Tag Archives: Technical official

Quick summary last two days

A slick day on the bike course at the Australian Youth Triathlon Championships

I’ve been quite busy this week so haven’t had time to blog properly. This is a quick summary of the last two days training.

Bike ride Wednesday

I did a 20 minute warm up at 31.1kph along mainly flat roads. Then followed it with a 20 minute hard set on hilly roads at 29.5kph average speed. Then I ended my ride with 12:45 at 26.3kph cool down. I was really happy with my ride because it shows I’m consistently riding faster than I was before I started this program.

Total:  25.81km @ 29.3kph.

Run Thursday

I was supposed to do 12 x 400m repeats at race pace this morning but was short of time because I had to leave home at 4:50am to get to the Australian Youth Triathlon Championships on the Sunshine Coast where I was volunteering as a technical official. I got up just before 4am and got 7 x 400m repeats completed before I had to get ready to leave.

I started with a 1.5km warm-up during which I measured out some 400m stretches of road near my home. Then I did my reps in the darkness as rain started to fall. I had 30 – 60 seconds rest between each rep:

  1. 1:25:15 (395m – 3:35 pace)
  2. 1:06:72 (317m – I totally blew up – 3:31 pace)
  3. 1:39:90 (428m – 3:53 pace)
  4. 1:37:60 (399m – 4:05 pace)
  5. 1:39:82 (411m – 4:03 pace)
  6. 1:32:97 (429m – 3:37 pace)
  7. 1:35:70 (401m – 4:02 pace)

I felt awful when I finished my 7 x 400m repeats and barely managed my 350m cool down jog and 200m walk up the steep hill to my home. But at the time I didn’t realise just how fast I was running my repeats. I was disappointed about them all day until just now when I checked my pace and realised I did them really quickly for my current running standards. Now I’m pleased with this morning’s training (and am not surprised I had some cramping between stopping and showering).

Grateful for my new Goretex jacket

Rest of today’s adventures

I spent the rest of today out in the rain at the Australian Youth Triathlon Championships. It took me 2 hours to ride my motorbike to the event and it poured rain the whole way. Visibility was about 50m and I felt like a cold drowned rat when I arrived. I spent the next 4-5 hours out in the rain at the bike turn-around watching some young 13 – 18 year old stars gutting it out on the wet course. I was glad that I bought my self a Goretex jacket last week because I stayed cosy and dry all day despite the rain. I enjoyed the event immensely and it was worth the long 2 hour ride home in some of the most disgusting motorcycling conditions I’ve ever experienced (almost a total grey out with many drivers not bothering to put their lights on or only putting park lights on – making it stressful and tiring, especially seeings my motorbike wet weather gear totally failed).

I was supposed to go for a 60 minute bike ride this evening but the 4 hour return motorbike ride totally took it out of me and I fell asleep on the lounge room floor from about 3pm to 6pm.

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.

Hell of the West Triathlon

Pre-dawn transition

I look up at the night sky just before we open transition to see millions of stars twinkling brightly against the black blanket of darkness. Even with the ambient street lighting it’s darker here in the bush than it ever is back in my city home. I will probably never forget this quiet moment standing in the darkness at 3 o’clock in the morning waiting for the athletes to arrive to rack their bikes in transition. It’s peaceful here with nothing but a street light to cast shadows. We’ve been here for a quarter hour preparing for the 500+ athletes to arrive for their big day racing one of Queensland’s toughest races here in the small country town that forms the border between the crop fields of the Darling Downs and the mystical Outback.

And then the flow of athletes and bikes begins. It starts as a steady trickle, rather like the steady trickle of water that often typifies western Queenland’s river systems. Within half an hour a steady stream of athletes is flowing through the two entrances we have open for transition. We check each has a properly fitted helmet, at least two water bottles (it’s going to be hot out in the summer heat today), bike numbers and a bike that looks safe. It’s pleasant work greeting athletes and wishing them well while drooling over their amazing machines. In the half hour before transition closes the stream becomes a flood as those who tried to get some extra sleep arrive ready to race. Unfortunately, a similar flood is now affecting many of western Queensland’s rivers wreaking havoc to lives. But it hasn’t dampened the spirits of athletes or locals in Goondiwindi who are ready to celebrate the great tradition of the Hell of the West, and a meeting of town and country.

