Once I arrived back from my race in Adelaide, I kept on hearing locals talk about a triathlon nearby, that was happening soon, so after checking it out online, the idea of doing it grew on me more and more. With a final talk with my aunt and getting the confirmation from my coach, Mark Pearce, we agreed it was a good idea, especially with all the training I’m doing at the moment. So 10 days before the race, I was entered and with the help of my race sponsor, Grubers Beckett, a local chartered accountant firm, that was it … 10 DAYS TO GO!!!
My excitement for the race grew and I was looking forward to heading into the tablelands to see the course and race around it, especially as I heard a lot about it and after looking up last years results, I saw that it was going to be a tough race as a local PRO triathlete did the course in 2hrs 13, yet he can do a half Ironman in 3hrs 40 (a very, very impressive time!!!). This made me slightly nervous but also very intrigued and excited. I couldn’t wait!!!
In the lead up to the race, I was fortunate enough to head up into the tablelands a couple times and have a look around the course and do a bike recce, it was a single 40km loop, out and back, nothing too technical, only a couple of U-bends, but the roads weren’t the best and it was very bumpy, relentlessly so, and it was very hot. After the first recce, I even came back with a more distinguished tan line than before. Ok, it was more of a burn line but still, impressively hot.
With the race at 7am on Sunday and transition opening even earlier at 5am, we decided to go up on the Saturday and camp nearby, and when I say nearby, the campsite was actually next to the finishing straight. Amazing find, well done Louise. I could literally roll out of bed and into transition.
Waking up at 4am, I went to go have a shower and a quick final rolling session, before heading back to have some granola (or toasted muesli, as that’s all I could find) and porridge, my race breakfast. I then headed over to registration as the music started playing, put the stickers on, got my things ready in transition, and then a quick warmup before heading over to the lake. It was a no wetsuit swim and the temperature of the water was lovely, not cold at all. After a quick warmup swim and after listening to the very complicated course instructions, we all headed down to the lake front, where we’d be set off in waves and unlike normal it was oldest to youngest, meaning that I was in wave 6.
The first few waves were off and soon after we moved to the front and then into the water, to the start line. Another 30 seconds to go we were told. With the last few seconds spent with looking at where I was going to go, we were off. The race had begun!!! Yungaburra Triathlon for me had started, two laps of an M-like course to go.
With all the training I’ve been doing, I found myself starting to edge away from the main pack in my wave, with a few others staying with me, I found myself towards the front. Before the first of 6 buoys, I caught up with the previous wave and found myself trying to weave through the group, trying to avoid being kicked in the face or in the side. With a few close encounters, I was through and I set my sights on the next group. The first lap was very much a case of weaving through one group, then catching up the next, whilst trying to evaluate the best route around the buoys which were typically crowded with people from earlier waves.
Feeling good, I tried to push a bit more on the second lap and I really focussed on my stroke, making sure that each one was strong and keeping the technique up. I knew there wasn’t long left and I wanted to be as close to the front as I could. I was wanting to get onto that podium.
The last few hundred meters to go, I gave it all I had, whilst still trying to avoid all the sprint distance athletes that had started after us but were on their first lap.
Not long after, I was out of the water and running into transition, I felt light off my feet and was flying up to the bike, overtaking a few in the process. Putting my sponsors top on, along with my helmet and all, I grabbed my bike and made a run to the mount line. The bike leg had started!!!
I started heading out and with people in front, either from earlier waves or those doing the sprint distance. I was hunting the leader down, one by one. I had no idea where I was, position wise, but as long as I was going strong, fast and overtaking people, I knew that I would get closer and closer to that podium position I was after.
10km into the bike, the turnaround point for the sprint was just ahead and you could see people turning around. I knew then that everyone that was now in front of me where those in my race, doing the Olympic Distance. I saw a couple in front and I was making the distance between us up, soon after I overtook one of them then the other. I then carried on whilst keeping staying hydrated, as the sun was as hot as anything. My aero water bottle on the front with the straw was leaking and spraying water in my face, which I was quite happy about…felt quite refreshing.
Making up my position one by one, I felt strong, I knew that this was going to be a good race! I then saw the leader on the other side of the road, coming back from the turnaround point, which wasn’t that far ahead and I counted the people in front of me … I was 7th overall including teams … not bad but I still had plenty of time to make up places, 20km in fact and I was flying, my average speed was very good considering the course and I was feeling strong, I made sure that I stayed hydrated and took on plenty of water and isotonic, along with my favourite TORQ gels to prevent cramp and to keep my performance levels up.
