Vegas…the original railroad water stop town in the middle of the desert now home to the Las Vegas The Strip. The lights, the dazzle, New York, Paris, Pyramids, home to the famous Bellagio fountains from Oceans 11 and home also to the Ironman 70.3 World Championships 2013.
I arrived a week before the race to settle and acclimatise. The place is so vast that it was actually hard to find fellow triathletes. However it was a great week leading into the race.
I even managed a few tourist trips early on, taking a helicopter flight over the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon, and also an evening trip into The Vegas Strip, to see the glitz, glamour and lights of the infamous casinos. Training was brilliant out there. The desert and National Park is just simply stunning in a barren rocky way! Yes, there is pretty much nothing but, well just desert and don’t be mistaken for thinking the desert is flat either. Vegas is surrounded by mountains. Although it was hot I was loving it. I even managed a ride with Craig Alexander and Annabel Luxford (thanks to having celebrity friends like Reidy, they let me tag along). That was a pretty good experience!
Finally race day, and well I didn’t expect to wake up to it raining and looking at the clouds it didn’t seem to be going to let up. (In hindsight I think this was a blessing. The heat out in the Vegas desert in the days prior had been pretty intense and would have made for a very different race with a lot of cooked Triathletes!)
Technically in Henderson, and not Vegas, (can you imagine 1000s triathletes cycling down The Strip, although don’t laugh I heard people actually tried. Maybe they tried swimming in the canals in the Venetian too!), the race was a spit transition. The swim start was out in Lake Las Vegas, a man made lake that had the visibility of being in a black box in the middle of the night with your eyes closed. Visibility was so bad, that you couldn’t even see the splash from the person in front, which therefore resulted in a fair bit of looking up, not just to site buoys but to site people and making sure I picked the best lines to swim around (or over (for the Coach)) them. It was a water start and a pretty simple rectangular swim. Loads of buoys to guide you so no excuses for swimming off course. The course curved left and so I started left and swam a direct line picking out the 5th buoy as my marker. I think only 3 of us did this, everyone else follow the curve buoy to buoy. I found I made some good ground up taking the direct route and a small group of us broke away from the main pack.
A long run into T1 to pick up the bike and then up the narrow single file zig zag path to the road. As usual there were a fair few people at the mount line so I ran probably about another 10-15m past and jumped on my bike in more space and out of any trouble. The rain certainly made visibility tricky (I still made the decision to wear my sunglasses, part out of race habit but also part to protect my eyes) and several times on the ride I found myself clearing my glasses to see through the gloom. What a difference from the sun drenched blue skies, soaring temperatures we’d had the previous week. What can I say about the bike…I think it’s been described as endless rolling hills….yep! That is pretty much what it was. You would go round a corner or get to the top of a hill, to look ahead and just see the road winding and climbing into the distance, cutting through the baron desert landscape. It was pretty impressive, but yes…endless rolling hills. Now if you are reading this and you are male, you may want to skip the next few lines…
Now boys….here’s my gripe! Ok so this is a sweeping statement, but it was really quite amazing to see how pathetic the guys were riding the hills. Firstly they tend to hate it when a female goes past, so you always have to be prepared for the guy to pass back past you a few times before they finally get the message you are going faster. Secondly, drafting, as in, it’s not allowed as far as the race rules I read. I believe the rule is 7m between cyclist. Well, funny how it’s always packs of guys you see riding together and never packs of girls. (see also the recent (http://www.witsup.com/got-chicked-appropriate-vs-inappropriate-responses/) I was on my way back out of the National Park, when I got engulfed by one such packs. It was literally 20 riders all guys, not even attempting to split up, riding side by side, some of them 3 abreast. Determined to do the right thing, I let them all pass and got my distance at the back, only to find a few minutes later they’d all slowed down and were sat up on their bars. Yes as a pack! Oh yeah we were going up a hill! Eh? None of them were even attempting to take it on and break off the front, or sit back at the right distance. This was not going to happen to me, but I wondered if I was strong enough to cycle away from them (note my previous comment about guys not liking females riding past them), however I didn’t have a choice, so having shouted at them all several times (yes I actually did this), one of my exclamations was something along the lines of “get some balls” and to “stop riding as a pack”, I put an effort in up one of the hills, rode past them and then cycled for my life to break off the front. It worked! Thankfully the hill was long enough that I could get some good distance up and then pedaled as if I’d robbed a bank (if I did rob a bank I’d probably chose a slightly quicker less tiring form of transport than a bicycle) all the way back to T2. Whilst still in the national park there were just enough hills to keep the pack at bay (due to their pathetic hill riding ability), using the ups to gain distance and then pedaling like fury on the descents. Once out of the park though there was probably about 10km-15km of flattish pure TT section. I knew I was going to be hard pressed to keep off a pack of 20 guys cycling together, but like hell they were going to pass me. I just put my head down and went for it. For this whole distance I could feel them getting closer. A few times I looked over my shoulder and could just see this train behind me, and gaining. I managed to hold them off until about 5km to go where fortunately for me we hit the bottom of the final climb, and once again I was able to put the distance in. A couple of guys did try to come past on each others wheels and then proceeded to just then sit in front again. Still in the same frame of mind there was no way at this stage in the race they were going to do this and mess with my race. So once again I would step on the gas and go back round. I think I can successfully say I TT back to T2 about 30km-40km with 20guys sat back off my wheel!
