Epic race. Very bittersweet.
Trained my arse off for this and thought I had potential to do well, just not sure how well ...
Race day fn cold again, 7C air, 11C water. Up at 5am get down to transition and put the gear in, pump the tires on the bike. Ran back to check junior female race start to make sure I had the measure of the procedure. Course starts on the beach in a line and heads pretty hard right, so pays to be in the first few through the entry check in to get possibly up to 50m advantage on the start line. Retreat to hotel room and perform a warmup to AC/DC on the iPod.
Luckily in my previous life as a cross country skiier I had plenty of experience in racing in miserable conditions - it wasn't actually sleeting so I figured it couldn't be that bad! Leave hotel at the latest possible time with race clothing of race singlet under 2 tri suites, plus wetsuit half on and jog to race start tent. Keep jogging on spot in race tent, forgo warmup swim (good decision), realise guys are entering the chute for the start procedure, shit myself and sprint to get in there. Spend 10 minutes waiting in the chute, noticing how the GB'ers seem to favour oversize swim masks that must have the drag of an anchor while racing, not to mention make them look really stoopid. Glad to be living on a large, relatively warm island, amongst a nation of swimmers.
Get through the chute - see name on screen and run down to the start line on the beach - top 6 or 8 guys at the favored end of the course. Dip hands and face into water and hope this suffices to stop shock. Try to stay calm.
Luckily I'd watched earlier waves and the lack of a hooter or horn was evident, some people had been missing the start, there were marshalls standing behind us with red flags raised for the start. Stand watching the marshall over my shoulder to make sure I get some cue to go. Hear something, take 3 steps and a racing dive and go. Swim a bit straight to find clean water and immediately have someone swim over my legs, turn a bit more right and try to ease into the swim thinking cool, calm thoughts while every pore screams murder at the sudden assault of the cold and shuts down. Someone goes out hard and I immediately respond before thinking Oops can I do this pace? Back off just a little but maintain speed. Guys start falling off left and right, 2 guys ahead, 1 to the side. Get round first bouy and find a lane rope pointing off in the direction of bouy 2. Get on it and get into a better rythym, trying to keep breathing calm and stroke strong. Fk, it's cold. Still in touch with the top 2 guys - realise I'm at the front of the swim pack at the worlds and feel pretty good about it. When will this frikking swim end? Supposed to be 750m, must seriously be over 1km (Edit: Google maps says 1.05km) Get another bouy down, still few to go, about 40m behind leader and 20m behind second. Finally hit the beach and manage to stand up - dizzy as buggery and unco as well. 3rd out of the water in 16:46, 51 sec down on the leader, and 4th right on my shoulder. 16:46 for 750m? Gotta be joking - I'd swum 10:25 last Aussi season for 750, and wasn't growing barnacles out there.
Get through transition some how with out falling over - grass is sodden and very slippery. Awesome Aussi support once people can see your race suit - even get some first name calls from a few people, can't see anyone, just keep going hard trying to get brain unfrozen. On bike and get into variable pacing strategy my coach had worked out for me. Because of the hills in the course (including 1.2 km of 4.5% uphill) it is faster to vary effort to apply more power to the hills and less on the downhills. The plan was breaking the course into 6 sections with different watts for each section ranging from a pretty easy 170w to a more nasty 270w climbing. Had painstakingly inscribed this onto the face of the Ergomo with a fine tipped permanent marker. The variable pace plan was 59 seconds faster than riding the course with constant power output, but if you go too hard and blow, well, thanks for coming.
Warm up a bit on the first climb, and get through the rough as guts sections as well. The disc is singing the sweet song of speed on the downhills, and doesn't feel that bad on the ups - I was riding one of the few discs - most people opt for deep rim or even shallow rim wheelsets - I guess the size of the climb freaked them out, even though 75% of the course was flat or downhill. Swoop down the hill passing everyone in site, and line up for lap 2 - when I hear wap, wap, wap coming from the machine. Look down, realise tape covering the valve hole had come unstuck from the wetness, and was making me look like a complete n00bie. Determined not to tarnish the team image of beer and vegemite swilling tri freaks, I wait till the top of the small climb, stop and yank the tape off. Get going again, but 15 seconds lost.
Feel a bit warmer on the second lap, and get higher power out during the climb. Descend like a madman, at over 60kmh, gaining valuable time, and starting to really enjoy proceedings. Approaching the base of the descent, legs pumping in my best Tor Hushovd impersonation to blast by some pommie when the dreaded sound every cyclist fears occurs - pssschht! God, please let it be the other guy. Keep going with the power down and everything still feels OK, maybe it was the other guy, make it round the corner and realise the front has detonated and is going down. Faark! Currently in third, 44 mins in, 6.8km to go on bike, 1:34 down on the leader, with chasers closing hard and no spare (if you have to change a spare in a Sprint race you're done anyway - even if I had a spare, my hands were so cold it would have taken a week to change it). Luckily I'd put goo in the tubby, and it wasn't totally flat, just about 40 psi. Almost have a hissy fit as I realise that something you work so hard for more than 8 months might not go the way you want. Get over that 3 seconds later and decide to go for it anyway. Get the weight off the back to lighten the pressure on the front and gingerly nurse it through several turns, no real turning ability at all. Bottom out the front rim on several bumps and begin to worry about descending. Climb the big hill for the last time, power is OK, and speed is not too bad. Hopefully not loosing too much time. Big breath time for the downhill - turns out not too bad - can roll with weight off the front and take a sweeping, slow flowing line - actually descend at about 50kmh keeping pace with a few pommies - they need to HTFU. Make it to dismount line with great relief, legs not feeling too bad either. 1st 2 laps 12:48 (cold!) and 12:10, slowing to 14:06 with the flat, 1:54 slower for nursing the bike round the last lap, but power only a tad lower.
Head into transition, try to get shoes on, actually get helmet off (which is a relief seeing junior girls couldn't) and head out on the run. Legs feel great, but arms are soooo cold. Settle in to nice pace and form and get the pain flowing. Passed by a Scot at warp speed, keep looking for Michael Pratt AUS to come storming by. Great support from Aussies and others, final turn around appears, 1.2 km to go and no-one behind that looks fast - maybe I can do well in spite of the flat. Keep the hammer down on the long downhill to the finish, manage to grab an Aussie flag before the finish chute and hold it aloft in a frozen claw, so, so happy to have made it over the line.
Run not a PB, but fast enough to hold on to 9th, 5:33 down on Aussie Richard Woods who takes the title with a +2:56 margin over Simon Gowen (GBR) and
Frank Boyne (GBR) +3:58 in third. Realise that the 1:54 deficit on lap 3 on the bike would have put me +3:39 behind the winner and into third place by a comfortable 19 seconds. Aaargh. Our 4th 40-44 member, Brett Starkey finishes 16th about +8:19 down on Woods. My time of 1:19:44 is the slowest sprint race time I've posted for about 4 years, but the easily the most satisfying, under the worst conditions.
Michael Pratt DNFs on the run for some reason, and a glorious Aussie 1,2,3 is twice denied.
Sitting in the recovery tent, sipping hot soup and wrapped in a space blanket all I can think about is what might have been, the Gold Coast in 09, and how nice it will be to be warm. Game on!