Experiencing life in Las Vegas seems far more like a bucket list item than a necessity involved in preparation for a triathlon world championship. Whilst spending longer than a few days in Vegas really didn’t appeal to me I have always been fascinated by what type of community exists around the world famous Strip. I was pleasantly surprised to find it was incredible normal one. In fact the most abnormal thing about the community was their overwhelmingly generosity and willingness to help. In saying this I should make the distinction between life in Henderson (where I stayed) as opposed to on Las Vegas Blvd. I located myself near Henderson Multigenerational Centre which is a fabulously diverse facility and host to T2 and the finish line. Conveniently I found myself walking distance from many dining options and Aspen Creek Cycles which is undoubtedly the best bike shop in Nevada. The guys there gave great advice but they also gave the shop a chilled out atmosphere which made it a perfect place to chat and relax in a city where I knew no one. Being just 3k from T2 I’d suggest anyone doing the 70.3 drops in if only to absorb some local knowledge and replace the Co2’s that customs took off you. If your just in for a few days before the race staying within Lake Las Vegas is the way to go, it’s certainly the best training location although it is pretty isolated if your there some time before race day. Whilst the whole area is synonymous with the Strip I found that the people and state of Nevada had so much more to offer, it was easy to forget you were there to race. The long course championships were my first age group world championships and I decided on taking the time off uni to prepare for it with the respect that such a race deserves. I also wanted to see what it would be like to live as a pro for three weeks. As Las Vegas is set to hold the 70.3 worlds for another few years I think I’ve gained some useful insights.
Figure : Borrowing the Aussie Flag
The Infamous Course:
This year the ITU world long course triathlon replaced the Iron-distance Silverman that bills itself as the world’s toughest course... though there are a few of those claims out there. The Long distance triathlon was point to point and used most of the Silverman which is different to the 70.3. All told there was a bit over 6000ft of overall climbing. Local guys won’t ride less than an 11-25 out here and if your not a fan of hills lower gearing is recommended. I think a lot of people bring the wrong equipment and then try to make it work for them on race day. That said the 70.3 uses a more pleasant course however it’s certainly not without its hills. I think both courses suit lighter riders like myself however heavier athletes are hard to keep pace with on the downhill sections. I found the course challenging but not ridiculous, though many would disagree with me. If you happen to be out riding on a windy day you will quickly re-evaluate your current understanding of strong winds. I have come to realise that Sydney is only capable of a stiff breeze. I think having taken the time to learn the ins and outs of the course really helps, and whilst driving it shows you the hills only riding it can really give you an idea of what it’s like. Come race day it’s a huge advantage to know the tight corners, when to drop gears, how far till the top of the next incline and exactly when it will end. The popular opinion is that a conservative bike wins the race however both courses offer a real opportunity to open up large time gaps. What worked for me was riding within myself before putting the hammer down with 30k to go.
The 70.3 and long course events both utilise slight variations of the same 7.5k loop which is set up on the corner of a block. It’s simple but brutal with 3.75k of uphill running before a turnaround which sends you all the way back down. Having run it in training previously the gradients really are not that bad and the downhills quite fast (though rough on the body). However at the end of a race it is a different story. As we all know when running off the bike a mole hill feels like a mountain and the only thing downhills are good for are stimulating cramps.
Figure : Just before my race plan turned to survival
ITU Long Course World Championships Race Report:
I was initially devastated by the news that the swim in the seemingly pristine Lake Las Vegas was cancelled over concerns for its water quality and the ambient air temperature being too low. For most of the year Las Vegas is really hot. 70.3 racers this year experienced what was a relatively mild 33 degree’s, the temperature in September is often around the 40 mark. However 3 days before the long course event in early November a cold front came through and race morning was just 1 degree. With the swim cancelled the bike started in time trial fashion with 5 seconds between riders. The pros left first with age groupers following them in ascending order of age. I rarely wear anything other than my race suit however the freezing conditions meant riding off in gloves and arm warmers still left me looking comparatively underdressed. The hills get underway almost immediately and it works well to sort the sheep from goats. The first 15-20k was a bit of a mad rush to try and close down the initial time stagger on your fellow age groupers but once I got near the front a paceline of 6 athletes with varied nationalities established itself. With two Frenchman off the front I anxiously bided my time waiting for steeper gradients in the last 36k to make my push for home. Whilst there are various turnaround points it’s hard to keep track of where everyone is. The paceline fell apart at about 40k and I found myself trading lead duties with a British rider until the last 30k. It was quite satisfying to execute my race plan perfectly and ride away from my competition with a surge over the first of three 18% grade hills. From there on everyone I was catching were professionals and seeing famous names on the backs of race suits was a real buzz. In fact the race highlight for me was getting off the bike and hitting the run course as Michael Raelert was starting his second lap. Running with him and eventually away from him was quite motivating however my last 10k or so left a lot to be desired. The run has always been my strength but it was certainly my best biking performance getting off 3rd in my age group, albeit someway behind the two Frenchmen Pierre and Franck. I had a 6 minute deficit to Pierre who was leading and although I closed the gap to within 4 minutes my early speed saw the gap blow back out. Incredibly after 30k of running the original gap was exactly the same with both myself and Pierre sharing the fastest run in our age group. It was incredible to take an Aussie flag as I ran down the finish chute although the effort required to wave it was about all I had left! I finished 2nd in the 20-24 age group which more impressively put me as the 5th fastest non professional and 22nd outright in a field of 987 with 81 pro’s. The result was more than I expected and although I feel my swim would have brought me closer to winning it wouldn’t have changed the final podium positions. Full credit to Pierre-Yves Gigou who won the 20-24’s and is as great a guy as a he is a competitor. I wish him the best of luck as he moves into the professional ranks next season.
Figure : 20-24, 1st Pierre Yves Gigou (FRA), 2nd Ryan Waddington (AUS), 3rd Franck Kervarec (FRA)
In the meantime I write this from a comfy chair that provides the support my legs are unable to give me at present. After finishing the race with bloody soaked shoes I think a new pair of racing flats is on the cards before I tackle my first Ironman in WA next month. Although I snuck in a ride through Death Valley on my way back to LA I will wait till I’m back in Sydney and my blisters have healed to recommence a proper training pattern. After riding the incredible roads out here how can I ever return to Olympic park? The experience has been one of the best in my life and has shown me that perhaps I do have what it takes to be a competitive professional one day. It’s also shown me how much more enjoyable training is when it’s the only priority. The lifestyle is incredible if only marred by occasional tedium of having nothing to do on a light day of training.
Figure : Riding into Death Valley... US national parks are just phenomenal.
Until I’ve raced my way over 140.6 miles of refreshingly flat terrain in Western Australia you won’t hear from me, so train hard in the meantime.