My first experience of Hell of the West triathlon was back in 2010 when I completed the run leg in a team. I wore boardshorts in the run and recall suffering badly in the heat. I was very new to triathlon and why people would want to complete the entire race in searing temperatures seemed crazy to me at the time. Incidentally Luke Mckenzie won that year in a race record time.
Fast forward 7 years and I was back to complete the race again, albeit under entirely different circumstances. The final decision to race was only made several weeks earlier as the race is quite early in the year and your race fitness can be a bit of a gamble. The decision was made a little easier once I heard Tim Reed would be racing and any chance you get to toe the line with a current world champion should not be missed.
It had been such a huge week for me with extra work, fitting in training, packing and helping with our teething baby, that I didn’t even have time to shave my face, let alone my legs which the race commentator noted with laughter. The Saturday afternoon drive out was less then ideal too but I managed to get a good night sleep before the alarm was ringing at 3:30am. Breakfast was a little different to normal, an oat slice and iced coffee from the petrol station next door due to Coles being closed early on Saturday afternoon. Nonetheless it provided me with some energy and the jump start I needed to get me ready for the starters gun. Bike racked and a quick swim warm up in the local pool and it was go time.
The unique swim at Hell of the West has you starting just before sunrise, therefore meaning that you are swimming in quite dark conditions following a kayak with a flashing light attached to them. I had plans of swimming as close to the faster swimmers (Fettell and Mckenzie) for the first half as possible. I managed an okay start on the inside of the first bouy and could sight Mckenzie and Reed heading to the front behind Fettell once we started the run up river. I was near my limit when I saw them get away and maybe on another day I could have bridged the small gap and sat on their feet for the swim. But today I remained in our group of 4 behind the 3 further up and this is how it remained for the entire swim. Our group exited about 2 mins behind Fettell and 1 mins behind Mckenzie and Reed.
The ride at Hell of the West is as simple as a triathlon cycle leg can be. Forty kilometers out, forty kilometers back. No hills, rough road surface and the chance of some variable wind conditions. Our group of 4 was immediately reduced to 3, myself, Hull and Wall. Fortunately all of us we willing to keep the pace high and it was a surprising when around 15km in we caught Mckenzie then Fettell not to much further up the road. This only left Reed of the front. We continued to ride well and although the legs felt slightly heavier then normal, I felt I was riding within myself and feeling comfortable. At the turnaround it became obvious Reed was racing at a level above everyone else. He had stretched his lead to about 3mins and looked strong. We made the turn and maintained a good pace heading back to Goondawindi before with about 20km to go Nick Hull fell off the back of our group which later I found out was due to a puncture. This left me a Lindsay Wall together for the final 20km into town. The final 10km was where I started noticing that the fatigue in the legs was perhaps more of an issue then I had realised. Wall and I came into T2 together about 5mins behind Reed who had blown everyone apart with a lesson on time trialling.
Out of T2, Wall took off immediately and then I went BOOM! The glutes and hamstrings felt like rocks! I could barely manage a walk let alone try to run. I received some looks from some spectators which translated to 'look at this guy, blew himself up on the bike and now can only walk'. To be honest this is what I was thinking to myself as I walked the first 500m of the run hoping that the legs would start to loosen up. At one point I thought to myself that at least I can be happy with my bike split, a positive to take away from the race. Hull bounded past me, as I started to turn my legs over with what resembled something like a slow jog. Good I thought, that’s a start. Now start to increase your turnover and run! About 2km in I managed to increase the pace to about 4:30/km and could sight of Mckenzie running well not to far behind me. I was sitting in fourth place at this point watching as Hull and Wall ran further and further away from me and Mckenzie catching me with every step. About 5kms in and finally the legs came to the party. After some stern words to myself, I set about trying to run down the guys ahead of me.
The run consists of 3 laps along a path that runs along the river we swam in earlier. After the first lap I could see that Hull and Wall were still running well but not out of range to catch if I ran well. At the halfway point I was gaining time on both these guys and toward the end of the second lap I made the pass of Hull then Wall and jumped into second place, still far behind Tim Reed. Knowing that I was now in second place at the Australian Elite Long Course Championships gave me a little surge of adrenaline, but I still had about 7kms to run and Luke Mckenzie was still running well behind me. I now consume 2 gels on the run, a recent change to my nutrition plan, to ensure I do not starve myself of sugar in the final few kms in the run. I downed the second gel at the start of the third lap and set about maintaining the pace I had built into for the final 6km. To be honest the second half of the run felt more comfortable then the first half and coming into the final few kms I still felt I had good legs. Coming down the finish chute I could finally relax and enjoy the moment crossing the line in second place. Tim Reed put on a triathlon clinic and showed why he is the current 70.3 world champion. After a very rough start to the run, I am proud with the way I kept my composure and believed in my body.
It was an honour to share the podium with 2 legends on the sport in Luke Mckenzie and Tim Reed and I look forward to more success in upcoming races.
A big thanks to those who support me, The Athletes Foot (Pacific Fair and Tweed City), SkinStrong, Palm Beach Physiotherapy and abcPure. And as always my very supportive parents and family,.