Jaz Hedgeland

Asian Tour 2016

Jaz Hedgeland
Asian Tour 2016

On June 22nd I flew overseas with my coach and some other athletes for an Asian tour of three races and a short training camp in between. The purpose of this trip was to gain selection into the Australian Under 23 World Triathlon team with the World Triathlon Championships being in Mexico during mid September this year. Something else I was fairly excited about was just the fact that I was racing internationally again. These races would also test where my fitness and strength is at after having a solid 6 week training block post overcoming my achilles injury. I had some confidence from this training block, but I didn’t know exactly where I’d sit amongst international competition. Since worlds is in Mexico, where it will most likely be hot and humid, these races in Asia would help me prepare for this with similar weather conditions.

Following a combination of 2 hours of driving and 15 hours of flying, the first destination of Gamagori, Japan, was reached. The hotel room we stayed in was the same size as my kitchen at home (I have a small kitchen) but I was excited for kimonos and sushi. My compression socks didn’t seem to help one bit as my legs didn’t feel so good training until the last session before the race. But that’s the time I needed to feel good, and mixed with race briefing and media conference I was itching to race. 

11.10am on Saturday morning was go time and the sun was out for the olympic distance race. I had a good start and got myself into third place and remained there for the two lap 1500m swim. We exited the water and myself along with 3 Japanese athletes formed the front pack. Each time we u-turned on the 40kmbike leg amongst the loud Japanese crowd, I pretended they were cheering for me too. Taking some energy from the crowd always helps. Before I knew it I’d drank all my Instinct Sports drink and consumed my Instinct gel in preparation for the 10km run, which I was about to head out on. By now it was only about 34 degrees. However our squad had prepared for this heat back on the Gold Coast in Australia with heat chamber training sessions and I was eager to see how fast I could run this 10km. 

Two Japanese athletes beat me out of transition as I made a slight mistake of dismounting at a line a hundred meters before the dismount line. But I knew the key for me to have a good race was to go out controlled on the run as it was going to be damn tough. At the same time if I lost this race by the same time different they lead out of transition because of my incorrect dismount, I would be very annoyed at myself to say the least. I had to time this run right.  

I passed one within the first few hundred metres but I was chasing the other for the next 5km. I caught up to the leader and eased up a little to run with her for the next lap. I prefer not leaving it to the end to make my move, so I put in a surge with one lap to go, but she stayed with me. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, having her sit behind me while I’m running hard for the last 2.5km when I’m feeling as fatigued as I was.  But now there was no way I was going to cross that finish line in any place but one. We hit the second last u-turn and I surged out of it. I could still hear her breathing behind me but it seemed a little further away then it had been. Through the final u-turn and I could see the finish line. The crowd was going crazy and I didn’t want to disappoint them by taking a win from their country woman they were cheering for, but I sprinted down that stretch with what energy I had left ignoring the absolute burning in my legs. I didn’t look back and when I felt myself run through the finish tape I felt instant relief and then the excitement kicked in that I had won. 

Here’s a link to a video of the finish if you want to have a little look; https://www.facebook.com/JapanTriathlonUnion/videos/1043788135656766/ And if you’re wondering why I run through the finish line and keep going , it’s because oh boy I had to sit down straight away. But a tap on the back from the coach after a tough race like that made victory taste sweet. The tour was off to a great start!

Following that we headed over to Thailand for a one week training camp between races, where we continued to acclimatise. I’ve never been to a place as hot and humid as it was here! You know the weather is making it tough for you when your coach says just get through the set. The Saturday morning ride run set was by far the hardest. As we finished the warm up I was sweating as much as I normally do after the full session back home. Running efforts around the track was just tolerable with the wind on your face, but as soon as we stopped each time between efforts it felt like it jumped up another 5 degrees and we all found ourselves in the 2 square meters of shade on the track. Pouring the water over my head had never brought such relief. 

We had a few easy days after the race which was followed by a few days of hard training, including that Saturday session. We stayed and trained at the Thanyapura Sports Hotel which is a sports centre specifically built for triathlon. The rooms felt luxurious following our Gamagori accomodation and we had all the facilities we needed. It was just a brisk walk to the pool, running track, gym and roads for cycling.   

Before we knew it, it was time to pack up our bike bags again and get on more planes for 7 hours to travel back to Japan. This time we were going to Osaka for another Asian Cup. When we arrived we met up with the Triathlon Australia Young Guns Tour which included the Junior Worlds Triathlon team and National Talent Academy athletes. This made for a large group of talented Aussie athletes on tour through Asia and it meant that I was reunited with my sister again.

Osaka was sprint distance this time, which halved the race time in the heat compared to Gamagori. I’d raced here two years ago, so I was familiar with the course which included a hilly bike that I was keen for. I always have a bit of extra excitement when I get to line up with my sister too. Another race briefing, media conference and it was time go time again. I had number 1 tattooed on my arm and I was determined to keep that placing by the end of the race. 

