swim 26:46 (17th)
bike 2:21:06 (2nd)
run 1:18:43 (1st)
Next stop Kona...
swim 26:46 (17th)
bike 2:21:06 (2nd)
run 1:18:43 (1st)
Ahhh, it feels good to be back racing for a world title again. It's been a while between drinks. Although I'm very grateful to be in this position again, I'm not going to lie and say I'm 'happy' with a 2nd place finish (as I'm sure would be the case with most of the top contenders who believed they could win). 'Satisfied' maybe, but 1st is what I had my sights set on. I've collected 3 'championship race' wins this year (Aus 70.3, Euro 70.3 and Euro IM) and I thought it would be well within my capabilities to win this one too given my current fitness. However, as hard as I tried, I just couldn't match Holly on the day. She built up too much of a lead on the swim and bike for me to claw back in the end. It was a gutsy and impressive way for her to race and it paid off big for her in the end.
My day started off as most 70.3's do... thrashing around in the water for about half an hour trying desperately to locate the swim exit. After about 100m I couldn't tell you where the rest of the ladies went. I couldn't tell you where I went for that matter. But I can tell you that I didn't see the others again till we hit dry land. They could've all swum straight to the beach and sat there waiting for half an hr pointing and laughing at me swimming on my own for all I know. I never watch the race coverage back again post race so I'll never know for sure. But I'm glad to say I did eventually find my way out the water, across the beach, through the sand, up the stairs, around the loo-with-a-view, along Beach Terrace, past the age group transition area, around the corner, onto the road and up the the little hill straight into the pro transition area about 162km from swim exit.
It's here were I took a seat on the fancy black Ironman carpet in front of 'Froggy', my custom-painted, bright green, seizure-inducing Shiv. Removed my wetsuit, grabbed my helmet and said to Froggy 'let's roll!' At this point I was in 17th place, 3:52min behind the leader. It's no secret I typically come out of the water behind the pack, but 4min behind after the swim is a bad day even for me! Out onto the road, the first 50k or so of the bike was flat and smooth highway roads. I was actually pretty chilly for the first 20k and my legs were having a hard time warming up. They gradually started feeling better as I continued, but I was still very conscious to stay conservative for the first half of the bike leg so I could really hit the hilly sections hard towards the end.
I was getting mixed splits called out to me throughout the bike leg. It was pretty confusing and I couldn't get a grasp on what was really happening up ahead in the women's race. I eventually figured out towards the end of the bike leg, that I had been getting mostly splits for me to the 'lead pack'. This was good news at the time because the split was gradually getting smaller and smaller. But every once in a while I would here a split that stayed constant at about 4min. When I eventually caught the main pack at the 70k mark I realised that the '4min' split was actually the split to Holly Lawrence, the leader, waaaay ahead of the main pack. When I caught the main pack, I spent a few k's riding at the back weighing up my options. I counted 8 women in the pack. Pretty big pack for me to negotiate. On the one hand I was at the point in the race where I wanted to hit it hard back to T2 and continue my own race plan. But to do this I would have to try overtake all 8 women at one time and risk getting a 5min penalty if I couldn't make the pass (passing one at a time is not allowed). My other option would be to sit in and trust that whoever was at the front of the pack was pushing hard to keep a good pace. I figured they would be pushing hard at the front, but I couldn't tell what effort we were really pushing as a group while at the back because it felt to me like I was constantly soft peddling or coasting.
Every few k's I would tell myself, yep it's time to make the move and continue racing again. But then I would look across to the draft official and second guess my decision, saying 'can you really push hard enough for long enough to pass the whole pack in one go... and then have enough energy to continue on the front after that?'. My answer kept coming back as 'I can possibly run down 4minutes but 9minutes would definitely put me out of contention for the win, but if I do make the pass I could reduce me deficit to 3minutes'. Yep, I didn't know what to do. As it turned out I was regretting my decision to play it safe once I got back to T2 and heard I'd lost an extra minute in the last 20k to Holly up the road. When I jumped off Froggy at the dismount line I was now in 6th place, 5:16min behind Holly. I ran Froggy from the dismount line, around a couple corners, past the loo-with-a-view, along Beach Terrace, past the age group transition area, around the corner, onto the road and up the little hill straight into the pro transition area about 432k from the end of the bike leg. Said 'good job Froggy, gotta go!', whipped on my Kinvara's and race belt and started running.
The run course took us out of transition, up Alex hill, down the other side and then dead flat 5k out, 5k back, over Alex hill again, and repeat for 2 laps. I tried not to let myself think the gap to the leader was insurmountable. I just kept chipping away hoping it was still possible to achieve my goal, win the race, have a burger and eat some chocolate cake. For the next 21.1k I had the most spectator support I have ever had in a triathlon. It was a bit like competing in the Comm Games in my home country and every time I would hit the lead, 100,000 people in the stadium would erupt like it was the best day of their lives! But this support in Mooloolaba was more personal. The entire run course, people would yell and scream in-depth encouragement, give me splits, advice, weather updates, everything! So many people were pouring their heart and souls into cheering for me. So many people I knew were constantly popping up along every possible stretch of road. For every person I heard and saw I wanted to win it for them just as much as for myself. I am so genuinely thankful to everyone of you for your incredible support. It was like nothing I've experienced before. I hope I can get around to thanking every one of you personally. You all lifted me along the whole way.
