Having only been in this triathlon business for a short time, I have learnt very quickly that race weekends are always good fun. Full of enthusiasm and anticipation as well as a general good vibe between all competitors, even if there is a strong sense of rivalry!
Although I wasn't prepared for what was going to happen at the Huski Long Course Triathlon Festival...
Leaving the office early on a Friday isn't anything new, I have been fine tuning the dispreading act for a long time now, although Friday of a race weekend always gets the pulse going a little more. Anticipating the traffic heading south is the priority of the day, even though this time Tommy The Kid and I didn't quite nail it... By the time we squeezed all our gear in the back of the little subie and hit the road, we discovered that we weren't the only ones taking a (well earned) early minute. It was a slowish drive with cramping legs through to Nowra, which always seems further than I remember... Although forgetting how close Huski was to Nowra was enough to turn the tables and lift the spirits!
Rocking up at our bed for the night we discovered that we were in fact staying at a Triathlon brothel. There were more beds than rooms, more people than beds and more bikes than people. Our kind of place!
To make it better we were surrounded by our Bondi Fit team, the best (and loudest) support crew anyone could ever ask for, and the excitement and energy was contagious, with every new face the energy grew. It was the most fantastic pre-race feeling and after we managed to roll out swags, pump up air mattresses and squeeze into a corridor for a little shut eye (at 11pm if you don't mind...) it dawned on me that the usual pre-race nerves weren't there, only excitement and the feeling that race day was going to be a good day!
4:30 is very early. Although getting out of bed and getting moving isn't usually a problem on race morning as you are mentally in another zone of running through the morning pre-race routine. Shower, muffins with strawberry jam, electrolytes. Bike check, sense check, out the door.
It was a gloomy morning and sure enough as we were setting up in transition in the pitch black it rained.
Feeling the nerves creep in a little at this stage.
Although after heading down those infamous stairs at to the beach, we were greeted with the loudest, brightest bunch of muppets and the nerves once again turned to excitement!
A quick high five in the water before the gun goes is enough to get the blood going, and as usual the pack heads off at full speed... at least leading the right direction (which is better than usual). I grab onto the feet of one someone as I take the conservative approach to the first 200m and I notice Tommy doing the same on my right hip. Sure enough they start falling off the pace one by one. I was lucky (or maybe smart?) enough to be able to jump a small gap and draft off a few more guys that managed to hold the pace a bit longer, and then jump another small gap when that pack broke up again. By the time we hit the first can I was feeling good and had settled into my stroke and we were starting to pass some of the earlier waves which was a good boost, although I lost sight of the other guys in my wave in the process. I hit the beach and felt relaxed and ready for the bike. I know I heard the Bondi Fit circus cheering and I'm pretty sure I heard someone shout I was out in the front. As it turns out I was 3rd out the water.
The crowd carries you up those long stairs and through to transition, trying to keep the heart rate down is tough.
Although getting away on the bike while relaxed lets me settle in and put my mind to what I want to achieve over the next 20km, 35min on the bike. I really wanted to make sure I played the Bondi Fit way and negatively split this race. To be honest I really needed a confidence boost as I had struggled through the run at Kurnell a few weeks earlier and didn't want to suffer the same fate.
For that reason it was hard to not put the chase on when Tommy and Cam edged past me about 4km in to the bike leg... Checking my splits every 5km was such a boost as I watched my times drop a little each split and I managed to execute my bike leg to plan, almost to the second. Definitely a boost going into the run. And feeling good!
Hitting the run I had the same argument with myself as always, SLOW DOWN, it always feels so good running out of T2 with the crowd going and music in the background... Although it's been my downfall in many races to fall into a false sense of security early then fade horribly as the km's grow... This time I wanted to have a good run, I wanted to run sub 22:30 and I wanted to negatively split. Lets face it, I wasn't racing for a medal, so I wanted to race for something, that something was the confidence that I could race to a plan and that I could feel comfortable doing it. So I backed off and tried not to watch as I was passed by all sorts of people through the first km or two. Although as I started to wind it up through km 3 and 4 I watched a lot of those same people head backwards. Now that's a good feeling,
By the last km I was pretty much on my limit and still feeling good. Coming round the corner past transition was a great feeling, so much so that I even managed an Ironman moment with a wave to the camera, for which I received a healthy dose of sledging from coach Scotty. Sprinting down the chute and past the Bondi Fit Temple was awesome, with the crew cheering over the fence and handing out high-fives it was an awesome way to finish!
Besides the heckling and sledging that followed regarding my honourary membership to Team Ironman, I was absolutely stoked that I was able to race to plan. What a fantastic feeling! I absolutely understand the negatively split plan. It really does make such a difference to your mind set later in a race when you can lift the pace instead of fall off the back...!
To top it off even more I later found out I managed to snatch 7th in a field of 49 with a time of 1:12:08.
Tommy managed his first ever gold with a time of 1:05:19.!
Celebrations were in order and we put away a 6pack under the Bondi Fit Temple while watching the Miniman race. Epic.
And that was only the Saturday.... What was to come on the Sunday was maybe even greater...