Thursday, 5 February 2015

Hell of the West 2015

Hell of the West triathlon... with an event named like that, it's bound to tempt you to take up the challenge... or at least, intrigue your curiosity. Located in the small town on Goondiwindi, about 4+ hours drive west of Brisbane. This was my first race in Brisbane and my first race under the Red Dog tri club. I actually signed up for it even before my first flight to Brisbane when entries opened beginning of November last year. At a discounted early bird entry of A$135 for Triathlon Australia members, it was a bargain considering it is a long course race (2km swim, 80km bike, 20km run). Even the standard Olympic distance are selling for between A$150 to A$200 these days.

Three days before the event, the organizers informed all participants that due the high volume of water in the Macintyre river, where our original swim start was, the swim is to be moved to the lake in the botanical gardens in the interest of participants safety. Also, affectionately known as the duck poop lake. We are to bring our running shoes along so that we can ran back to bike racks transition, 3.2kms away. The final run distance will be reduced to 16.8km. So it's a bit like an aquathlon + duathlon. Apparently, this has happened 3 times in the last 4 years and the organizers have executed this contingency plan flawlessly.

Pre race

Li-Ann and I left for Goondiwindi just before 8am on Saturday. We took a pit stop at Toowomba after 90 minutes - luckily we did as there didn't seem to be much civilization all the way to Goondiwindi. Checked into Binalong Motel, which I also booked way in advance - I like planning ahead! Great place, would consider staying there again. Race pack pick-up wasn't until 3pm, so I had time to rest for a while.

Pretty decent kit. I decided to race with the cap they gave us.
Race briefing was at 5.30pm and then we had dinner with the Red Dog people, which was quite nice, as we usually don't get much time to chat during our sessions. Soon it was time to go to bed. With an early race start time of 5am, I had to set the alarm to go off before 3am.

As you can see, it was pretty sunny even though it was after 5pm. The kids triathlon just finished, poor kids racing under the hot sun!

Race morning

Up (not so) bright and early, took the bike in for racking. We had race tattoos given earlier, so that saved the hassle of body marking. One thing good about having a separate transition for the first run was I did not need much time to set up at the bike racks. The organizers provided shuttle buses to the botanical gardens but we decided to drive there. Luckily we did, I got there just before the bus and was able to beat the queue to the toilet! Spent about 10 minutes putting on my skinsuit and Li-Ann did her fair share of wrestling to get the zipper up. Soon it was time to lay out my running shoes at transition and line up for the swim start.

Managed to get this corset of a swimskin on thanks to Li-Ann's help!

2km swim

The course was 3 laps in clock wise direction. It was still a bit dark when we started but the sun was starting to rise. One good tip is to have light coloured goggles, which I have fortunately. It was a good thing that there was a mini island in the middle of the lake, so we just had to swim around it - that too helped with sighting a bit. As the gun went off, I forgotten how aggressive it was swimming in Australian races! I took my fair share of beating and it wasn't until the 2nd lap when I had a bit of space. Even then, as we were the first wave to be let off, we soon converged with the later waves and things got a bit hairy again.

I had my Garmin activated ready to start but while waiting for the gun to go off, the signal must have turned off again. No matter, I relied on the time of day for each lap. I was consistently about 11 minutes per lap each time we came out of the water and did a little run up and down the boat ramp. Li-Ann and Coach Trent were cheering each time. I finished the swim in 32:43 - I was expecting around 35 minutes so that was a win. Also, my first decent swim in the swimskin as the past couple of swims were pretty disappointing.

Trying to reach back to pull down the zipper. I forgot that all I had to do was the peel off the suit from behind the neck.

3.2km run

I wasn't able to remove my swimskin in time during the short distance between the swim to my shoes. Spent a few seconds removing it in transition and another few seconds to put it in the transition with my goggles, so that the organizers can transport it back to the main event area. Then it was off to go. My legs felt great and was able to turn them over at a high cadence. I supposed as they haven't been trashed on the bike yet, so they were still pretty fresh. As it was only a bit after 5.30am, the temperature was still pretty crisp so that helped too. It was a single direction run all the way back to the main transition area, we would run part of this course again for the 2nd run. My Garmin picked up a signal fairly quickly - km splits were 4:13, 4:13, 4:09. Finished the first run + transition in 14:35.

