Albany Half - Race Report

Thursday, Jan 10, 2013 at 15:04

TriathlonOz - Michelle

Last Saturday I did a half-ironman distance triathlon in the beautiful SW WA town of Albany. This was my third triathlon of this distance so I knew what to expect in many respects, but it was the first time on this course, as it was the inaugural event.

It's actually been 13 years since I've been to Albany - in fact I've never visited there since I've lived in WA! However it was just as I remembered it - very picturesque, but far hotter than we expected with scorching temperatures and stiff breezes in the lead up to race day.

David also did the event, and we made a family trip out of it, going down a few days earlier and staying in a great cabin on the beachfront at Middleton Beach caravan park - which was also the venue for the race so it was super convenient.

In my previous blogs, I've described my lead-in preparation focused around rehabilitating my knee just to be able to run up to 10km. I only got a few runs over 10km done before the Albany race, and my max was 14km (with 1.7k of walking) so I had no expectation of racing the day and hoped my swim/bike would be enough. However, what we didn't bank on was David getting an pre-race injury. We were all a bit surprised when he starting struggling on his rides in the last few weeks, and then totally stopped running. He went for the "rest is best" approach and ice frequently but didn't get any massages or see the physio. But driving down to Albany on the Thursday it flared up and on Friday he had me YouTubing massage techniques! I think I put him in more pain than before and he was almost not going to rack his bike in transition believing he was not fit to race. But... he did and on race day morning there was no time to rethink the decision and the last I saw of him was when my wave went off for the swim.

This is the longest distance event that I think I'll ever do - 1.9km swim, followed by a 90.1km cycle, then a 21.1km run. The courses were also a little different to most triathlons I've seen with the swim being a 2 lap course - meaning we start with a beach start, swam around 2 buoys in a triangle bringing us back onto the beach to run around a buoy on the sand, and then back out to swim the triangle a second time. Race day conditions were perfect - totally flat water, wetsuits allowed, and easy sighting conditions.



The spectator crowd were fantastic with friends and club supporters easily picking us out and calling out our names - I love to hear that, it really helps so much! I felt I'd done a very strong first half to the swim, but my heart rate skyrocketed after doing the beach run turnaround and wading out in the shallows so by the time I started swimming the second triangle I had to slow down my stroke to regain composure for a couple of minutes. I think I lost a bit of time doing that, and then I tried to makeup time by changing from a 3-3 breathing pattern, to a 5-3-5 (which I had practised in training) to get my head down longer but this caused me to steer off course so I had to make up more ground!


In transition I could hear shouts of "you're doing well" which was encouraging. I also noticed that only 1 of the bikes near mine was already out, so that gave me some confidence. I hadn't realised it then, but looking back at the photos now, David was in transition at the same time (although he'd started 4 minutes after me), and he crossed the timing mat leaving transition 23 secs ahead of me. I had probably expected to be ahead of him at that point, but then see him swoosh past me early into the ride, but because he was already ahead and I never saw him I was starting to feel concerned about his groin injury affecting his race performance. I needn't have worried!

The bike leg was an out and back course which featured some hills. The mount-start was right at the base of Mt Clarence behind the Three Anchors cafe - it's an 8% grade ascent, so cleated-in mounts weren't too popular with the majority of the field opting to have their bikes shoes clicked in before attacking the hill climb. The Albany wind picked up midway through the race and I'm pretty sure it also changed directions so that we had a little puff of it in our face on the way out, then hit it head-on on the way back. I certainly felt like I was struggling a little to get back and didn't manage the negative split I had in mind! These conditions made it the slowest half-ironman bike leg I've done (out of 4) but at 2:57:23 it turns out that I was the fastest 40-44 age group female on the day, so I can't be unhappy with that!!

Coming into transition, I heard all sorts of positive cries and comments directed at me from club supporters and friends which is so elating and for the first time Simon Beaumont called out my name in transition. I think I flew out of there feeling like a super-star with wings under my feet.



Passing through the spectator crowd I even had my own papparazzi!
But then the heat hit me and I realised it was a long way to the first aid station and I knew I needed to cool down my core or I'd cook up. Unlike most triathlons where I normally get mowed down by passing runners, hardly anyone was coming along from behind me and I was actually coming up along some very fit looking men ahead of me who were walking so I knew everyone was feeling it bad. I deliberately took it easy until I reached the first aid station and there I dosed myself with icewater all over my head. I seem to have done a lot of these very hot races (City of Perth 2011 was very memorable)... anyway, I bounced back after that and began my steady plod of ticking down the k's.

This was a 2 lap course initially along an undulating bike/walk path from Middletown Beach to Emu Point. There were trees overhanging the path and giving shade but that didn't make it cool - in fact it blocked the breeze and was the most uncomfortable part of the run! Once out at Emu Point though, the breeze and view was great and after a short return along the path, we veered out onto the sandy beach and ran 2.5km along the water's edge with a beautiful cross-breeze coming off the ocean. It really was gorgeous.



So I was feeling pretty happy with the day as I came along Phil walking on the beach stretch. He said he was struggling and asked could he run with me. He is more than capable of outrunning me, so I wasn't sure this would last, but he really seemed to be in a bad way and I felt very concerned for his well being. As we headed back up the path to do the 2nd lap, Phil still wasn't recovering enough to go on ahead but when he was moving he was going at my 5k race pace, well above my 21k pace but knowing that he would need to stop and walk the hill sections I liked the opportunity to run faster in sections and stick with him when he needed to back off. He was telling me he wouldn't have run as much on his own, so I felt like I needed to stick with him and it actually turned out to be one of my most enjoyable runs I've never done. I usually don't feel at all comfortable running with others, and always train on my own and this was a whole new experience. However, that was when I started to feel pain under the sole of my feet and I knew this was because I'd let my socks get wet and this would be the start of blisters. By the time we reached the beach stretch on the last lap every step was like running on razors. I was unable to put on a spurt for the final 2km and slowed right down which was a shame but we stuck together right to the end and shared the elation of coming down the finish chute together. David and my daughters were there to greet me, as were Carla and Urs my papparazzi but the first thing after hugs was pull off my shoes to inspect the toe damage... not pretty.

So the wash up of results is that I placed 4th in my age group (out of 16), and 19th overall female (out of 65).

Other than the "manky" toes as they've been referred to, I was surprised how good I felt at the finish, in fact how good I continued to feel for the rest of the day, that night, the next day and through to now. This is my 4th half (3 indiv, 1 team on bike), and whilst I was fit for the others, this time I am noticeably less knocked around post-race. I expect to feel aching in legs, hurt to crouch on the loo etc. I've had no aches in my body, and I'm still getting up at 6am even though I'm not training again yet.

My recovery after this event is surprising me. I can only believe the kefir, the absence of caffeine, and the JP supplements have been responsible for this. I may not have pulled off a PB, but I was expecting miracles!! My only goal this race was to turn up uninjured through a moderated approach to my run training, and to endure the distance on the day. There was no crippling knee problem and so I've regained some confidence in my ability to continue with triathlon events, which was my biggest fear and why I've put so much effort into my nutrition and inner health in recent months. That means more to me than a PB.

My next challenge is my first offroad triathlon - the XAdventure, in Dunsborough on March 24. Ocean swim 1.5k, followed by 12.5k coastal run on rocky boulders, sand and gravel, then a 2 lap 25km mountain bike course on a nature reserve out the back of the country club. I might still do one or two other triathlons in between too since its shaping up to be a great season and I'm loving it so much!
Some wish for it, others work for it!
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