I write this race report with my Coach Janine Kaye's latest write-up in the back of my mind (the one about how we diminish our accomplishments by saying 'just a sprint, just a small field, Im just slow' etc...if you havent read it yet, I encourage everyone who has any self-doubt or undervalues their accomplishments to read it)!
So Fiji, .. this was my 40th birthday present to myself. My very first long course triathlon and a holiday wrapped up into one. I've trained hard and I've trained smart, and thanks to my coach, I made it to the start line feeling fresh, fit and uninjured! I think thats more than half the battle of a long course, so success already!!
Strangely enough this was the very first Tri I faced without any nerves whatsoever. Im not sure why, perhaps I was totally relaxed being on holidays, perhaps the small number of competitors, the friendly relaxed atmosphere or perhaps the really hot weather made me not worry about expectations. Not sure but I was very 'easy going' about this tri.
7am and race start, 35 competitors in the long course (including teams), we all started together, you can imagine how nice it was not to have the typical 'smashfest' at the start of the swim!! I took the swim very easy as I knew a I had a long day ahead and being my first Long Course - I wasnt sure how hard I could push without burning myself out too early. So I just decided to enjoy the swim and take it easy. Turns out I do swim slower without a wetsuit....but with water temp at just over 26 degrees - wetsuits was a definitely no-no!
T1 and there are still bikes in transition, yay I'm not last out of the water. Here I decided to really take my time and do what I needed to. I knew from the previous day when I competed in a 2.5km run it was going to be unbearably hot & humid ( I swear that was the hardest run Ive ever done and did leave me wondering how on earth I was going to complete 20kms) . Firstly I grabbed my wet-wipes and cleaned my face...SO MUCH MUD!!! Yes I was asked if I would be applying lipstick also, I told them its all about the finishers photo, I didnt want a mud faced smile!!! :=) I decided to cover-up on the ride. I took the time to put on a cycling jersey, arm sun-protection sleeves and my gloves, I wanted as little sun beating down on me as possible.
The ride was the hightlight!!! 3 laps equalling 80kms and I experienced it all!! First lap and im sure I spent more time saying BULA BULA to every Fijian I pass, they are soooo friendly, then I see a table was being set up on the side of the road selling fish, just laid out in the glaring sun.....about 3kms to complete my first lap and out of nowhere barking, really loud barking, DOG!!! OMG TEETH!!!!! Stray dog chase me, teeth baring, angry and loud!!! OMG i was so scared!!! I had to unclip and kick out at it to scare it away, I always wondered why my coach had one-leg spin efforts in my training sessions....now I know why, its ridiciously hard to pedal with one leg, kick out the other at an angry mongrel dog, thank god I can one-legged cycle quickly!! I swear it was the size of a great dane!! Heart rate is peaking!!!! I warn a few cyclists coming the other way of the great danger, they look at me and say nothing, I secretly hope they encounter the dog and havent had a thoughtful coach teach them how to cycle with one leg!!
Second lap and more fish stalls, its like the whole town are out shopping for fish..I've found if I stick an electrolye tablet in my mouth just before approaching the fish, the fizz and gas from the electrolyte makes it hard for me to breath as its fizzing up my nose...brilliant, this blocks the fishy smell!!! Definately not an enjoyable way to injest electrolyes!! I see a dead cat, hangon I think its sleeping, it doesnt look injured so maybe its soaking up the sun, the side of a highway isnt the best place to catch a few zzz's, maybe it really is dead.
Third lap, the humidity is starting to rise, its getting hot and now it starts to gets hairy, the traffic has really picked up and I get stuck in a traffic jam. I dont know what to do, Ive still got 20kms to go and Im waiting in a jam barely doing 8km/hr...Im too scared to undertake as there is hardly any room and overtaking is surely certain death....I decide to wait in line with the traffic its always quicker to T2 when you dont have to go via a hospital.....a cyclist behind me catches up and gets the attention of the police escort to come over and escort me through the traffic...yay!!! Im on the move again heading to T2. I see an ambulance fly by, I have a bad feeling, then tell myself to stop being silly, there is probably a local who is sick from eating the fish that sits out in the sun. No sign of the mongrel dog again so its smooth sailing!! I complete my ride in under 3hrs which considering all my counters, I'm really quite happy with.
I make it to T2 (this is a separate transition area to where T1 is), I rack my bike, have a chat to my family who are waiting, put on my sneakers, put my gels in my pockets and a tube of suncream. Off I go for the run, Im feeling surprisingly good. I ate my way around my first two laps of the bike, Im full of infinite, vegimite sandwich, winners bar, gels and litres of water.
