Panama Ironman 70.3 – Latin American Championships
February 6th, 2013 by Fraser
This weekend saw me racing in my 2nd Championhip 70.3 in two weeks – visiting a 3rd Continent in the five weeks since leaving home and ensuring a serious number of airline travel miles along the way. Not to mention a lot of packing and re packing of my bike… if I wasn’t already a near expert, I can feel confident in my claim to be one now 😉
The Bridge of Americas was a focal point of this race. I may have written about my lack of enthusiasm for the hype surrounding us racing over the Auckland Harbour bridge in New Zealand in my last race, however this time around we were crossing a bridge that links both the South and North American Continents, and untill 2004 it was the only one that did so. Now that – in my opinion – is a bridge worth chatting about! And it was deceptively steep (and windy) up there too.
We swam in the Panama Canal itself, which brought with it some ‘health’ issues shall I say. The notion of the water being clean enough to swim in safely seems hard for me to grasp when in the backround we quite literally had supertankers passing by. I’ve had my fair share of sickness troubles over the years in various bodies of water and so I was determined to keep my mouth as shut as possible during this one. – Two days later I am still keeping my figers crossed that I have been triumphant. The most notable aspect of this swim was the point to nature of the course – the current is far too strong to swim against and so we simply swum 1900m with the tide, which explains the much faster than normal times. We also swam without wetsuits as this would have made the swim times ridiculously short, but the water temperature was in fact quite cool despite our proximity to the Equator! So chilly that after having to get out after a warm up becasue of race start delay we all one by one began to shiver. Some of the athletes were actually doing so completely uncontrollably at one point during our 50min stoppage period. It was all rather ‘manana manana’ in terms of getting the show on the road anyways.
This jetty to the left was our swim start, and you can see the shipping path for the large cruise ships and tankers just past that in the distance. We watched a couple sizable boats go by as we waited for our delayed start time to arrive. It certainly made for one of the most unique race starts I have ever been a part of anyway.
I had a slightly off swim once we got going. Initially I had a great start and was sitting on the leaders feet thinking all was rosy in the Panama Canal when all of a sudden I was swamped by what felt like the whole field swimming over me. This luckily is not something I am too used to when I race as I tend to find the start and first few hundred meters set me up for the remainder. I must have switched off or had a lapse of concetration but either way it meant I was working hard just to stay in contact with the lead group till we hit the exit stairs. It’s a good thing as these sorts of situations give you the kick up the backside that is needed every once in a while.
It did mean I was riding particularly hard for the first few miles to regain safe contact with the leaders on the road, and this coincided with us crossing the span of the bridge. Unfortunately as I made my towards the front of the race atop the bridge I was greeted by the race referee motorbike alongside me. To be honest I don’t really notice these bikes when I race very much anymore as you get so used to them and their engine noise. However I am definately not used to the referee telling me I have a red card for a drafting penalty. The initial reaction is to argue your case but I simply asked him to clarify where on the road it had happened in his opinion and why he felt I had been drafting. I am frustrated with the call, but I guess I would say that. It is my first penalty for drafting in my entire time of racing so I was annoyed with myself for breaking that spell but mostly as it was effectively serving a death knell to my race aspirations. I continued to race as I would have done till the next available penalty tent which appeared at the 45k turnaround marker where I took my 4 minute stand down. I was fortunate in that the next group of riders on the road only came past me at 3.45 into my penalty and so I was able to catch them up quickly, and I finished the bike racing with these guys. I ended up coming into T2 some 5.30 in arrears to the group I had been with so its clear that a red card penalty really does have a large impact on your race, as it should. I hope its my last.
Due to our delayed race start we obviously started the run quite a bit later in the morning which meant the strength of the sun was even greater. I anticipated the heat and humidity causing me some issues out there but figured since we should be finished by 11 it wouldnt be too strong. In the end I started running at around that time and you could feel the difference as you hit the run course. It was a pancake flat out and back affair along the water front for large portions, which at least provided good views of the tankers and container ships waiting their turn to pass through the Canal out in the bay.
I am satisfied with how I ran on Sunday. I think it was better than in Auckland, in terms of pacing – especially with the heat factored in, but I am just frustrated that I wasn’t able to race the guys who I had been riding with early in the race. Another 10th place was a better outcome than I had imagined when I was initially given the red card and as such I am pleased with the outcome. I am doing my very best this year to think in terms of glass half full rather than empty. It would have been all too easy to sulk about the situation but it was what it was and I am looking forward to the next block of training that I can get my teeth into. Onwards and upwards.