At the start of the year, Phuket wasn’t really on my radar of races to do this year. I was planning on resting this time of the year. With the setback of my broken hip in August though, I didn’t want to be stuck sitting on the couch for the last 4 months of the year. Now that I think about it though, it would have been kind of sweet. That is a lot of Playstation time that I could have gotten in.
After getting a couple of hit outs with Rev3 SC and Austin 70.3, I realized that I could train hard without doing any further damage to my hip. It was great to have Fraser and Barney visiting in Austin to help me keep motivated for training.
I had a bit of a setback at the end of October with the death of my father. I traveled back to Australia to say goodbye and spent 10 days there without a bike or pool. It gave me a little bit of time to focus on my running though.
Damn, if I knew how long the flight was to Phuket, I might have changed my mind. It’s a bitch to get to from America. Once I got to Phuket, it was good to have Chris Legh there as a training partner for the week. I think we spent more time drinking coffee than we did training though.
As we were checking our bikes in the night before the race we had an awesome rain storm come in. Chris certainly made me aware of how slippery the roads were, referring back to my crash in August. Oh the mind games.
However, race morning was sunny and warm. As we lined up for the swim start, I realized how good the field really was, with a lot of great swimmers. I knew I had to swim my ass off to stay in the front group. Luckily we had a beach start, which is my favorite. Phuket swim is a little different than most. After 1400m, you exit the water and run over a nasty little sand dune and re-enter in a fresh water lagoon. Getting into the freshwater is really hard. It feels like you are swimming in concrete after exiting the salt water. Half way along the lagoon, there was a small gap opened between the front group and my group. I was sitting comfortably on Matty Reed’s feed, but the big man put the hammer down and closed the gap, which left me 15 seconds off the back.
The first 10 miles of the bike was very flat and fast and I knew I had to work hard to catch up. At the 15 mile marker there was a walkway overpass where you dismount and run your bike across. I knew if I could be close enough, I could catch up at this point. Up the first climb, I made my way to the front, so I could take advantage of the no passing zone that was coming up on the descent. It was a yellow flag zone for about a mile. This enabled me to take the corners at my own speed and try to avoid another hip break on a wet road. I think a few of the boys were a little pissed at this tactic, but it worked and hey, no one broke their hip. Around the 40 mile mark, the heavens opened and it rained harder than I’ve ever seen it rain in a race before. With all the rain, it made the next climb nearly impossible as everybody had to sit down. At times like that, the Shimano DI2 really shows it’s advantage. There was about 5 miles of descending after the last climb. Paul Ambrose was really hitting these hard. Once I managed to survive the second round of downhills, we came to a point about 5 miles from the finish line where it rained so hard that there was a lake across the road. It was about a foot and a half deep.
I had a bit of a drama in T2 with my transition bag (oh, how I hate these bags). Why can’t be go back to the old school shoes on the ground system? Transition bags suck. The bag got stuck around the peg and I couldn’t get it off. That set me back about 100m from the leaders, which were Raelert, Paul Matthews, Dave Dellow, and Ambrose.
Luckily, the rain had kept the temperatures really low, so I pushed the first mile really hard and managed to catch everyone except for Raelert, who runs like a freak. I felt in control for the next few miles and settled in for a hard race to hold my position.
Thankfully, I managed to hold on for 2nd, which was a great way to finish the end of the season. Unfortunately I think the awards party hurt more than the actual race, but damn we had a good time. I think Chris Legh is still hungover.