IRONMUMS ambassador Belinda completed her first triathlon after an emotional 6 months. We at IRONMUMS couldn't be prouder of what she has achieved and are so glad that she was able to finish in style and a smile. Belinda tells us how the race went.
The weather had been horrible in the week leading up to the Mooloolaba Triathlon. Constant rain & extreme winds were whipped up from a low-pressure system off the coast & the conditions were looking less than ideal. Whatever faced us on Sunday morning, we couldn’t change & we would all have to go through it together.
The Ironmums Moo Tri 18 crew had organised a coffee catch up on Saturday afternoon after we had checked our bikes into transition. It was so lovely to finally meet the faces of the Mums I’d been communicating with over the past few weeks. We all wondered what weather we would be facing the next morning.
Saturday night I was ready for bed by 7pm. I fought the urge to go to bed for a couple of hours & finally got into bed about 9pm. My body was relaxed but my mind was in overdrive. Did I pack everything I needed? Was I going to get smashed by the ocean? Please don’t let me fall off my bike etc etc etc. All those things that go through your head the night before you race. I tossed & turned until about midnight & then woke up thinking it must be almost time to get up. No, it was only 2am. Blast! The tossing & turning continued until I finally gave in at 4:45am & got up & started to get myself ready for race day.
My tummy was churning. The thought of putting any food in it made me want to be sick. I forced a tiny bit down & headed to transition to make sure that 1 - my bike was still there & 2 - set up the rest of my gear. Luckily my bike was still where I had left it & with my transition all set, hubby & I settled in for the 2 hour wait before my age group started. This of course was agonising. Watching all the other competitors go before you was hard. Knowing that Lee & I were in the last wave of age groupers was not great for my already unsettled nerves.
Hubby & I sat on the break wall & watched as the first group of men approached the swim exit. As we sat & watched we could see a huge rip right were the swim exit was set up. We watched wave after wave of competitors being swept back out to sea. Some of the women even had to be carried out of the water. “Oh crap” I thought. This is going to be interesting. My nerves flared up again.
I finally found Lee & we got our before race picture & we started our long walk down the beach to the swim start. This of course did not go to plan at first as we ended up back at transition with no way of getting across to the beach. We turned around only to find that we had been followed by several other lost athletes. We apologised for leading them astray & finally made our way down to the beach. We gave ourselves a good 40 mins to walk up to the swim start. Luckily, we did…it was a long walk. But this long walk was exactly what I needed to settle the nerves.
We got to the start area & found Emma & Anthea & cheered them on their way. We jumped in the water for a quick warm up swim before we started. The water temp was perfect, but the quality was horrible. It was so murky & salty. The salt was so strong it stung the back of my throat. They called our age group & there I was about to start. I wished Lee a great race & I closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths, gave myself some last second words of encouragement & we were off.
The first 5 minutes of the swim were horrible. The starter had said to us before we left that we would have times today that we would say why the “F%$k” am I doing this. That thought came to mind in my first 10 mins of the swim. I couldn’t see in front of my face & every time I took a breath I got smashed in the face by a wave & swallowed a mouthful of ocean. There were arms & legs everywhere & I couldn’t get a clear spot to swim in & I started to panic. I’d find a clearing for 30 secs and it would close again. I wanted to put my hand up & say, “right, I’ve had enough now let’s get out & go do something else”. I just kept turning the arms over, pop my head up ever second stroke to check my where the next buoy was & just keep on swimming.
Once I turned the second marker buoy I had found my space & finally started to relax. I found a nice rhythm & settled in. Then there were green swim caps all around me. Our wave colour caps were orange??? Oh no, the teams had caught up to me!! Nooooooo!! But then I realised that I had caught up to & was overtaking wave swimmers ahead of me. This made me more determined & I turned around the last two purple swim buoys & headed for the beach. I had the visions of the other swimmers from the first waves getting swept back out to sea & getting carried out. This wasn’t going to be me I told myself. Just get to the beach with your contact lens still in your eyes & then we can focus on the next part of the race.
I got to the breakers & one crashed right on top of me. I closed my eyes & held on. No somersaults please!! Phew…I stood up & I was right in the middle of the rip. I felt it pulling me backwards, but I stood my ground & started walking through it. I got out of the surf & started the run to transition. Hubby gave me a wave & a cheer & I was ready to get on the bike, but my legs weren’t.
