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 runni