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Big Husky Ultimate 2020

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TLDR; Good swim, good bike, battled the run, 2 min PB. Also available on FB with images.

The lead up to this year’s edition of Husky, my 5th go around, was not exactly smooth sailing. Aside from some gear concerns (bike breaks and swim goggles) I spent the best part of 3 days off work, sick. Constant light-headedness and the occasional headache led to ever-increasing anxiety over my ability to even get around the course come Sunday.

A 4:40 am alarm, the usual early morning routine and a short stroll saw us get to transition at 6 am. My head was still not 100%, but I was now in "get it done" mode and it was easy enough to ignore. The eternal struggle of putting on the wetsuit would now begin (I have no idea how people race by themselves, without Christine, I'm never getting into my wetsuit).
Huskisson seems to produce beautiful weather on race mornings, Sunday was no exception as the sun came up over Jervis Bay.

As we began to make our way to the beach, I realised that I was missing something, my goggles! I'd left them in my gear bag which had been dropped off at the race baggage area. For some reason, this didn't freak me out, but it terrified Christine. We decided she'd go grab them and I'd meet her at the beach. What isn't easy is locating someone in a black wetsuit amongst 400 other people in black wetsuits. But after much arm flailing, I managed to catch Christine's attention as she scoured the beach looking for me. All's well that ends well... sort of.

The obligatory pre-race photo was taken, and it was time to be corralled into our age groups, and then into the water. My wave-start consisted of over 100 people, about a quarter of the race. I got myself somewhere respectably close to the middle, reasoning that I'd swim somewhat of a middling time. Washing machine go now! The middle seemed to work well enough as I only had to swim over 1 or 2 people and didn't have anyone swimming over me.

Swimming towards the sunrise makes sighting tricky, but the wonderful folks at Elite Energy arranged for a boat to be parked behind the first turning buoy. Rounding the buoy, it was time to empty my goggles, my new, basically unused goggles were leaking. "Never try anything new on race day", so, I don't, except for that one thing that for some reason, I always do. A quick flip onto my back, empty and go again. About 30 meters later there was more water in my goggles. After the next buoy, I was going to empty them again but decided I'd be in the same spot again in a few minutes; too bad, just ignore/deal with it.

Every time I sighted, the next buoy was either too far away to make out with my dubious eyesight, or, straight in front of me. Happy days. Swim and sight. As it turns out, extra volume in swim training makes swimming easier, who’d have thought? I cruised around the first, then the second lap and finally turned for home. At this point, I managed to find my first set of feet, and they were moving well. I jumped on as they threaded the needle through some other age groups on their first lap and headed into shore. Out of the water in 32:21 and up the beach into transition.

I was racked 6th from the end of transition, which made locating my bike super easy, although it did mean running the bike the entire length of transition on the way out and the way in, in cleats. T1 done in 3:30.

Having all my riding done on the trainer makes the first lap a bit of a stressful experience, but I quickly remembered the joy of moving. The cool morning breeze over the wet gear cooled me off nicely and then one of my favourite things, seeing the pros (and those at the pointy end of their age groups). The bike course has 3 hairpins giving you ample opportunity to see them flying back in the other direction, mashing their pedals like they’re out for a 10-minute interval.

The downside of the 3 hairpins is my inability to brake and turn well, both things that the trainer neglects to teach me. On the upside and despite being slow, I completed all 9 turnarounds without issue. I was passed early by a few packs of 5-12 riders which usually doesn't frustrate me, but for some reason, this time it did. It took all my self-restraint not to make some snarky drafting quip.

The aim was to ride conservatively for lap one progressively stronger for laps two and three. Lap traffic increased dramatically as those racing the ‘classic’ distance joined the course, increased the number of bikes around 400 to closer to 1000. With so many bikes around I spent more and more time sitting up to avoid drafting. For the most part, the bike was uneventful. An uneventful bike is a good bike. I managed to split the three laps at 53:18, 53:50 and 53:17 for a total of 2:40:26.

Rather than deal with overtaking lap traffic heading back into town, I sat up and gave the legs a bit of respite heading into T2. Running the bike back the length of transition, Christine was waiting at my rack location, “You’ve got time, make sure you’ve got everything”, she calmly assured me. Hat, sunscreen, gels, race belt… yep, that is everything. Out of T2 in a cracking 1:26, 9th fastest in my age group (hey, celebrate the wins!).

Entering the run course at 10:36 am, the sun was starting to get a little bit of a bite. I grabbed my snap-lock bag of sunscreen (the sunscreen now as runny as water from sitting in the morning sun) and attempted to apply to my already dripping limbs. Despite feeling ridiculously useless, it seemed to work. I approached the first aid station to realise I hadn’t brought my drink bottle. I always do my long runs with a drink bottle. In a race I grab a few cups at each aid station and dump them in the bottle and mosey on along, sipping at my leisure. Today I would be enjoying the buffet experience at each aid station. Stopping and drinking as best as I could, as quickly as I could. I see most people can run and drink out of those little plastic cups, for me, I either inhale half of it or end up wearing it.

Kilometres 1 and 2 both ticked off faster than I had wanted to run despite consciously trying to lower my heart rate from 160ish to 150ish. Halfway through kilometre 3, my right hamstring began to cramp. I don’t usually cramp! I’ve never had a hamstring cramp! I stopped and moved off the path, spent about 20 seconds stretching it out and got back on with it. Running slower, it felt ok, I nursed it for another minute or so and it seemed to slip from my consciousness, the game was now about controlling my body temperature. I love the heat; it just doesn’t love me.

I was through 10km in under an hour, but the second 5km was over 5 minutes slower than the first. I knew Christine would be near the turnaround point to cheer me on, and I told myself I’d zip up my shirt, look presentable and give her a great big smile. What eventuated was me complaining about forgetting my water bottle, too hot to zip up. She offered me one, but I’m a stickler for the rules, no outside assistance. Plus, I’m stubborn enough that I want to pay for my mistakes.

Triathlon is an endurance sport and I was definitely trying to endure. Limiting losses, taking everything my body was going to give me, and doing what I could to get to the end as fast as possible. The legs (aside from the cramping episode) felt good, my heart rate was manageable, my limiting factor was my head. Mentally I was battling and winning, but I was at the limit of light-headedness where I knew pushing harder would only bring dizziness; then the spots would come, then the DNF. Pushing harder was going to get me in trouble, not get me to the end quicker.

The aid stations had some ice which I was now living for. In the hat, under the arms, down the shirt and down the shorts; anything to manage the heat. I knew my run was not going to be an improvement on last year, but I wasn’t going to leave anything on the table, I was going to execute what I was capable of today. I battled, I kept to my plans of walking the aid stations and running everything else. If you keep moving, time takes care of distance, and it did. I made myself presentable for the finish chute and crossed the line in 2:10:27 for a total event time of 5:28:11 (improving 2:10 on 2019).

The swim and bike were both significant personal bests and I’m proud of the execution of the run, despite losing 10 minutes on last years effort. Usually, this spells the end of the season for me, but for 2020, it is on to IRONMAN Australia at Port Macquarie in May.

Time to get back into the training.

Race Timing - https://www.multisportaustralia.com.au/…/r…/individuals/160/
Garmin Connect - https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/4605528416
Swim - https://www.strava.com/activities/3143425847
T1 - https://www.strava.com/activities/3143425822
Bike - https://www.strava.com/activities/3143425833
T2 - https://www.strava.com/activities/3143425854
Run - https://www.strava.com/activities/3143425864

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