The deficit to Holly was slowly coming down as the k's went on, but it wasn't happening fast enough. There just weren't enough k's in the run leg for me to catch back up. In the end I crossed the line in 2nd, 1:57min behind Holly. Like I said, grateful to be fighting for a win on the world stage again... but disappointed at not reaching my goal. Holly just got it all right on the day. She had an impressive race out the front all day and never looked back. And when I hugged her at the end she was rightfully over the moon and fresh as a daisy. Heather Wurtele came in for 3rd, followed by Daniela Ryf and Caroline Steffen to round out the top 5. At the finish line I found my family waiting for me. My parents and brother and sister and their families, and uncle and aunties... everyone was there. I'm so happy they could be there to watch. Great job to Ironman and to the Sunny Coast community for making the event a success. They put on a seamless event in the most beautiful place in the world if you ask me.
Next stop Kona...
1st - 4:27:35
Swim 28:07 (13th)
Bike 2:36:48 (1st)
Run 1:18:46 (1st) run course record
I walked down to the water to get in a quick warm up and saw all these AG athletes playing in mud. Like knee-deep mud! What is this all about I thought. As it turns out, I had no choice but to join them. It was both gross and fun at the same time. I sunk down to my knee and then saw other athletes buried to their waist. I tried to get out but it was so thick that the only way out was to face plant into it and dig your way out. The dam was a "fresh water" mud bath. Good for your skin right?
Judging by how many competitors left me for dead at the start of the swim, this race was full of good swimmers. For the first 100m I hoped that maybe I would just get dragged along. That's always my hope... but it's never happened yet and didn't happen today...maybe next time. The front couple 'packs' got away while I did my usual start-of-the-race-ritual of making splashes and throwing my arms around in the air until I was in clear water with no-one around me. I exited the water in 13th place 3:30 behind Jodie and about 2:30 behind the first little pack that took shape on the bike. I was excited to get out of the water and put my feet on the ground, where they belong. The first five years of my life I grew up in a small country town in South Australia playing with my friends - cows, chickens and sheep! I then moved to Queensland, to the beach. I loved the beach but I think I was the kid building sand castles and running around, NOT swimming.
I jumped on my bike and hit the road. The roads were dry and the weather was clear and sunny... perfect for riding. I passed a number of women in ones and two's early on and then passed a group of five girls at about 20km, but I knew I would still be a bit further from the leaders yet. I had a pretty good idea that Jodie would be in the lead of the race at this point, and be possibly taking another athlete or two along with her. I didn't know what place I was in yet, but I was surprised at how many girls were already out on their bikes in front of me. It made it enjoyable though, catching and passing so many people. Maybe that's secretly why I give everyone a head start... because catching and passing is good fun. The bike course was awesome. I loved it. There was not much flat riding, it was either uphill, downhill or technical. It was just how I like my normal long rides on the weekends. At about 35km I thought I caught a glimpse of Jodie pulling a little train of girls behind her. By 40km they were in clear sight during a long gradual climb. I could recognise Jodie and 3 others behind. Not having checked the bike course prior to racing I didn't know exactly what the climb had in store for me, but I remember Jared had said it would be long. I decided quickly that this long climb might be my best chance for a while to go straight past without risking getting caught up in their tight pack.
By 42km I was in the lead. And the climb was thankfully still going. I think the climb might've been about 8km in total. But as we know, what goes up must come down. Being light-weight I'm not always the fastest getting down a mountain so it helped to have a buffer by the top of the climb. On the descents I peddled hard where I could and enjoyed the windy course when I couldn't pedal. I was like a fat kid on a smartie, I didn't want it to end. It was awesome... up, down, in, out, around, tight, in the forest. Jared had told me to ride like the bike course ended at 82k, because from there to the finish was all down hill. You could not possibly pedal. Well I couldn't at least. It was FAST! Luckily in races my fear goes out the window. I tried at times to go super-aero like I've seen others do and sit on my frame but these are things you just don't wanna practice in training with cars on the road flying past. It's not worth risking a crash. I got as low as I could. With a drink bottle cage and bike computer between my aero bars I couldn't get my head down low so I rested my chin off to the side on my elbow pad. It was actually quite comfortable there. My head and neck got a rest but the rest of my body was cramping up hanging over the front of my bike. The last few kms were bumpy, technical and I wasn't exactly sure if the dismount line would pop up without warning so I was playing it safe towards the end ready in case I had to jump off the bike at any moment. (As it turned out, I was told later on that I missed Daniela's bike course record by 6 seconds... so close, but so far...)
The dismount line did eventually come up very quickly about 50m after a 90degree turn. I jumped off and handed over Froggy, my new bright green SWORKS Shiv to the bike catchers and grabbed my gear for the run leg. After a quick little interview in T2, I was out onto the run course. My legs felt good straight away. That's usually the case for me following hilly, technical bike courses where I'm not on my aero bars for 90km straight with no break. I had about a 2min lead in T2. The run course was really cool too. A lot of it was on a gravel path that winded between the trees and along a creek and through a park. It was four laps of gradual up in one way and gradual down the other way. There were tonnes of spectators all over the course which tends to make the run go a little quicker. I ran solid for two laps before Jared yelled to "save some bullets for the next race". I really wanted to test my run fitness with a hard 21k to give me a good idea what I can run, but with the long 24hr flight back to AUS the next day and the World Champs in just 3weeks, it was a sensible idea to coast through the 2nd half of the run and save my effort.
Running through the winners banner is always such a great feeling but even moreso when you're up against a great field and at a championship race. This win was big for me right now and to add it to my Full Ironman European title 6 weeks ago perfectly book-ended my 2016 Euro adventure. Thorsten was kind enough to update me with the stat I became the first athlete to win both European titles in the same year. That's a pretty awesome feeling! A big thanks to Ironman for their invite and support to race these two European championships. This is my first time racing Ironman events in Europe and I had amazing time. I look forward to returning in the future.
