Canberra 70.3 Half Ironman
Sunday 11 December 2011

After making a come back of sorts to triathlon and completing 5 of 6 Gatorade’s in the summer of 2010-2011, and completing the Sandy Olympic, I thought that I would set a long term goal of a ½ ironman – easy to say, easy to enter…much harder to do! The triathlon I had done prior to last season was in 1995… Knowing this was definitely a little more serious than a sprint distance, I joined Tri-Alliance in May – around 7 months to get ready over the winter. As Ollie said when we first sat down…lots of training to be done!

The winter prep went ok, and although I had persistent achilles tendon issues, I managed to complete my first 2 x ½ marathons – an achievement in itself for me, as my run is my weakest leg. I also did Noosa – very enjoyable, and a great event, and experienced the fantastic team atmosphere of TA in full flight.

So to Canberra – the weather was forecast to be showers with thunderstorms around midday.  Could be an interesting end to the event I thought…

The swim in Lake Burely Griffin was 1.9km around a basic rectangle. Nice and flat, fresh water swim – a little muddy, but was fine. I started quick to get some space, then tried to get into a good rhythm , breaking the swim into 3 segments, focusing on each one in turn. I was pleased with my swim time, exiting the water in 33 min (official time over the mat was 35:11).

Run to transition was 350m, plenty of time to get the wetsuit off. Transition went ok, and soon enough was on the bike as the rain started to fall quite heavily, and lasted the first lap of the 3-lap, 90km course.

During transition, I managed to start my watch on the bike segment as I was running taking off the wetsuit, so this meant my bike time avgs were going to be out as I rode – small issue but slightly annoying. That said, it meant I had something to think about on the bike, working out how I was pacing myself – I focused on edging up the avg speed over time. Worked well.

The Canberra bike course is known to be tough (the consensus amongst other competitors is that it is around 15 min slower than other courses). It has quite a few hills, the Coppins Hill being the toughest. It is a really quick decent initially, with quite a sharp left then right over the creek bridge and then a long climb with quote a steep section initially. The first laps’ decent in the rain was interesting I have to say, with most competitors on the brakes all the way down. I had a crack though – gotta take in the downhills with the long uphill waiting on the other side!

Nutrition on the bike went to plan – mix of Optimiser (1/3 bottle each lap) and Endura and water. The bottle exchange at the end of each lap was great, and I managed to grab my replacement bottles without having to slow too much. Managed to get my 4 gels down also, so felt fuelled ready for the run.

I was not sure how hard to push on the bike – being hilly and my first ½, it was all new. So started a little conservative (first lap avg 29kmh) and was feeling good, so pushed on a bit, with my 2nd and 3rd laps getting faster each time. Only real issue on the bike was that I dropped the chain on lap 2 just near Parliament House. My bike time ended up to be 2:54, meaning that my stretch goal (I actually wrote “miracle goal” on my planner….) of breaking 6 hours for the event was perhaps in reach. Got me feeling very good heading into T2!

After my injury issues with my foot and knee (fell off the bike on Friday and banged it – as I write this on Wednesday following the event, it is a shade of blue) it was going to be an interesting start to the run – I spent Friday afternoon watching the cricket with my foot and knee both being iced. I also talked to the Compress guys in the expo on Saturday about my foot, and I got some new compression socks (as distinct from the calf ones which I was wearing to help with the shin soreness I get in the first few km of the run). I thought they would help keep that right foot all in place. Fell into the trap of trying something in the race, which I had not in training – but thought it was worth the risk given my foot issues.

T2 went ok, although I left my watch on my bike. I did not know whether this was going to be good or bad, but it did make me focus on the “process” of pacing myself smoothly, and not the outcome of the race.

Off I went into the ½ marathon, and I felt awful. The run is always a bit difficult at the start, but wow…my feet felt a bit odd with those new socks, my shins got a little sore anyway, knee was sore, and I felt rubbish – just could not get into any rhthym whatsoever. By the 7km marker, my feet had gone completely numb due to the socks. So I stopped and took them off and ran with no socks. Best thing I did all day. Suddenly I felt better, and got into a nice rhythm on the run – relaxed, happy…and actually really enjoyed the rest of the run. I ended up running the 2nd half of the run slightly faster than the first, and ran a 2:10 – quite pleased as this is my weakest leg traditionally.

All in all I managed a 5:48 – under 6 hours (miracle!)!!! Very very happy for my first 1/2 Ironman. Canberra is a great course – the ride and run interesting courses – and I would recommend it.

It is a great feeling and very satisfying to set a long-term goal and achieve it – I want to thank all the TA squad whom I trained with over the winter – in the sun and rain (actually, mostly in the rain on the bike when I think about it) – those long course guys are fantastic! Very supportive, helpful and encouraging to us long course newbies – so thanks – you all know who you are!

And special thanks to Ollie and Sarah who have been great coaches – appreciate your support very much.

See you out there, Chris


A race report from Canberra at the weekend, where I met a very happy Chris Mutimer at the finish line, having successfully completed his first half and looking very fresh for the experience. While we hadn’t previously met, we were both sporting our Tri Alliance tri suits, and had been encouraging each other during the run leg.

The race kicked off under very threatening skies, with torrential rain hitting during the swim and continuing for an hour into the bike leg. I have never seen so many athletes repairing punctures & heard  some received multiple blowouts. The bike course was a 30km loop which climbed south out of the city on grainy roads before rocketing down a steep decent across a poorly cambered bridge, and then climbing to a ridge in the back blocks of Canberra. The course then returned towards the city and Parliament House, back across Lake Burley Griffin and past transition to repeat the exercise  all again. The second half of the bike course was quite fast, with good road surfaces and undulating terrain.

The run along the scenic shores of Lake Burley Griffin had it all, starting with bright sun light, steamy heat, lots of cheering supporters and concluding with more torrential rain, spoiling an otherwise well run event.

On a personal note, I finished in second position in the 60 -64 age group & would have taken a place to the 70.3 championships in Las Vegas, but it failed to roll down – “close but no cigar” ! In summary, a very good course well supported with a full field of competitors and worth the trip north.

Regards, Gordon Spargo


Great work guys – we look forward to seeing you back at training and giving you a big pat on the back!!
Team Tri Alliance


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