2014, marks 10 years of racing professionally. Like most good things in life, time has passed in the blink of an eye. I can barely believe that triathlon has been my love and my lifeblood for a decade. Knowing that my gig as a professional athlete will not last forever, I find myself thinking about triathlon in a different way than I did ten years ago. How do I plan to write the last few chapters of my story? It’s not just a passion where the road seems endless anymore. Instead, it is a career that in another ten years time, I’ll be looking at in the rear view mirror. As most athletes in the second half of their career will find, time sensitivity adds a different dimension. I know that training and racing with discernment and precision is key if I want to choose my own ending. It seems that an unflinching observation of myself, and a willingness to try harder in the pursuit of the possible or the maybes is more important than ever.
I could look at my last two races and feel quite content with the results. I should, however, only feel completely happy with one of these races. As I mentioned in my blog after Auckland, my training background had been inconsistent in the six weeks prior to the event. In spite of this I performed above my expectations, but if I look at the performance as a whole with unflinching observation and discernment, there were mistakes that should not have occurred. Whilst lack of conditioning will be inevitable at times as you can’t go full steam all year round, failing to get the nutrition right or going off course are not events that I want to define race outcomes.
Maybe it was blowing the cobwebs out in Auckland, or the frustration with my performance, but I feel pleased to say that I approached Challenge Melbourne more strategically. I stayed on course, taking no unplanned detours, and I didn’t treat my nutrition as an after thought, but rather a key aspect of my performance. Additionally, I did not allow myself to be distracted by my competitors or let them influence the execution of my race plan.
The horn sounded slightly after 6.15am. Port Phillip Bay was incredibly calm and the sun was low. An ever so slight northerly was blowing and the air temperature was already hovering around 25°C. I was glad I’d packed both clear goggles and tinted ones. Years ago, I would have just packed one pair and hoped that they would suit whatever conditions awaited me. With the sun barely over the horizon, it was still quite dark and I needed the clear ones to navigate the course. After a slightly long swim, I exited the water first. Caroline Steffen was only a few seconds back. Having only raced Caroline a couple of times before, I was expecting to have a bigger gap out of the water, nevertheless, this was not the case. As I made my way to the transition area, pealing off my Aquasphere wetsuit as I ran, the loud speaker was blaring that Caroline was in close pursuit. The voice over the speaker was also declaring that this would be an incredibly fast bike, as Caroline was one of, if not the best bike riders in the sport.
I knew that I needed to race through transition and get on the Scott Plasma as quickly as possible. Having spent years doing ITU racing, my transition, if I can locate my bike, unlike the Las Vegas World Championship last year, is usually quite speedy, particularly compared to athletes who have only raced long course. I managed to open up the gap with a quick transition and by the time I got to the far turn around on lap one of the bike leg, I was about twenty five seconds ahead of Caroline. Coming to the end of lap one, the gap hadn’t opened up by much. I did find myself contemplating whether it was futile to continue setting the pace, with a quality cyclist such as Caroline so close behind. Feeling comfortable, however, and wanting to win the race, I knew that racing passively would not lead to my desired outcome. There was also the possibility that I may be a better cyclist than Caroline on this day. Besides, if I raced within my limits of sustainability, what was the risk? There was only an upside. By the end of the second lap I had put more time into Caroline and when I jumped off the bike and headed into T2, I was roughly four minutes ahead.
With a four-minute lead, I headed out on the three-lap run course at a moderate pace. There was still only the faintest breeze blowing and the temperature was rising, now at about 30°C. Fortunately, the blistering 40°C temperatures predicted for the day, were still a couple of hours away. The run course was one of the most scenic and varied courses I have completed in a long time. Runners enjoyed mixed terrain with paved beach paths, coastal dirt tracks weaving through scrub, short uphill pinches, steep downhill segments and bike paths lined with spectators. I felt comfortable for the entire run and didn’t push the race. I noted splits along the way, and there was no urgency to increase the pace as the gap between Caroline and I barley changed. I held onto the four-minute lead and crossed the line in 4.16. Caroline finished in second and Rebecca Hoschke in third. Congratulations to both girls.
From a competitor’s perspective, the inaugural Challenge Melbourne was a fantastic race. David Hanson and his Super Sprint team did a terrific job of putting on a world-class event. Thank you to the Challenge Family for extending the events this year to include Australia. It sure is nice to be able to race in your own backyard. Before I finish, I must say how special it was to race in my new Jaggad kit in Melbourne. There were members of the Jaggad family everywhere and the support was heart warming. Huge appreciation also goes to Cellarbartaions, Scott Bikes, Profile Design, Aquasphere, Smith Optics and Mizuno Australia.