Challenge Melbourne – The Race – and racing with an injury which I wrote about before.

Challenge Melbourne was never really on my radar. I had entered two 70.3 events. One was Tweed Enduro and the other was Port 70.3. I just wanted some big race experience before doing Cairns Ironman.

Then my coach, Des Gooda, suggested I withdraw from Port and do Challenge Melbourne, as it’s a qualifier for the world champs in Denmark, which I had my eye on.

So I pulled out of Port. I had a choice – lose 50% of my entry fee or transfer it to another race in 2018. At the time I had no idea how I felt about doing the 70.3 distance so I said goodbye to my money and decided not to do another Ironman race this year. I never regret decisions I make. They’re made with the knowledge and information that I have at the time. That knowledge and info may change down the track, but I have to make decisions based on what I know at the time.

Not doing another race in 2018 was the right decision at the time.

And I entered Challenge Melbourne. Which brought its own challenges. I could drive to Port. Have my car, take my bike and all my gear in my car and just spend some money on petrol. Melbourne meant a flight, and transporting my bike as luggage, which meant a bike bag, navigating to and from the airport, packing my bike into a bag etc etc

I found out that Triathlon Queensland lend out bike bags, and so instead of buying one, I could book it, pick it up from Brisbane and then drop it back after the event. This challenge of flying with my bike would end up being invaluable practise for future triathlon travel including worlds.

My bike is pretty light, but secure it in a bag, with all the added paraphernalia and it became heavy and cumbersome. No more travelling with cabin luggage only.

I had help putting my bike in the bag and made it to St Kilda pretty easily. Getting the bike out of the bag was OK too. But I struggled putting the back wheel back on my bike. My hands ended up covered in grease and YouTube became my friend. I eventually got the back wheel on, and then got the event bike mechanic to check it just in case. He said I did a pretty good job. Another learning curve. I need more practise with this before travelling again.

I was carrying an injury and wasn’t mentally ready to be excited about the race. What kept me sane as I had felt the same about doing the Luke Harrop memorial tri in April, 2017. I didn’t want to do it, I wasn’t excited about it all, but I had entered and just turned up and did it and I ended up with a pretty good time and actually felt good during the event. Let’s hope that feeling translates to Challenge Melbourne. It was actually after the Luke Harrop tri last year that Des first floated the idea of making the Australian team, and competing in Denmark.

Des messaged me the night before the event and basically told me 4 things:

  1. wake up excited
  2. swim comfortably in your own space, don’t get caught up
  3. punch out a sub 3 hour bike
  4. it’s your call on the run

The first one was what I had to focus on first. I woke up but I wasn’t excited. I know enough about mental preparedness to know that I can change how I’m feeling. I can tell myself to be excited and trick my brain. Fake it till you make it.

The swim was surprisingly pretty good for me. During Tweed Enduro I found it hard to get my breath for the first couple of hundred metres, but here I just put my head in the cold water and felt OK straight away. I’m not a fast swimmer and I’ve been doing 3.5 – 4km swims, which didn’t give me the speed for a 1.9km swim.

I then spent ages in transition, it seemed. I may as well have made a cuppa! 

Out on the bike, I felt fast straight away. It was a 3 lap course of 30km per lap. The first 15km was fantastic, then I turned into an uphill and a headwind. All I had to do was keep my speed above 30km/h as much as possible. And for the first time ever, I passed people on the bike – and not just women, but men too. That felt great.

I knew I did well on the bike and was feeling good coming into T2. This one took ages too, I could definitely cut a couple of minutes off my time just by being more efficient in transition.

And on to the run. The unknown. Will I be in pain? Will I pull out? How far will I go?

I started to run and straight away thought I’m going to pull out. Every foot strike on my right leg hurt. My head was saying pull out, pull out, pull out, don’t make it worse, think of your bigger goals, you’ve already qualified for worlds. Pull out. Pull out. Pull out.

But I just couldn’t do it.

I couldn’t stop. I just could not stop running. My shin wasn’t hurting anymore than if I was walking. And so I just kept running.

I just kept running and then I was too far away to pull out. My watch battery had died the day before and even though it was fully charged it didn’t connect to Strava and so it was basically working as a stopwatch. I just had to run to feel, no checking my pace, just run at a consistent and sustainable pace depending on how it felt.

I got to the 5km mark in 27 minutes. That’s 5:30 pace. When I was feeling fit I was aiming at 6 min pace. I just hoped I wouldn’t explode. 10km took me 54 minutes and I was still feeling good.

But at the 10km mark I was back near the finish line, where it was easy to pull out. And my leg started hurting again. 

My head was saying you can pull out here. Just pull out. But my body wasn’t listening. I couldn’t stop. I just kept running. At the 16km mark I knew I’d do a sub 2 hour half. I knew I wasn’t going to blow out. I smiled and picked up the pace (well, it felt like I did anyway). I passed more people and I felt great. Most people were slowing and I was excited about how great I felt.

It’s amazing how incredible you can feel when you’re in so much pain, just because you know you’re training has paid off and you’ve raced well.

Running down the finish chute was the best feeling. I was in so much pain – my right shin and my left calf – which had started hurting with about 5km to go. But the elation of knowing I’ve done a huge pb made the pain disappear.

Done! 5:36:25

A 23 minute pb compared to Tweed Enduro. Obviously I had a new bike which made a huge difference, but I was fitter too. The training had paid off. All those hours swimming, riding and running were worth it. I knew they were worth it at the time but this just totally made it all worthwhile.

When you’re on a high there’s only one way to go – and that’s down. You can come down slowly or crash quickly.

And I crashed quickly. The next day my shin was super sore, my calves ached but I was still smiling uncontrollably.

The next night I couldn’t sleep and I got out of bed a couple of times and the pain was excruciating. As soon as the blood came rushing to the injured spot I was in agony. I was hoping that I hadn’t damaged my leg too much. It was a really weird feeling – being super excited because of the great race and super worried because of the pain.

I made an appointment with a doctor to try and get a diagnoses so the injury can be treated. I’ve still got 2 big races to do in the next 3 months. And then on to new challenges.

Leave a Reply