My first race was the Eve's Realty Surfbreaker Triathlon at Mount Maunganui. It went pretty smoothly until the last 400 metres, which was pretty much like running into a pit of tar. Or soft sand, as was actually the case. It's not like they didn't warn me, but it still sucked! I'm not, as previously mentioned exhaustively, one of those rational athletes that "focuses on what I can control". These are the Sam Warriner types, you know, the ones on the Olympic team. To be fair, everyone else in the race had to run on the sand too, but I ignored this fact and felt sorry for myself as I shuffled across the beach to the finish line.
I'm always amazed at my mother's reaction when I finish races. I did my first triathlon at fourteen, so you would think by twenty-one, it wouldn't be a big deal every time I race. But for my mum, it is. She met me at the finish, with a huge grin on her face and a hug. I was too busy bitching about the sand to think about it at the time, but it kind of makes me wonder when I finish mid-pack in a race I spend most of my spare time preparing for and I get a hug, why she wasn't more thrilled when I made the Olympic swim team? Whatever.
Anyway, I went on to compete at the Whangamata Olympic distance triathlon about ten days later, and nearly died in the process. I was second out of the swim, which resulted in a confused silence from the commentators until they found my name on the list of competitors. Being a rubbish cyclist at the time, I went from second to second-to-last over the next 40 kilometres. It felt akin to climbing a cliff, and I now know that this particular route is used by guys training for Ironman. So you can imagine that by the time I hit the run leg, I was pretty well running on empty. Not a great feeling when you've still got 10k to go.
The Whangamata bike profile: uh-oh.
During the run, some sort of miracle occurred and I passed a few guys. Girls too, but it was the guys in their fancy one-piece Orca and 2XU suits that really did it for me. I can't say that running past Caleb and his friends, stretched out on deck chairs in the front yard of his beach house, enjoying beers and the view, was the most heartening experience that day, but it made me smile enough to not want to kill them all.
So I finished "back-pack" at Whanga. It was made better by Jordan, who met me at the finish line with a V and a banana. "You've never looked more disgusting." Awesome. I drove home later that day, after swimming at the beach for a few more hours. I sometimes look back and wonder where all the energy came from.
Later, when I looked at the race results, I saw that I'd recorded an almost 6-minute PB in the run. Kinda freakish, when you consider that my previous time was set after four months of run training at the Christchurch Marathon in 2005. I shrugged, and moved onto my next challenge.
Over anniversary weekend in January, the Rotorua Association of Triathletes holds the legendary (in my mind, anyway) Blue Lake Race Weekend, or something similar. It starts with the reverse aquathon (run around Blue Lake, then swim 800m in it), followed that afternoon by the Hinemoa swim - 2km across the lake. The next morning is the triathlon. In my mind, Blue Lake is the greatest place on earth, so of course I was there, raring to go at the start of the aquathon.
Usually, my race strategy is as follows:
1. Win the swim
2. Pass everyone on the bike
3. Sprint the run, and pass everyone else
Simple, right? Except that this race was a reverse aquathon, which means I had to win the run, and then pass everyone on the swim to win. Could be interesting...
I had a shocker of a run, entering the swim eight MINUTES behind the last person. Luckily for me, my swimming background came in handy (hello, former 800m freestyler!), and I passed 13 people on the first 400m lap. On the next lap I passed another 6, so I moved from last into like, fourth or something.
Rather than conserving my energy for the Hinemoa swim that afternoon, I went mountain biking for three hours, had a quick nap, then headed back to the lake for the next race. It still rates amongst the hardest I've ever done, simply because for about 200m, 500m from the end, I'm fairly sure I didn't move at all. The people on the beach looked like dots, and surely I was coming last. Pretty embarrassing.
I didn't win, which I was pretty disappointed about because I wanted that giant Hinemoa trophy, but I think I was about 8th overall. I quietly convinced myself that next year, I was winning.
Early the next morning, I headed back to the Lake for the triathlon. I wasn't winning the "Queen of the Lake" trophy, but I figured that if I won this race, I might. No such luck. As usual, I was in the top three girls out of the swim, then fell right off the wagon in the bike. I moved up a few places in the run, but overall I was less than ecstatic about my weekend. I licked my wounds and went mountain biking again. My mum was nowhere to be seen for a hug.
