Race Report – Murray Man Triathlon 2018

In November last year I completed my first triathlon, managed to win my age group and that was enough for me to call myself a triathlete! However I now don’t like using the ‘T’ word because that would imply I actually know what I am doing out there.

Then in March this year I took it up a notch, completing the Sprint distance at the Victor Harbor Triathlons – the standard was noticeably harder, the course significantly more challenging (especially the bike leg) and I realised I still had a lot to learn!

I’m not sure exactly when I decided I was going to do the Murray Man triathlon but the plan was to do the long course, which is a 70.3 (1900m swim/90k bike/21.1k run). I’m now very glad I didn’t do that, I was definitely not ready for something quite that big, but the fact I was not ready was actually not the main reason I opted for the Half distance.

I had booked the Friday and Monday off, the race being on the Sunday. My original plan was to go to the nearby Renmark parkrun on the Saturday (hence driving up on the Friday!) and to stay Sunday night rather than driving 3 hours home after a 7 hour triathlon!

But then, the greatest band in the world (well in my opinion anyway), Def Leppard, announced an Australian tour, which amazingly WAS coming to Adelaide, and the concert happened to be on that very Sunday! So that changed everything – I ‘downgraded’ to the half distance and planned to drive back to Adelaide on Sunday afternoon. That would make sure I had a bit of energy left for that night!

The half distance was 950m swim/45km ride/10.5km run. I didn’t really know what sort of time to aim for. Conservatively I thought 30 mins for the swim, 2 hours for the ride and 1 hour for the run, so altogether I SHOULD be able to do it under 3 and a half hours.

This was the first triathlon I’d stayed away from home for (Victor I drove down on the day) so it required a bit more preparation. I had a list and I double and triple checked it. It was a long way to drive back if I forgot anything!

I took a bit of a detour to visit the Woolshed Brewery for a tasting, a cider on the deck and a few takeaways (wish I’d bought more!)

Hydrating done right!

Then I checked into the Barmera Country Club where I had a nice room overlooking the golf course and even a bed for my bike!

My roommate!

Given the lack of obvious vegan options for dining in Barmera (I checked my trusty HappyCow app and it said ‘there is nothing here’) I decided to go for a bit of a drive to find dinner. I ended up at the Golden Elephant Indian restaurant in nearby Berri. It laid claims to having the ‘world’s finest Indian cuisine’. How lucky was I, in little old Berri, stumbling across the best Indian food in the world? (FYI it was actually pretty good)

The rest of the evening was spent hanging out in the caravan park, which seemed to be the place to be for triathletes and their families – so many bikes! Perfect location too, within walking distance of the start/finish area and right on the edge of Lake Bonney. I must admit I am not a camper, so I would always go for a motel over a tent, but the Porteous clan (all 10 of them) had a pretty sweet setup and I did spend quite a bit of time there over the weekend!

Saturday morning I joined in a social ride on the Murray Man bike course, keen to get a look at the course and also try out my brand new Mekong bib knicks – I was yet to find a really comfortable pair of bike shorts!

The ride was mostly good – the course was pretty flat and nice bitumen road (although a bit bumpy in parts). I was at the back of the pack, but when I reached the T junction on the road the rest of them had stopped so I got off and promptly fell off the bike. It was a controlled fall though, I have done it many times before and I had my gloved hand ready to save myself. No damage done! I didn’t realise that they had only stopped to wait for me – if I’d realised that I would never have attempted a dismount! So then we got back on to head back to town, and I fell attempting to get ON the bike. I had been practising getting on and off the bike over and over during the week so I was pretty sure I had it under control. Evidently not. Ah well, isn’t there a saying, a crap rehearsal equals a great performance? I hoped so! (Shane later said he was thinking about getting his phone out after I fell off the first time, in case it happened again!)

We made it back without further incident, and then a few of us did a little run off the bike – also on the Murray Man course, which has a nasty little hill right at the start! Oh well, rather a hill at the start of a run than the start of a ride – or even worse, at the start of a swim!

Ben, Shane and me on our little run – all rocking the Mekong kit of course!

Back at the caravan park I surveyed the damage, it was a bit ugly because it was on bitumen, but once I cleaned it up a bit it didn’t look too bad.

Ben took this photo while I was cleaning the blood off, and then said he probably should have offered to help rather than take a photo!

Ben, along with wife Dai, are the people behind the Mekong brand. I was also wearing a Mekong tri suit on Sunday. After this, I jokingly asked Ben “Are you sure you want Mekong associated with this?” pointing to myself.

There was a ‘Come and Try’ triathlon happening at midday on Saturday, not just for kids but also for anyone who was new to triathlon. Not long after that, registration and bike racking would open. We had to rack our bikes on Saturday and leave them there overnight. This was another first for me. At least I didn’t have to worry about anyone stealing my bike – I mean it’s a nice bike and all, but compared to the other ones in there…

The ‘Come and Try’ was great to watch, I noticed quite a lot of people (kids, mostly) opted not to do the swim, and instead run along the sand. I was pretty sure that was not going to be an option for me!

I stood near the dismount area as they were coming into T2 because I was interested in watching how people got off bikes and didn’t fall off. One kid had training wheels – I’m sure at least one person pointed that out and suggested that might be helpful for me! Some of the kids had some pretty fancy dismount techniques – but I wasn’t going to try a fancy dismount for the first time on race day, that could only end in disaster! No, I would just take my time and ideally stay upright.

One thing I would never have thought of, because I’d never needed to do it before, was letting some air out of the tyres when racking the bike. Because, it gets pretty hot in Barmera, and if you have high pressure in your tyres, and the air in the tyres heats up – well you can imagine what can happen! I took the caps off and unscrewed the valves but nothing – clearly I have never let air out of my tyres before, well not on purpose anyway! (Turns out you have to push down on it to make the air come out! I’m learning a lot here!)

Bike racked – no turning back now! (Because it can get windy overnight, they recommend racking the bikes by the handlebars and not the seat as it is more stable – in the morning when we came back, we’d turn the bikes around)

For dinner, I was going to get pizza from a place in Glossop, between Barmera and Berri (partly because I like saying the name ‘Glossop’ – it rolls off the tongue nicely! ‘Cobdogla’ is another good one!) but Julie invited me to have (vegan) pasta back at the caravan park – an offer I gratefully accepted!

I got all my gear ready for the next day before heading over there. I remembered all my gear, but not a bag big enough to fit it all in. Turns out I need a triathlon bag now. Just when I thought I had everything I could possibly need!

That’s my gear all ready for Sunday. I am not joking!

Dinner was great, and I got a few last minute tips about nutrition from Ben, which kind of freaked me out a little bit because I hadn’t planned on having anything other than breakfast, and just Gatorade during the ride and run. I’ve never tried gels, and I have never been successfully able to get food out of the back pocket of my cycling jersey or trisuit while riding. I did put a couple of Clif bars into one of my bags, I might have half a one during transition and then shove it into my pocket in case I needed it on the run.

After dinner I went back to the motel and set 3 alarms for the morning as I always do on a race day! Transition closed at 7:15 (the long course race started at 7:30 and we started at 8) so I’d need to be there well before then. I slept with my timing strap firmly attached to my ankle so I couldn’t possibly forget it!

One of my pre-race traditions (running, triathlon, whatever!) is to listen to my ‘get psyched’ song, “Let’s Go” by Def Leppard. It took on extra meaning on this occasion because I knew that I’d be actually seeing them live that very night! A bit surreal!

I headed down as soon as I had everything ready, better to give myself more time than end up rushing!

Race day! Pic thanks to Annie who was there supporting her daughter Belinda in the full Murray Man.

Shane pumped my tyres back up for me, and Ben lent me a bike computer so I could get some extra data on the ride without needing to look at my watch. Anything that doesn’t require me to look anywhere but straight in front, will be helpful!

Ready to roll!
Transition area with the swim buoys in the background. The buoys looked a LONG WAY AWAY!
Snapped by Annie putting my sunscreen on!

 

Annie got my best side!

 

“What the hell am I doing here?” moment captured by Annie!

I had to time everything perfectly. Sunscreen needed to go on before transition closed, as I wanted to have it in there in case I needed to reapply it in transition. Ideally, I would go to the toilet BEFORE putting the wetsuit on.

Probably around the time transition closed, the MC announced that the water temperature was very warm, so it would be a non-wetsuit swim. He had me going for a second there, he quickly said he was joking, but I did see a few anxious looks about the place!

I watched the long course start, before starting the fun process of getting into the wetsuit!

The Full Murray Man competitors getting ready for the swim start. Some of those guys were FAST!
I was so excited at registration to find out that the short course had PINK caps! Getting the feel for the water and watching the long course swim. Photo thanks to Annie.
It was quite nice in! I was hoping it would be sunny for the swim – I only have one pair of goggles and they are super dark tint. So if it was overcast I’d be pretty much blind! Thanks Annie for the photo.

The long course swim was 1.9km. They started half an hour before us. Some of them were out of the water BEFORE we started! Fast!

And before long it was our turn! I put myself near the back. I can swim OK but I’m not fast. And I prefer to have a bit of space around me if at all possible.

The swim started pretty badly because I couldn’t get my breathing right. Normally it takes me a minute or so to settle into the correct breathing pattern in an open water swim but this time it didn’t seem to be happening! Visibility wasn’t great because of my goggle sunglasses, but at least the cans were bright yellow so even I could see those.

I got to the first can, around the corner and then realised what was going wrong. I’d forgotten to put my head in the water and breathe normally like I would in a pool. I was so busy trying to keep the can in sight that I hardly put my head in the water! As soon as I put my head under, all was good!

I ended up doing the swim in just over 24 minutes. Because I like stats, I was in 63rd place out of 83 overall (so not last! Bonus!), 26th out of 37 females, and 11th out of 18 in my age group.

Coming into T1, relieved that the swim was over, pic captured by Sam who was there supporting her husband Stephen who was also doing the short course.

Now I know my transitions could use a bit of work but I figured as it was my first triathlon of this distance, I didn’t want to rush and forget something important. Wetsuit off, socks and bike shoes on, half a Clif bar eaten, helmet and sunnies on, and 3 and a half minutes later, I was ready to roll!

And finally, after what seemed like an eternity, leaving T1 – this photo was also from Sam.

I had a bit of a wobble getting on the bike but it was all good – away I went!

Within the first km or so I went past the Porteous clan sitting on the grass by the side, they cheered me, I did have thoughts of waving but I thought it was a bit early in the ride to be falling off, so I just called out instead.

I LOVED the ride. It was a nice flat course, with only a couple of turns. Where we’d stopped halfway on Saturday, we made a left hand turn and rode another km or so before making a U-turn and heading back. U-turns are the worst for me but I was glad the first one was without an audience. Once I got that first one out of the way, I was all good!

