I cross the line, the vice unwinds. Immediate thoughts ‘Lifetime achievement’.
I’m not sure of the time but I know I’ve pumped out a good race, sat right at the edge, hung on to the death. I’d wanted to race in an open category for a few years - back in 2016 when I was going pretty well I dreamed the idea would be the ultimate step up and mark if improvement I could qualify myself to sit in an elite field. An open or elite field is usually raced by a few emerging pro’s and top age groupers.
I started off back in 2012 with a 2:20’ish for the Olympic, the next step was 2:14 and then some 2:08’s by 2017.
With hard work I’ve been able to prove myself at the top of my age group for Sprint Distance and so I thought it would be admirable to check in at the bottom end of this ‘elite’ category at Byron Bay.
The past couple of years has been challenging and I have struggled a bit to find the rhythm and head space I had before moving up north.. I hadn’t even raced Olympic distance since feb 2017.. I left Albury on a high. With a great race and very very deep effort. Part of me always wondered how it would be possible to replicate, anything short of that out of body experience would be a failure. Shitty wall I built myself to climb over. Not very productive or allowing growth.
After countless sprint distances and success I guess I resolved that I was needing to let experiences happen, let racing be racing - where the magic happens. My back pain seemed to be something I learned to manage either way, so time to end the bullshit and race Olympic Distance.
The Byron bay triathlon presented itself at the perfect time - end of the season I felt I was just starting to find my straps with a big win at the sprint distance state champs. I thought about the race and potential of open category . Age group just didn’t excite me knowing the bike would be subject to drafting purely by the number of competitors on course. Opens would give me a clean race regardless of being far from the front of the race. To launch into the swim - first wave of the day against guys I’m amazed and envious of - to have to hold my nerve and execute a solid race to validate my own expectations/ this exited me - In fact it scared the shit out of me. So much so I think I spoke to over 10 people about it trying to get some external validation that I was good enough to enter. I put my initial entry into the age group category, but I was still on the fence knowing I could switch it over.
I prepared the best I could with the time I had, race distance efforts and severely dialling in the mental tools and fortitude I needed to carry me the extra distance. 2 hrs of focus , on the throttle. 2 hrs before the race I finally made the category switch to open ... I realised there was no other choice I had to do it today to move forward or it would continue to haunt me - when would I ever be good enough? I just needed to give my best and let that open up the opportunity for future growth and strategy. Funnily I felt like making the decision was a massive achievement, a relief an elation. I said to Stacey ‘ok that’s done but now I have to race for 2hrs - well. Or this would all mean nothing.
The ocean swim 1.5km went well. I sat in my rhythm letting the distance tick away. with about 300m to go I had Pro female Courtney Gilfillan pass me - ‘ok she has put 1 minute into me thats not too bad’ .. knowing Courtney’s calibre.
Running up the beach to transition with heart exploding out of chest whilst removing wetsuit is a feeling you get used to but its always rough. You learn to be efficient and try to mitigate the lactic before getting on the bike.
Courtney was there exiting T1 with me and whilst we weren’t racing It would give me some motivation to ride as hard as I could. There was a few cat and mouse passes early on as the rhythm settled but then it became a focus for me to get the head down and not drift of. Courtney was visible at every turn and respectfully riding about 20m back.
The 40km ride seemed to go forever.. I hit lap 3 and felt deflated i’d only knocked half it over. Keep pressing.
Reached T2 Super keen to get off the bike and get on with the 10k run. Miss G sailed passed me in the first 500m and I made sure I told her she had a good ride and pretty much good day to you as I knew she could run a couple of minutes into me. Totally chicked :)
Now it was just me Vs 10km. Control it. By this point you are mentally hanging on already, fatigued and the Heart rate at threshold its a matter of how well you can ‘hang’.
At about 1.5km in a pretty nasty stitch kicked in. F! not today. A simple matter of pushing longer harder efforts. The nature of a race. In the past this has forced me to walk and become frustrated not able to run at full tilt. I was not walking today. I stood tall and thought about stretching the diaphram.. Daggers. But I was still not slowing down much… this carried on for another 2k I reckon but eventually it subsided.
The mental practice and tools were kicking in now as all the pain was in my legs and by 5km I felt some serious depletion, I felt like concrete. There was no nutrition on course… I was running on fumes. I found a gel wrapper in my back pocket with about 1/8th of its contents remaining. I was enough to slightly appease my brain. 4K to go you can feel the end is near and suck up the torture. I thought about the bliss of finishing only a few K’s away.
I ran across the grass field for the 4th time ‘lighten up’ the extra resistance noticeably challenging.
With 1K to go there was some form of winding up the pace which was more like resisting the notion to slow down or collapse completely.
I finished. What an enjoyable beating I took upon my body and brain. The race really starts with 5k to go when the mental game kicks in past the physical death. I guess thats where my conditioning stands. but this is why I love Olympic Distance - Going full noise almost like a sprint but double the time.
I found my time was 2:06 and came in 10th place in the Open Category.
What an opening up of the mind and stoking the fire for the future.
Thanks to Coast Cyclery, Downunder Runner (Alphawoof) and Cannibal for the continued support.
PS the delayed report is due to me getting straight back into training and taking it to new levels. I have a few mountains to climb. Training is going great and I’m steadily building up resilience required for my next racing challenges.