Amazing times down under at the Canberra triathlon

Canberra Triathlon – 3rd February 2018

Race Reporter: Patrick

I decided to give myself an early challenge in 2018 with the Canberra triathlon – I couldn’t not do it! First because I would take the lead of the ExpaTRIés competition and that is an opportunity that will not repeat itself so easily 😉 and second, because I was back in a city where I spent 8 years and I knew I would be surrounded by close friends to get some support.. Then when you add that it was only 3 weeks before my 40th and I am clearly in a crisis of re-challenging myself – all the symbols were there to participate in an activity I really enjoy to do !!

I woke up at 4am, 3 hours before the start of the race scheduled at 7:15am for my age group. It was a rough morning but the adrenaline was there.. I love that feeling of waking up excited (not usually the case, as I am more a bear type of person..) and getting in a bubble in your mind because something quite unusual will happen to your body soon.. You step up in a kind of useful stress, checking again and again if you have all the drinks and food supplies, helmet..etc.. You keep checking the time while eating your third toast.. No Vegemite this time, just almond spread!

I arrived on site with the sunrise thinking I was in advance but in fact I was one of the last to put my bike on the rail.. This is the moment when I really understood how serious this race was. Around me, there were no half-fit persons, nobody that was a bit confused by what needed to be done like I saw in Chantilly.. No, it was a real competition – an Australian qualification race per age group for the Triathlon World Championship located at the Gold Coast in October 2018. It was serious.. I really wondered what I was doing here when I recognised tri-suits with the Australian national colours: the green and gold of the wattle trees! An Aussie symbol I only saw on tv at the Olympic games! They were all super-fit, at all ages.. I asked around me where some came from and I met Peter from Cairns, Matthew and john from Sydney, Paddy from Perth… well, it seems that all Australian triathletes were here ! So intimidating !! I felt so small despite my height..
Just 10 min before the start, the speaker announced that the wetsuit was optional, and I saw all competitors rushing in the transition area to put in on. The water of lake Burley griffin was warm at 24 degrees, but they considered that the 8 degrees of the air was suffisant to allow the thermal comfort of a wetsuit.. !! The low temperature did not last long..

On the way to the jetty to start the swim, I heard the voices of magpies and the kookaburra birds, certainly laughing at us! It made me smile.. the athletes’ concentration was palpable.. and off we went ! We knew Aussies were generally fast swimmers and they confirmed it !! I am just an average swimmer but I proudly succeeded to rank in the first quarter at my first two triathlons in 2017.. This time, with a similar performance I was in the last 20%. There was no doubt anymore – I knew who was the half-fit person here !! The swim race was a triangle and I couldn’t see the buoys.. I followed the other participants but also experienced that the sun being still low was very useful to keep a steady direction while keeping the head under water..

For the first time I succeeded in removing the top of my wetsuit while running to the transition area – I was quite proud of that.. small step! 🙂 There I took the extra 30 sec to drink a small bottle of coke as I didn’t want to hit the wall as I did badly at the semi of Cernay 4 weeks before. I took solid food or a gel every 30 minutes after that. The ride was easy and not really special compared to Chantilly or Hever Castle – 4 laps of 10 km which I did with relatively less back pain than my previous races. I was lapped by the real >athletes constantly – they were good to watch with their name in the back. After 30 mins, the girls started to enter the ride arena.

The run was flat, 2 laps of 5 km along the lake. I started it while the winners were racing to the finish line. The heat started to rise. Breaking from the serious mood of the race overall, I had some good fun imitating the Usain Bolt gesture and hand clapping with some members of the local rower clubs watching us. My T-shirts ‘Amazing times’ didn’t pass unnoticed either and gathered the extra support I was looking for!! 🙂 I finished in the arms of my friends and we went off to a well-deserved beer afterwards !! For the first time I finished an Olympic triathlon in less than 3h, in 2h48… which gave me the rank of 263 on 308 male competitors. Looking closer to the result, I found that 6 of the 9 triathletes registered in the 65-69 yrs old category did a better time than me. With a positive mind, I can only take it as an encouragement for better performance possible in the years to come… and I should not miss any Saturday morning brick sessions anymore, Lol !!

Well, now I lead the ExpaTRIés challenge in the senior group… Cool! But it was only a good preparation for the competition ahead in the veteran group 🙂 – To Sean Hurst: Get ready for some serious young competitors stepping up in your category in 2018 !! I won’t make it easy for you! It is too much fun. 😉