I walked in the door after being out all morning riding hill reps up and down the mountain at Falls Creek, VIC. "How would you feel about racing this weekend?" Jared asked. It's Wednesday today, the race is Sunday. It's about 7hours away by car. "Sure!" I said. So that was it, Friday morning we spent road tripping to Huskisson, NSW to race Husky Long Course Tri. Even with the short notice and the heavy week of training, I was excited to get another race in to try correct all the mistakes I made in Geelong 70.3 a couple weeks ago. Despite getting the win at Geelong, my race was far from perfect and was quite unpleasant to say the least. There were many kinks that needed ironing out for future races.
Huskisson is a small beach town on the scenic Jervis Bay on the South Coast of New South Wales. It took us a bit over 8hours to drive there from Falls Creek, including plenty of stops to stretch the legs. When we finally arrived, it was well worth the long trip. I immediately felt the salty, humid air coming from the ocean. The temp was north of 30deg and it was just what I needed after a crazy cold snap just came through Falls Creek a few days before. The weather, the town, the ocean and the river all made me feel just like home!
The Husky Tri festival is a 3-day long multisport festival put on by Mark Emmerton and Elite Energy. The weekend is jam packed with ocean swin races, fun runs, sprint and Olympic distance tris, kids mini tris and is capped of with the iconic Husky Long Course Tri on Sunday. The whole event has a small-town, relaxed feel to it and is welcoming in every way. There are minimal pre race commitments, race briefings are conducted prior to race starts and are kept to a light hearted, nerve-soothing 5mins. That said, the event still attracts serious, world class triathletes to race each year. This year alone included three world champions, two Olympians along with many others. Jared and I had plenty of spare time over the weekend to relax and enjoy the events, which was very unusual for me in the days leading to a race. It was a very refreshing change.
Race morning!1am...on and off through the night, it was heavy rain outside. I was concerned for poor spark out there in the drenching rain in transition. By morning, the rain had stopped and the air temp was a little cool but, nice for racing. The swim was a non wetty, two lap triangle course in the beach. It was supposed to be 2km but I was told post-race one of the buoys drifted so we had a little further to swim to try get around the moving target. I was pleased to hear we swam further than 2km because it made my 33min swim time seem a little more acceptable. I felt good in the water but did lose 3min to Radka out front. I'm putting this down to Radka being a phenomenal swimmer and not that I suck 🤔
On the bike we had three loops so at no point could you see your competition unless you passed them. After coming out of the water in 6th I started picking them off one by one and was soon into 2nd place. At the 35km mark I overtook Radka to take the lead. The bike leg was pretty uneventful. The looming rain held off for the most part except for some light sprinkles here and there. The age groupers all seemed to be riding safely and sticking to the left when not overtaking even though the roads were quite bumpy and rippled. I was worried that being a three lap course the age groupers would start to fill the roads and it'd be difficult to get through but the age group race starts were split into separate sections. The first section starting about 2hrs before the next waves began. This spread out the competitors and prevented the course from getting too congested which I thought was a really clever idea.
I reached T2 with a 4minute lead to Radka so had enough spare time to sit down and sort through my drenched transition gear floating in a puddle. Earlier in the morning I'd set up my shoes and socks in the dark next to my bike in transition. The ground everywhere was wet, but I didn't realize till daylight that my gear was also in a pothole filled with water next to my bike. Sometimes it's just luck of the draw. So I sat down next to Spark who was now resting on the transition rack after his job-well-done. Sloppy socks on, calf sleeves on and wet shoes on. Gel flask, number belt and visor in hand and I was on my way.
The run was a two lap, out-and-back course that ran along the coast line. It was beautiful. There were spectators most of the way along, as the path ran between the coast line and a row of houses so many of the locals were out on their balconies and in their backyards giving us a cheer. On my way back after the far turnaround I passed Radka going the other way. I figured I had about 1km lead so kept chugging along at a comfortable 4min/k pace. Half way through my second lap, 15km down, 5 to go I still felt pretty good so I picked it up for the last 5km to 3.45 pace and extended my lead by another minute.
I was really happy with my race. I didn't make any silly mistakes, I had all my technology working and I felt good. I think I successfully ironed out the kinks of two weeks ago. I know I still need to continue slowly building my running to get my run back up to scratch but I was really pleased that I felt strong the whole way and had plenty left over to pick it up the last 5km. Can't wait to return to Huskisson again next time. But for now, it's back to the beautiful high country training in Falls Creek.
1st - 8:52:51
swim - 54:44 (7th)
bike - 4:48:01 (5th)
run - 3:06:32 (2nd)
I'm not sure how many times I visualized just how my race in Melbourne would pan out but every time it had me crossing the line first with a huge smile on my face. It wasn't just the finish line that I imagined. I went through my entire race section by section. My final visualisations were what I thought would be conservative. In brief, I'd have a decent swim exiting the water around 3min behind the leaders. I'd get off the bike with a 5min deficit. In past races with long bike legs, I've always hammered the first half of the bike to try get to the lead ASAP but this time I really wanted to conserve a little energy to have a good run. And then for the run I had strict instructions from Jared to run no faster than low 4's (4min/km). "4:0- something will be enough" he said.
So how close was my visualization to the real thing? This is how it all unfolded...
