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    Men's Top three - Francois Chabaud, Luke Bell and Rutger Beke


    Women's Top Three - Michellie Jones, Heather Fuhr, and Monica Caplan


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    2004 Ralph's Half Ironman Report - Heather Fuhr

    Another Season Begins with the Ralph’s Half Ironman

    It is hard to believe that another season is upon us – isn’t it still November??? Well no it isn’t and the first race of the season is always a subtle reminder of what is to come.

    As with last year, I decided to start my 2004 Triathlon season with an early half ironman just out my back door. Doing a half ironman race in April seems to be a perfect fit for my winter training – it makes me get in a good base but also not neglect some speed. The first race of the season is always a bit of an unknown. I know that I had some great training but training is training and racing is another story. So, I went into the race ready to accept almost any outcome. It would give me something to gauge exactly how my training has been going and to adjust and make any changes that need to be made to get ready for future races.

    All in all, I was very pleased with my performance. I had a very steady day – nothing was spectacular, but nothing was horrible either – so all in all very encouraging.
    I was very happy to hear the water temperature has broken the 60 degree mark - this would make the swim much more enjoyable. While it was a bit chilly when first jumping in, I was not cold one bit, and my new XTERRA wetsuit was awesome. The swim went by pretty quick without much drama. The positions were determined pretty quickly after the start and so I just stayed in my little group throughout. Getting out of the water it was nice to see that I was going to have some fast girls to ride with. Melissa Spooner, Amanda Gillam, and Heather Gollnick were a few that were in my pack and they are definitely strong on the bike. My biggest fear is always that I am going to be all alone on the swim and then have no one around on the bike, so it was nice to see that there were some others around.

    Off onto the bike we went and Amanda and Melissa took off like there was no tomorrow. I tried to keep them in sight throughout the first part of the bike ride which is mainly flat up the coast through Camp Pendleton and then along the State Park. I was feeling pretty good on my bike and knew that if I could just maintain the same pace that I would end up with a good bike. Once the course head inland from the coast, the hills start, and this is where my new K2 bike really shines. I felt great up the hills and ended up making up some ground through that section. Then it was back along the flats into the headwind for the last 6 miles. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, I have ridden this section of road quite a few times and so I knew just how long it was because it can be very deceiving.

    Then it was time to come into transition and start the run. As I was riding in, I could see some of the girls in front heading out, so I had an idea of the distance I was behind. There definitely was some time to make up but it was not impossible. Having Michellie in the field was going to make it very difficult to pull out a win. While it was only her second ever half ironman and the first one in 10 years, she seemed to be having no problem with the distance. Starting on the run, I just tried to get into my rhythm and hope that this would eventually move me up through the field. Once I got to the first turn around, I was making up some time, and this was encouraging. The time gap up to Michellie was still a fair bit, but the other girls were coming back to me. I just kept a steady pace and finally once I got to the final turn around at about 10 miles and Michellie was still just under 3 mins ahead, it was time to put it on cruise control. For those of us that have been racing for as many years as I have, you learn to pick your battles. There are going to be plenty of times when I am going to have to pull out every stop and use every ounce of energy that I have to get me to the finish line. This time, whether I brought back another minute or so from Michellie it appeared that I was going to be second, so I was very happy with that and went into autopilot. I crossed the finish line just over 3 mins behind Michellie but a few minutes faster than I was last year, so that was very encouraging.

    Now that the first race is over, it is time to look at what is to come this season and get ready for those next races.

    2004 Ralph’s Half Ironman Results
    Men
    1. Francois Chabaud (FRA) 4:01:04 (23:41\ 2:17:59\ 1:15:41)
    2. Luke Bell (AUS) 4:02:19 (23:03\ 2:18:54\ 1:17:09)
    3. Rutger Beke (BEL) 4:07:22 (24:49\ 2:23:00\ 1:15:59)
    4. Craig Alexander (AUS) 4:10.18
    5. Michael Lovato (USA) 4:11.11

    Women
    1. Michellie Jones (AUS) 4:34:00 (26:05\ 2:39:52\ 1:24:15)
    2. Heather Fuhr (CAN) 4:37:40 (28:31\ 2:42:48\1:22:29)
    3. Monica Caplan (USA) 4:39:15 (25:09\ 2:43:21\ 1:26:52)
    4. Katja Schumacher (GER) 4:39.55
    5. Nicole DeBoom (USA) 4:40.59