I got off to another good start in this race tooand was once again in the front pack coming out the water. Myself and two other Japanese athletes had a small break at the start of the bike but soon we had a pack of about 12 of us. The 20km ride consisted of going up and over a bridge, u-turning, then coming back up and over, four times. Our group rode pretty well together and as we came to the end of the bike I started preparing myself for a hard and hot 5km run. 

Transition was pretty narrow so I wanted to get in and out of there as quickly as I could. On the last downhill off the bridge I rode hard and continued to through the corners of the last 2kms of the bike course. On the last corner I looked behind me and I had a small gap to the rest of the pack. Annoyingly I didn't get my right run shoe on as quickly as I'd hoped so I was second out of transition but my small break did make for a slightly smoother transition.

After the first few hundred metres I passed the New Zealand athlete that was in front of me and settled into my pace. For the rest of the 5km run I had the lead bike in front of me and Japanese athletes behind chasing me. My legs felt worse running this 5km run than they did for my 10km run at Gamagori. But I so badly wanted to make it two from two. I had most of my squad and coach cheering me on from the sidelines and I could see Kira running strong in the top 10 and it helped me push through the run. I came around the final corner and could see the finishing straight. It made the finish a bit nicer, having time to high five the crowd this time. And saying it felt good to break that finish line tape again is an understatement. I felt so proud to be able to execute two races well and come away with two wins.

You can check out this finish here; https://www.facebook.com/JapanTriathlonUnion/videos/1051625204873059/ or watch highlights from the race from this link; https://www.facebook.com/JapanTriathlonUnion/videos/1053947361307510/   

It was a bit of a struggle packing the same day of the race and flying to Singapore at 11.30pm. But frolicking in the hotel pool for over an hour when we arrived at the Singapore race hotel wasn’t so bad. We had a couple of easy days recovering from the last race and preparing for the next. Going for runs or trips to the shopping centre felt a bit more normal with Singapore being a lot more westernised than the places I’d been. I was running along paths instead of past huts like in Thailand and the currency of Singapore dollars was a lot easier to convert than Thailand Bart. 

Less than a week from the last race and I was competing again in the Olympic distance Singapore Asian Cup. I was just as pumped for this final race in the Asian tour as I was for the last two. And I was more than determined to grab another win to make it a hat trick! 

The Elite Women had a huge field of 8, but I was glad that the start wasn’t going to be as hectic as usual. The recount for this race is slightly less exciting than the last two. I ran into the water and swam like I would if there was 50 people in the race, hard. I got to the first turning buoy 300m off shore, rounded it and then looked behind to see I had a gap to the next person. From there on I had a solo race. The 1500m swim, 42km bike and 10km run turned into a time trial. I’m pretty certain this was the hottest combination of temperature and humidity for races on this tour. On the bike I’d be riding either side of the road depending on where the most shade was and I was desperate for every water station on the run. That run was ugly too. I could tell I’d just rode 40km by myself when I started running, that’s for sure.    

But I started cracking a smile when I saw the finishing tape for the third time on this tour. I didn't know if heading to Asia with the goal to have 3 wins from 3 races was too ambitious. But I backed myself and trusted in the work I'd done and I'm so over the moon to say I got that hat trick I was chasing and executed each race well. The Asian tour for 2016 couldn't have been any more successful! I'll take the confidence from these races back to my training and get into the hard work once again that I love so much. 

Each triathlon race may be individual, but without a team behind you, it’s not possible. Firstly, thank you Triathlon Australia and the many staff who made the Young Guns Tour for 2016 happen. It was made such a great trip with such a good bunch of people from athletes to coaches. We never walk away from these tours without gaining from the experience. 

Special mentions to coaches Josh White and Stuart Denton, and to team dietitian Taryn Richardson.  An especially big thanks to my coach Mr Daniel Atkins, as always I couldn’t have done it without you and your constant support means so much to me. And the indescribable support from you two Mum and Dad, means the absolute world to me and I hope I make you proud each time I line up on the start line. Extra thanks to Bernard Savage, Miles Stewart, Craig Redman and Emma Moffet. To my personal sponsors of Liv and Instinct Sports Nutrition, I love representing your brand and can’t thank you enough for your support, and thanks to the Western Australian Institute of Sport too. Also to Parabellum International and Anvil Angus, your immense contribution to my sister and I’s triathlon career will never go unnoticed. And a quick mention to my little sister, I’m so proud of you. There’s no one I love racing with more, than with you. 

Last Sunday was spent packing up bikes for the final time, exploring Singapore and then the eighth flight back home and to my favourite country in the world. The Under 23 Worlds team will be announced very soon, which I'm aiming to be selected in. If this is the case I'll be training for the next 6 weeks on the Gold Coast and then I'll head over to Mexico in September for the 2016 World Triathlon Championships. Here’s to all the hours and kilometres of hard work coming my way!