A few weeks later I hit up the New Zealand Sprint Triathlon at Kinloch. Now, Kinloch isn't exactly purpose-built for triathlon. It's about the worst bike course in the country, chopping and changing directions like there's no tomorrow. I struggled after having a choking episode in the swim, but found my legs on the run to finish 8th. It was at this race where I caught up with Steph and we had the now infamous XTERRA discussion.
Between Kinloch and XTERRA, there was the Gold Coast Triathlon (9th out of 734 in the swim, a reasonable bike and shocker of a run, but I met the incredibly good-looking Tom Shao along a stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway which made the scenery even more enjoyable), which was also attended by my mum - yay for hugs! I also got hauled out of the Wellington harbour by concerned lifeguards at the New Zealand Standard Triathlon when I turned a shade of blue in the first 400m, sans wetsuit. What a waste of a weekend that was! I made up for it by having a scorcher of a bike ride and reasonable run at the Bayfair triathlon the following weekend (no mum, but I got hugs from Kirby, Briar AND their mum).
The weekend before XTERRA, I went to New Plymouth to compete at the race they hold the day before the World Cup. This was a disaster from the start. I spent the swim jostling for position and throwing up my breakfast (mmm....), and then the bike struggling with cramps and further expelling of breakfast, before I skidded into a ditch and got brought back to the finish in the St Johns van. Nice. No hug from mum this time. I did take solace in watching Javier Gomez record a sub-30 minute 10k the following day when he won the World Cup. Maybe he'll marry me.
After New Plymouth, I wasn't exactly brimming with confidence going into XTERRA. Out of the last three standard/Olympic distance races, I'd finished one, and if anything, my fitness seemed to be waning. Still, I went down there with the aim of having fun, and thinking maybe I could get a medal.
I had a reasonable swim, exiting the water more than a minute in front of the eventual Pro winner, Sonia Foote. Not that I knew this at the time, because I'm pretty sure by the time I was 200m up the road in the bike, she was back in front. As has been previously mentioned, I struggled with the bike at XTERRA, and I had one sweet bail which banged up my shin so badly I wondered if I would able to walk, let alone run on it.
As it happened, I had nothing to worry about, and once I was out of transition I sprinted deftly over the rocks and onto the beach for a 2-lap race around Blue Lake. I passed 21 people, and recorded the fastest run split in my age group (52:50). No worries! I only placed 11th, but given that my goal (for once) was to have fun, I was pretty happy.
That was my final event for the season, and I think my legs were pretty grateful.
This year is shaping up to be considerably quieter. I struggle to make rent and buy enough food, so race entry fees have been bumped down on the list of priorities.
Originally, my calendar looked a little something like this:
18-Nov: Takapuna Beach Series
25-Nov: Takapuna Beach Series
2-Dec: Takapuna Beach Series
6-Dec: XTERRA Trail Challenge
7-Dec: Race Karapiro
10-Dec: Stroke & Stride
14-Dec: People's Triathlon
16-Dec: Takapuna Beach Series
27-Dec: Eve's Realty Surfbreaker Triathlon
20-Jan: Takapuna Beach Series
22-Jan: Stroke & Stride
27-Jan: Takapuna Beach Series
1-Feb: Sub Ride & Stride
3-Feb: Takapuna Beach Series
8-Feb: New Zealand Sprint Triathlon
10-Feb: Takapuna Beach Series (go for the big win on my birthday)
17-Feb: Takapuna Beach Series
21-Feb: Sub Ride & Stride
3-Mar: Takapuna Beach Series
10-Mar: Stroke & Stride
15-Mar: People's Triathlon
17-Mar: Takapuna Beach Series
25-Mar: Stroke & Stride
Yeah, so it looks packed, but the Beach Series is a weekly thing, and it's only one discipline - swim or run. Anyway, point is - it's now December 5 and the only race I've done so far is Race Karapiro on November 9, where I was third. To be honest, even XTERRA is looking like a push, and that's just breaking my heart. Especially because I am just going to dismantle that bike course next time I ride it. Monique Avery had better watch out.
I'm so poor! Potential sponsors: please contact me if you would like to fund my season this year.