In 2017, Challenge Melbourne doubled as the Asia Pacific Half Distance Triathlon Championship. It drew a strong field which included the 70.3 World Champion and a number of half distance winners. It was supposed to be the perfect race to gain experience. I took few expectations to the event, simply wanting to focus on my performance and enjoy racing whoever was around me.
Race morning started as a pleasant affair, neither hot nor cold. The day looked promising despite an ominous forecast of wet and wild weather. It didn't take long to arrive. As if on cue, lightning and thunder began as athletes arrived at the starting area. The wind picked up and with a delayed start everyone huddled up together in the closest building. Just as other professionals, I took the opportunity to relax instead of burning up nervous energy. The lightning soon passed and we were underway. I'd been swimming well and picked a central position on the starting line which placed me alongside the favourites.
The field launched on the count of one, something which shouldn't catch me out, but it did. A small stumble in the water saw any chances of shadowing the favourites quickly disappear . All in all, these were small things. I trailed the field to the first buoy before moving around the rear of the pack. The gap to the next group was opening quickly and it was now or never. I was very proud and motivated to be able to make the jump without taking anyone with me. It is moments like these that can really make your race. The final two thirds of the swim headed straight into the wind. This made it a very physical swim and our group split. I never recovered the gaps and eventually reached shore with one other athlete in toe.
From there, the day got wetter, windier and colder. I found myself unable to manage the pace on the bike leg and battled through the conditions as best I could. A third of the male professional field pulled out on the bike leg in true testament to the conditions. Finishing the ride with every extremity feeling numb always makes for a circus in T2. After a long fought battle with my helmet clasp I didn't dare try donning a pair of socks or buckling up a watch.
At this point one can quite rightly question the value of finishing. Stopping makes sense professionally, but it doesn't emotionally. No participant on that day had to be there, we all wanted to be. I think the majority of people would have chosen different conditions but it was just what we got. Positivity took me through the equally challenging run leg. I managed to post a reasonable time but I was happier to have persevered.
I was surprised and grateful to receive a medal as the tenth placed professional. Not a place I'd normally write about, but I was proud of the way I handled myself on the day, and it was nice to be recognised for that. With the Australian racing season drawing to a close, I feel as though I've well and truly established that cold weather racing isn't my forte. I'll be looking to chase a few smaller and warmer events in order to validate my fitness before everything shuts down. Till then, I'll do what I do best and keep raising the bar in training.