Jaz Hedgeland

Rounding out the 2016 Season

Jaz Hedgeland
Rounding out the 2016 Season

Tongyeong World Cup

Whilst I was traveling back to Australia from the World Championships I received an email that I was on the start list for the last two World Cups of the 2016 season. So it was back to Australia, a few weeks of training, and then flying to Asia for two more races to round out the season. 

The first was the Tongyeong World Cup in South Korea and it was a sprint distance race. Being my first time to Korea, I didn’t know what to expect, but the fishing town where the race was being held was quite a scenic little spot. In the days leading into the race I went for runs and rode over the small rolling hills surrounding the harbour which contained more fishing nets than I’d seen in my entire life combined. I’m always keen to explore a new place and I was even more keen to see how I’d go in my first World Cup race in a while. I didn’t really know how I’d go or where I’d sit amongst the field of athletes, but I was feeling good and I was ready to give these last two races a good crack! 

With about 50 girls diving off the pontoon and all aiming for the one buoy 300m ahead, there was always going to be chaos. I started swimming and felt myself right amongst that chaos. But as we rounded the far buoys, I started passing people. And as I swam the 300m back towards the shore I’d passed everyone in the second pack and had started bridging the gap to the first pack.

I didn’t catch the front group by the swim exit, so now I had to do it on the bike. I knew there was a gap between myself and the pack of girls behind me coming out of the water and I decided then that I wasn’t going to wait. I wanted to come out of the swim in the front pack, but I hadn’t done that, so I had to keep fighting until I bridged that gap. 

Wetsuit off and into the box with my cap and goggles. Helmet on, grab my bike. Run. Mount. Ridehard. I was running each task through my head whilst being as efficient as I could to make up every second I could. We had three laps on the bike and by the time we were on the downhill heading towards the first u-turn to come back on the first lap, I had caught the front group. Now I could put my feet in my shoes.

I used the rest of the first lap to recover and work out who was where. Soon it was apparent that the second pack had caught on and now we had a fairly large group leading the cycle. The pace noticeably eased up as all the quick runners were in the front group and everyone wanted to save their legs. 

We rolled through the final two laps and coming into transition I knew the time difference between being the first off and last off in a group this size, is worth being up the front for. So that’s why I was first to step onto the ground and start running towards my bike rack. 

Rack bike. Helmet into the box. Left shoe on, right shoe on. Run hard. Being a sprint distance and only a 5km run, I knew the girls would take off fast. And I had to go with them. I was third out of transition and Ai Ueda was first out. I caught up to Yuko Takahashi and was running with her as Summer Cook came past us. Renee Tomlin and Felicity Sheedy-Ryan joined Yuko and myself, forming a group and running together for the first lap.

Summer and Ai were running up ahead. As our group headed out onto the second lap of two, the four of us started to string out, and I was at the back. I knew as soon as too much distance was gained it would be that much harder to close it. I kept fighting each step to stay as close to those girls as I could. Then we headed up a damn steep hill and I was driving my feet into the group and focussed on the girls in front. 

We u-turned at the top and it’s one weird feeling with so much lactic in your legs from the uphill effort to then run downhill as fast as you can. But I had caught Yuko and passed her. There was about 400m to the finish line and I had my vision fixed on Renee and Felicity fighting out for third place up ahead. I can catch them I told myself. I didn’t know if Yuko was right behind me or if I had some distance, I was purely focused on moving my legs and arms as fast as I could to catch those two in front before we crossed the line. But they were moving as fast as I was so I wasn’t able to catch them. I finished in 5th place, 9 seconds behind third place and 41 seconds behind first. 

Immediately as I crossed the finish line I felt disappointment. I could see the podium position running down the finish shoot and it hurts when it’s that close and you don’t quite get there. But I was absolutely exhausted. I couldn’t have run any faster, and I started to rethink. I did have a solid race, and it was the first time that’d happened in a long time. Happiness started to replace the disappointment as I started thinking how I was competitive with the front end of the field. Everything felt like it was starting to come together again. Yes, that was a good race! 


Miyazaki World Cup

The next morning at 3.30am our transfer bus departed the hotel in Tongyeong and by the end the day we’d arrived at Miyazaki in Japan. There was one week to recover and prepare for the next World Cup. There were only 32 girls on the start list for this race, but all the top girls from Tongyeong were racing again. After my result in Tongyeong I was so keen for the Miyazaki World Cup. I knew where I was sitting amongst the girls and I had built up some confidence. However the Miyazaki World Cup was double the distance, so it was still going to be a different race. 

