It’s 3am and the world is still sleeping as I creep out of bed, careful not to wake my partner. It’s dark outside and I don’t normally like getting up before the fours but today is not an ordinary day. Today is race day.
I’ve borrowed Dad’s ute to get me to the event because it’s a bit difficult to transport my bicycle on the back of my motorbike. I packed almost everything last night; the only thing left to do is to tie on the bicycle. I didn’t want to leave it out on the back of the ute overnight because I was worried it might get stolen. However, I also forgot to close the garage door before we went to bed so it made no difference.
It’s dark and quiet as I drive past our local vineyard on the way to the race. I can barely make out the rows of vines. There’s no traffic on the road; only crazy triathletes get up this early on a Sunday. As I cross Brisbane’s Gateway Bridge a feint glimmer of red starts to rise out of the horizon to the east. I have the radio turned up and am singing my lungs out to some random country song.
I stop at the Caboolture Travel Centre to use the bathrooms. It’s not that I can’t wait the extra twenty minutes to Toorbul but I know that there’s always a long queue to use the bathrooms before a race. It seems I am not alone at wanting to avoid the pre-race queues. Five other male triathletes had the same idea and we laugh together about the unofficial fourth leg of triathlon: the toilet queue.
As I drive east towards Toorbul I am struck by the beauty of the sun shining through the clouds. I wish I’d brought a camera because I would have stopped on the side of the road to capture the moment.
Toorbul is a usually sleepy town on the western bank of the Pumicestone Passage about an hour north of Brisbane. At 5am today, however, it is race-central. There are cars, bicycles and families everywhere. I join the fray, untying my bike from the back of the ute before riding down to the registration area to pick up my race pack and get numbered.
Today I’m number 54. The volunteers mark my arms and legs with marker pens and send me off to rack my bike. In the transition area I rack my bike by its seat, set my helmet, race number and sunglasses up on my tri-bars, and put my shoes and hat on my bright green towel. That’s my secret to finding my bike – my bright green towel.
It feels good to see my bike racked and ready for the race, which is still almost two hours away. Now I am a triathlete. From now until I get home I don’t have to worry about anything other my race. There’s nothing I can do about work or other life stresses. All I can do is relax and watch my fellow triathletes prepare for their races. That’s exactly what I do.
My race starts at7:45am with a 750m swim in the Pumicestone Passage. I’m in the 30-34 age category and we are starting in a wave with all the under-40 men. There is no gun, just the race director’s voice telling us “go”. I let the bulk of the men in my wave go before me to thrash it out in the washing machine. I watch as they bunch up together on the right to get ‘the best line’ to the first buoy so I head slightly to the left, staying out of trouble. I’m not here to win and I also know that I’m one of the strongest swimmers out there.
We duck dive for about 100m along the muddy bank before the water is deep enough to swim. By the time I reach the first buoy I have overtaken the main bunch and am swimming with a few men in the second or third pack. It’s a long way to the next turning buoy so I settle into a rhythm, enjoying the sight of the sun rising ever higher over the Passage. I love the swim leg; it’s always beautiful.
I am swimming alone by the time I turn around the second buoy and head for shore. Most of the field is behind me and only the fastest ten men are in front. The sound of the rubber ducky’s engine scares me a bit because I didn’t expect to hear it behind me. But it doesn’t stop my momentum. I catch two more men on the final approach to the beach and duck dive my way along the muddy banks to the boat ramp.
My transition to the bike is clunky. I have no troubles finding my bike and heading to the road but once out I have trouble getting my feet into my shoes, which I left clipped onto my pedals.
Once my shoes are on I quickly pick up speed and take off on the three-lap 24km bike course. The cycle course is crowded and it soon becomes apparent that it will be impossible not to draft in this event. At first I try to do the right thing by dropping 7m back from cyclists who pass me but after riding at 26kph for a few hundred metres I realise the futility of the situation. It is literally impossible not to be within the draft zone of other cyclists so I accept the race situation and ride my own race.
The cycle course is fast and flat. I ride at an average of 33.1kph for the whole course, including time taken to slow for the many corners and for the two u-turns in each lap. On the straights my speed hovers around 39kph, which is very fast for me. I enjoy the sensation of flying along on the bike with my Zipp 530 rims humming beneath me.
My transition to the run was terrible. I lost a lot of time and momentum struggling to rack my bike properly and then concentrating on putting on my running shoes. I think I even sat down in my disorientation; something I never do in transition.
It was hot when I started the run. My Garmin recorded the temperature at just under 30’C. It took me about 1.5km to settle into a rhythm. I told myself to relax as I looked out over the Passage, where the sun was creating a sparkled effect.
The out and back course was flat but I was starting to feel the effects of being two weeks late with my testosterone injection and struggled a little bit. I take testosterone injections every 11 weeks because of my being transgender. I will have to take testosterone for the rest of my life unless there is a medical breakthrough. Forgetting to have my injection for two weeks messed with my hormones and energy levels.
Rather than stress myself about feeling slow, I focused on my form and the lovely view over the water. I still managed to overtake a few triathletes who were struggling more than I was. But when I got to the water station about 500m from the finish I decided that I wanted to finish strong so I sprinted all the way. It always feels great to cross the line with power.
I finished eighth in my category in a field of eleven men and I was 42nd in the whole field of about 160 triathletes. My time was a respectable 1 hour and 25 minutes. But most importantly, I enjoyed the race and am motivated to train for my next triathlon on 19 February 2012.