As the winner of the 2013 Cairns IRONMAN 70.3, professional triathlete Courtney Atkinson knows a thing or two about tackling the challenges of the tropical Cairns course. The key, he says, is a balanced approach that includes maintaining hydration, time-saving efficiencies and appreciating the spectacular scenery,
Here. he shares some of his best racing insights…
A head’s up on the course
There’s not much really on the Cairns course that you need to train for specifically. It’s pretty flat, apart from a few small undulations, and very straight forward. Cairns is always going to be humid, so hydration is one of the most important things.
The swim in Cairns is going to be hot, but because of the stingers up there you need to wear a wetsuit. A long-sleeved wetsuit is quicker and whether you’re a good swimmer or an average swimmer, it gives you free speed. With one of these, it’s more important than usual to make sure you maintain hydration because you dehydrate quicker than you normally would.
The course is amazing in terms of scenery; it’s a nice day out on the bike. Last year the wind played a big part and kicked up quite strong along the coast. When you have that out and back course structure, pacing into the wind is important. You need to make sure you don’t over pace heading out, only to turn around and find you don’t have the energy to pick up the pace to come home.
The best thing about the run in Cairns is that the first half you’re out on your own, which lets you set your own rhythm and run. Then you get to finish the run with your friends and family. I think it’s a perfect way to run the race because you get the bulk of the distance done on your own and come in and finish with the crowd.
Handling the conditions
The humidity is not going to be extreme enough at that time of year in Cairns that you need to go out of your way to do specific sessions. It’s enough though that people coming up from Victoria and the Southern states will notice the difference. Make sure you’re in a few days earlier to let the body acclimatise but don’t go overboard getting out there and doing too much training. The main thing while you’re racing is to be that little bit more conscious of what you’re drinking and making sure you’re on top of your electrolytes.
Improving efficiency to achieve your best time
The less you slow down over an endurance event, the quicker you’ll go.
Transitions are a great time to rest, but when you stop, it’s free time. If you’re concerned about having the quickest race possible, the more things you can be doing on the go, the better. Put your run belt and hat on when you’re jogging away from transition, have your shoes already on the bike and have a nutrition boost ready to go – that’s just free seconds.
Break the race down into portions. For me, it doesn’t matter who you are, if you think of the ironman/half ironman distance as a whole, it’s quite daunting. Say to yourself, I’m only going to think about what I’m doing in the swim to the halfway buoy, then I’m going to think about the next half of the swim. Reduce the race down into small parts and trick your mind into thinking in short time all the time. Get to that goal, then set the next goal. When it gets really bad on the run, I break it down into steps – 10 steps on your left leg, 10 steps on the right leg. Make a game out of it.