Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Luke Harrop Memorial - a perfect 'book end' to the Gatorade Series

On Sunday the 7-race QLD Gatorade Series arrived at its 'Grand Final' event on the Gold Coast - the Luke Harrop Memorial Triathlon. For many the race marked the end of the 2011/12 season with over 2200 triathletes taking part. For me it was one of those days you love racing - into transition while it was still dark, with the sun rising on the horizon to paint the sky brilliant oranges and blues. 

There is something about the fresh cool of the air on your skin, the clear skies and energy of a race that sets me alight and puts a smile on my face. 

There was plenty of time to kick back and catch up with the 'triathlon brethren' that I've grown so fond of this season. Without a doubt a highlight of the past 6 months has been getting to know so many people who enjoy triathlons. I've got as much of a kick out of seeing the Brockman's, Mahony's, Boxes and Young's of this world work towards and achieve their goals as I have out of reaching my own. 

With the pressure off (I kept telling myself that I haven't done any speed work so it's not as if you're going to go fast) I had a relaxed pre-race routine. Some chats, a 5 minute jog and some splashing in the water and before I knew it the 'purple caps' were about to start. I picked my line, tagged in behind the Superfish (which lasted about 2 strokes before he took off into the distance) and got into my game plan - hard to the first buoy and lock in a bit of pain for the rest. "No pain, not working hard enough" was my mantra. The best swims I've had this year are those where I have intentionally reminded myself to swim hard. Out of the water in 12:19 (17th out of 111) tells me I did something alright (although it was still the second slowest in the overall top 10 - winter swimming here I come. Ughh). 

With a focus on a quick transition, I found myself stuck running single file out onto the bike course - the fence barriers were pretty tight. A bit frustrating but not much you can do about it. Once on my trusty steed I was off and felt great from the get-go. The extra hours in the saddle preparing for Cairns came in handy and my bike computer afterwards told me I was averaging about 47khr for the 20k. Funny, while I race I don't really spend that much time looking at how fast I'm going or what my cadence is - yet in training I'm always aware of the figures. I guess the muscle memory of what you do in training (how fast you're spinning your legs, etc) kicks in during the race. 

With transition time added on, my bike split was 31:48 (3rd fastest). The dark horse though was Ryan Emmerson with a 29:42!

Onto the run and the same mental checklist (the one I've grown familiar with after 9 races this season) - get the legs spinning quickly, run tall and high hips - and sure enough after about 500m the bike was a distant memory. With a sharp little rise that you go up and over (and back) twice, the ol' quads were pretty vocal. 

Each time my mind told me to stop I reminded myself that this was it - the last lung-busting short-course speed-fest for the year. It'll all be over in T-minus 18 minutes and counting. Without knowing how far ahead the regulars were (we were split over 2 wave starts again with 2 minutes in between) I just knuckled down. Fellow Reddogian Isaac Box gave me a cheer of "you're only a minute 20 behind BD", designed to inspire me forward I'm sure but the voice inside my head was quick to retort with "he's lying, he's just trying to get you to run faster". Helpful, right? Ha! Pushing through to the end by promising myself that it'll all be over soon enough, I crossed the line with an 18:08 run (3rd in the category) and managed to snag the win by a few seconds. 

A great race, well-run event and in the end a wonderful season. 4 wins and a fifth in the Gatorade Series gave me 2nd place overall in the series (BD had 2 wins and three second places - more consistent by 1 point!). I think it's more a case of age before beauty though... ;-)

Hats off to everyone for such a fun few months! I'm actually a bit sad that this part of it is over. I've enjoyed the banter, the competition, the people I've met and the goals I've reached. Thanks to Mizuno, Chain Gang Performance Bikes, Active Stride, Reddog Triathlon Training, Endura and Scott Waters Psychology (I had to add that one in!) for the ongoing support, advice and great products.

I'd love to say it's time to put my feet up, drink some beer and eat lots of ice-cream, but another goal is calling my name. Ironman Cairns and it's allusive Kona slots is less than 6 weeks away. LESS THAN SIX WEEKS. Argh! So lots of training, new limits to reach physically and mentally, plenty of tears, stress, smiles, fun, lows and highs. And that is most likely just the next 2 days. 

Have fun whatever this time of the year represents for you - if it's rest time, THEN REST! Spend time with your family and friends so you can start up again in a month or so feeling guilt free :-)

Catch you on the road...

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