And FAST! I had estimated ‘under 2 hours’ for the ride, based on a 2 hour training ride I’d done a few weeks earlier, which turned out to be exactly 45km. The difference was, that particular ride was on the very hilly Victor Harbor triathlon bike course, and I stopped once and fell off once. So of course I was going to be able to go faster here!

Captured by Annie on the bike!

I thought maybe I’d gone out too fast, because I was going much faster than I was used to, but I think it’s just a fast course.

I even overtook a few people which I wasn’t expecting. I don’t fully understand the drafting rules, but there was a technical official on the back of a motorbike going back and forth along the course, presumably keeping an eye on this. All I knew was there was a set distance you had to leave between you and the rider in front – I wasn’t sure exactly how far that was, but I’m not a great judge of distance anyway so I’m not sure how useful it would have been for me to know that.

It’s a bit different from running, where you can quite happily sit on someone’s tail for a whole race if you want to!

Anyway, every time I got closer to someone (ie they were riding slower than me) I had to decide whether to drop back or pass them. Initially I’d pass them every time, and then I decided I really needed to save some legs for the run, so I started dropping back more. But if I had to drop back twice in a short space of time, the next time I got too close, I’d pass them.

A different angle on the bike – thanks to Annie for the photo!

Other than getting on and off the bike, U-turns were my biggest concern, and there was one right near the start/finish area, with a lot of spectators around – needless to say I took this one VERY cautiously!

As I approached the end of the bike leg I got a bit bold and decided to give the Porteouses a bit of a wave as I went past. There was a bit of a wobble so I decided not to persist with that! I had one very important job left to do before I could say “I got this” – get off the bike!

Luckily there wasn’t anyone coming up behind me as I approached the dismount line so I was able to take it very carefully. It wasn’t the most elegant of dismounts but importantly I DID NOT FALL!

My time for the bike leg was 1:37:25, an average speed of 27.7km/h, much faster than I had anticipated! Again looking to the stats, it was a slightly better picture than my swim. 55th/83 overall, 17th/37 females (top 50%!) and 9th/18 in my age category. Importantly I still felt relatively fresh by the end of it (some might say I didn’t go hard enough!)

T2 was naturally a bit quicker than T1 – swap shoes, swap hats, grab race number belt, grab drink bottle off bike (I hadn’t had anything to drink or eat during the ride) and away to do the bit I actually know how to do!

It wasn’t the most enjoyable run I’ve ever done – although I did enjoy the feeling of overtaking people. It was getting hot, and the course had a few little hills in it.

Snapped by Sam at the start of the run leg!

The run course was 2 laps. There wasn’t a heck of a lot of shade. The hardest bit for me was the bit where you run along a dirt road. There was zero shade there and it felt kind of like running through the desert.

I started a bit too quick, looking at a sub 50 minute finish (my conservative estimate was under an hour but I was seriously hoping I’d go well below that) and after a few kilometres I wasn’t able to keep up that pace.

There’s not much more to say about the run – I just put my head down and got it done. Compared to my ride when I didn’t eat or drink anything, I had an entire 500mL bottle of Gatorade on the run!

The run was just over 53 minutes, with an average pace of 5:01 minutes per kilometre. Now you can see why I call myself a runner rather than a triathlete. 20th/83 overall, 5th/37 females, 2nd/18 in my age category. So while it didn’t feel like a particularly great run, as part of a triathlon it was actually not that bad!

The finish line! I was very happy to see it and ring the bell to signify a PB (which was always going to happen, given that it was my first tri of that distance!) I was pleasantly surprised to be given a medal – I wasn’t expecting one for the short course! I later realised I didn’t have my timing chip on anymore and was worried I might have lost it – apparently it was taken off by someone else while I was getting my medal! Very sneaky, I didn’t even notice!

Oh and the time! My watch showed 2 hours 59 and seconds, but I knew I’d stuffed up my Garmin when exiting the swim, I’d pressed stop instead of lap, and I wasn’t sure exactly how long it was before I’d started it again. It wasn’t until quite a while later when I got my bag with my phone in it, that I looked up the official results and my official time was 2:59:45 – that was beyond my expectations!

Not hard to work out what my strongest leg is! But I will risk losing all credibility as a runner and happily admit that I enjoyed the bike leg the most!

The recovery area was great. They had everything – massages, food, drinks… you name it!

Bling and Coke! What more could you want? Thanks Annie for the photo.
Oh and they had ice baths too. Annie said to try to stay in for 10 minutes. I think I lasted 30 seconds…

I went out to watch the rest of the competitors (mostly long course but some short) still out on the course and was glad I’d opted for the short – it was really heating up by now, the forecast max was in the mid 30s.

Then I heard they had booze in the recovery area so I headed back for some more hydration!

The ciders were on ice, and now so was I!

Once the bike course was closed I was able to get back into the transition area and collect my bike and assorted crap – then I could hang out in the recovery area some more until I needed to leave to get back home.

I got to see Ben and Shane finish, they both found it pretty tough going, and Shane said he hated it from the first stroke of the swim, BUT he did keep going to finish his first (and evidently last) 70.3!

I left just after 2pm to make the long journey home. Often it’s a bit of a letdown at the end of an event you’ve been training for, it’s a bit like “what do I do now?” Except on this occasion I knew EXACTLY what I was going to do.

I was going to get rocked.

When the question “Do you wanna get rocked?” is asked, there is only one acceptable answer.

I got home, quickly showered and changed, and headed into the Entertainment Centre to finish the day in style!

The night kicked off with Scorpions on their first ever Australian tour. I only knew a few of their songs beforehand but they were great!
Amazing seats, right near the front and next to the catwalk!
And a few pics of the greatest band on earth 🙂

LOVED. EVERY. MINUTE. On my feet from start to finish!

Anyway, back to Murray Man (sorry for the little detour but it was important to the story!)

Thanks to all of the organisers and amazing volunteers for making this event happen. It was very well organised, it caters to all levels and although I am still a bit of a noob, I didn’t feel out of place at all there. Special thanks personally to the Porteous family for their amazing hospitality and to Shane and Ben for their help and encouragement to this newbie!

Well done to everyone who competed, particularly those doing their first triathlon, and/or first 70.3! And big kudos to ALL the long course competitors in particular because you guys copped the worst of the conditions!

I’m actually a little disappointed I won’t be able to come back next year but I will have to console myself with the fact that I will be in New York preparing to run the New York Freaking Marathon! 2020 I will return!

GREAT event. I will be back!

A few words about the McLaren Vale Half Marathon – preceded by a whole lot of words about the week leading up to it!

Don’t EVER let anyone tell you a 5k run is easy!

I guess I had better explain myself a bit more here. Just a word of warning, it’s going to be a little while before I actually get to talking about the McLaren Vale event. (If you want to skip the lead-up just scroll down to the picture of my cat licking a chickpea can)

I’ve just come into a particularly busy period of running and multisport events. 7 events in 7 weeks (which also means a lot of blog posts coming up!)

The timing of the events is tricky. Trickiest is the one week gap between the Heysen 35k (which I also ran last year) and the half Murray Man triathlon (my first Murray Man event, and third official triathlon). Finding the time to train adequately for both of these, around full time work, has been a challenge to say the least!

For the McLaren Vale Half Marathon event this past weekend, I chose to do the 5k (the other options being 10k and the half mara). It was the final event of the 2018 Triple Crown, and this year for the first time there were medals for all distances, and the medals from the three events fit neatly together to make a pretty picture – I had done the first two events and I wanted to complete the set! Given my relatively busy schedule of events, and wanting to really be able to put in a good Heysen, I figured 5k was the best option. Somewhat naively I thought I could probably do a long trail run on the Saturday and still be able to put in a good 5k at McLaren Vale! (Whereas I wouldn’t have even considered that if I had been running the half!)

Common sense prevailed and I ended up doing my long run on Wednesday after work, taking advantage of the first week of Daylight Saving (giving me a good few days recovery) and managed to finish before it got dark! Not something I’d want to do all the time but it’s nice to know it’s an option!

Trying to fit in cycling and swimming around the usual road and trail runs has been challenging, especially swimming which I don’t particularly enjoy. Following the black line for lap after monotonous lap can be mind-numbingly boring, although that has become somewhat more tolerable since I splashed out (pun intended) on a waterproof iPod shuffle! Still, I’ll take boring any day over the alternative which is swimming in West Lakes, known to be fairly heavily populated with jellyfish which can grow to the size of dinner plates (my friend Karen ‘lovingly’ refers to West Lakes as ‘booger soup’ which I think is a pretty accurate description!) – I will hardly put my head under water there, let alone open my eyes to see ‘what lies beneath’!

So when the opportunity arose to take a road trip down to Victor Harbor (the location of my last triathlon in March) and have a swim in the much more pleasant Encounter Lakes, I took it!

Two weeks ago I’d had my bike fit done (FINALLY!!!) by Hamish at Complete Physio down in Victor, and Shane had very kindly offered to go for a little cruise along the coast the following morning after parkrun to test it out! (He’d also told me to bring the wetsuit down for a swim in the lake but I wussed out of that one – too cold for me!)

This past week Shane had posted on Facebook that he was planning a full on triathlon training session on Saturday including a swim in the lake, a 2 hour bike ride and 1 hour run, and invited people to come join. Initially I had planned just to come for the swim – I wanted to get at least one open water swim in before Murray Man – but I had thrown the bike in the car too. I wasn’t sure quite how that would work and I thought I’d be way too slow on the bike, but it didn’t hurt to have the bike in the car just in case!

I definitely wasn’t going to do the run. The plan was to do the Victor Harbor parkrun (because it would be rude not to!) then the swim, and MAYBE a little ride. Definitely not the run. I’d done plenty of running already for the week. Plus I was ‘racing’ the next day.

A beautiful day for a parkrun! Completely oblivious to the toy snake that the RD had placed near the finish line – focused only on the finish flags!

Anyway, I went a bit harder at parkrun than I ordinarily would the day before the race. Then I had a FABULOUS swim in the lake – I had my head underwater for most of it and eyes open too! The plan was to swim for 30 minutes and I was expecting to do about 1000m in that time (based on my only previous accurately measured 1000m open water swim) and actually according to my watch I did over 1300m – surprisingly faster than I swim in a pool! Must be a fast lake!

SO much nicer than swimming with dinner plate-sized jellyfish!

The bike ride did end up happening – it was meant to be on the Victor Harbor triathlon bike course, and started out that way, but I managed to get myself super lost right near the end and did a Tour of Victor before eventually finding my way back to the car, a little over 45km in just under 2 hours with some challenging hills (45km being the distance of the half Murray Man bike leg so that was a great confidence booster!) and it felt great – really getting a feel for the new bike setup and the seat having being raised approximately 7cm!

Spot the difference – my ride on the left and the one I was SUPPOSED to be doing on the right!

