Busselton 70.3 – Run, Alberto, Run… by Alberto Puccini

Busselton 70.3 – Run, Alberto, Run… by Alberto Puccini

I have said this already in my previous race reports but I want to state it once again because this is the WHY without which I would not be writing this race report.

  1. My health. The only way to commit to training is setting a specific goal to be achieved within a specific time, this year my specific goal was Busselton 70.3, however my end goal is always my health;
  2. Lead by example. I am trying to teach my children that, if you set a difficult goal and you make a plan, as long as the goal is realistic, if you stick to the plan, you achieve your goal. As kids do not often listen to their parents, I have decided to show them that I am right.

The specific goal of completing a Half Iron Man triathlon comes from a deal with Tommaso which was made in April 2019 on his return from School Sport Australia Triathlon Championship in QLD.

Last year I was not able to honour my deal with Tommaso because after the Covid-19 lockdown and a hamstring injury I was really unfit and I deemed the time available prior to the October’s 2020 Half Iron Man not sufficient to get ready.

I have trained pretty well all season under Grant and Steven’s guidance and I have achieved a few good PBs including:

  • Mandurah Sprint Triathlon (1h20m21s, 18m56s PB on previous year);
  • Rockingham 2.5 km Open Water Swim (1h04m49s, 11m33s PB on previous year);
  • Fremantle 10 km (49m41s, first 10km in sub 5min/km).

The Bunbury OD triathlon was delayed due to the COVID lockdown early February, that helped me in deciding to commit to the Busselton 70.3 and I signed up to make sure of not having second thoughts.

I met with Steven, I upgraded my subscription to a plan and started increasing the number of weekly training sessions.

My weekly training schedule in the twelve weeks prior to Busselton 70.3 was:

  1. Monday a.m. 30 km Ride, generally from UWA to Mt Henry Bridge and back;
  2. Tuesday a.m. Riding Interval session;
  3. Tuesday p.m. Running interval session;
  4. Wednesday a.m. UWATC swim squad;
  5. Wednesday p.m. Kings Park Hills ride easy session with Rebecca
  6. Thursday a.m. Skill and Wind Trainer session;
  7. Friday a.m. UWATC swim squad;
  8. Saturday long ride (increasing distance every week) and run off the bike;
  9. Sunday long run (increasing distance every week).

I got myself some “new” (mostly second or even third hand) gear including a TT bike, an aero helmet and Running shoes.

At the beginning of March, I had a couple of issues with my bikes, I found a crack in my third hand TT bike near the seat-post (I might have put too much torque when tightening the bolts) and soon after, on the road to Muchea, I was trying to stay too close to Phil’s wheel, I touched it and I had a bad crash. I was very lucky to not get injured but I lost the front ring shifter of my road bike, I had to ride 45 km back to Perth at huge rpms on the small front ring trying to keep up with the rest of the group and I found myself bikeless for a week whilst both my bikes were being repaired.

I managed to not miss any training session as I used my vintage bike for a couple of sessions.

Week after week I was feeling better at training, it was time to go and see Gaby for a Nutrition Plan, everybody (especially Phil…) was telling me that nutrition is the key for these endurance events (and I had learnt a lesson myself at Bunbury OD last year…).

Gaby gave me a nutrition strategy and plans to be tried during long rides and runs and during the race simulation planned three weeks prior to the event.

Gaby’s plan seemed to work pretty well and did not require too many adjustments for the big day.

Since the beginning of the season I had also improved the quality of my sleeping thanks to the CPAP machine that I started using following a sleep study undertaken under Kate’s precious supervision.

Training, Nutrition, Sleep, a few boxes were ticked…

The Race simulation went pretty well in atrocious conditions and gave me a real confidence boost, I started to convince myself that I would be able to complete the event.

Two weeks prior to the event my training plan included an easy 21 km run on the Sunday. I was lucky enough that on that very Sunday the WAMC’s Lake Joondalup Half Marathon was on, so I got to run it with Geoff.

