Race report – Victor Harbor Triathlons 2018

Last November I completed my first triathlon. You can read all about it here.

I really enjoyed it and I had intended to do more, but all of the triathlons I had my eye on, clashed with other running events. So all of a sudden it was March, the season was nearly over, and it was time for the Victor Harbor Triathlon. It kind of snuck up on me. I knew it was coming, but I always thought I had more time than I actually did! Consequently I didn’t do all the training I had planned to do. (You know, all those good intentions and all that!) I had INTENDED to do a lot more swimming, especially open water swimming, but I really don’t enjoy swimming so I didn’t do anywhere near as much as I had hoped. And other than doing the Grand Slam bike ride 2 weeks ago, I hadn’t done a proper bike ride since Christmas Eve! I was pretty OK with the run leg but as for the other 2 – who knew what would happen?

Victor Harbor Triathlons is the biggest triathlon event in South Australia. It’s been going for 24 years so they must be doing something right! And there really is something for everyone!

There were 4 different triathlon distances on offer this year:

  • Standard/Olympic distance (the Big One!) – 1500m swim/40km bike/10km run
  • Sprint distance (first time this year!) – 750m swim/20km bike/5km run
  • Short course – 150m swim/8km bike/1.5km run
  • Mini (events for both adults and kids) – 50m swim/2km bike/400m run

As well as this, there were 5km and 10km fun runs.

So you see, really something for everyone!

I had opted for the Sprint distance. The Olympic was a bit out of reach for me, in particular the swim – I’d done a ‘Come and Try’ team sprint triathlon on New Year’s Eve last year, and I had done the swim leg, and found 750m incredibly long! So I didn’t think doing double that would end particularly well! The short and mini distances were too short for me (having already done a Tinman, 300m swim/19.5km bike/3km run) and I would likely spend more time in transition than in the bike and run! The Sprint distance was a good challenge while still being achievable.

I had purchased a wetsuit. A Sprint swim was long enough to wear a wetsuit, the time gained and reduced effort expended during the swim would more than make up for the time lost in transition taking it off. I wasn’t sure about the wetsuit, having only tried it once and ended up with chafing on the back of my neck that took a few weeks to go away completely! I’d never practised taking it off in a hurry. I did decide to take it with me, and decide at the last minute whether or not to wear it (unless, of course, the water was too warm for wetsuits to be allowed, in which case the decision would be made for me!)

The wetsuit on its first outing, a few weeks ago!

Prepping my gear was relatively easy. Triathlons do require quite a lot of gear, but luckily for me I pretty much only have one of all the essential gear (trisuit, wetsuit, bike, helmet, bike shoes, tri run shoes, etc) so I didn’t have to decide what outfit to wear!

I had a list. Lists are always good. You cross things off the list as you pack them, and then when you walk out the door you know you have everything sorted.

Except I didn’t, because I realised, thankfully not too far down the road, that I hadn’t put my orthotics in my running shoes – they were still in the shoes I’d run parkrun in the previous day. I had NEVER run without orthotics. It may have been ‘only’ 5km but I didn’t intend to try it for the first time in a race! (Orthotics were NOT on the list. Must remember to add them to the list next time!) Quick U-bolt and I was back home to grab them and hit the road again.

After forgetting where I was going and heading towards the freeway, I corrected myself and ended up making it to Victor in plenty of time for the 9am briefing (our event didn’t start until 10:15). I had my breakfast along the way in Mount Compass – if I’d had it before I left home I would have been STARVING by the time we started!

I saw Karen (who was also doing the Sprint) and Daryl drive up so we all walked up to the bike compound together. We went to the end of the rack, thinking that would probably make our bikes easier to find – it’s amazing how easily you forget where you’ve put your bike!

