Saturday, February 19, 2011


I raced Australian Sprint Champs in Geelong this morning. It usually takes me more than a few hours after a race to write a report, but without having to pack up and rush to the airport tonight, I've found a few quiet moments to put my feet up and share my thoughts.

I flew into Melbourne yesterday afternoon with one of my training partners, Czech athlete, Vendula (Vinnie) Frintova. The two of us hired a car; I was the driver and Vinnie the navigator, armed with a very small scale map of the area and a crappy GPS. The car was manual (not exactly my specialty) and visibility was next to nothing with the bike boxes packed up in the back. Oh dear... I was driving even more like a grandma than usual, chugging along the motorways in and around Melbourne. Thankfully we arrived unscathed and without any major dramas. However, upon check-in we realized our hotel had no power. We also realized there was a bit of chaos surrounding the Saturday races, with the postponement to Sunday due to stormy weather and unsafe water. This didn't affect us apart from having to start a few hours earlier, which I would prefer any day. We braved the windy conditions and hopped down to the course for a ride and picked up some pasta take-away for dinner. Our hotel still had no power when we returned and it was getting dark at this point, so it made for an eventful night. I was rooming with Kirsten so those that know the two of us can imagine the giggling going on as we chatted in our room with only one flashlight between the two of us. If it weren't for the plush beds, I'd say it was pretty similar to summer camp. There was no giggling though when the lights and bathroom fan burst on at 1am once the power was restored. That was quite alarming!

I was really relaxed going in to this race. I think having done a couple other events has eased my nerves a bit and helped to get my mind back in race mode. Much to everyone's surprise, the swim was declared non-wetsuit just before the start (this may have been a first for Geelong). I decided to warm up in my wetsuit as I know how the water can be chilly when things are borderline, but I was pleasantly surprised. The water was actually quite a bit warmer than the air so staying warm wasn't a major concern. It was a deep water start and I had a smooth, clean start. There was no fighting for position and I found myself right on the feet of a pack of four. The pace was solid but nothing out of control. I struggled however to find a rhythm like I have in training and at the previous race. A small gap opened at the final turn to shore and I could see it, but couldn't seem to respond like I know I could. By the time we hit the exit ramp, the gap was about five seconds. I got to my bike as the other girls (Kirsten, Emma Moffatt, Emma Jackson, Liz Blatchford) were hopping on their bikes. I had a good transition but couldn't close the gap and watched them pull away up the road. I was really disappointed but thought I might have a chance to catch them on the bike with the help of the girls coming from behind. My group ended up having about five or six women (or maybe more, it was hard to tell). I was committed to working hard, but unfortunately there were only two others who could or would help. We rode well considering we were chasing four strong, organized girls, losing only about 20-30 seconds over 20km. I had a good T2 and was first on to the run from my pack. My running legs were slightly better than Devonport but by no means did I feel speedy. I ran solid, had a few moments where I felt like my old self again (it's been awhile...), and finished in 6th place.

It's amazing how one small slip-up can really set the tone for the day. I wasn't upset with my effort on the bike, or most of my swim, or even my run. But, those few moments in the swim where I made some errors ended up significantly impacting the outcome. I can't lie, I was really disappointed in myself. I was disappointed because I don't feel as though I swam to my potential. But, I'm trying not to beat myself up. I came here to learn and determine what still needs work, so it's all part of the process. As much as I'm itching to be out there smashing it and winning, I've got to remember it's still early season, not to mention coming off a year of no swimming or running. I just love racing fast but have to keep things in perspective and give myself credit for the small improvements along the way.

I'm really looking forward to this next block of training. What I love about races, good or bad outcome, is the motivation and "fire" I return home with. Darren and I have compiled a checklist over these three races of the things that still need work, so we're going to continue to plug away and check them off. It's five weeks until Mooloolaba World Cup and seven weeks until Sydney WCS, so it's time to get down to business.

Congratulations to Emma Moffatt for an impressive win, Kirsten for her solid 2nd place and Emma Jackson for 3rd. And thank you to USM Events, Triathlon Australia, and all involved with the race. It was yet again another fabulous Aussie triathlon, impeccably organized, even with the last-minute changes. And thank you, Geelong for being so lovely. I have now fallen in love with yet another beautiful coastal city. The photo above shows a few of the many wooden characters along the waterfront. As someone who loves all things artsy and crafty, you can imagine my excitement to check them all out. I need to find the story behind them, so stay tuned for an update on that!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Caloundra Enduro Triathlon

I traveled up to the hot and muggy Sunshine Coast last weekend for my second race of the year. It feels odd to write another race report this early in the season, and like Devonport, the decision to race was made about a week ahead of time. I'm beginning to get used to Darren saying, "How do you feel about racing next weekend? I think you should go." I am also quickly learning that when those words are spoken, it immediately becomes part of the program and isn't really a question at all. That's ok though, I've got plenty of racing excitement banked from my year hiatus so I am keen for it.

The race was a style that I've never done, two back-to-back super super sprint triathlons: 400m swim - 7km bike - 1.8km run - 200m swim - 7km bike - 1.8km run.

As you can probably imagine, this was an incredibly technical race. With two "T1's" and "T2's" (even a "T3": run - swim) there was a lot of planning, and with such a tight, short circuit on the bike and run, focus was paramount. My racing skills aren't feeling totally polished at the moment so I had a few more pre-race butterflies than normal. The field was very small, with only 5 women, but I'd say the depth was pretty solid: Ashleigh Gentle (AUS), Liz Blatchford (GBR), Barbara Rivers (CHI), and Canadian teammate Kirsten. I knew the first swim was important and could really make or break the race. I had a good one, felt comfortable up at the front, alongside speedy swimmers Kirsten and Liz. Barb was right with us too but when we hopped on our bikes we could see we had a small gap over Ashleigh. We were all aware of her run speed so we had to take this chance to get away. The four of us starting working right away, the gap grew, and we established ourselves as a pack of four. By the end of the first run we had strung out slightly, but bunched back together once in the water for the second swim. I have to admit, I have never felt this awful swimming in my life. I'm not even sure if you can call it swimming. It felt like diving in for a "band-only" swim with a heart rate of about 190. I thought for sure I was going to be popped off the back and possibly even drown, but thankfully the others must have felt just as awful as we stayed together as a pack. I got some rhythm back near the end and took the shortest line to shore, moving up to the front of the group. The second bike was uneventful as we saw our gap was larger over Ashleigh so it would simply be a running race between the four of us. The run went around a 380m block which was so short and fast that there was no "settling in" or really doing anything apart from moving the legs as quickly as possible. The last run is a bit of a blur apart from Barb taking over the lead early on and Liz going by me with about a lap to go. It was a close finish with Liz 3 seconds ahead and Barb another 6. After 48 minutes of feeling pretty darn uncomfortable, I was happy to be able to stop moving and catch my breath!

Photos copyright 2011 Des Thureson

Next up is Australian Sprint Champs in Geelong next weekend. This will be my final prep race before Mooloolaba World Cup and Sydney WCS. As fun as these weekend racing adventures are, I'm looking forward to giving my bike case a rest in the shed for awhile and settling in to a good block of work. Swimming and biking has been my focus for so many months so it's time to put some work into the run. Hooray for that!

Until next weekend...