Melbourne definitely delivered on the weather side of things. Known for it's 'four seasons in one day' Melbourne actually threw us a pretty decent day. The water was calm in the morning and not too chilly and a beach start was great. The super fast swimmers - Annabel, Laura, Caroline and Bree got away really fast and were out of sight for the entire swim. But the next pack which included Mirinda, Kym and Ashley also got off to a good start putting some distance between me and them (maybe that means I got a bad start. Sounds better in my head if I say they got a good start though). My goggles fogged while standing on the start line so I couldn't see too well and was worried about sighting the whole 3.8km on my own so I put on a surge to catch this group by the first turn buoy at 850m and was content to sit around and let them navigate the swim for me. I felt very in control and didn't push the swim too hard. I exited the water in 7th place but managed to get through T1 and on to my bike in 4th.
I passed Bree to move me into third early into the 180km bike leg leaving only Caroline and Annabel up ahead. This was my first race working with power on the bike. I got my Quarq power meter last August but not knowing much about power I only ever looked at it after sessions and races so that I could get a good idea of how I naturally ride. By March Jared and I were confident of what sort of watts I could hold for 180km. Ironman racing is very different to 70.3. It requires patience and pacing. So for the first hour my eyes were glued to my power meter. It was surprising and a little unnerving to be sitting at the planned watts yet it feeling too easy for the first half of the race. As it turned out, it was a good thing I rode within these limits and not how I would usually attack the bike.
The bike was pretty uneventful for me. I actually thought at times it was like swimming in the pool only instead of staring at a black line I was staring at a white line. It was just me and long straight lonely roads for 180km. The girls up in front were never in sight and the age group men were far enough back to never be in the picture. Out, back, out, back, head wind, tail wind, head wind, tail wind. There was no time that I really had to get out of my saddle but to avoid cramping I danced on my pedals coming out of the turn at the end of each lap. I used my brakes just 3 times in 5hrs including the time to dismount at the end. Like I said.. pretty uneventful. After the first lap I was still about the same distance behind Caroline out front but on the next 'out' section (3rd quarter) into the head wind I had reports that I'd made up some ground. I was told I got within 1:40 of the two lead girls but at 135km (now heading back with the tail wind for the last stretch) I started to fall back. My left VMO (medial quad) started cramping and then my legs turned to jelly. The tail wind made me feel like I was flying but my power was telling me different (again, very interesting to have live power readings telling me what was really going on in my body). Next time I think I'll take a little more nutrition to get me through the last hr of the bike. I didn't panic and thought about my pre race visualization of a 5min deficit off the bike. I won't lose that much time. "Your fine" I told myself. "Work on freeing up the VMO rather than trying to hammer the last 40km".
When I got to T2 my left VMO was far from freed up. It was cramping bad by now! My standard process in T2 is typically to grab my 'most treasured valuables'... race belt, visor, gels... and bolt out of there like the tent is a blazing inferno and we're all gonna die. Today, however my VMO was calling the shots instead of my instincts. I sat down in the nice plastic chair provided and took my time finding everything I needed from my T2 bag, slipped my new Type-A6 Saucony's on and contemplated standing back up again to find the nearest exit. I started walking out of the change tent (yes, I said walking) while actively flexing my knee to stretch out the cramping quad. Once I exited the tent and reappeared to the real world - to all the screaming spectators and blearing speakers I began to run while throwing in some gentle flick back stretches. Kind of like a runner, doing the last couple drills before the race starts. At first it felt like my VMO was gonna rip off the bone but I kept my cool - this HAS happened before. And it DOES free up with running. I was now apparently 4:13 down on the leaders leaving T2. As soon as I got going around the first bend my body clicked straight into pace and the cramp did free up a few k's in. 'Just stay patient and tick off low 4's' I kept repeating in my head.
12km in to the marathon I could feel my feet heating up on the hot bitumen road. At 14km I passed Annabel to move into second. Caroline was still a couple minutes ahead, but I could already see her up the road because the road was sooo long and straight for the first 18km. This helped me feel more comfortable knowing I could see the lead already. At 19km, I took the lead. Not that I knew it at the time. The course had moved onto the windy footpaths and Caroline ducked into the porta loo while I was busy grabbing my special needs bag. The next km I thought to myself "man, Caroline must have seen me coming, she's just thrown down a 3min30 k to get rid of me!". I still thought I was in second. It wasn't until my 'lead cyclist' (they never actually lead the way in this race for some reason) went past me to clear the path up ahead that I saw she had a "1st female" shirt on. By now I could feel my feet blistering under the ball of my foot and it was getting quite sore but I didn't want to acknowledge it. It's happened before in the past so I knew the consequences if it was what I thought it was. I was on a mission to block it from my thoughts so I could get as far as I could before I had to seriously do something about it. Do what?! I was hoping that answer would pop into my head before it was too late.
The inevitable did of course eventually come. I reached my breaking point at about 28k in to the marathon. As much as I wanted the win and the race had gone to plan up till now, I couldn't convince my brain to take anymore steps. If each agonising step would take me only one meter, I had another 1000 searing stabs of pain to endure just to make another 1km. In the past, we've cut holes in the bottom of my shoe or excavated holes through the ball of my foot to relieve the pain. Neither were at all remotely possibile to execute by myself mid race! 28k in, 4min lead at my last time update... but 14k still left to run and I had no miraculous idea for how to continue. I had the lead cyclist behind me, media motor bike a step to my right, police car to their right, police bike up in front and the helicopter over head. I stopped. I rocked back onto my heels gave an audible sigh of relief. It felt like I was slowly pulling out that sharp knife that had been stabbing into my feet. It felt soooo good. All the bikes around me slammed on their brakes and all said out loud in unison "She's stopped!". None of them knew what was going on just yet. One minute I was running ok and looked fine, the next I was standing there, hands on knees, lifting my feet up and down as if I'd been standing on hot coals for the past couple hours. Only I knew it'd been coming on for quite a while. I had concerned spectators yelling at me to take salt tablets and coke "that's all that'll get you through now" they said. "If only!" I thought. I need an idea...
