Every year in March the Australian triathlon community descends on beautiful Mooloolaba beach for the annual Mooloolaba Triathlon.  Famous for a beautiful ocean swim, fast but tough bike course, and “that hill” on the run, for over 20 years the Mooloolaba Tri has been keeping athletes honest.

Traditionally, the Mooloolaba Tri served as the swan song to the triathlon season – the last big race on the calendar before the winter chill rolls in (and yes, for those who don’t believe it, we do get winter chill in the Sunshine State).

The recently expanding triathlon calendar however has meant that Mooloolaba is no longer the final hit out for the season.  Despite this, in 2013 the Mooloolaba Tri continued to show why it is one of the iconic Australian triathlons, with over 60 Tri Alliance athletes descending on this picturesque corner of the SunshineCoast to uphold the official motto of the Mooloolaba Tri: “Swim-Ride-Run-Party”.

Having just come off a post-Ironman rest period, I didn’t manage to make it to the start line at Mooloolaba this year.  Instead, I donned my official Tri Alliance Smiling-for-Smiddy sweatband and hit the pavement to cheer on our squad mates in the blistering heat.

The swim

Sprung!  Coaches Mark and Suz clearly hard at work waiting anxiously for their athletes to emerge from the swim at the Mooloolaba Tri

Sprung! Coaches Mark and Suz clearly hard at work waiting anxiously for their athletes to emerge from the swim at the Mooloolaba Tri

Following 6 weeks of seemingly torrential rain and cyclonic conditions in South East Queensland, the traditionally calm waters of Mooloolaba had whipped up a frenzy and caused havoc on Mooloolaba Beach.  With the usual soft white sand having been replaced by rocky outcrops as a result of severe erosion, the call was made early to transfer to swim leg from the beach and into the Mooloolah River.

For many people, the change brought mixed fortunes.  The upside to a river swim: no waves to contend with!  The downside?  A long bare foot run through the backstreets of Mooloolaba Beach to get from the swim exit to transition.  Add to this, the fact that triathletes aren’t generally known for their ability to deal with last minute change (did anyone say “OCD tendancies”?) and mother nature had once again conspired to ensure that the 2013 Mooloolaba Tri would have a challenge thrown in there for everyone!

Despite this, the TAQ athletes rose to the challenge and posted some impressive swim times.  In the mens, Chris Bierton took the fastest swim time honours, pipping Cal Lloyd at the post by just 4 seconds.  Competing for the first time in the Open category for Olympic distance, Chris came out of the water looking super strong and ready to go on the bike.

In ladies, it was Heidi Sowerby leading the way out of the boat harbour followed closely by the Gold Coast’s own supermum Sam Beh.

The Head Coach of the Thursday Morning Run Session celebrates his Irish Heritage (??) on St Paddy’s day

The Head Coach of the Thursday Morning Run Session celebrates his Irish Heritage (??) on St Paddy’s day

The bike

For the first time in a number of years, there was only a slight wind blowing on race day, allowing the athletes to enjoy the smooth ride along the Sunshine Motorway without having to battle the traditional cross winds that normally rage.  (As everyone would later discover, the trade off to this would be the lack of any breeze to cool you down on the blistering hot run that was to come …)

With such great cycling conditions, some super results following.   Kieran Heinze broke the magic 1 hour mark to come home in a blistering bike time of 59.06.  In the ladies, Sam Beh continued her speedy ways, posting a 1.07 to set her up for an exciting race to the finish line.

The best effort of the day, however, goes to coach Ray.  Having suffered two punctures out on the bike course, big Ray eventually decided to abandon the race when a member of the Victorian Tri Alliance contingent suffered a major mechanical right near where Ray was fixing puncture number two.  Being the top bloke that he his, Ray decided to give our southern friend one of his (non-punctured) wheels to allow him to get going again.  And so Ray was left with one wheel punctured, and one broken.  Having been reliably assured by a TA official that the sag wagon was nearby and would swing past soon to collect him, Ray decided to start wandering back in the direction of the finish line, rather than just standing around in the sun.

Cal Lloyd proves that being sun smart can also be … ahhh … fashionable?? Ready to do the blue and gold proud!

Cal Lloyd proves that being sun smart can also be … ahhh … fashionable?? Ready to do the blue and gold proud!

After about 10 mins of walking bare-foot on the hot tarmac, Ray did what any sensible person would do – removed the inner soles from his cycling shoes, pulled the injury-prevention strapping tape off his knees, and proceeded to tape the inner soles to his feet, creating a McGyver style set of thongs to help him walk the further 40mins in the heat before help arrived.

Who needs Bear Grylls when you have Ray J Reupena around??!  

