Right until the moment when the starting horn blew I was thinking of ways of getting out of this one. The butterflies were doing speed laps in my stomach and I felt well out of my league and on the slippery path to embarrassment: I desperately wanted to find a way out that didn’t involve me being remembered as the guy who finished after they had packed up and left for the day.
You see, thirty people had turned up for today’s Tre-X event organised by Triathlon South. 17 of these people set off at 9am on the super sprint course (300m swim, 9km MTB ride, 3km run) leaving just 13 people, including me, doing the sprint course (750m swim, 13.5km MTB ride, 5km run).
Problem was that there were a dozen athletes … and then there was, well, me who probably should have set off with the first wave of 17 super sprinters.
I was doing slightly better this time than my last twilight triathlon as having lost another couple of kilograms I’d managed to squeeze into my new Orca Kaiser wet suit purchased from wiggle for the princely sum of $A155 and I had remembered to bring the compulsory swimming cap, but this was just a thin veneer over the fact that the other dozen competitors all looked fit, lean and well, they looked like triathletes. Then the horn blew and I knew there was no backing out. I took a couple of deep breathes and set off after the field for the swim.
I dived into the water and one side of my goggles promptly filled with water and I had to stop and reseal them. This then repeated itself 3 or 4 times over the first 50 metres as I just couldn’t get a seal over my right eye. Because of this (at least this is my line) by the time I got to the first buoy, I was way behind the pack with two others who were also struggling a bit.
My worst fears were coming true, but with nothing else to do but swim, I put my head down and swam. I practiced what I’d seen in the youtube videos about swimming 6 strokes and then doing a “location” stroke where I looked forward and checked that I was still on line to the next buoy. In the flat, uncrowded water this worked really well. So I swam and checked and swam and checked. As I rounded each buoy (it was two laps of a triangular course) I was pleased to see a couple of people just in front of me and my first two buddies just behind me, though the gap to those in front seemed to grow a little bigger as I rounded each buoy.
After what seemed like forever, but was actually about 20 minutes, I emerged from the water and chugged up the beach to the transition. Being a newbie, and having had awful troubles getting my new wet-suit off at home, I was immensely happy with myself when it practically fell off due to the use of some of that glide off stuff which I’d put around my wrists and ankles, a quick shoe change and I set off on my bike for my strongest (least weak?) leg.
I quickly realised that my idea of wearing my T shirt inside my wet-suit hadn’t been quite as brilliant as I originally thought it would be as it was now soaked (with nice chaffing salty water) and I had to wring it out with one hand.
I came up to the first little hill with one girl in front, and someone just behind me. I stood up on the pedals determined to put in an effort and try and get ahead, I changed down a gear and was promptly dropped back down into my sear as the gears I’d just spent $125 getting fixed jumped and all my forward momentum disappeared.
The other two cyclists disappeared off into the distance as I tried to get my bike into a gear that would work, but it quickly became apparent to me that my gears were stuffed. I couldn’t any pressure on the pedals at all or the gears just jumped and I was livid with my bike shop as I spun my way around the course in baby gears.
As usual, the transition to bike was pretty hard, and I felt nauseas and light headed as I pedaled up the grassy off road section for the first time and with my gears not working I got awful close to just chucking it all in. However, I’d been here before, so I pulled back a bit on the effort, and by the time I set off on my second lap I had settled into a tempo I could sustain and started to enjoy myself a bit more. I was still livid with my bike mechanic every time I came to a hill though.
As I rode into transition for the last time, I had managed to overtake two others who were now just behind me, and I figured we were the back of the pack. I knew what would happen next: I was about to be the last runner on the course, but my worse fears weren’t coming true, at least I was in the pack, even if I was at the back.
I set off on the first running lap, with the simple goals of getting around without injuring myself, not getting left too far behind the others and leaving enough in the tank for tomorrow’s Amy Gillett 100km Ride.
The girl I had been dueling with on the bike quickly took off into the distance and in the end finished about 500 metres in front of me, and I don’t know what happened to the young guy, but I just set into my own pace around a challenging circuit and ran (well jogged).
The first 500m were a slight but steady incline along a cliff top track, followed by a quick drop down some steps onto the beach where, due to a high tide, the return run was through fairly soft sand high on the beach.
I did the first lap in 6 mins 26 secs, and felt pretty good. Lap 2 was done in 6’14” and just to show you how the head games work, I was absolutely convinced there was no way I could do three more laps. My pace on lap 3 dropped back to 6’26” and I just kept telling myself that I was now more than half way, and only had two more laps to go. Lap 4 was a survival lap at 6’29”, but I was also lifted as I came towards the end of the lap and found Simon Thiessen just in front of me. I caught him just as we ran up the boat ramp, only to have him surge ahead along the top of the cliff. I caught him again at the stairs where I realised he was injured and hobbling which somewhat tempered my joy at catching someone (as did my subsequent discovery that he’d broken a pedal on the ride section).
I finished the final run lap in 6’26” and the entire race in 1hr 32mins 05 seconds. I had felt right at the limit the whole way, in fact I’d felt on all three legs that I’d stepped beyond my limits, beyond what I’d believed was possible for me right now. I’d reset my limits to somewhere ‘beyond’, and I was excited to see how much further I could push them.
As I drove home I was ready for the next challenge. Bring on the butterflies.