As IRONMAN says Anything is Possible!
On my birthday last year I woke up to an email that read “Aloha and Congratulations! You have received a rolldown slot”.
This came over two months after I finished eighth in my age group at IRONMAN Cairns. Knowing that I was exceptionally lucky and also feeling like a bit of fraud, I decided to get serious about my Kona preparation. I needed a coach, a bike and a support crew…
Immediately my mum, dad, sister and her husband in the U.K. said they would be there. I signed up with Racing Heart Coach, Bec Hoschke who did an incredible job of writing a weekly training plan that works around my shifts and that I was able to actually stick to. I put my trust in a stranger on Marketplace by sending them $3000 in return for a promise that she would post me her nearly new Liv Avow Advanced Pro 2. Two weeks later, while at work, I received a message to say the bike had been delivered and was outside my building. I begged my boss to let me leave early to go home and find my shiny new bike.
By the time the day came for a final pre-race meeting with Bec, I felt better prepared than I have ever done for any previous event. Aside from the many lonely hours of riding up and down West Head, I realised I had actually really enjoyed the training. We set some goals for the race: have fun and don’t end up in the medical tent!
I landed in Kona a week before my race and spent my first afternoon enjoying the air conditioning and company of other nervous athletes in the local bike shop waiting for our bikes to be repaired after some minor damage on the flight. The following morning I met up with fellow Racing Heart athletes Sally Poole and Carolyn Dews. We immediately hit it off and formed a little team getting up early to do some light training, followed by coffee, enormous cinnamon scrolls and then some rest in the afternoons. Initially, it felt a bit mad to be cycling and running up and down the highway in nearly 30 degree heat, but as more athletes arrived in Kona each day, it appeared to be a totally normal activity. The town was full of fit people wearing nothing but a little lycra and a heart rate monitor, all wanting to race the course. Meanwhile, my family commented several times that it was “too hot to run”, and enjoyed their time snorkelling and drinking cocktails.
Our athlete’s schedules were busy with various IRONMAN events and despite registering as British, I found myself on Team Australia. With a slight feeling of imposter syndrome, I duly joined the Aussies and an inflatable green and gold kangaroo as I took part in the Parade of Nations. The following morning was the ANZAC Breakfast where we had pep talks from a few pros. I took notes. Kiwi Rebecca Clarke advised finding some good feet on the swim. Aussie Kylie Simpson gave us a stern warning about not underestimating the heat and humidity, how we must keep cool and keep our heart rates down. The voice of IRONMAN Mike Reilly said “You will be an Ironman”.
There was also an invite to the Banquet of Champions, but I skipped this in favour of dad’s homemade curry and a family board games evening.
Finally it was Race Day. After a restless night worrying about whether I had all the gear in the right bags and if I’ll be blown off my bike into the lava fields, my 4 AM alarm sounded. The atmosphere walking into the Start Area was unlike anything I have experienced before. It was filled with volunteers clapping and cheering and I felt like I really was a World Champion Contender. The US national anthem was performed as I lined up on Kailua Kona Pier and then, with the boom of a real canon, the pro women set off. They were shortly followed by the Para athletes and then it was my turn. The swim course is a single 3.8km loop back to the pier. The water was as warm and clear as Manly’s ABC pool where I have spent so many hours over recent months. Although I had planned to start somewhere in the middle of the group, I somehow ended up starting at the back and spent the first kilometre or so fighting my way forwards until I found an great pair of feet to follow. From then on I just cruised round.
T1 proved more challenging than the swim. The changing tent was filled with volunteers to help us get ready faster. My helper was lovely but didn’t speed up the process of me getting some sun sleeves, socks, gloves and extra sunscreen on. My sister told me later that I dropped 40 places while in that tent, but judging by the bad sunburn on the small areas of my wrists that weren’t covered, this was time well spent.
