New Plymouth, New Zealand AJT series Race 4, 25th March 2018 / Oceania Championships
(FYI It’s a bit long…)
I was nervous.
I was nervous because I cared. I was nervous because I had put so much effort and focus into my training. I was nervous because I had no idea what to expect or how this race would pan out.
I was very, very nervous. But then again, every one of my competitors was in the same boat.
Thankfully, I had a great support team around me the entire time and with their encouragement, knowledge and confidence, I was able to overcome my nervousness for most of the four days we were away and just ENJOY the journey. The New Zealand locals, their relaxed attitudes and the attempted Kiwi accents provided ample humour and enabled us all to relax a little bit. Our first day of travel consisted of exactly that; travel.
We left home at 4am in the morning, went to the airport and travelled from 6am that morning until we landed in New Plymouth at 7pm that night. It had been a long day.
Thankfully, Toby had booked accommodation within walking distance from the New Plymouth local eateries, hence we decided to get some blood flowing and venture to the pub. Don’t get me wrong, it was an adventure alright. Found a great steak and beer deal for our three biggest investors (the dads and coach) whilst Jake and I devoured our meals. I had never witnessed a fried egg, let alone two fried eggs, on a steak; New Plymouth was providing new experiences for me already.
The next day, we slept in. I mean like a 10-hour-sleep-in sleep in. Something un heard of. My body was already going into ‘preservation’ mode. After a B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L breakfast at the local vintage coffee rescue, we headed out for a roll and run. I knew there was somewhat of a hill in the course; the profile had shown a good amount of elevation. But oh no, was I wrong. It wasn’t just one hill, but three stacked on top of each other going in different directions and varying length then after a sharp downhill, another spike. I was looking forward to the brutality of this bike course already. There was also a hill in the run - this was going to be fun. In the afternoon we went for a bit of a swim, just to get the feel back and stretch out. I was beginning to get psyched.
The next day, the heavens opened, hence Toby (coach) decided not to go out and allowed us to sleep in a bit. Little did I know. My dad came into the room and I jumped up. It was 8:30am and the bike familiarisation was 9am. I panicked, but then Dad reassured me and all was good again; I didn’t have to rush my banana on toast. We went for a nice jog on the run course whilst the others slid along their rubber in the rain. Then finally came time to test the water. We went for a decent swim around the course in the wetsuit (Shout out to Xterra for the epic suit!) and despite it being quite choppy, the swim felt good. Positive vibes were coming from the oceans below. “I might crack a good one tomorrow,” I thought. Although, the wetsuit swim was borderline; it was 20.8ºC. I was about to cry.
I had to mentally prepare for the cold just in case. I stripped down to my two-piece swim suit and ran straight in. It wasn’t too bad. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t pleasant, but I could survive it. I looked like a maniac, but hey, you got to do what you got to do. The rest of the afternoon we had lunch, went to the briefing (on time, thank god) and then relaxed. Finishing off the day with a nice jog to the beach and let the wind blow out the cobwebs before heading out for a DELICIOUS noodle dish (with the bonus of a free, meaningless fortune cookie)…..
I tried to sleep, but unfortunately, I was too nervous, or excited, to have a decent sleep. I told myself every second I spent thinking about the race, I could be sleeping and I will be thinking about it enough tomorrow, but unfortunately, I was just too ready. I swear I could have raced that night if someone told me to; I was that awake. Thanks to the coach for those previous sleep-ins.
As soon as it was time, I was straight up. I was in my zone. I don’t think I actually woke into myself until everything was over. I was that focused on the process I had to complete, everything else was irrelevant. After preparing and demolishing my sandwich, we packed up and headed off. It was dark as I walked into the athlete’s lounge. It was a new experience that I have never witnessed, with the athlete lounge and all the papers and processes we had to go through. I tried to just flow through and not let the new process phase me.
Dad had pumped up my tires and my bike was all set up and ready to go. I stood with my bike in the line, wrapped in my tracksuit and beanie, spending each second thinking about how I was going to attack the race. I lost count, but I must have gone through the race over 50 times in my head. Directing each section and scenario. Unfortunately, in my position, my swim is all up and down, hence there are many places I could exit the water. I had to consider all of them. I knew I would be fighting from the start; that was inevitable. I just had to attack.
After racking the bike, an incredibly nice race referee offered to take our SCTA spare wheels to the station for me. That was one stress off my back. The long process of registration opened at 6:30am, transition opened at 7am, roll call was 7:45am and we began at 8am. I had 1/2 an hour to prepare for my attack by the time all the shenanigans were over. Almost immediately, I locked in. Thanks to Dad for being my baggage handler; I handed him everything I didn’t need and began my run drills.
Then we made our way to the swim start. I was the first in the water. I wanted a good warm up. I wanted to show the others I was ready. I did my usual, plus some runs into the water. Got some good encouragement off coach (he even used the word ‘perfect’ to describe my run in. O-M-G). We got the call to go in.
Standing under the finishing banner, waiting for your name to be called is the most calming thing I have ever done. I know that sounds odd, but the way I thought about it; we have all done the work. By that point, you have done as much as you can to be there, you are at your peak fitness, and you can do nothing more but demonstrate that. You have nothing left to do but race. And racing is the best part. It’s as if nothing else matters in that point. You could be having family struggles, mental struggles or any other stresses/problems or worries, but at that point, all you can do is race. You just have to give it your all. In honesty, running towards the beach and standing on that final start line for the series (although I was already a literal step behind everyone else - my lack of knowledge of start lines), was the most exciting and thrilling thing to experience.
