By Mitch Anderson, February 13th, 2012
Falls Creek- Calls Freaks*!
Australian Long Course Championships 2/80/20
Doing a long course triathlon is not for the faint-hearted. It’s a long-ish race (4-6 hours) and is physically demanding when you’re going at top speed at sea level. But when you combine the altitude of Falls Creek (1600m) with challenging weather conditions (6-9C) it means you have to be seriously fit and an experienced athlete to boot. And what better situation to put the National Championships on than when the environmental and geographical challenges meet the best athletes?
The Supersprint team had their work cut out for them on so many levels last week at Falls Creek. Not only were their rivals USM putting on an event of the same distance on at the ‘easier’ location of Geelong (the winning times put it at 20min faster or ~9%) the next day, but the weather was proving a headache. That said, there was no better man to make sensible decisions about race timing, safety and practicalities than David Hansen. He juggled the start time to fit the weather (pulling it back by 75min) to hit the best window of conditions for the day.
The field was decimated by apprehension of the difficulty of the event, but it was still stacked with quality at each category at the top end. The men’s race had Luke Bell, Joe Gambles, Tim Reed, Jan Rehula and David Dellow: all proven big stage performers, whilst the women saw world champion Melissa Rollison go head to head with Madelaine Oldfield. I mean literally- no one else turned up to challenge for the title. Through the age groups, the pattern of small but comprehensively credentialed athletes appeared: Sam Hume, Peter Loveridge, Chris Bradford, Damien Angus, Chris Southwell and Wendy McAlpine to name just a few.
Sunny and calm conditions greeted everyone for the start- it didn’t feel like 6C! There had been enough information and warnings for everyone to rug up on the bike, which was generally well heeded. To my knowledge, no-one had to go to medical for hypothermia. There were a couple of lads that had some serious injuries following a bike crash, but more on that later.
I tried a short warm up and was shivering by race start 3minutes later. A flu I’d picked up in Adelaide was still filling my lungs with mucus and caused me to have a serious panic attack in the cold water (14C) 100m into the race! This has never happened to me before and I have empathy for anyone who suffers this sensation regularly. I couldn’t breathe and had to tread water and breast stroke a couple of times before I could get into a good freestyle. Indeed, I almost pulled the pin and called for assistance. But years of racing told me that the feeling (however foreign) would pass and I would get going…which I eventually did. Sam Hume passed me in the last 400m (from a wave three minutes back!) and I knew that I was having a shocker!
I got out and just told myself to get going on the bike and do the best training day from here that I could- no sense in passing up the opportunity. The leaders were 4-5min up the road- and that was never going to come back with their class and the shortish race. I zipped along and almost came a cropper on a tricky off-camber descent near the turn around of the three loop bike. Luke Bell was the coming the other direction and I’m sure he heard my rear wheel juddering along the road metal as I wrenched it under control (under heavy braking)! “Phew, that was a close call!” I remember thinking.
On the second lap, I was arrested on the same descent by an official waving frantically and yelling competitors to slow down. I stopped as I saw two motionless bodies on the road side who had a couple of vested TA officials tending to them. I asked the official if they need medical assistance. I clipped out of my pedals and clopped closer as he said there was “a collar bone and a broken hand”. I quickly ascertained that both the patients were conscious (shivering too!) and asked about head injuries, to which the official replied that “things were under control and an ambulance was en route.” I was convinced and got back to the race!
Despite the disruption, I got back to a good rythmn by chasing down Sam Rix, who had ridden past (like a horse!) while I was stopped. He flatted at the turn around so I was left to my own pace for the last lap. I started the run 4 minutes off the lead and well down in 7th or 8th place. It wasn’t terrible, so I set off at a good clip running to see where I could get to. Before I knew it, I was in fifth and just behind Jan Rehula who was running the descents fast. Luke was in third, but seemed to have slowed (turns out due to an ankle) markedly. I caught him a couple of km later and he offered to tow me the last 20 sec up to Jan (who I was battling to bridge up to). 800 painful metres later we’d made contact and Lukey dialled it back with some quick words of wisdom (“sit for a bit, then when you attack make it count!”) which I did on the long descent back to the lake finish.
Tim Reed won with the fastest run of the day (1:15) on a difficult off-road course, that saw Joe Gambles slip to second and me dash my way to third. Maddy got done by Melissa, but lost nothing in trying for the win. Yet another day for me where I reinforced valuable lessons in racing: never say die and heed advice when it’s from trusted sources. I’m feeling like a rejuvenated athlete after 2 years of injury and bad luck, and looking forward to the challenge of IM Melbourne late March. Thanks to my evergreen supporters Giant, Powerbar, Shimano, Rudy Project, CBD Cycles Cannibal, Blue Seventy Westsuits, Compurainer and Break Your Limits.
* I’d like to apologise for my attempted anagram in the title: maybe some points for trying would be good?
PS Thanks to Al Wilson for the cool shot
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