Townsville – ITU World Championships Qualifying Race 19/08/2017 Swim: 1500m Sheltered Ocean Swim – beach start – Wetsuit Optional Bike: 40km – 2 lap flat course out and back Run: 10km – 2 lap course, hilly in part When I first expressed to Nathan my interest in trying to qualify for ITU Age Group World Champs next year on the Gold Coast I actually thought he might try and talk me out of it but he was encouraging and excited for me to have a crack. We both know with the Championships being held on the Gold Coast there is going to be tough competition. Nathan thought with the first qualifying race being in August it might be a good opportunity for me to earn some points. This was going to mean I would have to travel with my bike to Townsville. There was no way I was going to be able to do this on my own –I had no idea how to even get to the airport much less with a bike. My anxiety levels were starting to escalate. I rang Nathan and told him I didn't know the first thing about any of this and I was overwhelmed – he calmly told me all it basically entailed was to just get a cardboard box from the bike shop, they'll show you how to pack it - shove all your stuff you need into it, buy excess luggage and pretty much that's it. Funnily enough after speaking with Nathan I was instantly put at ease with his assurance of the simplicity of it all – wow, why didn't I ring him earlier. With my renewed enthusiasm the next thing I did was call my local bike shop. Sure enough, they were very helpful, all I need to do to get my bike into the cardboard box was to take off the front wheel, the back wheel, both pedals, the handle bars and tri bars and the seat! I could barely breathe as I hung up. It occurred to me in that moment that I needed to take everything off the bike with the exception of the little red flashing safety light on the rear … I start to cry…. I rang my friend Mel and between tears I explained the situation and begged her to come with me – she barely races or trains for that matter but she's a lifelong friend and a bit like Nathan in that she’s very calm. She didn’t take a lot of convincing and was keen for a girl's weekend. It was decided she would do the sprint distance race though. I couldn’t believe my luck. She's also a seasoned traveller so she knows how to book flights, accommodation, excess luggage etc and even how to get to the airport. She was worried about the bike situation though but I assured her I could handle the bikes if she handled the logistics – In truth I had no idea but I figured I’d say yes now and figure out how later. As it turns out I was able to borrow a bike bag where I only needed to remove the wheels but Mel's bike was in a million pieces – it was funny - but I would worry about that later – Our travel day had finally arrived. We'd decided to change our flights at the last minute so as to arrive a day earlier because we found out compulsory bike racking was on the day before the race and considering the bikes were in pieces we needed time and possibly a mechanic to reassemble them.
We arrived in Townsville on Thursday mid afternoon to clear blue skies and a temperature of around 29-30 degrees. Just as we were about to leave, I was set upon by a fit looking older woman demanding to know which race I was doing. I answered Olympic – she looked at me accusingly and said " You look like you'd be in my Age Group" and before I could even reply she suggested, Having just celebrated my 48th birthday I wasn't impressed. Back at our apartment, we began the arduous task of reassembling our bikes. Quite unbelievably the whole process went smoothly. On Friday morning I did my pre-race run around part of the run course. The run was beautiful and very scenic I was feeling relatively relaxed but I had my usual pre-race nerves as a bit of background noise. Nothing too bad. I felt as prepared as I could be. I’d had some issues with my back in the weeks leading up to race day but I'd been having weekly physio treatment and was managing it. I’d done the training and it was out of my hands now. After the run we wanted to take the bikes out for a test ride to make sure they would hold together. It was within 10 minutes of leaving home that I find myself headed straight into the path of a truck. My friend had made it across the intersection but I committed to cross and looked up to see the truck coming. In my haste to try and stop and uncleat I nearly went down. I was totally rattled after that. We continued riding for a bit after this incident because I needed to check the bikes but the fear and anxiety was almost debilitating from that moment on until the gun went off the next morning for my wave to start at around 7.45am. Race morning was clear and the waters were calm. I on the other hand, was not. I’d vomited before leaving the apartment. The constricting feeling in my chest never left me from the day before and in fact was becoming suffocating. Nothing I did would take away that feeling. I knew the only way out was going to be through and I could not wait for my wave to start because I knew by me getting this thing done, petrified as I was, it was the only way I would get rid of this awful debilitating anxiety I was now engulfed in. Never have I been at a race briefing where they are telling you how to get out of the water and evacuation strategies before we even get in. The sight and sound of the helicopter that was searching for sharks and crocodiles in the water I was about to enter was not even an issue any more - I just wanted to get underway. Finally as I’m standing in the rising heat on the sand in my wetsuit it’s my turn to enter the shute. I found myself actually praying. The next thing I remember feeling is freedom as I ran toward the water – straight away, and I knew it would, that awful feeling that had been suffocating me since the truck incident lessened with each stroke. Nathan had messaged me the night before and told me to swim strong and I felt I was. I was controlled in my breathing, not overly fast but I didn’t panic and swam consistently and sometimes that’s more important. I exited the water happy after 30.27 minutes and 1.62km according to Garmin. On to the bike and at the back of my mind was yesterday’s incident which I straight away push back out. I felt I rode solid on the straights for me but lost precious time around the bends. My lack of confidence in aero position costs me about 5 minutes because I’m riding the hoods or drops the whole way. I realise now that things have to change if I am to give myself a chance to get better points in future races. My bike was an improved time of 1.20.54
Coming into transition getting straight off the bike my back was so bad that I literally couldn’t run. I had to push my bike through transition and then ease myself into the run. This costs me another 3 minutes over my competitors. I’m sure my riding is a big factor because I’m fitted to ride aero but don’t and therefore my back is bad after I ride. Once I was able to get moving again heading out on to the run I tried to pace myself because I tend to go out too hard and not hold the pace. I had made a personal goal to myself of trying to run under 50 minutes. All my other 10k runs off the bike had been around 54 odd minutes. This plan was working but I decided not to look at my watch. I didn’t feel like I was running well yet I was doing the best I could and decided I had to be happy with that. If I looked at my watch and was disappointed with my pace that could get in my head so I just ran with my heart. In hindsight I wished I’d looked as my final time was 50.17. While I had personal PBs on each of the legs I’ll be honest I wanted better than 12th in my Age Group but still that’s 14 precious points toward my goal. I remembered Nathan saying to me in the past “Control what you can and the rest will be as it will be”. I can’t control who turns up to race! I knew the field would be tough. I can only control my efforts and I’m stoked to have gone 2.47. I’d only ever gone under 3 hrs twice in the past and never under 2.55. That time in my Age Group on other races I’ve done would’ve gotten me on the podium so I’m proud of myself. This race has really highlighted to me my weaknesses and I realise if I want to improve and give myself a genuine chance at Worlds I have to face some real fears – If I can’t beat fear I have to do it scared! There’s no other option. My next biggish race is on 29 October at Nepean while not a qualifying race it’s a race where I plan to ride aero for most if not all of the race and to run a sub 50 -10km
Thanks for reading