Oceania Champs Devonport17.02.2018
First race of the 2018 season
The most noticable about my first race is probably not the result or how the race did unfold but the fact that I am on a startline in February, without injury or sickness. Although I certainly do not aim for the start of the season being as early as possible, I think I never was injury and sickness free at that time of the season. This also means that I am probably as fit as I have never been at that time of the year. Not specific race fitness but overall endurance which is the base for some good training and racing all over the season.
For this race in particular I have done next to no specific race pace training as it was just meant to be a first step into the season as well as a preparation race for the World Triathlon Abu Dhabi in two weeks. I do know very well, that I never perform very well in my first race after a long break. Training hard is one thing, but then you basically never get all the way to your limit in training. This is a feeling you only experience in races, when it comes to man agains man. I usually get a very romantic illusion of how races feel as long as I do not do races. But then, when you have to catch a bunch in a race or have to outsprint others to the line, things look so different. When every fibre of your body screams of hurt and your natural reaction would be to slow down you have to be mentally ready to give it even more, to punch yourself in the face really hard. As it is very hard and not very advisable to simulate that in training I always use that first race of the season to get back used to embracing the pain during a race.
The race in Devonport started with a beach start. We have indeed been practising beach starts with the training group in New Zealand and got good advice from the swim coach. So I was rather confident in my start. Indeed I was off so fast that I could even cross in front of the three athletes next to me before we even hit the water. I did that so I had to swim a few centimetres less to the first buoy. Sometimes it is annoying to have someone with profund knowledge of mathematics in the field. So I immediately positioned myself amongst the top swimmers. It was very wavy and I kind of lost the feet of the guy swimming in front of me so that I was swimming about five meters behind the first three. Surely a sign of not yet being used to smash it really hard in the water. Luckily on the last few meters to the shore I caught a good wave and managed to surf around 20m at high speed so that I just got back to the lead in time. After a solid first transition I did what I always do, go flat out until I catch the leader. This was done after two minutes. I dragged a few athletes with me so that we would have had a good bike group to put some time between us and the chase group. Sadly not everyone was really committed and even more athletes managed to catch up during the bike leg. The only interesting thing from then on was the extremely steep hill of 200m at 25% incline we had to climb four times. I did not enjoy that as I am one of the heavier athletes. There was also a strong wind. Not once but twice an athlete in front of me had to drop from the group whilst going into the tailwind section (a lot more speed leads to the field getting stretched out and less drag does the rest). This meant for me to overcome two critical situations where I had to bridge up on my own.
As it was my resolution for this race I bolted through the second transition to get onto the run course in the lead. When the first athlete (the eventual winner) passed me after a few metres I thought we were doing a 400m sprint. I am obviously not yet used to go out hard. But after 500m I managed to get back to the lead runners. This is also when I realised that I felt my left shoe slightly slipping off the heel. Maybe the laces got a little bit loosened during the week when I repeatedly trained slipping into the shoes. After one km the shoe actually slipped off and I had to halt to put it back on. This cost me about ten seconds and I was back in the chase pack including runners 3-6. I briefly thought about trying to reel the leaders back in but I did not yet have that confidence in my running so I decided to stay with the chase pack. I cannot say if they were just running easy of if I am in good running shape, but that pace felt quite easy and I was confident at all time that I could outsprint most of them if they would not feel as rested as I was. So I waited until 200m to the finish and kicked of at maximum speed. Nobody could follow me and I was able to safely cross the finish line in third place.
This podium is a very good start into the season and gave me a lot of hints what I still have to work on to get some really good performances in this season. This might be the best start into the season I ever had.
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