This would be my 5th year in a row racing this event. We are very fortunate to be in Queensland, with only a handful of COVID cases to have events like this. But the possibility of a snap lockdown happening at any time is very real, so we should really thank our lucky stars that we got to race over the weekend. Albeit being primarily a Queenslanders only event with most of the state borders closed to each other.
Earlier in July, I decided to engage coach Duncan from South Bank tri club in my preparation for Ironman Busselton later in the year. I've been on coached programs before in the past but this is the first time I've had it done through TrainingPeaks and finally made proper use of my power meter. There were more sessions during the week and I can't express my appreciation enough for the support from my wife Li-Ann and my son Sebastian these past two months or so and going forward as well until end of the year.
The drive up to Mooloolaba the day before was a bit slow with some congestion but at least there was no standstill. Took us a couple of hours but we got there just in time to set up the club tent in the last available spot. Sebastian could not wait to get to the beach, so Li-Ann took him while I had a quick lunch and went to pick up my race pack. Then we checked into our hotel, we picked a nice one this time - a 2 bedroom apartment with 2 bathrooms, so I didn't have to worry about waking the others when I'm up early preparing for the race. Bike racking in the afternoon, a new transition area situated over 1km from where we were staying. Dinner - take away pasta and pizza for myself and Li-Ann, chicken katsu udon noodles for Sebastian, all in the comfort of our apartment. It didn't take me long to fall asleep after.
3.45am alarm. But I was up about 2 hours before and couldn't go back to sleep. 1st toilet visit, breakfast - 4 slices of toast with peanut butter and nutella, 1 banana. Some dynamic stretches (to get the motion going) and 2nd then toilet visit. Suit up and kissed Li-Ann goodbye. Easy stroll to the bike racks. Clip in bike shoes and lay out my run gear. It was still dark but luckily my bike was positioned near the spot lights. There was still time for yet another toilet visit, so why not. Wetsuit on, couple of minutes of swim strokes in the water and it was time to line up for the rolling swim start.
The age group rolling swim start kicked off at 6.05am, it was just after 6.11am when I got into the water. The swim course is rectangular shape in anti clockwise direction, over on the eastern side of Mooloolaba beach by the spit. Just like last year but at least transition is closer to the swim this time. There was a fair bit of chop in the water. Not extreme but rough enough to make it a slow swim. I swam on my own most of the time as it was difficult to get close enough to any feet to draft of. I think I swam pretty close to the course. Last turn towards the beach, tried my best to empty the bladder, legs naturally stopped kicking, thankfully there were some currents pushing us in. Hit the first timing mat in 32:43, one of my slower swims but it seemed that was the case for most of us. My Garmin 935 tends to under report the open water distance at 1,850m and that was after running up the steps from the beach as well. Showing a pace of 1:47 per 100m, which is my easy pace in the pool. 28th in my age group at this stage.
It was pretty narrow with the bike racks being pretty close to each other and being held in the park, there were tree routes and bumps to look out for. While wetsuit got off the arms easily during the run into transition, it took a bit longer to get off the feet. Wipe the feet, socks on, helmet on and pressed the button of the bike computer as I ran the bike out. Mounting the bike was a bit of a disaster, there were many others around at the mount line and I didn't practise enough with these new shoes. Coach Duncan was at the side giving me a bit of pressure. In the end, I did the basic standing crossover mount and got going. Total transition 1 time 2:18.
The first couple of kms out of transition was a bit hairy. Sharp turns, speed bumps, roundabouts. There was even a section where the road was flowing wet, I think from sprinklers. Then there were some rollers before we got to the Sunshine Motorway, but it was hammer time after that. 2 laps of the motorway with about 4-5 kms along the Esplanade in town. The conditions were pretty good, started off with light winds but it picked up significantly on the 2nd lap. In contract to previous years, this year it was mainly headwind on the way out and tailwind on the way back, so that made for some fast bike times for most people.
I was pleasantly surprised with how well I was building my speed up, it went over 38kph average for the motorway section and only dropped a bit under after the town section. My previous best split was just under 2:30 and that's a 36kph average. There were a few packs that were barely legal and there was one particular one with the same group of cyclists that kept close to me. They would pass me, I would fall back and then have to do a surge to pass them, only for them to pass me again shortly after. This went on many times throughout the race. Draft marshal did come by a couple of times but I don't think any penalties were given. It was very annoying at some stage dangerous, when the pack came by so closely with some of them cycling two to three abreast. But, such is racing and we do the best we can to the best of our integrity.
Ran the bike towards the bike rack but had to carry it over the curb. Somewhat disappointed that there were so many bikes back at the racks already despite me improving so much on the bike leg. But I guess everyone else did as well and with rolling swim starts, there could be others finishing earlier despite posting slower times. Helmet off, shoes on and grabbed everything else and put them on the go. Transition 2 time was 1:12.
Slight alteration to the run course this year. We did a 2km loop towards the eastern side and then onto 2 laps of 9.5km - pretty much the same as previous years except that we turn around earlier in Alex Headland. This time we run outbound on the road and inbound on the footpaths, opposite from previous years. I'm also glad that they removed the short but sharp climb on the driveway into the caravan park that is under construction this year. It was starting to get hot and the winds were up as well. Just like the bike course, headwind on the way out and tailwind on the way back, although it wasn't felt as much on the run.
I haven't done much running off the bike in my training and was unsure how I would feel. But I felt great and the leg turnover was pretty fluid. Li-Ann and Sebastian cheered me as I got to the main roundabout which gave me a bit of a boost. My first km was 4:10 which was a bit too quick so I pulled it back a bit. We then got to the hilly section of the course and I went just over 4:20 for a couple of kms but I pretty much settled into 4:15 to 4:20 for most of the course after. I sipped coke for fuel and dunked water over my head at all the aid stations to keep myself cool. I always love the run leg as I can really get the energy off the crowd. There was so much support from people I've met through this sport, from former tri club members to current ones, such a strong community feel.
I was wearing my new Saucony Endorphin Pro, with carbon plated soles. This was only my 2nd time wearing them and on hindsight I should have broken them in a bit more. They felt a bit odd as they were higher and I felt a bit unstable around the corners. But I felt much better into the 2nd lap and they were indeed more responsive and I felt like I fatigued less with the springy feedback. It wasn't until about 6kms left to go where I realised I had a good shot of finishing under 4.5 hours, a target which I thought was over ambitious. But it was going to be close. I dug deep and wasn't smiling as much anymore as I passed the cheers from the South Bank tri club tent. I paced 4:08 for my final km and was relieved to see the red carpet with just a few meters away from the finisher arch.
I crossed the timing mat with a run split of 1:30:24, Garmin recorded a distance of 21.08km with average HR of 161bpm. And yes, overall finish time of 4:29:44 - a PB by 7 minutes, I was super stoked! 12th position in M35-39 and 94th overall, no doubt without many interstate or international competitors. Reunited with Li-Ann and Sebastian just after the finish line. Glad to we stayed one more night, so it wasn't a rush home and I got to catch up with club members at the tent. Also took my time picking up my gear and getting them cleaned or dried in the apartment before the drive home the next day.