I had a very good race (my first with the new shoes bought at Nick’s shop the day before…), I ran with Geoff at an easy pace for the first 15,5 km then I took over and I was very fast for the last 5.5 km finishing in 2 hours and 40 seconds, approximately 5 minutes ahead of Geoff (I would find out in Busselton that running a Half Marathon at the end of a 70.3 event is a whole different story…)

Tapering in the last two weeks was welcome, however I found the last 12 km run on Sunday harder than previous week’s Half Marathon and that got me a little bit worried, so I tried to find potential reasons for such feeling:

  • I ran later in the morning and it was significantly warmer;
  • I ran on my own;
  • We were not sure that the event would go ahead due to potential Covid restrictions, so motivation was reduced;
  • I thought I had some on-set symptoms of a cold as the rest of my family had had a cold in the previous week.

Following a rest day on Monday, Tuesday’s sessions went both very well, I was feeling ready, however I was also getting nervous for the race itself, for the weather conditions, for potential last minute cancellation due to COVID and for the risk of getting that cold from the family.

After Thursday morning easy ride with Rebecca (20 km on the bike path along Mitchell freeway), I thought I got the cold, I started having some sore throat and headache which seemed to become worse during the day, so I got a Panadol together with my usual Berocca and Vitamin C and went to sleep hoping for the best, I would know my fate in the morning.

Luckily the Vitamines did their job, or maybe the cold was just in my head… and I was happy to feel better in the morning.

Once, in Busselton after registration, I did my last easy training (20 minutes ride and 10 minutes run off the bike) and after placing my bike in transition, I was ready for a social evening at the Fire Station thanks to Alison and Toby’s booking.

I had already had dinner earlier in accordance to Gaby’s plan, however with Gaby’s permission I managed to steal a few chips from Rebecca’s plate and I was also given permission by Gaby to eat an additional banana prior to go to sleep.

I took a couple of melatonin pills to ensure not having issues in falling asleep and slept really well with the aid of the CPAP machine.

I had breakfast as per Gaby’s plan and headed to transition full of excitement in anticipation of the big day, I was feeling great and the weather conditions were perfect. I had Veerle and Rebecca on my side, with Tommaso and his former (?) girlfriend expected to join the support crew later in the morning.

I managed to jog ten minutes and visit the toilette one last time before the start, I briefly stopped at the club tent where Phil helped me wearing the wetsuit, Alex, Daniel and Kate were there too so we exchanged good lucks and I could finally head to the beach approximately twenty minutes before the start of my wave at 8.15.

I still had time for a five minutes swim warm up to test the water and I was able to cheer Nick and Jonney coming out of the water half way through their swim leg.

Now in the chute before the start, last kiss from wife and daughter, it was time to put all that training to the test.

My initial goal was to finish the race within the cut-off time (7h30min), however after all that training my goal had become slightly more ambitious and I was hoping to finish within 6h30min.

Steven thought that I could finish in less than 6 hours, I did not, but I was hoping that my coach was right…

My prediction was:

  • Swim: 45 to 55 minutes
  • T1: 5 minutes
  • Ride: 2h50min to 3h10min
  • T2: 5 minutes
  • Run: 2:15min to 2h30min

Expected overall time: 6h:00min to 6h45min

I decided to not wear a watch for two reasons… I don’t have a watch whose battery lasts for that long and I did not want to risk being negatively affected by some splits being potentially worse than planned. I decided to race as I felt.

My race plan was to swim at a constant pace, stopping for sighting as often as required in order to not swim much longer than required, and finish my swim between 45 and 55 minutes.

I started a bit nervous and the first 200 m were not easy, however I then relaxed and swam as planned, the Ocean conditions were not perfect, but reasonably good as predicted, the course was well marked with several buoys closely spaced which made easier to avoid swimming much longer than required.

My wife and daughter were cheering me at half way and out of the water, I finished my swim in 50 minutes (perfectly in the middle of my predicted range), I was quick to open the top part of my wetsuit (big improvement from Bunbury OD last year) and I ran confidently towards my bike.