The lead cyclist asked if I was ok and I said "blisters! I have blisters... Is there any medical on course?" One of the kind media motos offered a band aid they had on them. It was a nice gesture, but I wished it was the kind of blister you can pop and put a band aid over. I wouldn't be allowed to accept outside assistance anyway so I had to refuse. The lead cyclist radioed ahead to the next aid station and they had band aids. But they were 2km away. I tried to stay positive, that band aids would help but I knew deep down they wouldn't. Under my feet were deep blood blisters under calluses on the balls of my feet about 20-30cm in diameter. They resemble more of a deep bruise or internal bleeding than a blister. Then out of the bushes I heard Jared yell "try Vaseline". So I yelled ahead to my cyclist again "do they have Vaseline at the aid station?". They did! That was my motivation to keep moving ahead in the hope it might do something. I knew a walk would be too slow so I had to start shuffling. I was trying to avoid the balls of my feet so I can totally understand why everyone thought I was cramping. Have you ever tried to run on the outside of your foot before? You look like a waddling duck that's cramping in both hammys and busting to go to the dunny. I also forgot that the cameras were on me the whole time so I'm sure you've all seen the footage.
About 12minutes later I made it to the 30km aid station (yep 2k in 12mins). That was the longest 2km of my life. I ran straight through to the end of the aid station tables, bum on ground, shoes and socks off and smothered my feet with Vaseline. Socks and shoes back on and back up and running. It still hurt. A lot! So I told myself "it'll take a k or so to work". Here I was bribing myself to get through the next 1km. At this point my lead had dwindled down to just under 1min to Caroline. Once at 31km I thought "1 more km and then you're into the last 10, that's nothing". Jared popped up again and told me I was extending my lead again. "As long as you're 'running' you're running faster than the others" he said. That gave me a tiny flicker of confidence that maybe I could still be 'in the race' so long as I did anything but walk or stop. Looking back now, something at around the 30k mark must've helped to reboot the system enough for me to think there's hope of continuing. Whether it was the chance to sit down for a little bit, the vaseline on the feet, or the knowledge that as long as I kept moving forward at any pace (barring walking) I was still in this race. Something refreshed my mental state. Even though the pain kept shooting from the pavement up through my feet like a flare exploding with each step, the 'k-to-go-counter' in my head began working down through the single digits. With the number getting closer and closer to zero I was feeling a little more confident that I might finish. The crowd got thicker and louder with each km and that also started to squash the urge to get off my feet and stop as I got closer.
When I finally saw the Ironman finish line carpet I had a smile on my face from ear to ear. I was absolutely stoked and excited to take the win at the Asia Pacific Champs but the real reason my smile was so big was because I was laughing. I was laughing at the excruciating pain in my feet, laughing at the fact that I dodged a major bullet today and laughing at the thought of anyone "enjoying" this crazy sport. If I didn't laugh I would have cried. I couldn't believe I did it. At 28km I had no idea how it could be remotely possible for me to get to the finish on my own two feet. I was sure it was the end of the line for me. And somehow, even though that was one of the most painful places I've been to in a race...for the longest period of time in a race... it felt so good to have survived it to the end!
I'd like to thank every single person that yelled 'Go Mel!' along the course. Thankfully my race number says "Mel" on it so you all knew what to call out. I heard every single cheer loud and clear. Cheers from the smallest of kiddies, to volunteers, family, friends, past training partners, past coaches, dogs and cats. I heard them all. I might not have looked like I registered on the outside, but I took them all in and I thank you now for them all!
Swim 28:53 (5th)
Bike 2:21:16 (1st)
Run 1:24:37 (1st)
I prefer to race in the heat, humidity, dry roads and calm waters. You can throw all that out the window when you race in Melbourne. It was dark, cold, and raining. The wind was whipping through at 30kph. And the beach looked more like the middle of the ocean during a cyclone. What had I got myself into? I'm half way through the 1.9k swim (or however far I swam) and I feel like Marty and Alex from Madagascar being dumped in the middle of the ocean with no shore in sight. The swell was so big I could only guess which direction to swim in. As I got air off one of the waves I could see a yellow buoy in the distance... But which yellow buoy was it? There were four and I was after 'the third one'. I saw a kayak nearby as I was flying over the next wave so I yelled out "which way?". He pointed me right so I headed for the yellow buoy to my right only to find out half way there that I was actually being sent to the fourth buoy. From there, I had to back track to the third and then return to the fourth.
It's all back to shore from there. I sighted the big TV screen and headed straight for it (or as straight as I can swim when I'm being thrown all over the place). A couple more times I'd lost sight of anything so I'd quickly roll onto my back and do some backstroke while looking for Kayaks to direct me the right way. I swam right into a massive pack of age groupers on my way back. No idea where I was but figuring I must be way too far right (heading back to the start, not the finish) or they were way to far right. I climbed over and under them (sorry to any age groupers I might have head butted) and took a sharp left. I just wanted to get back to shore, wherever I came out I didn't care, I'll run the rest along the beach. It was more like survival out there than racing. I totally forgot I was racing at all. All I wanted to do was get back to shore and tell the news crews about my incredible survival story. Finally I felt the sand and thought "I made it, I'm back, thank god, I'm done!". Before quickly realizing - I'm supposed to be racing. Get a move on, you must be at least 10min behind the leaders by now. Just do the run of shame to your bike, get the sympathy clap and then get to work.
As I got to my bike I didn't even look to see if there was other bikes still there... I just assumed they'd all be gone. I saw Jared and wasn't sure if he'd want to tell me how big the deficit was. Then he said 2:30. WHAT! Instead of hanging my head down trying to not be seen, my eyes lit up. Whoa! Maybe I wasn't the only one that had NO IDEA which way was up out there. I'm was still in the game.
