Well, after three years of training and three half ironmen, I have finally broken the magical 6-hour barrier. I may have missed all of my benchmark goals, and I may not have reached the level I feel deep inside that I should be capable of, but with an overall time of 5:48:48, I can at least say I went convincingly sub-6.
We drove down to the Mount early on Friday morning to meet Phil's former coach and his fiancee for a morning swim in Pilot Bay. Even though we were there too late to get a sense of the tides at race time (I'm not quite committed enough to get up before 5am the day BEFORE race day) it was good to look at the Bay with Coach Paul's advice in mind. We did a very relaxed first loop, with plenty of stops to practice sighting and consider our best boat navigation strategies. The sea was calm and glassy- perfect start to the day.
We then got changed (well, I chucked some tri shorts and a jersey over my togs) and headed out for a short spin- out to the first turnaround and back. The streets were chock-full of all manner of cyclists, and it was fun absorbing the festival atmosphere. We even saw Gordon McCauley (who, as a team cyclist, went SUB-2 on the ride) out with a motorbike pacer. I took it easy, but was still pleased that the boys didn't lose me. The new race tyres were a dream- I was super glad to have passed Phil's tyre-changing test the night before!
After our training, we had our helmets checked, then headed into Tauranga to check into our holiday park (Silver Birch... a big fat THUMBS DOWN) and for lunch with our friends from Wellington and their 5 month old. The restaurant was typical overpriced waterfront Italian-fare, and our huge calzone sat heavy in our tummies for a good couple of hours. Fortunately it wasn't too greasy.
We then drove back to the Mount (travel between Tga and the Mount was a feature of our weekend- that's what happens when you don't book accommodation until November...) for registration, body-marking and bike racking. I loved being able to ditch the bike the night before, though it was a bit of a pain faffing about with bike paraphernalia on race morning. I was pleased with my spot in transition- in the same bay as for Tinman, and right outside a noticeable brown house.
We then hit up the expo, and spent way too much money some compression gear. I took considerable pleasure from the fact that I was at least a size bigger than Phil in every measurement- my big muscly legs are something I can't change so might as well embrace! There was some time to kill before briefing, so we wandered to the dairy and for drinks and ice blocks. I love the new strawberry splice!
As the day went on, my enthusiasm grew along with my nerves. I remarked to Phil during our little walk "it's a pity that no matter how excited I am, I'm still not going to get any fitter than I am". Ah, so true!
Our chief supporters, Jenn and Damian, arrived during the briefing, so we gathered all the fixings for some pasta, and drove back to Silver Birch to make dinner. Which was easier said that done. We'd booked a "kitchen cabin", but unfortunately that meant a grotty old fridge whirring away by the bed, a teeny tiny virtually unreachable cupboard, and a zillion year old two burner stove balanced on top of a microwave. The only pot suitable for pasta was lid-less, the (too small) frying pan was encrusted with burnt grease, and our only kitchen utensils were a bendy slotted spoon and a blunt bread knife- neither of which were ideal for cooking mince! Luckily Jenn and I are seasoned pros at spag bol, and the meal we came up with was pretty darn yum!
After dinner, Jenn, Damian and I headed for a quick swim in the (quite nice) pool. I unloaded my key stresses: "what if the swim's horrible?" (a: it probably will be, but you'll still get out eventually) and "what if I get pinged for drafting even though I was doing nothing wrong?" (a: you'll take your penalty like an awesome person, and tell the world you would have gone 3 minutes faster if not for those annoying cheaters). The swim left me feeling refreshed and relaxed even though the pool was very warm. It was way too hot for the cuppa I'd planned, so we all got to bed at a respectable hour (about 9:30). Sadly, going to sleep wasn't so easy- the cabin was absolutely stifling. Phil and I had sweat beads forming on our brows as soon as our heads hit the pillows! I wasn't feeling particularly stressed or nervous, but I drifted in and out of vague sleep for the next few hours.
The one good thing about a disruptive night of sleep pre-race is that it's much easier to get up in the wee small hours. I was pretty chirpy when the alarm went off at 3:30- certainly much more so than last Rotorua. I couldn't be bothered making porridge in our "kitchen", so we all had oats with yoghurt, banana and blueberries for breakfast. It didn't really fill me up, so I ate an Em's Power Cookie, and also gagged down a banana while we were setting up.
We made it to transition at around 5am, just as it was opening. It was pretty quiet, which was nice for a change. We tend to cut it a little fine sometimes! It took a wee bit of time to get set up- checking and pumping our tyres, double checking my helmet to see if it fit (it didn't, and I spent a few seconds adjusting it), taping our Co2bras and pit stop cannisters to the bikes, and getting our nutrition all ready to go. It seemed like no time at all before it was time to get in the water for our warm up!
Part II to come soon!!