So a couple weeks in the making due to our post race vacation (will be a separate post on that later) but its given me a lot of time to reflect on my season goal. I’m going to talk about a lot here, I imagine some in great detail and other bits…. well not. So if you have any questions or for me to expand on anything please just let me know!
I’ve had really good luck racing when its involved travel (granted I’m no pro triathlete) but I’ve put some decent miles in traveling to races which certainly helped me prepare my methodology for packing my gear for the trip. I own a Ruster Hen house which has served me amazingly well and I’ve self reinforced (thanks to Ashlee at AMI) with some lexan. The bags neatly hold my race wheels, and bike (further protected by a carat case for the bike frame).
I was able to shove my shoes, wet suit, and other associated gear into the wheel bag and bike bag. My main concern was my helmet. my last helmet cracked during transport and I really didn’t want to have to search around for a replacement a few days before the race (though people have suffered worse fates). My idea… expanding foam packing!!! Shove the helmet into its original box with the expanding foam and viola! You’ve got a perfectly formed helmet case. I used some packing tape to hold it all together and shoved that sucker in the bike bag. The rest of our trip we packed light (carry on only… but more on that later).
The whole trip had been conceived before we knew we’d be in London so ironically there was a bank holiday the Monday before we left. The vacation was really well timed with my work as we had just issued a costing set for my project so there would be a relatively quiet couple weeks (or so we though). So it was just a bit of work Tuesday before heading back home and getting our bags. We took an Uber from our flat to Paddington and Heathrow Express to Heathrow. British Airways didn’t blink an eye at the bike bags and through security in a few minutes. All told, from our flat to gate in one hour twenty minutes, not bad. We parked at a bar for some drinks and last none plane food for a while…
The flight was thirteen hours to Singapore and then another eight to Brisbane. Carly supplied sleeping pills and I barely remember anything of the first leg (thank god). We had a just over an hour in Singapore airport, enough time to do the airport walk and grab a cup of coffee. It was good to get off the plane for a bit and move around. The second leg I watched a few movies but again, slept a bit more (sans sleeping pills). We landed in Brisbane around 6am on Thursday having lost Wednesday in its entirety.
I had looked into the various ways one could get from Brisbane to the race venue at Mooloolaba (I didn’t start pronouncing it right till about two weeks after the race) but the best bet ended up being organizing a rental car. Having the car was most likely not the cheapest route but offered us a ton of flexibility to explore the areas around Mooloolaba and in getting/to from the airport with my bike at our leisure. When my bags rolled off the belt I breathed a sigh of relief, while we would have had time to sort something out not having to deal with lost luggage was a weight off my mind. We grabbed our car and started off on the hour plus drive north to the Sunshine coast.
We rented a studio Airbnb to keep the costs for this part of the trip down which worked out amazingly. Location was great and had everything we needed. I immediately unpacked my bike to confirm it was still working and I was set to do some shake out rides (and race). We had been feeling great all day, with not a lick of jet lag. However, around 3:30 it hit, hard… we both happened to be laying down planning our next move and suddenly it was nine…. We had a dinner of some chips and just went to bed.
The next morning I did a short bike ride to check out the bike and participated in one of the open water swim times. The ocean had super high surf, and I was getting a little nervous but after about thirty minutes in the water it wasn’t terrible… no great… but I felt confident I wouldn’t die. I checked in and got my swag (super sweet bag which came in super useful for the remainder of the trip and we bounced around the area a bit. I’ll talk a bit more about the vacationy aspect in the other post…
It was good to have arrived with a couple full days before the race, not only to make sure my bike was there and in working order, but to confirm I had everything I needed and get checked in at a leisurely pace. I spent a lot of time rushing around Chicago last year for ITU worlds and really didn’t want to repeat that process. It was nice to make sure I had all my nutrition for the race as well as have a few good meals in me off the plane. I tried to meet up with a couple other Dimond owners who were racing but it never really worked out which is unfortunate but ultimately let me do my own thing.