Eventually I got out onto the bike course which involved a short spin around town with every triathlete’s favourite feature - a U turn. Next there was a brief climb up to the Queen K Highway and then the crowds disappeared and it was just one long road following the coast through the lava fields all the way to the turnaround at around kilometre 90 in Hawi. The most excitement I had during the ride was finding that I needed to empty my bladder twice. I was ridiculously pleased with myself for how well hydrated I was despite the heat. Kona’s famous crosswinds were definitely present, especially during the ten kilometre descent from Hawi. I clung to my bars and tried to remember what I’d been told about riding in the wind…something about having your weight over the front and leaning into the wind…?
As with every ride ever, I was delighted when I got off the bike in one piece at the end.
In T2 I grabbed an icy cold towel for my neck and changed into my Warringah singlet. I felt strong, hydrated and with plenty left in the tank as I headed out for my marathon. The course falls into four sections. The first is a crowd-lined strip along Ali’I drive followed by a short climb up to the highway. Here I enjoyed seeing my family and hearing some shouts of “Go Warringah”. I took it very easy on the climb up to the highway with Coach Bec and Pro Kylie’s warnings about heart rate and overheating at the forefront of my mind. After that came the Queen K Highway again. There were no supporters allowed up here but I was thrilled when our Lauren Parker flew past me in her wheelchair. Coming the other way and nearing the end of her race was our Laura Cameron making it look all too easy. Next up was the Energy Lab portion of the course, infamous for its extreme temperatures and strewn with athletes suffering as a result. Sticking with my plan, I hit every aid station. Putting ice in my cap and down my top kept me cool enough to maintain a steady pace and smile throughout. As I got back up on to the highway, the sun was beginning to set and with only 12km left of this 226.2km day I felt a little sad that it was coming to an end. 12 hours 34 minutes and 53 seconds after I started, I rounded the final corner on to the Finisher’s Chute to hear Mike Reilly say “Katharine Hopping of Australia, You Are An Ironman”.
Woohoo! 4 days in Cairns without the kids! How exciting! That was one thought, but the main feeling I had leading into race day was relief. Entering the 2020 Port IM in 2019, it had been more than 3 years of waiting. Even Port this year was halted for me 4 days out when I had Covid.
Now Cairns isn’t my favourite course, but it’s relatively easy to get to and the swim suits me.
The logistics of this event make the Saturday anything but relaxing as your race gear is dropped at 2 locations, but getting frustrated or stressed at this stage is counterproductive, so you just go with the flow. Having the calming influence of my wife Sarah (she was racing the 70.3) certainly helped me prepare for what is a mentally and physically challenging day.
Race day arrived and as expected the SE wind was beginning to build. This would mean a choppy swim (woohoo!) and nearly 100k of headwind/crosswinds on the bike (boooo!!!).
Into transition to prep my bike and the only minor stress I had was when the volunteers stopped athletes from using the restrooms inside the transition area (What the?).
(Side note- one pre race restroom stop is rarely enough….)
I was feeling relaxed as I left transition, knowing I still had 1 3/4 hrs before my 7:40 am start (way too late). Finding Sarah and sending her off for her half was as emotional as ever. Now, I don’t know why I get teary before IM races but that’s what happens and it only lasts a few minutes.
I sat and waited, listening to music, thinking of my family and missing my kids. It was the first time they hadn’t been here (since they were born) and it was also the first time Dad wasn’t toeing the start line with me. I was relaxed and feeling good.
T-20 mins, time to suit up and warm up. 4-500m, DONE. Time to stand on the beach and wait and wait…….and wait. Rolling starts are rubbish! Anyway, I was moving closer to the front and was in the back third of start group 1. Plenty of feet to find and a good drag to have heading into the chop. Sat on various feet for the first 3.5km and then chose my own line to the exit, Swim, tick, done!
Now T1, visualising where my gear bag is, grab it and off to get changed. Now I don’t know what the ….. I did in there but I eventually came out and found my bike. A very slow T1.
Got my head in the game nice and early, something I didn’t do in my last race at Husky. Learning lessons from 2019, I knew that I had to conserve more early, because the last 60k is a headwind, roads are bumpy and somehow every athlete seems to disappear. The bike is my weakness, so I can only ride to how I feel and what I’ve done in training. Doing anything else is a short term plan and unlikely to work out (sometimes you may fluke it).
