Living quite near to the start line of the Wollongong triathlon, I signed up for the standard distance event. I had mixed emotions leading up to the start, some excitement as I put together some showing of great form, but also indifference due to work stress and travel.
With mixed weather predictions I awoke to see an amazing lineup of planets in the dawn sky (drop me a message if you’re interested in the photo I took!), it looked like it was going to be a good day! At the event location, things were calm and ready for racing. I had plenty of time, so went down to the water for a warmup swim / check my sighting. With the sun just rising it would be a challenge sighting.
I lined up at the front for my age group. Alas, another race with a rolling start. I hoped at least being at the front I could follow anybody who swam past me. The strategy was good, and as someone slowly came past I jumped onto their feet. However, the course was carnage with so many swimmers spread out everywhere. I felt like I was weaving through a minefield, trying my best to not make contact in case I set a bomb off. The buoy turns were challenging and after a few turns, I lost contact with my tugboat in the mayhem. I just focused on my key weaknesses with swimming, trying not to drop my elbow and keeping some form. The sighting was challenging with the low sun, and so I just followed what I could see.. white water. I took a little longer line than I should have with some buoys, but I was getting through the swim. I eventually finished in a time of 26min 9sec.
I pushed myself up into transition knowing that the horrible feelings would dissipate. I struggled to get my wetsuit off, falling over as I was trying to pull it over my timing chip. Helmet on and run for the exit. T1 time was 1:48.
My mount was ok, although not pretty, I maintained momentum and started to get going. The bike course starts almost immediately with an uphill section. I pushed it up the hill, before getting aero over the top. After a short false flat you descend through some sharp corners, dodging traffic cones, speed bumbs and traffic islands. It’s not really the free speed you often get from a climb, but it’s good skills practice and fun if you’re a confident riding. It’s like threading a needle, only the needle hole is about 40cm wide and you’re about 30cm wide on a TT bike. Just look at the opening and don’t think about what might happen if you don’t make it. After the up/down it’s a fairly flat grind out to the turn around before heading back and going up/down to transition and then repeat for a total of 4 laps.
I took a gel at the turnaround point on the first lap. On the flatter sections I focused on staying aero and dodging the occasional pothole that has opened up from all the rain. On the hill each lap, I got out of the saddle and put down a solid 30sec-1min effort. It was a little lonely, but at least the hills kept things interesting. By the start of the 4th lap, I was starting to feel my little efforts in the legs, but I was almost home. I finished the bike leg in a time of 59min 2sec.
My dismount was flawless, and I sprinted into transition, which thankfully was pretty empty of traffic. After removing my helmet and bending to put my shoes on I got a cramp at the bottom of my rip cage. Ouch, hopefully it would ease off. I grabbed my bundle with hat, race belt and sunnies and ran for the exit. Time was 1:46.
I’d been most excited about my run post race, as I’ve been showing some decent form. I took a km for my cramp to settle and then another km for good measure. I made a quick stop to tighten my shoe laces as they felt really lose, I then started to apply some pressure to my system. It was hard going, I knew it would be hard but my perception of effort was quite high for the pace. I focused on my breathing and how my legs were turning over, trying not to force the pace, but rather run strong. I saw some guys ahead and so I took note of timing to see how I was progressing, but they were from different waves and so I wasn’t really motivated to chase hard. As the 6km to go became 5km to go I saw I was closing but I was also suffering.
5km the distance of your local parkrun, it wasn’t time to give up and I forced myself to keep digging. The wind was picking up and with my suit zipped down it felt like a sail slowing me down. I battled to zip it up, but once up I realised how tight it was around my chest for breathing.. something to consider in future. I fought for each km to the finish, and with 200m to go I was bitterly disappointed to realise I still had almost 1km further to go! The run course was long.. oh well just keep going that’s all I could do. I finished the run in 38min 46sec Total time 2:07:33.
After the race I found out that the eventual podium were together on the bike, this all comes back to having a good swim to make the group. I was hopeful for my swim, but it still needs work. I swam pretty straight considering all the ‘mines’ so was happy with that, but when I sight regularly (I need to as I don’t swim super straight without sighting) it slows me down quite a lot. So practice sighting without totally lifting my head out is something on my to do list, so I can better maintain my swim pace. So much of swimming is about efficiencies rather than brute force.
On the bike, I believe I should have taken 2 gels to better prepare for the run. I don’t feel I fuelled enough (similar to Canberra tri) to show my real pace on the run. The application of fuelling I used at Batemans Bay wasn’t followed, and so that is my fault. I probably also biked a little too hard. Those big efforts I was doing probably took more out of me than I realised, and hence I paid for it on the run.
It’s hard to take too much away from the run, as it’s hard to dig really deep when you can’t see anyone you’re racing. In future I probably won’t enter as many races, unless I know it’s a mass start or there are guys I know doing the race as well.