By Karl Hayes
The 20th anniversary of Kurnell triathlons was celebrated on Sunday, 28th November. In the woman’s race it was Australia 1-2 and South Africa 3-4.
The first two female finishers are great mates both in training and life. Matilda Raynolds and Siobhan McCarthy push each other to new levels and this is showing in their performances . Matilda is very strong on the bike, Siobhan has the edge in the run and both are relatively strong swimmers although not quite up with Lisa Marangon and co at this stage.
Siobhan’s 2nd place was anchored by the fastest female run of the day and 16th fastest run overall. â€œI was so happy for Matilda to get a great win! She has had an incredible off season and to watch her get the results makes me feel like a proud sister! I dug deep to try and catch her, but didn’t have the legs! The head wind was tough, and I felt every bit of yesterday’s bike and run sessions but felt quite good running, and after battling a calf injury since Noosa it was nice to run with next to no painâ€.
Siobhan got within 16 seconds of Matilda after losing almost a minute and a half on the bike. The race between Matilda and Siobhan was probably the best head to head battle of the day due to no open group and everyone racing in the age group waves.
Matilda Raynolds came good after being forced out of Huskisson the week before with an ear infection. â€œIt still hasn’t fully healed but it didn’t seem to affect me today. I was surprised to lead the main pack in the swim with just one ahead of me and watching many girls drift off course. Unfortunately once I was leading I knew I had to continue otherwise Spot (coach) would have said I had blown up. With a little head wind and pushing hard to catch the lead female on my bike I hit the run with heavy legs feeling Saturday’s session. By the 3rd lap I could see Siobhan chasing me like I was dinner. It was great to see her have a good run after she has had a niggling injury, but even better that she didn’t quite get me. You know the season is well under way after a Kurnellâ€.
Anel Stewart finished 3rd on Sunday and it was good to see her back racing. â€œRacing at Kurnell on Sunday was fun. It reminded me why I really enjoy triathlon: it was a short, hard race with good competition, lots of spectators and a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. I had solid swim, worked hard on the bike and the run was every bit as tough as I thought it would be. A number of injuries this year meant I had done very little running and had no race fitness. It was just so good to run pain free and race with no pressure that I didn’t even worry about my split!â€
This was definitely not the year Anel had wanted in terms of training and racing. â€œI learned to listen to my body. Injury is your body’s way of telling you to slow down. As much as I want to juggle a million things in life, I was never going to cope with being on deadlines at work, a number of trips to South Africa to spend time with my dad who was very sick and then training as much as I needed to. Something had to give and I was forced to let my body recoverâ€.
Being injured is an opportunity to get back to basics. It forces you to simplify things and to focus on the things you can do rather than dwell on the things you can’t. â€œI had the opportunity to focus on my strength and endurance in the pool and on the bike, and I can already see the benefits of that coming through. It’s also been fun to focus more on TT’s, something I never do as most of my races are draft legal. I’ve started swimming with Jon Bell and his squad of super fast pool and open water swimmers again. Jon’s sessions are fun and challenging and he seems to know when to push and when to back offâ€.
â€œThis year reminded me that triathlon is just a sport and something that should be fun and enjoyable. Being injured feels like the end of the world but in the scheme of things it’s really insignificant. I spent a lot of time in the oncology ward before my dad passed away and saw some amazing people who were suffering and fighting for survival with a smile on their faces. That made me realise that I have so much to be thankful for and that I had lots of positive experiences, even in challenging yearâ€.
Christelle van Niekerk came 4th on Sunday. After winning 2009 world age groups titles in the sprint category and then weeks later wining her age in the long distance world champs at Perth, Christelle started racing on a pro licence but soon realised that training full time, working full time in her career which requires overseas travel, meant that she was over doing everything. â€œFirst race of the Kurnell Series. Yay – these must be some of my favourite races of them all .They’re close to home, they’re only short so you can have a proper conversation with your fellow athletes afterwards (no-one is totally comatose) and you can start your croque monsieur or croissant & coffee by 9am. It turned out to be a perfect day for racing – over-cast and a nice mild tempâ€.
â€œThe swim was a bit short which I’m sure a lot of people didn’t complain about. It was rough out there with a typical Kurnell-style current dragging everyone over to one side. Surprisingly, I was out the water first in my group but the younger (and faster) girls who started in the wave before us, were all ahead of me so I had to gas it on the bike to catch up. The ride went smooth and there was only a little breeze to work against. I ran hard off the bike, settled into a nice rythym and thought OK, the hurt will end soon”.
Christelle hasn’t completely hung up her tri-suit. â€œI have cut back on triathlon training and ‘changed my tools’ a little bit, as they say. My brother and I have entered for the Cape Epic, which is a 8 day, mountain bike stage race. She has been spending a lot of time on the dikwiel (directly translated from Afrikaans: fat wheel) & raced the Highland Fling near Nowra.
The guys race was spread over three age categories so it was not clear who was winning until presentation. Most assumed Ben Hammond had taken out the race, but Travis Shields had been training like a demon and pulled of the surprise of the season so far.
â€œI was obviously very happy with my race and to be honest was a nice surprise to be called first overall. It didn’t get off to the greatest start with my zipper falling off my wetsuit before the start so was a bit stressful trying to get that back on with the help of my dad (who is a TO) before the raceâ€.
Travis has been training for Ironman WA so knew he had some good fitness. Kurnell was supposed to be just a roll around and Travis was hoping for a podium in the age group. â€œ I think the key for me this time was my swim where I felt a lot more comfortable in sticking with the leaders in the age group…normally I am hanging on for dear life and am buggered by the time I get out onto the bike! â€œ
Ben Hammond is a regular around the triathlon circuit. He always looks calm and relaxed but has great potential. Ben has spent time racing in Europe during our winters and has gained some really good experience. â€œI turned up to Kurnell knowing it was the 20th Anniversary and wanting to follow in the footsteps of some of those that have run and won over the last two decades. As it was, I didn’t have to follow any footsteps as half of them are still competing and sticking it to us slightly younger guysâ€.
â€œI was pretty happy with how my day went minus the slight detour I took on the swim. As it stands I’ve never been leading a race in the swim leg so I was a little shocked when I found myself in front and having to make directional decisions. I ended up jumping out of the water in 2nd just behind another TriNSW Development Squad member Julian Oey. Over the bike I managed to get a decent gap and being in the first wave I didn’t have anyone else around which makes it much harder to work out where you are on a grander scale. The run went pretty smoothly but again it was tough to push hard when there’s a 3 minute buffer to 2ndâ€.
â€œThe only downside is that now makes it twice that I’ve been beaten for the overall title by less than 10 seconds by someone in a separate wave. A big congratulation must go to Travis and Mick (Maroney). I would have loved to have us all start together as 3 guys in 13 seconds would have made it very interesting for everyone! Perhaps an Open wave would be a good idea?â€