Buses arrive to take the athletes and spectators out to ‘The Pond’ where the 2km swim leg will take place. The extra water in the river has made it unsafe for swimming and the organisers have put Plan B into action. Instead of swimming their 2km in the river close to transition the athletes will swim in a lake at the Botanic Gardens then run the 3.2km back to transition before heading out on the cycle leg. The 20km run leg has been shortened to 16.8km to account for the inconvenience of the run from the swim to transition. A secondary transition has been set up at the swim exit so athletes can wear shoes for the run back to transition. For teams, both the swimmer and runner need to be at The Pond to allow the runner to run back to transition where the cyclist is waiting. The smooth way this Plan B operates is a credit to the race organisers.

Admiring the tractor on display while having coffee

It’s quiet after the athletes leave and we will have about forty minutes before the leaders are expected back in transition. We have time to use the bathrooms now that the queues are gone and to buy coffees to help keep us awake. It’s 5 o’clock in the morning and the street lights still cast their yellow glow over the tens of thousands of dollars worth of bikes racked in transition.

The speaker system crackles to life as the first athlete is about to enter transition. We are ready at the mount line as he races out on his bike. It is difficult to believe he has just swum 2km and run 3.2km because he looks fresh. There is a large gap before the rest of the leading men run out of transition with their bikes. As the sun begins to light the day, the sound of racing wheels rolling along the road fills the air.

For the half hour the athletes come through transition in small groups. Some look fresh while others are already starting to feel the effects of the long swim.As the morning continues the stream of athletes thins until there are long gaps between each man and woman heading out for the long bike ride. By now the street lights have turned off and the sun shines brightly.

The impressive Rotary cooking set-up

We have about half an hour between the last cyclist leaving transition and the first cyclist’s return. It’s just enough time to grab a delicious bacon and egg sandwich from the lovely Rotary volunteers who have set up a camp kitchen. Their trailer-top cooking set up is as impressive as their effective way of feeding the multitude of volunteers who are performing the many roles necessary to make the event happen. The various uniforms (everyone from the SES to the rotary to the scouts to the local tri club and probably more I didn’t identify) are all working together enjoying front row seats in what is a spectacular sporting event.

"Dismount before the line"

Just as I finish my sandwich the first athlete comes around the corner and into transition. Even after an 80km cycle he is able to swing his leg quickly over his saddle and to run quickly into transition. He makes the event look effortless. The other leaders are similarly awe-inspiring in their dismounts and runs into transition. It’s a testament to the miles they must train to seem this relaxed and fresh after the first two disciplines are finished.

All morning long we listen to the telltale cheer from the houses around the corner as cyclists come into transition. Not all have the strength to dismount as gracefully or quickly as the leaders did but that doesn’t lessen the admiration I have for them being able to participate in this tough event.

As the cyclists keep returning to transition I hear that the winners have completed their 102km race having swum 2km, cycled 80km and run 20km. I don’t know what is more inspirational: the speed with which the front-runners complete the course or the courage it must take to continue when you know you are one of the last runners to head out and that, for some, you will have to walk whole sections of the course due to fatigue. The wonderful thing is that the announcer will still call their names and people will still cheer as those near the back of the field come home to complete this tough race on what is now a blistering hot sunny day.

A hot sunny day as the athletes return from transition

I don’t see anyone finish the race. It’s after 11am when the last cyclist enters transition and I have to return to Brisbane. I grab my gear, take a quick shower back at the Victoria Hotel where I stayed the previous night, load my gear on my bike and start the long 400km motorbike trip home to Brisbane. I make it as far as Yelarbon, just 50km down the highway, when I need to pull over and take a power nap in the shade of a gum tree. I catch half an hour of z’s before I am awoken by the familiar voice of Rob who stopped in Yelarbon to buy a coffee.

The long ride home

Somehow I manage to stay awake long enough to get myself safely home. I stop four more times to eat and rest. After a shower and a feed I fall asleep on the couch. It’s only 7:30pm but I’m exhausted from a big weekend; a wonderfully fun weekend at that. I’ve added Hell of the West to my race calendar for 2013, so long as it doesn’t clash with the Tre-X race on 2-3 February.

Tre-X off-road triathlon

Tre-X off-road triathlon transition

Grey skies and rain greet me when I arrive at the Novotel Twin Waters for the Tre-X Back2Back off-road triathlon. But while the skies are depressed the triathletes and events of the next two days certainly aren’t. The racing is fierce, the athletes gutsy, the organisation professional and the atmosphere friendly.

We open transition at 11:15am on Saturday morning and admire the amazing mountain bike machines being wheeled in. These sparkling clean beasts won’t stay that way for long. While the water has drained from much of the sandy bike course there’s still enough mud to leave a mark after the first day’s racing.

There are four back to back races on the schedule. Each race is held both on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning with most athletes going round both days. The first to take to the course are the Teaser athletes who are children aged over 10, teenagers and adults participating in their first off-road event. The Teasers race through a 150m swim, 5km mountain bike ride and 1km run. The front-runners fly while some of the other athletes show grit to test their skills through the course.

The long course event heads off second. These athletes will swim 500m, MTB 15km and complete a 6km beach run to the finish. I watch Saturday’s events from my spot at the mount and dismount lines in transition. This area also forms the turn-around point for the cyclists as they complete their first and second laps of the course. The crowd are close to the course around transition, cheering their family and friends ever onward around the tough course.

Laughter bursts through the air. A cyclist hits the deck in the soft sand. He momentarily lost concentration because he was about to raise his hand to wave at his supporters. They call out that they have their cameras ready. The cyclist falls off gently onto the soft sand, laughs out loud and remounts his metal steed to continue his race. It’s one of those moments that highlight the friendly competitive atmosphere of the Tre-X race.

As the last of the long course athletes are completing their final laps the short course athletes start to enter transition after their 350m swim. They will head out on a 10km MTB cycle and then a 4km beach run. There is a flurry of activity as cyclists enter  and exit  transition. It’s exciting to watch as athletes of all abilities share the course but do so with care for each other. There are men and women who make the course look easy while others seem content just to stay upright. All have smiles on their faces as they come back into transition after their respective laps of the bike course.

As the last cyclists complete the bike leg the first of the long course athletes start coming back to watch the race after completing their races. They regale us with stories of the foam on the beaches, which clung to their legs making it look as though they were wearing ugg boots.

While the rains held off on Saturday afternoon the same can’t be said for Sunday. We technical officials are grateful that the event organisors erected a tent for us to stand under as we check the athletes’ bikes and helmets this morning because the rain is pelting down. Triathletes greet us with smiles and laughter as they rack their bikes and wait for their events to begin. They are all going to complete the same courses as Saturday but this time in the rain.

While I spent Saturday in transition, I spend Sunday helping with the swim start. I love the sound as each wave starts with triathletes running and then diving into the water. At the ring of an old school bell each wave races into the water with a whoosh bang sound. Some swimmers take off like dolphins, racing easily through the water while others battle courageously through their least-favourite part of the race. It’s fantastic to see the courage of the tail-end swimmers who still hit the course despite their lack of confidence in the water.

I also spend some time out on the run course watching the triathletes slogging it out up the beach. It’s impressive to see them all silhouetted against the angry sky with the angry sea roaring in my ears.

Back in transition I watch a few of the cyclists racing through the mud. They are far dirtier today than they were yesterday and there are a few more cyclists returning with mud and cuts on them from where they fell. But two things haven’t changed: the smiles and the encouragement of the crowd.

Muddy Sunday rider

There’s one more event I haven’t mentioned yet: the Dirt Kids races. This is a race for 7-10 year old kids who swim 50m, cycle 3km and run 500m. The race is non-competitive, with the focus being on kids getting involved in the sport and having fun. It begins  after all the adult competitors have finished racing.

The Dirt Kids lay their bikes on the beach near the end of their swim leg. Due to the non-competitive nature of the event and the kids’ ages parents were allowed to assist their children in putting on their shoes and helmets, or running alongside their children to help them find the course.

There are some fantastic performances among the youngest competitors of the weekend, who are also backing up two days in a row. They swim through the lake quickly, turning at the surf lifesaver before swimming back to shore where some of the older and more experienced competitors make their transition independently. The Dirt Kids rode around the resort lake on a pathway before riding a short section of the MTB course and then back to transition. The run took the competitors around the lake to a beach and back. And boy can some of those Dirt Kids run!

Dirt Kids transition

Whether you are an adventure racer, triathlete, single-sport specialist, parent looking for a kid-friendly event or someone wanting to tackle an adventure this event has something for everyone. Who knows, next year I might even hire a mountain bike (yes, you can even hire a mountain bike at the event), take a pre-race MTB skills class (offered 1-2 weeks before the event on the event course) and give the race a go myself rather than volunteering in a yellow vest.

 

QTS Race 4 – Robina

I mumble expletives as the sound of my alarm intrudes my dreams. I complain that I don’t have to get up because it’s Sunday morning. Then I remember that it’s 3am and I have to get up to go to Robina for a triathlon. I’m not racing today; I’m volunteering as a technical official.

My uniform of black shorts and navy polo shirt are laid out ready for me to pull on. I wolf down a quick breakfast. It’s difficult to stomach my cereal at this early hour but I force it down knowing that I won’t have much chance to eat again until after the races are finished in the mid-morning. When I walk out to the garage I look up and see some stars in the sky so I decide not to carry my wet weather gear with me. It’s a decision I regret ten minutes later when the heavens open. For the next hour the rain alternates between stinging sideways rain that feels like needles piercing through my jacket and huge plops of rain that feel like buckets of water pouring over me. It’s a long hour.

It’s 4:45am and the race venue is quiet in the grey dawn. For these brief few moments the only people moving around are the event coordinators, technical officials, and catering companies selling coffee and snacks. I grab a lime green official’s vest out of the box and mingle with my fellow technical officials. By the time we’ve received our race briefing and roles the triathletes and their supporters have started arrive. Excitement and colour now fill the air.

5:15am. We open transition. It’s game time. For the next 75 minutes we are crazy busy making sure everyone’s helmets fit correctly and their bikes pass a brief visual safety inspection. Helmets, brakes and bar-end plugs will all be important on today’s wet, tight and technical bike course. We don’t know it yet but there will be at least 15 crashes just on the one roundabout near transition and countless more out on the rest of the course.

Almost as soon as transition closes the Kool Kids race starts. I am tasked to help make sure the little tackers get in and out of the bike transition safely. It’s fun to watch the kids riding their Ben10 and Barbie BMXes out onto the course. It’s a reminder that triathlon is not a sport to be played for sheep stations but a sport to be enjoyed for the fun and challenge.

After the Kool Kids are finished it’s time for the older kids and adults to head out onto the course in the Enticer event. This is a short version of the main race aimed at juniors and adults in their first few races. My task for the rest of the day is to ride on the back of a motorbike ensuring that everyone follows the rules on the cycle course. It’s my first time on the bike leg but I’m paired with a rider who has 20 years experience as a cycle course official and I learn a lot from him.

The course today is tight, flat, fast, technical and wet. It rains while we are out there and I get soaked again. We spend hours working hard to make sure the bike leg is safe and fair. It’s a pleasure to see some seriously skilled cyclists flying along and to see some seriously cool bicycles out on the course. As a competitor I only see bikes whiz past me so it’s a change to be able to appreciate the beauty that is the harmony between athlete and machine in full flight.

So what are the basic bike course rules? They are actually not much different from the the road rules (note: we drive on the left in Australia. I think that if you live in right-side of the road countries you probably cycle on the right).

  1. Keep to the left. Sitting in the middle of the road when other cyclists are trying to pass you is blocking and you may be given a 3 minute penalty for it.
  2. Keep your distance from the rider in front. If the cycle leg is 40km or less the draft zone is 7m long. If the cycle leg is more than 40km the draft zone is 12m. Riding within this zone is drafting and you may be given a 3 minute penalty for it.
  3. Pass on the right. Passing on the left is illegal and you may be given a 3 minute penalty for it.
  4. Pass quickly and safely. You must be gaining ground on the cyclist you are passing. You have 15 seconds to pass the cyclist if the draft zone is 7m and 25 seconds if it is 12m. Failing to observe this is drafting and you may be given a 3 minute penalty for it.
  5. If you are overtaken by a faster rider, you are responsible for dropping back outside the draft zone. You must also drop back outside the draft zone before you are allowed to overtake the rider who has just passed you. If you don’t, you may be penalised for drafting (3 minute penalty).

It sounds like a lot to remember but the best way to approach the cycle leg is to remember that triathlon is an individual sport so the bike leg is a time trial not a pack race and the usual road rules apply.

By 10:30am our morning is over and it’s time to go home. I’m worn out from the early start, rain and concentration. I know I’ll enjoy my afternoon nap as much as I enjoyed my morning at the race.

Raby Bay triathlon

View from the mount line before the action begins

It’s like the night before Christmas when I arrive at Raby Bay for the triathlon. There are no triathletes around yet, just the event coordinators, volunteers and technical officials. The sponsors’ marquees and signs are erected in the event space, and triathlon team tents are waiting for the arrival of their members. I stop at a coffee van to buy a hot chocolate and slice of banana bread on my way to transition. This has to keep me going until about 10:30am, six hours away.

Once in transition I pull a yellow technical official vest over my uniform of black shorts, navy Triathlon Australia polo shirt and white Triathlon Queensland cap. The Race Referee briefs us and allocates us to the various tasks that need to be completed for the event to run smoothly. I’m allocated to help with bike check-in and then to the mount line. It’s going to be a busy day for me.

Transition opens at 5:00am and triathletes start streaming in. We have a two-stage check-in system set up: the front line checks helmets and the second line checks bikes. I’m in the second line. There are about a thousand bikes that need to be racked today and the stream of triathletes seems never-ending. Some are old hands while others need some guidance to help them through their first event.

The range of bikes is impressive: there’s everything from second-hand racers that are decades old to brand new bikes that would have cost at least $10,000. As a bike enthusiast I am in heaven ogling all the metal horses being paraded into transition. It’s not just the elite triathletes with fancy bikes either; some of the age-groupers have really bought up big.

Just before transition closes there is a final rush of triathletes wanting to rack their bikes. And then, nothing. It’s over for now. A lull descends on the venue as we wait for the storm of racing to begin. I take my place on the mount line to wait for the second wave of activity to begin.

It’s not long before the action begins again in ernest as the Kool Kids come out of the water and onto the bike. These kids are awesome. They range from 7 to 12 years old and ride everything from BMXes to racing bikes. Some kids are fully independent with cycling shoes and triathlon suits while some of the really little kids need a bit of help to get on their bikes safely without crashing. And they’re tough as nails too: these kids will keep going even if they crash or are so tired they are crying.

It’s not long after the last Kool Kid comes in on their bike that the first Enticer athletes head out onto their bikes. The Enticer race is aimed at triathletes who are starting out. It includes children as young as ten years old who are stepping up from the Kool Kids events and adults for whom this is their first event or season (they all race in separate categories). I am kept busy making sure everyone goes “past the line” before getting on their bikes. I admire the courage shown by the triathletes in this event who have all overcome their fear or fitness to get out there and give this sport a crack.

The main race today is a sprint distance event. The triathletes will be swimming 750m, cycling 20km and running 5km. I stay at the mount line for the duration, waving everyone through to mount “past the line”. I stand in the hot sun like a broken record repeating “all the way past the line”, working up a sweat as I use my arms to indicate the need to continue past the line before mounting. I have front row seats to watch the world-class elite triathletes blast out of transition and onto their bikes. The age-groupers race just as hard as they leave transition onto the cycle course while their friends and club-mates stand behind the barriers and cheer them on. The atmosphere is alive with energy.

I enjoy my morning out on the field of play. Being a technical official gives me more than just a front-row seat and an opportunity to give back to a sport that has given me so much. It also gives me the chance to meet new people, make new friends and learn about the my sport’s rules.