Phil Thomas set out yet again last weekend on his annual post-Christmas Queensland pilgrimage to compete in the Hell of the West Triathlon. This year Phil and the team surpassed themselves with an incredible performance that saw them step onto the podium with 3rd place in their class. Here, thanks to Phil, is their own story of the day.
Every year at the end of January I drag my Christmas embellished carcass up to Goondiwindi for the Hell of the West Triathlon (HOTW) to do the cycle leg in a Masters team. The HOTW is a combination of a 2k swim, 80k ride and 20k run. Training for the 80k tt ride is really difficult over the Christmas break but it does provide a good motivation to keep turning the legs over and not indulge too much over the holiday period. Well that is the plan anyway.
Last year I had a loan of Jeff Flatt’s tt bike and surprised myself with a much faster time than I had ever been able to achieve previously, despite a lack of training preparation, coming home 2h 9 minutes (on the bike). This year I took my own Felt tt and with the addition of Jeff’s full disc rear wheel, I at least looked the part.
My daughter Ella and I arrived in Goondiwindi mid afternoon, in time to see the junior’s competition running in the QLD heat. They breed them tough out there! We decided to escape the heat and went our host’s house (Paul and Lee –ann Amos) to offload our gear. By the way, Paul was our host and our runner. We returned to the park later in the evening to meet our swimmer Stacey and register our team (TRISKELION #554). Following the race briefing we filled up on the carbo-load dinner, provided by the event organisers and served outdoors in the park. After dinner and some socialising with fellow competitors we returned to our accommodation to prepare for the race and get an early night.
Up on Sunday morning at 3:30am, a quick breakfast and then off to rack the bike in the transition area. The atmosphere at the race start is electrifying and the nervous tension of the crowd of swimmers marshaled on the edge of the Macintyre river for the 5:00am start is palpable. The team’s competitors are the last wave of swimmers to launch into the 28 degree C water. A text from Ella (“she is off”) was my cue to hop on my warm up bike at transition. After about 20 mins of spinning I join the other team cyclists in transition to wait for Stacey to arrive. At about 38 mins after Ella’s text Stacey arrives and transfers her ankle band chip to my ankle, utters “may the force be with you” a humourous comment based my aero helmet giving me a close resemblance to a Star-trooper.
With well wishes over I grab my bike off the rack and in my bike shoes struggle in to run (running is a struggle at the best of times) the 50 meters out of transition, mount my Felt and start the 80k dead flat, give or take 20 meters, time trial. The principles of the cycle leg are simple, get moving and in the tt position as quickly as possible. Find the maximum speed you can maintain for the conditions of the day and hold that all together until the end of the ride. Easy, — well no not really, you can’t draft (penalties apply) and you need to stay hydrated without upsetting your rhythm. You also need to ignore (mindfully I expect Dr John) the pain of staying in the tt position for approximately 2 hours.
As only fellow cyclists would appreciate, this is actually fun. This year I managed to get back to transition for Paul to start his run in about 2 h and 11 minutes (not counting transition time). Considering my low fitness level, a head wind on the way out and some of the way in, and some pesky drink bottle problems, that time was faster than I had expected. What is more with the excellent time provided by the swimmer, and a superb run time by Paul, we managed to achieve a 3rd for our unisex masters category with a time of 4:30:35.
My goal this year was a podium and/or 2h or less for the cycle leg. One out of 2 is worth celebrating I think!
As discussed with Ben during the club ride on Tuesday, next years goal is 2nd in our category and/or less than 2h for the cycle leg. If we could skip Christmas for a year, I am sure it would be easier.
Well done Phil, Stacey and Paul – amazing performances all!