The Tri NZ Sprint National Champs was held in beautiful Kinloch, Taupo. Home to the famous “Around the Lake” cycle race, it provided a great backdrop for the weekend’s events.
The weekend kicked off with an exhibition race; it was fast-paced and unforgiving for the High Performance NZ & Australian team. Small errors became magnified as they cost a lot of time over the super short 200m swim/7km bike/2km run! Hayden Wilde, a professional ITU and Xterra athlete, took the top honors.
Being oriented more towards longer-distance racing, I wasn’t hugely interested in racing the Sprint tri, but instead was competing in the Olympic distance (which ended up starting much earlier than I would’ve liked!). The pressure was on, as Xterra Pro athlete Olly Shaw, who’s moving into the 70.3 Pro races, was going to be competing. I wanted to stay as close as possible to him!
Transition opened at 5.45am. I got there on time to set up everything as I wanted, but poor time management led to pressure and rushing as everyone moved closer to the start line. Luckily, I managed to get myself in the mix about a minute before the start gun went off!
The swim for me was alright. I was part of the front pack in the swim with Jade Stafford and the aforementioned Olly Shaw, however it was a rather slow start to the day. I led the swim out to the first marker buoy (about 400m off the water’s edge) before Jade overtook me and began to attack. Coming from a swim background, responding to this attack was fairly easy, and I launched one of my own in return. However, with Jade also being a fairly good swimmer, I was unable to detach him. Olly was just sitting in and drafting behind us at this point, and I think there was a non-verbal agreement between Jade and myself that there wasn’t much point in dragging Olly around the swim much faster than was strictly necessary with the challenging bike course that lay ahead of us. This meant that the three of us had a nice time advantage going into the bike leg of the race and weren’t too tired!
Coming out of the water and into T1, I was frozen. Despite getting my wetsuit off pretty quickly, I struggled to get my helmet on quickly so I could leave transition, with my fingers being rather numb from the cold water. I managed to get out of transition just ahead of Olly, and just behind Jade – but this still left me with the fastest transition time out of everyone in the field! However, a mistake getting onto the bike cost my big time, and I would’ve lost close to 30 seconds overcoming this before starting the bike leg.
The bike leg itself went fairly well. I averaged good power – around 230w – and moved through the course without losing any time to Jade, but also not losing any time to anyone behind my as well. At this point Olly was well and truly up the road and no-one was going to catch him over the challenging bike course. I was fairly pleased to realise at the end of the 40km bike that I’d held my third place position from swim to bike, with a gap to fourth, and had put myself in a place where there was a good chance I could take a medal at my first ever National Champs event. Having been a very weak cyclist in the couple of seasons of racing before, this was a good sign of forward progress to me!
Coming into the run, I was feeling pretty good. I was in a good headspace, and looking forward to hitting the run course hard. Unfortunately, a niggle in my shin left me with a rather lackluster run! I wanted to give up and pull out of the race on every 2.5km lap of the run, leading to 2 people passing me during the 3rd lap. Despite such bad feelings throughout the 10km run I pushed through and finished the race with an average run split.
I have to admit, I was somewhat pleased to take 5th overall at my first ever National Champs event. With the next race just over a month away, I’ve got time to sort my leg out so that I can run well off-bike and set myself up for hopefully a sub 2-hour Olympic!