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RACE REPORT - Ironman 70.3 Goa, India, 8 October 2023

A land of spice, colour, and beauty.

We arrived in Goa hot on our heels from completing an epic trip in Oman and having also raced Ironman 70.3 Salalah where I finished 12th in my Age Group.

With less than two weeks between the two races I knew that it was going to be a challenge to be at my best and equally to perform on the day. Preparation for Goa was not helped by a bout of illness immediately after the race in Salalah which meant a round of antibiotics for five days to clear up a viral infection.

It was raining heavily on and off as we arrived in India as it was at the end of the monsoon season which apparently had extended a bit longer than normal.

My second trip, having visited this beautiful land more than 15 years prior with a work trip to Bangalore and in many respects not much had changed in India. The roads still had potholes, the heat was oppressive, the electricity didn’t always work, traffic and animals intermingling in day-to-day life, and the ever-present smell of spice in the air.

A beautiful country with a rich history and culture that is visible on every street corner and everywhere you turn. Goa, a former Portuguese colony is a wonderful colourful region with amazing beaches, food, and people and I feel grateful for having had the opportunity to experience everything it had to offer. It seemed obvious to me why it had become a destination for so many travellers but also now the home of Ironman in India.

The race was a one lap swim course in calm waters at Miramar beach which was the central point for the entire race. As the water temperature exceeded 28 degrees Celsius, neither wetsuits nor compression socks were permitted. With a short run from the beach into the shallow waters, the race got underway at 07.00.

The water is the warmest I’ve ever raced in and if you can imagine what it might be like to swim in a warm bath then this is it. There is nothing to see in the water as the water is far from clear. It is not a difficult course with only two turns and then the swim back which runs parallel to the shore. I exited the water in the top 30 which was a personal best for me, even without a wetsuit where I would normally have expected to be a few minutes quicker.

There was a long way to get back to transition, a total of 800m along the hard packed sand on the beach. Perhaps the longest run I’ve ever done back to T2, but actually it wasn’t too bad in the end and it also gave an opportunity to try and catch up with some of the faster swimmers who were ahead of me.

On to the bike, and the 3 lap course which takes you out of the city and along the historic causeway on nicely tarmacked roads. With a turning point at the end of the causeway you come back along the same route and then head onto the bike course proper which takes you onto the 3-laned highway which is totally closed to traffic for the race.

One of my biggest concerns with racing in Goa was the conditions of the road but all-in-all they were excellent, and the organisers even covered some sections of the road where there were speed bumps to reduce the discomfort for athletes.

There is a climb in the middle of the freeway section of the course which is neither steep or long so you can easily maintain consistent power and effort. Once you descend over the hill you reach another turning point, come back and then repeat the whole thing again another 2 times before taking the last lap back into town and T2.

There is good support on the bike course on your way back into town and also at Miramar roundabout leading back into T2.

Having not been able to do much run training I knew I was going to suffer on the half marathon. I racked the bike and was in 14th position overall and 1st position Age Category when I started the run.

It is an out and back course along the main road which is also closed to traffic for the event. There are aid stations every 2km along the course and all the volunteers are simply amazing, they did a great job all day long.

The run is mostly flat except for a short climb at around 3km on each lap which leads you to a right turn and a 500m run before turning back on yourself and heading back towards transition which is also where the finish line is setup.

The run course was brutal for me. After 3km I was walking, and I couldn’t manage my efforts as the heat and the humidity were extreme, other athletes were passing me with ease and mentally I knew I was in for a tough time.

By the end of lap 1 I had been overtaken and dropped back down to 2nd place in Age Category which until this point I had held for the entire race. Knowing this was mentally tough as I knew I didn’t have the legs to retake the lead and that the rest of the race was about pure survival and being able to finish, hopefully in the top 3.

By lap 2 the sun was blazing in the sky and there were few opportunities to hide from it in the shade. I made sure I kept my fluid intake high and kept telling myself to manage my efforts and not to overexert.

I tried to rally myself for the last lap, I still had a 2-minute gap on the athlete in 3rd place and I knew that I just had to keep my momentum and move forward with every step. I was so happy to see the finish line and I crossed securing 2nd place and a qualification slot for the World Championships in New Zealand for December 2024.

I was disappointed again with my performance on the run, never have I run so slow at 70.3 competition but the lack of run training and my ability to deal with the heat and humid conditions clearly impacted me.

But overall, it was job done. I had hoped to secure a slot for the World Champs and I came and I took it. Overall, Goa was a fantastic race experience and the team in India really do put on a great show and it is without doubt one the best 70.3 Ironman races I have competed in (and this was my 18th 70.3 Ironman race).

Next race will be in Australia in December so time will be taken now to reflect on my performance and to work on the areas where I need to improve, notably on my run performance.

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