Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Huskisson 2, My First Triathlon, a Long Course Tri

I woke at 5:30am to get ready for my first ever Triathlon, the Huskisson Long Course Triathlon. Most people work their way through the distances of the Triathlon, the Enticer, the Sprint, the Olympic and then move to the Long Course. But I decided that I am already an endurance runner, so surely a Long Course is my distance, to soon be followed by a full Iron Man after I meet all the qualifying cut offs. I'm an Australian, this is our sport, I must be able to do this.
The Long Course Tri distance at Huskisson 2 (the distance can change depending on the course) is a 2km Swim, 83km Bike Ride and a 20km Run. I bought my first bike as an adult in August 2011 for my 33rd birthday, I had not been on a bike in 20 years. I had never worn cleats before, I had never used gears or hand breaks. When I was in the bike store trying out the bike and cleats I stacked it into all the 10 thousand dollar bikes in the show room. I had to have the sales assistants walk on either side of me, holding me up while I rode my new bike though the store. I had a long way to go before I would even be able to ride on the road, let alone race it. I stacked it every time I put my cleats on. I just could not get them on the pedals or off them quick enough. I was constantly grazing my knees, shoulders, wrists, and bruising my joints. Just before the GNW 100km in November, I stacked it twice whilst ridding in the city.
In October I decided that I needed swimming lessons, I love breast stroking, but this was not going to get me 2km in the cut off time, so when my kids were having their swimming lessons, I took some of my own. I could barely swim 50m in the pool. How was I going to swim 2km. But I knew I was fit enough, I just needed to build the correct muscles for swimming and work on my technique. I entered the Bondi to Bronte in December, 2.5km Ocean Swim, I almost died of Hyperthermia, it took me 1 hour and 3 minutes in horrendous conditions, gale forced winds.  But it toughened me up. I then entered the Cole Classic in Feb, which also improved my mental toughness as I swam 2km in the ocean on a day where most, if not all the beaches were closed across Sydney. The 2km swim took me 54 minutes. I had to get better.
I started to ride my bike more often with my husband, he killed me, he could beat me up the climbs, thrash me ridding down them, and his skill level was much higher than mine. You could really tell I had not been on my bike in my teenage years. I started taking my bike to Pt sessions, and after I finished a session with a client, I would go for a ride. We traveled down to Huskisson to complete the course, to test out the gear. We then found a great ride we could do near my Mum's house, so Mikey and I could ride together and Mu  could look after the kids. The 3 gorges, Galston, Berowra and Turramurra (Bobbin Head) Gorge 59km of just the most beautiful scenery. I was soon smashing Mikey on the climbs and staying with him on the descents. I then got some race wheels, new tyres and I found that my times improved even more. A week before the Triathlon Mikey bought me some aero bars. I tried them out on the Gorges ride, they were really hard to control, but the day before the race, I gave them another go and realised I could channel all my leg power though the pedals and not lose any energy through my upper body. I trailed my Tri-suit and my transition gear again, I was ready. 
The day before the the big day, I picked up my race pack, got my bike serviced by the Shimano Mechanics, dropped my bike off into transition, then headed back to the campsite at Green Patch Jervis Bay. I rested there out of sight of the Triathlon Festival that was happening in Huski. I ate my quinoa, rice, dates. Drank electrolytes, avoided the leeches that were hunting our family, and got to bed early. 
On the event day, I arrived at Huski an hour before the briefing, packed my things in the transition area. I soon realised that I had lost my goggles, I never have any luck with my goggles. I had to buy new ones from the expo tent before the race, feeling really stupid, but there is just so much gear you have to remember. Tri-suit, watch, compression socks, goggles, swimming cap, tri-belt, raced numbers, bike, cleats, helmet, sunglasses socks, running shoes, cap, hydration, nutrition. The new Eyeline goggles,  ended up being better than my other goggles, I found my old goggles after the swim leg, that's life. After my wardrobe malfunction, I felt relaxed, no pressure on me today, I just had to go out there and do my best, I was not lining up for a race as one of the favourites, it was just Shona, who was again just giving something go. Competing in a Triathlon has been a goal of mine ever since watching TV as a kid, growing up watching the Nutral Grain Ads on TV. It was nice to be finally in a position to be able to compete in a Triathlon. I gave my self small goals for the Long Course, under 50 minutes for the swim, less than 3 hours for the bike and about 1.5 hours for the run.
