Challenge Kanchanaburi 2018
This race was (meant to be?) my first 70.3 triathlon.
The previous year, in 2017, I won the Olympic distance race in Kanchanaburi and I felt compelled to come back this year and do the half-distance race which is the main event.
My training in the 7 weeks leading into this race was essentially made up on the fly. I had a few important sessions that I knew I wanted to complete and build upon, but I really took into account how I was feeling and wanted above all to show up to the race healthy and injury-free.
I did not do much running at all in training for this race. I averaged about 20km per week in the 7 weeks leading into it.
The days leading up to the race were very rainy and there were no signs of it letting up any time soon. Due to the technical nature of the original bike course which contained some steep, twisty descents, the race organizers decided to alter the route to a flatter and shorter one 56km in length. While I was disappointed that I would not technically be doing my first 70.3 since the course was cut short, I was happy that the bike leg was not cancelled altogether which had happened at another race recently in Thailand.
The weather on race morning was more of the same. As I made my way to transition it was drizzling rain which picked up to a fairly intense downpour by the time I was ready to head to the swim start. Looking out over the swim course moments before the scheduled start time, it was filled with fog and the buoys were impossible to see. The swim start was delayed until visibility improved. It was cold standing around waiting in the rain, so the athletes were invited to warm up in the water near the start which was much warmer than the air outside.
Once the fog had cleared and the buoys could be seen, the athletes were called out of the water for the start. First the pro field went off, and about 5 minutes later all of the age group athletes. The swim was in a dam and there was a large set of stairs to walk down before jumping in the water. I was amongst the first of the age group athletes and we agreed we would not be sprinting down the stairs once the gun went off but would instead walk down at a reasonable pace to keep it safe. Everyone agreed and I’m glad that it worked out safely.
At the bottom of the stars we jogged across the small dock from which the pros had done their dive start and we dived in ourselves. I was racing with my friends Shane Goodhew and Rob Blatt who I knew were both stronger swimmers than me but not that much faster and so my plan was to stick with at least one of them if I could. I tried to keep up with Shane off the start but I lost his feet and so found Robins. We ended up swimming together for most of the swim taking turns on the front. Towards the end of the swim I pulled ahead slightly and had a few seconds on him going into T1. Shane was quite a bit ahead of us by that point.
I pulled myself out of the water, held back a little going up those stairs while I found my land legs again, and ran to my bike. By this point the rain had settled down to a light drizzle again and I decided to take a quick minute to wipe my visor on my helmet with a towel to try to improve visibility. I’m not sure how much that helped or if it was necessary.
About 30 seconds after mounting my bike, Rob came flying past me. I should mention that he is a professional mountain biker and can put out some serious wattage. I knew that it would not be easy to keep up with him on the bike, but I certainly wasn’t going to let him fly away that early on in the race. I stuck with him until we caught up to Shane a few minutes later at which point it was the 3 of us at the front of the age-group field. It wasn’t long though before Rob started to slowly creep further and further up the road from us, eventually creeping out of sight.
Shane and I rode together for the majority of the bike course. We exchanged some friendly words but also made attempts to pull away from each other which helped us to keep a good pace. When we got to the start of the final climb heading back into transition I was feeling good and eager to see if I could catch up with Rob, so I upped the wattage a fair amount and managed to pull away from Shane.
As I was nearing transition on the bike course, I saw Robyn out on the run course already about 3 minutes ahead of me. At the time, I didn’t think too much about whether or not I could catch him. I was just stoked to be feeling good heading into this half marathon and eager to hit it hard and see what I could do.
I took a little extra time in T2 as well because I had put my running shoes in a plastic bag to keep them dry. I was glad I did because by this point the rain had pretty much stopped and I had dry shoes to put on instead of soaked ones. It was well worth the extra seconds.
The run course is 3 laps of 7km. It has some flat sections, some rolling sections, and a few steep hills. I tried to push a fast pace on the flatter sections, keep controlled going up the steep bits, and really take advantage of the downhill parts. I walked for a few steps at each aid station that had Coke (every 3km or so) to have a good swig of the stuff. It was my first time drinking it in a race although I had done a couple of training runs using it. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about how well it works and I must say that I agree - it made me feel fantastic.
After the first couple of turnarounds, I could tell that I was catching up to Rob. Just after the 7km mark, I passed him. I didn’t look back for a few hundred meters until I was at the top of a hill at which point I took a quick glance over my shoulder and could tell that he wasn’t coming with me. At this point I started wondering if perhaps there was someone still ahead that I had not seen. This helped me to keep pushing as much as I could.
By the 3rd lap, I was feeling some pain in my left leg. The minimal run training leading into the event combined with the fast downhill running I was doing on this course was starting to take its toll. I made a conscious decision to take it a little easier on the downhills for this final lap because I know what it’s like to be out of running for weeks and months on end due to injury. It’s not fun. Besides, I had a decent lead.
Towards the last few km of the race, the thought in my head that maybe there still was someone ahead of me began to creep back in. There was one guy who I saw ahead of me at the last few turnarounds who got me thinking it might make sense for him to be in the lead. During the last final kilometer, I realized I could pass him but only if I really pushed. At this point I dug pretty deep and pushed through some extremely unpleasant sensations in my body to pass him about 300m before the finish shoot.
When I finished, the race organizer said I was the first age-grouper. I was stoked. It wasn’t technically a full-distance 70.3, but it was the longest triathlon I have ever completed and I felt good about my performance. Shortly after I crossed the finish line, Rob and Shane were the 2nd and 3rd age group athletes. We were all from the same age category which was 25-29.
I was aware from about the 16th kilometer of the run until the finish that it was not going to be easy to walk for at least a couple of days after the race. It was indeed extremely difficult to bend my left knee at all and doing so caused a considerable amount of pain. I had a good limp for about the next 48-72 hours. I realize that I need to run more regularly and consistently throughout the year to build up better running conditioning for these longer events or I will be extremely prone to injury.
It was a surreal experience to take part in this event and I would like to sincerely thank the organizers for how they handled the weather conditions with altering the bike course and being patient with the swim start in the face of some sketchy weather conditions.
I am lucky enough to have my racing supported by Vegan Heaven, which is an absolute marvel of a vegan eatery in Chiang Mai, Thailand. They have two locations in the city to choose from, both of which serve up an extensive menu of top-notch Thai and Western style vegan dishes. Go to veganheavencm.com to learn more about this great restaurant.