I decided still not to do the 1 hour run but ended up doing an ‘easy’ 3km run off the bike because it’s always good to practise that. And then of course smashed a Coke in record time and ate ALL OF THE FOOD!

So now we move on to the McLaren Vale event on Sunday.

This year was my 5th consecutive McLaren Vale, having run the half marathon the previous 4 years (2015 and 2016 as a 2 hour pacer, and 2014 and 2017 for myself!) so this year it was kind of weird to be watching the half marathoners getting ready and just standing off to the side knowing it was still an hour before I would start running! (And some of the lead half marathoners would be nearly finished by then!)

Numbers were great, with almost 1300 entrants across the 3 distances including over 800 in the half marathon. Even the 5k, which usually has quite a small field, had 177 entrants and eventually 149 finishers! It goes to show that if you put on quality events, the people will come! The weather was also not terrible – it had rained a fair bit overnight and more rain had been forecast for Sunday but it looked like that would hold off until the afternoon. It was pretty warm too – even when I arrived at about 7:15am I hardly needed my hoodie! The only issue was possible strong wind – it was enough of a factor to stop the finish arch being put up for fear of it blowing away!

I got to see the half marathon and 10k starts, as well as the half marathoners coming back through the finish area at about the 7km mark before heading back out again. This is the point in the half where if you’re not having a particularly good run and are having any thoughts about pulling out, it is a bit too easy to pull out – after all, why run another 14km if you’re already at the finish line after 7?

At the start of the 5k I was near the front. In the front line of runners there were 5 females and a couple of guys. Generally if you line up at the front you mean business, either that or you’re just way too ambitious! So I pretty much knew I was in 6th place, and it would be nice to be able to improve on that, but at least hopefully no-one would overtake me and I’d be able to hold on to 6th!

Very early on! Official photo from Colin (Geosnapshot)

This was the first SARRC event to introduce age group medals, similar to what they have in triathlon and duathlon events. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd male and female in each 10 year age group in each of the 3 events would be awarded a special medal (along with the finisher medal everyone gets!) I thought it was a great initiative – it gives those of us who aren’t likely to win overall trophies, a chance of winning something! I didn’t know the 5 girls ahead of me but hopefully they weren’t all in my age group and I might be a chance!

At the start I very nearly tripped over a kid in an Adelaide Harriers singlet who started just behind me but then passed me straight away but after managing to avoid falling before the start line, I got into a bit of a rhythm and tried to keep the lead pack within reach. There was an uphill bit pretty early on but then it seemed reasonably flat. There was a 42m elevation gain overall in the 5km which is something but not huge. The elevation map on Strava makes it look like a mountain!

It felt like a mountain at times but this profile is a bit misleading!

Trying to keep up with the fast runners was a mistake, I definitely went out too fast in the first kilometre (4:20) and then paid for it in the next two (4:51 and 4:53) and never really managed to get back to the pace I should be able to run. I’d call it a rookie mistake but after 6 years I probably can’t use that excuse anymore! It was warmish but the sun really didn’t come out for real until after we’d finished, and the wind wasn’t really a factor. So the conditions were probably as good as could be expected.

Another early pic from Colin (Geosnapshot)

We encountered some of the half marathoners – it hadn’t occurred to me that we shared the same course, and realised that running with my head down was probably not the best option! I managed to keep the 5th female runner in sight thanks to her bright pinky purple SARRC top, and I don’t think she really got away from me but I never seemed to be able to make up any ground either!

Towards the end I saw Gary with his trusty camera, he managed to catch a few action shots and also got a bit of language from me – apologies to the man with the kid in the pram who also got to hear the fruity language! Who knew 5k could elicit such a reaction from a normally mild mannered person?

Guess what I’m saying here? Thanks to Gary for the pic!

I managed to hold on to 6th place, and finished in an official time of 23:49 (50 seconds slower than the previous day’s parkrun!) – seriously that was hard work!

Finish line feels! Never again will I say ‘only’ and ‘5k’ in the same sentence! Official photographer Colin (Geosnapshot)

Had to sit down for a few minutes to catch my breath after that one, before ‘recaffeinating’ and taking the obligatory bling shot with the 3 Triple Crown medals together against the backdrop of the vines. (Shout out to Stir Express for the outstanding coffee!)

Clare at the front in purple, Greenbelt in the blue, and finally McLaren Vale in the orangey brown.

After this I helped out on MC duties for a while – it was challenging with so many people out there, I found it too hard to read the names off the iPad as they approached the finish line so ended up just reading the names off the bibs – and I definitely missed a few but hopefully managed to capture most people! (The ones without names on their bibs were a bit harder!)

The kids fun run, a relatively new addition to the programme but now a firm fixture at SARRC events, was a bit of fun too – Race Director Ben asked me to be a marshal – luckily it was a pretty easy gig because as I am known for being a bit ‘directionally challenged’, I’m probably the last person you’d want to rely on to ‘tell people where to go’! Pointing is actually pretty hard work – I noticed a bit of muscle soreness in my right shoulder but I’m assuming that was from the swimming and probably not from what had to have been only about 6 minutes of pointing!

I hadn’t looked at the official results but was still hopefully I might sneak in for an age group placing – in the end I was second in my age group behind Leonie who I’d kept in sight for the whole 5k but hadn’t quite managed to catch – there was only 15 seconds between us too! Still – bonus bling is always nice!

With my second place age group medal along with my collection of 3 Triple Crown medals – thanks to Gary for the pic!

Congratulations to all the runners especially the majority of the half marathoners who had to deal with the warm conditions later in the morning! Also as always a huge thanks to the volunteers – extra special thanks to Voula who was supposed to be running but gave up her run at the last minute to give out medals at the finish line, and her husband John who had the unenviable and I can imagine difficult task of being the sweeper for the half marathon – on a bike! I would DEFINITELY have fallen off! Last but not least well done to the event team Ben, Sheena and Malcolm for putting on another great SARRC event!

Race Report – Triathlon SA Winter Duathlon Series Race 3

This was my 3rd duathlon of the season. All 3 were exactly the same course, so the idea was that I’d improve my times from Race 1 to Race 3. Of course, that was before Race 2 happened!

Race 2 was done on, as it turned out, not one but two flat tyres. So it could only get better from there!

The weather conditions were significantly better than last time – it was still a bit windy but it was a lot warmer.

It was clearly the bike leg that needed improvement. All I needed to do was have both tyres adequately pumped up, and use my gears properly. Simples!

The day before the race, I got a parcel from Mekong which included my brand new tri-suit! There was nothing wrong with my old one, but the Mekong one was just so pretty, plus I had been assured by several people that it would make me go faster, so naturally I had to have one! And this duathlon would be the perfect opportunity to try it out!

It fit perfectly and was uber-comfy!

On arrival at Victoria Park, I racked my bike and coach Kent (the one who pointed out my flat tyre last time!) came over and checked my tyres – they both got the thumbs up!

There were a few familiar faces out there, notably ultra running mother/daughter team Heather and Ally, both doing their first duathlon. Kristie was back again, and Karen and Daryl were there as spectators this time (Karen having had a bike mishap during the week).

After the race briefing we were split up into our waves – Open and Under 40 athletes in the first wave, 40 and over in the second, and Short Course in the third. (I was doing the long course again – 4km run/16km ride/2km run. The short course was half those distances.)

It was quite warm out there, for the first time in any of the duathlons I did take advantage of the cups of water near the start/finish line on most of my running laps!

On the first run I started reasonably conservatively on the first of 4 laps but then my competitive side kicked in and I decided to try to pass as many people as I could on the run. I would probably pay for it later but it was my chance to get a bit of a head start on the bike leg!

First run leg – so far so good! Official race photo by Colin Graham (Geosnapshot)

According to Strava I finished the first run in 17:59 and got through the first transition in 13 seconds – I’m not sure about that T1 time but I’ll take it!

It took me a few hundred metres for either of my feet to click into the pedals, which was a bit frustrating, but eventually I did get them in! Riding past the grandstand (with wind assistance) I went into a higher gear (as per Shane’s advice from the first duathlon) which really helped to stop my legs from going too fast!

Looks like I’m going really fast here! Official race photo by Colin Graham (Geosnapshot)

The trickiest part of the course as always was the ‘hot dog’ hairpin turn (so named because on the map it kind of looks like a hot dog – they probably could have called it something else but it is a family-friendly event!) It took a few laps before I got it sorted – and as per previous races, as the laps ticked by, there were less and less people left out there to potentially be trying to pass me!

I did get passed on my left a couple of times but mostly people were really good and called out as they were about to pass me on my right.

All in all, the ride went pretty smoothly. My Strava time for the ride was 37:46, compared with 44:08 in Race 1 and 47:43 in Race 2. It was all because of the suit!

Concentration face! Official race photo by Colin Graham (Geosnapshot)

Then I went through T2 just behind Kristie (T2 was 39 seconds according to Strava) and headed back out for 2 more laps of the run course. Kristie didn’t use bike shoes so her T2 was a lot quicker than mine, giving me something to chase in the run!

The second run was a bit slower than in Race 1, maybe because I’d really pushed hard on the bike. Thankfully, it was significantly better than Race 2 (EVERYTHING about Race 2 sucked!)

Can you tell I’m nearly finished? Official race photo by Colin Graham (Geosnapshot)

Gosh, 2km feels like a long way!

On the second lap I decided to try to pass as many people as I could. Although my legs felt pretty heavy, I guessed everyone else would be in the same boat! When I got to the last few hundred metres there were a couple of girls I decided I needed to at least try to pass. I actually ended up passing one RIGHT on the finish line, that was a good feeling – for me at least!

Almost there! Official race photo by Colin Graham (Geosnapshot)

My overall time was 11 minutes faster than Race 2 and around 6 minutes faster than Race 1. So it was an overall PB as well as a bike PB – a great way to end the series!

Thanks to Triathlon SA and all the volunteers for putting on the series, I have learned a lot from the 3 races and I know I still have a lot to learn! One of the things I love about the triathlon scene is that people are really friendly and encouraging, and always willing to offer a tip or two to help a newbie like me!

I’m still deciding whether to go to the final race in the Barossa Valley (there’s a hill in the bike ride, but there is wine in the Barossa…). Decisions, decisions!

Race Report – Triathlon SA Winter Duathlon Series Race 2 (aka ‘The Race That Sucked’)

Well, that sucked!

I didn’t want to write about this one, because it sucked. But then, you do have those days, and it would be unfair not to write about the sucky races, because they happen!

The first race in the series went reasonably well after Shane gave me the tip about my gears. I had decided to try to do the whole series, if only to try to improve on my own times. Race 2 happened to fall the day after a very entertaining work function, so consequently I left it until the day to enter, just in case!

It was a windy day but thankfully not raining, so I decided to give it a crack.

The first (4km)  run was just OK – a bit slower than last time, but as I was managing to overtake quite a few people, it still felt OK.

