After arriving in Cairns on Thursday night there was a lot of commotion finding our bikes, it turns out the airport had shipped in a few flights full of bikes that hadn’t been able to arrive the day before. After almost taking someone else’s bike (oops!), we bundled into our accommodation and found some rather dodgy pizza to eat.
Friday and Saturday we seemed to be rushing around doing things like bike testing, athlete check in, and organising gear for the race. Kat and I had the pleasure of cycling up to Palm Cove (the race start, around 30km north of Cairns) on Saturday to check our bikes in. After dropping off our transition bags we headed back for a communal dinner and had an early night in anticipation of our 03:30 am alarm.
I absolutely love the moment my feet hit the sand. I've never been a fast swimmer, so for me this is where my race starts. I grabbed my bike “Pammy” and got away swiftly feeling the buzz of race nerves and caffeine working well. The bike course was second to none. The first 33 km we headed north on the Captain Cook highway, a road that follows the coastline towards Port Douglas. On the right the sun rose over the ocean and on the left was a tropical rainforest, painting a postcard-like picture. The day before David Wiles had given me some valuable advice “make hay while the sun shines' ' which seemed to stick with me through the bike course, knowing the last 60 km would be going into the wind. The first 30km seemed to fly by and I had so much fun, I even managed to pick up a bottle without dropping it this time. There was a very strong headwind coming back into cairns which made it hard to hold on at times, but knowing the end was near I pushed hard the last 30km aiming for a sub-3hr bike split.
I arrived at T2 and almost couldn’t get off my bike. I was excited but also nervous to run, this was my second half Ironman distance race, and though running is my favourite discipline I wasn’t sure if going so hard on the bike would impact my run. I started off way too quick and after about 4km decided to back it off and try to keep a consistent pace. The run course was amazing! 2x10km laps up and down the cairns esplanade which was lined with supporters. I don’t think there was a single spot on the course where there weren't any supporters. It was also good for spotting all our Warringah buddies, on the run course I saw Fred, Becky and Caroline. We all cheered each other on and gave a few sneaky high fives along the way. It was hot during the run, about 29 degrees and very humid. I took nutrition and/or water on board every 10 minutes and at every aid station. With 3km to go and after keeping a relatively consistent pace I called out to Miriam (Chief support crew) ‘is it too early to go for it?’, thankfully she said not yet, at the next turn. At the next turn I tried to up the pace, there wasn’t much left but the sound of the finish line made me smile.
As I turned down the finish chute I saw my amazing coach and idol, Bec Hoschke, who gave me a high five. I looked up to the clock realising I had no idea what time it was. I remember thinking ‘6hrs would be great’ (my first 70.3 was 06:36), as I crossed the line I saw a time next to my name: 05:35. At first I didn't believe it so I checked my watch. It matched, taking me by complete surprise. Feeling elated and rather dizzy I went and found Miriam and Bec and sank into a deep fog of post race bonk.
We waited and cheered on the rest of the Warringah athletes. We found some food conveniently on the side of the bike/run course and cheered people on as we ate some salty chips and pizza. Later in the day after we walked up the esplanade cheering all the full Ironman competitors. For me this was just as much fun as the race. The atmosphere at the finish line was incredible, you could hear the roar of the crowds from 2km away. We waited for Kat to finish the run, she amazingly managed to take out the full distance in 11hrs 48, placing 8th in her age group- and she smiled the whole way. It was an inspiring performance. Huge kudos to all the brave Warringah’s that tackled the full, you’re all amazing and hard as nails!
Thank you Warringah for allowing me to fit into such a welcoming and supportive community. Massive thanks to my coach Bec who inspires me to bring my best self to training and to race day, and thanks to Miriam for coming up to support us. I can hands down say that Cairns has been my favourite race day yet and I can’t wait for next year!
I knew it was going to cold but also that I couldn’t be late as I had the club tent. The great thing about volunteering is the parking, in this case a reserved spot right at the start line -winning already.
