2012 Dextro Sydney Olympic Distance Triathlon Race Report
By Tri Alliance Athlete, Shane Buntman
When it comes to competing in an interstate triathlon, the race preparation begins the week before trying to pack all the triathlon gear. Months before the race, the entry has been purchased and the accommodation has been booked. The most difficult part of the week is locating a bike case and packing the bike, especially if it is your first time (thank goodness for good mates and you tube)!
Arriving a couple of days before the race was helpful to make sure the bike made it in one piece (unlucky for some!) and to check out the course. A few of us met up to watch the elite race on Saturday morning and they were impressive. The course was very technical but those boys and girls moved like lighting. The winner of the Females was Australian Erin Densham in 2.01.28 and the winner of the men’s was from Germany, Steffen Justus in 1.51.04. It is inspiring to watch how fast you can move in a triathlon event.
For the Tri Alliance crew who had not raced Sydney before, which was the majority of us, I think we were a bit shocked about how far we had to walk to get our stuff to transition. Walking through the lovely botanical garden seemed nice until you had been walking for 15mins carrying your stuff and wheeling your bike and for anyone who has been to Sydney we all know how bloody hilly it is. Once in transition with rack rows numbered 1-45 and having the option of putting your bike anywhere in your age group rows, then identifying the hill the racks were on and the trees and big roots running though different racks it was challenging to pick the right spot. Lucky enough for Damo and I we arrived later in the day (thanks to some excellent advice for the always knowledgeable Tim Grant) and had the option of finding the best suitable spot to rack our bike, to let you know we did have to shift some Sydney siders bike across a fraction! We next visited the Expo and tried all the free samples of goods (yummy chocolate carb bars) and checked out all the new gear. Damo bought some very snazzy compression calf leggings and was almost convinced into buying socks that are meant to cure all the foot conditions in the world! I was a bit suspicious on this, so I gave my professional opinion which was the socks are full of crap.
It was at this stage that the bad news started to roll out, firstly Rachel discovered her fork had broken on her bike during transition on the plane, but thank goodness for the great crew at the Specialized tent as they quickly replaced her broken bike for a brand new Specialized frame, now how sweet is that! Next came the news that Pam’s gearing had broken and she was left with only the front chain ring to use but again after some good bike mechanics work the problem was resolved but as we found out later the problem came back. Poor Pam she ended having to ride the whole bike leg with her gearing on the top front chain rink. This was even worse because of the hills involved in the course.
Race day was fast approaching so the day ended with another rice dish, packing of the tri bag and double checking it, setting the alarm for a very early wake up call of 4.30am and getting ready for that awful night sleep (damn nerves always gets to you the night before). There were a few text and facebook messages going around between the crew, Rachel was off at a party, Damo was hinting at having a beer with dinner but most were focused on the task at hand. My aim for the event was to beat my first and only Olympic distance triathlon (Sandringham 2012), 2hr 33mins, I really wanted sub 2hr 30 mins.
On race day the alarm went off at 4.30am. I jumped straight out of bed into the toilet; you all know how nerves play with your tummy. At the same time I woke up everyone in the house, it was a 15 min countdown to leaving and we had no time to waste. After the bathroom I smashed down my usual race morning breakfast of two slices of bread with banana and honey, easy to digest and great source of carbs. My mate who had lent us his bed jumped off the couch and got his game face on. My lovely girlfriend taped my knee and we did one last bag check and hopped into the car. We were already running 10 minutes late. The car drive was quick as you could imagine at that time in the morning, no cars and no sunlight. I turned up the rock music and tried to calm the nerves but it was not working. I got dropped off at the Botanical Gardens entrance and did the long 15minute to the transition area. Arriving at transition was exciting as I got to see some familiar faces, running into Mark Skilton and Sandy Douglas.
After setting up transition which was extremely squashed with over 2000 bikes I heading towards bag drop off. On the way running into a few nervous Tri Alliance athletes, we made our way down to the starting point which was set up as a grandstand with the opera house and habour bridge in the background….incredible! The bad news arrived by the announcer informing that there is no warm up possible in the water before your race start. The nerves jump a little but the Tri Alliance crew of Xavier, Rachel, Michelle, Sandii, Brinn and I (there was no sign of Damo, the rumours were that he was stuckin a queue for the toilet and that he actually arrived as his wave was about to take off)! After the last St kilda Gatorade race in which Xavier had beaten me by two seconds we decided to put down a bet to make Sydney a bit more interesting. His first suggestion was that the loser has to turn up to the Operas Bar naked, I thought it was a bit extreme and may result in us getting arrested, so we settled on two cocktails for the winner.
