Ever signed up for a race on the other side of the world at the 11th hour?
Neither had I until I was notified that I had qualified to represent Gibraltar at the ITU World Triathlon Championships at the Gold Coast in Australia!
I found out around mid August that I had qualified and the race was a few weeks later in early Sept. At first, I wasn’t planning of participating as I had other important events coming up such as getting married at the start line of the Long Beach Half Marathon. Yup, you read that correctly! I will be exchanging vows with my fiancé at the start-line of the Long Beach Half Marathon and we’ll then be running the half marathon as husband and wife!!
That will be a fun story to share but for now, let’s get back to my trip to Australia 😉
After a bit of hesitation, I finally decided to commit to racing at the ITU World Champs, and soon enough my fiancé had planned out a schedule for places to go sightseeing and had also analysed the best flight options. I think she’ll make a good travel agent 😉
Before we knew it, we were on the flight to Brisbane where we stayed the night and then made our way north to Hervey Bay. En-route, we stopped for coffee (and ice-cream) at various locations such as Mooloolaba and Noosa! Beautiful places that made me want to relocate there!
The following day, we had a day trip scheduled on Fraser Island. It’s the largest sand island in Australia and one of the largest in the world! We were lucky to spot a Dingo on the beach and a very long snake!
We then made our way south to the Gold Coast to prepare for the big race. The Gold Coast itself was a stunning city! Very vibrant with a lot to do with long stretches of gorgeous beaches. There are also a lot of skyscrapers. The best way for me to describe it is like having NYC and Santa Monica put together!
After settling down, my effort was pretty much all geared towards preparing for the race. Maintaining a fine balance of training, resting and recovering from the travels. I kept all my training session to between 30-45mins but they were sharp enough to ensure my legs didn’t forget how to ride or run!
Everything went well until race morning…
The race started at 7.30am so as usual, I woke up several hours earlier to have some breakfast and begin psyching myself up for the task ahead. I thought I’d go online and check out the weather and as expected, I ended up wandering on to Facebook! I had tonnes of notifications in one of the Facebook groups related to the race and I began wondering if the race had been cancelled. I began reading through the comments and messages and I then came to terms with the headache I was about to go through…
The organizers decided to prohibit the use of disc wheels due to forecasted high winds. In my case, I was screwed! I had a disc wheel and didn’t have a spare wheel as a replacement. Thankfully, I had connected with the USA team before the race. I reached out to them at about 5am pleading for a spare wheel! The USA team coordinator, Lauren, had already been working from the previous night to ensure everybody had a spare wheel. It wasn’t easy, but Lauren worked some magic and sourced me a spare wheel! Thanks to Lauren and the generous wheel donor for their support or else I would have had to come home without racing!
Ok, with all that last-minute panicking under control, I began setting myself up for the race! Bike was racked. Running shoes were placed. Wetsuit on. Goggles, swim cap and ear plugs in my hand! We made our way to the start line and after about 15mins of warming up I was called to enter the water with the other athletes in my age-group.
The water temp was perfect and we were told during the athlete briefing a few days prior that there would be a current in our favour. I was keen on setting a new PB 😉 The gun went off and as expected, it was rough! Everyone was scrambling over each other! I tried to stay afloat and not drown – ha! Luckily, I was able to find a small gap and find my way through and make a break for it. I knew I had missed the front pack because I got caught up in that swim storm. I just focused on finding my rhythm and swimming as straight as possible – I found it a bit hard to sight as the sun was right in my eyes!
There was nothing much to the swim other than the frantic start. I got to the end and made my way through transition. I made my transition as swift as possible and hopped on the bike. Although the word was that this was a super-fast bike course, I had to disagree. Yes, it was predominantly flat. Yes, there were long stretches of open road. But, there were also numerous U-turns and roundabouts in between that slowed us down. I wasn’t concerned about my time. I was more concerned about getting to the run in one piece! There were a few accidents in the Sprint distance race a few days before the Olympic distance and there were a number of ‘war stories’ being told!
I kept that in mind and rode fast when it was safe to do so. I pushed harder than what I had planned but I knew that this was my last race of the season. I had to go hard to earn my 2-3 months recovery break in during the autumn (or as the American folks like to say it – the Fall)! I was also feeling good on the bike and was confident I had enough gas left in the legs to perform well on the run. Throughout the ride I was being paced by a Canadian girl! She was a strong rider and was very consistent with her pacing. We would swap the ‘pacing duties’ during the ride which I assume helped us both to push ourselves!
We both got into and out of transition at the same time! As I ran passed her onto the run course, I thanked her for pacing us on the bike. She acknowledged and wished me the best of luck in the run!
This is exactly what I love about sport! The camaraderie is what drives us all to be better versions of ourselves!
Following on from my statement above, that was what I experienced on the run. If you’ve read my other blogs, you’ll know that I thrive on the run as it is my best discipline. I set off at a fast pace to get my heart rate up and begin eyeing each athlete in my age-group. As I overtook each athlete in my age-group, I got a thumbs up or a pat on the back. In return I would also give a thumbs up and some words of encouragement to get us to the finish line! My motivation was to catch as many athletes in my age-group as possible and hope to not burn out too quickly! I remember looking down at my watch and seeing that I still had 2km to go. I knew I was almost there but still had some work to do! I began calculating how much more time I’d be running so that I could reserve some juice for the final push.
With about 700m to go, I began my final push. I saw 2 athletes in my age-group so my immediate reaction was to overtake them right away. I got in front of them and had about 2mins to the finish line. That’s the moment when you just look straight ahead, ignore the pain, ignore the pounding heart beat and do whatever it takes to gey to the finish line asap! As I came on to the final stretch, I got overtaken by one athlete in my age-group ☹ Argghh! I tried to hold on to him. He began pushing the pace and I was barely able to cling on to his shoulder. Each step was more painful than the previous. Each heart beat was deeper than the previous. I couldn’t hear what was going on in the surroundings as I was giving everything I had to hold on to this athlete. I gave it my all. But unfortunately he had the extra gear to leave me behind.
I didn’t give up as the finish line was right ahead of me. I got closer and raised my arms to celebrate such an awesome race!
Once I crossed, I looked for Sibylle in the crowd and I saw her waving at me and giving me a thumbs up! Which means that I had raced well 😉 As I walked through the food tent I bumped into the athlete who out-sprinted me at the end. He gave me a high five and appreciated the push at the end!
I was ecstatic about my performance as I had one of the best runs of my life! Overall I PR’d and finished in 2hrs 5mins. I couldn’t have asked for more considering the fact that I was on the verge of not racing earlier that morning when I discovered that disc wheels had been prohibited for the race!
I temporarily celebrated with some muffins but then went back to the hotel for the waffle and pancake feast!
Extremely thankful to Sibylle for being my ‘coach’ and race Sherpa carrying all my equipment around for me! And thanks to Topo Athletic and Rocket Science Sports for their continued support in my triathlon ventures!
Next race is the Long Beach Half Marathon which will be extra special!