We are now 10 days on from my first ever triathlon. The soreness has well and truely gone, the newness and excitement of having done my first tri is gone, so what better time to reflect?
Having tentatively set the olympic distance tri as a goal around 5 months ago, I oddly found myself only registering with about 20 minutes to spare. It was a pretty miserable Saturday afternoon in Geelong as I made my way to the waterfront to hand over my entry fee and rack my bike in the transition area - where it would stay overnight in the pouring summer rain. To enter the transition area I had to put on my competitor wristband that told everyone I was number 1659. I wheeled my bike past hundreds of thousands of dollars (literally) of bikes to an empty spot in the rack. I sat on a picnic table for a few moments just looking and taking it all in. The transition compound was to be patrolled overnight but I had no concerns; my bike could be bought 7-8 times over for what most of the bikes there were worth.
I woke before my alarm to the sound of rain really bucketing down outside. The relatively late start time of 8:35 meant I was relaxed and in no hurry. I had some breaky, a coffee and all in all it felt like a fairly normal Sunday morning. After a final tick, tick, tick of my checklist I grabbed my gear, kissed the family goodbye and they wished me luck. I ran to my car in torrential rain.
Happily the sun broke through on the short drive to the Geelong waterfront and the rain eased off. I loitered around a bit looking for Tim (my brother who was also doing the tri) and feeling a bit out of sorts and out of place. I gave up on him and headed into the transition compound to get everything ready. Walkind down the long rack of bikes I saw Tim who was setting his gear out ready for his swim/bike and bike/run transitions. He suggested I get a move on as event staff were saying transition was closing soon. This turned out to be an empty threat presumably designed to get the competitors in and out to avoid congestion. I found my bike and set about laying out my bike and run gear ready for when I came out of the swim. I looked and how other people did it and largely copied them. After the obligitory check that I had everything I left the transition area to wetsuit up. Again with the checks; swim cap, goggles, earplugs, check, check, check, I handed in my bag and stood around chatting to Tim and watching the water.
The race and swim leg started a little behind scheduele to the sound of the starters hooter. I was off. I jogged into the water further than most before I started swimming. The bay was flat and I was hopeful that the 1500 metre swim wouldn't trouble me too much. Initially my chest felt tight in the wetsuit and my breath was short. I was reasonably sure this was excitement and adrenaline that was getting my heartrate up, so I tried my best to just get into a good stroke pattern with a breathe on every third one. It was 600 metres out to the first buoy which I covered fairly easily. The back 500 was where I started thinking 'okay, I've had enough swimming, let's ride!'. Despite wanting to be on the bike, I tried to settle down and just enjoy what I was doing, which I did. My right goggle was half full of water which was kind of annoying but I didn't bother stopping to correct it. Instead I just did a bit of closed eye swimming which was a nice little escape. I rounded the right hand turn on the second buoy and was soon taking a left around the last one and heading to the beach. By now the athletes who had started in the wave behind me were going past; a fact that didn't bother me other than getting literally overrun by them a couple of times. At the end of a 1500 metre swim you don't really need to have people running into and over you! It was hugely satisfying standing up and jogging onto the beach. I instantly felt more tired than I was while swimming and worried about how much energy I had used and how much I still had. I tore off my googgles and cap first then pulled down my wetsuit, all the while running to my bike.
At transition I pulled off the rest off the wetsuit exposing my Zoot trisuit, a one piece outfit designed to be worn through all three disciplines of the tri. I through on one bike shoe, then thought I'd better put my helmet one (helmets must be on at all times your bike is unracked - I was worried I'd forget this, hence I put it on between doing my left and right shoe!). This was followed by my second shoe, my race number belt and my sunnies with clear lenses. It was pouring rain at this stage and the ground was soft underfoot as I ran my bike out of transition. This soft ground probably made running in cleated bike shoes a bit easier. Got to the sign that read 'Bike Mount' and did so without incident. Happily the bike leg went by without incident. The rain desisted after about 15 minutes and the sun slowly broke through. I was by now aware of a decent pain in my stomach and thought it had most likely been a result of taking in the salty water of Corio Bay. I was uncomfortable, but with my heartrate down around 145 it wasn't too much of a problem. The 40km bike ride went by really quickly and after 82 minutes I rode down Ritchie Blvd to the cheers of my 'support team'. I felt GOOD! I dismounted carefully at the prescribed point and ran my bike back into transition.
I racked my bike, helmet off, shoes off, running shoes on, visor on and I was off again. Almost instantly that pain in my stomach became a massive problem. Now that I was running the heartrate went up as did the pain. The legs felt okay though. I was going along a decent pace despite the stomach pain and feeling okay about things. This only lasted about 500 metres though. I could feel hints of cramps in both quads - this was always my biggest concern - and I could now pin point three places in my gut where the pains were coming from. What unfolded over that 10km, 55 minute journy was almost entirely hell. Other than a 'low five' with Tim who was heading in the opposite direction, I got little joy on that run. In fact, I think I could confidently say it was the hardest run I've ever done. I've done a few. Somehow I kept going despite thoughts that vomitting might do me good. I just kept thinking 'try another few hundred mate' and that's what I did. I walked through the drink stations so I could make sure I took on all the fluid (water, electrolytes, cola) that I could get in. I think doing this saved me. I had run through the cramps and after the first four or so kms they never came back.
Running past the finish line at about 7.5kms I could hear all my supports shouting out encouragment. Thet would have only seen a pained expression on my face but on the inside I was absorbing their energy and using it. The final U-turn seemed to take forever to come but eventually it did. I was almost able to enjoy the last few hundred metres. Almost. I did enjoy crossing the line though and finally being able to stop after that hellish run.
I was handed an event towel which I threw over my head and took a couple of drinks off the table. I knew drinking plenty would do me good, but most of all I just wanted to not run. Tim made his way over and we hugged and congratulated each other. He implored me to 'drink a shitload of water', warning I'd get a massive headache if I didn't. We left the area behind the finsh line and caught up with those who were there to see me plod those last few metres.
The wash up was a 2 hour 58 minute finish time. Broken down to 35 for the swim, 82 for the ride, and 55 for the run. Add a few minutes in transitions and you're up to almost three hours. My goal was to compete and complete, and so I was happy to sneak in under 3:00 hrs.
I'm so grateful to my support network. Not just on the day, but in life. Renee, Anzac and Lola (who wore their white plastic gargabe bags with "I love you Dad" and "Team Simesy" in thick black texta on them), Tim, Loz, Isaiah, Scarlett, Josh (thanks for the wetsuit loan!), Megs, Bex, Mim, Mum, Dad. You're all super important to me. Thanks too to those who sent the encouraging texts. I appreciate it all.
Any ideas for my next goal?