Out onto the wet and windy roads I knew I'd have to get warmed up quick or I'd seize up so I got out of my saddle and danced on my pedals for a bit trying to get some heat into my quads. It was not only raining but really windy so I then got down low and started working hard. By about 40km I'd moved into second with Christie Sym out in front. The bike leg was 3 out and back laps so you could see your competitors but you had to look hard as the age groupers started to fill the course. It wasn't until I was coming back down to complete my second lap that I saw the lead motorcycle riding next to Christie. Once I got safely around the u-turn I took the lead with 30km to go. After the final lap, I returned to T2 with a 1:30 lead over Christie. In transition, I sat down on the soggy carpet next to a bucket full of water. The same bucket that also had my belongings floating in - shoes, socks, cap, gel, race belt etc. I couldn't help but smile while sitting there, ringing them out to put on my shoes and socks. Lovely day to be outside hey!
The run course was really cool. 3 laps and all terrains. Concrete path along the beach which at times I thought I was gonna get pummeled by a wave. Then a windy dirt trail before a sandy out and back section, a steep up hill then a lap of the grass oval and back along a paved path alongside the cycle course. I couldn't believe all the spectators still out there in the rain and cold. They must have been freezing. I was far from warm and I was moving. I felt pretty good the first two laps of the run but the third started to get tough as the body had had enough of the conditions. It was telling me it was time for a hot chocolate by the fireplace.
Swim 26:01 (19th)
Bike 2:13:04 (5th)
Run 1:20:18 (4th)
The strength and depth of the competition in Bahrain was as strong as any world championship race. I was going to have to be firing at 100% to come out on top against this field. Unfortunately for me, I didn't bring a good enough game to be competitive against the best on the day. But the thing about not winning is you usually spend more time analysing aspects of why you didn't win. This race I'll put down to a great learning experience. Hopefully this will help to make me a better athlete for future races. That said... I think winning without learning lessons is still more enjoyable than losing and learning.
On race day I made my first mistake even before the gun went off when I lost focus on my own race moments before the start. Before the cannon fired, there was one athlete dead set on starting with a significant advantage over the field. It could have either been a tactic to frustrate and psych out the rest of the field or she really did want to get a head start no matter how bad it looked to her peers. As the girls back on the start line became more aggravated with her tactics, some of the more outspoken ones called her to come back without success. This is when I should have been directing all my focus on MY race but instead I got caught up watching and listening to see what the outcome was. I have become familiar with the accepted 'swim-start-creep' rule (still always feel uncomfortable knowingly breaking the start rule), but this one was taking it a bit far. And as embarrassing and cringeworthy as the situation became, I think it ultimately worked in her favour. She got a clean start out in front while the rest of us were caught off guard.
When the cannon fired I took off as fast as I could and was beside some super quick swimmers. When I saw them slightly edge ahead I made my second mistake. I haven't acquired the swim skills to competently swim with my competitors successfully yet. I tried to 'get on someones feet' (figuratively) as they edged away from me, but instead I misjudged and got on their feet (literally) and copped a kick to the face. That'll teach me. It didn't really hurt that much, I was just disappointed at my mistake as it threw me off for a bit and before I knew it I was 20m behind the tail end of the pack. In dead last. I spent the rest of the swim catching back up. I passed a few girls towards the end and caught a small group just before swim exit. I think I need a few more kicks to the head in training to learn how to just brush it off and continue on. Any volunteers?
Out on the bike course, it was an unusual experience to have so many closed-to-traffic lanes available to us. Big, wide, sweeping, 4-lane highways for little me and my Shiv. On the bike I could feel the fatigue in my legs and glutes. I could feel my bum working super hard with every pedal stroke and my left quad was giving painful, jabbing reminders that it wasn't coping with the pace. I passed some girls along the way but it was on the couple of out and back sections I could see I was not making up time on the leaders. By the end of the bike my quads were pretty heavy and drained and my hip flexors were tightening.
I was still about 3:20 down on the leaders by T2. Similar to the time difference I got out of the swim. Not absolutely terrible for me, but I'm always hoping for better. All 5 of the leaders in front were just over 3mins up so it was going to be a long time before seeing anyone if I did. I dragged my legs out of the change tent and felt like I was totally shuffling. Sometimes this happens and then after a couple of km's they free up and I feel good. That wasn't the case today. I dragged them around the lonely 21km loop. There was some interesting wild life out there that I ran past (and some ran past me) like coyotes, ostrich and monkeys. Unfortunately there were no spectators on the course (because we were running through a wild life park) and I didn't ever see any competitors. It seemed at times I was out on a training run with me and the wilderness. Looking back on it now, I can't stop thinking, "could I have done more on the run?". I felt flat and fatigued but I never really felt like I was racing on the run. My legs copped a beating just 6 days prior in Challenge Phuket Half Ironman, in the heat, humidity and the crazy steep hills, throw in the travel between the two and I wonder... is this what 'Ironman legs' feel like? They can keep going, but not fast.
There's no sugar coating it... I was not happy with my performance. I wanted and expected so much more out of my body. The feeling of being tired at the finish, but still able to continue if I had to was frustrating because it made me keep asking myself "why didn't I go faster?". Many lessons were learnt and it has not deterred me from coming back again. The race itself was an amazing show! From airport pick-up, hotel check-in, hotel buffets, to finisher jackets and fireworks. We were treated exceptionally well. A massive thank you to Victoria and Lisa for the invite and help with everything along the way. And a big thank you to Felix and Macca from Challenge and to Prince Nasser of Bahrain for making it all happen.
