Sunny Coast 70.3

11 Sep

I’m sitting down to my race recap… partly because I don’t want to move nor be an adult today (can I just be a blob on the couch?), and partly because I thought I’d do it while it was still fresh in my mind.

Sunshine Coast 70.3 or Half Ironman … however you say it, it is a 1.9km swim, a 90km cycle and a 21.1km run… 113km of effort. I’ve done it once before (in February of this year) and I was out to beat my time, despite knowing that the course was vastly different and it may not be possible (Tweed was essentially flat, this had flat aspects, but also had a few hills in it for good measure).

The usual race check-in, briefing, transition tours, bike racking etc all took part on Friday and Saturday, and we were fortunate enough to be staying close by and I could come and go from the transition area within about 5 minutes which was fabulous.  I had everything ready, I’d done the training, it was time to try and get a good night’s rest before race day.

The alarm went off at 4.15am… needed to get up and get some breakfast into me so it was settled before I raced.  I was down at transition and ready to get my gear sorted at 4.45am.  This bit always makes me nervous because if you don’t put it in transition you won’t have it for the race.  So it’s time to pump up the bike tyres (you take the air out so they don’t burst in the heat when they’re racked all day the day before), and lay out what you need for the ride and the run – ideally in such a way that it is easy to get to, in order to minimise time in transition between legs.  I checked it one, checked it 1000 times and then reluctantly walked away. I went back up to our apartment to put my wetsuit on and head to the beach for my 6.09am wave start. I caught up with a few messages from friends and family before putting my phone in Dave’s hands as I was becoming increasingly nervous.

On the beach and in my wettie I met up with Rach and Tina. Two local sunshine coast girls who have been wonderfully encouraging along this journey.  Tina was in my wave so I had a little bit of company.  The ocean looked perfect. I’m still a little terrified of waves but there was the occasional wave breaking on shore (about waist height) and this gave me no cause for concern. I briefly got in the ocean, and it was time to move to the starting area.  In actual fact I left this a little late – I didn’t hear him call the dark blue caps and Tina and I made it to our start line with about 1 minute to spare. Therefore before we knew it we were off. The beach start was pretty painless and I made it into the water just fine, negotiated one small wave and it was heading to the open water. A place where really, I’m fairly comfortable. The swim is one of my favourite legs (the opposite of most people) and while I’m not the fastest, I still quite enjoy it.  I was feeling okay until 462m. I can tell you the distance because that’s when I stopped. Never in my life have I had a panic attack until now.  I can’t even tell you what caused it. I can’t tell you what I was thinking before it.  I know at 462m it was telling me my average speed was 1:52/100m which for me is really good.  But at that point, I couldn’t breathe. I thought, it’s okay Jen, do some breaststroke, get your head back under the water, but take a moment to breathe. I couldn’t even do that. So I stopped. The beauty of the wetsuit is it is buoyant, so literally I bobbed in the ocean and tried to collect my thoughts, whilst grabbing at my neck and my wetsuit to try and keep breathing. I told myself that I was only 462m into a 1900m swim in the middle of the ocean (perhaps not helpful), I told myself this was my favourite leg and if I couldn’t make it here how was I ever going to make it (also, perhaps not helpful), I still kept trying to breathe. In the end, in a desperate attempt to get myself started again (convinced that any minute some poor water safety person was going to come over to me which would have been the ultimate fail!), I prayed…. I remember saying, God, I need you to calm me down, I know I can do this, but right now something has come over me. My breathing finally settled and I was able to recommence swimming – freestyle, no issues. For the remainder of the swim I was calm and consistent. I was often amongst other age groupers (as the fast swimmers of the following waves overtook me), but through the washing machines of turbid water, I was still fine.  As I approached the end, with my fear of waves, I again prayed and asked God to get me in so I could get on with the race.  There was not a single wave as I finished on the beach (I didn’t feel the surge of a wave come in behind me during my approach to shore at all, nor did I feel the pull of the wave heading back out). It was nice to be on solid sand, head up the sandy beach, up the stairs and into transition.  I was pretty happy to see a 40 minute swim – my mid swim meltdown did cost me a few minutes, but to come out with a 2:08/100m was still pretty good for me (officially 40:48, 43rd in my age group out of the swim).

I didn’t quite make a cup of tea in transition this time (and Dave took a video to prove it), but still took about 6 minutes to get myself all sorted before getting out on the bike.

