This race almost didn’t happen. A brutal headcold strangled me the day before the race. I simply couldn’t race. I went to bed early and miserable, knowing I was going to have to pull out of my only A race for the season. I was a little unhappy!
24 hours later I was blowing my clogged up nose, and wondering how on earth I pulled off a seven minute PB, slashing my best Olympic-distance time down to 2:11!?!
Byron Bay has always been kind to PBs – the course is short – a 1.5km swim, a 36km bike and a 9.5km run. This year, the ocean swim was once again challenging, and maybe a couple of minutes slower than a sheltered canal, but the bike being 4km short gifted me 6-7 mins, and the short run, another 2 mins.
At Byron last year I lamented that the short course gave me a PB when I didn’t deserve it. My proposed solution was to do the same course, year after year, then the results are comparable. Last year I did 2:18. This year I did 2:11. I gave that PB a right royal pasting!
Yet I almost didn’t race at all.
I awoke race morning still tortured by man-flu. (The wife reckons I exaggerate my symptoms! Outrageous! I’m suffering, I tell you, suffering!). I figured that I’d take one child south and go watch the race, because there is no way a father of four is allowed to wallow in his sick bed! May as well take my bike and race gear, just in case…
Before I know it, I’ve picked up my race pack, put my stickers on, and the bike is in transition. I may as well race seeing as I’ve come all this way…
My only concern was that I’d push myself too hard while sick, and do some damage. I needn’t have worried – it turned out that I simply couldn’t.
Swim – 28:41 – 28th in age group (last year 32:50 – 58th in age group)
Just like last year, the ocean looked pretty flat, with a few gentle rollers. And just like last year it was a bash and crash, up wave, down trough, salt-water gargle to the first buoy. Then an undulating meander parallel to the beach, before blasting back to shore with the surf behind us. Drafting was nigh impossible as the currents swept people left and right. I started slowly, cautiously, uncertain how the headcold would affect my ability to breathe. I looked around before diving under the first wave and there was no-one behind me – I was in last place with 100 from my age group in front! I took it easy the first 3/4 and then went all out as we turned the last buoy for home. I hit the shore with my heart in my ears and a pleasing time on the clock. It turned out I had passed 73 of those 100 people in the swim (which is remarkable because I am a crap swimmer)!!
T1 – 1:57
I couldn’t get my wetsuit off, could I? I was the idiot hopping around with the stupid thing knotted around my legs. This is one of those times when it pays to stay calm and deliberate – once you get the wetsuit bunched up, it’s near impossible to get over your heel!
Bike – 58:03 – 12th in age group (last year 1:03:49 – 42nd in age group)
I’m a bit disappointed in my bike. The time is OK, but it wasn’t the ride I’d been planning. As the year progressed and my riding got stronger, I’d worked out that I should be able to hold 260-270W; I ended up only holding 242W. The course is hilly with a few intersections early on, so there are surges that push your heart-rate up. In hindsight, I never quite recovered from the swim, and it wasn’t until I got my heart-rate down, after 15 mins, that I was able to settle into a steady pace on the aerobars.
But then, 5 mins later, I got a repeat of the stabbing stitch I’d felt at Luke Harrop two weeks ago. The pain was right in my stomach, where it gets squashed up while I’m bent over the aero bars. I had to ease right off and sit up. I watched people move ahead. Oh well, nice day for a ride! It was almost 15 mins before I could start racing again, and by then the ride was more than half over.
On the upside, I was able to finish very strongly and gain quite a few places back. But I need to get that bike stitch under control. I’ve never had it in training. I think I need to practice some hard aerobar rides, particularly after a hard swim!
T2 – 1:36
Run – 40:58 – 11th in age group (last year 41:36 – 9th in age group)
After a 3km TT last week at 3:39min/km, I thought I’d be able to start the run steady at 4:10-4:15 pace, and then close faster in the second half. Within a kilometre, that plan was out the window as my chest tightened and I struggled to suck in enough air. My legs were bounding along quite happily – surging freely to pass people – but upstairs I was suffocating and unable to hold the pace. It slowly dropped off. By the third of four laps I was down to 4:30min/km and inevitably another side-stitch set in. For the last lap I was able to dig deep: it was my quickest, but I was a long, LONG time in the recovery tent, trying to get my breath back!
Final Time – 2:11:17 – 10th place in age group (last year 2:18:16 – 26th in age group)
I’m elated with a 2:11! Even though the course was short, I performed far above my expectations. I know that, if I can get to the start line healthy, there’s a few more minutes I can whittle off. And the best thing about not being able to flog the run? The next day my legs felt fine and I was out playing soccer in the park with the kids!
Well, that’s the end of my triathlon plans for the season. My focus now switches over to running, with the Gold Coast Half Marathon in 8 weeks and the lure of some trail runs after that. I feel that I haven’t been able to take advantage of my good bike form. Maybe another triathlon is on the cards? Port Macquarie 70.3 late October is interesting.
But what more can you say about Byron Bay?! Yet again it turned on a gorgeous day for a race. The kids played in the park, climbed trees, and cheered us as we ran past. Then we all went down the beach for a post race swim and bodysurf.
Is there a better race around?