Soon after the turnaround point I made it into 6th, then 5th and was looking out for 4th. I saw him in the distance but it took me a few kilometres to catch up, but it was inevitable, especially as embarrassingly enough I had a One Direction song stuck in my head, or ok it was my remix of it, as I don’t often get lyrics correct, but that doesn’t matter, it spurred me on to chase him down. So whilst singing ‘One way or another, I’m gonna, gonna, gonna catch ya’ ‘, I was bombing it, powering it downhill and then motoring it up the other side and soon after, that was it, I was 4th overall. I had definitely made some damage on the bike and made up a lot of positions, ready for the run but that wasn’t it!!! In the last kilometre I saw one more guy. This was my chance. I saw that he kept on looking behind and could see me getting closer and closer. Could I make the place up in time and come off the bike in THIRD???
With only 500 meters to go, I did it. I was third!!! Just had to try and maintain it on the run. Leaping off the bike, I made a run to my transition area, I was focussed on getting through and felt strong. No knee or hip problems but I had a slight mishap when putting my bike back as the rack wasn’t high enough and so lost a couple of seconds which was enough to knock me back into fourth, but not by far.
The race was definitely on now. Third place was in my sights but he was getting further and further away. I kept on pushing to try and keep the distance as small as possible in the hope that he wouldn’t be able to carry on but by the first turn around point, after 2.5km he had a 50m lead. It was a very tough course, and now very warm, with the sun blazing down on us, I was relieved when I had a few cups of water chucked at me to cool me down, grabbing one on the way through to drink and pour the remaining over my head. I was on the way back down to the lake.
Coming back down to the car park and the transition, I went round the lap turn point and lap two, the final lap, was under way. One more lap to go!!! Not long now and still feeling strong. I was cheered by the supporters and even other runners and cyclists racing saying, ‘great running’, ‘wow, he’s quick’, ‘looking strong’, ‘keep it up’, ‘impressive running’ … I knew the training was paying off and I could feel it too.
Coming up to the far turnaround point, unfortunately for me, third place passed me on the other side and he had made another 100-200 meters or so on me and when I turned around he had disappeared out of my sight, it was hard to spot him with all the other racers having now joined the run course.
Two kilometres to go and that was it!!! I headed back and pushed a bit more, trying to increase the speed as I ran up and down the last few remaining hills. I came past the car park, reached the top of the short incline and had 100m back down to the finishing line. I gave it all I had and crossed the line.
Wow that was a tough course but fun. I really felt strong and had an amazing time on the bike. I even found later that it was the fastest bike of the day and much to my delight, I had actually come 3rd, with the person in front coming 2nd!!! An amazing result, so happy. My first prize money won and even more chuffed that I was less than 3 minutes away from a PRO triathlete. Onwards and upwards … getting stronger and stronger.
I’d like to say a massive thank you to Louise, Alf and Ciaran for making sure that I had everything I needed and for supporting me in the lead up to the race, sorting out food, transport, accommodation etc. and to Grubers Beckett for sponsoring me for this event.
Also a massive thank you to my long term sponsors, Apex and daysout.co.uk, for the bike and gear along with their continued support and backing, TORQ for their amazing nutrition products that help before, during and after sessions and allow me to continue to push my limits whilst racing and recover quickly, Warwick Physio + Rehab for their help in making sure I’m fit and ready to race and to the Stamford Endowed Schools for their financial support. I’m very much appreciative.
Furthermore, a massive thank you to my mum, family and friends that have supported me throughout my various competitions and to Warwick University Triathlon Club. It’s not the same doing all the training on my own, now I’ve graduated. Another big thank you to my bike shops in Cairns and Adelaide, ‘Discovery Cycles’ and ‘Bio-Mechanics Cycles & Repairs’. You’ve both been amazing and have sorted out any problems I’ve had and put my bike back on the road.
A big thank you to Gavin Butler and Brad Kellas, two Cairns locals that sorted me out with some training clinchers, allowing me to continue training in the lead up to the race. To Marlin Coast swimming pool for use of their amazing outdoor 50m pool and to my brother, Tiffany, Zenobia and Rachael for all their support and help whilst in Australia and to all the supporters, volunteers, officials and to ‘Soldier On’ for putting on such a great event.
Till next time,