It’s been a while since my last 70.3; might even have been known as a HIM back then! Long story short, I’ve been doing quite a bit of riding and bike racing with a vision impaired bloke (Dean Cameron) who loves a challenge and is quite competitive and after doing Port IM “just to get through it” we thought we’d have a go at Sunny Coast.
After we had entered the 70.3 back in May and booked our accommodation in Mooloolaba Cycling Queensland released their TT series dates and RND 4 and the State Champs fell on Saturday at Kingaroy, Dean was leading the Para series so we really needed to race to take the series so we had a quick dash Saturday from Mooloolaba to Kingaroy for a 30 minute race and then a dash back to Mooloolaba to rack the bike before 4.30, making it at 4.28.
Sunday dawned beautiful. We did the usual transition set up, walked down the beach and waited for our start.
The swim - it’s a challenge! Dean has never been a swimmer and being blacked out completely in one eye and only 2-3% in the other eye means he has to rely totally on me as the guide and a thin strap to keep us together, and although there was only a very small swell it was obviously playing on Deans mind as he was nervous. We went off 1 minute behind the pro girls and 3 minutes before the Age Groupers....hoping to get to the first turn before we got swamped, it didn’t happen! After we waded into the water and started swimming Dean started to hyperventilate and couldn’t get a rhythm, this went on for 300-400m with frequent stoppages but we finally got going and found some clean water. For me the swim was good. Being able to see the bottom for quite a while in nice clean water was refreshing compared to either Raby Bay foreshore or the usual murky dams. Age groupers were streaming by us and it was good to finally see the white buoy indicating the beach wasnt far away and when a person in front stood up it was a great feeling to know we had made it. Swim time was 43 minutes.
The bike - a quite normal transition albeit a minute or 2 extra watching a blind bloke putting on toe socks, and we were running out to the mount line. The tandem is tough to get going uphill so we took it easy heading up and over the hill and then kicked it along as we headed towards the Motorway at one stage rolling along effortlessly at over 60k/h. We were slowly picking off bikes and we caught the only other vision impaired competitor before the turnaround, the ride back was into a headwind so we again controlled the pace with the average slowly dropping. Back into town, lap 1 done in around 1h 10min. Lap 2 the wind had definitely picked up and having 2 riders catching the crosswind and an 80mm front wheel made for some interesting moments. We passed 3 riders, one laying face down beside a roadside barrier who had obviously crashed pretty badly but they had assistance already there so we kept going. Heading back from the turnaround we had a few people starting to lineup behind us trying to get a cruiser ride into the wind but once we hit the crosswind it impacted them a bit and they dropped off. Back into town and rolled into T2 feeling pretty good. Ride time was around 2h 25m.
The run - this is where I let Dean down! I’ve cut my running back to nearly zero having a knee that doesn’t look normal nor function as it should and having only 3 runs since IM Aus I knew it was going to be tough. We headed up over the hill and on the descend both the quad and hamstring on my right leg locked up, tried to stretch out but didn’t work, started a shuffle and both finally freed up and we got running again. Ticking over the k’s around 5.30-5.40 we were comfortable and navigating our way through the maze of the run course 2 wide. Back towards town again there were more and more people coming onto the course and things started to get interesting with how narrow some sections were and thankfully all the other athletes were great with giving us space and offering support. Lap 2 started well, we were still holding a reasonable pace to the turnaround but things started to change. The lack of running was showing and it started to become a slower run with a bit of walking. Slowly ticking off 18,19 and then 20k it was actually good to get to the hill knowing it wasn’t far to the finish. Running down the finish chute is always good but sharing it with someone else who wouldn’t in general be able to achieve their goals is a little extra special. Run time was around 2h 3 min.
Total time 5.21.
Mooloolaba is a great location for a race, and the weather was pretty much spot on. The wind obviously offered up some challenges and the dust that come across Friday and Saturday added another dimension, but the beers and dinner afterwards with old and new friends is really what makes the sport what it is for a lot of us.
Only downside for the para athletes is that there is no recognition by IM either for the event or qualification for Worlds. But, we’ll be back, just got to work out a way to run pain free so I can keep up with the blind bloke!