Transition 1 went as well as can be expected. 22 seconds to change shoes and hat, grab the bike and head off onto the cycle course. 8 x 2km laps. Sounds pretty easy, right?

Well let me tell you it wasn’t. The bits where I was riding with the wind were just OK. The bits where I was riding into it were not. On a few laps I was almost blown sideways off the track! That wasn’t helped by the fact that on the first few laps people were passing me on my left – luckily there were no collisions, there could easily have been!

EVERYONE passed me. Almost everyone. The wind was a factor, sure, but everyone else had to contend with that too!

Not many people passed me on the last few laps. That was because almost everyone else had finished by then!

The one positive I could take out of the bike leg was that the hairpin turn seemed a bit easier this time. I had sort of got the hang of it at the last duathlon. I had learned that if you take it as a sweeping bend it’s a lot easier than trying to do a 180 degree turn! That didn’t stop one person from passing me on the inside as I was making the turn! (I would always check over my right shoulder 3-4 times as I approached the turn, to make sure no-one was approaching, and if I saw someone out of the corner of my eye I’d let them past so I had a bit of space. What I wasn’t doing was checking over my LEFT shoulder. Grrr!)

I knew to use the harder gears on the faster parts of the course but on this occasion the gears were just not working for me – the bike was not sounding normal, and I knew there was something not quite right but I wasn’t about to stop, I just wanted to Get. It. Done.

After what seemed like an eternity I made it back to transition. T2 sucked as well. The spot where I had had my bike, now had someone else’s bike in it, so instead of there being a nice gap for me to put my bike, it took me a while to actually find my ‘spot’! I had to wrangle the bike onto the rack and try not to get tangled up with other bikes, which wasted a bit of time. Then because of how the bikes were racked I had to get on my hands and knees to retrieve my running shoes and hat. In the process of taking my long sleeved top off I dropped my sunnies and one of the lenses fell out. Oh well, luckily it wasn’t sunny, I could manage to run 2km without them!

After what seemed like an eternity (59 seconds according to Strava) I was finally out on the last run leg to finish the race. My second run wasn’t too bad although my legs were completely like jelly to start with, more so than last time! When I look at my time for the second run leg I averaged 4:34 pace which is not too terrible. It certainly felt slower than that. I am sure I would have been able to overtake some people if there’d been anyone left out on course.

So that was it – Race 2 done and dusted. Not my finest moment by any means but a good learning experience!

Everyone else did well. Karen and Daryl placed again, as did Ros, who had done the short course. Cherie had successfully completed her first duathlon.

Karen insisted on a group photo, ‘because if there’s no photo it didn’t happen’. (I would have been quite happy to pretend it DIDN’T happen, but as I was in the photo, I guess that means it happened – plus it’s on Strava too so I guess that confirms it!)

Evidence!

As I was back at the bike rack putting my warm clothes on, chatting to fellow athlete Kristie about how much I hate sucking at things and should really stick to running, my club running coach Kent (also an experienced triathlete and Ironman) pointed out that my back tyre was flat (and had been for a good part of the race, if not all of it!) Which was nice because it means maybe I don’t suck quite as much as I thought I did! I suck at knowing and maintaining my bike but if I can get the bike right who knows, maybe I can become an adequate cyclist one day! (It wasn’t DEAD flat, just much flatter than it should be!)

Karen and Daryl showing off their bling. Me, the unwitting photobomber in the background!

So there you have it. Shortest race report ever! Thanks to all the organisers, volunteers and other athletes out there, and I guess I’ll be seeing you again at Race 3!

Oh and as a post script I was out today, got caught in the rain so stopped to look at a bookshop while I waited for the rain to clear. Found this. Think the universe is trying to tell me something!

Race Report – Triathlon SA Winter Duathlon Series Race 1

Last year I completed my first duathlon and yesterday I decided to give it another crack! Last time I did the ‘Enticer’ course (now ‘Short’ course) and I did the whole thing in my running shoes (with the proper racing pedals) – this time I decided to step up to the ‘Long’ course and the big girl cycling shoes. (I don’t like riding in normal shoes anymore – it’s funny how when you get used to cleats after numerous times falling off, it’s hard to go back!)

The race consisted of a 4km run/16km ride/2km run. The run lap was 1km and the bike lap was 2km, so that meant a 4 lap run, 8 lap ride and 2 lap run.

This time I actually had the multisport thing working on my watch so it was easy to keep track, I was able to count laps but if I was uncertain I could always look at my watch and easily know if I was on my last lap!

It was a cool day and there had been rain earlier, so I was pleased to see when I arrived at Victoria Park that the track had dried out (I’ve never ridden in rain or on a wet track/road) and the sun was shining. If the strong wind could have dropped off for an hour or so, it would have been perfect racing conditions!

The race was divided into 3 waves – elites, teams and all other long course athletes up to 39 years, followed by the long course athletes 40 and over, and finally the short course athletes. I was of course in wave 2.

As it was chilly I’d opted to race in a long sleeved top (but with a T-shirt underneath, in the event that I was warm enough after the ride).

When I racked my bike, I remembered the rookie mistake from last time – doing up my helmet strap and hanging it off my handlebar. This time the strap was left undone and the helmet left on the ground with my bike shoes, hopefully not to blow away before I got to the bike leg! I have got the hang of how to rack my bike at the start of a race!

Also in the race were Karen and Daryl, SARRC club coach Kent, first time duathlete Kristie, and probably my biggest triathlon influence Shane (who also tried his best to talk me into backing up with another duathlon this morning at Victor Harbor!)

It’s always tempting to try to smash out the run, because it’s the bit I can actually do properly! I was mindful of not spending too much energy on the first run, but pretty much did it anyway. My first lap was my fastest, and I ended up finishing the run leg with an average pace of 4:27 minutes per km. I did pass Kent on about the 3rd lap and I figured that would be the only time I would be ahead of him all day, so I might as well make the most of it!

T1 went smoothly – I was in and out of there in about 51 seconds. I know I could improve on that time if I did the ‘bike shoes on the bike pedals’ thing but I’m pretty sure that would not end well! I wheeled the bike to the ‘Mount’ line, got on and my feet slipped into the pedals right away. So far, so good!

Now came the fun part. 16km is not a long distance on the bike but when it comes in the form of 8 laps, it feels surprisingly long! (It feels even longer when you actually ride 18km, or 9 laps- more on that later!)

At the start there were quite a lot of other riders out there, most of whom were faster than me, so I was careful to keep left and let them past. It definitely feels wrong to be letting people pass me but when it comes to cycling I am still a total noob!

The course was relatively easy except for one hairpin turn which I remembered from last year. I would slow right down, almost to a stop. As I approached the turn I would glance over my shoulder to see if anyone was coming up behind me. I’d let them pass so I was able to take my time making the turn. It was actually easier this time around, with the cleats. At first I was still slowing right down, and making it harder than I needed to by doing a really tight turn, but as the laps passed by it started to get easier. Part of why it got easier was because there were less people coming up behind me as I approached. That was because there were less people out there, because most of them had already finished the ride! I reckon around the 5th lap I finally realised that if I took it wide it was MUCH easier!

The other thing that made things a little easier from lap 5 onwards was when Shane passed me and told me to put my bike into a harder gear. I was wondering why it was so hard – my legs were spinning like anything! As soon as I fixed that, suddenly it got easier! Shane later told me that he’d spotted the issue as he passed me earlier, but of course couldn’t tell me until the next time he passed me! (He may or may not have been that person who rode a whole extra lap – and still beat me quite comfortably!)

Around lap 7 Karen passed me, I was expecting this as she is a much better rider than me. I wasn’t sure if she was on the same lap as me or a lap behind, as I’d been a fair way ahead on the run.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, the bike was done! I can’t see my lap splits (for some reason no-one has made it a Strava segment) but I would be willing to bet my second half was quicker, because of being in the right gear and also not slowing down as much on the hairpin. My overall bike time was 44 minutes. Not particularly impressive but it will be good to compare my time when I do this course again!

T2 was a bit quicker than T1, 50 seconds this time. Karen was already there and left just before me. I quickly changed my shoes, helmet to hat and took off my long sleeved top and went to finish this thing off!

As always the legs felt like lead (it actually felt like my knees wouldn’t bend, for some reason!) and it felt like I wasn’t really moving at all, but my pace was actually not too bad, and I was able to pass quite a few people on the 2 laps, without getting passed by anyone! Pace-wise was pretty similar to my first run, with the 2km taking a touch over 9 minutes.

Unlike a marathon, or half marathon, or 5 or 10k, it’s hard to gauge what is a good time for a multisport event like this. The only thing I can really compare my time to, is my own time when I do it again. I think there are 4 races in the series and if I can I’d like to do all 4, just to see if I can improve on the bike leg (and possibly the transitions, although I can’t see how I could take much time off those without attempting something I am definitely not ready for!)

All in all it was a fab afternoon out, the weather was pretty great! The wind was a factor but I guess we were riding with it as much as we were riding into it, so it kind of balanced out! I learned a lot (as I always tend to in these kind of events)! Although it would be tempting to stick with running which I know I can do reasonably well, I enjoy the challenge of doing something I am not all that good at – and there’s no pressure to perform, I’m just out there trying to do something different and broaden my horizons a bit!

Thanks to all the volunteers who put this event on – great bunch of people! Well done to all who participated – it certainly seemed to have been raced in very good spirit, with the elites sharing the track with the novices quite happily! Congrats to all the winners (including Karen and Daryl who both got age group placings!) Special thanks to Shane for the tip that made the second half of my bike leg SO much better – much appreciated!

Bring on the next one!

But first – 12 hours running round a 2.2km track. Next Saturday. Stay tuned!

 

Tri, tri, tri again!

So if you’ve been following this blog for the last few weeks you may have noticed a common link between the last 3 posts. A little town called Victor Harbor. 3 weeks ago I participated in the Victor Harbor Triathlons, a week later I was back again for the last race in the Yumigo! Summer Trail Series and then just last weekend I was back yet again for The Granite Island Run.

Well, I was lured back down there again this Easter weekend by a very intriguing invitation from Victor triathlete (and ultramarathoner!) Shane. A Triple Mix triathlon.

What is a Triple Mix triathlon, you say? I wondered the same, and I had to Google!

It is essentially 3 triathlons, with 10 minutes break in between.

  • Stage 1 – Swim (300m), Bike (6km), Run (2km)
  • Stage 2 – Run (2km), Bike (6km), Swim (300m)
  • Stage 3 – Bike (6km), Swim (300m), Run (2km)

In the Super League format, the 10 minute timer starts when the first athlete finishes the stage. However, in this (informal, trial) event, it would be as the LAST athlete crosses the line, meaning the faster athletes get a longer break, and even the slowest athlete gets 10 minutes. (I’m glad that change was made to the format otherwise I probably wouldn’t have made it to the second stage!)

