Look either side of the blog now. These photos that run down the side are both snapshots from this event. The left one is 20m into the trail section of the run stage and right one is about 8km into the road cycle – at that point and time I was tailing the strong gusts & still maintaining warmth I’d worked up from the running, deterioration however was not far away! Below is some details on how the event played out for me.
We all knew the forecast was bad, but the aspect of the day just before the starting gun looked reasonably clear-cut. Cloudy with spitting rain occasionally. My 5min warm up was spent inspecting my tires for broken glass that I had run over.
At 7am we were off onto stage 1 – a 65km Mountain Bike. Really high intensity bursts of speed throughout the first 12kms of tar seal before the gravel as the leaders tried to shake the majority of us off. Our bunch was really dodgy, we were crammed together all only centimetres apart and covering every bit of road on either side. A crash was inevitable and soon there was one, right in front of me. A classic case of someone not holding their line and clipping someone else’s wheel. It looked really really horrible actually. Two guys hit the deck fast and hard, if this was a cartoon that was where a large sign saying ‘SPLAT!’ would have popped up. Somehow I got round it within the split second. I felt guilty initially for not stopping to help but convinced myself there must be support vehicles behind us.
When we hit the gravel the bunch was quickly split due to the dangerously loose gravel and a thick cloud of dust in the air and entering our lungs and eyes. The rest of the bike wasn’t as hard as I thought I might find it, but I had been working really hard on my mtb fitness the last 2 months. A lot of hill climbing and yo-yoing between rivals.
The race started at sea level and last hill peak 6kms from the stage end was 770m higher. Here is where we got our first taste of the bad weather. Very strong winds threw me around the road a bit and clear signs that others had struggled were evident – Skid marks at corners going straight off the road!
Onto the run I was in my element of strength and powered past 3 competitors in the first 2kms of the 17km run. At one point we had sunshine amongst the strong wind so I thought the weather wasn’t too bad. I ran the last 2kms with a guy called Luke in a 2 person team who had caught me. I was only 15mins from 1st and 2nd individuals at this point.
The transition to the 52km road cycle was quick. Here was where I made a mistake. The main game changer of the race. I was wearing the clothing you can see either side of this blog. Mum & Dad – my support crew, warned me the weather was a ‘really bad’ around the corner. They wanted me to wear some extra layers and a jacket. I did not take them seriously as I simply thought: I’m hot from the run, I’m going to remain pushing myself hard so I’ll stay warm, I’m tough enough to handle a bit of bad weather. Partially I didn’t want to waste time putting extra clothes on too. The rain came and I was instantly saturated. The first 15kms I averaged over 40kph very easily despite my sore legs so knew the wind pushing behind me must be strong. I then crossed the T intersection onto the main highway and everything changed. I was leaning a steep angle into the cross wind just to keep me from blowing into the gutter. The rain was really heavy and sore. Swerving all over the place it made it dangerous with the amount of cars driving around me. Every part of me was frozen, even biking up the very steep hill which I thought might increase my intensity and hence get warmer. Blown off several times into the bushes I was miserable. When I reached the top of the hill I was greeted by a kind group of people who could see I was in a bad way. They held out a jacket and I could have cried. Damn I was happy to see that jacket. After thanking them about 30times I took off over the top, but the damage was already done. The weather over the top was worse, much worse. I’d now come over into a tight valley, the wind and rain was funnelling up it in a powerful vortex that was visible – if I could open my eyes wide enough – in a spiralling white mist. I biked straight into it down the steep hill. The brakes were so wet they barely worked. My front wheel wobbled uncontrollably, there were many sharp corners and I had no feeling in my arms or hands. It tried hard to keep working hard but while the jacket protected me from getting further cold I was not warming up much. I had little energy or strength. Passed by several others I knew I’d lost my chance for a placing and the goal just to finish became applicable.
I got told off by my support crew when I came into the transition to the 27km Kayak stage. I knew it though, I was very aware I’d stuffed up. I was forced to wear an Ice breaker long sleeved top which initially was nice but probably not appropriate for a kayak stage. The river was flooded and I had never paddled rapids in my UFO kayak before. It turned out a lot harder than I thought it would be despite my white water skills. My lack of energy wouldn’t have helped. The edge of eddy caught me off guard and I had a roll. It took about 5 attempts to get up but luckily I eventually made it upright. The wind was still just as strong as ever. It caused waves to come up the river and while the river was flooded and keeping my average speed around 15kph, there were times I was blown upstream. The horizontal rain and water blown up off the river meant it was it was impossible to avoid the bullet-like droplets from popping my poor eyes.
Buying a $10 second-hand spray deck is not something I’ll do again either. I pulled over to the river bank about halfway in because the amount of water in the boat was lapping over my knees.
Very heavy arms from the wet ice breaker added to difficulty of good technique and clinging hard to the paddle that kept getting blown away didn’t help either. I pushed on to the stage end.
A painful jog to the road side and Mum read my mind by spraying me with ‘cramp-stop’. 8km of road cycling from here. I took the 10kg icebreaker off and replaced it with a dry wind jacket. Here the rain suddenly stopped, the wind did remain however. This change in weather meant by the end of the bike I was almost completely dry. I knocked back a glass of coke and slipped on my runners for the final 3km jog to the finish. Within the first km I had a really solid pace going and warmed up for the first time in about 4 hours. I felt really good and sprung my way into the finish on my toes. I ended up 6th in the individual division with a time of 8hours 30mins.