Cairns 2022: Athlete Learnings



Cairns Ironman and Ironman 70.3 was a day to remember with 18 Hurt Locker Tri athletes competing over the two distances. We caught up with some of the crew a month after the race to reflect on their experience and key learnings. We asked three questions


  1. What did you find unexpected about the Cairns race/ What do you wish you knew?

  2. What are your key learnings?

  3. What were the best parts of the day?


What do you wish you knew?


"Probably the head wind on the bike. I knew there was going to be a head wind, but I didn’t expect it to be that tough! Would have been good to do some more strength work on the bike before hand."


"This was my second run at Cairns70.3 so I had a good idea of what to expect this time. Previously I hadn't expected the swim to be murky and the headwind on the return leg of the bike."


"For me even though you guys told us multiple times the head wind coming back down to cairns was nuts like an absolute punch to face."


"How beautiful the bike course is. When you’ve trained with hills and done the eastern beaches ride, Rex lookout is nothing to worry about!!


"I think I underestimated just how hot it would be up there. I had been warned but don’t think I fully took it on board! Even on the early stages of the bike, I felt the heat. Luckily, I arrived to Cairns a few days early and had a chance to do a run in the heat of the day so would definitely recommend arriving early in the week to try acclimatise as much as possible. I also wasn’t expecting a choppy swim. There was quite a bit of chop during the practice swim on Saturday which freaked me out a bit as I expected it to be pretty flat. Thankfully we got much better conditions on race day! Overall though, through the race plan and prep provided by HLT, I think everything went well and my first 70.3 experience couldn’t have gone much smoother."


"There’s actually nothing. The race plan gave in depth detail of what to expect and it didn’t really throw any surprises"



What were your key learnings?


"Race your own race, stick to the plan, and don’t get caught up too much in how other people are approaching things - trust yourself and the work you’ve put in.

• The importance of preparing your mind. One of the best things I did in race week was having a proper think about how hard the day potentially could be – if you prepare your mind for the worst, you’ll be pleasantly surprised."


"My swimming needs improvement. And I can push harder on the bike without impacting the run"


"It’s a brilliant and rewarding personal challenge completing the race; and as I would like to do another one in future, I’ll manage my time better for the preparation."


"The 21km run is a long slog even if you’ve done lots of running training so be prepared to hurt!

- nutrition practice: Tailwind worked great for me, plenty of energy, no bonking and no tummy issues.

- the logistics- work and social life definitely were not the focus the week of the event, more annual leave would have been helpful. "


"Key learnings from my perspective (both are because I had a crash 12 weeks out) 1. The importance of doing as much as you can on the road rather than the trainer. 2. More long rides into runs"


"Just one key learning for me this year - Don't skimp on electrolytes for hot races (I sweat a lot) - legs cramped up coming out of T2 and ruined my run"


"Not to stress too much about nutrition as the aid stations are very well stocked!

Put more time in on the bike. It’s the longest leg so you can’t hide."




What was the best part of racing Cairns


"The bike course is hands down the best part of Cairns for me. It's challenging but the roads are mint and the scenery is absolutely stunning.... Distracts you from the pain in your legs"


"The support and atmosphere on the run was awesome!"


"The best part of it is def the crowd in cairns they were electric"


"The best part was the journey: the friendships made, the satisfaction after completing those tough training sessions- enjoy the whole build as the day goes super quickly!

"The beautiful bike ride especially from Palm Cove north and the amazing support from HLT, CTC, family and friends who were there and helped me get through the run - which was by far the hardest part!"


"The run…the atmosphere on the run was absolutely incredible and the crowd supporting everyone the whole way made it such an enjoyable experience. It was such a great buzz passing all the other HLT athletes and friends on course and cheering each other on and knowing a supporter was never too far away really kept me going. Getting cheers from random people in the crowd was also brilliant and it felt like such a community spirit seeing random people supporting each other. "


"The ride was incredible! Beautiful scenery/fun on the hills. I think the roadie gave me a nice advantage on the climbs. Enjoyed it so much, bar the head wine towards the finish."



Mark - Full Race Report

The Unexpected:

The sun before race day. It wasn’t crazy hot but coming out of the cold snap in Sydney I copped a good dose of UVs the days before the race.

I did a run on the course mid morning on the Friday and a swim in the local pool and that was enough to change the complexion.

After a few single digit days in Sydney a cool Cairns low20s will burn !!!

Transition T1:

It’s a long transition from the end of the swim to the bike racks and then from the bike rack to bike mount.

It’s very tight with not much room between bikes and athletes, you also have to stuff your wetsuit into your bike bag (which then gets transported back to T2 and Cairns after the race) as well as managing the uneven ground conditions (there’s make shift plywood ramps, carpet, kerbs etc. ).

It’s not a super speedy transition but rather a transition that requires a focus on being smooth and efficient.

The Learnings:

Palm Cove is no where near Cairns !!!

This needs to be factored into the pre race planning with the bike drop the day before as well as the race start and getting into transition race morning.

I stayed in Cairns and hired a car. I would highly recommend the car for getting the bike up to T1 (the day before) as well as doing the course reci along the Captain Cook highway.

The event is sooo well organised and I used the shuttle bus service on race morning from Cairns to Palm Cove. Easy peasy and no issues here.

When racing and you get back to Palm Cove there is still plenty of racing to get back to T2 and to Cairns. It took me the race to appreciate this (I think I’m a slow learner 😊). But 30k or the last 3rd of a 70.3 is still along way from home, there is plenty of racing left and a great opportunity to attack.

I learnt this lesson the hard way last year and paced it differently this time to make sure I could GO this last 30k.

It’s also different riding from what I expected. Its more like suburb type riding with roundabouts, bends/ turns and shit roads. It’s a good time to stretch out the back and glutes as you naturally break the aero position here.

Also there are sections here where you are very exposed especially along York Knob Road and back to the highway (I think this is the name) … the speed drops but don’t sweat the speed or power. I relied heavily on perceived effort here and used other racers around me as a pace guide.

Also, I don’t think this last section had any aid station. I didn’t take any hydration on course and wished I had have topped up my hydration particularly for this last 30k. My legs got a little jumpy the last few ks and the first 1-2km of the run I was twinging and on verge of cramping. I put this down to hydration (lack of) rather pacing here.

The swim:

Take advantage of the wind and swell.

It was south easterly and as we made the left turn out to sea at about 500m into the swim this would be a good time to make a bit of a move. Sighting is a little more challenging as you are going head on into the swell and you have the morning sun poking it’s head in the horizon but it’s a good time for a little pick up.

Also, once you head north and take on the main part of the swim the swell will push you towards the beach. If you focus on navigation/ sighting and keeping a good line here you can save a lot of energy and time.

Experience:- The best!!!

So much energy on the run course. It’s a bit lonely for a few k up at the northern end/ towards the airport but this is far outweighed by the good vibes and support around the transition area/ the finish and the boardwalk/ southern turnaround.

Such a great place for a long weekend escape. The weather in June is perfect, low20s and coming from Sydney you can forget the longs and get the shorts and T back on.

It’s an easy place to get around - everything is fairly accessible and no crazy traffic.

The only things on the ground that needs booking in advance is the bike at Pump n Pedals if you are relying on a bike mechanic and the post race celebration feed.

Best coffee:- The Goose

Best ‘big breakkie’:- The Chambers

Best cocktails:- Ollie’s Italian on the pier/ front. They do Happy Hour from 2:30-5:30