As I ran up the beach to weave my way to find my bike my legs were screaming. This wasn’t the feeling I wanted when I’m about to use my legs for the next 2 & ½ hours. Got in & out of transition as quickly as I could, hopped on the bike & headed up the hills & out of town. As I got to the top if the last hill before the motorway my stomach without warning decided to empty the contents of the ocean I had swallowed on the swim. Delightful!! I thought I need to put something back into my stomach, so I tried to find my nutrition in my bento box but ended up dropping my food all over the road. Oh great. This ride is not going too good so far. But luckily, I still had my gel tube!! Yay!!
Out onto the motorway & my legs started to feel good. This tail wind was fantastic!! I was really enjoying the ride until it started to pour down with rain. I couldn’t see much at all through my sunglasses, they were covered in raindrops. Just stay upright & don’t ride on the painted lines I kept saying over & over in my head. I edged closer to the turnaround point & flashing lights from an ambulance were right in front of me. Oh no, someone has crashed!! Oh dear I hope they are ok. Turned out to be one of our fellow Ironmums Michelle, who had her back wheel clipped by another rider who took her down. I was glad to hear that she was released from hospital that afternoon. Glad you are ok Michelle. I get to the turnaround point feeling strong. I checked my watch & did some quick maths & realised that I was close to a sub 3-hour finish. Woo hoo I thought but then reality struck…rain plus strong headwinds hit me like a brick wall. Twenty kilometres of these conditions is going to be crap on the return to Mooloolaba.
And hard it was. I pushed at a comfortable pace without exhausting the legs knowing I had a hilly run to come. With about 15km’s to go I saw the last of the cyclists still heading to turnaround & the police escort vehicle. Crap, I’m near the end of the group!! A wave of panic came over me. I don’t want to be the last person to finish. I kept getting overtaken by old, overweight 60 & 70-year-old men in the team category. One guy even had his butt hanging out of his shorts & he was riding a 1980’s bike that didn’t even look or sound roadworthy. OMG B…you really need to work on your bike strength!!! This can’t be happening. But as we headed back up off the motorway & back towards Mooloolaba all was redeemed. I overtook all them old dudes!! He he!! I headed back into transition & a quick change of shoes & visor & I was off on the run.
To my surprise the legs felt pretty good despite being a little wobbly. I ran strongly for the first kilometre or so & then the first hill was before me. Shuffle shuffle, up up up, just keep moving. I got over the first hill & down the other side. Ah….there are all the other competitors. There were hundreds of them on the run course. I had renewed hope that I wasn’t going to finish last as I started to peg back the ground I had lost on the bike. The legs were feeling pretty good & happy with the pace I was running. A little quicker than I expected, but ok.
Through the first drink station & I got a nice hosing from one of the volunteers & down to the turnaround. Bang…there’s that bloody headwind again!! Crap!! The sun had also come out & it was starting to get hot!! One foot in front of the other, another hose off then & I found myself at the base of the hill. Here we go..just keep shuffling. I reached the top & heard a man behind me breathing hard. He said to me…oh that was hard, to which I responded, “Yes…and we get to enjoy all over again!” Down the hill again & the with only 4km to go my legs decided to hit the wall. At this point I realised that I haven’t taken any of my nutrition on the run. No wonder I felt like crap. I walked for a bit to bring my heart rate down & regroup my mind & get some fuel into my legs. I told myself that I could run until I got to the base of the hill & then I could walk a little. I took a short walk break at the bottom but them I looked at my watch & I only had about a kilometre to go. Run…run…run, you are almost there.
I pushed up the hill & down the other side with renewed energy. I felt fantastic in that last kilometre. Maybe it was the adrenalin of knowing that the finish line was just ahead of me. As I rounded the last corner I could see the big blue finish line in all its glory. It was magnificent. This is one of the best feelings of my life. Knowing how hard it has been to get to this moment. I had the biggest smile on my face & the finish line announcer gave me the best high five of my life & I lit up like a Christmas tree. I had done it. I had finished!!
I had dreamed for so long about getting back into triathlon again. At the age of 42, after 20 away from the sport I had finally finished my first Olympic Distance Triathlon. I had set myself a goal of finishing before the 3 & ½ hour mark. I was on track for a sub 3 hour until the turn around on the bike. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be, but I did my best on the day & I beat the 3 & ½ hour mark. I’m over the moon with how I did knowing the road that I had travelled in the last 6 months had tested me to my limits both physically & emotionally. I can’t thank Naomi enough for keeping me on track & helping me achieve this goal that seemed to big many years ago. I have bigger goals on the list now & I will be ready to tick them off, after I recover first of course. I know I can do it. I just proved to myself that I can do anything when I put my mind to it. All I have to do is put the hard work in & believe in myself.