Australian Alpine Ascent (AAA) is not about the time, it’s about the journey. It is not about flat roads where you are pushing yourself to the extreme, it’s about the extreme coming to you with the hills. You can register to AAA Extreme (3KM swim, 117km bike, 22km run), Standard or Ultra Trail run (25 or 50K run but 40K this year because of a helicopter crash that changed the distance last minute). Of course I selected the 70.3++ distance.
First time for me in Snowy Mountains, in fabulous landscape designed with beautiful mountains, dozen of lakes and fantastic forests and very large meadows. I already experienced Cairns and its fabulous coast, but I would say these landscapes were absolutely gorgeous!
When you register to AAA, you are registering for a unique race: a race which is not individual but team effort! Since there is no aid station provided by Energy Event, this is a real team coordination, and you will need 1 or 2 friends to support you in your journey, driving the car when you’re cycling and setting up minimum 2 aid stations for you (but they can stop anytime for you on the road and give you what you need). And riding a Mountain Bike when you’re running to Mount Kosciuszko!
Let’s talk about the race itself (on Saturday morning 7AM, not Sunday)!
Checkin: at Rydges hotel, you’re feeling a very personal welcome since there were only 66 participants to AAA Extreme . You get an amazing jacket, and hoodies + car signs for your team support. I was super excited, and was really happy to meet our 3 other Warringah Competitors (Mark Page, Laura Cameron and Chris Wallace) during the race briefing at 7PM!
Compulsory bag: you need to start your race with minimum 2 liters water on your bike, and a camelbag for your run made of hat + gloves + extra layer (jacket and pants) + 1L of water + 2 nutrition as a minimum (gels/bars)
SWIM (3KM) – Even if recent floodings have affected the Jindabyne Lake and we could see previous pathway and public lamps under water, the water was delicious (20 degrees) since the outside temperature when you start (12 degrees) is a bit colder than our usual Manly area. 3 laps to do in brown water, almost like double Manly>Shelly these days after the flooding, but without the salt joy!
BIKE (117KM) – Total ascent 2,546m (895m> 1,783m) – 5H39 – Max speed 68Km/h - Starting from Jindabyne lake, we ride towards Thredbo first. You need to know well the way before starting, because race signs are very limited! I took the first left (instead of the second one), and just realised I was on the wrong route when I saw other cyclists continuing on the main road haha! (end the volunteer I saw didn’t tell me it was the wrong way). Road bike or TT bike? I selected road bike to keep a good control of the bike, even if you do have opportunities to accelerate a bit more with a TT bike. The way to Thredbo was nice, I was able to catch with other cyclists (I’m always stronger on the bike than on the swim!!), and I discovered couple of hills that reminded me where I was… in the mountains area! The first 50km where all up and down, like roller coaster, with 2 strong hills. During that time, it was great seeing all team cars supporting you and cheering, with easy to recognise stickers (yellow sign ‘’cyclist support’’ in front and orange sign ‘’Cyclist ahead’’ in the back of the cars). First catchup with Ange in Bulllocks Flat, even if we were already in touch by phone before (always helpful to share your google location when racing this kind of event!). I see her and Sarah smiling at me, and I got the feeling that I was arriving at a triathlon bar: ‘’do you want banana, cereal bar, bonbons etc? This 2 minute break was great to share emotions, replace your water bottles, and start again with a new energy and stronger mindset. Going back to Jindabyne lake the same way, a bit of downhill where you experience super fast-changing conditions: when you could be super hot climbing the hills, you’re getting really cold with the wind in the descent! That’s what the Warringah winter jersey long sleeve that I worn at the top of my WTC trisuit was comfortable: I could zip and unzip both of them during the all race depending on the feeling. I saw Ange in the car couple of times again, when she was checking me on the side of the road (with extra food and drinks), taking pictures and cheering on me, really great to see your support many many times during that race! Between Jindabyne lake is starting the really hard job… a non-stop hill of 20km (around 80 to 100km) which was a legs killer (+8.7% at some stage)! Making a second stop at Mount Kosciuszko discovery center, in the middle of that crazy hill was good to relax a bit the leg and evacuate all the water I drunk so far. The last 20km of the bike were the one where I suffered the most, and at the end I got the feeling I’ve done 160km of a ride with all that energy spent! Final downhill on the left to Charlotte Pass, where you see the finish line and where you park your bike. Ange and Sarah cover my body of sunscreen since I was burning before despite all the sunscreen I already applied in the morning. Once again, this support crew was fabulous to get ready!