Transition was smooth, slightly faster than predicted, I did the fancy mount as the pros do (first time for me in a race, thanks Steven for pushing me…) and started my ride with confidence.

Race plan for the ride was to go consistently as fast as possible without overdoing, at the 70.3 pace (which I did not know what it was…), slightly slowing down at nutrition times, being careful to follow the drafting and blocking rules (thanks Phil and Alison for reminding them to me multiple times) and more importantly, be able to stay in the TT position as long as possible without falling off the bike. Plan was also to slightly slow down the last 5 km in order to prepare my legs for the half marathon.

I followed my race plan diligently, even if I had to add an unplanned pit stop to the toilette at the second aid station approximately 25 km in, shortly  after the first turning point. I finished my ride cheered by Tommaso who had finally arrived and I performed the professional dismount, however probably due to being tired I risked to seriously injure my toe when landing on the asphalt.

I was pleased with my riding, and I was right as my riding time was 2h53 minutes, pretty close to my best expected time.

Got in transition, I sat down to wear my new shoes and head out for my Half marathon, the seventh half marathon of my life, the first one at the end of a 70.3.

Similarly to T1, T2 was slightly faster than planned.

The initial feeling during the run was not ideal as I started having some cramps in my quads since trying to get up after wearing my shoes and during the first few hundreds meters of the run. During the first lap the cramps did not get worse, I followed Gaby’s plan re nutrition and walked a few meters at every aid station to get water and electrolytes.

My friend, triathlete and OWS Swim Champ Lisa was supporting me between the turning point and the club tent where the main contingent of supporters was. During the second lap, my cramps worsened however they were still manageable and a I kept running at a similar pace than lap 1.

Unfortunately during the third and last lap, after passing through the club tent on the way out for the last time, cramps started getting worse and worse, now involving calves as well, and after the third last aid station with approximately 4.5km to go I started to walk-run.

Rebecca walked from the club tent to meet me for the final 1.5 km and she was soon followed by Tommaso, his former (?) girlfriend, Coach Steven and my work colleague Ben who ran behind me for a few hundreds meters helping me in reaching the last aid station.

That was my Forrest Gump moment, I stopped at the last aid station, I turned towards the nice group following me and I said to them: “I am a little bit tired…”, my intention was to quote Forrest Gump when he stopped running in the middle of the desert, however I have now checked on Youtube and he actually said: “I am pretty tired…”

The last stretch from the aid station to the finish line was pure glory, last time in front of the club tents, with people from all other clubs cheering as well and finally going into the finish chute, one hi-five to my wife and the last effort to the finish line with a big smile on my face being cheered by the speaker making fun of the typical Italian gesticulation as I was waving to the crowd.

After the finish line, I stopped and soon after, cramps forced me to sit down, I tried a few times to get up for but cramps were immediately kicking in and I could not get up without the help of three people taking me from the back and allowing me to stand up without putting any force on my muscles.

My finish time was 6 hours 15 minutes and 8 seconds, closer to the fastest time of the expected range, my goal was achieved.

Celebrations started with family, friends and club members and continued in the evening at The Shelter, thanks to Alison and Toby’s booking again…

Unfortunately the fun day on Sunday was cancelled due to new Covid restrictions and we could not celebrate any further in Busselton, but I am sure we will be there again at some stage…

After a well deserved two weeks break, it will be time for me to set new goals and make new plans, this will be done with Coach Steven in front of a coffee, however, subject to coach’s  approval, I have a few goals already in mind:

  • August 2021 – Run WAMC Half marathon in sub 1h55min;
  • October 2021 – Finish Bunbury OD triathlon in sub 3 hours;
  • October-November 2021 – Complete Rockingham 5 km OWS;
  • November 2021 – Contribute to UWATC winning the Mandurah Interclub State Championships;
  • May 2022 – Complete Busselton 70.3;
  • September/November 2022 – Complete a full marathon in Rome or Florence with a contingent of athletes from UWATC.