Monday, 22 June 2015

Diary of a Triathlon wannabe – Tweed Enduro March 2015

After every event, I send out annoying emails to our athletes and ask them if they are interested in writing a race report telling other members about their race.  These requests are either answered with a groan and an “ok” or more often than not, are not answered.  I don’t take it personally, as I know that not everyone a) wants to share it all and b) enjoys writing.  So when I completed the Tweed Enduro three weeks ago, I knew I’d have a plethora of athletes to hit up for a report, but did not send a single email, as I knew that in order to ensure I wasn’t that annoying chick who always requests, but just doesn’t deliver herself, I’d have to write the race report.

But I had another motive as well.  I wanted a race report written by someone who trains for events for the fun of it.  Someone who trains to give them a motivation to train.  Not to be fastest.  Not to podium.  Just to finish.  You see, my name is Sue Boyd and I’m a completor, not a competor.  I am by no means saying I’m the only one, but too often we focus on places and I wanted others to see that there are many reasons that we race.

In September 2014, I saw a post pop up in my newsfeed advertising a new Enduro event to be held at Pottsville on the Tweed Coast.   I’d done a couple of enticer events and the sprint distances at Bribie Island, but was never really into Triathlon, as I’m not fast, and the shorter distances really didn’t appeal to me.  I do the events as a reason to train and try to improve my fitness.  I liked the idea of a long, slow toil out on course, and as this event was the same distance as the half Ironman event, and a first time for the area, I signed up.

Now what you need to know is that on entry, I had never swum more than 100m without a break (and a significant amount of panic and distress), so I knew that I would have to train particularly hard to overcome that fear and get through the swim to be even able to think about the ride and the run.  I’m a competent enough rider, and had run my first half marathon at the Gold Coast in July, so I figured what the heck!

For six months I worked through my water issues (if you have young children, please get them swimming lessons while they are still young, it will be much better for them later in life) and on a beautiful Autumn morning on March 29, found myself in Pottsville  lined up and ready to have a crack at my first Enduro triathlon.

I had nominated as an Athena (translation, heavy female athlete) and along with two other female age groups (one of which included our very own Bayside club coach, Karen Short) waded out to the start line ready to see if the training would pay off or if the nerves would kick in and see me breast stroke my way to the end.

I’d put in a lot of time in the pool, knew I could swim the distance (albeit slowly) but really did not know what would happen when I was in the water with a number of other swimmers.  My normal reaction was to panic, and keep my head above water while staying well out of the way.  My strategy for this swim was to get to the end and not let anything or anyone get into my head, so I started in the front line with the other women (there were only 10 of us in that wave), and just start swimming.

I was caught by the next wave, had a couple of guys swim over me and one who grabbed my ankle and pulled me backward.  I kicked him pretty hard and he let go very quickly. Other than swimming a little crooked and having to recorrect to go around the cans on the correct side, the swim was pretty good.  The water was cool and clear and visibility was right to the bottom, so as we swam we could see plenty of fish darting around underneath us. Oh and did I mention the cracking tide?  Swimming with the tide is my new favourite thing to do.

I emerged from the water like I’d won the lotto.  The photo in this post was taken by the professional photographer, and I think that he caught the moment perfectly!  There was a group of Baysiders cheering us out of the water and I turned to them and raised my arms in victory.  Who cared what happened to me for the rest of the race, I had just swum 1.9km and I hadn’t drowned!

But I digress, a quick transition (learned from my fast transitioning husband) and it was a 90km jaunt on the bike.  The course was a 22.5km out and back loop, completed 4 times.  There was a patch of road approximately 500m long that was as smooth as a baby’s bottom, with the remaining 22km just a little less forgiving and at time jarring on the body.  Can’t tell you much about it, other than that there were a couple of little hills to challenge near the out turnaround.  Why can’t I remember the ride – because I spent most of it grinning like an idiot because I’d survived the swim!

So nothing really eventful on the ride, other than the chance to encourage a whole heap of fellow Baysiders who were on course.  There’s nothing quite so heartening as hearing your name called out by a team mate and a spot of encouragement as you go.  Unless it’s a whole swath of team mates and spectators.  That first lap turnaround on the roundabout was just about as special as getting out of the water.  The Bayside crew shouted themselves crazy as I came into the corner – so much so that the announcer even commented and called out my name, because of their noise.

