In 2010 a friend and I trained and competed in our first Triathlon - the enticer distance at Caloundra. While the feeling of crossing the finish line can only be described as a buzz, it was also (I thought) my last tri - check, goal complete. My friend went on to do a few more and continues to compete in the teams events.
Hubby came and watched me race and was bitten by the tri bug. He began with enticer length, graduated to QTS, and even did Olympic distance. In 2012 he raced his first 70.3 Half Ironman. He has done 4 now, and is signed up for his first full Ironman in Port Macquarie in May this year (2014).
These longer distance, endurance triathlons take a lot of time out of an already busy week with a full on training regime. In 2013 as he trained for the Mooloolaba 70.3, I began training on the bike with him, the only leg where I could at least "keep up" - for the shorter rides anyway! Every Sunday would see us on the road at 5am rolling out to get 100k under our belts before the sun got too high in the sky.
In November I joined a nutrition challenge at work and began to slowly shed the extra kilos that had crept on in the previous twelve months. I had lost 20kg the year before, but had put half of that back on again. Eating better and exercising saw that extra 10 kg disappearing, and with a target of another 18kg, I began to join other training sessions with Brendon.
Having never learned to swim as a kid, I joined an adult learn to swim squad. Run club on the foreshore made running seem a lot less of an effort. My first tri back, ironically, was Caloundra. Unlike the first time, at the end of that tri, I signed up immediately for the next one - Bribie Island Short Course event.
The Caloundra tri was better this time. While the swim was still abysmal, the ride and the run was much stronger. I finished 12/26 in my age bracket. At Bribie I elected to race in the Athena category, an open age group with a weight classification of 70+ kg (I was 79kg on race day). It's a smaller pool of competitors (8) and after a poor swim, I took the lead on the bike and extended my lead on the run. Yep, I finished first!
That week I bought a tri suit and told my husband I was going to continue training. I won't be in the Athena weight group next season, so if I want to improve for my age category, I need to get better across all of the disciplines (although I do hold my own on the bike already, I can always find a bit more speed there I'm sure).
This weekend, Brendon and I joined other members of his tri club for a training camp at beautiful Kingscliff. We commenced with an opening night dinner at the local sport club, followed by a great guest speaker - 75 time Ironman Athlete, Jason Shortis. Not only did he entertain us with funny stories from his time on the circuit, but also inspired us with his never give up attitude and tips for succeeding in any sport.
Saturday morning (after a luxurious sleep in), we swam in the pristine waters of Cudgen Creek, a salt water creek where the swim leg of the Kingscliff tri is held. Split into groups of strong and not-so-strong swimmers, the first group swam the almost 1.5k course, while those of us in the second group swam a course of 330m out around a buoy and back. The first time I did it without flippers and struggled to maintain freestyle stroke, so my lovely swim coach asked me to put fins on and I completed the second loop in freestyle stroke. I have a long way to go, but was really happy to have broken down a couple of my anxiety factors during our session.
Directly after the swim, it was onto the bike for a quick spin around the 10km Kingscliff Tri bike course. Broken into groups at the end of the 10km, we rolled out for another 15ish k, practicing our group riding techniques in anticipation of the next day's long ride.
Short break for lunch and a nap, then it was back to the park for a run. Set on the Kingscliff Tri run course, it was a 5km loop that runners could opt how many rotations they wanted to do. After such a full day (for me), and due to the high humidity, I opted to do 5km. Happy with my 32.26 time on tired legs, I was grateful to fall into bed early after a quick ocean dip, a delicious pizza and a cider.
Earlier start on Sunday for the bike ride that took us through the beautiful hinterland region, over the range and down to Murwillumbah before rolling back to Kingscliff. A tad over 75km of fast flats, challenging climbs and equally exhilarating descents. I might be slow going up, but I'm no sloth on the downhills - don't think I used the brakes on any of the drops, but only a top speed of mid 60s due to horrid headwinds.
After a lovely refreshing swim to cool the muscles, it was pack up time. My muscles thanked me for the rest!
If you had told me twelve months ago that I would be attending a tri training weekend and participating, I would have laughed in your face. Now, I find myself looking forward to the next training session and wondering what I might be capable of next event (whatever that may be).
The people I've met, trained with and been encouraged by are some of the most amazing people I know. Not because of their athleticism (which is top notch) but their inclusiveness. There is always an encouraging word for those of us who are still finding our stroke/stride, and the people are genuine in honouring each others' achievements. As I plod along on my run, there is always a smile, a high five or an encouraging "keep it up, well done" from fellow runners. Might sound hollow to you reading this, but coming from people I admire and who inspire me to be better, it can be all I need to keep me putting one foot in front of the other.
I can't wait to see where triathlon will take me. For now, I'm excited to be supporting my husband through to his first Ironman event. I'm excited to be part of that larger community who will cheer these athletes home and I will do it with people who are all equally excited and happy to see people achieve their goals. Bring on Ironman Australia Port Macquarie - I'll be there.