How my daughter takes on the Australian Alpine Ascent

Founder of IRONMUMS Naomi Wood (aka NAC Wood) challenged herself in more ways than one when she took on the Elite Energy AAA Triathlon recently. This race took place on the 10th of March and was self supported and crewed. We touch base with Naomi's dad Marcus. Marcus was one of Naomi's handlers on the day and played a large part in the race that unfolded. Take it away Marcus......

Months of planning went into the quest to participate in the 3 km swim, 113 km cycle and a 22 km run leg to the top of Mount Kosciusko and return to Charlotte Pass Village to take the chequed flag.

The preparation comprised of training for the three disciplines over many months prior to arriving at Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains. In the weeks leading up to the event some people in the bike riding fraternity asked me about my thoughts on Naomi riding her time trial bike in these mountainous conditions and would it be a disadvantage. I spoke to Naomi in the lead up to the event and she assured me she had chosen correctly. The suggestions from the biking fraternity were about to be discredited the next day.

On Friday afternoon prior to the event the participants were greeted with great autumn sunshine and no wind. The race briefing was conducted with valuable tips given out by the race organisers. Numbers and instructions were handed out to the nervous group of athletes. The Wood’s usual Friday night meal of fish and chips was ordered and on returning to the weekend accommodation apartment it was consumed.

I watched as Naomi then commenced her final preparation measuring all sorts of powders and fluids into containers to assist her with the event on the Saturday. I was asked to decorate the support vehicle with required signage which I did. An early night was had by all.

The alarm at 5.30am broke the stillness around the unit and the Woodlings cheer squad made up of Dallas, Scarlett May and Tilly, and handlers Cameron, Michelle and myself slowly sprang into action for the big day ahead. Breakfast was served and eaten and then the equipment was loaded into the support vehicle displaying the appropriate stickers front and rear. Number 31 was proudly exhibited for all to see as it was Naomi’s race number. The bike was loaded and off to the transition area to

commence the event.

On arrival the lake water was calm and invigorating; the sun was rising into a cloudless sky. The air was cool with no wind. The entrants, all 31 of them, were in final preparation mode. Wet suits where worn by all. A modest crowd of well-wishers and supporters were also in attendance to send the athletes off into their self-imposed torture.

The 7am call was made by the race starter and the swim leg of three laps around buoys in Lake Jindabyne commenced. During the second lap the field began to string out and after the third lap Naomi emerged from the water looking quite excited about her swim which resulted in her being in the top third of the field and second female. Husband Cameron dried Naomi off whilst the three Woodlings cheer squad made plenty of noise in support of their mum.

Naomi did not take too long in transition and soon she was onto her bike which saw her ride off towards the first of many hills on the way to the Alpine Way to pass through Thredbo and return for the first stage of the bike leg and then to the second stage to Charlotte Pass. The support crew gathered Naomi’s discarded items and headed to the vehicle and onto the road to track down competitor 31.

Naomi had gained approximately 7 ks before the support crew drew alongside her. A number of male competitors were in the vicinity for company and their support crews where encouraging all the riders on. Naomi settled into a manageable gear and adapted the time trial position to minimise the wind drag as she rode over the first of many big climbs. She appeared on top the gearing for the bike leg. She is a rider who likes some feel/pressure under her feet. The bike course consisted on many climbs with very few descents. The scenery was magnificent and we were climbing so high that our ears popped.

Steady process was being made on the way out to Thredbo. The support crew supplied water and fluids to Naomi to keep the wheels turning. A few kilometres pass Thredbo the riders executed a U turn and returned in the Jindabyne direction. Outside Jindabyne a left turn was made and shortly after a massive ascent beckoned. Naomi settled into her work again and managed a good tempo to crest the mountain after 13 ks of sheer uphill before a slight downhill and then into another long climb. The course wound its way out the Australian Bush leaving no shade for the riders and the weather was starting to hot up. More water was ordered and delivered as Naomi kept hydrated. During the bike climb the support crew stopped numerous times to cheer Naomi up and over the mountains and as the weather heated up I was in charge of collecting the extra layers of clothing Naomi no longer required.

With 10 ks remaining of the bike leg the support crew drove ahead to prepare for the transition onto the run. Naomi’s steep descent into Charlotte Pass resort was behind a tourist bus which restricted her pace to finish off the bike leg. Into transition and the running shoes affixed to her feet she was out onto the run leg. The first 500 metres was climbing out of the resort which was very steep and most athletes walked it. As I was support crew on a mountain bike I had to quickly dismount and walk my bike up the hill to meet Naomi.

Turning left onto a short stretch of bitumen the road rose up and a short time later another left turn onto the crashed granite sight-seeing track called Summit Trail towards the summit some 11 kilometres away. Naomi settled into a good stride picking her way over the loose surface. There would be minimal downhill until the mountain was conquered. The air was starting to thin out and temperate was now hovering around 30 degrees with very little breeze to cool proceedings. Naomi continued to take on fluids from Michelle who was running with her and I was managing to keep up on my mountain bike. Crossing the Snowy River was a concrete bridge which gave the legs a short break from the loose track surface. The strides where sometimes hindered by water bars across the track which are raised above the track to assist with the drainage. The gradient in parts was at 10 % plus.

Approximately 1400 metres from the summit of Australia’s highest mountain was a water station at Rawson Pass. This is the place of the highest public toilet in Australia. No cycling passed this point is allowed so i had to wait as my daughter conqured Australia’s biggest mountain. She continued the steep uphill run and went out of view. A short time later, heard across the seven peaks and down into the Valley below, was a shout of “WooHoo” and other expressions of joy. The whole world could hear the excitement of Naomi reaching the summit. (A job well done.) At this point the third place woman was also passed Rawson Pass with her two handlers on foot on the way to the top.

The descent was managed in a timely manner with the pace a little quicker. Fluids were still beginning taken on board. Back onto the short piece of bitumen and a right turn onto the steep concrete descent into the resort the mood changed from apprehension to joy and satisfaction that the job had been done.

Naomi crossed the finish line to a rousing applause of the Family and the gather persons.

I was then able to ride my mountain bike back to the weekend accommodation on the bike course. I was able to experience the last 40kms of the bike ride from the seat of my push bike but in the reverse direction, although 98% of it was downhill I was truly able to apperciate what a challenge the last part of the bike course was.

The following day we attended the presentation where I was able to watch as Naomi was recognised for her race with the 2nd place female trophy. The smile on her face told of much happiness and achievement.

After witnessing this event first hand I have great admiration for Naomi as she is able to be a mother, wife and a kindergarten teacher and still manage to train for and succeed in such a gruelling sport. We are very proud of her.

Dad.

Photos courtesy of Cameron Wood, Michelle Gailey and Marcus Coppock

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