Hamilton Island Sprint Triathlon
It is hard to sit down and write this race report as I reminisce the past week I had in Paradise. In the lead up to Hamo Nathan had messaged me asking of I was ready to race. I recall Nate texting me saying it was the hardest race he had ever done – I was secretly nervous as hell at this point, as Nate is Pro and I’m just your average racer. I packed up my bike and headed off to the airport on Thursday and as staying on the island until the following Thursday. This race had been 7 months in the making. We booked the races back in April and the time had finally arrived to leave for the Island. The last time I had been to the island was when I was about 13. My family and I sailed around the Whitsunday but I vaguely remembered it. I was excited about what was ahead. The weekend had 2 events with a sprint distance triathlon over one of the most demanding courses in the world on the Saturday, Sunday followed with an ocean swim on Whitehaven beach. Landing on the island was like walking from reality to a postcard, the view from the runway was breathtaking.
The triathlon is a sprint distance non-drafting race with a 750m swim in Catseye Bay, a 20km cycle around the southern part of Hamilton Island encompassing the airport runway and a 5km hilly and part trail run around the marina and resort sides of Hamilton Island. It is one of the hardest course's I have ever competed on and by far, the BEST race I have ever completed. It was a stagger start with the female first, followed by teams 2 min after then the males shortly after that. The women finally got to race first with a 4 minute head start over the males. It was lovely to be out on course first for a change. There was no option to wear a wetsuit. The water was too warm. I didn’t mind as I prefer not to wear one. It was surreal to be on the start line racing equally with the female pro’s – kind of scary at the same time as they are so tiny and fast. I was lined up just behind Emma Jeffcoat, Charlotte McShane and Natalie Van Coevoeden and a few others – it was awesome.
The gun went off and we were on our way. By the first turning buoy I was sitting on the back of the pack that had the pro girls in it. I hung on. It was quite tough as the wind was up making the water quite choppy. After the first turning buoy, it is a straight-line swim along the beach. I jumped out of the water with 2 other girl’s seconds in front putting me 5th in my age group out of the water. I felt good as I ran up to my bike in transition. As I arrived at my bike, I looked up to see Susie O’Neil standing opposite my bike, she had beaten all of us out of the water even after an extra 2 min head start as she was the swimmer for a team. Susie O’Neil has always been a swimming idol of mine so it was super awesome to have her cheer me on as I prepared for the next leg on the bike. I jumped on the bike with my club mates all behind me. I knew the boys would be fast so I had to make up time on the bike so they couldn’t catch me – I’m sooooo not competitive at all!!
I lead up the hills and down the other side onto the runway still ahead of the team. It was a strange sensation pulling onto the runways as it was so wide and long it looked like it was curved. It was very exposed and windy and it felt like I was going nowhere. The headwinds were about 60km/h +. At each end of the runway to make it easier to see they had buggies as turning markers. Out of the airport was a mean hill which felt like it was almost as long as the runway, I’m pretty sure my heartrate hit 193bpm by the top – it hurt! With a slight break halfway up, it then climbs again before descending down a technical hill onto the start of the bike lap. The hill is so steep they have crashmats at the bottom just in case anyone lost control – there were a few apparently. We had 3 laps to complete and I was feeling great. I was pushing myself hard to see what I was capable of with the hard training under my belt as I had been training for the ITU Multisport World Championships which was in August. Along the runway into the headwind for the second time I was feeling great. Really enjoying myself and the challenging course. By the third lap, a hail storm managed to roll in very quickly. Just as I was heading into the headwind on the tarmac, the storm hit. Of all places to be, I was in the open and head on. The wind was so strong I think I was peddling at about 15km/h and going no where. The hail felt like someone was throwing gravel at me as hard as they could. It was hard to keep the bike upright but there was no way I was stopping. The last lasp I slowed right down as the roads were too slippery and not worh crashing. A few girls had overtaken me but that was ok. By the time I reached the final buggy at the turn around, the tail wind was sensational sitting at about 45km/h (only for out 800m) but barely needed to peddle. It was a great relief and quick rest before tackling aviation hill for the final time. I just kept my head down and pushed as hard as I could. At T2 I was 9th place when jumping off the bike.
I racked my bike and wanted to run out hard and try and hold on. It was a slight downhill on the way out so the legs felt strong until I hit the first hill. I then felt like I was in a much longer race with the fatigue in the legs. I pushed up the first hill, heart rate was high again but the support was great. Being one of the first few on course, I felt like pro as I’m usually one of the last, forgotten ones on the run. About 20m into the run one of my team mates past me – he is a gun runner so that was expected. I was pretty pleased with myself at this stage. At about 200m into the run I saw 2 of my mate who were support crew for the weekend – I literally jumped into the air mid run with a smile from ear to ear. I was on such a high and feeling fast, yes you heard me FAST as my running has come a long way. So I was ecstatic to be feeling so comfortable and ahead on the run.
It was a stunning backdrop the entire race and the run was great with a mixture of road, dirt, boardwalks and gravel. The water stations had a competition going on with each other as to who could create the best atmosphere which made things very exciting. For me it was seeing Nemo and Dory at the top of the roundabout at about 1.5km into the run – they were an awesome cheer squad! After running out to the yacht club turn-around you have to run back to the finish up a very long steep climb before descending a dirt trail onto the soft sand for the finish. It was one of the hardest hills I have ever run up and I'm pretty sure I walked half of it and was chatting away to a guy who was completed pooped by that stage. Together we hit the top where we were greeted with the last water station to find girls in wedding dresses as it was the hill with the Church on it. At this point, I knew it was the finish and all downhill. I was excited. Little did I know that that downhill was a gravel path which then turned into stairs before hitting the bottom near the swim up pool bar – I was tempted to get a cocktail that’s for sure.
I was able to relax knowing I had a good gap on my other 5 team mates and enjoyed the run along the beach. I beat the boys; this never happens with a run is involved. I nearly fell over stepping onto the soft sand but it was nice to see the finish arch. By the time I crossed the finish line I was knackered. I remember Reidy who was commentating, trying to speak to me with the microphone in my face and all I could say was “ï’m going to spew” so embarrassing – but luckily I didn’t!
It is a race I would recommend for anyone looking for an iconic race location and prepared to accept a very challenging course. I love a race that is harder than normal. I love the challenge and love how the mind can accept anything and how far you can push your body – it’s doesn’t have to be an IRONMAN – a simply sprint distance tri will give the same effect. By far, Hamilton Island Tri is the BEST race I have ever done!
The ocean swim race on the Sunday was a 2km race along Whitehaven beach. It was a magical setting for a swim and I managed to grab a 5th place, pretty happy with that as the day (and night before) was epic not to mentioned the winds and serious chop we had in this swim as well. It was a great experience and I will be back to race again in no time.