Not really sure what effect this was going to have on my run, I was just staying positive about it, and getting myself focused for the next 21.1km. I was feeling pretty good still, or at least that’s what I told myself, but was waiting to see what the legs did when I tried to run. Coming back into T2 was great with all the crowds lining the roads and the masses of amazing volunteers lining up to take your bike. (The park had been off limits to spectators, however the volunteers out there had been incredible, stuck in the rain but making all sorts of noise and encouragement.) By this time also the rain had stopped and it was back to the more normal blue skies, sun and soaring Vegas temperatures.
The run was three laps of a hill. If you weren’t running up hill you were running down hill. Fortunately it started with the down, so I used this to test the legs and get them moving. Coming towards the bottom turnaround, I got my first sighting of Reidy and it was great to see him. He’d had a 16mins start on me and was now about 500m up the road and already shaking his head. If anything I wanted to catch him just to try and give him some encouragement and maybe run with him for a bit as he didn’t seemed to be in a happy place. For the time being though, I just concentrated on my race and making sure I was running tall and keeping focused. Shortly after this Mel Hauschildt passed me running the other way. She looked so relaxed and easy, as if she was out on a fresh 5km! ha ha! It was very impressive. Not really too much to say about the run….three laps…down the hill….up the hill…down the hill…up the hill…down the hill…up the hill….then down to the finish. We had to run past the finish line twice before we could finally take the right path to the chute and I mean literally run past, like just meters away from it. So close and yet the route would then do a 90deg turn away and give you a little kick of another hill to go up and over and round the back of the recovery zone! Yes, thanks for that little sight seeing loop!
At least on the run though you get to interact with people a bit. The crowds were great, and there were even a few friendly faces in there, which was brilliant and definitely helped. I think it took me another lap to catch Reidy, but it was good to run next to him (briefly – sorry mate). He was (and is) an absolute legend and was the best (celebrity) training partner I could have had out there in Vegas! I kept breaking the lap down and kept positive things going through my head, used the word ‘process’ a lot and ‘don’t die wondering’ (Thanks Presto), and the thoughts of all the crazy people back in Sydney in the middle of the night and over in the UK up watching and tracking me to spur me on. At the aid stations I was taking water, which mainly went over my head, or ice down my back, and sponges.
The last time up the hill was probably the longest. I knew I was nearly there and was still feeling strong, but the turnaround at the top just didn’t seem to get any closer. I knew I just had to stay focused, keep tall and keep turning the legs. Finally getting to the turnaround and so just the mile down hill to the finish, again for some reason it seemed to go on forever. Not particularly because I was feeling dead, again I actually still felt pretty strong, but it just was like having that carrot, or maybe bar of chocolate in front of you, but just slightly out of reach all the time! But eventually I was able to take the right fork and onto the blue carpet. Euan McNair (one of the Sydney siders now stateside supporters) had been able to give me the heads up that I’d been first off the bike by about 10mins and as no one had passed me in the run, I was hoping that I’d done it. However you are never totally certain till you cross that finish line especially when you think the announcer says third! Argh!
All good though. What a great race. What an event. At this stage I was just thinking I’d won my Age Group. No idea really on time or anything else. In the recovery area you could get your results and splits straight away, so once having it written on paper, I think I may have actually cried a bit! Ha ha! Idiot! There was such a buzz in the recovery zone though, as more and more people came through. I located Reidy, hanging with the other celebrities (Dan McPhearson) and some of the Pros. After so many hours racing it was great to be with a group again already with the race stories in full flow!
After collecting all our bikes and kit, we headed back to the hotel and spent the afternoon chatting to other triathletes, drinking Coronas, by the hotel pool before heading back out for the Closing ceremony and awards. I’m not really sure the race had sunk in or still has. Even at the awards I’m not sure it did either. I had found out at this stage I was the first Age Grouper and had finished pretty well amongst the Pros, but I’m not sure that I could think. I think I was just pretty dazed about it all. My phone, email and Facebook were all going pretty mental, yet I don’t think I could really understand or comprehend. My name looked odd in the results. I think I was also already thinking ahead to London and not wanting to relax too much as I wasn’t finished yet in terms of racing. I was leaving the next day on a flight to London. Yet at the same time I was trying to comprehend what I’d done and cope with my elation and well possible shock. I’m not really sure.
I’m not sure when and if it will sink in…maybe after London…maybe on landing back in Sydney…maybe it won’t as life moves on pretty quickly. I have been surprised and touched by all of the responses. It’s hard to describe though. I’m really struggling to try to put into words my feelings and thoughts and reactions to all the messages. All I can really say is Thank you!
Next stop London…
Now for a few extras..
Vegas Highlights Video
A few official thank yous to those who have supported me and helped with my race in Vegas. It’s an individual sport when you are actually in the race but it’s a huge team effort the rest of the time.
Darryl from Shotz nutrition…once again hitting the race plan spot on! Seriously Shotz is good stuff and it’s great to work with the team. I have every confidence in my nutrition and don’t need to worry about it at all come race day. Kask for my fab Bambino helmet! Love it! ISM for the saddle and making a 90km race feel so comfortable! Ha! Oakley for the fab Radar Locks…wouldn’t’ train or race in anything else. Huub for helping to get my swim go in the right direction with the swim skin and new Tri suit, great to race in whatever the conditions. The Body Mechanic (www.thebodymechanic.com.au) team for getting my bike and me as one and keeping my body working. Happy Wheels and Computa for the best bike shop around! Turbo Studio (www.turbostudio.com.au) for the hours in the pain cave!