The course layout allows you to segment the bike and focus on each section. As I made the final turn at 117k, I was feeling good and in control ( the opposite to 2019). A few times I distracted myself by counting the rear spokes of the bike in front of me (12.0000001m in front hehehe). At this stage the wind was getting stronger but the important thing is to stay aero, keep the nutrition up and don’t go anaerobic…… there’s a little run to finish this thing.
Coming into T2 is a massive relief, your butt needs a break and your bike is covered in all types of whatever. Again, a lack of racing sees me have a slow transition, I even put my number belt on while seated. Exiting T2, I’m 16 mins ahead of where I was in 2019. I await the first k split on my watch while focusing on technique and keeping a low HR. Beeeeeep 4:54, ok good! 23:01 first 5k. Hmmm, ok, it’s a little quicker than my schedule and my training runs. Uh oh, gut pains, not once, but twice. On lap 2 then on lap 3, quick but pointless pit stops. Those 2 1k splits 6:34 & 7:01 (ahhh crap).
Legs still felt good as the business end of the marathon (30km) began and Sarah tells me Manly had won. At this stage my confidence was sky high, I kept the nutrition up and only 4 athletes had overtaken me. The last lap felt great, it was tough, but the splits reflected my effort so I was happy. A 3:21 marathon, faster than any of my previous IM races and a solid 10:15. I had made up 21 spots in my age to finish 21st. So happy, so tired, so hungry!
Next stop Kona…
I do not consider Club Champ as a pure race event. For me it’s about having FUN & JOY with an amazing group of club buddies and proving again and again that WTC is the best triathlon club in NSW (or maybe even worldwide?)
I never have questioned if I should go to Foster or not. For me it’s MUST BE ON MY CALENDAR event as you just soak up this atmosphere not depending on any circumstances. My way to triathlons wasn’t easy and classical. I had never swum more than 1 km before I started my swimming lessons with a coach at 31...And I was always afraid of ocean swims until I got my Bold & Beautiful addiction almost 3 years ago… I had never been able to run 1 km non-stop until I became 36 and joined a running club... I had never ridden a road bike until I joined a WTC at 39... From the moment when I joined WTC I felt a fantastic support and extremely friendly club atmosphere. That’s why participation in NSW Club Champ is a yearly tradition for me.
Is it an easy event? Hmm… Danger could be everywhere: sharky swim last year, very hilly ride (luckily we are from the Northern Beaches) and even stormy weather this year, extremely hot run 3 years ago.
Is it the best event? YES!!! Comfortable Club accommodation? Done! Done! Bag with WTC presents? Done! Sunrise club photo on the beach? Done! Outstanding support from team mates before, during and after the race? Done! Best photographer in the world? Done! Club tent and refreshing drinks after the race? Done! Delicious celebration dinner and best energetic dancing? Done! And a glue which links all these ingredients - HAVING FUN!
I’m very proud to be part of the best triathlon club in the Universe and can’t wait for the next Club Champ (fingers crossed it’ll be in Port Stephens)
I had the chance to complete a Tri A Try in Husky the idyllic coastal location of Huskisson, Jervis Bay in November last year, I knew straight away I was hooked, I saw some smiling competitors in these colorful tri suits screaming and cheering for their fellow participants, I made a note to myself to ask where they were from. So, after the event, I got chatting and signed up to the Warringah Tri Club, and accidentally signed up for Wollongong Sprint for April 24th.
7:00 a.m. Alarm goes off (Why so early? My thoughts are “sod the race” I can go back to sleep and just enjoy the long weekend). Then I remember I have paid $150 for the entry and my husband has put new strapping on my bike handlebars pumped up my tyres and has come all the way to Wollongong cheer me on.
7:15 a.m. A double espresso and I’m awake now, ok time to get ready.
7:30 a.m. I go through the entire race in my head and with the help of my husband put the stickers on my bike, helmet, and wrist. I go through all my gear, hydration, and water and I'm good.
8:00 a.m. I triple check the kit I have packed because I have a nagging feeling I have forgotten something, I physically enact the race in my head, wetsuit, goggles, that coconut spray oil someone told me to bring, (helps you get your wetsuit off faster) socks, trainers, (no cleats as I fell out of them twice already) race belt, helmet, gels.
