Monday 4 May 2009

Club Champs 2009: Debut of a rookie triathlete

Club Champs typically signals the end of the season to the triathlon community. A time for fun, a fair amount of partying, a lot of frivolity and a bit of racing - in that order.

What better way to make a debut into the world of being a triathlete, than to start at this event! Club Champs was held in the beautiful setting of Port Stephens over a weekend, where instead of racing on a Sunday as is apparently traditional, the race is held on the Saturday, allowing all competitors and spectators the opportunity to let their hair out and celebrate the end of the season.

The prelude to my CC debut was realising in March that I hadn’t yet done a triathlon. Having had made some wild comment in January to Spot when I bought my bike that I would do the Half Ironman this year, I figured I better get on with it and actually do a race!

Race preparation was almost as fun as the weekend itself. I think I quizzed anyone and everyone at training about “race advice”, got copies of people’s race check lists, went shopping, bought new outfits, quizzed people some more, tested out gels finally, and basically got pretty excited that finally after 4 months training for triathlons, I was actually going to do one!
Yes, I was a rookie. And the following synopsis will explain where I made my fatal errors and will hopefully help any future wanna be tri-athletes.

I headed up to Port Stephens on Friday afternoon and received an emergency SMS from Spot for a pre-race briefing. I was going to be late so instead of checking in at the hotel and heading to the Bowling Club afterwards for the briefing, I went straight to the bowling club. (Rookie Error #1)

There was a massive BondiFit/BRAT contingent having dinner and sitting around having a drink or two. Right, these guys are all pro’s and Ironmen and they are having a glass of wine, it must be good for you, I thought to myself! (Rookie Error #2)

One glass down, 2 bottles of red appear on the table, with Coach Spot enforcing everyone have a glass. Oh well, one more glass surely can’t hurt (Rookie Error #3). I finally drag myself back to the hotel, having completely forgotten the race tomorrow until the receptionist asks: “So are you looking forward to racing tomorrow??”

Race day was a magic start. The sun was shining and everyone was excited, especially me. After arriving at the course and registering I opened my pack and demonstrated how rookie I was by asking a girl next to me… “what is this security sticker for?” Ahhh, prevents people stealing your bike from transition! Headed over to transition to set up my area and things and then headed over to the BRATs tent for team bonding.

The atmosphere at the course was awesome, everyone was excited, chatting, drinking sports drinks, water, eating gels, getting wetsuits on, chatting some more, taking photos, checking out the surf conditions (magic!) and just enjoying it all. Everyone was so lovely and supportive, especially when they realised this was my first race. Being a swimmer, I was looking forward to this part of the race the most and then my goal was just to enjoy the rest.

Pre-race briefing by Spot on the beach set up my swim course perfectly – use the rip on the RHS and then take a straight line on the last buoy and ignore the rest of the pack. Before we knew it, we were on the line and the gun was off. Start was perfect, hit the first buoy in third position, not many had worked out the rip yet, and stuck to my race plan perfectly. Overall a very solid swim, came out in second, losing a place on transition, and hit the bike.
The bike leg was the first time I had ridden 30km non-stop. Although I did nearly stop when doing one of the turning points at the end of lap 1. Seriously, these turns were so sharp! I definitely provided spectator entertainment when I came around the corner and hit not one, not two, but five witches hats in a row. I could hear the crowd going: “ Oh, oh, ooh, oooh, ooooh” as I managed NOT to fall off even though I was hitting them at snails pace. Anyway the bike leg was quite entertaining. I kept having these pro’s cycle past me and look at me like: “ How the hell did a ROOKIE get up the front?” It was short lived and I quickly felt like everyone in the race had managed to overtake me. I did enjoy the constant “Hey Tori, Go Tori” from fellow team members as they passed me, but the bike leg was probably my biggest surprise and biggest wake up call of how much a good bike leg can actually contribute overall. I realised this needs to be my new focus in training. The run leg was not that special. Highlights were more from a crowd and team member perspective. The highlight was probably when Ironman Benny caught me whilst he was struggling from a stitch and having blown up majorly (Ironmen were given permission to blow up from Spot) and still managed to pass me easily. Then, before I knew it the race was over and everyone had re-congregated around the BRAT’s tent to celebrate and to shelter from the rain that had just hit.

Post race everyone headed back to shower and get ready for the night. The BRAT team dinner was great fun. There was even a mini “data party” going as everyone checked out their official race results. I am fast becoming a data addict. Post dinner we hit the Bowling Club for the announcement of the club results overall. Unfortunately it was not the BRAT’s finest year, but I think we more than made up for it with team banter and the highly entertaining game of finding a drink to match your shoe (thanks Del!).

Great weekend all up and a fantastic welcome to the world of triathlons
Next challenge (going in the I’m gunna” book this weekend, but you read it here first) Port Mac Half Ironman Nov 2009. Bring it on!