RUN (22KM) – Total ascent 500m (1,738m> 2,211m) – 3H01 – First 200m of the run are hard, since it’s uphill as soon as you start! Not even easy for Ange on her Mountain Bike! Fun fact, she had 41H recovery on her Garmin watch after the race vs 39 for me haha! After leaving the main road, we arrive on the trail run area where we meet Laura Cameron and her support Mel – she looks strong! And I will discover later she will finish 1st of the woman category, when Chris (that I didn’t see at all) finished 3rd… legends! Pretty large roads, another set of very scenic landscapes, you feel in the heart of the mountain! Climbing on the way in to Mount Kosciuszko, I needed to do walk/run/walk/run to be able to arrive to the summit. I meet Mark Page and his son Jack?– they are already going down the hills on the way back. Your mountain bike support needs to stop 2km before the summit and finish you with a run before taking back the bike again. Arriving at Mount Kosciuszko for the first time of my life, I got the feeling I was at the Everest, ready to cry with such a beauty area, and fantastic achievement I’ve done, thinking about my friends, family and the one I love in this unique moment… Event Energy crew gives me wristband, and I take time to enjoy this moment with pictures on the rocks, when some others prefer just to turn back immediately. Magical. Yes, magical. My heart is full, I’ve got chills, it’s time to go down. This time I feel much better, going down like a jaguar between rocks (instead of trees).
I join back Ange, and she’s also taking the best of that journey, full of smiles and passion in these mountains. Sharing this together was part of the beauty of this race. We meet other AAA Extreme participants on the way back, and this is where I realise I was in the middle of the pack, and lots of others have still couple of hours in front of them! Final descent on the main road, I can hear the speaker cheering finisher already. Then this is my turn, couple of minutes later… I’m crossing the lines with some little tears in the eyes, proud of the extreme efforts I accomplished, with extreme beautiful mountains in my background, and with Ange waiting for me with her extreme smiles. A fantastic journey I will never forget. Harder than a full Iron Man? Probably! Have a try and tell me! But don’t compare time, just compare smiles and amazing souvenirs!
This year was my third Big Husky sprint distance triathlon. I did my first ever triathlon at Husky in February 2020, mountain bike and all. It was purely a competition to prove I could beat my little sister who decided to give triathlon a go Christmas day two months prior. I did beat her, in case you were wondering. It got me hooked on the sport, my sister hasn’t ever done another triathlon.
We get to race in some pretty incredible places in Australia but Husky is my favourite so far. I’m not sure if it’s the (normally) sparking clean water in Jarvis Bay, the fairly flat terrain, the view on the run course or the if it’s just the general awesome atmosphere of the town in the last weekend of February each year that seals the deal for me.
The lead up to the race this year for me was great, I’d upped my training and was feeling more prepared than I had for a race before. I really wanted to take some significant time off my 2021 race.
Chris and I finished work at lunch time on the Friday, packed up the car, picked the kids up early from school and headed on our way in the torrential rain. After arriving in Husky just after 6pm, eating some pizza (pre-race carb load of course!) and settling into our little beach shack, I headed out for a quick, wet 20-minute bike check ride. With the sun setting on the bay (though I couldn’t tell because it was pouring rain), I rode down the bike path to Vincentia and back home drenched but ready for the next day.
Race day was overcast but mostly dry with just the occasional shower, a huge relief considering the rain in the week leading up to the weekend and the forecasted downpours. The atmosphere in transition was great, WTC kit everywhere. I coincidentally racked my bike next to a non-WTC Collaroy local, I put the sell on her to join the club, don’t worry!
Wetsuits on, a large group of WTC ladies gathered on the start hill above the beach to wish each other luck and chat race plans. And then it began. The swim set off in groups of two. The visibility was horrendous but it was flat as a tack and still really beautiful. I swam around the pink cones, back through the yellow ones and I was quickly out and running up the stairs, hearing my first “C’mon Sally!”, “Go mum!!” and “Go Warringah!” cheers as I ran un the steps and made it into T1.
An okay transition saw me running out with my bike to the mount line and attempt to mount. Slip, laugh, slip again, realise Nic Brunt is filming my awful mount and laugh again. I finally managed to click in and I was off. The ride was great and the road mostly dry. I felt good and was clocking an average speed much faster than I did in 2021. The 10km mark passed, then 11, I couldn’t help wonder if my Garmin GPS was out or if it was the course. At about 11.5km, I reached the U-turn of the 20km leg) and headed back into town. Unfortunately, there was quite a few cars on the course on the way back and navigating to overtake them wasn’t easy. The last 2km was a blur of “Go Warringah”. Every time I heard someone cheer me on it made me smile and gave me the boost I needed to keep pushing.
Feeling fairly good and slightly ahead of my 2021 time, I went into T2, slid out of my cleats, into my runners and set off down the path. The run is my favourite leg and I felt I pushed hard, coming in not far off my 5km pb. The out and back of this course meant there were plenty of high fives and cheers from other WTC racers and supporters – there is no better feeling.
Finally, down the run chute, hearing my kids cheer me home got me across the line. Such an awesome race and cannot wait for Husky 2023.
