(A tale of epic proportions, you should probably grab a coffee. It’s long, but there are pictures. It’s late and my fingers ramble when I’m tired. Apologies to those who get bored – it’s kind of like the ultra-ironman of race reports.)
People warned me that it would be addictive. That it would take over my life. That if I got hooked, I would withdraw from people and my usual activities. They were right. It started in March 2011 when I did my first tri at a Womens Triathlon Festival at Penrith in March 2011 (150m/5km/1.5km). It all led to an OD. An Olympic Distance triathlon on Sunday 8th March 2015.
There will be a little repetition here of snippets of previous posts as it’s hard to know what to put in and what to leave out.
The summary at the end of my very first race report was:
Admittedly, it takes a bit more than that to excite me now but in the euphoric after-glow of that event, I decided that I would do an Olympic distance tri. I had never had an “athletic” goal before so it was quite “out there”. And really, I had absolutely NO idea what it would involve. In 2012 I realised I needed a deadline. New goal: complete an Olympic distance before I turned 40. I’ve got three years. No problem…
As you will have read previously, I realised in December 2014 that I was running out of time and signed up for the BCU Coffs Tri on 8th March. Due to a number of contributing factors, I decided to withdraw from that and do the Port Macquarie Club Race (also Olympic Distance) on 1st March. What was to be my first Olympic Distance became my first DNF. But you know that already.
I spent the next couple of hours watching my coach’s kids at a surf life saving carnival and it blew my mind that they let under 9s out there in the surf swimming around cans and stuff. It made me realise that the waves and swell really weren’t pulling me out to sea, or pushing me into moored boats, or whatever else my head was telling me.
I came home and did a bit of research (I love google) on the physics of waves (I’m a closet nerd). I kind of had this vague sense that the water itself wasn’t moving, it’s the energy that moves and once I’d confirmed that when I’m on a swell, I am really just going up and down, not towards or away from shore, it felt like a switch tripped in my brain. I wanted to try again.
As you know, I negotiated with my wonderfully, supportive husband and I headed off to the coast early Saturday morning, leaving him at home continuing to move our belongings from the old house to the new one.
After the mini-swim practice mentioned in a previous post, I drove the bike course which was described as “gentle and flat” with one short steep hill. Flat: not likely!!!! I started to freak out a bit about the hills. People say the momentum from the downhills gets you up the next hill. But I brake on the downhills!!! The short steep hill was not far from transition so I decided I would walk it rather than risk a fall or mental impact at the start of the 40km. Depending on how it went on the first lap, I would think about riding up on the second lap when my legs were warmed up.
I was disappointed that there was no t-shirt in the goodie bag. I’d paid good money for this race and I wanted a t-shirt even though I never wear them.
I went to bed early but took about 4 hours to fall asleep. I was fixated on all those hills on the bike course. How was I going to survive that and still run???? My brain was stuck on repeat picturing the ups and downs. At least I wasn’t freaking out about the swim I guess. I’d decided I was going to “just keep swimming” and think of the ups and downs of the swells as if I was on a ride at Dreamworld. Wheeee!
Got up in the dark to set up transition (this time I remembered to keep some food and drink in a plastic bag I could toss in the bin as I didn’t have any support crew to leave it with). I did forget the sunscreen though. Next time I will put some into a small throw-away container so I can put it on before the race starts.
Then the wait began. I always allow heaps of time to set up transition so I don’t stress but I was ready by about 6am and briefing was at 7.20 with my wave starting at 7:53am. I sat down and chatted with some random strangers who were doing the enticer which kicked off before the Olympic. I met up with two other ladies from Tamworth club who were also doing their first Olympic tris. They decided to watch the start of the enticer race. I stayed put and looked after bags. I didn’t want to see the water in case it was rougher than the previous afternoon. The less time I had to freak out, the better. Water temperature – 25.6°. No wetsuits. I felt quite relieved that I had done my practice swim without one the day before.
My goals for the race: SWIM – finish. OVERALL – finish. I estimated I would need about 3:45 for the race. 4 hours would mean I finished before the presentations started.
