2020 return to racing part 1: Bribie Tri

It takes little introduction to tell the tale of 2020.

A common narrative we’re all living out.

Denial.
The chaos and confusion as everything escalated.
The panic.
Anger at the imposed restrictions.
Anger at the loss of hopes, plans and dreams.
Anger at the world.

But maybe these restrictions might work? Maybe it will just go away?

Nope. This sucker ain’t going anywhere, and it doesn’t follow calendars either…
Depression.

Well, we’re in this for the long haul, we might as well get on the best we can.
Acceptance.

Some have had it better, some have had it worse.
But in our own ways we’ve all experienced these emotions.
I’m still flitting through them all.


As athletes we train to race, that’s what we do.

With racing gone I found the only way to go on, was to train for the sheer enjoyment of it.
No pressure or expectations on performance sessions, just turning up and pushing myself for the love of the challenge and the satisfaction that comes with doing hard work.
Striving for improvements out of pure curiosity around what I am capable of.

It turns out that’s a pretty effective way to train!

But it’s hard to keep it up forever without anything on the horizon.


We’ve been fortunate enough that season 2020 was not seen out without an opportunity to toe the line.
I had a couple of chances early in the year at Devonport and Mooloolaba in March.

In lieu of any ITU races, any chance to practice our craft or make some coin, Triathlon Australia ran two internal races and partnered with a couple of local event organisers to give us a mini season. Four races over a five week period in September-October and just for good measure I threw my debut 70.3 in there as well to make five in five.

Race one was a draft legal sprint distance race at Bribie Island. (An awesome race with a wickedly quick tide assisted swim. Do it, if you haven’t had the opportunity!)

To say I was excited to race is an understatement! There were nerves too, mostly because it had been so long since I had last raced; I hardly remembered what to do! There was definitely relief too. With the still ever volatile situation I was not confident the race would go ahead as it was one of the very first to run with the easing of restrictions.

Go ahead it did, but my rusty memory didn’t serve me well.
15 minutes down the road I realized I had left my wetsuit behind sitting on my bed. I hadn’t been expecting a wetsuit swim. I’d never race Bribie in a wetsuit before and the current sea surface temp was sitting a touch above 20, the wetsuit cutoff. Nevertheless, my number 1 rule when packing for a triathlon is ALWAYS BRING A WETSUIT.
It was too late to turn back for it, so the remainder of the drive I was trying to keep calm about it, consoling myself that it was unlikely to be a wetsuit swim.

19.5.

Wetsuit swim.

It’s a mistake I won’t be making again!

Fortunately for me the tide assisted swim played into my hands.
I had to change my race tactics, I couldn’t drive the swim but I could hang in there despite my disadvantage without a wetsuit, if I was smart.
My only chance of staying in the front end of the race was to nail my processes. Get out fast to the first buoy in the swim, find a good hip to sit on, ride the tide and the draft, and hammer transition.

Out onto the bike in touch with the leaders, we established a group of four. It didn’t last, a frustration with the bike turning into a roll-around, but still a chance to remind myself how to ride in a pack! (Another rusty point as I reflected post race I hadn’t ridden my bike with a single other person since Mooloolaba World Cup back in March!)

I positioned well into T2, transitioned smoothly, and headed out onto the run in the lead. I was passed by Jaz Hedgeland and Ash Gentle who juked it out for the win, having my own battle with Sophie Malowiecki dropping her with about a km to go to finish 3rd with one of my best ever 5km runs.

I loved it.
It was so good to be back. So good to race again. So good to race with some semblance of form.

It was nothing world beating, sure, but a nice assurance that my Corona fitness translated to race speed. Race speed I hadn’t seen since mid 2018 thanks to a string of injuries last year. A little ray of hope in troubled times. And I’ll be taking the “for the love of it” approach with me going forward!


There’s a long road ahead of us yet, but I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I had last month.

Stay tuned for my thoughts on my debut 70.3!

Gillian


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