What a crazy week it has been for me here. My last two blog posts have gone a little mental with literally thousands of people reading them as well as some incredible triathlon experiences over the weekend at the Nepean Tri. I love to write race reports and this week will be no different. I intend to give you all my version of events. There is however so much more to the day than my swim, bike and run. I don't say this lightly but it was probably the greatest triathlon day I have ever had so I want to try and incorporate that into it a bit as well.
My good friend who I am incredibly proud of, Andy Castellano, like me had let life get in the way and let himself go. He had put on a bit of weight and wasn't happy about it. On Sunday Andy completed his first triathlon. That alone is an incredible achievement. Especially considering that he is still weighing in at 100kgs. However the real reason I am so proud of him is that he has done what many people are unwilling to do. He acknowledged that he was unhappy with his health and weight and is taking active steps to do something about it. Andy came to me to help get him ready for the race and has gone from not being able to swim 25 metres without a break to sending me messages saying "I only managed 1km of the swim". I have been blown away by his dedication. There have been ups and downs, but there has never been the slightest chance that he wouldn't get it done. I knew from the moment I saw him riding his bike on Sunday that he was going to finish. Watching him come across the line was freaking epic. He smashed the race and is already looking for his next triathlon.
Now to my swim. The Nepean swim is held in the Regatta Centre completion lake. It is warm and still. I have raced here many times and I have never ever swam quickly. I am twice the swimmer I used to be so I was expecting to manage about 14 minutes for the 1km swim. This was considering it was a non-wetsuit swim. We were called into the water early and told there was a minute until the race start. This happened 2 times and in reality it was more like 6 minutes. I noticed that it was getting very crowded on the start line which is never good. I also noticed no one had gone the other side of one of the lane ropes. So I moved over and found myself with plenty of room for the start. When the gun went I went out hard and found sighting very easy with the lane ropes at the Regatta Centre being easy to follow. There were people around me the whole swim meaning that it was difficult to get into a rhythm and the one time I tried to draft someone I noticed that they went way off course so I decided to just go it alone. As with most races the closer you get to the swim exit the more people there are and this was no different. There were people everywhere and I was struggling to swim a straight line. I had also had my customary panic in the water at about 450 metres where I had a spike in heart rate. All this meant that coming to the swim exit my HR was higher than I would have liked. Considering my swim time I was disappointed with how much effort I had exerted for a fairly disappointing time. I came out of the water in 16:42.
There was a bit of a run up to T1. This was good for me though as I was wearing my new sleeved tri suit. The only problem with a sleeved suit is that you cant have your shoulders covered for the swim leg. So I had the top of my suit wrapped around my waist under my speed suit. When I exited the water I ripped the top half of my suit down and tried to get the top of my race suit up. Let me tell you, putting on skin-tight lycra on wet skin is not easy. I managed to get it on but found I was spending a long time getting my gear together in transition. This meant that I took longer than expected. I was glad this was happening at a local race rather than at a big 70.3. All lessons for next time! T1 time was 2:02
Another person who I was incredibly proud of on Sunday was a person who I have met through the sport and is quickly becoming one of my very good triathlon friends. That person is Morenna "Momo" Burn. Momo is tackling Noosa Tri this weekend and up until about 2 weeks before the start of Nepean Tri was struggling to ride a road bike at all. I have been on a few rides with her and I know that she is a good rider. Her technique is solid it is just that she has had a mental block with the cleats. It was awesome to meet her fella, Vince, after I finished my race and we had a chat about her. I knew she had been doing it tough but I don't think I realised how tough she had been doing it. He told me of her struggles to master it. Again, it is that never give up attitude that made me so proud to see her cross the finish line looking so strong. She not only struggled with the bike but much like Andy has had huge issues with swimming. I know she will crush Noosa Tri this weekend and will continue to see big improvements in the sport.
The bike is my favourite leg. Ever since I started this sport I really look forward to getting out on my bike. The beauty of this course is that the ride is only 30km long. This means that you can absolutely punish yourself and it lasts less than an hour compared to over 2 hours in a 70.3. When I got onto the bike I was feeling a little flustered after my less than stellar swim and transition but forced myself to focus on spinning those wheels. There were a number of areas with some very tight corners on the course which I feel really impacted on my overall speed. On the flat sections I was pushing anywhere from 40 - 45km/h. On top of this it felt relatively easy. When I was coming back into town there were a few false flats but I found myself getting distracted trying to spot other people that I knew on course. By not paying attention my speed dropped. This part of the course was the same as the back end of the 70.3 course I did last year. I managed to ride my last 15km there last year at over 40km/h so I expected to ride faster than that on Sunday. I identified that I had dropped pace so focused again on my ride. The only criticism I have of the race was those tight little technical turns in and around the Whitewater stadium. Also at the end of the bike leg there was a section on really rough road with a series of tight corners. That was no good. Otherwise a good fast course with some sneaky little climbs. I managed to come off the bike with a split of 47:14. This was maybe 2 minutes slower than I had hoped.
