Surprise, surprise! A Mooloolaba PB by 6 mins, and an Olympic-distance PB (excluding the super-short 2011 Byron Bay tri) by 9 seconds!
I went into the race with good bike fitness, but my swim had been hampered by an ankle injury, which had also stopped me running for a month. I was expecting to walk the run. The only reason I even raced was because I was sick of pulling out due to injuries – I just wanted to race again! I’d been holding off racing until I was injury-free and in good form, but as the months passed, I started wondering “Maybe I’m just scared of racing?”.
So I raced, injury and all. And I raced well!
You’ve gotta love these open water swims. You spend all your training time in a serene, flat, safe pool, and suddenly you’re out past the breakers, in a choppy, bumpy swell, with sharks all around and safe, dry land too far away. I finally understood what people are talking about when they say surf swimmers have fast short, strokes – several times waves caught my recovering arm and stalled my stroke. I went steady but not hard because I couldn’t really kick with my ankle injury. I tried to do the fish thing and swim with the school, but after the first buoy the packs were gone and the chop/swell meant people were navigating erratically and hard to follow.
Coming back in, I caught a great wave which carried me right up onto the sand. Loving it! I came out feeling fresh, like I’d had a great warm-up! I looked down, saw 28 – happy with that!
The plan today was to kill the bike. I’ve never really gone hard on the bike in a race, always saving some for the run. Today I was expecting I wouldn’t be able to run, so I wanted to push the bike HARD. On this course I’ve gone 1:22 in 2008, and 1:15 in 2009. My 2009 race plan had a target Heart Rate of 87-89%. This race I sat around 92% and anytime I saw an “8-something” on the Garmin, I tried to push a little harder.
On the way out to the turn around (which is downwind and partly downhill) I pushed hard. At one stage I was doing 63km/hr and ran out of gears – I couldn’t go any faster!
I had a very even power distribution over the out and back legs, but in hindsight I lost focus on the return leg and needed to push a little harder. I saw a few individuals drafting back into the headwind and I started thinking too much and trying to draft legally at 7m whilst avoiding these “trains”. In the end I lost focus on my own performance. I should have just set a power target, say 260W, and put my head down and tried to ride it, ignoring what was going on around me. Easier said than done!
Leaving transition, I looked down, saw 1:36 – happy with that!
Coming out of transition I hit the stop button on the Garmin, instead of the lap button. By the time I realised and restarted the watch, I’d lost a few minutes of the run so I had no idea of my run split, nor my race time. I do this a bit. That was one thing I really liked about the Polar 625X – you couldn’t miss the BIG RED lap button!
My first km was pretty slow and I noticed that, for the first time on a run, my quads were tight! Exciting. I was waiting for the ankle pain to start and, during the first few hundred meters, it felt like it was going to happen. But it never did! I aimed for a natural comfortable pace, aware that I hadn’t run in over a month. After 3km (of 10km) I glanced at my watch and saw 4:15 min/km – a pleasant surprise – I’d been expecting 5:00+ min/km.
The run course goes three times up (and down) a hill. The first two times were easy, but the last time I really appreciated seeing some family out there yelling me on!
But I had some other motivation. A friend and rival had started two waves behind me (about 8 mins), and is a faster biker than me. He’d be chasing me down! Traditionally we do about the same times: we both swim like crap, then he takes time out of me on the bike, and I take it back on the run.
Today I had my excuses ready. But as I was running along, and the pain started to work me over, I had a moment that I’m quite proud of: I didn’t succumb! I realised I’d be disappointed if I got beaten and then pulled out an excuse. I’d end up wondering what might’ve been, if only… There are no perfect days. Excuses are not reasons! I resolved that there’d be no wondering today, that I wasn’t going to ease off until my body quit! “Push on!”
I did the first 5km in 22:22, and closed the second 5km in 20:13 (the second 5km does have with one less uphill and one more downhill mind). Always love a negative split!
Interestingly, a couple of times I felt sharp pains in my ankle, right where my injury had been, and I was sure it was coming back. Then I’d realise it was the wrong leg!! It makes me wonder how much of this injury stuff is just mental?!
The highlight of the run were my sunnies blowing off my hat in the finishing chute. I had to stop, spin, and pick them up, without losing any places, or cramping. I got a great cheer from the crowd! I was expecting a finishing photo of my butt, but they got me smiling, sunnies safely in hand!
So, why didn’t my ‘injured’ ankle hurt?
This troubles me a little. Maybe it didn’t hurt because…
- it’s fixed! or
- I was wearing my old pair of Asics DS Trainers, the model that I’ve never had problems with, or
- I took two Panadols 10 mins before the run, or
- I was running fast, up on the balls of my feet, and therefore with better form than when I train (which is often a slow plod with more of a heel strike), or
- I was racing and blocked everything else out, or
- I was never injured at all – it was all just a figment of my imagination – a manifestation of my pre-race nerves!?!
I’ll never know!
Regardless, the Mooloolaba Tri is a fantastic weekend. You can combine your own race with watching the Mens and Women’s ITU race (which includes the Australian Championship) and, with Olympic selection coming up, it was an exciting race to watch! Erin Densham absolutely “Snowsilled” the women’s field – amazing to watch!