Training kicked off the beginning of January and with 3 weeks work under my belt I was eager and keen to see where my fitness was at and get back into the swing of 70.3 racing which I love. I also was really excited to race amongst a highly talented field of female professionals (girls which are my inspiration), and considered the race and line up of pros an opportunity of a lifetime - showcasing the city of Auckland, incorporating the viaduct harbour, Auckland Harbour Bridge and waterfront.
I felt unsettled leading into the race for various reasons, including a late arrival on Friday with only one day to find my feet (in a city I was unfamiliar with) combined with the time zone difference, preparation felt rushed and I was tired. With support of my family and close friends back home, I was able to re-focus on my race plan and personal goals of what I wanted to achieve from the event.
The swim course was held in Viaduct Harbour, at the entrance of Viaduct Basin. One of the highlights was standing at the Pier before the start (Princess Wharf, in front of the Voyager Maritime Museum) amongst the other pro girls - including world champions, ITU athletes and the best women on the circuit internationally. A pretty special moment :-)
We had a 6.33am start (to the sound of a cannon!) just 3 minutes behind the boys. It was a fairly tight swim course with 5 turning buoys, the pro girls split into respective packs, I managed to swim with Hilary and Daner. The swim course finished under the Te Wero Foot Bridge with the exit at Karanga Plaza Steps. I wasn't happy with my swim, but got what I deserved. Lets just say I was very glad to get the first leg over, hit T1 (had a good transition) and get on with the bike and the strengths of my race. Moving on...
The bike course was a 3 lap course, the first lap featuring Auckland Harbour Bridge which was another highlight to the event. Laps 2 and 3 featured Auckland scenic foreshore along Tamaki Drive to Mission Bay/Saint Heliers Bay and return. The design of the bike course was technical with several hot spots, hazards, turns and corners, especially through Auckland City. The dark clouds came over and it started to rain and you could feel the oil on the road which meant backing off the pace where appropriate and being sensible - it wasn't worth a crash and loss of training towards bigger goals to come. I saw a lot of people crash, one guy right in front of me who lost control on a corner and ended up face planting a street tree and skating the pavement (followed by colourful language). That was a scene I won't forget as part of this experience! The drafting was also pretty atrocious with a 7 metre draft rule in place and 1500 athletes on a 3 lap course (a championship race as well as age group Hawaii WC IM spots up for grabs). I hope that this rule will be reviewed and changed for future New Zealand events to provide a fairer and safer race amongst athletes.
The run course (2 laps) was also quite technical with the first part featuring a lot of corners and turns, along the city's waterfront and lap of Princess Wharf, followed by a longer open and direct stretch of footpath along Quay Street and Tamaki Drive. The rain fortunately passed which made the pavement a lot safer to run on.
I started the run feeling flat, I wasn't quite sure how I was going to get through it. I ran most of the first lap with Hilary - who I'm wrapped to now see racing pro given her potential in the sport :-) I started to feel a lot better as the kms clicked over and by the end of the first lap, the run legs as well as my mind-set was feeling a lot more positive and I was able to pick up the pace for lap 2. The last 5kms home felt strong, I was finding my rhythm, was able to pick the pace up and managed to run my way into 8th place overall at the finish. The spectator energy at the finish line area (Viaduct Events Centre) was electric and gave you a huge lift, it was also super cool to hear the voice of Mike Riley call your name in.
Overall - It was a tough day mentally and physically, however I was extremely happy to finish top 10, in 8th position with only 3 weeks training and first race post IM WA and wrapped to have been part of a championship event and the experience. I felt I achieved my main goals, there was a lot I got out of the race in terms of lessons learnt and areas that need to be worked on. That's what I love about the sport and the challenges it brings.
It was a real buzz to be racing amongst so much talent, including established world class athletes, up-and-coming new pros in the sport as well as pros returning from a break for various reasons and getting back on that start line! This aspect was inspirational and I found really motivating towards my own personal goals and development in the sport. It was also great to see the level of age group talent battling it out on the race course. A special note to Mel Hauschildt - mate your an inspiration to us all with your talent and gutsy determination & wishing you a speedy recovery after an unlucky bike crash during the race.
So - onwards and upwards! I'm back in Sydney with some hard training ahead towards my goal races. Next week is super exciting as I'll have a bike fit with Mark Newton/Jet Cycles on my new Specialized Shiv! I can't wait to get on this bike - its high performance, recognised as one of the best TT bikes on the market (riden by world champions!) and it looks hot! There's a broad range of adjustability in the bike design to optimise position and power and feel extremely lucky to have Mark look after my bike fit.
Before I sign off, I just wanted to make a note to say a huge thanks for all the amazing messages of support I've recently received with my new sponsorship relationship with Specialized and Jet Cycles who are now part of my sponsorship and support team (Coach Grant Giles/Aeromax, Skinfit, Eyeline, High 5, Compressport, ISM, Trishave, SaltStick, Team Latitude). Your messages really mean a lot as well as encouraging comments towards my race in Auckland, given how tough the day was. I feel extremely lucky and fortunate to have this support and I look forward to giving the best of myself in the season ahead.
Time for a swim!
Happy Australia Day everyone and have a great weekend,