Australian Long Course Triathlon Championship Race Report
I arrived at the start area a touch after 5:30 am, giving myself over an hour to get set up and ready before the race started. I felt surprisingly relaxed, probably because my fitness wasn’t as good as it’s been, and I knew I could only do my best on the day. Whether that was enough or not I’d no idea, but a top 5 finish was the goal and I looked forward to having some battles to get the best out of myself.
I made sure to get near the front of the swim start, and saw a face I knew, James lining up. Wished him luck and we lined up for the rolling start. Before I knew it I was running into the water and racing. Stay long and push backwards not down, were my thoughts as I swam away from the shore. I held back and focused on my form, trusting I was swimming fast enough and trying to make it as efficient as possible. I saw a green cap come past slowly just after the first turn and jumped on their feet. It was easy behind them, and a couple of times I thought I could go faster. However, there were surges around buoys or through traffic which left me desperate to get back on. At the start of the 2nd lap, I got caught up in a lot of traffic and lost the feet.
Swimming into the rising sun I really couldn’t see too much and ended up solo. Focus on my form! My arms were starting to get quite heavy and I was battling to stay long. I then spotted a red swim cap coming past… I fought my fatigue and got onto their feet after the next turn buoy. Their tempo was making me work to stay close, but I knew it was better than swimming alone. At the final turn to head back to the beach, I once again got lost in traffic. <5mins till I’m on land, don’t give up and I battled through other swimmers towards the exit. I got mixed up with a bunch of guys starting their 2nd lap, as I tried to go straight, while they turned/stopped in front of me. Why do people stop at buoys? I’ll never work that one out… I finished the swim leg in 30:44.
Up onto the shore and I took in a couple of deep breaths, stripping my wetsuit down to my waist and then beginning to run. The stairs up off the beach were terrible, I feared I’d fall as my legs just didn’t want to move. At the top of the stairs, I forced myself to properly run. The transition was long and I knew I could make good time. Got to my bike and almost fell trying to get my wetsuit off, then grabbed my bike and bolted for the exit. The time was 2:22.
The chase was on, I didn’t know how far the lead of my race was up the road. However, I planned to work hard and see if I could close. Just out of town, I spotted a rider making good progress through the field, I doubled my efforts to catch them so that at least the chase wasn’t going to be solo. I caught them after 10mins just before the top of the first climb, they made the first turn and bombed down the hill at over 50km/h.
I found it a bit scary, skipping along the country roads and holding on for dear life. I was working hard just trying to keep the rider in sight, but it was a huge motivation to push myself. Through some undulations, they slowed a little and I caught back up and passed, giving them some encouragement to keep going… I saw it was James, which now sense as his a beast on the bike. Alas, it wasn’t long before he went sailing past me again and I was suffering trying to stay remotely in touch.
At the top of the next major climb, we caught another small group, James went straight to the front, but being somewhat further behind some of the guys picked up their pace to go with James. I was in trouble, trying to make a pass but the pace increased on those I’m trying to pass. I was burning matches and there was nowhere for me to slot in as gaps were tight, so I had to go to the front. +400W is not even remotely sustainable for me, and these surges were hurting my legs a lot. James came back past as I had lactate turning my legs into cement. Suddenly something fell off James’s bike which caused him to stop and do a u-turn to retrieve it. I almost smashed into him trying to go around and ground to a halt to avoid a crash.
The pack was gone and so I gave chase. I wasn’t feeling very fresh anymore though and since I could see them in the distance, I rode a little more even. 15mins later I’d bridged the gap just as we started the 2nd lap. At this point, we were joined by some aquabikers. This messed up the dynamics a little as they were on fresh legs starting their ride. After sitting off the back for 10-15mins I started to feel a little better and thought it was time to attack. Being a complete rookie at bike attacks I did it at the worst part, going downhill at +45km/h. Thankfully within 40secs, I realized it wasn’t working. Time to focus on getting in my nutrition.
At the turn around back towards town another aquabiker caught and passed everyone. I sensed a split as he was going quickly down the hill, but only John was spontaneous enough to react. Alas, I was negotiating traffic and watching it unfold from a distance. I couldn’t let John get away though, so I used all the biccies I had been saving to give chase. Another solid 10min effort to catch, I even opened a gap to those behind but I couldn’t keep the effort going and it soon came together again. 2nd lap down, 1 to go!