Swim 28:20 (6th)
Bike 2:29:31 (1st)
Run 1:27:06 (1st)
This is my 5th time racing the half in Phuket yet I've only been doing this sport for 4 years and 3 months. What the! It took us a while to comprehend that I'd really done this race 5 years in a row. My first race was in Sep 2010, a low key Olympic distance race just down the road to 'get a feel' for putting it all together before my first real race the following weekend - the Gold Coast Half Ironman. At that point I wasn't that keen to ever do it again. I wanted to go back to my running career where my race lasted only 9minutes. I knew my body was still too fragile to run too much though so I kept swimming and biking. December of 2010 rolled around and Phuket Half Ironman (Asia Pacific Champs) was suggested.
I must have forgotten how LONG and mentally painful a half ironman was because I agreed. I hopped on a plane all by myself and headed to a foreign country all by myself (in running I always travelled with the team or at least my manger/coach). Just days before I was to leave I begged Jared to come with me. He couldn't take time off work but decided to leave straight after work Friday, fly overnight to arrive Saturday morning and then leave immediately after the race Sunday, back overnight and straight to work Monday morning.
Jared had printed a tonne of maps and directions to everything that I could possibly need while in Phuket. I found my way to my hotel and got all set up. I checked in for the race a few days prior and went along on the group ride that was organized. I was riding next to this girl and we got talking. She asked if I'd ever done this race before and I said I hadn't, that it was only my third triathlon. She was very nice and gave me lots of tips and advice. She then asked me "What age group are you in?" "Ahhh, Pro..." I said. She looked me up and down and saw my road bike with clip on aero bars and no fancy equipment and politely said "The pro's don't usually do these rides". I made note of that - not cool to do pre race ride! Got it. She was very helpful.
Fast forward to 2014 and I feel like Phuket is my second home. I love this race. I love the people, the place, the race organizers, the course and of course the baby elephant! So that is why I keep going back year after year. Roman is still the race director, Whit is still the commentator and Belinda Granger is still on the start line with me (this was her 84th year straight... or something like that). Since my second year I've stayed at the beautiful Banyan Tree Resort with many of the staff still the same including the friendly little Thai man that helps us cross the road to the beach ANYTIME of the day. Candy the baby elephant still drops by our hotel daily to eat our fruit and make some funny faces. If you have not participated in this race yet, it's time to put it on your bucket list!
This year in Phuket was one of the warmest I've done. The temperature was 42deg and the humidity was in the high 90's. I'd just come from very similar weather at home so I was in my element. But this year, I also had an important race only 6 days later in Bahrain. In past years, Phuket has typically been the last race for the year. So I had to try and conserve as much energy as possible. And that meant not spending every day in the lead up at the beach where the water temp was similar to a balmy spa.
Race day! After setting up in a dark and wet transition - we still don't even know if it rained the night before or our bikes were drenched from the humidity in the air - we hopped on the Laguna ferry to take us to race start. The pro men took off first and as soon as they hit the water and started swimming we saw the current immediately dragged them left. The benefits of not starting first! I had a good swim exiting the water 1:25 down on Radka who as usual destroyed us all in the water. At 13km on the bike I took the lead and kept pushing hard to 40km where we hit the first real steep climb. Just a casual 22% climb! I caught a couple pro men here as well as a couple caught me (that I must have passed in the swim) and we all hit the hill together. The drafting penalty is non existent on these extreme climbs - when you see the climb you'll know why. Garmins all beep to pause as we zig zag up the crazy steep, moss covered, windy hill. On the other side is a yellow flag to indicate there is a race neutral zone where the speed limit is 20kph and there is no passing allowed. My hands were all sweaty and were slipping and sliding on my bars. Scary! I had a decent lead at this stage so my aim was to stay upright and start to think about conserving energy. Radka was also racing Bahrain next weekend so I knew she too would not be smashing it. I rode fairly solid for the rest of the bike leg but tried to avoid red lining it - which can be difficult when at 70km there is another stack of 20+% hills to tackle. This bike course really is one of a kind. And I love it.
When I reached T2 I took my time racking and then putting my socks and Compressport calf sleeves on. I got up and walked a little adjusting my visor and placing my GU in my pocket. The real reason for dawdling was I waiting for my Garmin to load up its satellites as I forgot to press it at the end of the bike leg. Once it was good to go I began running. I didn't know what sort of a lead I had so I ran solid for the first 10km. The run is two laps winding around the Laguna village so I never actually even saw any of my competitors so I relied on feedback from the crowd. The average consensus seemed to be around 10min on second so I backed it off. But with the heat increasing, my plan to 'jog' the second lap felt a lot tougher than a 'jog'. At times I thought I'd be better off picking up the pace and getting into the ice bucket at the finish line sooner but I kept it in control and made sure I took on everything at the aid stations - water in the mouth, water over the head, coke in the mouth, sponge over the head, water in the mouth! That was the drill! For the following 500m after each aid station the water would slowly run down my top then my pants then out the bottom and down my legs. The water didn't take long to heat up either so it felt like... Well I think you get the idea. But once the next aid station was upon me I HAD to do it again. Cold water never felt and tasted so good.
The finish line of any race is always exciting but this race tops the lot. I hit the red carpet and Candy the baby elephant jumps in along side me. We ran down to the finish tape and I beat her to grab it - well I did do the whole race and she only ran the last 100m. She then grabbed my arm and gave it a tug then stole my winners banner to hold up herself. Cheeky elephant!