I thought, sounds like fun, let’s do it!

This would be my third triathlon. (And possibly fourth and fifth as well, depending on how you look at it!) My first was at West Lakes in November and my second was the aforementioned one at Victor 3 weeks ago.

Given the length of the swim, and also the logistics of having the swim as NOT the first leg in the second two stages, it was pretty obvious even to me, the total noob, that wetsuits would not work in this format! That was one less thing I had to remember to bring!

I decided to make a day of it and go to parkrun in the morning. Victor is a nice flat out and back course, and FAST (unless you’re unlucky enough to encounter a fierce headwind one way, which often happens!) I was there in plenty of time, I was not going for a PB (I’m a long way off PB pace!) but I always like to race Victor hard. As it happens I missed the start as Simon had asked me to hold his 2 dogs’ leads for him while he got himself organised, and the start took a lot of us by surprise! I ended up starting about 12 seconds after the main group, meaning I had to work hard to get closer to the front where I could stretch the legs out a bit (always good after an 80 minute drive!) Shane had jokingly said before the start that I would do 22 minutes, which I thought was way ambitious, but my watch at the end showed 22:07 (my official time being a bit slower than that) which I put down to the ideal running conditions AND the fact that I had to play catch-up for at least the first half! So ironically, starting late PROBABLY resulted in my getting a better time than I otherwise would have!

Nothing left in the tank!

parkrun was followed by coffee and delicious hot chips at the Yilki Store which was super busy – no doubt because of the long weekend and the fact that Victor is a popular holiday destination for Adelaide people! (Victor Harbor parkrun had a record attendance of 170 – it seemed like ALL of them were there at coffee!)

Then I spent the day wandering around town, town was buzzing as it was Easter weekend and there happened to be a big Easter hunt happening, involving a large number of families! I hit up a few op shops, a few other shops and had a lovely vegan burger at a place called Primal Bliss. And almost everywhere I went, I ran into Simon and Shane’s parents! I wasn’t stalking, I promise!

Cool artwork at the Victor Harbor Artisans Market!

I then made my way to the reserve where I had last been 3 weeks ago, for the triathlon. I won’t bore you with details of all the 9 legs and 6 transitions, I’ll just cover the highlights this time!

There were 4 of us at the start of the triathlon – I was the only female. The other 3 were Shane, his younger brother Ben (Mr Mekong, visiting from Melbourne) and another guy Chad who I hadn’t met before. Shane’s son Finn would join us for the second stage.

I was the first to rack my bike, so I had to ask the awesome timekeeper and helper Jono which way around the bike goes! (Normally I’m not the first person to rack my bike so I just copy what other people have done!) He noticed both my tyres were a bit low on air so very kindly pumped them up for me! I didn’t really need any more disadvantage than I already had!

The bike compound! My bike closest to camera, Jono right of shot pumping up my tyres! Ben (left, in super fast Mekong trisuit) and Chad getting ready!

Stage 1 was the traditional swim/bike/run, with the swim starting in the water, as it had 3 weeks ago. Very quickly the 3 other guys put a bit of distance between themselves and me! They were going to get a nice long rest after Stage 1…

My watch doesn’t do swimming very well. I am pretty sure my swim was not THAT wonky!

The bike course was nice and simple – I had asked Shane to show me on a map so I could visualise it for myself, not being a local and not being all that familiar with the town (despite having spent quite a bit of time there in the past month!) It was a T shaped course – along Bartel Blvd, left at the roundabout to where parkrun starts (one part of town I am VERY familiar with!) and then a U-turn, along the seafront Franklin Parade, and then another U-turn at Nevin St, back along Franklin and left up Bartel and back to the start. I need to work on my U-turns! I had to slow down a fair bit, not that it would have made any difference!

The un-get-lost-on-able bike course!

The run was even simpler, just under 2km, out and back along Matthew Flinders Drive, with a U-turn at the roundabout at Tabernacle Rd (which, for the record, does NOT have any street signs indicating the name of the road!) The guys were well ahead of me and were on their way back as I was on my way out. Shane was leading and he told me to turn at the “Keep Left” sign, rather than going all the way around the roundabout. I guessed by how far I’d run, that the roundabout where I turned WAS actually the right one, and as it turned out, it was!

A MUCH more straightforward run than in the Victor Harbor Triathlons!

Stage 1 complete, a nice 10 minute rest, time to re-set my Garmin for the next stage (reverse of Stage 1: run, bike, swim). Miraculously, after several failed attempts, I had FINALLY managed to correctly record a multisport event on my Garmin! Given that we finished Stage 1 with the run and Stage 2 started with the run, there wasn’t even any gear changing to do!

The guys were nice enough to let me lead out the run, and I was first into transition. The lead didn’t last long – Shane came into transition seconds after me, and the other two guys overtook me on the bike within a few hundred metres of my leaving transition!

And that was the last time I was in front for the day!

After another uneventful bike ride (the best kind!) it was time for my first ever bike to swim transition! (I’d done all the other transitions before, in triathlon/aquathlon/duathlon, but never this one!) Rack the bike (thanks to Jono for the tips on that!), shoes off, helmet off (would have looked a bit silly going into the water with the helmet on!) grabbed goggles, and started running to the water. Sunnies still on, thanks Jono for reminding me to take them off! Back into the water, to swim another 300m. This swim was a bit slower, probably because I wasn’t following closely behind fast swimmers, I was just doing my own thing. Actually this swim felt easier than the first one, probably because mentally I was prepared that once I’d finished, it was time for another break!

Amazingly enough, my overall time for Stage 2 was 1 second faster than the first one! So if nothing else, I am consistent!

I got a few more tips from Jono during the break. Firstly, to put my head under water in the swim, as lifting my head would cause my legs to drop. I was already aware of this, and I thought I was putting my head in, but then I realised I was looking up way too much, to try to see where I was going. The second tip was to put my goggles in the pocket in the back of my trisuit, so they’d be ready to go once I got off the bike. (Ben had done this in Stage 2).

Stage 3 (the last one) was Bike/Swim/Run. The bike started with a rolling start, we started riding up Bartel Blvd until a particular tree, or car, or side street, indicated that it was time to start racing. Aaaaaand I never saw the other guys again! Actually that’s not true, I saw them coming back along Franklin Pde as I was heading out. Also on Franklin Pde I saw a familiar face, David, a running friend from Adelaide. Actually I recognised his car and then called out to him as I rode past. Small world!

I came back into transition, racked my bike and ran down to the water. Jono told me to head to the left of the buoy, as Marcus was out there moving it back in closer for me. The other guys had already finished their swim, and I believe the buoy had been moved further away for them, maybe to even the playing field a bit? Or maybe just to mess with them? Either way, I was grateful it was moved back for me – I’m not sure I was up for a longer swim!

I made a conscious effort to put my head in the water more, I decided to lift my head every 4th breath (instead of every breath as I had previously been doing). I breathe on both sides, so I breathe every 3rd stroke. So that meant I was looking up every 12th stroke. I figured, at the glacial speed at which I move in the water, I wasn’t going to veer too far off course in 12 strokes! It seemed to work well – I don’t think I was any faster, but there may have been an element of fatigue there! It’s definitely something I will be practising!

As I passed the second buoy and headed in towards the beach, my goggles were full of water. I gave up, took them off and swam a little bit with my head out. I then decided that I had WAY too far to go, to be able to do that! So I stopped, emptied my goggles and went back to swimming properly.

And then my hand touched the bottom and I was back in comfortable territory – feet on the ground, running the last metre or so out of the water, across the beach and back to the bike rack where I quickly donned my shoes, hat and sunnies, and headed out for the last leg of the last stage – the best one, the run!

My last run was faster than my second run (the second run, remember, being the first leg of Stage 2, so I WAS holding back a bit) but slower than my first. My overall time was slower than the first two stages (not surprising!) but there was only 24 seconds difference between the 3 stages, so I’m pretty happy with that consistency!

It wasn’t a race – but I won on the consistency front! Also I was first female finisher in all 3 stages 🙂

And then it was time to relax and have a chat with the other guys about the event. I was interested to find out how it would work in a ‘proper’ event, ie how would you decide the winner? Would it be on overall combined times, or just the winner of the last race? Apparently one of the formats eliminates the slowest competitors in each stage, so I would have not got past Stage 1!

Relaxing at the end of a very fun and challenging event!

I would definitely be keen to do something like this again, it was a great challenge, I learned a LOT (including the fact that I obviously need a Mekong trisuit if I want to get faster!), and it was interesting to see what a difference mixing up the disciplines makes!

Thanks heaps to Shane for organising this event and inviting me to be part of it, to Shane, Ben and Chad (and Finn, who joined us for part of the event) for being great competitors, and to Jono and Marcus for all their help in making this event happen!

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!

Back in the saddle!

As a cyclist, I make a very good runner. I don’t even like to use the word ‘cyclist’. I prefer ‘runner that rides a bit’. Then again, I’m forever telling people who run, who don’t like to call themselves ‘runners’, that ‘if you run, you’re a runner’. So by that logic I guess I am a cyclist!

I haven’t been doing a lot of cycling lately. And by ‘not a lot’, I mean NONE. The bike has been in its traditional place, racked on the back of my couch, since it was last ridden on New Year’s Day. That day, I did 2 easy 10km rides in between the 2 New Year’s Day parkruns. Prior to this, my previous ‘proper’ ride was my first successful Norton Summit loop. So it was about time I dusted off the treadly again!

During the week I’d made a few pretty big decisions. One was potentially career-defining (and not reversible) and the other one may yet be reversed!

The first decision was to sign a deal to move from my government job (soon to be non-existent) to continue to do the same work in the non-government sector. That was an easy decision (a no-brainer) but still it was a bit weird to sign the form to resign from the public service after over 19 years!

The second one was that I am not going to run a marathon this year. Or any time in the foreseeable future! I had always planned to go up to the Gold Coast where I’d run the fastest 2 of my 6 marathons, to get a sub 3:45 to qualify for Chicago, my second of the 6 majors.

All summer, on Sundays I’d been enjoying whatever I decided to do (mostly trail running, occasionally cycling), all the while thinking about the impending start of the 16 week training programme, and the long road runs that invariably come with it!

I did one long road run in January, in the week leading up to my 50k track race. It was 30k and it was horrible. In fairness though, I hadn’t exactly built up to it like you normally do. I’d just gone from zero to 30 and wondered why it wasn’t a great run! I thought to myself, it won’t be long before I’m doing this every week. And I wasn’t looking forward to it with eager anticipation!

This Tuesday I wasn’t really enjoying my morning run. That may have had something to do with the fact that it was the hilliest of the normally flattish Tuesday run routes. And I’d just come off a pretty hilly trail race on Sunday, and had quite a bit of ‘vert’ in the legs for the month.

