Monday, November 03, 2008

An imperfect race: Noosa Triathlon

My first Noosa Triathlon (and second ever Olympic distance) was plagued with mishaps. No catastrophes. It was still a good race, just lots of little things.

Saturday morning I woke up at 3:30am. I'm usually an early riser, but really even I like to be asleep at that time. I tried to get back to sleep, tried reading, nothing was working, I was too anxious about the race, so I got up. I read the competitor briefing, and realized I hadn't printed out my receipt with barcode (!). Ok, not a huge deal, there's a Mailboxes down the road that's supposed to open at 10am. I get myself packed up and ready to go. Check my triathlon shelf no less than 5 times to make sure I haven't forgotten anything (no to bike gloves, no to chamois cream, yes to sunscreen and heart rate monitors).

I get to the print shop at 10, and they're not open, in fact, they're not opening. They are closed on weekends. Bugger. New plan, have to go into work on the way to Noosa (which is, btw, in the wrong direction).

I take the train into the valley to pick up the car (no car rental place in my neighborhood), and they can't find my reservation. It seems I managed to book the car to pick up at the airport and return to the valley. Gah. But fear not, if I can wait 20 min, they can get a car for me there. Now in my head, I had sorta been thinking, I'd leave at 11, be upto Noosa by 1, easily make it to register before 4. But I don't get the car til 11:30, then I have to go home and load it up with my gear (thank god the bike fits it, it was a close squeeze). Then to work, and finally.... on the road.

When I get there, they scan my receipt and the bloody thing doesn't read, so they have to call over a tech to manually input me. Good thing I went to print it out, right. I take my bike over to transition, which is not at all near the registration tent. And I've forgotten my little ticket to get my goody bag, but I convinced the woman that I wouldn't take more than one. And in the end, I don't know that I even wanted that one, it's not a very nice shirt, and the hat is the same as the one from Mooloolaba only blue.

Fast forward to Sunday morning. I felt relaxed. My transition area was set up, and I was chilling with the team. In the Noosa race the elites go off first. They race the same course and have the same no-drafting rules. In many elite races drafting on the bike is legal, which means that so long as you're out of the water at roughly the same time as the rest, you can ride in a pack for the whole ride, then the race really comes down to foot speed on the run. Personally, I think this is less exciting, and I'm not allowed to draft, so I don't think the pros should either. We watched the pros start the swim and the bike. Emma Snowsill won the women's race in just under 2 hours. She's also the reigning Olympic champion and took hoome her 5th consecutive Noosa win. The woman is inspiring.

Back to my race. Open water start, and no wet suits. So we're all treading water and it's a long start line, so it's not too busy. The horn goes off and away we go. It's nice being so spread out cause we're not swimming on top of eachother. But that only lasts til about midway to the first buoy, which is a turn, and every one pushes to get the inside lane. From then on it seems it's difficult to find open water, I'm always swimming in between people, feeling other hands on my legs. The course is in the canals of Noosa, which makes it calm and protected. But it's not a straight out and back course, and it's hard to get a feel for where I am in the course. And, about halfway through I realize that I'd forgotten to start my watch at the gun. Crap. Ok, i'll start it coming out of the water, and that will give me cycle and run times at least.

I recently purchased tri cycling shoes. The differences with these are that they only have one strap, so their easier to put on and take off while you ride, and the straps open out, so they don't get stuck in the gears. I started with my shoes clipped into the pedals, so all I had to do was hop on the bike and get going, then put the shoes on as I rode. Unfortunately, when I hopped on, my left shoe got caught on the ground, unclipped and dropped off. I had to stop, go back, get my shoe, put it on, and then get started again. Frustrating to see so many people pass me as I was just trying to get on my bike.

But the ride itself was brilliant! I was down on my aero bars most of the time, which I'm getting pretty good at. I passed people on the way out and was riding pretty fast ~35-37K/hour with the tailwind. At the 10K mark, the course turns off onto a winding track through the woods. It's a gorgeous, long climb. The type that you ride in the saddle to conserve your legs. The turns are numbered with 14 to the top. I saw another BTS suit up ahead of me, but I wasn't sure who it was. Then I saw the hot pink bike. It was Tanya. She'd started in my heat on the swim, and I was closing ground on her. She's super fast, so I was excited. When I came level with her, she gave me a "well done, mate" which thrilled me and I pushed on. She passed me back coming down the hill, but we played tag for the rest of the ride, maintaining a Holden Comodore's distance between us when we weren't passing eachother to abide by the no drafting rule. At 6K to go or so, I passed her, and she didn't pass me back. I felt unstoppable. I was watching the clock as well. I had hoped to do my ride in under 1:20, which would mean better than 30K/hour. I came in at 1:18! Sweet!

I get my feet out of my shoes, dismount my bike and start to run it in. I'm trying to hit the button on my watch to get my split time, and I lose control of my bike and lose my balance. I face plant coming into transition. Lucky I still had my helmet on! I slammed my knee pretty badly, and my hands, but I'm ok. I get up, and start to run it back in, this time with both hands on the bike. As I enter transition, I start walking, my head is spinning from the adrenaline and I start hyperventilating. I see several volunteers eying me, but I won't ask for help, there's no way I'm dropping out of this race. I rack my bike, take a minute to get my breath back and get some more water, and I head out to the run course.

My knee is throbbing and swelling as I go, which in a way is a good thing, cause it takes away from any pain in my shin. The run feels like the longest 10K of my life. Turns out, it almost was. I spent 58 minutes on the run, which just narrowly beats the time on my first 10K, which holds the title for longest 10K at 59:03. I keep thinking I'm further along the course than I am, thinking I must have just not seen the 3K marker, then a minute later, seeing it still ahead of me. Mentally it was tough, cause I haven't done that distance, my brain kept saying, you just don't have this in you. And I think the adrenaline spike from the fall didn't help. I just felt wiped out, like I had nothing left to give, even after the gu. It was just put one foot ahead of the other and finish this thing. Finally at 8K, I started to put the doubts aside and move with confidence, but it was a long hard slog. And to top it all off, I forgot to stop my watch at the finish, so I didn't have a time for the run either.

In the end, I came in at 2:48:57. I beat my Mooloolaba time by 3 minutes, shaving 1minute off the swim, 7 minutes off the bike, and adding 5 minutes to the run. I feel confident, with more run training (still no shin pain after 2 days!), I can get those minutes back on the run. I will beat 2:45 at Mooloolaba this year!


Jon November 4, 2008 at 12:14 PM  

When I want to know what it's like to be a badass, I read blog entries like these.

Mike November 5, 2008 at 8:27 AM  

So just about everything that could reasonably go wrong went wrong, a little bit, and you still improved. Nice work!

Dave November 5, 2008 at 7:35 PM  

nice work, laura. good, good job.

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