TQ Sprint Championships

Soaking wet on the beach

It’s still dark when I arrive at Pelican Park, Clontarf for the TQ State Sprint Championships. While I was originally going to compete in this race, I decided against it because my race schedule is already full. So I decided to volunteer as a technical official instead.

The sun came up as we had our race briefing and it grew light as we opened transition to check the athletes and their bikes in. Over the next hour and a half I helped my fellow officials check in hundreds of bikes. I lot of first timers and primary-school aged children had been attracted to this race so we were kept busy helping to properly adjust helmets and show newcomers where and how to rack their bikes. I thought it was fantastic to see so many random bicycles entering transition because it means people weren’t scared to enter the race on mountain bikes, hybrids and even a few adult bicycles with baskets on them.

The elite wave started shortly after transition closed. I went down to the beach to work on the swim leg and was thrilled to be told I was getting a ride on the back of the rescue jet ski. The sand on the beach dropped away steeply so I had to wade waist deep in the water to climb aboard the jet ski. But wading in the water was delightfully cooling. And the ride on the jet ski didn’t disappoint me. We even got to zoom along quickly a few times to herd wayward swimmers back towards the course when they went very wrong.

Bright green lanes between the bike racks

After working on the swim course during the elite race I was reallocated to the mount line and transition for the rest of the day. The next race was the kids race (10-11 year olds). The field ranged from youngsters in full triathlon racing kit to kids in shorts and t-shirts who rode BMX bikes. Their race was changed to a duathlon due to jelly fish on the swim course. After all the kids were out on the bike course I moved back into transition to help them in T2.

Everything was going well until a young girl missed the clearly marked run exit and somehow ended up heading out the swim chute. She was so short I couldn’t see her over the bikes but a spectator pointed her out and I set off on what was probably the fastest 400m sprint I’ve ever run, chasing her down (she had a head start of about 200m) and calling out for someone to help me get her to turn around. When I caught up with her, I ran ahead of the girl to make sure she went in the right direction but her legs were spent after the effort.

The next race was the mini kids race (6-9 year olds). Again I helped by showing them to the mount line and then moved back to T2 to help them as they returned from their bike ride. It was pleasing to hear so many parents supporting their kids in a positive way rather than pushing them to go faster. The kids responded to the encouragement by racing out of T2 as fast as their little legs could carry them. If the smiles on these kids’ faces was anything to go by, the sport of triathlon is in good hands.

After all the other mini kids were either finished or running down their finish chute a tiny girl came into T2 on her tiny little bike. Her mum was encouraging her but she looked a bit lost, unsurprising given she was probably only 6 years old. There were a few turns on the run course and the marshals had started to move to their positions for the next race, not realising there was still one mini kid to go out. So I went out and ran the 500m course to make sure she knew the way. As she turned down the finish chute I stopped and watched her mum give her a big hug at the finish.

The age groupers were racing for points in the competition to represent Australia at the ITU Sprint Distance World Championships in Auckland later this year. I spent a long time standing out on the mount line letting the athletes know where they could mount their bikes. There were men and women in their 30s and 40s who are effectively professional amateurs, athletes for whom it was going to be a long day carrying a few extra kilograms around the course, and older athletes who told me they were grandparents. Some looked fresh coming across the mount line, swinging their legs easily over their saddles while others already looked tired and struggled to get onto their bikes.

Back in transition after the last cyclist was out on the bike course, I helped and watched as triathletes headed out onto the run leg. The atmosphere was electric as everyone dug deep in the hot sun to get out and complete the final 5km of the race on foot.

The last event for the day was the Tri-it-Out event for first timers over 12 years old. This event always excites me the most because the triathletes who take part are not only competing in their first events but are also the future age-groupers of the sport. I again took up my post on the mount line and helped the athletes to know where they could mount their bikes. The smiles (and smiles through pain) were inspiring. I finished the day in T2.

It was a long hot morning out on the course and after leaving home at 3:30am I was finally able to take off my vest at about 11:15am. Before I rode my motorbike back home I found a shady tree near the water and slept soundly for just over an hour.

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