Somewhere along the way I thought again about the long road runs and thought ‘Great, it’s only a few weeks before the training programme starts. GREAT!’ (As in, not really that great!)

Then I thought to myself, why am I doing this? I don’t want to do a marathon this year! Marathons are hard! Actually it’s more the training that I don’t want to do, and without the training I’m not going to get the time I want, and without the time I want it’s kind of pointless, so I guess that means I don’t want to do a marathon this year. So then I thought, WHY am I doing this? If I don’t want to do it, why am I doing it? And that was when I decided that I’m not going to do it. If I do decide to enter Chicago it will be either via lottery or a package.

And just like that, I started enjoying the run a whole lot more! (Plus by this stage I’d finished the big climb and was running back downhill).

With no marathon to train for I can continue doing trail runs on the weekends, and training properly for Five Peaks 58km and UTA 100km. I’ve done just over 5000m vert for the month of February, which is a lot for me. I think it’s helping. My hill running has improved a lot!

The other thing I can do, now that I’m not training for a marathon, is get out and do a bike ride on Sundays instead of a long run. That’s what I did this weekend!

The Grand Slam is a series of 5 group rides around some pretty spectacular and challenging parts of Adelaide and beyond. Today was the first of the series. Each ride has 2 options, the ‘Mini Slam’ and the ‘Grand Slam’ distance. The Mini is generally about half the distance of the Grand Slam. There is always the option of entering for the Grand Slam and ‘downgrading’ to the Mini – the course takes you back past the start line halfway, so you can refuel, top up your water, and then if you decide you’ve had enough you can pull out at that point.

Today’s ride was centred on Mount Torrens, in the Adelaide Hills (up until this morning I had no clue where Mount Torrens was!), taking in towns such as Gumeracha, Forreston and Birdwood.

Today’s route!

I decided to do the mini, given this was only my second group ride (after Gear Up Girl, a 55km relatively flat ride for women only) and my first involving hills. And I hadn’t ridden for nearly 2 months! The mini distance was 40km and the full distance was 80km.

It was pretty cool at the start and there was even a bit of rain on the drive up to the start at Mount Torrens. I was a little unprepared – I didn’t have any cycling arm warmers (and none of my running ones matched my cycling kit!) and for the life of me I couldn’t find my rain jacket! I did have a long sleeved running top which I threw in the car just in case. I ended up wearing it for the first half of the ride.

The start was a wave start, with Karen, Daryl and me starting in the last wave. None of us were planning on setting a cracking pace, and were happy to let the fast ones have a clear run! Just in front of me was a guy in a T-shirt and shorts (ie not bike shorts!), illustrating perfectly how inclusive these rides are. They cater to everyone from the elite to the complete newbie! As long as you have a bike and can ride it, you’re in!

The obligatory start line selfie!

It was a challenging course, and although partway through the loop I thought to myself that I might have been able to give 80km a crack, I was glad by the end that I hadn’t opted for the long distance! After all, my longest ever ride was the aforementioned 55km Gear Up Girl ride, which was a much easier ride than this one, and other than that I hadn’t done anything over 30km!

At first I was RIGHT at the back, and trying to keep Daryl in sight, but as my legs got warmed up and I got used to being on the bike again, I gradually caught up and passed him.

The ride was quite hilly but manageable. Karen had previously told me that some people stopped and walked their bikes up some of the hills! I was expecting that I would be doing the same at some point but I didn’t want to be the first, I was hoping that I’d see someone ahead of me hopping off their bike and then I’d feel like I could do the same!

I was pleased to pass the guy in the T-shirt. Although I’m not competitive when it comes to cycling, I did draw the line at a guy in a T-shirt and shorts being faster than me!

I did most of the ride on my own, except when I was overtaken by some of the faster late starters, or overtaking some other runners. It was actually really nice, and being not particularly busy roads, I felt quite safe even on the 100km/h roads with hardly any shoulder!

I even managed to get a bit of speed up (and I’m not talking anything particularly rapid here) on some of the descents. Some of the roads were very smooth, and I could ‘fly’ down them without even contemplating using the brakes! My previous hilly ride, Norton Summit, was on a day when the roads were covered in debris from a recent storm, so I was quite cautious on the downhills. One stick could result in disaster! Today though, the roads were nicely clear for us!

Of course, getting some speed up on the downs helped to get some momentum to get me up the hills too!

There was a refreshment stop at about the halfway mark. Unlike in running events, where most people either don’t stop at all, or only stop for long enough to grab what they need and keep going, in these events people tend to stop for a decent length of time. You get off your bike and have a decent rest. This was the first (and only) time I ran into Karen, she being quite a long way ahead of me, and when I arrived at the checkpoint she was bonding with one of the volunteers’ dogs! Karen was doing the full distance (Daryl, like me, was going for the short option) and she set off not long after I got there, saying she’d see me back at the start, where she’d stop for refreshments before heading out on the second loop.

At the refreshment stop.

I had one of my 2 Clif bars and waited for Daryl who arrived not long after Karen left. I took the opportunity to take off my long sleeved top and tie it around my waist. I’ve got those pockets in the back of my cycling top but my top was a bit bulky for that.  (I don’t use the pockets after I lost a Clif bar on the very first bumpy section of the Gear Up Girl ride!)

Daryl, who had ridden this course before, kindly told me that the second half was harder than the first! Apparently there was a particularly nasty hill around the 30km mark. I decided at that point not to look at my watch until I was finished. It would come as a ‘nice’ surprise!

I commented to Daryl that as we approached each of the towns, where the speed limit dropped to 50km/h, I would instinctively slow down (like I would if I was driving)! AS IF I was doing more than 50km/h!

The second half was a bit hillier, but I hadn’t encountered anything particularly brutal. Then I came to a point where I had to make a right turn, and I heard another cyclist coming up behind me. I was going to let him pass me but he was happy to sit behind me. That was when he asked me if I was intentionally riding up hills in the hardest gear. (Apparently some people actually do do that!) Of course, I was not! I had thought I was in the easiest gear and I was just a bit unfit! He kindly gave me a few pointers to get myself into the right gear, and after that (surprise surprise) it got a whole lot easier!

I hadn’t ridden since New Year’s Day, and on that day one of my friends had set the bike up for me on the right cog so I wouldn’t have to change cogs during that particular ride. I had mistakenly assumed he’d set me up on the easiest cog, but no, it was the hardest one!

I managed to climb all the hills (helped by a few nice descents in between) until I hit a particularly steep climb at the 35km mark.

(I later checked Strava and it was in fact the steepest grade of the whole ride, so it wasn’t just the fact that my legs were getting a bit tired that made it so hard!)

I got to the point where I couldn’t ride in a straight line, I couldn’t get the pedals around smoothly and I was riding all over the road. So I decided the only option was to get off and walk. At the same time a girl in front of me was doing exactly the same thing! I managed to get my left foot uncleated before coming to a stop, but couldn’t quite manage to get off the bike while still remaining vertical. I did a very graceful stack to the left, with quite a soft landing and no damage done!

It was only a really short climb so probably 50 metres max of walking before the grade levelled out and I got back on the bike again to finish the ride.

I got to the start of Mt Torrens town, back in familiar territory, back on the road I’d driven earlier in the morning. I realised at that point that it wasn’t 40km but actually only 38km. That was plenty! I put myself back onto one of the harder cogs as by now I was back on the flat.

I rode past my car (always good to see it’s still there!) and back to the start line, where Karen was about to set off for her second loop. I managed to get off the bike successfully this time (a good thing as there were a lot more witnesses this time!)

Done!

After finishing I went inside to check in and grab a quick bite to eat before going back outside to wait for Daryl. We then got in his car and went to follow the route of the second lap, to catch up with Karen and take her some sustenance! Driving along the second lap route we were both glad we’d opted for the short course!

I was really glad to have gone out and done this today. I was pleased to have managed most of the ride without having to get off (despite being in totally the wrong gear for most of it – clearly I have much to learn!) and it was a beautiful course with some stunning scenery! We rode past quite a lot of vineyards – the Adelaide Hills being a well known wine region – but fortunately no cellar doors, otherwise I may not have made it back to the finish! We did get a tiny bit of rain, and I’d never ridden in rain before so I’m very grateful that not much came of it!

I’d like to thank Bicycle SA for putting on this event, which is, as I said earlier, really for anyone! The volunteers were fantastic, and the course was so well marked that even I could follow it! (Hot tip: when doing one of these rides, always follow the arrows rather than other cyclists – not all cyclists are actually part of the event, and who knows where you might end up!) The refreshment station was well positioned and very much appreciated!

Some of the fantastic volunteers at the refreshment stop!

For anyone who’s thinking about joining in a group ride but doesn’t think they’re ready, give it a go! (I didn’t think I was ready!)

See, it’s not that bad!

I’m hoping to get out and do a few more of them throughout the year but unfortunately the next one is the day after the 58km Five Peaks Ultra. Yeah, I don’t think that’s going to happen!

 

The Best of 2017!

What an epic year 2017 has been!

Seems an appropriate time to reflect on what has gone down during this year, and have a sneaky peek ahead to 2018!

Because I’m in lazy mode, this post is probably going to be full of links to other posts! Why reinvent the wheel?

Let’s go right back to the start. My first big event of the year was the 100km track championships. It was my second year in a row competing in this event. I probably said ‘never again’ afterwards. Well, I haven’t entered yet, but needless to say I WILL be going back to do it all again next month!

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Running-wise, probably the big highlight of 2017 would have to be the Boston Marathon. You might want to make yourself a cup of tea before reading that one – it’s a bit of an epic!

Qualifying for Boston was the main focus of the first half of 2016. It (and the accompanying coast to coast USA trip) would be my 40th birthday present to myself! So I guess it’s appropriate that the story of the race itself was a big one!

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Boston was not, of course, the only highlight of the trip!

From New York to San Francisco, I had a ball! Sport, music, culture, you name it, I did it! And the food, oh the food!

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I did manage to sneak in the occasional run too! From the Brooklyn Bridge at the start of the trip…
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… to the Golden Gate at the end!

But if I had to pick just ONE highlight from the trip, it wouldn’t be running-related at all. (Well, there was some running involved. I practically had to run to make my bus back to NYC the next morning!) Finally getting to see Def Leppard live was one of the highlights of the whole year, I had been wanting to see them for 25 years and after not being allowed to go at the age of 15, the timing had never worked out before. When I found out that they were touring North America at the same time as me, even though our itineraries did not quite match up, I did manage to make a little side trip to Connecticut! Hopefully the next time I see them will be in Australia, otherwise I can see more overseas travel coming up!

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Two words. FUCK. YEAH!

So getting back to Australia and more active pursuits, I had a couple more gigs as a half marathon pacer – firstly at the Barossa Marathon and then at Adelaide where I also had my 15 milliseconds of fame!

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Trying to blend in at Barossa…
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…and seeing my mug on the big screen as I ran onto the Adelaide Oval!

