Forster Challenge Experience – Part 1

This weekend I travelled to Forster to compete participate in the Sprint triathlon. It was a fantastic yet exhausting weekend.

Until Friday, my race plan was to “survive”. But after a chat with my coach, it was decided that I would just get and stay comfortable on the swim, then ride hard on the bike making sure I drank my full bottle of water on the 20km course, maintaining a high cadence thereby saving my legs for the run. Another big component of my plan was nutrition and hydration. I generally suffer quite a lot in the heat and we’re moving into summer. I drank more than four litres of water and electrolytes on Friday and still more on Saturday morning before the race.

My race started at 7am Saturday morning. I arrived in Forster the night before at about 10.00pm. The neighbours were having a party so it wasn’t exactly an early night and 5.00am came much too soon.

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This was my first race in open water (in a sheltered area though, no waves). The water looked a little eerie when I arrived at registration.

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Then, it REALLY settled in! You can just see the trees across the water…

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Our starts were all delayed a little for safety reasons – we couldn’t see the buoys and the surf life saving volunteers couldn’t see us.

Setting up transition was fun. It was pretty cramped and our handlebars were overlapping. I was worried the guy at the back of my bike was going to have my pedals stuck in his wheels when he tried to get out.

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Eventually we started though. We had to make our way out maybe 50m (I’m not good at judging distance) to a deep water start. I was going to walk as far as I could but I ended up in a very slimy patch of weeds so decided to swim like everyone else. This is when I discovered realised that I was swimming in salt water. I hadn’t put my goggles on – they were still on my head and salt water stings more than chlorine!

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Anyway, the swim started and I managed to stay calm. One or two moments of slight panic when following waves swam past and brushed/stroked my legs or when I thought I was going off course but mostly I did my best Dory* impression and tried to “just keep swimming”.

I was wearing my new tri suit which made it easy for my wonderfully supportive husband to spot me and take photos.

Synchronised swimming anyone?

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Next time I’ll try to breathe on the correct side for good photos.

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750m seemed a lot longer in one stretch than in a 25m pool. At least in a pool I can count off the laps. Out there, I had no reference points other than the four buoys we swam around. I eventually made it back to the swim exit and ran into transition. Safely mounted my bike and I was off. Time to ride!

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The brand/company name is actually “Her Coach” but the “Her” isn’t very visible (it has since been modified). I received lots of “go coach” support from other participants. That was a bit embarrassing – especially when I was walking!

20km later… still smiling and with an empty bottle. (The shadow reminds me of ET.)

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Off the bike without mishap (a HUGE relief) and onto the run. I was feeling the effects of all that drinking and ended up with a stitch. I don’t remember having had a stitch since I was at school trying to run at athletics carnivals or similar. It disappeared about 3km into the 5km course. The final 2km were my fastest.

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It was at this point that the inside of my knees started chafing. I had never experienced that before. Maybe it was a result of the leg bands of the tri suit bottoms being a bit tighter than my old ones, and squishing the fatty bits out more. Who knows. I’m more inclined to think it was the salt residue from the swim. I only realised I was carrying a salt residue when I went to run my fingers through my hair about an hour after I finished. Ewww.

So, the hydration/nutrition plan was a success in that I didn’t end up with a headache during or after the race. It even included chewy carbohydrate lollies and hydration tablets. I think I had as much nutrition planning as many half ironman competitors! We will need to fine tune it a bit before my next race to avoid the stitch but other than that I was happy.

Mum and another friend of ours, Kate, arrived in time to watch most of my run. Here I am acknowledging them. They were the loudest supporters there. It was awesome!! (And that’s my coach in the red volunteer shirt on the right.) I love this photo – I think I look like a runner! Finally!!!!!!!
(If you don’t agree, you can keep that to yourself thank you very much Winking smile)

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I was almost airborne coming into the finish.

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And then I really was airborne. Photographic evidence below:

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The female winner was Michellie Jones. I don’t feel bad coming in behind her at all! My official time was 1 hour 56 minutes. 2 minutes faster than my previous sprint distance race in May this year. 2 minutes faster on the swim, 3.5 minutes faster on the bike, 3.5 minutes slower on the run. If I can sort out my run, I think I stand a chance at a pretty major improvement. I’m never likely to be “podium” material but I had a top 10 age group finish this time. As you will see below, there were only 9 finishers in my age group but I’m going to claim it anyway.

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Aside from the nutrition/hydration plan, there were many other things I was happy with in this race. I was happy with my bike riding. I managed to maintain a decent cadence (aiming for 85, average was 78) and passed a couple of people.

I have said in the past “I don’t care if I come last” but deep down I knew I was lying to myself. I didn’t want to come last. Yesterday though, I really didn’t care. For the first time I finished a race feeling good and most of the time during the race I was thinking “if I work on this, then the next race will be better”. In the past, I’ve thought about what a silly idea it was to sign up in the first place, or what a waste of money, or any number of other negative thoughts. I didn’t have any of that yesterday. Yes, I was slow, but I was enjoying the experience of participating racing. This was a massive mental shift.

Considering the short time I had between signing up and racing, I was quite underprepared. We’d been focussing on my running and only included minimal swimming and cycling on my training program. As a result, there were no planned brick sessions and I had a huge weekend last weekend with the club race followed by the fun run. I went into the race with quite a fatigued body (and brain – 4-5 hours sleep only for the 3 or 4 nights prior to the race) yet I did more than “survive” the race.

It’s so much easier to find your bike in transition when you’re at the back of the pack (silver lining)! This was after the race but when I got to transition the first time it wasn’t too much different. That’s me in the centre of the photo.

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And here I am with my two biggest supporters after the race (Mum and husband).

Mum and me

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I am really looking forward to trying a race with a real road bike! I don’t own one yet but I’m starting to look…

It seems quite childish but I was disappointed not to receive a finisher’s medal. I guess that means I’ve graduated into “real triathlons” where only the winners get medals. (This was my first race, outside my local club races, that wasn’t “women only”.) It’s silly to be disappointed because I know it’s not about the medals which only sit on a shelf gathering dust anyway. It just seemed somehow anticlimactic to cross the line, take 2 or 3 steps, be asked to remove the timing strap and…that’s it.

I don’t need a medal to prove I did it. I know I did it, and what’s more, I enjoyed it. All of it.

I topped off the weekend by volunteering at the Challenge Foster Half event (equivalent distances to half ironman but a different “brand” – if that’s what they are called) but I will leave that for another post. It was interesting to say the least!

In other exciting news: I only have 21.6km to go on my virtual journey from Melbourne to Port Augusta.

* Finding Nemo movie reference

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7 responses »

  1. Great recap and a great race – well done! You also beat several people in your age group on the run, which is awesome. Are you planning your next event?

    • Thanks Tamsyn, imagine what I could do if I manage to run the whole run instead of walking parts of it 😉 I am still deciding what to set as my next race goal. For now, I’m planning to continue with the local triathlon club events over summer.

  2. Pingback: Forster Challenge Experience – Part 2 | The Tri Road

  3. Pingback: Dreams revisited | The Tri Road

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