We arrived on Friday afternoon and it had been raining all week. The outlook for the weekend and race was to expect rain. It rained on and off on Saturday but the forecast for Sunday was not good. There was a 100% chance of rain and a predicted mid-morning thunderstorm. : ( Anyway, we were lucky and the race day was perfect with no rain, a calm flat Jarvis bay for the swim, dryish roads for the bike and a nice breeze for the run.
My lead up to the race had been great. I had joined EndureIQ and was part of the squad using Dr Dan Plews as our coach and mentor via their online platform. I have thoroughly enjoyed this and the squad's vibe. I have learnt a lot during this time and immensely enjoyed the online coaching and various sessions. I have continued to do nearly all my riding indoors using Zwift and my running around Narrabeen lake. My swimming has been consistent too. I’ve also included weights into my training which I think has helped immensely.
Pre Race - For breakfast, I had half a buttered bread roll and a double espresso made by Anna. Nothing more. Anna and I got to the race start at 5 AM. I always like to get there early to check the bike in, feel the vibe and catch up with mates. It helps relax the pre-race nerves and I do enjoy a chat. Bike check-in was in the dark and the lack of organized race number racking was a concern. It was literally first in best dressed in a very narrow corridor. I also drank a 500ml bidon of Infinit Go Long before heading down for the swim. Anyway, down to the swim start and it was not too long before we were racing.
Swim - I had a bad swim and was a bit disappointed in my time. I got lost out there a few times and could not see the buoys. Perhaps my poor eyesight did not help this but I felt I could have swum better. Got out of the water feeling OK and the usual run up the steps to get into T1 was long and really got the heart going. My swim time was 34m 21sec
T1 - Ran straight past my bike as somebody had moved my gear. Came back and got out of my wetsuit and pulled the cycling socks and helmet on. Powered the Garmin on and ready to ride. My T1 time was 4m 02sec
Ride - Started off slow as I wanted to lower the high heart rate from the swim exit. My first lap was the slowest of the 3 laps. For the ride, I had decided to NOT show my wattage on the Garmin but rather heart rate, speed and distance. I have previously raced on wattage and have felt I have run not as well as I can due to overcooking the bike. My aim was to try and keep my heart rate to between 142 -145 for the majority of the ride and drop it back when/if it got higher. I can honestly say that throughout the 90K my heart rate stayed in this zone except for a couple of the climbs. Anyway, as written my first lap was rather slow and I must admit I did not feel myself and had to really force myself to stay true to my plan and that I would come good. As I ingested my Infinit race nutrition I started to feel really good. At the start of the second lap, I came good. My focus was back and my pace as it should have been. I rode up to and past riders who had ridden past me on the first lap. I was back. Towards the end of Lap 2, I went over a pothole and my last bottle of Infinit came off my bike and quickly disappeared into the bushes. I contemplated going back to get it but was feeling too good. I had to change plans and the plan was to now pick up a bottle of Powerade for the last lap and do what I could to minimise any stomach issues if they appeared. Lap 3 was good too but halfway through the last lap I caught up to a large group and ended up dropping off them as the group got too big and my heart rate a tad too high. My heart rate was close to 150 so my decision was made and I took it easier while heading back into town to prepare for the run. I literally rode in solo with the large group prob 400-500 meters in front of me. Had my decision to ride my own race on the way back into town pay dividends and I could run well? My ride time was 2hr 36mins
T2 - As with the swim I could not find my gear or spot. Actually, I tried to rack in the wrong place. I eventually found my gear and felt good. Shoes (using elastic laces) slipped on, flip belt with Infinit Napalm loaded, run cap and off I went. My T2 was 2min 29sec
Run - Felt Ok and actually felt I was running slow. My first K was 4m 38 secs and I was truly surprised. Was I delirious or perhaps about to pop and walk real soon? Well, I had worked my butt off in training with many tough long runs so time to have faith in my training and coach and trust that I would get the result I was after. I was willing to keep running at this pace or at least try. My Garmin for the run was set to only display heart rate. I was not interested in pace as I knew my heart rate would dictate this. My Garmin was set to display each 1K and heart rate only. My aim was to keep the heart rate between 150-155. Nutrition-wise I had my flip belt and one bottle loaded with 4 scoops of Napalm which I would take a good mouthful before every 3rd aid station and would down with 2 cups of water. This was going to hurt. Anyway, the first 5K felt long and even though I was feeling OK a few negative thoughts crept in. My race and training Mantra of “You control how you play” had to be said in my mind a bunch of times and it helped me relax. The return 5K back to end the first lap I was still feeling good and holding 1K splits of between 4m40 to 4m45 and feeling great. Saw Anna at the end of lap one and soaked up the awesome support back in town. My aim for lap 2 was to do the exact same thing and hold the same pace. The K’s ticked off and my pace stayed the same and my heart rate crept up to 160 in spots but I was now committed to finishing what I had started and dug deep. In places real deep but I drew positive vibes from club mates and other racers on the course. It’s hard to describe the hurt of racing and especially the mid to latter parts of the run. You are in great shape but just like a high-performance car, if driven hard a few warning lights start to flash on the dashboard : ) I chose to ignore the flashing lights and drove even harder. Anyway, the last 5K’s were immense and perhaps the highlight of the race for me. I held great form and came home super strong. Shared a great moment with Dan Howitt who ran past me and looked strong but I continued to tag not far from him and gave him a wave as he turned around close to finish hoping I was long gone. I was close by and we had a great laugh at the end. My run time was 1hr 40mins and my plan to run faster and better than previous years had been achieved. I attribute this to my training but importantly riding my own ride and watching my HR to not burn too many matches. I was stoked but it hurt.