I ‘upgraded’ at the semi-last minute from the 6 hour to the 12 hour, at the Adelaide 24 hour festival. Very happy with that decision, I finished 2nd behind the remarkable Amelia who smashed out almost 130km in 12 hours!

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Thanks to Amelia for the picture. That’s me on the left, Amelia in the middle and Michelle on the right.

After 12 months or so of avoiding hills, I got my hill legs back in the second half of the year. It started with the Tower Trail Run in Mount Gambier, a fantastic weekend away and a surprisingly good run (meaning that I was surprised with how well I ran – I never doubted that it would be a great event!)

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Pic from the Tower Trail Run courtesy of Sputnik!

My other big hilly run for the year was the Heysen 35. Many ‘accused’ me of being ‘soft’ but I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to top my 105km from last year, and I preferred to do something different where it would be a guaranteed PB! Plus, it gave me the opportunity to be part of the awesome finish line party! (Incidentally, the 35 contains about half of the elevation gain of the 105. So it’s far from an ‘easy’ option!)

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With Adam not long after our little ‘detour’!
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Decision to run the 35k vindicated by a 3rd place finish, Marlize was just ahead in 2nd.

 

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The finish line setup – pretty sweet!

I finally got a bike! I’m still very much a newbie at it, but since getting the bike in July I’ve managed to master cleats, starting to get the hang of gears, and I’ve ridden in my first community ride and also conquered the famous Norton Summit! I’m not signing up for the Tour Down Under just yet though! Early days…

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With Beck and Karen after my longest ever ride at about 55km!

 

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With Karen after successfully conquering Norton Summit!

Once I had the bike, I had pretty much run out of excuses not to get involved in multisport events, namely duathlon and triathlon!

I did my first duathlon after only a couple of rides on the bike, and because it was only a very short ride, I decided to do the ride in my running shoes, to make transitions quicker! I was nowhere near ready to race in cleats, and I figured it was better to jump in not quite ready, than to wait until I was ready, by which time the duathlon season would be over!

The next step was my first triathlon, which I completed in November and absolutely loved! I had hoped to do more triathlons this season but each one clashed with a running event! And I am, after all, a runner first, triathlete second! I do have one more tri planned before the end of the season, and am eyeing off Murray Man in 2018.

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With Karen after we’d both completed our first triathlon!

Back to non-running things, I had a few changes in my appearance during the year! In February I had my head shaved as part of the Leukaemia Foundation’s ‘World’s Greatest Shave’ which I had done twice before. I actually quite like the ‘buzz cut’ look – and talk about low maintenance (not to mention aerodynamic!).

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Don’t let the picture fool you – I actually did really like it!

Then, when it grew back long enough for me to get my first haircut, I decided on a dramatic change and went blonde for the first time in my life! (It was inspired by a mullet wig I wore to the Guns N’Roses concert – a few people commented that the colour suited me, and the seed was planted!)

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With the lovely Mel before the Gunners concert. (That’s not my real hair!)
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June 1 2017 – I am now blonde!

I’ll finish off by talking a bit about being involved in races ‘from the other side’!

This year I MC’d my first race at Mt Crawford and then was asked to MC the Yurrebilla 56k Ultra which was just the best fun EVER! I’m a bit torn because I think I’d like to run Yurrebilla in 2018 but if for some reason I can’t, or choose not to, I’d love to MC again!

 

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A tiger with a pistol at Belair…
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…and Snow White with a mic and a bottle of red at Athelstone!

Obviously that’s just a taste of the year that was 2017 – just a few of many highlights! And a few hints of what is to come in 2018!

What were YOUR highlights of 2017? Could you pick just one?

 

I’ll ‘tri’ anything once!

So it happened. I entered my first triathlon! (Spoiler alert – I am now officially a triathlete!)

It’s something that has been on the cards for a while. I’m not sure exactly when I decided I wanted to do a triathlon, but it was late 2015 when Nat first gave me lessons in riding a road bike and using cleats, and when I first started going swimming semi-regularly (I had been a swimmer in the past, not a particularly fast one but a competent one, but I just found it incredibly boring so I gave it up and didn’t start again for many years!

That year, 2015, I competed in my first multisport event, the Sam White Memorial Aquathlons, at Glenelg just after Christmas. As a first timer, I opted for the short course (250m ocean swim and 1.7km run). There was also a medium and a long course (2 times and 3 times the short course). I managed to win my age group and also 10 passes to the local swimming centre which made it a pretty worthwhile exercise!

Then, a few months ago, not long after I finally got myself a bike, I did my first duathlon (run/bike/run) which you can read about here. (Another age group win – probably helped by the fact I was the only one in my age group!)

Now I had a bike, I had decided that this summer I was going to bite the bullet and get that first tri done. The Gatti series was a perfect choice – not far from home, and catering to a wide range of abilities. There were several distance options ranging from the Mini (100m swim/6.5km bike/1k run) to the Challenge (800m swim/26k bike/6k run). For my first one, I decided on the Tinman (300m swim/19.5k bike/3k run). The Mini was a little bit too short – I suspected my transitions would take longer than the actual swim/bike/run bits! And the Challenge was a bit too long – especially 800m in open water. I was pretty confident I could swim that far but I’d never swum more than about 400 in open water.

Because I wanted to look like a triathlete, at least until I got into the water and started to swim, I bought myself a tri suit online. I went with a 2XU one, I got it cheap and I knew the 2XU sizing from other stuff I have. It took a bit longer to arrive than I’d hoped, not arriving until the Monday before the race. I wanted to swim, ride and run in in before the day.

After my Glenelg Classic race on Sunday, I met up with Karen and Daryl, who were doing a long bike ride, for coffee. I also casually mentioned Sunday’s triathlon to Karen and said “You wouldn’t be interested in joining me for the triathlon on Sunday, by any chance?” Now she will probably tell the story differently but I can assure you there was no arm twisting. Let’s just say she required minimal convincing! (I hadn’t even entered by this stage!) We’d decided to keep it relatively quiet (ie not broadcasting on Facebook) but by Sunday evening we’d both entered and it was all over Facebook! (Hint: it wasn’t me who posted it!)

On Monday, which was quite a hot one, I went out to my usual cycling haunt, Victoria Park. Unfortunately my usual track was blocked off with a equestrian event being set up, so I had to ride a shorter loop (and consequently a lot more laps!). I’d opted to put a T-shirt on over my tri suit – the tri suit is sleeveless and I didn’t want to have to put sunscreen on my shoulders. I would of course do that on race day! I’m not sure if I would have wanted to ride much further without extra padding in the shorts, but 20k was relatively comfortable. I then racked my bike (by ‘racked’ I mean I took the front wheel off and locked it up in my car) and changed my shoes before setting off for a 3k run. Although it was quite hot, the tri suit was still relatively comfortable. I’d also gone with different shoes to normal – I had an old pair of Asics which I never run in anymore but they have the advantage of being really easy to slip into. For 3k it wouldn’t matter too much that they were no good for my feet! I’d also put elastic laces in them to further speed up transition. I calculated I did the transition in about 3 minutes which I was pretty happy with. All up, from the start of the bike leg to the end of the run leg, it took me 65 minutes. So, based on that, plus maybe 10 minutes for the swim, and add on another 5 minutes, I should be able to finish the triathlon in under 1 hour 20. It didn’t really matter, but I like to have some kind of rough idea going into an event!

I then had to fit in a swim somewhere. I needed to swim in the lake or the ocean – apparently chlorine is not particularly kind to the kind of fabric tri suits are made of! I decided to swim in the lake because that was where I’d have to swim on race day! Plus, there had been a shark sighting earlier that day. No sharks in the lake! Plenty of jellyfish, but no sharks!

Wednesday afternoon I headed to West Lakes only to find NOT ANOTHER SOUL there! I went in anyway, and did 2 laps around the buoys which I worked out would be probably around 400m. I touched 2 jellyfish! I had new goggles as I’d had issues with my previous ones leaking. However, I wasn’t particularly keen to see what was underwater so I pretty much swam the whole thing with my head out of the water (but still swimming freestyle, sort of!) The tri suit felt quite comfortable to swim in, so I was happy that it would work for the triathlon!

Thursday was a regular running day, and at post-run coffee I picked the brains of 2 experienced triathletes, Neil and Sarah, wanting to get some last-minute tips. Sarah mentioned something about not swimming in West Lakes after it had been raining, adding “do you know that rule?” Err, no, I didn’t know that rule. And it HAD been raining! Maybe that’s why there was no-one else there!

Friday was another running day, I had a particularly good hills run. (I wasn’t bothered about ‘tapering’ for this event – I didn’t have any time goals, and regardless of how much running I did, I knew I was going to be able to manage the 3k run relatively comfortably.) I then went to work and proceeded to fall up the stairs, landing quite heavily on my right knee (for the anatomically minded, right on the tibial tuberosity!)

On Saturday I went out to Mawson Lakes parkrun, I had no issues with the run, there was a bit of bruising on the knee but it didn’t impede my running at all.

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Practising my finish line race face!

Then I got home and got all my kit organised for the big race – there’s quite a bit more involved in prepping for a triathlon than for a running event!

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I had a list as usual but it was a very different list! This was the basics, there were more items added later. Including my Garmin which I may as well have not had…
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Must. Not. Forget. Bike. (Cat optional!)

Sunday morning was an early start. I got up at 5:30, leaving home at 6:15 to be at West Lakes by 7. Registration was from 6:45 to 7:45 and as a complete n00b I wanted to give myself plenty of time!

After collecting my race number and yellow swim cap, I headed over to the bike compound to rack my bike. I had to try to find a spot where I would easily be able to find my bike! In the end I went with row 7 (thinking ‘lucky 7’) and as it turned out, Karen and Ros had the same idea! I’d first met Ros at the very first South Australian parkrun, way back in December 2012, and she was the person who put the idea in my head that I wanted to do a marathon one day! Ros was doing her first Tinman, but was a ‘veteran’ of a number of shorter triathlons. Her husband Roger was her support crew and ‘official’ photographer!

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All racked and ready! Not sure why I bothered with the drink bottles mind you. If I tried to grab one while cycling, I’d probably fall off!

Running buddy and Ironman finisher Sarah, doing her first triathlon since having a baby, came over to make sure I was all sorted!

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The bike racks started to fill up. The sky was blue, the lake was calm.

There were quite a few familiar faces there, most of them doing the Challenge (Karen, Belinda, Sarah, Luke, Rob and Matt) and also our regular running buddy Neil doing the little-known ‘Swim and Spin’ – essentially the Challenge distance tri but without the run! In the Tinman, other than Karen and Ros was Naomi who I’d met at a few running events over the years!

