“Gosh that water looks fantastic…it would be nice to abort this race and jump into the refreshing turquoise water. Although it looks quite shallow…maybe only two metres deep? Better not…jumping off the bridge might actually work out worse for me than finishing the race.”
This is what I thought as I shuffled back over the bridge into Forster from Tuncurry on lap one of the run.
Challenge Forster was a day of troubles. It was, however, hardly a calamity. A puncture as well as being directed the wrong way and finally suffering a debilitating side stitch during the run meant that it was quite a long day in my SkinFit race suit. Fortunately, luck has been on my side this year and of all the races to face such troubles, I’m glad it was this one.
Forster’s triathlon history is well known to all. Home to Ironman Australia for 20 years, I was excited to have the opportunity to race in this beautiful location and at my first Challenge event. I had always heard athletes rave about the Challenge Family and the ethos surrounding their events. Having not been to scenic Forster since I had a bucket and spade, adding this race to the end of my calendar wasn’t a hard choice.
Waking to sunny skies in Forster on race morning, the weather would have been perfect had it not been an afternoon race. By the time horn sounded at 1pm, clouds were brewing.
Swimming at Forster Keys, the first leg was uneventful. I emerged from the water in my AquaSphere wetsuit with over 90 seconds to my nearest competitor. Once out onto the bike, the rain started. By the time I made it to the turnaround along the lake, the roads were very wet.
It was lonely riding solo and I was finding it hard to push myself. I’m not sure if this was because it was the last race of the season or if I was mentally tired from racing off the front for many of my races this year. Nevertheless, I didn’t have to worry about having someone to chase for much longer. At about 35 kilometres, I started to notice the telltale signs of a slow rear leak.
I was bouncing along the road. At first I put the bouncy feeling down to the rough road surface. As I made my way back towards town, however, I was no longer bouncing. I was riding the rim. I knew there was a Shimano tent with spare wheels in close proximity to where I was on the course.
Unfortunately, when I asked a marshal how to get to the tent, he directed me a kilometre down the road, off the race course, and back to T1, where the Shimano tent had been set up before the race. I soon realised this was not the case and made my way back to main road and located the tent. After grabbing a new rear wheel and jumping back on the Jamis, my three-minute lead was now a two-minute deficit to the leaders Bremer and Hoschke.
Now I certainly had people up the road to chase! As the storm picked up pace, I also picked up mine. By the end of the bike I was within 10 seconds off the lead. Running out of transition with Rebecca; Michelle was only 20 metres ahead. By the time I made it over the bridge and to the end of the break wall on the Tuncurry side, I was in the lead. No less than one kilometre later and running back over the bridge to Forster, I was shuffling along grabbing a side stitch. Rebecca ran past me, followed by Michelle.
I hoped the stitch would soon pass; however, it wasn’t until about 17 kilometers that I began to feel comfortable and could run without shuffling. Although it was a very uncomfortable run, I was pleased that I didn’t jump off the bridge and into the estuary. I finished third to two lovely athletes. Rebecca ran very strongly to win and Michelle took second place. Congratulations to both.
My season is now finished! I’ll be heading over to Boulder, Colorado next week for Mirinda Carfrae’s wedding. After that, Christmas will be here. Hopefully, I’ve behaved well enough for Santa to pay me a visit. If not, Cellarbrations is on board to help make the day merry. Every plum pudding needs some brandy. Let’s just hope no one in my family sets the pudding and tablecloth on fire this year.
Thank you to all my amazing sponsors, supporters, friends and family who have made my first year of half Ironman racing successful and memorable. I look forward to continuing the journey next year. Merry Christmas!