You can tell if you've had a great weekend by how fast it goes by. It's Monday night, 3 days since the adventure began, yet I feel like I've blinked and it's all over. I've been struck again by the intoxicating event that is the Noosa Triathlon Festival.
I think you'd be hard pressed to race in a more relaxed and welcoming place. I'm a big fan of the beach, good coffee, fresh food and fit triathletes in bikinis. Noosa has all of this and more.
The morning of the race welcomed me with sunshine and blue skies. Much better than last year when it was miserable and wet. Give me the heat over rain at any race. If I was a horse in tomorrow's Melbourne Cup my odds would blow out if it was a wet track. I caught the shuttle bus to transition and had plenty of time to get myself organised. For some reason I just didn't feel right. My legs and arms seemed heavy and lethargic, not springy and energetic. I felt dazed and tired rather than focused and ready. I think it was partly because the people I normally spend the pre-race morning with weren't with me, and partly due to a rough sleep. Rather than dwell on it, I took the time to stretch and wake up my body a bit that way. It worked, and before I knew it I was down at the swim start getting ready to warm-up. No wettie today, with the water temperature measured the day before at 24.1 degrees. Can you believe that? Age Groupers can use a wetsuit when the temp is up to and including 24 degrees. 0.1 degrees over!
One of my vices when racing is not doing a proper swim warm up. I know I should; when I don't it usually takes me a good 50 - 100 meters of the race to find my rhythm, and sometimes I struggle getting my breathing under control as well because I've gone from nothing to 100 mile an hour without warning my body first. So today I took the time to warm up, do some hard short efforts and a bit of 'sculling' to get a feel of the water. It must have helped, because I knocked out a PB in the swim. I had three things to focus on in the swim. 1) To follow the shortest path by sighting and focusing on the buoys for each turn. I think in some races I drift off track and swim 2k instead of 1.5k. 2) I was determined to find some 'friendly feet' to get in behind, which is something that I have struggled to do before. 3) I wanted to start aggressively and find my space at the front. Usually I hold back and prioritize getting my own space and relaxing rather than attacking. But I took confidence from putting myself at the front at the start of Bribie 3 weeks ago and ended up 3rd out of the water. Looking back now, I think I managed to do all three of these things successfully. Still a way to go (67th in my category for the swim @ 24:55) but a 'stroke' in the right direction.
Up onto the shore and into transition for a quick turnaround. No great dramas here - focused on the tasks at hand, small steps, race belt on, sunnies on, helmet on, and out onto the course. In a sea of bikes it was easy enough to find mine; I had placed in on the rack right near a large sign so I knew to run to it. So on the bike and firing along out towards 'the hill'. This is where Noosa (and many of the big races) doesn't favour me - with so many guys in my age group (about 360 this year) we are split into 3 wave starts based on surnames. 'Waters' places me in the third wave, while all the top guys are in the first wave. So I don't have that 'rabbit' to chase right in front of me, you know what I mean? One strategy when racing if you are in the lead is to push that little bit harder so that you break visual contact with the guy behind you. It's a powerful move if they can no longer see you; kind of 'out of sight out of mind'. So for me being in wave 3, the top guys are permanently out of sight (unless I make 8 minutes up on them... unlikely!). I'm not saying this to make excuses, rather to highlight the thoughts that run through my mind during a race. Admittedly it may also make me ride harder knowing that they are up ahead.
I have to admit I had a fantastic day on the bike (5th in my category @ 1:02:59). I got into a great pace early that was uncomfortable but manageable. There were plenty of people on the course to break the monotony by working to catch and then pass them one-by-one. I also love climbing, so the hill suits me perfectly. A nice touch this year for the 'Garmin King of the Hill' to challenge the best climbers to fly to the top. At the turn around I had my Torq gel as I could feel the low sugars slowly creeping in. With that kicking in though I kept the pace up and took full advantage of the downhill part of the bike course. I snuck a glace at my bike computer and was traveling around 86khr. Not too shabby, although when you hear stories of guys knocking up around 100khr I think they must be mad! It was reassuring as I wove my way back towards transition to see I was maintaining the same pace as the one I had set out at. The niggle in the back of my mind though was that feeling of low sugar creeping back in with no more gels on my bike.
I hit transition smoothly and again focused step by step on the tasks at hand; helmet off, shoes on, new gel in hand and off. A 'click of the heels' for my support crew who were there to watch me head out onto the course and it was on. Someone had hit my watch in the swim so the timer wasn't counting for me. I knew that my wave started at 7.25, so going by the time on my watch now I knew I was on track for a PB - BOOM! Heading out of transition and around the roundabout onto the course is a sure-fire way to get your legs ready to run; with the huge crowd there cheering you on there is no other option! Again, I settled in easily and focused on keeping tall and light on my feet. Some people count steps to distract themselves, some think of the beer at the end, some walk, for me I focus on key bits of running technique. Running tall is a good simple one. High follow through on the recovery phase is another one that works for me. I find it passes the time while keeping your form as best you can when you're exhausted. I also try to not think about the run as 10k long, especially over the first few k's, because that can be heart-breaking! I think having done Noosa a few times definitely benefited me in the run. I know that the turnaround at the bridge isn't halfway. I know the last bit snakes around through the back streets rather than running straight back down the drive to home. I know that once I pass the aid station on the back streets that I can push it harder, and once I am back on the main drag the crowd will keep me running hard (I don't want to embarrass myself by slowing down then!). I think little things like this can make a big difference to your race.
Through the crowds, past the Reddog tent and Chain Gang tent and then the Active Stride tent and over the line - what a great feeling after bashing yourself around for a few hours! Once you're over the line there are 'showers' set up so you can sit down and let the water wash away the pain. Sort of. It comes back when you leave the shower area!
A great day out and 6th place for me finishing in 2:05:50. Plus a 4 minute PB on this course which is really the best measuring stick on how well I went (I think so anyway). As many triathletes will tell you, post-race there are always things you look back on and think "I'd do that differently". For me, I'd have 2 gels on the bike. I was running the gauntlet of 'bonking' from the second half of the bike on. The gel on the run was good, but I tend to take a little bit at a time rather than all at once when running and in this race the gel had run over my hands before I ate it all! I think the heat made the gel extra runny. Other than that, I really can't complain. I know that stretching works in trying to get myself going when I feel sluggish, so that is something that I would use again. Also, with the second fastest run split (37:56) I can safely say the Mizuno Ronin's worked a treat.
Now the focus is on Robina. Two guys that beat me at Noosa (4th and 5th) tend to race the Gatorade series races, so the challenge is on! Time to reevaluate my training, recover and then do what I can to line up against the TOUGH field at Robina. It's daunting, but also really exciting, to have such a good quality group of guys to race against. It is definitely a serious motivator.
First port-of-call; I just read in a magazine that cross-training can help with recovery post-race by encouraging blood flow without repetitively damaging muscles by doing the same movement patterns over and over again. So I am off to give yoga a burl this arvo.
A HUGE shout-out to my wonderful support crew - imagine my surprise at seeing this banner...
A bit embarrassing given I'm just a guy racing (not even top 3!) but a great feeling having the support behind me. No pressure to perform, right? Ha!