We asked Tri Alliance 2014/15 ambassador Al O’Toole to give us some insights into her early season training, racing and experiences.  It has been a roller-coaster to say the least but we can all see how much improved Al is and we are looking forward to the season ahead and some great performances from her.

‘My Season so far’

Firstly, thanks to the club for appointing me as one of this year’s ambassadors alongside Geoff Houston. We follow on from some great fellow club members in Annemarie & Lance, & I’m looking forward to sharing my perspective on this fantastic sport over the year ahead.

It’s been an eventful start to the season for me. I’ve had a much more consistent winter/spring this year than last, including my first hill rides out in the Dandenongs & at Kinglake, a great trip down to the Portarlington camp, & of course, the high stakes Thursday mornings dropping bombs at Albert Park with the Lady Bombs crew – girls, get involved! All in all, I was feeling confident coming into my first race for the year, Yarrawonga OD…

Oh dear. alotoole3

Feeling fine before the race, I got into the water & promptly cut my toe open on the boat ramp. Strike 1. The swim was a massive struggle – I couldn’t string more than about 5 strokes together without needing to stop to try & get my breath, so to say I was relieved when I finally hit the boat ramp on lap 2 is an understatement.

Onto the bike, again struggling to breathe & an increasingly grim state of mind setting in. Just when I was thinking it really couldn’t get any worse, I was attacked by a duck about 2k before transition – clearly it had been chatting with its magpie mates! Strike 2.

After some pack-a-day-smoker-style coughing in T2, I attempted to start my run & noticed I’d gone from struggling to breath to not breathing at all, so did the only thing I could, which was to collapse next to a spectator. Strike 3. I’m thankful this happened on the run & not in the water or on the bike at speed. That the spectator in question was a Ventolin-carrying nurse made things much easier to deal with.

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Fast forward two weeks, newly armed with a puffer, I was winging my way to Noosa for the iconic Noosa Tri. If you’ve not been before I highly recommend it, & if you have, you already know why. I had previously raced in the teams event, but was looking forward to my first full race. After some familiarisation sessions with the club, numerous encounters with the local wildlife, & an inspiring witsup breakfast with Emma Snowsill, Belinda Granger & Liz Blatchford, race day arrived.

We watched the elites get started & soon enough it was time to head to the swim start, warm up & soak up the atmosphere before the horn went for my wave. My swim was over in just under a half hour, through T1 with no wetsuit removal dance to slow things down, & off onto the bike. I struggled to settle into a rhythm with the heavy bike traffic on course & sheer number of obstacles early on, but soon enough I was up Garmin Hill & on to the turnaround for a much faster trip home.

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The run was hot & hard work – definitely appreciated the yells of encouragement from fellow TA athletes! You can’t help but be swept up by the crowd & noise on the way to the finish line, & soon enough I was done in 2:51. It’s a slower time than I would’ve liked, but vastly better than a DNF & an ambulance ride. It was great to cheer the remaining TA competitors coming past the tent on their way to the finish line, & enjoy the first of many cold beverages.

The weekend just gone was spent up in Shep yelling at the long course athletes, all of whom deserve a huge round of congratulations for getting out & getting it done in some very tough conditions – can’t wait to see them go around at Melbourne next March!

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What’s next for me? I’m back into the normal training routine, getting ready for the Gatorade Series – I’ll be racing against last year’s results, & the 30-34s for the first time. I’m getting new ideas & approaches from the TA coaches all the time & learning something new about racing at every event, so I’m looking forward to seeing what I can achieve this time around.

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