I have just returned home from Tasmania where I officially opened my 2009 race season at the Australian Sprint Nationals. It has been just over 4 months since I last raced and it is amazing how quickly you forget how hard racing is and how much your body hates you the day after! But, the trip went well and I walked away with a 4th place finish and a great launching point for the 2009 season.
I traveled with my coach and 2 of my training partners down to Hobart on Saturday morning. After checking into the hotel we grabbed some lunch at a cafe and then headed down to transition on our bikes to check out some of the bike course. There are 2 hills on each lap and with 8 laps of a short 2.5k loop you get nailed with 16 hills over the course of a very short ride. As a result, it was really important to go over the course and to try out different gearing options. I knew it would be critical for the run, which had 5 hills itself, to keep the legs as fresh as possible during the ride.
On the way back to the hotel, we were stopped at a light and someone pegged me in the side with a water balloon as they drove past in their car. I can't say I was too happy about it, as it hurt quite a lot and actually bruised me, but I knew I couldn't get worked up over it.
I chose to go for a very abbreviated run upon returning from the ride and just did a short jog with some drills to try to shake out some of the travel. Then it was time for the race briefing, which was quite quick and painless, and dinner. After dinner, my training partner and I relaxed in our room and watched the Nanny Diaries on DVD as we wound down. Although it had finally registered that I was going to have to race the next day, I slept really well which is normally a problem for me the night before a race.
Race morning, I woke up and went for a run and a swim. Since our race start wasn't until 2:30pm it was really important that we wake up and get our bodies moving like we would on any other day. It is a great way to shake out the cobwebs and to get yourself feeling good before you get to the start line. Especially in a sprint race, there just is no time to waste warming up in the race.
After lounging around for a few hours, feeling some butterflies settle in my stomach and watching about 6 episodes of Lipstick Jungle on DVD, I headed down to the race start. The weather in Hobart was quite fresh, only about 18 degrees celsius, but that happens to be the kind of weather I love to race in, so I was really excited for the day.
After a quick warm up, I lined up in the water, on the left hand side and waited for the signal to go. The horn blew and we were off. I kept my focus on the task at hand and watched as the rest of the field smacked and jockeyed for positions to my right, meanwhile, I was completely alone swimming the straightest line to the buoy. Just before the turn buoy, Annabelle Luxford moved left and I jumped on her feet. I was exactly where I needed to be, so I tried to get a rhythm and hang on. Heading around the first buoy I lost her draft a bit but put my head down and tried to hang tough. It was around the second buoy that I made the decision to stay left, heading the correct direction, as she swam right, that was my fatal error. I should have followed her feet, even heading off course, because she was pulling me faster than I could swim myself.
Anyway, I continued on and exited the water in 4th. With a terrible transition, I then had a bit of chasing to do to catch the two girls who came out of the swim with me. But, thankfully, since the men were on the course at the same time, I took advantage of the drafting rules and sat 5 meters back of one of the mens packs for a lap of the bike and was able to tow myself up to the women ahead.
I headed out on to the run in 3rd place. I tried to settle into a rhythm but my legs were hammered. Focusing on all the technical things I have been working on, I chipped away, 1 lap at a time, at the 5 lap 5k run course. It wasn't until the 4th lap that I was finally caught from behind and fell back into 4th place which is where I would ultimately finish the day.
All in all, it was a solid day of racing and a good reminder of the pain that comes with pushing your body that hard. I have a few things to work on and am excited to get back into another big training block before Mooloolaba at the end of March. A 4th place finish for the first race of the year is certainly a good starting place, but I'm hardly satisfied. The hard work has only just started and now, more than ever, I can't wait for more.