The 2013 Mooloolaba continental cup was meant to be my induction into the world of Olympic distance racing. However, after being selected to race for Australia at the world cross country championships in Poland on the same week, I was unable to toe the line on the Sunshine Coast. 12 months later and I was there ready to start in just my second Olympic distance race.
After racing in the OD race in Devonport just 2 weeks before I had a bit more of an idea what to do and what not to do this time, i.e. don’t run out of transition off the bike at the same pace you would in a sprint race. You will have a bad time in the back end of the run if you do.
I was ranked 5th on the start list so was 5th to pick my spot on the beach prior to the start and managed to get myself right where I wanted. The little beach was about 2m longer towards the right of the start line which meant 2 more meters of running while others were swimming. So I was off to a good start and was next to Matt Baker who I knew would be one of the strongest swimmers in the field, so I jumped on his hip and tried to hang on. Throughout the swim two athletes had gained a lead from the rest of the pack. I swam in 3rd position for the whole 1500m.
After a mega long run into transition I was on the bike behind baker and Barrie (who I didn’t even know was there he was so far in front – that guy can swim!) and then began a fairly pedestrian paced bike leg. There was a fairly big sized front group and there were a lot of people not working. As the 40k went on less and less people were working and clearly had their minds on the 10k hot and hilly run to come. There were a few surges to get away in the last half of the bike but all were marked and brought back after not long.
This time I knew to take it easy early on in the run so I could finish strong, so I had let a couple of athletes up the road to gain decent leads with confidence that I could run them down later on. After about 3km myself, Nathan Buschkuehl and Dan Coleman had run down the early leaders and were running in a pack with Sam Osborne from NZL for the rest of the run. There was one hill in the run that we had to run over 3 times in the race and on the second time the pace was increased over the top and into the descent and I felt great which gave me confidence that I could get the win this year. By the time we had got to the hill for the last time I was in the lead, by just a small distance with Dan and Nathan in second and third fighting hard to go with me. They came close to coming back a couple of times but then got dropped again. From here it was just the long descent back to the finish line, which I imagine would have been extremely hard on the legs if you had have gone that little bit too hard too early, it was a tough way to end the race.
I was super relieved when I got to the finish line first, to get the win in Mooloolaba Conti Cup early on in my season puts me in a good position moving forward and gives me confidence to take on other bigger races, starting with the World Cup in Chengdu in May.
February started with a race in New Zealand and finished back home in Tassie at the Oceania Triathlon Championships. With a heap of training and an Australian championship in the middle, here is how the month panned out.
After returning to Wollongong after a disappointing race in Kinloch I was even more motivated to work hard in training as I knew that the 23rd of Feb would come along very quickly and I’d be lining up in the Australian Championships which doubled as the first selection race for the world championships in Edmonton. This meant to finish this race in anything other than 1st wasn’t going to be good enough so I had to trust I was capable of that. I had found some pretty good form over all three legs and was confident that even if I missed the front group out of the water I would be able to catch back up on the bike but as it turned out I didn’t really have to worry about my swim. I started the bike in second place behind Matt Roberts, a long run through transition did help me pick up a few positions here I will admit, but I still was in the pointy end of the field coming out of the water. Roberts and myself stayed out the front for a while but eventually sat up and waited for the large group to catch us up. The group stayed together for the rest of the ride and then it was onto the run. Dan Coleman, Calvin Quirk and myself got a lead from the very early stages on the run, and there was the podium. I ran away from them in the middle stages to claim the win leaving the two of them to battle other podium spots in a sprint finish.
After Regaining the Australian junior title in Brighton, I headed home for the week leading into the Oceania championships in Devonport. Devonport is about an hour away from my home so it was a good opportunity to get home and spend some time with my family and friends. After winning the selection race for the juniors we decided that it would be best for me to step up and race in the open race at Devonport in the Olympic distance, to gain some experience.
I had a bit of a concern with my foot that occurred during the Brighton race which was still hanging around leading into the Devonport race so I played it safe and didn’t run on it until the night before the race and it felt all good so I was ready to race. In typical me style though, I managed to get sick again before the race. At Brighton I got food poisoning, and then a few days before Devonport I picked up a head cold… not the first time I have raced sick though so I tried not to let it worry me but I am looking forward to a healthy race soon.
I was a bit worried about how I would cope with the swim being double the distance to what I’m used to, and knowing that is where I usually struggle the most, I knew it was going to be tough. However I got off to a good start and was working really hard to hold that position. After 750 I knew I was sitting just off the shoulder of fellow Wizard Ryan Bailie and thought if I could last the next 750 I would come out in a pretty good position. I came out in 15th position and claimed a spot in the front pack. I was a bit worried how I would cope in the run after a hard bike so was a bit unsure how hard to go on the bike, and how much work to do. I skipped one turn on the front but then copped some stern words from the others and I soon realised that I don’t want to be that guy. Normally I’m the one that gets mad at others for not taking turns so I didn’t want them looking at me like that. Not that it mattered much though because not long after I got dropped going over the killer north street hill. There was now 5 up the road and then Sexton, Bailie and I between them and the next larger group.
Onto the run, myself and Bailie entered transition together but I got a bit of a gap on him in the very early stages in the run, something that I would soon regret. 10k is a long way to run after a hard hilly bike leg and going out at that pace certainly was not such a great idea. Looking back I would have been better to go out with Ryan and try to build into the run if I was feeling good instead of going out fast and getting slower and slower as the race went on.
I got ran down by Sexton and Goldsmid the New Zealander but still managed to hang onto 7th place. I’m pretty happy with the result in my first ITU Olympic distance race and I look forward to getting in a few more over the season, next up at Mooloolaba.
Until then, back in the Gong training and preparing for the rest of the season.