It was time to race, I walked down to the bay, ate my gels, drank my energy drink, it is hard fuelling for the swim leg. But I made sure I had more in my system, than not enough, knowing that I was going to be out there for  a while. I warmed up in the cold water and I soon realised that I have made my first rookie mistake of not wearing a wet suit. Everyone else was wearing one, it makes them more buoyant, thus faster in the water, and it saves energy. Bugger. I will have to buy on for next time. I did not let this worry me, I'd swam 2 ocean swims, so I knew I would be okay, I was just going to lose time on the other girls. I swam out to the start line and with in a few minutes I was off. The crowd and the speed of the group was amazing, I just did my hardest to stay afloat, and I tried my hardest to follow the stream of swimmers whilst holding my positioning the pack. The sound the wave of swimmers made in the water was like a rumbling freight train. I felt overwhelmed, but I was okay the water was flat compared to what I had swam in. Only the waves that the other swimmers made it hard to breathe over. The pack soon thinned out and I ignored my tired arms, and the sick feeling I was experiencing in my gut, and tried my hardest to find a rhythm. For the first 25m I breathed every 4 or 5 strokes, I then cut back to breathing every 2nd stroke, allowing myself time to warm up get comfortable and when I had swam 500m, I was able to breathe every 3 strokes, and I was soon passing the buoys. I was doing it, I was making ground and I was swimming fast for me. I tried my hardest to concentrate on my stroke length and my pull under the water, and just tried to float my legs out behind me. I chased the bobbles down when I had a chance, trying to stream line my swim. I soon made it up and out of the water in 218th position, 3rd last of the female finishers, in a time of 47 minutes, but a 7 minute improvement on my Cole Classic 2km Swim Time only 2 weeks ago. I heard a few people cheer my name as I got up and out of the water, and I was so proud of my effort. I cheered as I ran out of the water, "47 Minutes, Woooo Hooo!".
I found my legs, and ran up the beach, flew up the stairs and hooned to my bike. I had a slight sinking feeling when it looked like my bike was one of the only ones left in the transition area. I sat down on my towel and dried myself off, whilst eating a gel, drinking some electrolytes, putting on my socks, cleats, helmet, sunglasses, race belt with my nutrition in it. I ran out of the gates. I mounted my bike, switched gears and I was off and loving it. I spotted my Husband and my two kids as I flew around the round about and I was off my my chase. I had so much ground to make up, but I wanted to give it a go.
I settled into my bike, using my new aero bars, and took note of what the other riders were doing. Drafting was not allowed, but as soon as I hit a group of girls it look alike 2 were drafting each other. I did my best to stay out of their way and before long a marshal on a motor bike was whizzing up behind them and giving them a warning. I stayed out of trouble and I tried my hardest to keep up with these girls, who were in a faster wave, as their number suggested. But they were soon too strong for me and they were lost. I moved through my gears and I was amazed that my leg strength had improved so much since the last outing here that I was able to keep my cadence up nice and high in the big gear. I made an effort to get up and out off my saddle towards the top of the climbs and tried my hardest to fly down the descents pedalling the entire way. I was passing people constantly, and I was feeling great. I ate 1/2 way around the course, and near the start of each lap, drank every 15 minutes and tried to look after my energy levels. I was feeling good, I even broke out into song by Boy and Bear, Feeding Line. I was flying, when do you get 1/2 a road to yourself in Sydney? Riding in this Triathlon was bliss. No traffic, no stop signs, no lights, no dick heads cutting you off. Just you and your bike and a heap of people to pass. I did try and make and effort to say "Hi" to everyone I passed, and I was even cheering on the super fast guys who people passing me. I thanked all the volunteers on every lap and I was on a high. It was so much fun, speeding around the circuit as fast as I could. Only running down trails in the Blue Mountains is as fun as this. I completed 3 laps of a 27km circuit , coming to 83kms in 2 hours and 50 minutes. I had improved my position. I pulled up to stop and get off my bike. I smashed my knee into the frame of my bike, took a step and almost fell over. My quads were dead. 