At this point, I decided it wouldn’t split and I’d just sit off the back to stay out of trouble and draft infringements. However, at the final turnaround, I just couldn’t help myself having another crack. The pace wasn’t super high on the downhill, and once off the longest descent I had another crack.
Part of me was why are you doing this, but another part was just enjoying the challenge put in front of me. Alas, I didn’t really do much other than put my HR sky high and raise everyone’s average speed slightly, I was fatiguing and a couple of riders came past. I was so close to the finish I thought screw it keep going, at least I can get off the bike first and have a clean transition, so I went back to the front. Bike leg time was 2:16:39 for 89,5km (by my GPS 😉 ).
I racked my bike; socks took a little longer than I’d hoped to get on; shoes on; grabbed my stuff and ran for the exit. The time was 1:15.
I was first out onto the run from our group, and my legs felt a bit like stumps. I could see them and I was running well but they felt terrible. I didn’t know how I’d go for the run, not having much run fitness behind me, so I took a conservative approach. I focused on running as easily as possible, while still running at a decent pace. I wanted to go under 80mins, so 3:45/km was the goal.
I was passed by Lucus (25-29 AG, much younger than I) after 1-1.5km. I could hear him coming and my ego wanted to go with him as I was starting to feel a lot better, but I stuck to my pace and let him run off into the distance. At the turnaround for the first lap, I spied the competition and saw I’d opened a gap, but they looked to be running well and I was mindful it was still a long way to the finish.
Around 7km I caught Lucus back up as he slowed a little, and I overtook him. Lucus dug in and came with me, but I found it somewhat disconcerting as he was breathing hard and I feared I’d not be able to hear if another runner was catching for an attack. We ran together for the next ~5km, Lucus would surge ahead and then slow… I felt like we were playing out the Hare & the Tortoise fable.
12km and I turned up the effort to maintain the pace. It was now hard to maintain, and I was just focused on 1km at a time. Run 3:45 for that one km, and don’t worry about the next one. I was ticking them off one at a time and was at an uncomfortable yet sustainable pace, then I hit the hill before the final turnaround. It was hard to maintain my rhythm, but I tried to push on (only 6km to go)!
I made the turnaround towards the finish and took a time split to the competition, the gap was opening! 16km split and I saw I was under 60mins!! I believed I could go under 80mins at that point, but I was suffering.
I was torn between playing things safe for the win which was beyond what I expected and seeing whether I could achieve my <80min goal. My legs were starting to not exactly do what I was wanting them to do. I spied Ellie Salthouse ahead at 17km and was closing fast. Should I pass? Or just stay behind? I didn’t want to be that guy coming down the finish chute just in front of the lead women (photo bomb anyone?!). I quickly chose to crack on, I had a <80 goal to shoot for.
At 18.5km the wheels really fell off, I was struggling to run tall, my feet were banging into my legs and yet I was so close! I grinded up the last little pinches and finally saw the 20km split (1:15:14), just over 4.5mins to run the 1.1km + whatever else was needed to cross the line.. what if I was short by a few seconds? I didn’t want to leave it to chance, so went all in with 1km to go, max effort. There was still a bit of a hill in the last km and my HR hit 179 as I willed myself to the finish. As I neared the end I spotted another competitor and somehow found the energy to dig a bit deeper and sprint past to have the finish chute somewhat to myself. Finish the run in 1:19:46 with a total finish time of 4:10:48 (new PB).
Winning the Australian Long Course Championship race meant a lot to me. I cried tears of joy, as it was quite an overwhelming experience that surpassed all expectations.
Never give up. A few times in the weeks prior to Husky I thought maybe it was all a bit too much. How could I be competitive after my crash and surgery/rehab in such a quick turnaround? Rather than looking too far ahead I just tried to make the most of each day to build back the best I could. One step at a time. This was a motto I used a couple of times during the run!
On the same thought process really focusing on the moment. During this race, I spent a lot of time thinking about my technique and trying to execute the best I could. I didn’t have my usual base to fall back on, so I needed to be smart. The outcome was my best performance to date even though I wasn’t 100% fit.
Finally, my transitions need a little more practice. They were okay, but it’s easy to make up time by putting socks/shoes on fast, or taking the wetsuit off easily. It is an artform that takes a little practice.
Great work luke and congrats on aust long course title well deserved
Thanks mate for the kind words
Fantastic report Luke and a remarkable performance given what you have been through.
Congratulations on a well deserved win!