The Final Countdown

Ah, winter – ‘tis the season that seems to drag on for much longer than its allocated three months (amirite?), the season when it takes every ounce of motivation to get up at the blaring sound of that 4AM alarm to swim, bike, run or (new addition of late) yoga in temps that are in the minuses; the season we (triathletes) tend to become particularly panicky about germs and illness, and staying well. As luck would have it, the moment I thought to myself: “I’ve had a pretty good run this winter (no pun intended) – so far no flu.” BAM! The viral plague got me.

But I suppose it was bound to happen given the amount of training and racing I’ve been doing this year, leading into 70.3 worlds. It’s officially the final countdown to the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship – T-minus 7 weeks. That’s… LESS. THAN. TWO. MONTHS. A little scary but also very, very exciting! Although, I don’t know what I’m looking forward to more, the race or going on a half day safari. I’ve been waiting for this trip since December, and I can’t believe it’s finally just around the corner. Ah! Pinch me!

My last planned hit out before worlds was the Gold Coast half marathon a couple of weekends ago – any excuse to head north in winter, right? After my disappointing run at IRONMAN 70.3 Cairns, I was hoping that a hit out on the Gold Coast would be just the confidence boost I needed leading into worlds.

And it couldn’t have gone more to plan.

A couple of weeks before the race, I sat down with coach over a post-ride coffee to nut out said plan. Coach asked me what I wanted to get out of the race – was this going to be simply a training run or did I want more from it? “I want to have a crack! To see what I’ve got – what I’m capable of,” was my response. And from there we started formulating a race day strategy.

Race day.

I was dropped off at the race venue bright and early on the Sunday morning, with plenty of time to warm up and head towards my allocated start area. “Are you sure it’s OK that I’m not watching?” “Yeah, promise – it’s totally fine. I’m better on my own today,” I was in the zone. “Do your training run, and I’ll meet you after the race… and then we can go get donuts!” 🙂 The laser focus that I had before Challenge Melbourne in April was back. I was dead set on nailing this run.

The moment you cross the finish line and realise you can now eat all the donuts!

Soon enough the start gun sounded, and we were off – a sea of people collectively shuffling forward; a very cool sight to see. “OK, this is it!” As I meandered through the crowd, my initial aim was to catch up to the 1hour40 pacer and to stay with him for as long as possible, hoping that maybe I could then sprint ahead at the end. To my surprise not only did I manage to catch up to the pacer, I ran passed him and kept running, comfortably. I looked at my Garmin, which read 4:20min/km. “Yikes! Too fast? But I feel good.” I didn’t want to slow down just because I was a little freaked out by the numbers on my Garmin but I also didn’t want to be running too fast. At that moment, I decided to switch the display on my Garmin to show my heart rate instead of my pace. I didn’t want to know how fast or slow I was running. All that mattered at that moment was simply knowing that I was ahead of that pacer, and I was feeling good. From there my new goal was simple – just stay in front and I’ll achieve my time goal.

And it worked. I did it! I stayed well ahead of the pacer (it was like a game of tag – “tag, you’re it!”), and I ended up crushing the goal time coach and I had set. And, apart from the brief moment where I almost threw up as I tried to make the final push down the finish chute, for the most part I felt comfortable and ran within myself. Although, granted, Gold Coast is known to be a fast, flat course so chances of a PB are high. But still, it’s not like you’re running downhill with a tailwind – you still have to work for it! And the hard work paid off – it was without a doubt the confidence boost I needed, confirming that coach’s program is working and that my Garmin hasn’t been lying to me in training. 🙂

Side note: man, that course is stunning, I’ll definitely be back. There were so many moments throughout that run where I would have been tempted to stop and take a photo if I’d been on a training run. You, know? #wymtm and all that Lol. And that sunrise. Just wow! It was definitely a #nofilterneeded sunrise, for sure. But my absolute favourite moment was when I crossed the finish line and saw, for the first time that morning, just how fast I had been running…yeow! Closely followed by the moment I realised that, “yes! I can now eat all the donuts!” Best. Feeling. Ever. Mission accomplished.

So, anyway, back to my (wo)man flu… Being super keen to kick this thing as fast as possible so that I can get back into full training, I’ve spent the last few days eating raw garlic like its candy (sorry to my work colleagues) and drowning in herbal teas, while eating all the fruit and veg (my desk at work has been looking more like a fruit shop this week rather than a work space), drinking plenty of water, and making sure I’m getting lots of rest and sleep. The hard part has been not being able to really train this week, but I have to play it smart. With world champs just weeks away I have to make sure I’m doing everything right. Because it’s officially the final countdown – all systems are a go towards South Africa. And I am oh, so excited!

~ Margy Margs x


Margaret Mielczarek

Margaret Mielczarek is the deputy editor at Australian Triathlete Magazine and writes the web series 'Shenanigans of a Deputy 2.0'. She is a passionate age-group triathlete and four-time Ironman finisher - currently in training for Ironman number five!

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