Fox Finishes Fourth in Japan 70.3

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Our Sponsored Hero, Michael Fox, completed the recent Japan 70.3 in 4th position. Michael wrote to us after the race with a rundown of the race:

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything about my racing and I’ve missed reflecting on what went well and even what didn’t go so well.

Since last time I wrote something I have received my first drafting penalty in Auckland 70.3 and raced well at Busselton, but picked up a slight injury. Busselton was the best 70.3 I had managed to put together in a great field. It was a bit of a bittersweet result because I’d been in such a great position early in the race with a good chance to achieve my first 70.3 top 5, but it wasn’t to be.

Which then brings me to Japan 70.3. I’d been to the Physio a lot to get my Hamstring/Glute issue on the right track to recovery. Special thank you to “Panno” from Active Physiotherapy in Newton for getting me from unlikely to start the race to on the start line ready to go.

The day started off rather late with an 8:30am start time. We had to get shuttled out to the race site and get our ironman style transition bags and set up ready. This was a new experience for anyone who hadn’t completed a full ironman distance race.

We got to the start and the line was set up diagonal from a buoy in the water to a marker on the beach. I decided to stay on the shallower end even though majority of the quicker swimmers I knew we’re at the other end. Luckily for me this decision paid off, we were able to run further and myself and another Japanese athlete got off to a good start. We were then joined by 2 other athletes. There were a few surges during the swim that made it extremely hard as I began to overhead. The water temp was measured at 23.9 degrees meaning it was a wetsuit swim. I managed to hang on and exit the water with the 2 Japanese Olympians with James Hodge only meters ahead of us. I had a smooth transition and managed to get myself a bit of a gap going onto the bike.

The first thing I noticed once on the bike was my power meter wasn’t reading so I got that sorted, lucky because it came in handy later in the race. Once that was going I made sure I got my nutrition in and waited for the next 2 athletes to join me. We then had a nice group of 3 and started to build a gap on the rest of the field. The course was flat, which would be perfect for my Token Disc Wheel to get up to a good speed. The downside was the course had lots of turns (20 U-turns) and no overtaking sections. This was ok in the first lap but made it very congested later.

On the second lap, the Japanese athlete riding with us offered to ride at the front for the technical bits so he could clear the way to talk to the age groupers. This was important with the amount of people on course and a very nice gesture on his part.

At the beginning of the third lap, I decided I need more nutrition than I first though due to the heat. As I tried to get nutrition I dropped a few bottles and found it hard to get more hydration with a very congested aid station. This caused a gap to form and allowed James Hodge the opportunity to break away. We chased hard but couldn’t get back up with him. A combination of his proven ability on the bike and the lead motorbike to clear the path didn’t go in our favour. Then as we thought we were beginning to hold Hodgey we turned a tight corner to find officials whistle and yelling with crossed arms everywhere. We were both glad for the break and managed to avoid the 3 athletes scattered across the pavement.

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At that point I’d realised we just needed to try to limit the damage up front. Over the next half a lap I got settled into my own pace and then the Japanese athlete came past then tried to slow us down I looked down at my power meter and knew he wasn’t like the more constant pace. This gave me the opportunity to lose him. I then came round to begin the last lap with a bit of a gap and slowed right down almost to a stop to get some more water. I knew if I missed aid this time it could have been race over. The rest of the lap I continued to push at a steady pace and watch my power output not to overcook myself in the heat.

I got off the bike with James already a bit into his run and the Japanese athlete between 1-2 mins down. I had a quick transition and got moving. I felt ok for the first bit but kept the pace down knowing it was going to be a long day with the heat and us coming from winter. I missed the first aid station because they only had an electrolyte drink I wasn’t sure about. This was a pretty bad move. There was then no aim until about 3-4kms in. By then I was in desperate need and took the electrolyte drink and sponges to try and cool me down. I was struggling big time and had already been passed by one athlete. By the time I hit the 6 km mark and had to run up some ramps and over stairs I was getting a bit light headed and thinking I may not see the finish at this rate.

The run was a very interesting run along the shoreline behind all the little Japanese villages. It was hard to enjoy when it was so painful. In particular a set of stairs flared my hamstring up that I had been having issues with, fortunately for me it was flat for a while from there and it settled. The 9km mark was my saviour. Still struggling, I found an aid station with coke. I walked while I got the coke, grabbed ice for my suit and more water. This was a big turning point for me although at the same time another athlete caught and passed me. Shortly after this aid station there was another ramp and then I got some wind to cool me down with the ice.

Now I could finally begin to run properly and go from flirting with 4 mins per km to 3:40-3:45 per km. I started to hold the athlete in 3rd. As we kept going I began to feel better and it looked as though around the 16km he began to struggle. As we made a turn I saw I was gaining ground on him but also had 5th place gaining ground on me. I began to push hard and got within around 20 sec of 3rd but noticed I was running out of time to get there. This thought along with the combination of no more aid in the last 3km saw me just happy to be able to hold my gap from 5th.

This was my best 70.3 finish and I’m very happy to finally crack into the top 5. It didn’t come without its dramas but it was always going to be a tricky race with the heat and the cultural differences we need to consider when racing in Asia.

The experience of racing in Japan was incredible. They have an amazing culture there. It is shown in full force when an event has 1300 finishers and 1500 volunteers. The atmosphere was great to race in as we ran/stumbled through local villages people were coming out of their houses to cheer and keep us moving. Would recommend racing here to anyone.

Thanks to everyone who has helped me from my sponsors to physios, family, coaches and friends. I wasn’t so sure I’d be starting this one after Busselton.

Thanks Michael and congratulations from all of us!

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