After collecting my race number and getting inked (my race number on my arm and my age group on my leg) I decided to go with the wetsuit, after the announcement had been made at the briefing that wetsuits WOULD be allowed, except for the Open competitors (we had the option of entering as an Age Group competitor or an Open competitor, the latter group being mostly the elite athletes, this event being a qualifier for the Australian Championships). I put the wetsuit half on, and slathered the back of my neck in Sudocrem to prevent chafing.

We ran into Ros, who has done quite a lot of triathlons now (as has Karen) and who did her first Tinman the same day Karen and I both did our first ever triathlon. She was also doing the Sprint. I didn’t know many other people in the triathlon, but regular running/walking/swimming buddy Neil was doing the Olympic distance.

We headed down to the water to watch the Olympic swim leg start, as we waited for our group to be called. After the last wave of the Olympic distance had been sent off, the Sprint competitors were able to get into the water. Unlike the previous tri that I’d done, the start was in the water. I quite liked that. It meant that we could get in and acclimatise to the water, and we could stay in until we were called, rather than have to get out and then get back in again! I was glad to have the wetsuit, I imagine it would have been quite cold at the start without it!

The very picturesque (and mercifully jellyfish-free) swim location!

I positioned myself about mid-pack, because I know swimming is not my strong suit, and I didn’t particularly want to have people swimming over the top of me, but I also didn’t want to swim any further than necessary, and realised that if I’d been right at the back of the pack it would mean I’d have to swim further!

The gun went off, I pressed ‘Start’ on my Garmin (set up in Multisport mode, which I’d failed to make work in my last triathlon) and we were away, it definitely felt easier with the wetsuit on. Before too long I was surrounded by people doing breaststroke. This was completely legit, but breaststrokers take up more space than freestylers, and if you’ve got one on either side of you as I did, you’re bound to get kicked! I quickly moved over to the side to get away from them! It was an overcast day, so my ultra dark tinted goggles were probably not the best choice, but the only pair of working goggles I have!

Weirdly enough, towards the end, I was actually overtaking some people! Probably because I was (not intentionally) conserving energy in the early part of the swim!

The last bit seemed to go on forever, I could see the shore, and it seemed to take a really long time before my hand touched the bottom, signifying that it was time to get up and run. And because I don’t really kick, and with the wetsuit on there is even less need to kick, I was surprised at how jelly-like my legs were! I even nearly tripped over someone who was still swimming!

I exited the water, pressed ‘Lap’ on my Garmin and started peeling off the top part of the wetsuit. I looked at my Garmin and realised that it hadn’t started – I needed to press ‘Start’ TWICE! I must remember that next time! (Note to self – re-read this post before my next triathlon!) Effectively this meant my Garmin was of no use to me in this event, so I ditched it at transition. (I later found out that my swim was a touch under 15 minutes – about 2 minutes quicker than when I swam the same course in the ‘Come and Try’ event.)

We had to run quite a long way to get from the water to the bike. That partially explains why my transition took 3.5 minutes. Also, taking off the wetsuit takes time, although it was easier and quicker than I had thought it might be.

As I left transition with my bike, Ros was on her way in. She would likely be quicker in transition than me, because she had opted not to wear a wetsuit. She also doesn’t use bike shoes, so her T2 would probably be quicker too (no need to change shoes, just swap from helmet to hat and away she goes!)

I mounted the bike, quickly got clipped in and started pedalling. The bike leg was an out and back, and Karen and Daryl (who had both ridden it during the ‘Come and Try’ event) had warned me that it was hilly. However, I’d done the Grand Slam bike ride 2 weeks earlier which apparently was way hillier than this course, so I was pretty confident I could make it without having to do the ‘walk of shame’!

Smiling because I was nearly done! And this is as close as I was willing to get to waving for the camera – I’m still at the stage where the 2 hands need to remain firmly on the handlebars! Official photo courtesy of andysteven.photography

This was the first time I’d ridden on fully closed roads. It threw me a bit, because I’d constantly be thinking I heard a car behind me, which as it turned out was a particularly fast bike! I was overtaken a lot on the bike leg, I assume by Olympic competitors (because there wouldn’t have been too many Sprint competitors behind me after the swim!) but I did manage to overtake a few people myself which was pleasing! I had a bit of a play around with my gears, which I’m still getting used to, and at no point did I think I wasn’t going to be able to make it up a hill without walking! On the way out I even coasted downhill a bit, and then realised that if I was coasting down the hill, it would probably take a bit of effort to climb on the way back!

