Winter Ballbuster 2011 Review

I enjoyed the Ballbuster last year and was absolutely trashed by the end so when it came to looking at a race to finish off 2011 and the Ballbuster was advertised I wanted to enter. It is a genuinely hard race and although Box Hill is not actually that steep by the time you’ve raced up it 5 times is quick succession it certainly feels it!

We arrived not long after 6:30 and after registering and joining a long queue for the toilet I went to rack choosing a position right at the start of transition. Everybody seemed to be heading up to the far end of transition near the exit but I decided to take the position right by the run and bike in. It gave me plenty of space on the end of the row to change and meant that there was no chance of me not finding my bike!

My plan for the race was to take the first run much harder than last year – my time last year was 3:17:09 which had included a negative split for the runs, a 56 minute first run and a 55 minute second run. The race last year had been my first duathlon and I had been very conscious not to go out too quickly leaving nothing for the second run. Since then I’ve raced a couple of other duathlons, run a marathon and now have a couple of Garmins to record pace  and heart rates and that pace I ran last year was nowhere near my threshold and was some 20 seconds per km slower than even my marathon pace albeit on a flatter course.

I went into the race with a plan to run the first leg at about marathon pace which would have given me a run of about 53 minutes, to ride the bike leg as hard as I was able and hold on as best I could for the second run. I was pretty sure I could go quicker than last year as although my running I think has remained at last years level I am now been cycling for 18 months and have had another year of bike training under my belt.

The weather had been kind, it was unseasonably warm for November and despite some overnight rain making the roads damp and a bit of mist that came down on the top of the hill during the second and third bike laps conditions were good for racing. I chose to wear just a tri top and shorts without any other layers and I was plenty warm enough. I was amazed how many people had all sorts of layers, gloves and hats – they must have boiled as the race progressed!

Run 1

I managed to get onto the front row of the start line and when the gun went started set off across the field but still got squeezed as the field had to run through a narrow gap off the field and onto the road. I settled into a good pace running the first uphill km in 4:04 and running the remainder of the loop to the bottom of Box Hill averaging just under 4min/km. I was conscious not to go off at a silly speed as I had done a couple of weeks earlier at the Great South Run but was definitely pushing it. Running up box Hill I managed to still keep the pace well under 5 min/km and an average pace of 4:06/km for the whole run. I was feeling good and about a minute and a half ahead of schedule.

Time 51:24 (61/391); 4:06/km; HR 158

T1

Given the position of bike bike transition was quick. Chugged a quick gel and off through the mud!

1:18 (32/391)

Bike

I had opted to use the TT bike rather than the road bike for a couple of reasons. Firstly the TT bike has a compact crank as opposed to the double on the road bike so seemed a more sensible choice. Also there are actually large portions of the loop that are downhill and quite quick. The whole of the back ‘straight’ can be taken at full bore of there is no traffic and not too many other cyclists. It was definitely the right choice I think.

I had planned to ride as fast as I could from the off and that’s what I did. The first loop was quite crowded and I ended up having to freewheel for large portions of the back part of the loop unable to overtake safely. I was riding at a good pace though and it all felt good.

As I hit the lower part of Box Hill for the first time on the bike I felt my calves twinge and begin to cramp. I had to slow to stretch them both out and was more than a bit concerned considering how far there was still to go. I have cramped in races before though and I kept telling myself that it would pass but it was worried that on the hill if I had to actually stop I’d never get going again! I passed the wife and my Mum who had come along to watch and was good to get the support. I have used Saltstick caps to try to ward off the cramps before and I took one before the start and had planned to take two more on the bike – I ended up taking all three I had on the bike largely out of fear that the cramps would mean a DNF. As it turned out I cramped in both calves on each ascent of Box Hill but it got slightly better rather than worse on each loop. I’ll put that down to the power of positive thinking…

The first loop took 24:49 and I pushed on through the second loop. It was beginning to feel harder but there were fewer cyclists around and those that were were travelling at a similar pace. I was able to give it the berries along the downhill portions, I guess that’s the advantage of being further up the field than I was last year having been nearly 5 minutes quicker on the first run compared to last year. I had to make a conscious effort to get the 500ml of High 5 down me during the ride and I managed all bar a few mouthfuls and I had a second gel at the start of that second bike loop to keep the energy levels up.

The mist had really come down on the second and third loops and whilst I didn’t feel the need to slow I spent a lot of my time peering over the top of the yellow light enhancing sunglasses I was wearing. I inevitably slowed over the loops but not by much, riding around 26 minutes for the second and third laps with the average power for each being 202, 200 and 199 Watts respectively. I was very pleased with the ride ending up beating last years bike leg by about six minutes which hopefully show a significant improvement in my riding over the past year.

1:18:10 (60/391); 29.2kph; HR 155 Average Power 200W

Who said the second run was hard!

T2

Quick again but no gel this time

1:21 (28/391)

Run 2

It turned out to be a fairly lonely run, again as a result of being further up the field. Being a decent runner I had plenty of people to catch and pass last year and it was motivating to reel them in. Not so this time.

I overtook one guy about 1k out of transition but was overtaken myself shortly afterward by a guy who was flying and I had no chance of latching onto. It was feeling hard and there was no rhythm to my running – it is though a feeling I’m getting used to. Running at the end of a tri or duathlon is very different to just running alone and I can see why sometimes pure running pace doesn’t translate to multisports. I tried to keep it as smooth as I could knowing that the final ascent of Box Hill was coming soon. The length of the back straight seemed to take forever and I was overtaken twice in quick succession – I’m not used to that in the final legs of races!

I pushed as hard as I could which wasn’t very, but took another couple of places on the hill itself before a slow motion kick for the line at the top. Nowhere near as quick as the first loop but I managed to average 4:31/km so not too bad.

56:07 (49/391); 4:31/km; HR 155

 

Overall Time 3:08:21 (47/391)

 

It was a very good morning. I beat last years time by 9 minutes, a significant improvement. The pacing strategy worked, I was only a minute slower on the second run compared to last year but by pushing the first run harder was quicker over the 2 runs combined by around 3 minutes. most pleasing was the bike leg. To beat last year split by 2 minutes per lap was great and again shows things are heading in the right direction. You never know – I might be back for more.

Next race...

IM Mallorca

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