Most people opted to get into the lake before the start of the event, to acclimatise to the water temperature. Many were wearing wetsuits. Probably not so much in the Tinman and the Mini, but certainly in the Challenge most people seemed to be in wetties. I had opted not to wear a wetty, firstly because I don’t have one, secondly because I didn’t think it would make a significant difference to my 300m swim, and thirdly because I was sure any potential gains in the swim would be lost in transition!

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The competitors brave the water!
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It wasn’t actually that bad! (And where is my right hand?) Thanks to Roger for this photo!

Pretty soon we were all called out of the water for a race briefing. The director explained the course for the swim, bike and run, and I tried to take it in, but I figured I’d always have someone to follow!

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With fellow Tinman virgins Karen and Ros before the start!

The Mini competitors went first, followed closely by the Tinmen (is that what we are?)

I had my Garmin all set up in Multisport mode so all I had to do was press ‘Start’ as we crossed the mat to start the swim leg.

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And we’re away! I possibly should have had my goggles on before this, judging by everyone around me! Thanks to Roger for the photo!

 

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Into the drink! That’s Karen in the fluoro yellow! Thanks again to Roger!

Although it was really quite slow, I was really happy with how the swim went. It was essentially three-quarters of a square – straight out, around one buoy, across to another, and then straight back to shore. I didn’t get kicked, I didn’t kick anyone, and miraculously I even passed a few people! I felt very comfortable throughout. I probably could have gone faster, but as it was my first triathlon, the last thing I wanted to do was burn myself out on the swim! A lot of people had told me that they often panic in the swim and can’t get their breathing right, but I didn’t have any such issues. And I didn’t end up drinking too much of the lake so I’m counting that as a win!

There were a lot of people doing breaststroke which was my Plan B but I had been swimming freestyle exclusively for the past few years. I’m sure I can swim breaststroke faster than I can swim freestyle at the moment, and the added bonus of being able to look straight ahead AND breathe, made it quite a tempting option, but I was determined to stick with freestyle which is what I did. Again, as I didn’t really want to see what was down there, I didn’t actually open my eyes underwater, and I did have my head out a lot of the time (mainly to see where I was going!), but technically it was still freestyle! (Apparently someone was even doing backstroke! I didn’t see it, but I thought that was pretty brave!)

The hardest bit was the swim into shore, because we were looking RIGHT into the sun! Even though my gogs are very darkly tinted (a godsend in this case!) I still had trouble seeing the yellow caps in front of me! I saw people start to run while I was still swimming, and I remembered 2 pieces of advice I’d been given. First, start kicking with about 20-30m to go. Then your legs won’t be so jelly-like when you get out of the water. I don’t normally kick when I’m swimming freestyle, but apparently that’s not particularly unusual! And that goes to show what an advantage a wetsuit, with its super buoyancy, is – your legs don’t sink when you aren’t kicking! The second piece of advice was to keep swimming until your hands touch the bottom. It’s much easier to swim than run in water! My swim time was 11:23 which was 81st out of 103 competitors overall, and 29th out of 44 females. I had a bit of work to do!

I made it to shore, and my legs felt OK. I pulled off my cap and goggles and made my way to transition. I had never practised the swim to bike transition, and had no idea how long it would take. I had my towel laid out so I quickly dried off, mostly my feet so I wouldn’t be putting socks on wet feet. Firstly though I put on my helmet and race number, the 2 things that were made very clear at the briefing! I got my socks and bike shoes on, and was ready to roll! T1 took me 1:47, I was relatively happy with how it went, I know a lot of more experienced triathletes have their bike shoes clipped into the pedals already and just slip into the shoes as they mount the bike, so that could possibly have saved me some time or maybe caused me to stack it right in front of all the spectators – who knows? On T1 I was 51st overall and 20th female. Bit better than my swim!

Then came 3 laps, 19.5km, on the bike. On my last ride before the triathlon I’d noticed the bike was making a noise that didn’t sound right, so I’d asked Nat, from whom I’d purchased it, if she wouldn’t mind taking a look at it for me. She suggested that her son Fraser, whose bike it had been, would be better able to assess it, so I’d left it with him for a few days to take a look at. In the end it was just the bike seat was a bit loose (probably from when I’d been gradually easing the seat height up, as recommended by my cycling buddies!. When I had got the bike back on Saturday, Fraser had told me that he had adjusted the seat height so I’d need to adjust it back. As I hadn’t marked where the seat height HAD been, I had to guess a little bit. It was way too high, so I was gradually lowering it, sitting on it in my lounge room, holding onto the couch! I got it to a height that felt comfortable and I could clip in on both feet, so I guessed that would be OK. I hadn’t actually ridden it since I’d adjusted it, though.

My biggest concern with the whole triathlon, and one that I pretty much didn’t have any control over, was the possibility of getting a puncture. Given the distance of the ride, and the fact that I haven’t practised changing a tube, my plan if I got a flat was to pull out. Most people I have spoken to since would have the same plan. In a longer ride, different story. I certainly don’t plan to pull out of Murray Man 2018 with a flat. (Did I just say Murray Man 2018?)

So I ran the bike to the ‘mount’ line and hopped on board. The seat height seemed OK. It took me a little while to clip in (maybe 100 or 200 metres?) but once I was in it was all plain sailing. And there was no more of that noise – the only time the bike made any noise was when I stopped pedalling, for example to go around a tight corner and especially if there were other riders coming up behind me.

The ride was a surprise! I felt entirely comfortable throughout, I managed to overtake a lot of people, and going around corners was made SO much easier by being clipped in. I did use my brakes on one or two corners, but compared to when I did the duathlon in running shoes, well there was no comparison.

I did not use gears. I have mastered the cleats – gears are the next lesson!

I did see quite a few forlorn figures walking up the road with their bikes. Clearly they had the same ‘Plan B’ as me!

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Thanks to Roger for this pic on the bike leg (and yes I know my seat is still too low – I’m working on it!)

With some relief that I hadn’t gotten a puncture, I completed the ride and ran back into the bike compound to rack my bike and get ready for what I always expected to be my strongest leg, the run. I had completed the bike leg in 40:57, which was actually the fastest ride (other than short sprints of course!) that I’d ever done! So that was a pleasant surprise when I found that out! I was 67th overall on the bike leg, and 19th female.

T2 was pretty quick, as I’d practised that one (albeit ‘racking’ my bike in the car, which would presumably take longer than racking it on an actual rack!) – I got through it in 48 seconds but I did have a few false starts putting the bike on the rack, so I can still improve on that! I was 47th overall on T2 and 19th female. All I had to do after racking the bike was swap helmet for cap (I didn’t want to be ‘that’ person who started their run still wearing their helmet!) and bike shoes for running shoes. I noticed quite a few people riding in running shoes, which would have made their transitions much quicker than mine, but unlike wearing a wetsuit in the swim, I knew that wearing bike shoes on the ride would make me much quicker on the bike, and more than make up for the slightly slower transition. The elastic laces on my running shoes helped a lot! I did somehow get a rock in one of my running shoes in the process, which did not make for a particularly comfortable run, however with it being only 3k AND my best leg, I pressed on regardless. I heard occasional running buddy and very accomplished triathlete Piet praise my transition! I was pretty happy with it myself!

As I pressed the ‘lap’ button on my watch for the last time, I realised that I hadn’t actually pressed ‘Start’! (Well I HAD pressed it, but obviously not hard enough!) So I went into the run with no way of knowing how far I had to go!

Running off the bike is always hard. I had practised this a number of times. But it’s hard for everyone, so despite my legs feeling a bit like jelly, I still managed to pass a lot of people on the run.

Because the last part of the run leg was the same route as the bike route, which I’d ridden three times, I was aware when I was getting closeish to the finish line. It certainly felt like a long 3km!

And then there it was, the last turn, and I could see the finishing arch! I saw Shelley and Piet who had come down to watch (Piet has been trying to talk me into triathlon for years, and later told me he thought it wasn’t my first triathlon, he said I looked like I knew what I was doing!) and with a huge smile I ran, arms aloft, through the finishing arch!

I AM A TRIATHLETE!

I had completed the run in 13:32 which was an average pace of 4:31 per kilometre. My 5k race the previous weekend was 4:30! So given that I’d swum and ridden before that, I had to be pretty happy! (It definitely did not feel that fast!) My run split was 18th overall and 4th out of the females. It was a great way to finish!

First things first, I took off my shoes and socks – stupid rock!

Then Justin, who had been down there all morning taking videos of Karen and myself to capture this epic moment, stuck a camera in my face, I gave the thumbs up, thinking he was taking a photo and then he started interviewing me! Luckily I didn’t swear! He later put together a bit of a compilation video as a memento of the day, which was really great – thanks Justin!

It wasn’t long before Ros crossed the line to complete her first Tinman (and also win her age group – well done Ros!)

Then we were all waiting for Karen – she hadn’t been far behind Ros in finishing the bike leg. There was an out and back section in the run leg, I’d seen Ros heading out as I was heading back, but I hadn’t seen Karen. And in her fluoro tri suit, it’s not as if I could have missed her!

And before too long I spotted Karen approaching the finish line! And in true Karen style, she nearly got lost at the finish line! I’m not sure how she could have missed that HUGE YELLOW ARCHWAY but she looked like she was veering right, perhaps to follow the Challenge course and do another lap of the run course? Maybe as an ultramarathoner, 3k was just not long enough? Anyway, we all yelled out to her and she did manage to find the finish line! (And thankfully she loved the event too and is already planning her next one, otherwise I may never have heard the end of it!)

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WE ARE TRIATHLETES!!!!!

As I had pre-existing lunch plans, I wasn’t able to stay long after the event, and consequently missed the presentations. As it turned out, I kept up my tradition in multisport events and won my age group! (And before you ask, YES, there were other people in my age group!)

My overall time was 1:08:30, which doesn’t really mean a lot to me because I don’t have anything to compare it to. It was significantly faster than I was expecting, though! The swim was a little bit slower, the ride quite a bit quicker, and the run probably about what I would have expected (maybe a little bit quicker). I think I was 10th female overall which was almost certainly thanks to my run leg (and a good T2!)

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With no Garmin times, it wasn’t on Strava, so does that mean it didn’t happen? Here’s proof that it did!

So! Triathlon! I loved every minute! This definitely won’t be my last!

Things to work on for next time.

  • Pressing ‘Start’ on my Garmin.
  • Racking my bike a bit quicker.
  • Swimming a bit faster.
  • Maybe even some gear changes on the bike leg!

So for anyone who’s thinking of trying a triathlon. You don’t need to be a great swimmer, cyclist OR runner. Piet said to me at the finish line (after asking me when I’m going to join his Tri club!) that triathlon is a very inclusive sport. Which I agreed with, then adding “AND VERY EXPENSIVE!” But you don’t have to have all the latest and greatest gear. This really is an event for everyone!

Thanks to everyone involved in putting this event on, and congratulations to all participants, especially those fellow ‘triathlon virgins’! Hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did!