On the train home after returning from Taizhou, China, just under a month ago, I was talking to Mum and Dad on the phone. I discussed with them that whilst I was happy with how I raced in Taizhou, I returned to Australia slightly unsatisfied and wanting more. I knew there was another standard distance race in China in a months time, and as soon as I suggested the idea to race again, Mum and Dad said they’d had the exact same thought. The next day I spoke to Dan at training, and that night my flights were booked for another trip to China at the end of June.
Dongdaihe was the host city for the Asian Cup this time, located on the coast of China. At briefing we were told it was going to be a hot race, no surprise there, then as I was riding from the hotel to the race, it was raining and lightening was spotted. This was a slight turn of events. Mind you, it’s not like the rain and overcast skies made it a whole lot cooler. But added to the turn of events, was the sight of the ocean when I arrived at the race site. The day before there was a slight ripple across the top of the water during swim familiarisation, but today there were waves! As soon as I saw the ocean, it reminded me of a morning on the Gold Coast. I had a little bit more excitement for this swim. Possibly also because the waves had cleared the thousands of jellyfish that were blobbing about during swim familiarisation.
I had done my run warm up from the hotel, then rode to the race with a lovely tail wind, so just the swim warm up was left. Just getting two hundred metres out past the break was getting my heart rate up, so I felt warmed up pretty quickly. A few ins and outs and it was time to line up as the clouds started clearing.
Despacito played through the speakers and then all became quiet and calm as the heart beat music played. The gun went, we all took a few running steps and then dived into the ocean. It was pretty hard to sight the first buoy at this stage because of the waves, so the first focus was getting out past the break. I swam and hardly looked around, I just wanted to get through this first section quickly and then get into a rhythm.
As I could sight the first buoy I noticed I was in the lead. First mission of a good start was successful! As I rounded the first buoy I checked back as I went around to see where the rest of the field was, and I could see a trail of swimmers behind me leading into the main pack. I got myself into a rhythm, swam around the two remaining buoys and then headed back into shore.
There was a sandbar about a hundred metres out from the beach creating the first set of breaking waves whilst swimming in. The next mission was to catch one coming in on this first lap. This mission was also a success, and when I ran out of the water and around the buoy, heading in for the second lap, I saw I had a break on the field. Now to see if I could hold this.
I worked my way out past the break again, around the buoys and headed back into shore. I caught one wave and then another. I got to my feet, started running and checked behind me. Well this is a new experience. The next athlete was about 30 seconds behind me, I couldn’t believe it. I’d never been so calm running into transition before.
Cap and goggles were swapped for my helmet and bike, and it was out onto the bike course. We headed out straight for a kilometre or so and then turned right onto a four lap square course. I got up to speed and started taking in nutrition straight away. I knew I had a solid gap because once I got my feet in my shoes I still couldn’t see the others behind me yet. But I also knew there was 40km of riding to go. I wasn’t going to ride 40km solo but it didn’t feel right to just sit up and soft pedal. I got on my TT bars, watched my av watts and checked my heart rate with how quickly I was breathing. I wanted to ride at a pace that was comfortable but not slow.
Towards the end of the first lap of four the front pack caught me. Sophie and Britt came past me leading the pack, and they both said good job for my start to the race. How good is racing with friends! There were another eight to ten athletes in the pack, so we rolled through the next thirty kilometres and then prepared to dismount. I’d gone through both my bottles and gels on the bike, it was hot! And it was going to be an even hotter run as it hit midday.
The next mission was a smooth transition. Spoiler alert, this mission was unsuccessful. I dismounted and lead the pack around and into transition. Racked my bike and then my run shoes were suppose to go on quickly. But my pinky toe wasn’t complying and instead it wanted to get caught on the inside of my shoe. Once it eventually did what is was suppose to do and both shoes were on, I headed out and saw I was now towards the back of the pack and the leader was about 15 seconds in front of me. Damn it.
Running off in Taizhou I was a bit conservative since it was the first hard ten kilometres I’d ran in a really long time. But I was ready to push this time. So now the first mission of this run was to catch the leader, but not by going too hard too quickly. I passed a few athletes in the first few hundred metres and kept my eyes on the leader.
We had four laps out and back on a straight road. So if you had people in front of you, like me, you could see where they were the whole time. Coming back on the first lap I’d caught up to third and fourth who were running together. I just wanted to keep my pace going so I went past them and could see first and second running together up the road.
I rounded the u-turn and headed out on lap two. We had four water stations each lap, and thank goodness for that! I’ve never been so happy to be handed cold sponges before. I rounded the u-turn at the far end and got onto the feet of the two leaders. We were running into a headwind heading back, so I decided to sit behind them and try and recover a little. But I still wanted to push this run. So once we u-turned, with five kilometres to go, I surged. I could hear them running just behind me. I kept the pace going and after a few hundred metres I couldn’t hear them any more. I u-turned down the far end and saw I had a break. About three point eight kilometres left to run. I didn’t look back and put in everything I had left to hold onto the best pace I could. My focus constantly switched between my technique cues and getting to that finish line tape first.
After the fourth lap, I made a left hand turn a hundred metres or so from the finish line and I looked back to see the next two athletes about twenty seconds behind me. And it hit me instantly. I ran through the finish line and grabbed the tape with a whole lot of emotions running through me. The win didn’t just mean a win in this race. This win meant all the battles I’d faced over the last six months, I’d fought them head on and I’d won. I’d been dreaming for a long time of executing a race from start to finish just how I’d planned it. And from that, getting the oh so damn good feeling of achieving exactly what you’d set out to do. And when the fight is that much harder, it is true when they say the victory is that much sweeter. I finally felt that again, and at that point in time, I could not be happier.
Thank you for having us China, a slightly spontaneous trip turned out pretty well! And it goes without saying, the thanks to a large team of people to get me here. Most importantly to my Mum and Dad and coach Dan Atkins, and to the support from the Queensland Academy of Sport and Triathlon Australia. Plus my sponsors Instinct Sports Nutrition, Kozii Swimwear, Black Sheep Cycling and Gold Coast Physio and Sports Health. I’m so lucky to be involved with so many good and invested people.
Now, it’s back to training on the Gold Coast for a couple of weeks and then mid July I fly to America for the first two rounds of the Major League Triathlon series with the Gold Coast Tritons team. My season has started a bit late, but I’m very keen for what’s to come. Thanks for the read!