Now in its 5th year, the Coffs BCU triathlon is a race that I absolute love competing in and this year proved no exception. This would be my 4th time racing the Olympic distance event, with my past results including 2 second place finishes and a fourth. Sinclair, Mick and the team at Village Sports do a phenomenal job with the weekends events and always manage to attract some great athletes to the amazing Coffs Coast. This year, Ryan Fisher, who represented Australia at the Rio Olympics was toeing the start line among some other high quality athletes. This ensured a fast race and one that I was super keen to hit hard.
I took a few days off work and traveled down with Aimee and our baby Lucy on the Wednesday. It was really enjoyable to have extra time to travel, spend with the family and friends and revisit some of our favourite places in Coffs. The downside of traveling with a 6 month old is the uncertainty of her sleep quality in an unfamiliar environment and any more than 2hrs of continuous sleep was a luxury. I ended up sleeping on the floor in another room for half of the night before the race in a hope of catching some Z's. There is a misconception among the triathlon community that the pro's all have it easy and just train and drink coffee and meet sponsorship requirements. This is reality for a small handful but many like me squeeze training in around work and family commitment (but I wouldn’t have it any other way I love my girls!)
The weather forecast for the weekend was grim and most of Coffs would have been woken by the torrential rain on the Saturday night, but the weather was in our favour and the sun shone over the jetty just before race kick-off. The swim is a beautiful single lap along the jetty and out into the iconic harbour. I have been really pushing the swim training and times are coming down but I knew I would have to work hard to minimise time loss to Fisher, who swims like, well a fish (sorry couldn’t resist!). I swam comfortably (both in effort and rash free thanks to Skinstrong Slik) and felt I managed my efforts well and exited about 90 seconds down on Fisher but within the 'main' pack. A fast T1 by my standards had me in a group of about 6 other athletes, with Lindsay Wall about 15 seconds up the road. This is when I knew that I had to dig in and reduce the deficit quickly.
I am lucky enough to have a good mate in Adam Gordon who lent me his disc and I was keen to make the most of its advantage. There is a competitive group of local Coffs cyclist with whom I have done many kilometers with over the years and they always enter in teams and secretly (but not really so secretly) want to do the fastest bike split. So there is the cycle race within the race which I was keen to take out. From the outset I was keen to push the pace on 2 wheels. I dropped the small group who came out of T1 with me and caught Lindsay within a few kilometers. From here I set my eyes on putting time into Fisher. I had in my mind of averaging around 300-310 Watts for the bike split so this gave me motivation to push hard all the way. After 20km I could gauge that we were still about the same time back from Fisher who was riding better then I expected. Still I pushed hard, put my head down and lead from the front of our group. Coming into T2 I looked down and saw that I had averaged 305 Watts for the 40km. Job done!
Hats off to Fisher who just pipped me at the post for fastest bike split, and as the bike time included transition, this is likely down to his ITU lightening speed transitions and my shocker at not being able to put my running shoes on. I’m really happy with the power I held on the bike. In hindsight I could have raced smarter and let the majority of the bike work be shared and saved the legs for the run but I race by the motto that a wise man from Sawtell once told me, “Don't leave it on the shelf”.
The run is the most scenic of any race in Australia. It takes in the historic jetty and southern break wall of the harbour. I was a little disheartened to see that I had not put any time into Fisher on the bike and immediately knew that bar a massive blow up he would run away with the win. Lindsay took off from T2 quickly, a pace I could not go with. My plan was to build into the first few km's then empty the tank from there. I ticked over the first km in 3:40, a rather conservative pace. Running out to the break wall I noticed that the temperature was creeping up and the air felt quite thick, something I didn't realise while riding. It wasn't until after the race when I drank about four 500mL bottles of water that I realised that perhaps I had underestimated the amount of fluid I should have been consuming both on the bike and run.
The remaining 4km of the first lap I was sitting on 3:30/km pace and felt in control. At the turn I was sitting in 3rd with Lindsay about 40seconds up the road. Now 40 seconds does not sound like much but when you break it down (which I did during the run) that means you need to run about 10 seconds faster per km over the final 5km to make up the deficit. So I came to the conclusion that I needed to run at 3:20 pace or quicker for the last 5km to hopefully get close to Lindsay, but the flip side is that if I push just over my limit to hold this pace I could risk blowing up and falling out of third! I wish I had the legs to push the pace but the reality was that the bike had drained some of the leg speed and I had to settle with knocking out 3:30 kilometers for the remainder of the run. A fast flying Travis Coleman about 60 seconds behind me had me worried at one point in the last 3 kilometers but thankfully the legs stayed strong to the end. Running along the jetty for the final kilometer is truly an unique experience in a triathlon and even though I have completed many local Coffs Harbour Tri club races over the years, I still get the same buzz of excitement which makes the hairs on my body stand up. Crossing the line in 3rd I was pleased in myself and knew that I had given all the body had on the day. Big congratulations to Lindsay and Ryan on putting together great races.
As I said above, the BCU triathlon is an brilliantly run event on a course that cannot be faulted. I encourage any of you out there that want a great race in a beautiful region, to put this one on your calendar.
Thanks to all those that support me, Skinstrong, Athletes Foot (Pacific Fair and Tweed City) and Border Bikes. Without you the dream could not happen.
Now it's time to sit it down and plan the upcoming months.