8:30 a.m. I have some breakfast; do some deep breathing exercises and I feel good.
9:00 a.m. Car is packed, and we head off to the race, as we pull out of the driveway, I see one of the Warringah girls, Bec Calderwood, well on her way into the standard distance race and is already on lap one of the bike ride, now my tummy flips this is getting real.
9:15a.m. I’m in transition laying out my gear, the nice guy tells me where and how to rack my bike and which side to put my kit on, now I go and try to find my friend who is coming from Sydney, Sharon Walters.
10.30 The race brief “oh no I can’t find my bike” I know I put it in row 29 that is what I was told to do, I can’t breathe I feel my heart pounding through my chest, this can’t be happening, I don’t hear any of the brief as I race up and down trying to find my bike, this lovely girl Caroline Short comes up to me and tells me it will be ok, I breathe and try to listen to the rest of the brief, suddenly I'm drawn to row 23 and there is my bike, I have never been so happy to see my pink helmet and my bike, all is good.
10.40 We walk down to the water edge where we will start our swim, I’m hot I think I sprayed too much coconut oil on, the sun has come out and I’m melting.
We were in line, me, and Sharon Walters ready to enter the water, Perfect I can’t wait to cool down. I enter the water and say to myself just breathe, The first 50m I’m trying to calm myself down and remember to say bubble bubble breath you have got this, yes, this is all coming together as planned! Then someone hits my leg, and it throws me off. Oh no, “get it together Ann Marie”, my heart starts racing. My form goes out the window I start kicking more, just keep moving forward. My heart rate is high, and my breathing is off. I focus on making it to the first buoy, then the next buoy. I’m on the home stretch and I can’t wait to feel solid earth beneath my feet. I finish the swim thank God that’s over now for the bike.
The transition went smoothly. I used the transition to gather myself and catch my breath. Arrived at my bike and everything is ready to go. I step on my towel to dry my feet, so happy I put the baby powder in my socks another tip I read somewhere, helmet on, slip on the shoes, take a gel, sip on water, and out to the next leg of the race, I’m on my way, I was passing people and feeling good. Everything was working out better than I anticipated. A bit hilly but I’m in a groove now. Smoking the downhills and pounding the uphills. I’m going for it.
I’m going all out now (which got me later). Turn the corner, there is my hubby waving, I try to wave back without falling off my bike, smile for the camera pass him, blow a kiss, and keep going.
I need to make up the time I see all the Warringah girls already flying down on the other side, I see one of them has one of those Giro aero helmets on and wonder if that will make me faster, I must ask my husband if I can get a better bike, oh that went fast, I see the lady in the yellow high vis vest pointing at the transition lane for the run, dismount, wow legs feel like jelly how am I going to run 5k.
Transition this time is a bit harder, my legs just feel so heavy “just keep going” I tell myself, so many bikes are already racked, get a wiggle on. I drop my bike off, and grab another gel, I leave transition, It’s on this is the last leg I can do this. People are running in all directions and crossing over each other its hilly, I see the Warringah girls heading back and will myself to go faster, but a shuffle it is, "every day I'm shuffling, shuffling" I can't get the song out of my head. The course is longer my watch goes off at the 5-k mark, I don’t know where the finish line is, so I just follow the person in front, I feel like I want to vomit, I focus on passing one person at a time, keeping my pace, I turn the last corner, I catch my last boost of energy and head for the finish line begging my body to push itself beyond what’s it ever done. The finish is getting closer. I can hear someone calling my name, and then I’m done.
A special thanks to all the WTC girls and Deanna Waters for helping me prepare for the day and for having my back, I have found my tribe.
Club Champs in May Forster.
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!
The excitement really kicked in the evening before, dancing whilst packing my tri gear to Michael Jackson’s Thriller! (haters gonna hate) The joy didn’t stop there, I got to carb load on a full pizza following my brothers advice (triple full distance Ironman fuelled on pizza and wagon wheel sandwiches ) So sleep alluded me…nerves, excitement, pizza overload who knows but it irked me to not get my 8 hours in.