It was time to hit the rolling hills out of Mooloolaba to head to what was sold to me as “the fast flat motorway” before then moving into the hinterland section of the course – where a few hills were likely to dampen my pace a little.  The motorway didn’t disappoint. I was pleased to see sub 10 minute 5km’s while on the motorway so knew I was generally hitting about the 30km/hr speed on average.  I wanted to push myself but was also considering the need to have some power in the legs for the latter half of the course. So I chose a speed that was “comfortably uncomfortable” and hoped for the best. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be greeted by a headwind on the return part of the motorway so I wanted to be a bit careful. Not too far after the motorway turn around I saw my coach Em coming (she started 20 minutes after me so I was aiming to be ahead of her for as long as I could).  I waited for her to pass and appreciated her encouragement as she did so (still coaching while smashing out her own sub 5hr half ironman and 6th in her age group!!).  On the back half of the motorway I also saw my mate Elle and we cheered for each other as we passed. Having cycled the hills route twice previously I knew exactly what I was in for, and I knew exactly which hills I was more concerned about.  I was also able to encourage another athlete who thought one hill was never ending that the end was indeed around the very next corner (the mental game is won by being prepared!).  At the crest of the hill loop (which we did twice) was a super enthusiastic group and I greatly appreciated their cries of “Go SMIDDY!” – racing in Smiddy kit gets you the best cheers! Once the two laps of the hills were done I knew I just had a couple of decent climbs to get out of the hinterland area. These hills, in my opinion, were actually worse than any of the hills in the actual loop. But again, I knew they were coming and I knew I just had to get through them and the rest would be fairly smooth sailing to the end.  As I came down the final stretch past the club tents some of my support crew were on the sidelines – thanks Jane, Kiara and Tina for the epic cheers – your support made this girl cry!  Officially finished the 90km in 3:19:42, 27km/hr and 45th in my age group off the bike – but all in all really pleased with that time – I thought the hills would slow me down a lot more than that and never thought that I’d average 27km/hr when there was about 650m of climbing as well.

A quicker transition from bike to run – much easier to just change shoes, grab my hat, belt with bib and a handful of gels (I think I took 6) – spray on sunscreen and time to go – running briefly over to Dave who again was cheering me on in transition, before heading out on course.

So… the run…. 21.1km… a half marathon…. on tired legs. Up over Alexandra Headland… twice…. All the coaches advice was take it easy on the run heading out – particularly the first time. There are club tents, everyone is cheering, you’ll go out too hard and you’ll cook yourself. Keep your heart rate low, walk if you have to. Advice taken on board and I thought I had done okay… only to look at my data later and discover I maxed my HR at 196 at that point…. (that’s low.. right??). Ki and Jane found me and offered me some encouragement as I set off on my journey.  I had checked my watch coming out of transition and I was sitting at about 4:10. I had to do my half marathon in 2:50 in order to go sub 7 hours (which was one of my goals – even if I thought it a tiny bit unrealistic…). I had done Tweed in 3hrs so I knew I was in with a chance, particularly if I kept running!  I found some great chalk art on the road – encouragement from Ki and Jane, and smiled every time I saw it – or thought about it. It was now just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other to finish this race off.  My plan was to run between aid stations (roughly 2km), ensure I got nutrition and water on board as required at those stations and then run again. This worked for probably the first 8km… but from then on the intervals became a lot closer together, with me setting mini goals continuously – always spurred on by my maths to ensure I didn’t let my pace get to less than what would get me over the line before 7hrs.  I was having a bit of trouble with pins and needles and numbness in my left foot (not sure what the story is there) but other than that, and feeling completely spent, I was able to keep going.  I saw Em the last time just before I had to go up Alex Headland again – she had 2km to the finish I had another lap to go. Again she offered me encouragement on the way past. The on and off nature of my shuffling continued for the remaining kilometres. With 1km to go I made a new friend – a guy who I’d been racing with much of the day (I’d pass him, he’d pass me and so on).  It was his first triathlon (way to start small!!) and we were able to make casual conversation for the last kilometre to help us both get home. Stoked to do the half marathon in 2:37 (7:27min/km) – of course far from perfect but a great improvement on last time.  My run pushed me back to finish 49th in my age group (out of 56).

I therefore broke my sub 7 hour goal finishing in 6:48, and beat my previous half ironman time of 7:12 by 24 minutes (on a very different course).  I headed down to recovery where I was rewarded with a hug from Em, and a chocolate milk from Dave (admittedly I was pretty feral and most keen for a shower!).

I’m super thankful to so many. While triathlon is an individual sport it is far from an individual effort. Dave is my number one supporter – he travels with me, encourages me, trains with me (when he wants to) and gets me going on the days I don’t want to.  Em is a wonderful coach – giving me challenges, a program and plenty of encouragement – it’s obviously making a difference Em! All my family and friends who support me, train with me, cheer for me, encourage me… I can’t name you all but you are just wonderful and I love you guys.  Thanks to Julie and Adam for getting my body back in order after some ITB pain earlier in the year – I appreciate it greatly. Thanks to my sponsor fisiocrem for a product that is just great to massage into tired muscles. And thanks to God – for getting me through that swim, but for everything else too – I’m blessed to have a body that, generally speaking, works to allow me to participate in this and I don’t take that for granted.

I’m told its only 8 weeks until my next event – the Noosa Triathlon. Olympic Distance Triathlon after a couple of half ironman’s will hopefully feel a bit easier… but it probably won’t because I’ll be pushing harder over a shorter course… but it’s not time to think about that quite yet, it’s time for recovery… so this tired duck is about to get off the couch and head to the pool to do some non- weight bearing active muscle recovery…. Until next time! xo


One Response to “Sunny Coast 70.3”


  1. This is life... - December 31, 2017

    […] finishing my first half Ironman in February, did the second half Ironman 30 minutes quicker in September.  All of this made possible with the guidance of my coach Emma Quinn, and with some wonderful […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: