882 Sharon Ditchburn AUS

2012 Laguna Phuket ‘Classic’ Triathlon :: 25th November 2012

Swim 0:44:48 :: Bike 2:41:34 :: Run 1:48:39 :: Total 05:22:06

Coach’s remarks: Shazza has blown me away, last year she missed cutoff and was thrown out of the event. This year we wanted to break 6 hours and finish the event. She finisged in 5.22hrs and although I obviously have zero pull with AOTM, I believe she may be worth consideration as I know how hard she worked for this.

Shaz Race Report.

Well, I’m happy to say the monkey is off my back!  (If that’s appropriate to say in Thailand?)  The race is done, a result is recorded, and I’m limping about like an old woman with gout for the day, so I’m guessing that effort wise that was about it for yesterday.

The aim was purely to finish in cut-off and enjoy the race.  I had made some estimates but they were very much back of the envelope as this was by far the longest race I’ve done for years (in fact, ever, as I’d only done to Olympic in my “youth”) and we had no markers to compare to.  Longer sets in the pool were designed for more endurance, particularly when hitting the flat lagoon water.  Hatta hills to wake up the legs a bit.   There is also the small matter of “size”, shall we say, although now there was (as of race day) around 10kgs less to haul up those hills than last year.  So the estimates below are the “absolute best” estimates I gave to Coach about 3 weeks ago on the basis of a perfect prep, perfect weather and no surprises on the day.  How often would these three stars align….

LEAD-UP  (you can skip this bit if not into travel drama, it’s probably longer than the race!)

In terms of the weeks and days before the race, the preparation was much better than last year.  Avoided most travel, kept well away from people with sneezes and sniffles, and of course had the Dogs and Crowies camp to round things off.   One of the positive signs was that the Dogs and mini-tri seemed to be over pretty quick each time, so that was looking good for what was expected to be a good 5+ hours for me at Laguna.   Packed the bike into the new Dakine bag, which weighs out around 23kgs with shoes, helmet and tools.

Then it all seemed to want to fall apart at the airport!  (I will preface this by saying I’m a fairly meticulous planner in advance, but tend to go with the flow once on the road… really!!)

I flew Thai last year with great success, but this year after Thai airlines started mucking around with whether or not a bike allowance over the 20kg normal would be provided (finally announcing a special website to book through rather than taking existing travel plans, which required a cancellation with fee from existing Thai booking) I booked with Emirates to remove any hassle and enjoy my Silver allowance.  However, as one code share was still with Thai, I called Dnata to make sure that my Silver baggage allowance would be acknowledged, with a positive answer (I was surprised, but you would think Dnata would know….).  I rarely travel with anything larger than a wheelie, so luggage check-in is a rare thing.  Silly me!  (Lesson – call airline directly).

Anyway, rocked up to be told that (a) there was a problem with my ticket between BKK and Phuket (unexplained), and (b) in any case, I was up for another AED2,200 in excess for the Thai codeshare flight as no extra silver allowance – okay, no problem.  I knew the bike bag was only a few kgs over, and for clothes had packed a small wheelie I could take onboard instead of checking – umm, no – now they knew it was “too heavy” being 12kg.   However, I think there was a bit of an “oops, sorry” on the connection issue, so kind person at ticketing desk (after trips to various other desks and Administrative Office) arranged a quick transfer in time to the later flight at no extra cost and allocated an exit row (both fabulous!), with standby ticket for 1 internal flight and a guaranteed on a later 4 hour flight for Phuket leg.   Great, appears to be sorted.  Bit worried that my baggage tickets had the standby rather than confirmed transfer code to Phuket, but assured that this was normal practice.  Right – off to the lounge for some tucker and some relaxation!

BKK arrives with no hassle, quick line up at the Bangkok Air line confirms that standby ticket wasn’t actually booked in their system(?), but the confirmed flight is definitely okay.  However, now luggage has wrong code totally, so officer makes hand written notes on a sheet of paper with a ton of other notes…..  and I’m getting nervous again.  End result – 1 piece of luggage (the wheelie) arrives, but the conveyor stops with no Dakine bag….   Back to another admin office, to find bike still in BKK.  After some discussion, pointing at said wheelie forlornly sitting in the corner, and much arm waving, Bangkok Air staff decided that the demonstrative Aussie woman wasn’t going to accept having to pay extra for transport of bike from (a) BBK and (b) Phuket airport to hotel. The backpacker with me in the office was probably a fortunate recipient of some of this energy – her bags were totally lost somewhere in multiple legs of a 26 hour journey from the depths of China, and our calls in unison of “you have got to be joking…” about the delivery to the hotel scored her an extra few beers worth of saved money.

Anyway, off to dinner with Lea, Pentti and Hisham to chill out, and come back to a comforting sight of a large black box already delivered to the room.  Bless the Allamanda!  Assembled with no problems Friday night, with 15’s planned for the morning with Lea and Hisham.

Bumped into some of the crew at the tent after losing a cleat screw on the road down to the 15’s (requiring a quick purchase of new cleat set, again no problem), before the heavens opened…  again and again….  Oh.  Tomorrow could be fun….  Bike was checked between showers, and relaxed before the pasta party, hoping for no more dramas.

Anyway, on to the race…. Race Day

SWIM. Started early and fine, no breeze, not too hot…  Hadn’t forgotten anything, good start.  Living in the ME and travelling through Asia prepared me nicely for the squat portaloos with the water bucket and scoop, which not surprisingly had no lines – the faces of some girls scurrying out after one look was priceless!  (haha – *always* carry tissues)

Easy boat trip across the lagoon, watched the early waves take off (this time a joker in a later wave took off in the water in front of the pro’s, wonder what happened to him, just in case being swum over violently wasn’t enough??).  And off we go!  Well, until the first big whitecap took out a good few in the back half of the wave smack onto their butts and backwards about 10 metres!! I waited for the water to hit first and dived over it.  After that first effort over a couple of breakers, the swim turned into something pretty nice, a little jostling, didn’t have last year’s clear water but also didn’t have the little stinging things, and the lagoon was its usual blackout.   This year either everyone was better at sighting, or I was with better swimmers, as following the pack easily led to the bouys the whole way.  Passed a few caps from the previous wave, and had the unusual experience of someone actually swimming *underneath* me in the lagoon …  which I very quickly confirmed was a person …  Paced nicely to a 13min at 500m turn, crossing the beach around 30min for 1.1km, and a water exit and “beep” at 44:48min for 1.8km.  Goal was 45 mins for a non-wetsuit swim and beach crossing, which would be an 8 minute improvement on last year, so this was a good start.

Transition: 3.48, same as last years 3.50. A quick Viper as I find they’re too messy on the bike, but a good change from Gu.

BIKE. Bike was loaded with Gu’s and a protein drink thing in the bag, with Isostar and water.  This was my “bogeyman”, the aim was to merely get up and over the hills in good shape, get some nutrition in and then ride at limit to the half way point to make cut off.  After that was unknown…. Last year the cut off was 9.15am at 27km which I missed by minutes, but during this year’s briefing they said the cut off was now 9.40am, which removed that worry on the day.  To put into perspective, I have to walk up about half of the hills from 7km to 13km, and last year reached the top of the last hill (13km mark) in 1.06 hrs with my Garmin showing 2000C burnt!  (yes, it’s unreliable, but even so would be a good comparison). This year I made it to the last hilltop in about 56mins with only 500C on the monitor, so considerably better shape both mentally and physically.

We had formed our usual “crew” of pushers out the back – a motley bunch of individuals and teamsters joking about being within the draft zone at 6km/hr.  Photographers always seem to be on the uphill, damn!  There was one particular young skinny Asian girl who was just about popping her eyeballs riding up each hill, her grunting was going to outdo Maria Sharapova (ironically I was to outrun her on the last lap, had she run out of “grunt”??) and we were all watching for cars as she swerved all over the road.  Luckily she made it over okay and our crew thinned out a bit as we pedalled off at varying paces.

Saw Lea for a quick shoutout at the turn to the national park as she was coming back, and then it was time to do what I’d really come for – to finish this damned bike leg!

The drink went down first while doing the nice flat bit through the park, it dries the mouth out a bit, so in case in need water that’s the first water stop.  However, all okay, so continued with a nice spinning pace – not as quick as I had originally needed in the plans, but knowing that I had tonnes of time up my sleeve now so could just keep to a comfie 155-160 HR range for the whole ride depending on how I felt.  While I’m no Paula Newbie-Fraser, passing “that point” where I dropped out last year was mixed emotions, I simultaneously regret some aspects but don’t regret the decision… but I still felt good, the legs weren’t hurting at all – in fact, nothing was, so it was time to push a little more.  The rest of the ride was brilliant and smooth – in many places I felt like I was back on my Vietnam holiday what with buffaloes, high-fiving schoolkids, rubber plantations, villages with bumpy roads and the multiple of beeping motorbikes.  Talk about finding your “happy zone”.

Our “crew” out the back was still having fun, we passed each other now and then, and spotted each other through the trees on the winding roads, and generally acted as pacers for each other, albeit from a proper distance.  Even out the back we had draft busters – I suspect our grunter was one of the first I saw pinged even before we hit the hills.   Amazingly I still had fit looking cyclists ripping past me up to about the 45km mark – where on earth had they been up to now?

Final time  2:41:34.    Estimate I had made with a big pinch of hope was 2:50, so very happy.

Transition 3.17.  Saw Damien had already finished, a quick shout-out, and to find the run exit for the first time.

RUN. Ah, the pure unknown. Running is by far my weakest link, and with the heat and humidity was going to be the most variable. Saw Heather and then Colleen in quick succession rocking through the elephant park on their final lap, and Lea just after the 1km mark on her first lap, and Mike on his second, so more shout-outs.  Getting lots of “Go Shazes” but then one sounded familiar – and there goes Marty whipping by on his second lap. Settled into a run/walk almost straight away – I think Coach would have liked to see a slightly longer run part, but 3/2min run/walk just seemed to work well plus it was extremely easy to time. Together with the soggy grass sections, the average pace dropped a lot, but although being passed by some, I was catching up with others by using the strategy, so kept it going.  The run on such a range of surfaces wasn’t the type you could get into a routine on, but being under the trees made a difference.  I was expected a really hot sunny day, so to have a cloudy and slightly rainy day was perfect for me.

Went through the second lap turnaround when no one was finishing, so received a full on announcement and clap from everyone – that was one section of time with no walk for sure!!  Another quick high five with Lea on her way in, and then for the second lap it was a game of seeing how many people were still behind me, and if anyone had the dreaded MTB with them.   As it was, no MTB sighted, and still a few people behind, with some patchy rain sprinkles.  Again, a couple of people absolutely whipped by (seriously, one guy made 3 minutes on me in the last km!) but otherwise uneventful with lots of sponges and drinks.

The last bit through the elephant park was a check to see if any speed left, nup, so it was a trot down the finishing chute.  And there was the team!!!  Wow!  High fives all the way down, and a quick attempt at a leap over the line, obviously surprising the photographers, who quickly snapped more the ungainly landing I think.  Luckily Pentti was handy with the camera and caught a couple of good shots.

Run was a very slow 1:48:39, with only 33sec difference in lap splits, but against an incredibly close 1:45 Shaz best estimate….

Total time: 5:22:06.       Shaz’s absolutely best estimate with the stars aligned: 5:25, so while it didn’t set the world on fire, a race that pretty well went to the most hoped for plans, and better than the more realistic goal Coach and I started with which was the 6 hour mark.

The usual thanks go to Coach, who put way more swimming and running on my schedule than I’ve seen in years, and all the various training buddies, old and new!   A special race thanks to Pentti for cheerleading and photos, and a huge thanks to the crew who stuck it out for hours for me at the finish line in all sorts of weather!!!!