This transition was also a little slower than I would have liked. I made sure there were no stones on the bottom of my feet and that my shoes were on properly. I also wanted to rock my Thanyapura visor to give them the maximum amount of exposure I could on course. Coming out of transition there were two paths, left and right. I assumed the left was the correct path as the path we follow is on the left. But I was told I had gone the wrong way. I slipped over trying to turn around and feel like maybe a simple sign could have helped here... T2 time of 57 seconds.
The highlight of the day for me without doubt was that my younger brother, Luke, rocked up to race without telling me. After I registered in the morning I was about to head into transition and there he was with his bike. I could not comprehend what was happening. My brother has always been the sporting person in my family. Even though I am the eldest, I have always looked up to him in many ways. As such, when I started racing triathlon I tried to convince him to come and do one too. Literally for years I have been telling him to do one. When we were younger Luke was a very good sprinter. The 100 and 200 metres were his pet events and he had a lot of success. However as he started to get older he had increasing problems with his calf muscles. He was diagnosed with compartment syndrome. This is when the bags of fascia that contain your muscles are not big enough. This leads to a build up of pressure and agony. Luke underwent surgery for the problem which was meant to fix his legs. Instead it ended his sprinting carrier. It has taken him a long time to build up the strength to be able to run at all. So to see him there ready to race with me was incredible. He told me he had signed up for the race 6 months prior and had been training in secret because he didn't want me taunting him for 6 months about how badly I was going to beat him. All day when I was out on course I was trying to keep an eye out for him and after the race I told my Mum that I was going to be at the finish line when he crossed and became a triathlete. I was so lucky to be there when he crossed and that moment is honestly one of the greatest of my life. I was so proud of him. Like Andy and Morenna, Luke has faced his fair share of challenges to get to that start line. He also did it all by himself without any help or guidance. Even thinking about it now gives me goosebumps.
As the Nepean Tri is an odd distance I was always going to post a PB because it was the first time I raced it. However I have really been struggling this year (ever since the crash in Bintan) to run well off the bike. So I decided if nothing else, I wanted to go under 40 minutes for the 10km. My coach Ben told me that the Regatta Centre run is hard both physically and mentally. He told me to pace myself the first lap and then go for it on the last lap. I have a bad habit with all the runs I do of going out too hard. Sunday was no different. My first km split was around 3:50 and I knew that if I didn't pace myself I could get into trouble later. I intentionally made a conscious effort to run around 4min/km. I really tried to focus on my own technique and as a few runners passed me I forced myself to stay consistent. I also had some blisters starting to form under my feet which started to give me grief after about 3km. I told myself to worry about them after the race. I completed my first 5km in 20:02 so my pacing was pretty much spot on. Running past the grandstand was incredible as I had so many friends and family there (I now realise cheering for Luke) but it gave me a real boost. Onto my second lap and I though if I can get to the far end of the lake, about 2km from the finish I will bury myself coming home. That is what I did. I stayed fairly consistent for kms 6,7 and 8. I did start to drop off a bit and had to yell at myself to get on with it a bit. I also passed a few friends and was cheered on by people who I had not met. It was brilliant. The last 2km I decided to drop the hammer and by the last km I really picked up the pace. I think my last km was around 3:45 I was really moving. I flew past my family and crossed the finish line in 1:46:26 with a 10km run split of 39:28.
I had hoped to go under 1:50 for this race and was thrilled to see I did that. I finished 6th in my age group and 50th overall which for me is a great result. But definitely the highlight of the day was getting to share the experience with so many other people. Rob, Kon and Morgan were also out there and it was brilliant to chat with them throughout the day. Kon recently joined my tri team MaccaX and was rocking the same tri suit as me which was great. Chris from MaccaX was also there and I gave him a slap on the ass as I ran the last 2km home. Last time we raced there together he saw me as a blubbering mess on the side of the course. But why did I decide to name this post "You can teach an old dog new tricks?" Well I realised that the reason my brother did not want to tell me I was racing was because he was worried that I would give him a hard time. I admit that I am very competitive with my brother. More so than anyone else. However I hate the thought that anyone, especially Luke would feel like they cannot approach me or ask me questions about training or racing. So having said that I am determined moving forward to not only focus on my success but to also display my failures. It is easy to share a successful swim or run session. It isn't so easy to share an unsuccessful one. I always say this but I am the definition of ordinary. There is nothing special about me at all. It is why I call my blog "My Extraordinary, Ordinary Life" because I really believe that if I have been able to achieve what I have then anyone can. I want to include as many people in the sport and process as possible. That is my goal, to introduce this sport to people who never thought it could be possible.
Another big thing that happened for me this week was that I was interviewed by one of my true sporting heroes, Chris 'Macca' McCormack. To be the first guest on his podcast was surreal and seeing the reaction to it has been incredible. There has been so much support and no criticism, something I was a little nervous about. So to everyone who listened and shared it and posted encouraging comments, thank you. It has literally been shared nearly 5000 times!!! It is funny but when you are in something it seems normal. It isn't until others react to it that you realise it is something different. I lost weight because I hated how I was. But if I am able to motivate others now that is like winning the lotto for me.
That's it for this week!
Stay safe, congratulations to all the new triathletes and if you haven't already, remember to TRI!