We eventually headed down to the beach. White buoys – they were hard to see against the sky. I was hoping they’d be easier to see once we were in the water. The open category went first and it seemed to take forever for them to reach the first buoy. How long was it going to take me, I thought??? Then the guys were off. We were up next! I hung back and tried to start in a direct line to the first buoy. I was planning to tick each buoy off and know that I never had to swim that section again (one lap course, as opposed to 4 laps at Port). Lucky for me they had extra guidance buoys as well which broke the course up into even smaller chunks.
I was so far behind everyone by the first turn that I had my own personal water safety person paddling alongside me pretty much all the way to the end. I think that may have contributed to some of my “peacefulness” but somehow I really did manage to just keep swimming. If I started to lose it on the downside of a swell, I paused, looked up, refocused on the next buoy and started swimming again. I often felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere, then all of a sudden, the next buoy was right there. At the second turn it was straight out to sea (or the mouth of the harbour anyway). Straight into the sun. I had no idea where the buoy was and no other swimmers were in sight. Head for the sun I guess. Finally spotted the buoy and I wasn’t too far off course. Only one more turn after this next one. Keep going! This is as far out as you need to go. Made it! Parallel to the beach again now. And here come the first of the team swimmers (who started 10 minutes after me). They were in small groups so swam easily around me rather than over me. How nice of them. 🙂 Final turn back towards the shore and I thought it would get easier but it didn’t. That last leg somehow ended up the hardest bit of all. Where were the waves now that I wanted them?
Run/walk up the beach to transition, absolutely elated that I finished the swim. It didn’t seem that long (timewise) either. I had estimated I’d need about 50 minutes based on pool swims. I don’t have a GPS swim watch so had no idea.
SWIM: Finished. First race goal achieved.
Hopped on the bike for a short ride to the first hill where I successfully dismounted and slowly hiked up the hill (never having tried to climb a hill in bike shoes before). A little slip and slide but stayed upright. Thought my bike was making funny noises but eventually realised it was my thighs rubbing. Embarrassing. Back on the bike at the top of the hill, down, up, down, up, and so on. Having driven the course, I knew there was a flat bit coming eventually! I managed to not brake on too many hills (it’s amazing how much more confidence I have when I know there are no cars on the road). Managed to drink without dropping my bottle, managed to eat my vegemite sandwich without falling off (no way was I attempting to open a gel while riding) and managed to ride halfway up the steep little hill to the plateau in the middle on the second lap and only walked the top section. Managed to dismount without incident. Lots of mini-goals kicked right there!
BIKE: Average speed less than planned but not bad considering the hills. And. The. Wind.
Off for the run. It was about 28° by now and I really don’t handle heat well. I was well within my four hour unofficial time goal and my primary goal was to finish, and preferably to finish with no need of medical assistance. I took water at every station and poured it on my hands to cool them off, over my head, down my back, on my face at one point too! I even managed to drink some. There were 2 stations but we passed them several times. It was fantastic. The volunteers were enthusiastic and encouraging as well. I walked. A lot. My average pace was only 8:30 (had hoped to maintain 7:00) but I didn’t care. I was going to finish an Olympic distance triathlon. I did manage to run the final 100m or so through the finish chute where I was presented with a lovely towel. I hereby retract my stingy comments about the lack of t-shirt. A towel is so much more practical! I just didn’t want it wrapped around my shoulders thank you very much! Didn’t they know it was 30°? The towel, while gratefully received, came off almost as quickly as my wetsuit the week before.
A 38 minute swim? Unbelievable. There must have been a current somewhere that I didn’t notice while I was out there. My last sprint swim was 21 minutes (November). My overall sprint time was 1:56 so this was slightly quicker over a longer distance (although I didn’t have to do twice as many transitions so that’s probably not a true comparison).
I don’t care. I finished. Did I mention that? I FINISHED!
Mission accomplished with 5 weeks to spare.
Now I can get over my OD and resume “normal” life as I clean the house we’ve sold and begin training for the Gold Coast half marathon. No more triathlons until next season as I can’t make the final local club race this year. I am ending the season on a very high tri-high.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you! You deserve a medal. Or at least a t-shirt.