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.