The elevation profile of the bike leg – looks totally like devil horns to me!

I got off the bike carefully just before the dismount line – I unclipped one foot on approach, moved to the side, completely stopped, got off and prepared to run into transition (bike shoes still on). Right in front of me, a couple of guys, doing the pro thing (you know, leaving the shoes in the pedals and essentially trying to get off the bike without stopping) had a pile up right in front of me, and I ran straight past them!

This was the easy transition – racked my bike, swapped shoes, swapped hats and off I went! I had a bit of a false start when I started running on the wrong side of the bunting, but one of the helpful volunteers pointed me in the right direction! Overall my transition was just under 2 minutes. Plenty of room for improvement!

Now for the easy bit! A nice 5km run – just another parkrun! There were a lot of turns in the course, which made me lose my bearings – I didn’t know whether we were heading towards or away from the finish line! I managed to overtake quite a lot of people, which I had sort of expected (the run leg naturally being my strongest!) and the heavy legs that generally come after getting off the bike, weren’t really an issue for me this time! Which was great because among all the things I hadn’t practised, I hadn’t done a ‘brick’ session since, well, the triathlon in November!

The run course!

Most of the run was, like the bike leg, on closed roads. However there was one road that was unable to be closed, so we were instructed in no uncertain terms to run on the grass, and if we were caught running on the road, we would be given a time penalty of 3 minutes (we’d have to stand in the ‘naughty corner’!) There were technical officials out on the course (again, being a national championships qualifier, everything had to be done by the book) so it would have been silly to try!

I saw a few familiar faces along the way, Julie and Chris (parkrunners and Adelaide Harriers) and also Grette, who had done both the 5k AND 10k fun runs and whose kids were doing the Mini triathlon! There was a lot of support along the course from locals and other visitors, and I even managed to get 2 high fives from a couple of kids!

As I didn’t have my Garmin, I was pleased to see kilometre markers on the run course. Even so, after the 4km mark, that last kilometre seemed to go on forever (especially with all those turns!) and I was kind of surprised when I saw the finish line! Luckily there were no women close behind me and I couldn’t see any ahead of me, so I didn’t need to attempt a sprint finish (I later saw a few epic battles at the finish line!) I ended up completing the run leg in 23:02, amazingly enough it was faster than the previous day’s parkrun, although it felt a lot slower!

Pic taken by Daryl near the finish line!

My overall time was 1:35:11 which was 24th out of 42 females and 4th out of 6 in my age group. It seemed like this was a more competitive field than the Gatti Tinman tri that I had previously done – as I had placed relatively higher in that one. But still I was very happy with how I went in all the legs and transitions, considering I had forgotten to train for it! My best leg was unsurprisingly the run (6th female) and I’d also done relatively well in both transitions (21st and 20th respectively).

Not far behind me was Ros, followed shortly by Karen. We’d all finished our first Sprint (by far the longest triathlon any of us had ever done) and were very happy about it!

Karen, Ros and me at the coffee shop! Proper triathletes!

After packing all our gear into the car, and grabbing a coffee across the road, we headed back to the presentation area where there were also a variety of marquees selling triathlon-related gear (we may have done a little bit of shopping!)

After the presentation there was a lucky prize draw – some EXCELLENT prizes in there but alas I didn’t win anything! Ah well – gotta be in it to win it!

I really enjoyed this event, the community really seems to embrace it and there was a fantastic turnout! Thanks to all of the organisers and volunteers and well done to all who participated! I would definitely do this again! MAYBE even the Olympic distance one day!