I wobbled and I ran. I was not sure of transition etiquette but I tried my hardest to be polite and not bump into anyone. Again my heart sank a little as I noticed that almost all the bikes were back into position. But I was off and running. I  hung up my bike, flipped of my shoes, chucked tucked of my helmet, grabbed my cap, drunk from some electrolyte mix, grabbed my gel bag and shoved it down my bra, and did my best to put on my shoes. My feet had swollen up from over almost 4 hours of exercise and my shoes were now almost 2 sizes too small. I was in agony. I had 20km to run and I knew it was going to hurt. I spotted Mikey and my kids, they were on the swings next to the course playing, Mikey was taking photos. I rolled down the first hill, spotted Julie, my 2XU rep and she cheers for me with a concerned face, I think she was a bit worried about me, and how I was going. I ran around the  first turn around and almost did not understand to pick up the yellow lap bracelet, to prove I had run each lap in full. I then used this as a guide to see how I was going. Seein which competitors had the yellow and red bracelets on their arms. I ran on a spotted a "6 Footer" , and cheered for him, I then spotted my first ever Oxfam Team Mate Millie, who I saw earlier in the morning. She was an amazing athlete, and she was beating me by about 20 minutes. I high fived her and did my best to try and run her down. It was just a slight up hill but after the time on the bike, your quads just did not fire like usual, so I shuffled as fast as I could to get to the top, I was passing people the entire time. I hit the 5km turn around and I was feeling okay, but not great. The crowd was thinning out, the other compeitors were starting to walk, cramp, vomit and just stop. I tried to focus on my running action but the time I had spent on my legs was wearing me down. My feet were killing me, I had a massive blister under my big toe and I could barely feel my big toe. I was wiggling my toes when I was running trying to get the blood flowing back up my leg. I even stopped to adjust it. The atmosphere of the event was starting to die, it was a war of attrition, some of these competitors had been on their feet for close to 7 hours. 
I ran past Naomi and Jodie again, who are online running buddies, they cheered for me and I did my best to look like I was having fun, they had stayed out to come and see me. I ran past the start finish line, wishing it was time for me to stop, but I still had 10km to go. I continued on down to the turn around and picked up the last red bracelet. I climbed back up the tiny hill and just tired to hold it together. Small mouthfuls of vomit were starting to come up, every few kilometres I was chucking just little vommeys. My chest was starting to cramp up. I had drunk too much water, and the Dextro electrolyte mix was starting to look like the good option for me. So at every 2km I drank the salt sugar mix and it spurred me on. There was another race going on. A wheelchair race, a wheel chair rider came flying past and he was almost hit by a car, at one of the street crossings. I could not believe that the marshals let the car cross the course at that stage. The wheel chair rider came off this wheel chair and needed help to be put back in so he could continue. I thought this was terrible. Surely more respect should have been given to this amazing guy in his own race.
I kicked it on as best as I could trying to make sub 5 minute kilometres, but could not manage it. I looked at my watch and I noticed I had covered 103kms. I did not even think about the entire distance when I started the race, this was a bit of a shock to me. The fight had left me and I was just hot, blistered, and wanting it all to finish. The dismal run of death for most of the competitors continued. 
In the last 2 kilometres the cramp rate was insane, people were just having to stop running and walk to finish. But I was still okay, I had recovered, just enough. I was in one of the last waves of competitors, and I was catching all the slower athletes, it was really unsettling seeing the pain on their faces. Watching how hard they had to work to get to the finish. I am use to being up the front with the faster athletes, so I think I was slowed a bit, just by the lack of energy and motivation left in the field. My chest cramp had left me, I was still able to put on a happy face and look like I was finishing strong. I was well under my anaerobic threshold, but my feet and legs were just exhausted. The ground felt so hard and hot, every step hurt. I rolled into the finish line, heard my name being called by the MC and it was over. 
It was tough. So tough. 5 hours and 14 minutes and 35 seconds on your legs trying to go as fast as you can will always be tough. 2km Swim 47 min, 83km Bike 2 hours 50 minutes and the 20km run, 1 hour 36 minutes. If you asked me after the race wether I was going to do one again I would have said no. But, just like most challenges to me, it is a bit like child birth. I am so proud of my efforts, and I am keen to do one again, ASAP. I can't wait to try and beat my time. It was a race that really does not suit my strengths. I am  doing a race that took my best asset away from me, my agility, but the training has allowed me to spend more time with my husband, and kids.  I have even inspired my Husband, Mikey to go and get swimming lessons. What I like about Triathlons is that there is a category for men over 100 Kilos called the Clydesdales, and for women over 70 Kilos called Athena's. They start in an earlier wave than me, so they are not the last people finishing the course. I think that is really awesome. It's not just about the little girls  like me or the amazingly fit guys, it's about everyone giving it a go and challenging themselves. From the tiny runners, to the robust swimmers to the powerful cyclist, to wheelchair competitors. That is what life is about. No excuses , just get out there and do it.

1 comment:

  1. Inspirational stuff Shona. Well done. I'm traveling a similar path at the moment training for my 1st Triathlon....the Husky Long Course in Feb 2013!!