Friday was a fartlek run and another open water swim. Just a bit of work to get the blood flowing and really wake up the legs. We had a decent amount of time to explore around afterwards. I did the run out on the run course which was pancake flat outside of one hill right outside of transition so it was nice to get a bit of time out on the course (and around the time i’d be racing) to get a feeling for the temperature it might be.
Saturday was a little race mini race in prep… short swim session, and a ride out on the race course (kinda). As a good portion of the race course is on a highway one was unable to ride before the race. But I was able to go out and ride out on the second lap area which was far more technical. After that brought my bike and gear bags down to the transition for check in. Similarly to Exmoor this race was run with a ‘clean’ transition, so all you gear is in a bag which you take and change from and put your other gear into. My bike position was great (in a sense of remembering where it was which made me feel a bit at ease. Nothing is worst than just wandering through transition looking for your bike on one of the thousands of racks. I had a prime spot on a one way with a nice view of the beach.
After relaxing the remainder of the day we also did a drive of the bike course (seems like other also did this) as there were about twenty cars in a line following the same route… hilarious for the locals I’m sure. After a short Italian dinner in bed for the big day…
Between running a clean transition and generally I don’t take long to set up the race day preparations themselves were very minimal. Basically once into transition to confirm bike was still there and put my water bottles and such on, calibrated the power meter (always a chore with thousands of other ones around) and clip in the shoes. I started the bike with two full bottles of Nuun and a bento box full of Honey Stinger waffles and gels. Its an odd feeling walking away from your bike on race day. I’m constantly second guessing myself… did I put my shoes on? is the computer on? are the tires pumped up enough? are the pumped up too much? Its all nerves, I just have to reassure myself that every race I’ve done to date its all worked out. I’m enough of a boyscout to make sure everything is there and when I go back and check it just confirms my insanity.
Did the pre-race bathroom journey and was down to the beach to start. I still hadn’t connected with Carly and was getting a little nervous about getting all my gear away and race starting so I threw my stuff into the bag and stashed it at the drop point. I watched the pro’s go off (seemed like there was some confusion during that start which turned out to be accurate) but eventually my group was called into the corral. So there you are… for ten minutes just standing there… doing hokie swimming drills or trying to get your shit together. Luckily the surf had died dramatically and the water looked amazing. The pro men came back into the beach just before they called our wave out. We had about two minute to swim out the start line and before they actually started our race. Knowing that this was the race of the year for everyone on the line and knowing the swim could get a bit ugly I started towards the back of the group but on the inside of the course, a decision I’m happy with. As soon as the gun sounded it turned into a washing machine…. for the first five minutes I was either swimming over or being swum over by someone. That said, I gathered myself and struck off on a good pace and was quickly over taking people and settled into a good pace within the group.
The course was a ‘U” turned sideways to the beach and this was the first time I’ve perceived current while racing. The current didn’t seem severe, and didnt impact my race but you could definitely tell it was there and had to be mindful when setting your sighting line. Within short order I was turning towards the beach on the home stretch and trying to time my stroke with the incoming surf for a free ride. I swam pretty far into the beach, compared to others who I saw up and walking through the waste high surf. Once my hand hit sand I stood up and started to run tearing off goggles and swim cap and going for my wetsuit cord. One try… nothing… second try… nothing… fuck…. third… got it… but only half off, oh shit.. stairs!!! so now I’m taking my suit off my arms as I run up stairs…. super… No problem though, ultimately got the top part off and into transition and grabbed my bag. The rest of the suit came off quickly due to the excessive amount of body glide on my body. Helmet on, suit in bag, tossed into the bin and I’m gone. Side note, the transition here is long.. really long…. around seven minutes of my overall time is just transition time which would normally be 2-3 minutes.
