I've just arrived back from the 2012 Busselton 70.3 Half Ironman and what a great weekend it was! More about the infamous swim discipline in a moment...
We had some sensational results from within the squad and the new "Performance Squad" I established in December 2011, the most notable being:
Overall PRO / Open:
- 2nd overall PRO female = Kate Bevilaqua (with an amazing joint 2nd place exit out of the water!)
- 6th overall PRO male = Mike Gee
- 7th overall PRO male = Guy Crawford
- 2nd open male = Tom Bakowski
Age Group Awards:
- 1st = Helen King (female 18-24)
- 2nd = Andy Tyack (male 18-24)
- 1st = Anna-lee Hazell (female 25-29)
- 1st = Lisa Delaurentis (female 30-34)
- 2nd = Luke Cameron (male 18-24)
- 1st = Janine Willis (female 35-39)
- 3rd = Pam Criddle (female 35-39)
- 2nd = Cyndy Hetrick (female 45-49)
- 2nd = Janet Ferguson (female 50-54)
- 1st = Anne Murrell (female 55-59)
- 5th place female team "Lady Power" = Michelle Newsome (swim), Sue-ann Anderson (bike), Ceinwen Williams (run)
NB. keen to hear how other team members from within the squad went as it's a little hard to check these results against the wacky names you come up with!
Fastest Individual Discipline Times:
- 2nd fastest female swimmer = Anna-lee Hazell
- 1st fastest male cyclist = Matt Illingworth
Well done to all those of you who competed, especially those of you who completed your first Half Ironman event!
Now onto the swim...it was eventful...!
If you check the sketch out which I did immediately after watching the elite wave finish (and for the benefit of some of the team swimmers who went later), it really was arguably one of the hardest swims this race has ever seen with most swimmers being (on average) 5-7 minutes slower than in previous years. Even last year's fastest swimmer (our very own Guy Crawford) was 3 minutes slower than last year, and when I saw this (and knowing Guy's strength), I knew immediately it was going to be a long swim in the water for everyone. Unlike in some races where the race distance can be questionable, I am confident that this race was set-up as 1.9km exactly as billed - whether or not some of the buoys drifted due to the strong wind and swell is a different matter, but what undoubtedly caused the slow times were a combination of the following factors which you might like to heed for future races / years:
- The night before had been very stormy and a strong wind was blowing from left to right across the course. This produced significant surface chop which may have assisted swimmers on the long stretch on the way out (tail wind), but would have severely impeded progress on the way back (head wind). Such conditions make sighting very difficult indeed (as thus the ability to keep straight) as well as making it almost impossible to get into a good rhythm. Those swimmers that really excel in these conditions are our Swinger swim type (www.swimtypes.com - having a higher natural stroke rate), with the Overgliders and Kicktastics typically really struggling. This was highlighted perfectly by Anna-lee Hazell (a brilliant Swinger) picking up the 2nd fastest overall swim time of the day - well done Anna-lee! A higher, straighter arm recovery compared with the classic pool swimmers's high elbow recovery ensures that the arms consistently clear the surface of the water and that momentum is maintained.
- The large swell pushed swimmers towards the shore on the return leg in particular and many swimmers then struggled to hold the straight line (about 150m off shore) to the final pointed yellow buoy. We saw countless numbers of swimmers (of all abilities) being told to swim back out (~150m) to complete the course as they had totally missed this final buoy. This of course added at least another 3 minutes to most swim times. Frustrating for many but for those more savvy to the conditions, this proved to be a real boost to their relative performance. Again, those with strong surf swimming backgrounds really excelled in these conditions, a-la Anna-lee Hazell.
- The PRO and Open waves had a distinct advantage over the Age Group and Team waves that followed in that they set-off in very overcast / dark conditions. Those setting off after 7.10am had to deal with the fact that the rising sun began to poke through the clouds directly into the swimmers's eyes on the outward bound leg, making sighting nigh-on impossible. In these scenarios, a good, balanced stroke really pays dividends as your confidence in your ability to hold a straight line without the ability to sight is key. Bilateral breathing was advantageous on this leg, however, given the fact that the swell was hitting hard in this direction from the left, swimmers had to elect to breathe predominantly to the right on the outward leg and then predominantly to the left on the return - obviously those who have the flexibility in their stroke to do both are at a major advantage.
All-in-all it was not a day for fast swim times, but as I managed to say to many swimmers before they hit the rough conditions, what ultimately determines your success in those conditions is how you approach the swim from a psychological perspective. Janine Willis had clearly identified just how dearly she wanted to finally break the magic 30 minute barrier for the swim. Her training and improvement in the pool and open water has been going stunningly well recently and I was confident that she could do it. However, upon seeing the conditions Janine was very realistic about the chances of achieving this time, so shelved this time orientated goal and just put her head down and ploughed through the waves - she was rewarded with a simply brilliant first place exit out of the water in the first of the main female waves...beating one of the swimmers by 2 minutes whom Janine had put on a pedestal of being "unbeatable" - well done Janine - an inspiring result. Janine's time was just under 3.5 minutes slower than she had hoped, but relative to others in her age-group it set her up to win the whole race in her Age Group.
Massive credit is also due to Anne Murrell who similarly tackled the swim with gusto and shelved her fears of the conditions to get through and also win her Age Group. Tom Bakowski certainly didn't enjoy the swim and seemed very frustrated upon exit, but I was personally massively impressed by how he turned around what could have been a very negative start to his race to come through and finish 2nd overall in the coveted Open Male category - well done that man for keeping his head!
I'd love to hear your stories from the swim if you're keen to send them over....
OK, so it's back to business on the pool deck this week. It might be the end of the triathlon season here in Perth and the start of the winter, but you can be assured that we'll be keeping everything pumping as normal! Come on down - next year it could be you winning your Age Group!