This year’s Husky Long Course was always going to be a milestone race for me for two reasons. Firstly, it is the first time I have returned to compete at the same event for the second time so my expectations were high. Secondly, it was my first event since taking up full time training with BondiFit 3 months earlier.
After making the trip down from Sydney to Huskisson on the Saturday morning, official preparations began with the BondiFit crew assembling at the start of the bike leg for a reconnaissance ride around the bike course. For some of us it presented our last opportunity to complete some race pace simulation ahead of the big day. The vibe amongst the group was good with nerves barely evident from those tackling their first long course event. That mood carried over to the swim session that followed, where swim strategy and a few handy tips were discussed; one in particular that would prove especially handy come race day.
With the final preparations done and dusted it was time to make a quick trip to race registration and back across to transition to rack the bike, before the crew reassembled at the Huskisson Pub for a pre-race feed.
With dinner done, it was time to head back to the hotel to prepare the race kit and hopefully get a good night sleep. This year it was a little different, opting to stay just the one night in Nowra rather than a three night stay in Huskisson. Sleeping the night before a race can always be a challenge with so many thoughts running through your head. You’re usually acutely aware that you have to get up at some god awful hour, just so you can get a good breakfast in and get to the transition area in time to set up before the race starts, all while most people are still sleeping.
Fortunately, as far as sleep goes, the alarm didn’t have to be set too early as my start wave was set to leave last with only the teams to follow, as opposed to last year when my age group directly followed the elite group. Nevertheless, to avoid any travel or parking mishaps, the alarm was set for 5am. This also left enough time to catch the start of the elite wave and see off the some of the other crew starting in the earlier waves.
With the race underway it was time to set up in transition. With a few races now under the belt, it seems to only take a few minutes to pump up the tires and set up the run gear… then 5 times longer running through the two transitions in your head, swearing you have forgotten something because surely it should take longer to prepare all your gear.
It was now time for the rest of the crew starting in the second wave to squeeze into our wetsuits and head down to the swim start for a quick warm up and last minute swim strategy recap now that the course was set. One by one the waves set off and the nerves started to build. However, this time around, there was far less anxiety as I had a race plan for the first time. Usually it was always a case of putting the pedal to the floor from the starters gun and trying to hold on to the finish, however this time was different. I had to have faith that the plan would work.
Soon enough we were called up and away we went. As usual, the start was frenetic with everyone surging off the line as if the race was only a 200m sprint. A washing machine at its finest. Rather than getting caught up in the madness, starting wide meant settling into a steady rhythm was easy… until someone who was clearly not lifting and looking started to cut me off! Luckily, a tip from Spot during Saturdays warm up came in handy and with a quick tack to the left across the others swimmers back, the first buoy was in sight.
From there the pace was steady, jumping from feet to feet, slowly moving up the field as those who went out too hard found the going a little heavy. After turning the last buoy, ready to make the run to the beach, I spotted Kevin (one of the stronger swimmers at BondiFit) swimming through as part of the teams event, which couldn’t have been better timing. I lifted my rating a little and jumped on his feet to get a nice ride in to the beach.
After taking it easy up the stairs and through transition, it still took 15 minutes of cycling before the heart rate calmed down and the riding started to feel a little easier. Once settling into a rhythm, it was quickly becoming evident that the lower end of the power range was going to prove to be the right option, rather than the higher end like I was planning. The first lap went by in a flash and I was pleasantly surprised with the time given the lower power I was working too. The second lap was fractionally slower, despite holding the same output, as the conditions got tougher with the headwind at the southern end of the course starting to build. More time was lost on the final lap despite holding the same output yet again as the wind got even stronger and the heat started to take its toll.
After getting a time check from Bec as I entered T2, I checked my watch as I headed out on the run and knew exactly what needed to be done. Even though I started with some discomfort following the ride, it began to fade through the first couple of kilometers. Before I knew it, I had hit the turn around with 5kms down and my usually unsettled stomach was holding together better than usual.
The run back towards Huskisson was tough as the heat began to really bite. The cheers running through the crowd to the northern turnaround, along with the encouraging words from my supporters and the rest of the crew, was a timely boost that helped kick me along back out to the southern turnaround.
From that point it was always the plan to empty the tank all the way to the finish. Unfortunately, no matter how much I willed my legs on, it was impossible to lift the pace. After checking my watch, I knew if I could just hold on to the finish, my goal was in sight. One last run through the supporters and all that was left was the uphill run from the northern turnaround to the finish.
From there, all the pain and struggling faded and thoughts of crossing the line was all that I could focus on. It was the first time I’d hit the finish shoot without being completely exhausted or carrying some kind of injury, just limping over the line. The plan had worked! The goal was to break 4:30, a 25 minute improvement on the previous year. The final time was 4:23. While there is still plenty of improvement it was a very satisfying result.
It was definitely far more enjoyable sharing the day with a number of the regular training crew. The camaraderie certainly helped keep me going through the run and it was great to share stories with a number of them at the finish. Results like this are never achievable without great supporters and none of it would have been possible without them. A big shout out goes out to all the crew that were there on the day, Mum and Dad who are always there to watch, rain, hail or shine and Bec, who keeps me going day in day out when all I want to do is sleep in just that once!
Hopefully Husky 2015 marks a promising start to a long journey with 5 more long distance triathlons already locked in to the program over the next 18 months.