The weather was perfect sunshine and 25 degree high; it was currently sitting at 20 degrees. I was lucky to be near the start at six minute after the first wave group, this gave me the advantage of finishing early, having more people to cheer me on and the chance of getting that first beer in me before the others! Walking onto the pontoon and jumping in the water for the first time was a huge shock to the system and the heart raced a million miles per seconds. The wave start of about 50 30-34yrswere in a good mood whilst we were treading water for about 45secs, then the horn went off and it was go time. The swim course was M shape which had us swimming in every direction but nothing could beat heading towards the buoy that had the Opera house as the back drop. The swim leg was hard to judge as you were always changing directions but I felt strong and my stroke was efficient. I had a few incidents of some guys grabbing my legs but a small kick into them would stop them pulling that move again. At the end of the swim leg we had to climb these stairs, then onto a ramp and head up higher and higher (steeper than Sandringham) to transition area. I managed a 26 min for the 1.5km swim including the run to transition.
Transition 1 was quick 56 seconds; the transition area still had most bikes in it which meant I was in a pretty good position, even though I was puffying hard. Heading out of transition was a bit tricky as the first part was down hill with some turns while trying to put your feet in your shoes, no place for error. The bike leg was very technical three laps of winding roads, up and down hill, sharp turns and big cracks in the road (and to think that they had just resurfaced the harbor bridge). The bike leg has to be by far one of the best back drops to a triathlon in the world. Not only having the sun rise over the Opera House but riding over the bridge was spectacular. We also rode down the main street with classic style buildings all around and cheers from the sidelines. Now I guess you can’t appreciate it fully when you are puffing your lungs whilst you are trying to stay steady at 70kms/hr downhill and climbing a 14% gradient but you somehow manage to get some perspective of the course. After the first lap I was able to judge the course so could attack when needed and get some well earn reprieve on the downhill. The course was very hilly compared to anything on beach road, so the challenge was on. I managed to catch glimpses of Brinn smashing it on the bike as usual so I thought he would do a cracking time. Overall I managed a 1hr 11min.
Transition 2 was about 58 seconds and there were people everywhere, some coming out of the swim leg, some starting their run and others grabbing the bike, it was a very chaotic. The run leg was again hard to prepare for as I did not have a good understanding of the rise and falls on the course. Plus they made us run up the steepest part three times on a two lap course, explain that one! I felt fatigued in the quads after the hills on the ride so at times I felt I wasn’t going anywhere! I just had to keep counting the kilometers down one by one hoping to get through it. The sun had started to warm up and the humidity kicked in. The course went from flat to a hill then to another incline then to some more hill’s, the course was even hilly in the flat sections. You could easily see how the Sydney-siders were as they were very good on the hills. The only Tri Alliance athlete I could see on the run was Mark Skiliton and I thought he was gunning me down, he was moving fast (hence the 38 min run leg). The whole way I thought I was not going to break the 2hr 30 min mark which set in some disappointment during the run leg, so I felt my mental fatigue had set in. I continued to pass people and get passed by a few so leading into the last 400 meters which was a beautiful straight down hill to the finish line with fans cheering everywhere, especially hearing the my lovely girlfriend, Jessica, voice was a welcome sight. As I pushed hard to the line I look up at the time and saw 2hr 27min. I quickly did some calculations and realized I had smashed my personal best. The run leg was completed in 42 min 45 secs. Overall I did a 2hours and 22 minutes
Then came the most important and enjoyable part of the day, cheering on the rest of the Tri alliance crew. Ryan Bourke and Geoff Taylor were moving quick as they turned for their second run lap; Damo was loving the support throwing his hands in the air as he past the cheer squad. Lisa looked strong turning towards the finish line. Michelle, Jane and Rachel were battling the elements and getting through it. Brad and Anthony were looking a little weary, Chris was looking stable and best of all was Pam who was running with a huge smile on her face the whole time, so hats off to Pam for her great effort. The cheer squad did not spot Xavier or JP (John Paul) as they weren’t in Tri Alliance gear (lesson learnt boys!) Finally the end of the race and all were ready for food, rest and then a meeting with Mr Beer and his friend Miss Wine at the Opera Bar.
The true side of the Tri Alliance crew comes out not in racing but in post race celebrations! Firstly Xavier lost the bet and coughed up two lovely cocktails. The beers, spirits, shots and everything flowed for the rest of the night. Eveyone was in high spirits. Rachel was very loud, Damo had stories for all occasions, Lisa and Brinn were all smiles. I finally found out that JP was a dancer with the great ability of riding a bike. Pam left a little early for my liking but put in a solid effort. The medals for the night go to Xavier, Damo and myself for kicking on and on and on. The dunce hat goes to Rachael for getting knocked back from the worst pub in the world, Scrummy Jacks!
To all who did not race Sydney this year make sure you add this event to your race calendar at least once in your life, it is difficult but worth it. Plus travelling together as the Tri Aliance crew makes it so worthwhile. A special thanks to the following people for their help and support over the race season, Coach Emma, Coach Sarah, Jessica (my partner, coach, osteopath), Steve A (tri alliance crew), Tim Grant (we all know him), Craig (support crew in Sydney) and the squad for pushing me so hard during the season. Now it is time to relax for a couple of weeks, socialize with mates again and gets some much needed recovery. I have enjoyed everything the season has had to offer and can’t wait till next season BRING IT ON!!!!
Tri Alliance athlete, Shane Buntman