Running down the red carpet to my bike, did I run to far? Nope… here it is, grabbed it… running again, up the little hill to the amount point and jump on. I’ve banded my shoes in place so with a few stroked they break and gone. A quick out and back which I use to strap my shoes on and then its up the hill and out of town. This is where its time to shine…
I exited the transition in the thick of the AG so there are fare amount of people out there equally excited to crank. The first third to half of the bike is on a highway which turned into a total draft fest. It was un avoidable… you’d come up to a slower moving pack, move to pass and get sucked into a pack. If you were honorable and backed off with everyone who passed you would have instantly been at the back of the race. So the entire bike leg is spent measuring the ethics trying not to disobey the rules but also trying to push your pace while navigating a course with hundreds of other people on it. I try and down one of the water bottles with nuun as quickly as possible and get a fresh bottle of water from the first aid station. Feels great to the the taste of the ocean out of my mouth (I didnt drink much sea water…) and get legs moving on the bike.
35-40k the highway ended and the course turned to the more technical bits in the countryside. By this point the course had thinned and one was able to ride ‘a bit’ better. But the technical sections also had the negative impact of bunching huge packs of riders together which you then had to work on passing. This section of the course had a 400m hill that had to be 20% grade… or something… it felt like hitting a fucking wall…. thankfully one only had to do that once but it definitely took a tool as a quick hitting sap of power. The entire time I’m watching my bike computer to make sure my power numbers are where they should to deliver a fast bike as well as leave something in the tank for the run. Throughout the bike I’m switching between the honey stinger waffles, a bit of gel and water taken from along the course. Towards the end of the ride I began to realize while my power numbers were spot on my bike time was going to be much slower than I wanted (but still good). Oh well… I’m still racing and no race penalties yet.
Cruising into town I begin to mentally prepare for the run, I knew that at the very least I would be able to finish the race so knowing I’d be a finisher lightened my spirits a bit. I undid my shoes and slipped my feet out leaving the shoes on the bike, as I jumped off my bike one of my shoes caught the ground and went flying…. where… no idea… fuck it… I’m gone. But as I ran down the path to re-rack my bike a terrible thought entered my head… would that count as littering? Littering is an automatic DQ and it was done right in front of marshalls… fuck… Oh well, we’ll just see how that goes.
I rack my bike and run off to the run gear. I throw on my shoes and I’m out on the course. I know I’m not toward the pointy end of the group by I try and push the pace a bit on the first lap of the two lap race. There is a great crowd out supporting the racers and racing in my USA suit with my name on it certainly helps!!! Out and up the hill I hear the crowd, and there’s Carly… telling me to get my ass in gear! The first lap went well, while I had slipped down to 6:20 miles I felt good about the overall pace and how it was all going. The second lap… was brutal… by now it had started to get warm out and my legs were slowing loosing their pep. I had stopped passing people quickly and it was becoming more of a slog.
A few faster runners had started to pass me and I knew I needed to pull it together for the finish. With about a mile to go I gave it my last push up and over the hill to the finish. There was a slight downhill and I opened up my stride to take advantage. I could see the chute and the finish, so close. I sprinted on to the red carpet which was maybe two racers wide and saw the finish around two hundred meters away. Running all out at this point I quickly caught an Australian who was milking the crowd as he finished. No time for that shit, thats another place!! He tried to put in a quick sprint to hold me off but my momentum carried me by easily. I crossed the line and collapsed.. seemingly full of energy but totally dead.
I pulled myself together and congratulated a few of the finishers closest to me. I had done it… I traveled halfway around the world and finished… now just to see what my time was. 4:19. I’ll be honest, when I saw I was both happy and disappointed. I had wanted a much faster time for this race but this still represented a nearly nine minute PR (nearly fifteen if you discount the excessive transitions) which is a great time. Its hard to be disappointed with a successful world championship race where you PR’d (and in each discipline).
After walking down to the beach I binged on ice cream and sandwiches before Carly arrived. She told me I had finished 48th in my AG and was tracking around 160th overall which included the pro’s…. thats not bad. I was also only the 3rd American in my AG. But after relaxing on the beach for a few we made the slow hobble back to our apartment for a shower and some lunch. Vacation had begun!!!
4:19 – about an 11 minute overal PR
Swim 28:16 (almost a minute PR)
Bike 2:18 ( nearly a 5 minute PR)
Run 1:25 (6 minute PR)
As always, Carly remains the best race cheerleader!