Newcastle Olympic Triathlon
Swim: 1500m out and back swim along the wharves
Bike: 40 km 5-lap loop around Newcastle including a climb through King Edward Park
Run: 10 km 4-lap out and back along the esplanade
The Newcastle Sparke-Helmore triathlon was my first Olympic-distance race in nearly a year, and only my third ever. This season has been all about the build into my first half-Ironman (only two weeks away!) with all the other races mainly serving as checkpoints along the way. I’ve ended up with some challenging ones this year, and Newcastle was no exception. A state championship race on a technical and hilly course coupled with some exhausting travel in the days leading up to the race and a last-minute surprise of no instructions from Coach meant I had my work cut out for me.
The day dawned with perfect race conditions. The swim was a deepwater start with all the women in one wave, two minutes after the men’s wave. For once I had a pretty good start, found some feet and felt strong despite swimming against the current. That lasted for about two minutes as we quickly hit the back of the men’s wave. The next 20+ minutes felt more like obstacle course racing than open water swimming, dodging men left, right and centre (some of whom seemed to be perturbed to be passed by a pink cap and briefly gassed themselves to stay in my way for longer…). Not an ideal swim, but still a pretty decent pace for me.
After the world’s longest transition on sidewalks that were clearly not designed for bare feet, it was off on the bike. Biking is never my strong suit, and this course presented extra challenges with a decent climb and some fairly technical descents. The first lap was a bit nerve-wracking, but with each lap I built a bit more comfort and confidence with the course. The views were fantastic, and the technical, multi-lap format made me feel like I was racing in an ITU World Cup.
I came off the bike feeling good – the downhills had provided some recovery and except on the climbs I hadn’t pushed too hard. That meant I was in great shape for the run. My original plan was to run the first 5k at a comfortable 5:00 pace then build the second 5k. But I was feeling good enough that when I hit the 1k mark at 4:50, I decided to just try to hold it (bearing in mind my previous PB for a 10K off the bike was a 4:55 pace). It felt surprisingly comfortable for the first 5k, then got harder and harder. I kept pushing anyway, determined to build at least the last 2.5k lap. In the end, I managed an average pace of 4:48 – not only my Olympic run PB, but faster than I’ve run for all but one sprint race.
Although my overall time was nothing spectacular, I was really happy with how I performed and how in control I felt for most of the race. I enjoyed the challenges of the course and the ability to test myself. Still plenty of room to grow, but also feeling confident going into the really big challenge coming up next – bring on Taupo 70.3!