1500m swim - beach start - seas choppy, rough conditions 40km - bike - 1 loop - pretty flat, switchbacks and 3k climb at 10km mark 10km - run - 1 loop - pretty flat course
"Where you finish isn't a reflection of who you are, what you've overcome to finish is"
My first race in nearly a year and first one at Noosa tested me in so many ways.
Standing on the beach waiting for my wave to start I was somewhat concerned at the amount of times I saw rescue boats bringing athletes back to shore due to the conditions. Prior to the race I'd felt the most relaxed I've ever felt going into a race but now the nerves started to rise along with the waves.
I recall standing looking out to the ocean and thinking no-one would ever in their right mind normally just run and dive into an ocean like the one that was before me but the mere fact that someone was standing there with a horn signifying race start somehow seemed to make it seem like the most natural thing to do.
The swim was so rough and choppy and I panicked initially - I did settle and got into a rhythm just as my goggles started to leak. I grabbed the kayak to fix them and by this stage I was off the pack and now alone. I turned back only to see the next wave (men 40-44) coming at me thick and fast - I was kicked and hit and at one point even grabbed either side of my hips and pulled under by someone while they swam over the top of me. Finally I exited the water secure in the knowledge that the rest of the day surely had to get better.
Out onto the bike and less than 500m out of transition I flatted. I changed that tyre reasonably well for a girl with a thousand eyes on her but In my haste to inflate with Co2 cannister, the nozzle on the tube snapped off, along with my nail. I carried 2 spare tubes luckily but I had to start all over again. This time not so well and still with a thousand eyes on me. My own eyes blinking back a tear.
Finally I'm away. All is good until 9k mark when I hear a metal noise. I look down and cannot believe I'm looking at yet another flat tyre. I only had the 2 tubes and now I needed a 3rd. I'm right near volunteers. Despite pleas for a tube all they can do is call my number in and tell me I'm out of the race.
The officials offered me a lift back into town - I declined - I walked my bike the 9km barefoot back to transition. I'd worn holes in my socks from the hot gravelly concrete and my feet were so sore by the time I returned but all of that was forgotten as I walked the bike along the home stretch and past the grandstand. The crowds cheered for me as loud I imagined as what they cheered for Ashley Gentle when she won the race some hours earlier. Cheers of encouragement, sympathy and support made me feel like I'd just won myself. Such a great atmosphere - I did let a tear fall at this moment and will remember it forever.
Out onto the run and temperatures were rising. As previously agreed w my coach Nathan, I set out to walk the 10km run due to an ongoing knee issue. This was particularly hard as all I wanted to do was run and I felt like I could run, especially after the shit bike and it was made all the more tougher with spectators urging me "come on Paula try a little jog, you can do it" or "you're looking strong Paula, keep moving forward, that's the way" - I felt so embarrassed and patronised but I kept my word and walked because I'd promised Nathan I would. I could feel a blister developing w every step and it almost became an internal challenge, almost like my own punishment, to see how big I could get it by the time I could take my shoe off to look - I was proud - it is the size of a 20c piece!
At the 8km mark my knee flared up anyway so I decided I would run the final hundred metres to the finish line and soaked up the moment.
I really wanted this race to be good for me just because it was being written in the first few pages of a new chapter in my life - Yeah I'm disappointed but I'm not beating myself up. I did everything in my power and control to finish. I kept going forward when everything was going against me and I'm proud of that. It's just shit luck. That's all. Plenty were pulled out of the ocean or ended up in ambulances so I'm grateful for my day. I'll be back next year
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