In the early morning dark, the usual friendly faces appeared, everyone was cold, hands frozen and noses running. Having grown somewhat proficient at putting up and packing away the club tent in recent times, it went up in a jiffy with some help and at least the wind wasn’t blowing in through one corner anymore and the mark of any professional volunteer a camp chair was now set. Now I’m sure there was a race on around here.
This was my first proper test post-shoulder surgery so I signed up for one lap. With my new bike under me, I needed to prove to myself I’ve got the gear and some idea.
Its only 20ks and I’ve done West Head 100’s of time. “I’ve got this” I tell myself. Deanna secured a 7:20am start for me so the sun was up and my best side would reflect in the soft hues of the morning light.
Great to see so many MWCC competitors and their bling bikes and skin suits, they obviously hadn’t heard of NOSH trail run or Ironman Cairns where most of WTC’s finest were at.
I always get lost in counting the hills (crests pfft) and corners on the West Head rd but I think everyone knows what hill comes after the basin trail. God that wall is a killer and then one after just to kill the legs.
Still it’s all downhill on the way back, isn’t it? A mate from MWCC gives me shout on my way back he’s on 2 lap flyer I catch up with him later turns out he’s not twice as good as me as he claims only ½ as good again.
With the remaining 5 or was it 6 hills completed my lap is done and now straight in to the tracky pants to warm up. You need to be in it to win it and 2nd in my age category, I’ll take the win when I can.
Thanks to all the WTC and MWCC volunteers, I highly recommend getting involved if you can’t race. It’s a great way to see another side of any event check out equipment, technique,and to stay connected to the club.
Meagan Birch - Club Champs 2021
Club champs and my first triathlon: recap.
I didn’t sleep the night before. Not because I was out partying or because I was dreaming of sharks. Nope. I was panicking about how big those hills would be on the bike leg and wondering if anyone would notice me skip a leg. For me, riding my bike is the biggest challenge of a triathlon. But it turns out I didn’t need to worry at all.
When my family dropped me off near transition, I was amazed how many smiling faces were out there and how helpful everyone was. I had been told club champs was a very social event but I was overwhelmed by the friendliness. My nerves calmed down quickly and I started looking forward to the race. For me club champs became a learning experience because it was my first ever triathlon event…. And I had a lot to learn.
Lesson 1: a fear of sharks does NOT make you swim faster! The water was beautiful, clear and a lot warmer than I expected. The organisers did a great job spreading out the swimmers and the course was relatively clear. But no matter how great the conditions and how confident I was going prior to the swim, once I was in the water I just couldn’t catch my breath or get into a good rhythm. It took most of my swim to reassure myself that Jaws was not approaching and the swim was as safe as I had been told. Next time I will focus more on enjoying the swim and making the most of my time in the water.
Lesson 2: listen to people when they tell you to practice taking off your wetsuit before your first race! I had imagined a super quick transition that would barely affect my time. In reality, I spent 5 minutes rolling around on the ground, grappling with my wetsuit and laughing at myself. I also gave some officials a giggle too 😊
Lesson 3: there is no shame walking your bike up a hill….. six times. I knew I was going into the bike leg completely underprepared. Not only do I have no idea how to fix a puncture, I also have actively avoided hills on most of my bike rides. I had some great advice from club members on changing gears before getting to the bottom of a climb and building up speed on a downhill. But I found putting this into practice without training was harder than I realised. It is a skill I am now working on for my next triathlon.
Lesson 4: No matter how tired and sore you are, Powerade, some friendly smiles and music at the turn-around point in the last leg will give you the energy you need to finish. Sometimes this is all you need to remind yourself to enjoy your time on the course. Going into the event I was very worried I would be too slow to finish the course. But club champs really is a very inclusive event and once I was racing, the support on course from our club was more than enough to get me through.
Lesson 5: Being part of a club really is a great way to train, experience a triathlon and connect with people. The club champs dinner was my family’s first large social event since covid started. It was such a fun night and definitely the highlight of the weekend for us. Thank you to everyone that made this such a special weekend. There must have been a lot of planning, time and effort that went into making this happen and I am very grateful for those that made it happen. We can’t wait to be back again next year!
Congratulations to all our athletes who braved the cold this morning to take on the West Head course!
Results are now available at the following link: