Comfort Zones

For the first time in a long time, I can finally say I have routine in my life. And it’s amazing. But I’ve become a creature of habit; a creature of operating in my comfort zones — especially when it comes to my training.

I’m a morning person. The 4am alarms are my friend. Going to an evening squad session only happens after a lengthy internal dialogue trying to find excuses not to go.

Being a morning person works in my favour when it comes to racing, as most races start in the morning. I have my routine – my comfort zone/safety blanket routine…and it mainly revolves around food. I know what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat to get me through the race. But yesterday, things were thrown in turmoil (slight exaggeration) when I raced the Byron Bay triathlon. It’s a lunchtime start…my wave started at 12:37.

For the past week my mind has been occupied with how I was going to adjust to the late start. What would I eat, when would I eat…and how much would I eat? I remember running the Twilight 10 km a few years ago with a start time of 5pm. I was bloated and sluggish from grazing all day — it wasn’t pleasant.

Although this race was going to challenge my comfort zones, I knew I would reap the benefits of racing later in the day as Ironman Cairns 70.3 is only five weeks away, and I’ll be out on the course at similar times.

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Byron Bay was a new course for me; I have only raced Olympic Distance (OD) at Mooloolaba. Byron Bay—like Mooloolaba—is an ocean swim, but has a few more hills on bike course and finishes with flat run (4 x 2.5 km loops). With nearly four months of solid training for Cairns, I was hopeful to shave few minutes off my previous OD time.

I had heard reports that the swim was the one of the best around — clear and calm waters. And it didn’t disappoint — you could see the fishes swimming below. Unseasonably warm weather turned it into a non-wetsuit swim, but I still managed one of the best swims I have ever had in a race, not only because I enjoyed it, but I took a few minutes off my time.

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Out of the swim and onto the bike. During the race briefing the organisers made three points about the bike leg: the Byron Bay Council had recently invested in improving the roads; 17,000 locals and tourists would be inconvenienced today with race road closures; and they had added an extra 3.8 km loop to make it the required 40 km for OD.

The majority of the bike leg involved dodging pot holes and uneven bumps in the road, and white-knuckled gripping of the aero bars to stop myself from being flung off the bike. It was also very short of the proclaimed 40 km; it was only 33 km. For a moment I thought I was supposed to do the extra loop twice and had visions of finishing first and then being disqualified. I had a quick conversation with another competitor coming into transition and he too had the same distance — phew, no disqualification.

All that was left was a 10 km run. Running is my strength, but it wasn’t my day for it. A stitch crept in after the first lap and I had to work through it for another 6 km. It was the first time I had worn a heart-rate monitor during a race, and I think the pressure of it against me exasperated the pain. My mouth was starting to tingle and I was very close to stopping for a mid-race vomit. I decided to ditch the heart-rate monitor, and I finally started to feel good…on the last lap. Stitch aside, I still managed a PB time on the run.

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After 2hrs 25min, I was finished. I would love to gloat about my time, but it’s hard knowing the bike leg was short. I’m a bit of a numbers nerd, so when I got home I worked out how much 7 km would be with my average speed of the day. Taking this into considering, I’ve given myself a time of 2.38 for the day. And that I will proudly gloat about. It’s 9 minutes faster than my last OD, but best of all, the race gave me a little more confidence for Cairns.

Bring. It. On…minus the heart-rate monitor.

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