If someone said to me that I was going to swim a 01:07:05 in choppy conditions like those that presented at Palm Cove that morning, I wouldn’t have believed them. As we were lining up in the pen, I was bursting with excitement. I knew deep down that having had that ‘beautiful’ swim at Busso IM in 2015 behind me, this couldn’t be too much different. But it was different. SIX minutes different!
This kind of a rolling start was new to me. My heart rate didn’t sky rocket like it normally does at the beginning of a swim start. I remained calm and just kept focusing on what MG had said to us “just because the water is choppy, you have to sight more and don’t keep lifting your head out of the water completely”. I tried to keep my body as flat in the water as I could, while letting the chop throw me about as opposed to fighting it. It worked! At times I felt like a rag doll in a washing machine but I was always calm inside. I have learnt that if I try to swim fast, it doesn’t work. Staying relaxed is much smoother and enjoyable!
And it was choppy out there. It was unlike what I had always told myself “get on toes”. I couldn’t really see any toes. I would find myself bashing into people and wonder where they came out of. But all the time I could see, I was passing these people, not them catching me. I settled into a pace that I knew I could maintain. I kept the trigger CAR in my head, which Neil Brooks had drilled into me (control, alignment and rotation). MG had been working with me, on my pull with my right arm (at swim squad at the sessions prior to the race) and I really focused on my pull under the water. I think my ability to breathe off both sides was beneficial in this race, as I had to change my pattern a lot.
I have never sighted so much in a swim before, but I had to do it a lot in this race and it worked in my favour. I’d pick a swim cap ahead of me, reach, glide, catch, pull and get up beside them, swim on their hip and then when I felt able, I’d pick another ahead and do the same.
The first lap was much easier than the second. The chop increased. As I turned the second last pink buoy for the last time, I knew it was getting worse and the only option was to get to shore faster. Someone had said to me before the race, as we were standing in the pen, “when you get past the last pink buoy and swim past the two yellow buoys after this – HEAD FOR THE SHORE. Don’t swim the diagonal to the swim exit; you will be faster on feet than swimming”. I did just that. Caught a few waves on the way in (first time to do this successfully) and once my fingers tips scraped the sand, dashed along the sand for T1. Hit my watch, seen something that looked like a 1:07 and thought to myself, it’s gonna be a good day.
Had a successful T2 and felt good jumping onto the P2. About 100m after mounting I could see Claude ahead. MG and Pete were either side, shouting “great swim” – this gave me a great lift. I rode past Claude. I knew he would pass me shortly, so I decided I would go for gold and hope when he did, I might be able to use him to hang on.
The bike ride was simply spectacular. To be honest, I can’t really talk much about it, because I don’t remember much of it. I can safely say I was in ‘flow’. I remember hitting the 120KM mark and saying to myself, sh*t, I have to get off my bike soon. I didn’t have a goal pace or time for this bike ride. On discussion with MG, we planned for an average cadence of 90+. I averaged at 92. I caught people on the climbs. Constantly, maintaining a high cadence. Claude passed me about the 30KM mark I think and my goal from there was to keep him in sight. I came upon Luke as we headed into Port Douglas and this was awesome, I felt like I was down at Pursuit training session. At the turn arounds, we would shout each other on. This was a massive lift for me, as Claude was still in sight.
My nutrition was spot on and I was getting it in as planned and practiced. I did exactly as I had done in the swim. Picked a rider ahead, rode up behind them, used the 25 seconds and sling shot past them. I was in my element. The ride down into Cairns was bloody tough. But all that went through my head was Mike saying to me, it’s not going to be easy and Ger O’Donovan jumping in with a “if you are finding it hard, imagine what the other girls in your AG are feeling like”. I maintained my high cadence, didn’t kill myself on the way home and rode into T2, doing a 5.20 bike and a woman on a mission.
Had a super-fast T2 and headed out onto the run course feeling confident. Legs were heavy but I knew that if I could get through the first 18-20km, I’d be grand. Got nutrition in as planned but my legs were slowly dying, and my KM splits were getting longer and longer. Pete, Ger, Aileen and Mike were fantastic, giving me updates and telling me to stick to the plan.
Chino had passed me at this point (into 1st), but I was running my race. From the 12km mark to the 35km mark, I was breaking it down. I would run to the aid stations, walk the length of it and then run again but as I headed out on my last lap and Pete shouted at me that 3rd and 4th were now only 10minutes behind, I knew I had to dig a little deeper.
With 6 or 7km’s to go, I knew I had to go places I didn’t think I could. I heard loud breathing creeping up behind me and this girl was moving. And she had an F on her right calve – my AG. FARK! We were shoulder to shoulder, approaching Pete, Ger and Aileen as we headed for the Red Bull turnaround. Pete not knowing who she was shouted “how are you feeling?” Me, remembering what MG had told us – never let your competitors know you’re tired, replied “Great. I am actually feeling good!” (Yeah right!!) She passed me and was moving.
I knew I had about 8mins on her but still, over my dead body was she going to run down the shoot before me. I tried to run with her, but I still had 7km’s to go. I knew I would blow up if I went with her. But somehow I managed to pick up my pace. My watch showed a 5.38km – I couldn’t hold 6min km’s before this. Confidence booster. I kept her in sight. NO stopping at aid stations now, just screaming for coke and powering through.
It was dark and she was hard to see. Aileen alerted me that she was only 50m ahead and I knew there was only 3km to go. I bit my tongue and surged, thinking of those 400m sprints we would do at intervals on a Tuesday and how I never died doing them, so I wasn’t gonna die from this one.
Once again we were running shoulder to shoulder. I could hear she was breathing like a steam train (I laughed a little inside as she sounded just like Dean Shipp when he would steam past me on a 5km run TT), I knew if I did another surge, she wouldn’t be able to come with me so I did just that. I went for gold. I ran like I was the bloody Pro out in first place heading for the win (in my head anyway ha ha).
Next thing MG does some jumping out of bushes type strategies and he’s in my ear shouting “race to the finish”. I won’t write some of the colourful things that I wanted to shout back there and then. I read a text since, that Oscar Booth sent to MG, saying I was like a robot. And he was dead right. A bomb could have gone off beside me during these last 2km’s and I wouldn’t have noticed it. It was mind over matter at this point. As I went underneath the blue Shimano sign and turned to head for the finish. I got caught behind 2 guys. Yay, I thought, I’ll ease here for a second but then a yell “pass them pass them pass them” – MG, still jumping out of bushes! That was it, down the finish, a pace of 4.27km to finish. My finisher pictures paint a thousand words!
10:44:11 – a lot learned and a lot more to learn but very happy. Now…… R&R before the Kona build. Thanks to the support from our fantastic Pursuit Squad on the day, both on and off the course, there are no words to describe its value.