It exciting to do my first race for 2020. The sun run aquathon is an event I’ve taken part in since its launch in 2018. I got to the event nice and early to give myself plenty of time to warm up, and before I knew it I was standing on the start line waiting for the gun to go off. Looking around, I saw two athletes (John and Keegan) in the Australian ITU AG triathlon suits. Mental note they are probably the main competition to monitor.
Run Leg 1
Seconds before the gun went off this dude with no shirt barges past to get a couple steps (false start anyone?!) ahead of everyone. A little rude I thought, but whatever I’ve got him covered. The aquathon starts off with ~800m run uphill, followed by around 600m downhill. The pace was hard from the get go, but I decided to keep my effort measured on the first uphill hoping I could run back onto the lead group on the downhill. Sure enough, I let gravity do its thing on the downhill and pushed up to 2nd place behind John. I was running harder than I had in a very long time, with Keegan sitting on my shoulder. The gap was about 5 seconds to John, but try as I might I couldn’t close the gap. As we neared the swim transition I started thinking about my swim cap and goggles.. oh no! where had my swim cap gone? It was no longer stuffed into the top of my triathlon suit where I’d put it at the start of the race. I had a mild panic, as my mind raced, thinking about where I might have dropped it. I decided there was nothing I could do about it and just to keep going.. but then I realised it had just fallen down inside my triathlon suit. I unzipped, fetched it out of its resting place (next to my stomach), zipped back up and continued, holding onto it towards transition.
Into transition and I couldn’t remember what bib number I had to take my shoes off in the correct area. A quick look reminded me what the number was, but then I still started to take my shoes off in the wrong place. Whoops.. quick shuffle further along, sorted! Oh.. there goes Keegan in hot pursuit of John. Finally shoes off and I dash down the sand onto the beach. I put on a spurt of speed to catch back up to Keegan, treading on a couple of stones for my efforts.
Into the water and I see the leader John just ahead running with high knees out into the surf. I try to follow suit and realised straight away my legs felt so heavy; it was a lot of effort after the intense first run leg. It didn’t take long before all 3 of us started to dolphin dive as the water deepened. Out to the first buoy and I got caught on the rope trying to get around it. Swimming onto the next buoy I got lost, I thought I knew where it was, but after 50-100m of swimming I saw other athletes swimming in a different direction. Even though I couldn’t see the buoy in the swell, I decided multiple people couldn’t all be wrong, so I changed direction and followed. By the time I made it around the final buoy the gap was sizeable to the lead guys. I was still struggling to sight over the waves and decided to just head straight back into shore.
As I was coming out of the water I glimpsed John and Keegan running up the beach to transition. Back into transition and it was packed! Shoes everywhere! Once again I went to the wrong place before doubling back to find my shoes, which the inner soles had conveniently come out when I took them off. Sat down to put my shoes back together before slipping them on. In the meantime, two others came into transition and exited (one being the guy with no shirt from the start!).
Run Leg 2
Back onto the final hill over the headland and I could see the two ahead, but again the gap wasn’t closing. I was thinking how they had it easier running with someone, and I’d never catch them; first place was long gone.. maybe I should just cruise. But then another voice said you can’t let that dude beat you. Just catch him, the discomfort will all be over in less than 10 minutes. Every turn in the course I’d lose sight of those I was chasing. On the downhill towards Manly I let the brakes off again and with the help of gravity made some sizeable gains. Onto the flat and I tried to carry the momentum. I finally caught the shirtless dude and kept going. I was holding 3:20 pace, which was intense, but I was also catching the next guy ahead. With around 800m to go I caught him and then pushed the pace harder. I felt him try to come with me. I didn’t dare look back, but with 300m to the finish line I sensed he might come back at me, as the effort was really hurting. So I pushed even harder, as I didn’t know if I could speed up to a sprint if required. My legs were cooked, and I just wanted to stop but held it together to the finish.
It surprised me to have run myself into 3rd place. With my swim and transition, I thought I’d lost more positions but was fortunate that wasn’t the case. I learned that the finish for the win was a close one with John taking it only seconds ahead of Keegan. Congratulations to both! Even though I ran slower than in previous years, I was proud of my effort during the race. It has been a long time since I’ve sustained an uncomfortable pace, and this race provided a good reminder about digging deep as I gave all I had on the day.
In the lead up to this race, I was a little scared at the prospect of what my hamstring might do in this race with all the hills. I visited Balmain Sports Medicine in the days before for some pain relief and also advice on progression with my rehab. Thankfully it behaved, and I didn’t feel any discomfort during the race, or even after the race! This is great progress, and something I’ll continue to keep getting stronger. In the swim, my sighting is something I need to continue to develop, as swimming straight is the best way to save time! Definitely keen to do this race yet again, next year.