Anyway, the race…
the music stopped and there was silence. Then a sudden horn. Not even a count down, just a horn. My slow twitch fibres did not react well, but I didn’t let that phase me. I used my little legs and clubby skills I’d used back in the day to run through the water and was able to gain a decent position into the water. Our right group soon got swamped by the left and with a 300m straight leading into the first can, we immediately strung out. I was able to finally get into a good rhythm by the first buoy. I had no idea where I was until the third and then I was shocked. I saw a number of the competitor who has a GREAT swim. Leads all the time. I kept on breathing to that side to check and I was so happy (cheers to Xterra for the super speedy suit).
I just had to hold on and smash my T1 (I had been practicing religiously). There were a couple of girls who had at least 30 seconds lead on us, but we were a big second pack, I thought we might have a chance. Typical dad mistook me for someone else, even though I was one of two people who had bright pink on their suit, but at least he remembered the colour of my suit. My T1 was the fastest I have done (even with a wetty) I stripped off my wetty easily as I exited the water, ran as hard as my legs could go to my bike and was able to use my womanly multitasking skills to put my helmet on at the same time as removing my wetsuit (skill/10). I gracefully mounted my bike and took off, clinging to the back of the time. Okay so my T1 isn’t the fastest, but it’s much better than it used to be.
On the bike I went up to third wheel on the first rise out of the transition carpark area. Along the straights, it began to rain. Everyone was hesitant. The first major hill struck and I selected my gear, powering it up. I took the lead up the hill. We passed two other girls and a few dropped from the back. Over the second hill I drove it up, keeping in mind the next two. By the third hill, I got out of my saddle drove over. For the decent before the grand finale, I pushed it into my big chain ring and charged down and over.
Getting out of the saddle and trying to separate the pack as much as possible. Going downhill, we were all hesitant and stayed together. Before our turn back into the transition area, a girl came down behind me. I didn’t look back. That could’ve been any of us. On the little obtuse hair pin turn, I was passed and drove to get back on. This happened for the second and third lap again, but the girls upped a bit on the third, not making much impact. My the fourth one, everybody was powering, we all took off. I held a great position, unfortunately to get swamped on the last straight with the girls have a five second lead into transition on me.
My feet were numb as I removed them from the shoes and dismounted. I swear I could’ve stepped on glass and not have felt it. Trying to put my shoes in was a struggle as I scrambled for my shoe and tried to move my foot towards it; missing the first one. Eventually I was set for the run and took off. I was the last to leave T2. Unfortunately, the pack of three ahead put 30 seconds into us on the bike, due to the technicalities and their strength. At this point, all the top Aussies had been in my group. I just wanted to beat them. Anything else was a bonus.
On the first lap of the run, my calves were so numb. I didn’t know what was happening. It was the oddest sensation. I felt like I was just stabbing jack hammers. I wasn’t catching anyone. I thought my legs were going to give way. Thank god there was three laps. After the first rise, I caught up to two of the girls ahead. Then my legs began to warm up and I broke away from the lead pack of three girls with another Aussie. There was a Korean girl ahead, but I honestly just wanted to get past this girl first.
Up the second rise she went hard and put five metres into me. But it had only been 3.5km and another hill was coming. She suffered on the way down and I felt good by this point so I put my all into the straight before the last flat turn. My legs had warmed up and trust me, I did not want a repeat of Perth. I took off and drove up the hill. I was putting time into the Korean in front of me, but she was already on the other side of the carpet and my legs just weren’t moving. I took off towards the line. It was the best feeling. Not only just to finish in one piece, but to be first Aussie, third in the Oceania region and top five across the line. I was stoked.
After chatting with some of the girls, I went into the recovery area and ran towards dad. We embraced with the biggest of hugs; I was nearly in tears. I embraced everyone around me, including our three biggest investors, at that point. I was just so happy. I was just so happy I could finally get warm. I could finally relax. I could finally accept I had done my best, and my best was enough. The medal presentation was awesome as I had never experienced something like that before.
I sort of messed it up (typical me), but it went smooth enough. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be able to take the flowers back into Australia, so we gave them to the staff at our friendly hotel. They were happy to take them for decorations. I felt so honoured and proud to be up there. It was one of the best experiences of my life.
Although it just adds more fuel to the fire, I have to have a break at some point and re cooperate, so I can be ready to attack the next race, hopefully a few levels higher.
I called Jase, Dad and Toby our three investors because they are the reason we are able to race and have the opportunities that we do. They not only, and obviously, invest money into travel, accommodation, training and food and wot-not, but they also invest their time and most importantly their belief. I honestly could not have achieved everything I have this season or for some, even anything I have this lifetime without these three investors. These guys are our rocks. And not only is Toby a coach of Triathlon, but also a life-coach; teaching the mentality and tactics needed to race and compete at a high level in both sport and life. The biggest of shout outs to you guys.
And I would like to thank: Vorgee for supplying the awesome race goggles; Mizuno for the flying kicks that held up, despite the cold conditions and supported my numb feet; Unique Health Products (especially Jackie for her awesome personality) for our Clif nutrition that not only got us to the line, but also kept us fuelled during the race, It has kept me going strong throughout the season; Xterra for the awesome wetsuit that kept me warm and got me through the water smoothly (literally) and Cannibal for the training equipment. Thanks to all the SCTA sponsors for giving me this opportunity as the 2017/18 scholarship recipient and for supporting the crew.