My total time was 4hr 57min and I came 3rd in the 55-59 age group. I had no idea of the total of my time as I wore no watch for the swim and only had HR for the bike and run. I got a podium at the Australian Long Course Championships and still cannot believe it. I have literally worked my butt off over years and years of effort, learning but importantly training my mind to embrace the hurt and suffering of triathlon. I love my sport and all that it brings. The good moments, the doubt, the fear but importantly the strength it gives me to embrace all that comes in life be it good or not so good. : )
I would like to close by saying thanks to my dear wife Anna who is always there to support me in training and racing. She is a real Saint. Also to the EndureIQ coaches and squad for the training programmes and team vibe. A special thanks to Infinit Nutrition for allowing me to be part of their team and an ambassador for their amazing products. Infinit Nutrition has changed my training and racing immensely. In racing, I no longer suffer stomach issues and can race my best with no fear of GI distress. If anybody suffers from racing GI distress please check these guys out.
Also, a massive shout out to the volunteers on the day. Without them, the race just does not happen. I went out of my way to say thanks to as many as I could. Also to the team at Elite Energy who have kept our great sport of triathlon afloat under tough circumstances and made it possible for us to do this crazy sport.
To say that I was feeling the pressure at my first Warringah Triathlon Club Race was an understatement. Having dropped half the deposit for a house on the Bower for the Uber to get to the start line, it quickly became clear how competitive the race would be. The international field was stacked with a who’s who of triathletes from the Northern Beaches. George “Two Guns” Davis, Patrick from Cork, Alex Buhlman representing the USA, Johan “The French Champion” Lequien to name a few, but the real danger man was Roy Gibbs, an ex open-side flanker from Cheshire who is an absolute greyhound once he’s on dry land.
Race conditions were ideal, mid 20s, clear sky and not a breath of wind. Club President and stalwart of WTC, David Wiles was kind enough to walk me down to the start at Collins Beach, and explain the layout of the course. The long walk down from transition added to the excitement, as I quickly realised the race would be swim, run, bike, run. Due to COVID restrictions, the race start was in waves of two, which suited me fine. Having recently arrived from New Zealand I felt privileged to race again, the level of organisation was fantastic, the club and committee should be proud to have organised such a well-run event.
Being aware of Roy’s clear threat I made the tactical decision to start one wave behind him and his girlfriend Helen. Thanks to my 8 millimeter wetsuit and at least 20 dolphin dives between the beach and buoy one I managed to pass Roy at the start of the second lap of the swim, this proved to be no more than false hope though as my narrow lead quickly evaporated on the 2.8km hill climb to T2 (bike transition).
As I left T2 I could see Roy in the distance and was in close proximity to the French Champion. For those who are yet to do the latest bike course, I can only describe it as technical, the mixture of speed bumps tight corners and sharp rises reminded me of Paris Roubaix, which clearly played into the French Champion’s hands, on the first lap at the bottom of the hill on the first lap I lost my chain and the French Champion dropped me like a bad habit. In reality my main focus on the bike was to stay in one piece.
After completing the 7 laps on the bike I came into transition with the French Champion and could see Roy already on his way out; to catch him was clearly going to take something miraculous! In hindsight my first kilometer at 3 minutes 40 seconds was clearly confusing ambition with ability, while I managed to pass the French Champion on the first hill, after two km in it was clear that Roy had the win sewn up. I quickly slowed down at the start of the second lap, and well and truly managed to positive split the run, ie I was way slower on the second half of the run
I would like to thank all of the volunteers and Race Director Deana Waters for putting on a fantastic event, we were even given our race splits at the finish line with a QR code, which is a first for me.
Having recently arrived from Auckland New Zealand, I was sad to say goodbye to my other club North Harbour Triathlon Club, however in the short time I have been in Sydney I have very much enjoyed training and racing with WTC, we are a great club, bring on Club Champs in May, let’s get it on!