2:30am start didn’t go down that well, I was on the road just after 3. Returned 5 minutes later to get my licence in case they asked for it (Event Rego, not Police....I drive like Miss Daisy). Halfway stop to hoover up some Overnight Oats and half a bottle of UCan and I arrived in Morpeth at 530.
The swim is in the Hunter and there was a beautiful mist hovering over it as I arrived into transition to get myself prepped. Gotta say I love the COVID rules - only 4 bikes per rack and we could leave all our bags in transition...plus a bucket to put my wetsuit in post-swim. I positioned myself next to the big tree so it’d be easy to find my bike. The pre-race warm-up run got ditched given I didn’t bring spare runners, but the yellow and pink Warringah striped t-shirt was spotted by @Anna Elliot and we had a quick chat instead.
The mist had cleared so I decided to go for the clear goggles rather than tinted as it was looking cloudy. Race error number one: the sun came out just before the start and, as we headed east down the river, I couldn’t see anything and almost swam into a barge on the riverbank. Fortunately I had some feet to follow and even when he did get away, the Swimmer clearly didn’t know which colour buoy to turn at so waited for me anyway. We hit the turn boy and my 10-minute watch alert still hadn’t gone off so I knew the tide must have been running fast. Lost a spot navigating the turn buoy to the guy tapping my feet so back to 3rd. Sat on the Tapper’s feet on the return trip and I arrived at the boat ramp at the back of our small group of 3, leaving the Swimmer and the Tapper to fight for swim line honours. Swim split was 23 minutes something.
Into T1 and it turns out there were 2 big trees. Ran down the wrong aisle, but fortunately it was only one aisle out and I was able to easily duck under the rail thanks to COVID spacing. Shoes clipped on the bike and even without elastic bands, I managed the mount without embarrassing myself too much. The Tapper was out and gone quick and the Swimmer looked like he might be in T1 for a while, so was heading out solo. Got up to speed and then struggled to put my shoes on, doing so in a similar speed to my 7-year old trying to tie her shoe laces. The bike is a 2-lap course with 2x 180 degree turns per lap, half a dozen corners and a few smallish hills. There’s just enough of a tailwind at the start on the way out of town for your to think you’re riding really well, until you hit the 180 turn around the 5k mark and your speed drops 5-10kph. Even having experienced the same thing last year, I was sucked into believing again. Plan was to try and ride around 90% of FTP as long as my heart rate stayed steady. With there being 3 events (Sprint, Olympic and Long) all running concurrently, I started to make my way past a steady stream of everything from disc wheels to mountain bikes. At the turn I saw the Tapper not far ahead and tracked him down over the next 5k. As I went passed, he checked to confirm which race I was doing, and whilst the thought crossed my mind of telling him I was just out for a Sunday coffee ride, I fessed up and it was on! At that point it dawned on me that I was actually leading a race for the first time (Friday Night Aquathon aside) since doing a 1k time trial at Enfield Harriers when I was 12. The Tapper stayed in touch and, as the rain started, we swapped turns on the remaining 15k. For the record, I was closer to 85% than 90% of FTP but it felt about right and my split was 1hr5.
Bit slow getting my socks on (but better than blisters) and out onto the run. 4-lap course on gravel with a few giant puddles to negotiate. Aim was to run 4 flat per k. The Tapper was off again and judging by his early pace, I wasn’t going to be catching him unless he slowed down. First k 4:05. Athlete 190, who was probably 2 decades younger, flew past doing mid 3’s. Assumed he must be in my race given I was 189. So guessing I’m in 3rd now and I won’t be seeing him again til the finish. 2nd k had to stop to get a stone out of my shoe; 4:25. 3rd k 4:20 and my lower back is stiff...maybe that warm-up run would have been a good idea. Settled into 4:10-4:25 over the next two laps as a few speedy Trisuits flew past me as I moved back to Completing rather than Competing. Heart Rate felt relatively easy, but the rest of the body and the mind didn’t want to push on. Saw Anna on my last lap and, after some mutual encouragement, I started calculating what I needed to run to go sub-2:15. Figured I should be sweet unless the course was long. Picked up the pace to 4 flat for the last k just in case. The 10k alert went off on my watch and I’m not home. Crap, it’s long...now I have to sprint and hope!
Squeezed across the line 18 seconds under and glad it was over. Beats me why anyone would enjoy these short-course races. Usually the bike is a weakness and the run is a strength, but definitely the reverse today. I actually really enjoyed pushing on the ride. Anyway, it turns out the Speedy Trisuits were all in the Long course, competing for spots at Worlds, and I got the last spot on the overall podium behind Athlete 190 and the Tapper. In true COVID style, the post-race medal presentation involved going to the registration tent to pick up your commemorative plaque still in it’s cardboard box. I celebrated with an extra large cappuccino and a drive to Woy Woy markets to see Melinda Wheatley and the kids. The kids weren’t particularly impressed with my achievements, but they left plenty of leftovers at lunch, so all-in-all it was a good day. And I can always rely on Strava for some kudos.
Special thanks to Nic and Bern and the team Ward Coaching for their help, expertise and encouragement over the last few months. And to Melinda Wheatley for letting me have nearly half the morning outdoor training slots most weeks, a trainer in the mancave and cooking triathlete-sized meals every night.