EdApp performance team athlete Chris Wallace shares his experience from the Western Sydney 70.3.
After a roller coaster year of illness and injury, I was grateful to be heading into Ironman Western Sydney 70.3 in good health and with 10 weeks of solid training in the tank. What had originally been a race added in as a bonus hit out, was now firmly targeted as my A Race for the year, with the aim of qualifying for the 2020 Ironman 70.3 World Champs in Taupo, Nee Zealand.
Post-Nice I made sure to enjoy a few weeks of indulgence (when in France!) before I started what would be the fourth and final build of the year. I knew my bike fitness would be there thanks to my indoor training during my collarbone rehab. However there would need to be a lot of work on the swim and run.
Thankfully I had a break before starting a new job, which allowed 4 weeks of solid full-time training and the chance to get back to peak fitness. A few local races I took part in pre-Western Sydney suggested I was getting there. A 3rd place at the Sydney Striders 10k and coming within 20 secs of my PB, gave me confidence my run legs were coming back. After a focus on open water swim training, I was pleased to find myself coming out of the water much closer to the front pack at the WTC sprint triathlon, before finishing with one of my strongest runs to come 3rd, not far off two very strong athletes at the club.
I therefore headed to Penrith full of optimism, although wary that the competition would be strong with Australia-based athletes eager to race at a “local” world champs in NZ!
With a rolling start, I positioned myself near the front, eager to see if I could try and stick near the front pack at least for part of the swim. As it turned out I found myself swimming alone for quite a bit of the swim, not able to stick with the front pack but staying ahead of the next pack behind. I was fairly happy to exit the water after 31 minutes. A few athletes after the race said they thought the swim was at least 100m long, so I was also happy with the improvement I’ve made in the short period after my collarbone break!
My training and numbers in the lead up to Western Sydney suggested my bike was the strongest it had ever been but unfortunately this didn’t seem to translate into the performance on race day. It felt like hard work the entire ride and while I was able to make my way through the field, I wasn’t able to hit the sub 2hrs 15 split I was targeting. With multiple U turns (and an inadvertent wrong turn) I found that I couldn’t get into any rhythm, and coming off the bike in 2hrs20 and 13th place I knew I’d need a very strong run to get back into contention.
Bursting out of transition, I couldn’t have wished for a worse start as my elastic laces splayed open, costing me valuable seconds to tie them back up. However I soon got into a rhythm, and unlike the bike, my legs felt great.
With the first section an out and back I could quickly get a gauge of where people were and within the first 5k I’d already made up 6 places. While I felt great, I resolved to be patient and not risk imploding early. With 5k to go, my partner Bonnie gave me the heads up that I was 2 mins behind 3rd and running significantly faster splits. Steeling myself, I dug in and set about clawing back the gap.
When I crossed the line my tank was empty, and I stumbled away thinking that I’d just missed out on the podium. However, Bonnie’s smiling face appeared and she said that I’d actually just sneaked into 3rd, once the rolling starts were factored in, stealing a podium by less than a second!
As I collected my 3rd place age group trophy, I felt very grateful that after such an injury and illness interrupted year, I was able to finish it in the way it had begun, in good fitness and health and with another world championships to look forward to!
Before then though, I’m very much look forward to some down time as well as taking part in some fun local races before I turn my focus to the Ultra Trail Australia 50k Race in the Blue Mountains. After missing out last year with illness, I’m itching to test myself in one of the toughest and most iconic ultras in The Southern Hemisphere!