The 20km run is around the golf course, it consists of foothpath, road and a lot of spongy grass and tree roots....and those stupid steep little hills that golf courses have! I set off and run pass the club house where all the family & friends have taken up residence to cheer me when I pass. My legs feel great, no jelly legs happening, its hot, its humid, I hear the commentator say its reached 38degrees with 90% humidity, great, this is when I decide to make a run plan, run in the sun and walk in the shade...thankfully there is a bit of shade and I use one of these shady walk breaks to slather on the suncream on my shoulders/face, first lap and it wasnt too bad!!
Onto the second lap and my contact lense folds up and moves to the corner of my eye, Im debating whether to throw it away and run with only one seeing eye, but I quickly dismiss this because of the amount of tree roots and mud to navigate. I decide to stop under a shady tree, wash my hands under my water bottle, take out the contact, give it a rinse and try and get it back in my eye (not easy without a mirror) , job done and I head off again! I realise that the aid station have zip-lock bags of ice....Yay!!! A big block goes straight down the sports bra and the bag of ice gets tucked into the back of my tri suit!!! Brrrrrrr!!!
What heat??!!! Im definitely much cooler but now my Hoka's have turned into swimming pools, I stop under a shady tree and wring out my soaking wet sock, its full of water and giving me a blister.
Toilet, need to go!!! I suppose the positive of this is that I am really well hydrated. Hmmm wonder if I could just stop behind a tree on the golf course? Too many people playing, better not, I decide that with the blister on my foot, I will stop when I complete my second lap and run into the club house toilet, my mum is cheering me on just before the lap finish so I yell out to her to grab the bandaids I left in transition and meet me in the ladies, she does, I pat dry my feet, stick on bandaides, go to the toilet and then head off again for the last 2 laps, 10kms to go!!!
First 2.5km of the third lap is all good, then I do it a bit tough on the second half of this lap, there is a long stretch out the back side of the golf course that is on bitumen and no shade and it bugs me a bit...but another aid station and a bag of ice and Im back in my happy place!
I pass the club house for my last lap and my sister joins me for a few hundred metres, she tells me the lady that beat me in the 2.5km run is only 200mtrs ahead and to 'go get her and lap her'...she beat me in the run by 20secs by cutting the course short...twice - we dont like cheaters. Turns out my sister lied!!! The lady was a good 500mtrs ahead of me, I wanted the pleasure of lapping her but knew if I pushed hard I'd probably blow right up and finish in a bad way, so I kept to my race plan. Last aid station stop, decided I didnt need another bag of ice, just a cup of coke and off I went, I rounded the bend, I had about 500mtrs down the road and I could see Mum in the distance, she was at the corner where I turned into the golf course where the finishers chute was waiting, I strengthened my posture, picked up my speed just a little and reached Mum, I can hear the Commentator on the microphone 'And our lead female is not far away now, she's approaching the finishers chute, here she comes, she's doing this for her 40th birthday)'!! I lapped 'the cheater' just before I turned down the finishers chute and slowed down my pace, I was determined to take the time to enjoy my achievement. I didnt think it was possible to get goosebumps in such hot/humid weather but I did.
I was the first female to cross the finish line. I may never hear those words again and normally I would say 'its only because there were only a couple of girls' but not now. Regardless of race numbers, I trained hard, it was my first long course, the conditions were tough and out of 35 long course participants - 7 didnt finish, one was hit by a car (my gut feeling about the ambulance turned out right, thankfully he was ok) and 6 didnt finish as the heat was too much for them. I finished in just under 7hrs!! Thats a long time to be out in that heat!!
I felt great, actually probably a little too great as I was told I wasnt red faced or looking hot and bothered. Im sure spending 8yrs working (and running) in the Pilbara really helped me physically and mentally deal with the heat. I realised I could have pushed harder but being my first Long Course I just wasnt sure what pace I could sustain especially in the heat. For me, it didnt matter about the time, I finished and I had the BEST TIME EVER!!! I downed an ice cold Fiji Gold and danced up a storm at the hotel bar until well after mid-night, yes people where suprised that I could dance let alone walk ok after such a big day. I think my Coach gave me longer training sessions to ensure I had enough fitness to see me through the after-party!!
I honestly started out on the path towards achieving this goal secretly believing that I wasnt capable of doing a long course or a half Ironman distance triathlon. I always felt like it was for the fit/dedicated/committed people and that I was a bit of a phoney but what can I say, consistant training and a great coach (who listens and mentors and mostly believes) made me realise that anyone can be part of that special group. Even me!! I cant thank her enough!!! Janine Kaye you truly have got me doing things I thought were just far-fetched, over exaggerated unrealistic dreams. Love that they are now my reality!!
I cant thoroughly recommend the Fiji International Long course Triathlon enough. What an amazing experience and a great course. If you want a no pressure, pure enjoyment triathlon experience then you couldnt beat this!!! Love Love Love!!
P.S - A fellow Triathlete saw the cat and then said on his last lap it was gone, so seems it was sleeping!!