It has been a year since I received the invitation to race Ultraman Australia and almost 5 months since the event. It has taken that long and a number of attempts to write a race report. I found it hard to put it on paper but wanted to have something to keep the memory. The result is rather lengthy but hopefully it is not totally boring.
Without stealing the thunder, I had several moments and even days, where all I wanted was the race to be over. I was so tired. I still felt like that when I arrived in Noosa a few days before the race – but within a few minutes of the fun gun going off on Day 1, I didn’t want it to end. Later, there would be a few moments where I simply had enough, but overall it has been the best experience and nothing like I expected.
Saturday, 12 May 2018
Day 1! I found myself standing at Noosa Beach at 5.30am, just before sunrise, waiting for the swim start at 6.15 I had thought about this moment so many times over the past months, wondering what it would feel like. To my own surprise I had been calm up until then, the usual pre-race nerves didn’t have a lot of time to play up in the days before the race. But right then, I felt the all-too-familiar knot in my stomach so that I barely took notice of the pre-race-ceremony. All I knew that the next 3 days would count so I tried to keep it cool.
My crew – Kerry, Jos, Kirsten and Ciaran - was ready to go and buzzing, they were wonderful the days leading up to the race and I was about to experience how team work really makes the dream work – little did I know. Ciaran had met and briefed my paddler Jade, a 15-year-old girl from the local surf club. She was equipped with all my nutrition and plenty of instructions to get me through the 10km swim as efficiently as possible.
Just after 6 I said my good-byes and made my way to the shore line – I had decided against a warm up and decided to stay wrapped up instead. I figured the long swim would give me plenty of time to get warm. It was a short swim to the start and at 6.15am, the gun went off. It was probably a bit faster then I expected, I thought most people would take their time. I ignored this as best as I could, focusing on spotting Jade on her paddle board while settling into a good rhythm. Within less than a minute, Jade found me and was to my left, just as agreed. This is something I learned quickly – she was always exactly where she needed to be, not missing a beat and guiding me safely through the swim. Pretty impressive for a teenager! I remember taking a breath to my right and there was the most beautiful sunrise over the ocean, something we never get to see in Perth. Suddenly the nerves disappeared, and I simply swam thinking ‘How lucky am I that I get to do this’. Sounds cheezy but true. Following Jade from buoy to buoy, stopping every 30 minutes for nutrition, I lost track of time and distance, I just tried to swim efficiently. I overtook a few people and could tell by Jade’s gestures that all the paddlers had a competition going on amongst them – who had the faster swimmer! She would wave at her mates and give me the thumbs up every now and then when I took a breath, cheering me on during the stops. Focusing on her made time go so quickly.
During the 3rd stop she told me we were already 6km in – I quickly did the maths, ca 6km in 90mins, that was way ahead of my goal. It couldn’t have come at a better time as I was worried about the last 4 km. I only completed a handful of swims longer than 6km, so I was nervous about the last section. Before I knew we turned at the last buoy, I could hear people screaming at the beach, and suddenly my feet touched the ground – first leg done, and my watch showed less than 3 hours. I gave Jade a quick thank you high-5, she was almost as excited as I was.
My crew met me at the beach for what will forever be the best transition of my life. Kerry took my wetsuit off and had my cycling gear ready (I went for the comfort of a proper cycling kit rather than a tri-suit), Kirsten was in charge of sunscreen while Jos put on my socks and shoes and Kerry made sure I ate and drank, Ciaran had the bike ready – go! 4 people making sure I get in and out as quickly as possible and they did a great job. There’s a photo of all of us in transition, which captures the moment so well. I’m pretty sure this was the first of many times other athletes wanted to swap me for my crew, they were THAT good.
I got on my bike and left for my way through Noosa. The support vehicle had to take another route, so I knew I’d be on my own for the first 10-15km. I rode the route a few times before and had the map loaded on my Garmin – I was more worried about catching people in front of me than getting lost at that stage. I quickly noticed that my power meter did not work properly. Not ideal, but I did not want to lose time by stopping and resetting it, so I decided to ‘ride blind’, by feel, and sort it out at the end of the day.
It did not take long before I overtook the first few riders ahead of me and hit the first climb that took me out of town. I expected to see my crew at the top of that climb and was a little surprised when I realised they were not waiting for me; I kept riding, thinking they would show up any moment. I eventually decided to use my ‘emergency’ food to stay on top of nutrition. The default plan was to carry as little as possible with me on the bike and the crew would hand me what I needed. As I was riding along, I started to come up with all sort of horror stories, wondering what happened to the crew – from accidents to disqualification. I later found out that I made it through town faster than expected. They were probably more stressed than I was by the time they found me! From then on, we settled into a good rhythm. I saw them frequently, probably every 10 minutes, and they handed of food and water as required.
There was certainly some trial-and-error but we soon figured out the way to go about this whole thing. I believe I