One of the hardest things I found about the ride was not really knowing how hard to push, knowing I had a half marathon to run at the end.  I won’t lie and say I gave it my all.  I think I left plenty in the tank, just in case, for the run, and looking back know I could have pushed a little harder (ok a lot harder), but given how it all ended, am glad I had something in reserve.

So off the bike (it was so good when I could feel my feet and hands again, which was about 3kms into the run) and through transition onto the run.  An interesting course that wound around the back of housing estates, back onto road, past parkland, along the creek bank and out to the loneliest turnaround point in the world – with just a single soul out there directing traffic. The first loop was a nice easy pace, but as the day was quite humid, and the course was relatively sheltered from any breeze, the heat eventually started to take it’s toll.

Now if I can give you one piece of advice that you must always follow (and if you’ve read Karl Frank’s race report, you’ll see I’m just re-iterating his point), never, ever try to wear new kit on race day.  I had bought a new pair of socks that were so comfy, lovely and padded under the pads of the feet and instead of wearing my race socks, I chose to wear the new socks.  This gamble may have paid off if I had kept my feet dry.  But on lap two, I allowed myself the luxury of getting sprayed by a hose.  Felt absolutely glorious at the time.  Cooled me down and reinvigorated my flagging spirits.  Ran for another 2km and realised that wet feet = wet socks.  Wet socks = blisters under the pads of both feet. Blisters under the pads of both feet = feeling like you’re running on a waterbed!

So hint number two – don’t get your feet wet!

I stumbled through the next two laps, running and walking alternatively.  Kept sane by singing songs from the 80s in my head and thankfully Brendon came out to the turnaround for the second lap, so seeing a familiar face and getting a bit of encouragement kept me moving toward lap three.

That run past the club marquee was enough to strengthen the resolve to head out for the final lap.  There was only 7km between me and the finish line.  There were only 3 of us left on course.  Being a late finisher is a lonely business.  There’s no one out of course to acknowledge you, no friendly waves or encouraging calls.  Again, thank goodness for the wonderful locals on the water stations who just kept cheering us on, and as I hit the 2km to go mark, I was greeted with the absolute best sight of the day.  Brendon, Jon Kelk, Renee and Ethan Brace all waiting to cheer me home.  I broke into probably the fastest pace I’d done all day as they ran beside me to the final marker.

With the chute just ahead, I hear a roar from Eric Brace, urging me home, “finish strong, Sue, just like Cootha” and with a song in my heart, a stupid smirk on my face and the sound of the remaining crowd in my ears, I crossed the line.  I had done it, I had finished and it was the second longest 7+ hours of physical work I’ve ever done.

Would I do another one – definitely.  Would I approach my training a bit differently – for sure.  I was pretty slack on my running, and really only started to get serious about running again four weeks out.  That is nowhere enough preparation time.  Am I a triathlon junkie – no way.  As much as I loved the event and enjoyed the challenge of training, I have to be honest and say I have the attention span of a goldfish.  I really had to mix up my training to stay engaged.  If it had been all run on paths, ride on roads, and pool swim training I wouldn’t have stuck with it.  As it was, I incorporated kayaking sessions, Metafit sessions, pool running, trail running and stair running to mix it up.  Was it the hardest thing I’ve ever done – not a chance – my first labour was 36 hours – this was a cakewalk, cos when I was tired I could slow down and rest.  Childbirth does not allow that same luxury!

But really, the one thing that I would recommend to anyone embarking on an endurance event journey is to have a great support crew.  Those people who will cheer you on and just keep you going.  Brendon helped me so much on the day by just talking to me, listening to me tell him it was so hard, and that I was hurting, but still encouraging me to go on.  Susan Davey was pivotal during my training in keeping me balanced, and talking me down off the ledge only days prior to the event.  And to those Baysiders on the day who offered a “Go Sue”, “Go Bayside” “You can do it” – you may never know exactly how much that stuff helps us out on course.

And my final piece of advice – do not wear thongs to the shops when you have blisters on the pads of your feet.  Because you will be in the middle of the store when both gigantic blisters give way at the same time, leaving you standing with wet feet and a puddle – a similar feeling to having your waters break in public.

Oh, and if someone tells you it can’t be done, knuckle down, train hard and flip them the bird when you cross the line :)