Tri Worlds, Auckland

A quick report before I drop off the network for what may be almost three weeks:

Mom and I have spent the past week each expressing our pre-race anxiety in our own fashion: Mom became increasingly frantic about details, hitting “refresh” on the weather every five minutes, performing exegesis upon the International Triathlon Union’s rule-book, and talking through every possible combination and permutation of race-day equipment.

I became increasingly quiet, sullen, and withdrawn, to the point of flouncing off to my room at 7:30 the night before the race.

In other words, it was 1982 all over again. 🙂

The weather in Auckland has been typical spring in a sea-bound climate: intermittent rain and westerly gales… and it became the real story leading up to the race. The day before was appalling, and my heart goes out to the Junior Men who raced in a sheeting thunderstorm.

And the wind blew.

We got good workouts in during the week – some swimming, acclimatizing to the water (very fresh, not as cold as we had feared), the bike course (somewhat hilly, not as bad as we had feared), and the run course, which was very twisty. Imagine a waterfront sidewalk on a quiet business day, with a whole bunch of international visitors in lycra standing around, rotating maps in their hands, scratching their heads. I made friends with an Aussie, a Kiwi, and a Mexican as we fumbled around the course arguing over whether we were still on it.

And the wind blew.

There were plenty of things to see and do in the pre-race days, and lots of opportunities to see Auckland. I really like this city. It is bright and energetic and has a great sense of fun and interesting architecture. Our Canadian uniforms stood out, not at all subtle. This turned out to be a very good thing, as they were also screaming indicators to the local drivers that the person wearing the maple-leaf jacket was likely to wander out into traffic, looking the wrong way like a bloody idiot.

And then, suddenly, it was race day. Mom’s start was long before mine, but I had to go check into transition and set up my little Triathlon Shrine early. I got to see her start, come out of the water, and transition onto the bike. The crowd was happy to get behind her, especially when I told them “That’s my MOM!!!” Then it was time to go kit up and get ready to race.

I saw her cross the finish line while I was corralled for our start. I cried when the announcer said, “AND HERE IS FAIRBAIRN POWERS, BRONZE MEDALLIST IN THE 70-74 AGE GROUP WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP” I slugged the woman next to me: “That’s my mom!!!!” (She and about twenty of her team-mates returned the favour later during the swim.)

And the wind blew.

Swim

F45-49 were 80-strong, so we got our own wave start. We were herded onto a platform at the water’s edge, where a marshall both ordered us into place and managed to lighten the mood by telling a few jokes like “Remember. You paid to be here.” for what was probably the 40th time. We had to jump in and hold the platform until the horn. There was no warmup other than the nervous bouncing we did in the corrals.

The first leg, sheltered by the wharves, was the most aggressive punch-fest I’ve ever been in. I was swum over once, repelled a second attempt with vicious kicking, have a hint of a black eye, and found myself swearing at someone who kept unnecessarily crowding me. Really tough. Once we left the shelter, though, we had other problems. The wind was screaming across an opposing tide, which produced a heavy square chop. This left us body-surfing into a heavy current on the longest leg of the swim. I completely lost sight of the buoys for a while and drifted too far. Between that and the head current, this swim was ten minutes longer than I wanted. I was so happy to scramble out onto the platform again.

T1

Heh. Wetsuit-stripping is a much less pressing issue when you must run 325m before you even get to your bike. The 3000-bike transition zone made for a very long round trip. This was good and bad. The good part was that the loong jogs in and out of transition actually let me clear my head and get ready for the next thing. The less-good was that between the two transitions, we ran an extra mile. This bit my mom, whose knees had exactly 5k in them. I opted out of a flying mount at the last minute and took a slightly more conservative start. This is fine: I didn’t fall down, which is better than many people.

Bike

Always my strongest leg, I still kept it dialed back a bit to help with Goal #1, “Don’t die on the run.” The howling wind had a blessing: it was at our backs on most of the hills. Coming back in, I took advantage of my size and weight and hunkered deep into the bars and just held the bike down slugging into the gale. Two laps, one playing leapfrog with a 30-something woman, the next being passed by a stream of 45-something men. Great dismount, off into…

T2

Another 650m of running or thereabouts. I think I had pretty well shaken the kinks out of my legs by the time I actually found my running shoes.

Run

The run was also affected by the wind but I managed a fairly steady sub-5:00/km pace throughout. I am very pleased. Managed to eke out enough effort to gradually speed up through the run, run down a few competitors, hold off a few more, and only give up three. One of them, unfortunately was on the blue carpet at the finish, but I definitely finished empty, and besides, she was so nice afterward.

On the whole:

PW race time, credited partly to the difficult swim and partly to the huge transition zone. Regardless, I’m happy with the execution and flow of the race overall and am now looking forward to a few weeks offline backpacking and exploring the South Island.

Thanks to so many people for equipment loans, coaching, training partnership, and just plain putting up with my cranky tired self.

Time to go play.

3 thoughts on “Tri Worlds, Auckland”

  1. A great write-up, as usual, Kate. You make the reader feel like they’re getting pummeled along with you in the swim. And I swear my hair is windblown now.

    I know how hard you worked to prepare for this grand event. I’m guessing you don’t have the tri race experience the others have, so doubly good. And I think it’s really extra extra special you were able to share this with your Mom.

    (You know I love you and your Mom, Kate, but I’d need at least 650m distance away from the pre-race anxiety. Whoa. 😀 )

    Can’t wait to hear in person all the adventures upon your return. Hope the rest of it is as memorable as the race.

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