1:58:58 (5th) Olympic Distance non-drafting
swim 19:30 (24th)
bike 1:01:42 (4th)
run 35:09 (2nd)
It's 9pm, the night before HyVee 5150 Triathlon, the largest paying triathlon. I have everything organised and in its place for the 4am alarm in the morning. The Shiv is shiny and ready to roll. Dinner eaten, emailing done, teeth cleaned...been to the toilet...ready for bed. And then a call on the hotel phone from USADA saying they are down in the lobby to see me for a random drug test. Not ideal timing. I guess there's never really a convenient time for a 'random', but that's there job and they're always super friendly about it (I guess to make up for the fact that most athletes aren't overly excited to see them at the front door). But the timing of this one felt a bit cruel. I knew it was going to take me a while till I'd be ready to pee again. But I didn't want to start chugging water that would keep me up all night. And of course my mind kept reminding me that this time right now has been ear-marked for sleep time for months in advance. But after spending a good hour with them, they were nice people. A friendly elderly couple from a few hrs drive away doing this testing job part-time. We shared stories and got to know each other. Some of us peed while others watched and we became old friends by the end of the night. T-minus 9hrs till race start...
4am alarm went off. Race morning is finally here. It's a bit like waking on Christmas day as a kid...except I get about 14 Christmas days each year. I have my usual breakfast of oats with a banana and honey. I forgot to find a bowl and spoon the night before but I manage with what I could find in my room. A small paper cup and a coffee stirring stick. 5:15am, I take my little bag of race-day goodies (goggles, cap, race flats, speeds suit etc) with me, jump on my Shiv, and ride down to transition to get ready. The weather is good. The sun is still not up yet, but the breeze is mild and the sky looks pretty clear. Stark contrast to the cyclonic conditions on race morning last year. The good weather is great news for everyone because Des Moines had flooding rain the past few days and so the race director had to make some last minute adjustments to the bike course to allow us to race. The original 40km, single-loop bike course was now under water in sections, so the course was changed to a 4-lap out and back course. A big thank you and congratulations to the race director, Bill Burke and the Des Moines city council for creating a solution and keeping the race alive under such circumstances.
After a warm up swim, the national anthem, and some fireworks, the 30 men are individually introduced, set, and on their way. About 4 minutes later the 28 females are introduced one by one to the start line (somehow I managed to be ranked 24th for the race even though my 5150 ranking was 5th - I'm not sure what happened there but it didn't effect anything). The swim in this race is so much more important than most of my other races. They are all so quick over the 1500m and then they go flat-out on the bike and there's not much time to catch back up. A good swim might help get me up onto the podium by the end if I'm lucky. But a bad swim could leave me with too much to do on the roads...and not enough time to do it. The finish line comes way too quickly in this race. Today, I had the later. A swim that left me 3.30mins behind the leaders. Jared said after 3mins, T1 was dead quiet and empty and he was starting to worry that I was hurt out in the water, being rescued by one of the kayaks. I've only done a small handful of Olympic Distance races, but every one of them I somehow manage to cop a serious beating in the swim. I was bashed, dunked, pushed and pulled like there was some sort of under-water mixed-martial arts tournament going on or something. It gets really scary out there. I eventually got myself into some clear water about a third of the way through and started finding some rhythm. I passed a couple girls in the last stretch and came out of the water in 24th.
Jumping on my bike I heard the split. 3.30. Not what I wanted to hear. It meant I had A LOT of work to do. The bike course was 4 laps out and back on a 3lane road. Heaps of room to move and just a flat drag-race for 5k till each 180degree turn. Very different style of racing to have so many stop-starts. I found it was very hard work to make up any time to the others ahead of me. They were all flying back and forth so fast. I worked my butt off to gradually move up through the field. I got back into T2 with the 4th fastest bike split and started the run in 16th. Still a lot of work to do yet!
"10km is all you have to work with today...time to get moving!" - I was thinking running out of transition. It's not very often I'm hoping the run is long and I've done this race two times before so I know it's an accurate 10km but I'm still hoping it might be mis-measured this time around. I take off and start chasing down the girls in front. My legs are feeling great but my heart is pounding out of my chest. The higher intensity is a shock to me. Usually it's my legs that give in first but not today. I sound like a train. The run is a very flat out and back. The weather is now perfect. Clear blue skies and a little warm. As I pass more girls I lose track of my position but I just keep pushing on looking up the road for the next one ahead. The whole thing is over in a flash. I get to the finish and it is all done for another year. I found out I got up into 5th so that was good to know I got another top 5. I also thought at that point, at least I don't have to hang around for drug testing today (because we had a tight schedule with a 1:30 flight straight after the race).
30seconds later a nice USADA lady comes and introduces herself to me and lets me know I'm the lucky winner of a random drug test. I went down to the testing tent and caught up with the other nice lady from last night, got in and out as quick as possible. The paper work takes quite a while. Then I was back on my Shiv for a quick ride back to the hotel, quick breakfast, quickly pack the bike, back to the airport, and back home to Boulder for a late lunch. Even though the race didn't go completely how I would've loved it to, it was perfect to get a good hard hit-out a week before 70.3 Worlds. No soreness and no problems from the race. What better way to fit in 1 last hard training session than with 27 of the worlds best short course non-drafting girls! Thanks girls...couldn't have done it without you. Really...I couldn't have! And finally, huge congrats to Helle Frederiksen for the win. She was super strong, dominating from start to finish. Congrats too, to Alicia Kaye and Jodie Swallow for their great racing out front to earn 2nd and 3rd. Finally, thank you to HyVee and the many other sponsors involved in this race, the race director, officials, volunteers, the city of Des Moines and all the cheering fans out there. I hope this race continues for many years to come.