The run

The run at Mooloolaba is always a challenge, with the hilly course providing a punishing finish to the day.

TimO played paparazzi for the weekend with the TAQ tent positioned perfectly on the finish line

TimO played paparazzi for the weekend with the TAQ tent positioned perfectly on the finish line

In 2013, it would be the heat that would sort out the athletes.  Having abandoned the Qld skies for the previous 6 weekends, sunshine decided to make a return on Mooloolaba race day, bringing with it a baking heat accentuated by still conditions.

To say the run was tough is probably an understatement.  It was tough just being a spectator – I was absolutely sweltering!  So standing on top of the hill at Mooloolaba I had a lot of sympathy for some of the exhausted faces that I saw pounding the pavement to the finish line.

Of course, the heat wasn’t enough to stop coach Tim Franklin showing is love for my fellow cheerers Andrew Callow and Tommy Hogbin, with both men being the lucky recipients of a sweaty Franklin bear hug (or should I say, tackle) on each lap of the run.

In 2013, the Tri Alliance tent had shifted from its usual location on top of the hill to prime position in the finishing chute.  As each Tri Alliance athlete rounded the corner and entered the finishing straight, the call would go out with the Tri Alliance cheer squad assuming the position to cheer home their athletes all the way to the line.

And there was plenty to cheer about.  Chris Bierton capped of a solid debut in the Open division to come home in lightening time of 2.05.  And exactly 1 year and 1 day after giving birth of her gorgeous baby girl April, Sarah Jones sprinted home in a huge PB of 2.27, earning her both the adoration of women with children everywhere, and the fastest time on course for the Tri Alliance Queensland ladies.

Special mention also goes to two of our newest members Sally Moodie and Jess Blomfield, who, having only finished the latest beginners course a fortnight earlier, put their new found skills to the test across the challenging Olympic distance, posting exceptional times, and most importantly finishing with a smile.  After being fortunate enough to have had the opportunity over the past few months to help out with the coaching on the beginner’s course, I was particularly excited to see our latest recruits put in such a solid effort on a tough day.  Great work ladies!  (Obviously it was the fantastic bike skills coaching that helped to get you across the line in such style …)

The Party

It wouldn’t be a complete Tri Alliance race without a little blue and gold nail polish …

It wouldn’t be a complete Tri Alliance race without a little blue and gold nail polish …

Despite the herculean effort shown by all out on the course, the well conditioned endurance athletes from Tri Alliance dutifully backed up that evening for the fourth (and some would say most important) leg of the Mooloolaba Tri, the after party.

With the Dave Doyle trophy honours once again on the line, many outstanding performances were witnessed in an attempt to secure this coveted piece of silverware for the pool room.  And although the judging panel are still deliberating on the winner of the fourth leg, the smart money has to be on a certain Head Coach of the Thursday Morning Run Session to take out the title …

What’s next?  

We are now well over halfway in what feels like the never-ending racing season.  Since launching our 2012/2013 racing campaign in a noisy upstairs room of the Melbourne Hotel back in August last year, Tri-Alliance Queensland members have busied themselves ticking off their goals in a big way.  From sprint distances to Ironman and everything in between, our squad mates have criss-crossed the nation (and, in some cases, the globe) in order to achieve their goals.

It’s been a long season.  And the best thing is: it’s not over yet!  Redcliffe is now literally just around the corner, closely followed by the looming sight of a massive Cairns campaign (not to mention ByronBay, Luke Harrop and everything else that will consume our weekends in between!)

To quote our fearless leader (cue your best Head Coach Turner motivational voice here):

success in sport is about consistency, and consistency is not a matter of motivation, is a question of good habit”. 

It is habit, not motivation, that rolls you out of bed in the morning, forces you to automatically whack on your shoes, and head out the door (even as the heavens open up and it thunders down around you … something which has been happening just a little bit in

Pretty excited my brand new PINK racing shoes – can’t wait to take these ladies for a spin this week at Redcliffe!

Pretty excited my brand new PINK racing shoes – can’t wait to take these ladies for a spin this week at Redcliffe!

Queensland lately ….).  Because let’s be honest, you would have to be mad to choose to roll out of bed at 5am in the pouring rain to go and run 1km repeats over and over again at a pace that makes your eyes want to pop out of your head …. wouldn’t you?!

Whether you are working towards Ironman Cairns, want to make your mark at Byron, or are planning your assault on the famous Luke Harrop Tri, we are now at the pointy end of season where the final push in training can make all the difference.  So next time you see one of your squad mates with that glazed over look in their eyes at 5.30am in the morning, give them a smile, a pat on the back, and help them to just keep going – we are so close – let’s work together to see the season out in style!!

Next stop: the Redcliffe Sprint Championships … see you there.

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