Arriving for a practice swim Saturday morning wasn't my brightest idea. I'm a nervous ocean swimmer at the best of times but this miniscule swim in what seemed like massive swell did not help my mindset. From that point until 6am Sunday morning I tried to keep my train of thought on the right track but I had a decent case of nerves (and in hindsight I probably didn't eat enough during that timeframe).
BUT arriving onto the beach Sunday to see rolling clean waves with a rainbow overhead I knew finishing, the swim at least, was in the bag.
Transition was dark and rainy (next time I'll bring a visor with lights). Another lesson... allow more time to squeeze into my wetsuit. The upside to that was I didn't have time to linger on my nerves and went straight to the beach for a calm walk to the Spit.
The starters gun came around quickly and I was off in the rolling start at the tail end of Wave 1. Once I passed the first buoy I found my rhythm and focused on swimming straight and keeping calm. Apart from some abnormal calf cramps in both legs at the 1k point I really enjoyed the swim. All of a sudden it was done and I caught a sneaky little runner into the shore. After passing the exit chute I was elated I had overcome my mental hurdle, now there was only a strangely enjoyable 800m to T1 and 111kms to go thereafter.. easy!
An experienced friend of mine couldn't stress enough 'Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition. Don't miss anything.' So I set my nutrition alerts to 10min intervals on the bike. It seemed excessive but I downed everything I had.. and I was still hungry. (Lesson #543 for next time).
Another piece of advice I was given was 'Don't go too hard on the bike, save ya pins for the run'. Here is where I need to improve considerably. I probably conserved a bit too much energy as I was worried about the return of my calf cramps in the run.
The first lap was pretty windy as expected. Heading north we had a comfortable tailwind and I felt as quick as Quintana but after turning around BAM... hello headwind. The second lap was windy and pouring with rain. Given it was a such a straight course the rain didn't seem all that bad. At least it wasn't scorching hot. With the distraction of the downpours and the lovely Tamborine playing Lady on the Maroochy Bridge, the ride was over before I knew it.
T2 was swift and I was off. The first seven kilometres were great and I felt like I was running on clouds with my new Vaporflys. It was so motivating to hear the cheers (minus the beers) on the hill and to see other SBTC athletes flying around the course. Again I seemed pretty hungry (what is wrong with me) at the 16km mark and was desperate for some fruit at the aid stations but I begrudgingly downed my 88th gel with 5kms to go. The last hill effort hurt but with 1km left to run I was absolutely stoked. My first half ironman was nearly done. I couldn't be happier to see the red carpet and cross the finish line ... yeooow! Doneski!
In a year of such unforeseen circumstances, I think all the athletes who raced were grateful the event went ahead. Thanks to Coach Simon for the detailed plan that kept me motivated and accountable over the cooler months. And to Coach Chris for WHW cycling tips. All those early winter morning sessions paid off.
My goals for the race were to finish in under 6hrs and most importantly enjoy it... otherwise what is the point? I'm happy to say I achieved both of those goals and like any triathlete four days post-race I've set targets for next time. #findfaster #beatyesterday
Simon Brooker is an accredited Multisport and Running Coach based in Brisbane, Australia