Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Mooloolaba number 5

Mooloolaba has not always held the happiest of memories for me, but despite this over the years it has come to be one of my favourite races, if not my favourite race on the calendar. Despite being only 1 week after Wellington, I was eager to come back for my 5th year in a row. That is, until it came time to race. Backing up after Wellington was always going to be a big ask but it was made even more difficult by the fact I came down with a slight head cold mid week. Coming into the race I was not feeling enthused to race, and come race morning I found myself not wanting to race at all.

Due to large surf earlier in the week and the threat of now ex-tropical cyclone Tim, the swim was moved from the beach to the Mooloolah River, swimming around Minyama Island, with a long 500m run to transition. This could potentially change the dynamics of the race, allowing slower swimmers to catch up coming into transition or for a breakaway through transition.

Starting only 1 minute behind the boys the start procedures were rather rushed - lining up in ranking order, selecting a spot on the start line, then we were off! I had a good start reaching the first buoy in 3rd but couldn't sustain the pace and slipped back into the pack finding some feet to sit on. Swimming around the back of the island I could see a small gap opening up ahead. I tried to surge to close the 1-2m gap that had opened up between the front swimmers and the girls I was swimming with but didn't have the kick and the gap slowly grew. I slotted back into our pack and sat in 2nd to conserve as much energy as possible through the rest of the swim. I knew I didn't have my top end spark and I would have to be very smart with how I raced to get through the 40km ride and 10km run.

Lined up to head to the start line

I exited the water in a pack of girls including Jaz Hedgeland, Britt Forster, Ellie Salthouse and Holly Grice. We were 30 seconds down on the 3 strong pack of Grace Musgrove, Laura Wood and Penny Hayes and more than a minute back on race leader Maddi Allen. I had expected the long run to transition to play to my advantage, having gained ground out of the swim in most of my previous races however I really struggled and lost 10+ seconds on Jaz, Hollie and Ellie through T1.

Once on the bike though I found my legs again and caught the girls in front. By 2km into the ride we had caught the front pack of 3 girls and shortly after caught Maddi Allen, forming a pack of 8. Much to my relief, and a nice change from last weekend, the pack worked really well together continuously rolling turns most of the way. The bike being my strongest leg I like to attack and breakaway where possible to get an advantage heading out onto the run. The Mooloolaba course is a straight out and back course however, making breakaways quite difficult as I learnt the hard way last year. Because of this and how flat I had been feeling in the swim I decided just to roll in the pack and not initiate any breakaways. Attacks by both Hollie Grice and Ellie Salthouse throughout the ride made it clear that both of them were keen for a breakaway. If the three of us worked together it was possible we could get away but I wasn't going to initiate it, or go too early in the ride so just worked with the pack to counter the first few attacks. I waited until after the 20km turn around until I attempted to break and work with them. A few quick words were exchanged between us and then Ellie attacked. We opened up a small gap but were quickly caught again by the pack. Another unsuccessful break initiated by Hollie and I decided it wasn't going to work and went back to rolling turns in the pack. It felt odd having been so unaggressive on the bike but it was definitely the right decision.

Coming up the last hill into town I attacked to make sure I would have the best ride into transition. The last few hundred meters of the ride are narrow and technical and I didn't want to be held up at the back of the pack and lose precious time going onto the run. The move worked and I was first into transition. Being a little too enthusiastic I ran a couple of meters past my transition spot but only lost a couple of seconds, exiting T2 in 6th. Grace Musgrove and Jaz Hedgeland took off up the road at a fast pace and I followed after, moving into 3rd position. I had gone out too conservatively in Wellington last weekend so decided to try going out harder at the start of the run to see what I could do. I wasn't able to stay with Grace and Jaz but opened up a sizable lead on Ellie Salthouse in 4th.

Leading the charge into transition

Being a hot and sunny day I made sure to take water at all of the aid stations. I managed to hold reasonable pace and form for the first lap of the run but by the 7km mark I was really starting to suffer. I broke the run down into sections concentration on making it to the turn, the next aid station, and the next, the top of the hill, past the vision tent, down to the finish chute, under the first arch, through the world cup transition and finally to the finish line. My body desperately wanted to slow down but I knew that if I let myself my body might start to shut down...

Heading down the last part of the hill into the finishing straight

That finish line could not have come soon enough! I crossed the line in 3rd, promptly collapsed and was hauled off to the medical tent. A distressing occurrence the first 2 times it happened but after having been here before (and the fact I was still fully conscious this time) I wasn't bothered. I say that, but having a temperature of 40.1 is never pleasant no matter how many times it's happened before. Once my temperature was back down, I'd finished the bag of IV fluid, stopped cramping and stopped vomiting, it was time to head off to medal presentation. Thankfully for me, another competitor collapsed across the line with perfect timing and required the wheel chair just as they were about to force me into it to be wheeled out... I did NOT want to be wheeled up to the podium! Sorry to Grace and Jaz for making you wait! To top off the ordeal I was selected to be drug tested again! Thankfully the drip helped with that...

Somewhat recovered on the podium (although the medics were watching closely to make sure I didn't collapse again)

After collecting my bike from transition area I was a little dismayed by how much fluid I still had left in my drink bottles. When time trialling I usually finish all of the fluid in both my bottles no matter how hot or cold it is. I had obviously underestimated how hard I was working while drafting in the pack and been negligent with my hydration, something I've been very careful about ever since a certain infamous incident in Noosa... No serious harm done this time though, and a reminder to be careful next time!

On the Saturday and Sunday afternoon respectively the mens and womens world cup events were held and it was great watching some of the best in the world battle it out. I particularly enjoyed watching some of the girls I've raced over the past few weeks race in the world cup. There were also inspiring performances in the age group ranks with para-triathlete Bill Chaffey smashing the world record by 5 minutes and legend Markus Hanely finishing his 20th Mooloolaba triathlon at 80 years of age just to name a few!!!

Despite not wanting to start the race I yet again enjoyed my Mooloolaba experience (with the exception of the last km or so and my trip to the medical tent). I'm now having a week off to recover from the intense last few weeks of racing before getting back into some solid training. I've now accumulated enough ITU points to do a world cup and it's time to start planning some overseas races in my bid to be selected into the Australian U23 team for worlds! It's not going to be an easy task though with a strong contingent of Australian under 23 girls including Grace Musgrove who won the Oceania Cup race on Sunday and Natalie Van Coevorden and Charlotte McShane who finished 5th and 7th respectively in the World Cup.

Until next time,

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