Hell of the West never ceases to disappoint! 2018 was not the hottest year on record but this race never stops throwing up the challenges! This year was a little more special as I got to travel out there with some amazing friends from Switzerland. Markus raced at Goondiwindi, Hell of the West way back in 1997 & 1999, taking stories of this race back to Europe. Now in 2018 his wife Leislore finally had the chance to race this iconic triathlon, with Markus volunteering to look after the boys (my son 5 and their son 4) while we raced!
We headed out on the Friday, breaking the 5 (plus) hour drive with a bakery stop at Millmerran. We arrived late in the afternoon and it was raining so no test ride for us yet. We headed into town for dinner and a brief run down of the swim area, transition and general event setup.
On Saturday morning the rain continued until about 7am, meaning we snuck out for a slightly later gear test ride about 8ish!
The roads hadn’t changed at all, exactly as I remembered them from last year. What I like to call a ‘DEAD’ road, it gives you nothing, no assistance at all. This bike course you have to ride the whole 80km. Absolutely no coasting and cruising! This ride also gave Liselore a change to dial in the bike setup and get comfortable on a borrowed Specialized Shiv, a race bike she has never ridden before.
Later in the afternoon, had to head into town for the race brief, so we took the opportunity to do a little more course reconnaissance, and went for a jog over part of the run course! Yes it was hot & actually a little humid at this stage. But again this was all about getting ready to race the following day and simply giving Liselore some confidence on the course!
A special feature of this race is the personalized race bibs, I mean they are made of a pretty cool perforated material, but the fact you can put any name you like on them is something very different and super cool!
I am never one to head to bed super early the night before a race, I just can’t sleep. So after doing the pre-race layout and double checking the bike I finally headed to bed about 10pm. The alarm went off super early at 3am, a quick shower, something to eat, dressed and on the bikes to head into transition. Riding in the dark only using Liselore head light for navigation!
Transition setup is a methodical process of shoes on bike, towel layout, runners down, cap on top and number belt under the shoes, helmet at the front with sunnies resting on top! Check I am in the right gear to mount and start the ride, my bottles are full and nutrition is all packed and setup on the bike! This race I was taking no chances with Hydralyte Sports in 2 bottles and Endura in my third bottle. I took a Winners bar, 4 gels for this race and even added a salt table to have late on the bike to avoid any cramping on the run!
Another unique feature of this race is the start is before sunrise, YES in the dark, we get to follow a kayak with a rear light for the first 15/20 minutes of the swim until the sun light is sufficient to see. So the use of clear goggles is an absolute must!
I had a pretty disrupted lead in to this race, so didn’t have high expectations heading into the water. My day played out pretty much as I expected. My swim was a tough fight upstream (on the dirty stinky NSW side of the river) and a cruise back downstream (on the clean almost pristine QLD side of the river). I didn’t see or recognise anyone in the swim this year, but did have a couple of friendly people close by that we all seemed to work well together. Touching toes and passing each other without too much physical contact and generally taking turns at the front or beside each other to keep the pace solid. I came out of the water in a respectable 34 minutes (Garmin data). As I ran up the boat ramp I asked Emily (one of my mates daughters) where Big Bird (AKA Michael) was? She let me know he was only just in front, my Smile says it all really (he was in the wave 5 minutes in front of me)!
Big Bird and I ran into transition side by side and I headed out onto the bike a little slicker than him, trying to hold onto my 5 minute advantage! My focus was simple, get comfortable and get up to 200-210 watts and steady state it for 80km! My rhythm came pretty quickly however I struggle to get the numbers up above 200, but stuck at it until the turn around and soon discovered why! Big Bird caught me around the 25km make and I stayed in touch until the 40km mark (the turnaround) before he blew me away into the headwind! Yes the 2nd 40km was highlighted by an epic little headwind. Absolutely disgusting, un-relenting headwind! I managed to hold about 200-220 watts into the headwind, dropping a few places and a fair amount of time on other competitors, but I rode my race and was ecstatic with my efforts and numbers. Dismount the bike in 2 hours and 18 minutes, 198 watts avg.
I hadn’t seen Big Bird since the turnaround, so as I rolled into T2 and saw the imposing frame parked up in the penalty box serving a drafting penalty I let out a little shout of ‘encouragement’ and headed into transition and off on the run again trying to take advantage of the lead I had! Heading out of T2 tot he cheers of my little boy (Kyden) from the other side of the fence and Michael’s family gave me a nice little lift.
My run volume hasn’t been where I need it to be, so again my expectations heading out onto the run were low. I tried to set the pace up early, find the tempo I thought I could sustain and hold on! the 3 laps is my preferred configuration. I enjoy the first lap off the bike, knuckle down for the 2nd and then your on the last lap, simple hey! I finished the first lap in 30 minutes pretty chuffed and enjoyed seeing and encouraging everybody on course, Scott, Heath, Eamonn, Emily, Zacy, Michael (Big Bird), Jason (Cuz), Liselore (my Swiss friend) & Steve (Sledger). The second lap I started to struggle and slowed a little to finish the lap in 33 minutes, still pretty solid and I was still just ahead of Zacy, who was closing fast! The 3rd lap was all about survival and I was simply focused on finishing. Zacy passed my with exactly 5km to run, so I simply had to finished within 5 minutes of him to take the win over Zacy! So through straight determination I managed to hold on finishing the run in 1 hour and 39 minutes, not super fast but a solid hit out given my training in recent times!
So I officially finished in a time of 4 hours and 36 minutes, approximately 7 minutes quicker than last year. Finishing 6th in my category and 75th overall. The highlight of this race was not my result, which I am pretty pleased about, but the ability to race with mates! Seeing so many familiar faces on-course from all over Australia and the world was very special, it helped to pass the time and take the focus from the pain in the legs.
If you’ve never race here at Goondiwindi and Hell of the West I cannot recommend it enough, the community support behind this race is amazing. The support from professional field is also something to be noted, it always draws an A1 field, and we get to race along side them for 3-4 hours! If your interested here is the links to my race data, unfortunately I didn’t race with my heart rate band (I left it in Brisbane) and my watch went flat about 5km into the run (my charger was with my HR band). So I made some rookie errors packing, but they didn’t affect my race! All in all I love this weekend of racing, it’s definitely a highlight in my season! A race like no other on the Australian race calendar!
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Till next time build consistency, keep smiling and live to Tri!