Miyazaki was a deep water start and a two lap swim. When looking at the start line the right hand side lined up with the first right hand turning buoy, so starting as close to the right as possible seemed logical. I was number 9 but managed to be about 7 spots from the right side. The water had seemed to drop 5 degrees between my warm up swim and getting in for the race, but soon we’d all cautiously made our way down the boat ramp and were lined up and holding the rope, and the temperature of the water was the least of my worries. 

I wanted to improve on my start from the last race, and that’s what I did. I swam hard until I was comfortably in about third or fourth position. We rounded the buoys half way through the first lap and I’d secured my spot in third and I was going to make sure I stayed there until the end of the swim. 

There was one less task running through my head whilst going through transition without a wetsuit this time. And I was where in I wanted to be, in the first pack. Much like Tongyeong there was a smallish first group. This time I was riding hard to try and keep a gap to the next pack instead of trying to close that gap. However our group wasn’t working as well as it could have and after a few laps the second pack caught us. There were surges and attacks out of corners and along straights throughout the windy eight lap bike course, but each time the large group came back together. 

With a couple of laps to go the front six or so of us had a break after some cornering through transition. We noticed the gap, so we rode hard. But then we had to come to almost a dead stop for a tight u-turn and then there was no longer a gap. We’d all be heading for the dismount line together. 

I was out of transition with the front girls and once again Ai Ueda set a cracking pace from the start. Summer Cook and Renee Tomlin were running together just behind her. I knew to run well I had to build this run, so I found myself amongst a pack of about 5 others, from what I could see, with a gap to Renee and Summer. After the first lap of four, one of the girls in our group put in a surge and we strung out a bit but then came back together. As we came to the end of the lap and half way through the run, I was feeling good and started mentally preparing myself to surge at the start of the next lap. 

I did, and kept backing myself that I could hold this pace for the remaining 5km of the race. The wind had been picking up as the race went on and there was a damn strong headwind coming back on each lap. I knew the other girls were still behind me and my surge hadn’t split the group but now I was setting the pace. 

As we headed out onto the final lap I could see we were closing in on Renee who was now running in third place. She still had a large lead over us but I could see her. And just like Tongyeong, I wanted to close that gap. I knew it wasn’t in my best interest to be running into the headwind on the last lap with girls sitting behind me with a short stretch of tailwind to the finish line. But I didn’t want to slow down. I kept running as hard as I could. 

We continued to gain on Renee and then we turned and headed towards the finish with about 400m to go with a tail wind. Two girls behind me sprinted past and I couldn’t change my speed to go any faster. I didn’t know where the other girls were behind me, but all I was thinking about was that this was the last stretch of my last race for this year. I was hurting like hell to finish this race, and the season off, as best I could. 

I crossed the line in 6th, 14 seconds behind the podium. I didn’t think I could be so happy with a fifth place and then one week later not so happy with sixth. After last week I wanted to get onto that podium this week. And once again I could see third position when I was running towards the finish line. But I’d had two consistent and solid performances in two World Cup races to round out the 2016 season. I was delighted with that.

Now, I’ve enjoyed not setting an alarm for nearly two weeks, consuming slightly more chocolate than usual and waking up without an agenda most days. But my break is coming to an end, and in good time, because I’m starting to feel real strange after not training for this long. Soon I’ll be back at it with the GCNPC squad and it’ll be 2017 before I know it. 

With another triathlon season complete, comes many thanks to those around me. Thank you to Andrew at Instinct Sports Nutrition and Katt at Liv Cycling Australia, who’s brands I’m honoured to represent. Thank you to Triathlon Australia and the Western Australian Institute of Sport for their huge amounts of support. Thank you to the special people at Parabellum International and Anvil Angus who have been a large part of not only helping my ambitions happen, but my sister’s as well. Thank you to my coach and friend, Dan Atkins, who’s there every day of the year working harder than all of us in the squad will ever know. Thank you for your fantastically efficient help and congratulations also to Emma Moffett on the arrival of her baby girl. And to finish it off, thank you to my parents, you both know how much you mean to me. I’m counting down the days until you arrive!

My festive season will involve training, celebrating the past season with my family and cheering on Kira as she starts her last season as a Junior. I hope you all have an extremely enjoyable festive season as well. Then comes 2017 and racing begins again!