Arrived keenly early and parked down at the hospital so I had to cycle up to transition, the first of the extra work outs of the day! I was spurred on though by Gabriel’s (awesome human) reassuring comment the day before, “think of it as a warm up” thanks Gabriel.
I latched on to Shannon (awesome human) and following her every move I set up my transition area paying special attention to the fabulous transition towel that Deanna (another awesome human) gave me for volunteering at the time trial, thanks Deanna this was literally the highlight of transition On to the second extra work out of the day, the walk down to Collins beach, lovely walk with Sally and Nina (more awesome humans) despite the cold. At the beach I followed Sally’s footsteps literally placing my new neon go faster runners right next to hers, well placed next to a rock for sitting (she’s done this before) but not out of reach of the bleedin bush Chuck! Ok here we go…swim start, following Sally like a puppy, she looked at my head and said “your doing the long course” shiiit I had a pink hat on what have I done? I dutifully stepped aside and watched them all take off into the deep Pacific Ocean. Ok now it’s my swim start 54321 go…heart racing, fumbling my Garmin I entered the water and face planted into sand…my heart was going so fast I could not get on top of my breathing and one by one everyone overtook me, with renewed spirit I latched on to the feet of someone then remembered we are not allowed to draft, I wondered if this meant swimming too but whilst I pondered the swimmer took off like a dolphin. I Finally found my rhythm and it was over, just when I was starting to enjoy it.
On to the next extra workout of the day…the uphill run to transition! I’m sorry but I’m my book this bloody counts and the long course is therefore a 10km run in total. Yay transition, ooh look my lovely towel, it feels so soft on my feet, stop it Jen, focus, get on the bloody bike! Out of transition and off we go, lost in the excitement of salted boiled potatoes and trail mix I lost track of my laps! I’m sure I did an extra one but we will never know. What I do know is those 7 (or8) laps were very cautious, wishing I had a mountain bike…bunny hopping the speed bumps is just not the same on a road bike! One particular bump was a real tooth breaker, nearly chocked on my potato! Back to transition, nearly done Jen, only 2 laps running the track to go. Final leg, the run…my main concern was making it to the finish line with no injuries. Playing over and over in my head was Deanna’s advice to enjoy it and run my own race, so I did, I took in the scenery and paced to not get injured and soon enough the finish was in sight.
What a rockstar finish it was, the pain of the UPHILL finish evaporated with the cheers and claps of the Warringah Tri club as I made it across the finish line, overwhelmed to be part of this awesome club.
I felt amazing, yes I came last in the results but for my first Triathlon I think that’s a great place to start, it was indeed a real thriller.
Well my first Ironman could not have gone more off plan and how I wanted but I got pushed to the brink and got to understand how much pain I can handle. Turns out quite a bit.
The day started well enough and I actually had the fastest swim time overall including the pro’s which included the world number 1 and 3 seed. The storm off the Florida coast churned up the ocean and the 25 knot winds caused havoc with over 400 ppl having to be rescued out of the water or just couldn’t complete the swim.
Onto the bike and things started well enough but after the first turn around I missed a turn and biked an extra 9km.. I was pretty devo’d when a cop rode up to me on his bike and told me I was off course. Even more upsetting to follow him for km after km before getting back to the turn. I then got off the bike and sat on the side for 10 min thinking race was done and that maybe I should just go do Ironman Cozumel 3 weeks later, but I eventually decided to push on (with the encouragement of a race Marshall). All up losing about 30 min. Despite this I was still off the bike 3rd in my age group.
The real issue however occured 18km into the run when the pain in my ankle reduced me to a walk and then the race really became about finishing. My grandfather who recently passed was ever present and the thought of him ensured I didn’t quit no matter how painful.
@bigmetztri who suffered a day of attrition himself summarised this race beautifully when he said about this sport that he gets to wake up every day and gets to see what he’s made of and that he hopes his resiliency to get back up and finish shows what he’s made of. - it does
In the end I now have an opportunity to take some time off and try get this injury resolved without trying to train through it and hopefully with discipline I can, because I want to have the opportunity to race injury free and nail my race execution. In the meantime I’m hobbling around NYC and enjoying time with the family.