Victoria, you’re beginning to age me. Sure, I get it, you’ve got great culture, food, sporting events and propensity for telling everyone about how much great culture, food and sporting events you have, but my god - sort out your weather! I ventured down to Challenge Melbourne on the weekend, my third race in Victoria over the last few months, following Challenge Shepparton (wind, rain, cold) and Geelong 70.3 (wind, rain, cold). To both my surprise and chagrin, St Kilda delivered wind, rain and cold. And a storm, featuring copious lightning, which if nothing else was a refreshingly dramatic addition to the usual meteorological trilogy.
Although not particularly pleasant, especially for a precious Queenslander such as myself, who has severe allergies to the cold, there’s definitely an upside to racing in such conditions. It takes a lot of the tactical elements out of the race, as the wind breaks up the bike so much you don’t have to worry about packs forming and getting advantages. Combined with Challenges indubitably popular decision to instigate a 20m-draft rule and the wild winds at St Kilda on Sunday morning, we could line up knowing that no-one was getting any free rides, and the strongest man was going to win (spoiler, turns out this wasn’t me…).
So, the race. I was keen to get off to a quick start in the water, and try to string out the swim as much as possible. The water had more chop than a Bruce Lee film, so I figured if I could get a gap early the swim could create some gaps. My intent reflected well in my start. Three steps in, I face planted, and spent the first 15 seconds of the race flapping around in the shallows, like a beached fish trying to flop back to deeper waters. Not ideal. I got around the first buoy in around 10th, and had to spend some bickies getting back up to the front. I’d swum myself back to the front by the next buoy, and led most of the way to back lead out of the water. Sam Appleton, Sam Betten and Casey Munro were close behind with a small gap to the World Champ Tim Reed.
Out on the bike, I continued my tradition of inventing new ways to jettison water bottles. For those playing how Will Wilson Lose His Bottle This Race at home, this time one bounced out as I was running my bike out of T2, losing about two thirds of my planned calories for the bike in the process, as I also missed the bottles at the aid stations. Possibly an issue that has to be addressed.
I felt really uncomfortable and out of sorts for the first 20km of the bike, and Appo was dropping some serious bombs, creating a gap which he set about exploiting like a commodity in a third world country. Reedy caught me after about 15kms, and Lachie Kieran caught us and dropped us like a bad habit soon after that. On the second of three laps, things got windy. Seriously windy. It’s an old joke, but bathroom in a bean factory windy. It was slicing us up like a sushi chef, and the gusts were making it seriously hard to stay on the road and upright. I stayed on my aerobars, but mostly because I didn’t want to change hand position to the drops mid-gust. Perhaps the distraction from my legs was just the tonic I needed, as by the last lap I was starting to feel mildly better and jumped off the bike with Reedy and Matt Burton, who had had his trademark blazing bike. After spending an amateurish amount of time in T2 trying to remove my helmet and get into my shoes with frozen fingers, we were about 2:45 down on Appo, with Lachie about a minute behind him.
I couldn’t feel my legs at this stage, so I figured I may as well cash in on the numbness, and have a crack at pulling some time back on Appo, so I pushed the pace pretty strongly for the first lap. After losing my bottle on the bike, I was in need of some carbs, so was trying to neck gels at every opportunity. I think I got through about 10 over the course of the run, possibly a new PB. I got to a fraction under a minute with around 4km left to run, but gel intake notwithstanding, I faded a bit on the second lap, and Appo as comfortable as a pug on a pillow up front and comfortably took the win around, with Reedy rounding out the podium. Unfortunately I lost my timing chip somewhere in Port Phillip bay, but my back-of-a-napkin maths had me just break 1:10 for the run by a matter of seconds, and was the fastest of the day.
After a sufficient period of time spent warming up, Tash and I caught Greg Fleet at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, which I can recommend as a much more pleasurable way to entertain oneself in Melbourne, as opposed to exercising in lycra in a cyclone. From here, it’s back to Brissie, and back to work. My training has been a lot more consistent over the last month or so, with corresponding increases in form, so hopefully I can continue that trend into the next training block, I’ve got plenty of areas to work on to get better at this middle distance caper, so I’ll keep chipping away at the areas that need improving. Next up is Busselton 70.3 in a few weeks, and my first trip to WA, hoping it will be a good one!
Take care friends,