our way. I remember my first morning pee (into a bottle) being dark brown – I really didn’t think this one through.

Post-race thoughts: What a great trip, so proud of us all for doing this, which was pretty much the first of our ‘big holidays’, where we stuck our necks out and did new things. This is an iconic race and probably a must-do for most Australian triathletes. It's a great location and I'd have no hesitation to go back one day, and may even have a crack at the full Ironman.

© 2019 by Giles Leonard

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Contact: giles22leonard@gmail.com