80km bike

Not too much dramas in this transition, though I did take a while to get mounted on the bike with the shoes clipped in. Bit out of practice. The bike felt a bit wobbly as I started, which I thought could be a puncture. So I stopped by the side for a while to check but there was no puncture. Could be just the lack of stiffness in the alloy wheels. Anyway, I soon got it stabilized as I steadily increased my speed.

At the start of the bike, hoping the wobble wasn't from a puncture - I did not bring any spares!
The course was single out-and-back lap. Flat terrain on the same road throughout but it does have some subtle bends. Most of the road are chip sealed and can be a bit coarse, and it does slow you down. I kept my hands on the drop bars most of the ride but every now and then, my elbows felt a bit sore so I had to sit up. Boy, do I miss cycling on a tri bike!

It wasn't too windy but through the different bends of the road, there some mild crosswinds and headwinds. I had Powerbar Perform drink every 5kms and took a gel just before the turnaround. I was aiming for an average pace of 35kph but my lack of threshold training showed and it was clear I was far from achieving it. What started as 34kph for the first 10km, slowed down to 32kph by the end. I overtook a couple of cyclists but many, many more overtook me.

A smile on the face as the bike was almost over!
One more gel just before the run, coming off the bike in 2:29:54. Pretty mediocre bike split and it was evident that I need to start working on long sustained efforts, rather than just climbing hills all the time.

16.8km run

Legs felt surprisingly okay, despite only doing 2 brick runs in the last couple of months. One of the Red Dog girls (who started 5 minutes after me) was just ahead of me as we got out of transition. I tried to give chase but she got further and further away. Man, these girls are fast. She eventually won her age group.

I guess I'm not exactly the short strides kind of runner
The run course was 3 laps. My Garmin wouldn't pick up a signal in time so I just used the timer function. 2.8kms out and 2.8kms back. It wasn't that hard to work out an average pace! It was still relatively cool - about mid to high 20 degrees Celcius. But the sun was out in it's full glory. Luckily the course was partially shaded and there were plenty of drinks station - about 3 in each direction, if I remembered correctly.

I have always loved the run in triathlons. The crowd comes out to cheer and you're able to interact with them. I got so distracted that I nearly ran into a pole! Li-Ann and Coach Trent were cheering at the end of each lap, where we were handed those slap-on wrist bands. I maintained about 24 minutes for each lap. There were plenty of Red Dog guys... and girls ahead of me, but I ran my own race.

Gotta learn to keep those elbows closed too!
Nearing the finishing, I managed to outsprint the guy next to me. That rarely happens as I'm pretty bad in sprint finishes. The track sessions must be working! I finished the run in 1:13:23 and overall finish time of 4:30:36. I was aiming for at least 4.5 hours, so missing it by 36 seconds. Would have liked to go faster but I think it was still a decent race. 100th overall out of 382 individual finishers and 18 out of 47 in my age group. Full results here.

And the announcer said, "Kevin Siah from Subang Jaya!" I wonder how many knew where that was.
Post race

At the recovery area, I chatted shortly with a Malaysian volunteer medic doing his medical training in Goondiwindi. But I didn't stay long and went back with Li-Ann to the motel to pack up. We went back to event area at around midday to collect my bike and hope to win a draw prize. But no luck this time, maybe next year! As I'm almost certain to be back.

Great event, very well organized. Not as Hell-ish as it could have been... some of the past years got really hot and windy! Thank you to my supporters, Hee Hong Cycle, Compressport Malaysia and Lifeline ID... and of course, above all - my dear wife who had to follow me on this ra-cation (race vacation) and be up before 3am on race morning!

See you next year!


CheapRunnerMike said...

Nice race Kevin, well done! Really enjoyed reading your recap too. I'm jealous of your sunshine :)
I've never worn a swimskin so I would be reaching for the zipper too I bet!
Boy does that Boardman look good...

Kevin Siah said...

Thanks Mike! Plenty of sunshine here! I only needed 30 minutes to dry out my wet gear after the race! Loving the Boardman and can't wait for the tri bike version!