There is only one thing more exciting that watching Mel Hauschildt race live and that is reading her race reports. Her blow by blow account gives you a really good insight in to how her races unfold and what is going through her mind at various stages in the race.
This race was an important one for Hauschildt last year but things came undone after she twisted her ankle while training at Falls Creek in the lead up to the race. She raced but could not run at her usual pace due to the injury. This year things were different. Hauschildt had even more resolve to win and did so with style. As arguably the fastest bike/runner in the sport the extra long bike works well for Hauschildt.
This year her run of 1:16:42 was faster than most of the men. After limiting her swim deficit to around 3min this was always going to be Hauschildt’s race. Although there was a small matter of Caroline Steffen ahead and there was no way Steffen was going to give this race away easily.
Swim 41:17 5th
Bike 5:17:45 1st
Run 1:16:42 1st
In Melissa’s words…
As I sprint down to the water and dive in I find myself with the leaders. I’m swimming right next to Tenille Hoogland. She edges ahead a little and I jump on her feet. This pace feels ok so I put my head down and just concentrate on following the bubbles. I veer a little to the right and accidentally end up on someone else’s feet. I keep following what is now a big pack. But as I look up to sight I see Tenille and another competitor far left. Damn! I drifted off her feet and onto a following pack. She gets away. I follow this pack for a while before I decide to pass them and catch up to the next. I soon get onto the next group of girls but the leaders are long gone. As I enter the beach and run around for my second lap I find myself diving in first from my pack. Sighting is hard. There is only two buoys, one on each corner of the triangle. Soon a couple girls pass me so I can now follow. As we turn the last buoy and head for shore I pick up the pace but again I find myself out in front and I cant see a thing. I have two other athletes swimming next to me and we are all trying madly to sight. At one point I think the three of us were all doing polo frantically searching for landmarks.
I emerge from the water and run to the change tent. I’m in 5th. Tenille, Michelle and Caroline are 3 minutes ahead. I need to work hard on the bike and catch Caroline. So off I went, powering down the road. It might have slipped my mind I was riding 200km today and not 90km. The road headed out 40km into the desert to the YAS F1 circuit where we then ride 3 laps, each around 6km. I passed Tenille on lap 2 and this gave me a lot of confidence. I expected Tenille to be first out of the water (she was, just seconds ahead of Caroline). Riding around the Formula 1 circuit was awesome. The only problem was finding your way out. Lap 1 I looked for an exit (so I’d know where to go later on) but couldn’t find one. Lap two I carefully scanned the perimeter for a way to get out and again failed to find it. Lap three I was gettig worried that I wouldn’t be able to get out. When I thought I’d nearly completed my last lap I was yelling out to every photographer and official “where do I get out?”. The ONLY point on all three laps that I thought could possibly lead out was a road off to the side saying ‘pitstop’. I took it and luckily it was right. I had no-one in front of me to follow. I weaved my way back out and was soon up to 60km. Now the race begins.
We start heading back in the direction of the finish and have a massive tail wind. This was nice after a head wind the entire way out. I thought I could make up some serious time here. Maybe my competitors won’t know it’s such a strong tail wind and won’t keep pushing hard. I put the pedal down and cranked it up to 48km/hr and sat there. I kept watching my speed to make sure it didn’t drop. When I was approaching the turn around – 75km in, I was shocked to see Caroline just up ahead. From here we have three laps of out, back. Each lap being 32km. I u-turn and head straight back into the headwind where the speed drops down to 34-35km/hr. I can see Caroline and I madly try to chase her down. I catch her just as we approach a slightly twisty point in the course before we u-turn again to head back. When I finally catch her at around 85km I roll right up to her through the twists and turns and go passed her to take the lead. I stay in front for the next 32km loop.
As we head back with the tail wind again to complete two laps, Caroline takes over. Not very often (only at Abu Dhabi last year) am I in a position to sit in (legal distance apart is 10m) so I’m still not confident of how far back to sit. Again, I play it safe and sit at least 15m back. We have the draft busters as well as camera crew with us almost the entire time. I’m still working hard and several times I get dropped but I manage to keep grinding my way back to within 15m of Caroline. We u-turn again and head out for our last lap into what is now a super strong head wind (the wind usually picks up throughout the morning/day). Caroline is too strong and drops me at an aid station. I frantically pedal to try and get back on. We still have 50km to go. I can’t afford to get dropped. There is still so much further to go. I work my butt off but Caroline is pulling further and further away. I lose sight of her and now all the camera men leave me as well. I must be way behind now “they don’t even wanna stay with me” I think. When I approach the final u-turn I see Caroline way ahead. Crap! What have I done.
The next 20km or so is now a tail wind so I use it. Caroline saw she had dropped me “hopefully she thinks I’m cooked”. I crank up my speed again and hit 48km/hr. Our last lap with Caroline leading was around 44km/hr so I’m hoping she is only sitting on that pace again. Its not long before she is back in sight. We then climb up this small bridge. Caroline jumps out of her saddle and I stay seated on my bars and power up it. She is now so close. I keep working hard. The next small climb we do the same and this time I get right up on her. Finally I’m back on. I sit in for a whole 5 or so km before I get dropped again. Damn it Mel. Get back on. Sometimes I think I ride better chasing than I do ‘trying’ to sit in – maybe I panic that I’ll accidentally enter the draft zone. Fat chance of that when I’m too afraid to even sit 10m behind.
I see Caroline pulling further and further away AGAIN. It’s now 20km to go. Lots of time can still be lost so I work my hardest to get back on. At 185km I’m back again and Caroline seems to be tiring. Thank god! Cos I’m wrecked. THEN… Out of nowhere I get almost paralyzed in my right quad with cramping. I never cramp (only time I’ve ever cramped was at Vegas last year when I went into the race sick and obviously dehydrated). I jump out of my saddle to relieve the cramp but we are now heading back into a head wind so it seriously slows down my speed. I quickly sit back down but the cramp comes back. This time in my left quad as well. I jump up! Sit down! Jump up! I watch helplessly as Caroline pulls away from me. I sit back down, get back on my bars and start pushing hard determined to not let her get too far away. I feel the cramping coming but I decide to stay seated and try and push through it. It doesn’t go away. Both quads are now seriously cramping as well as my right hip flexor so I jump back up. The last 15km was a nightmare. How much time will I lose? Will I even be able to run when I get off my bike? I pushed these thoughts out of my head and just kept focusing on that dismount line. 2km to go… This was the longest 2km of my life. Can’t it just be short a couple of kms, c’mon I HAVE to get off this bike. Nope, dead accurate! 200km.
Finally, I jump off Shivy and land on my paralyzed stumps/aka legs. I awkwardly run my bike into transition. I hear the commentator say that I am 1:20 behind Caroline. As I start running I notice I’m not cramping at all but I hardly feel like I’m running. I can’t feel my legs. They’re completely seized up. But they’re not cramping! I see Jared at 3km and he yells out 31seconds down. What! Either someone has a time wrong here, Caroline is hurting more than me, or I am actually running a decent pace. I had no idea what pace I was running, I couldn’t judge it AT ALL cos I couldn’t even feel my legs. I forgot to turn my Garmin watch on when finishing the bike so the satellites took a few k’s to load up.
I could now see Caroline just up ahead so I backed off a little, hoping I’d feel my legs soon. We passed through 6km and Caroline was only seconds ahead. At 7km I was right on her heels sitting in for a bit. I don’t think she knew I was there. I was tucked right in and I land really quiet on my feet. Jared was just up ahead and I wondered if he’d yell anything out. He didn’t. I tried to hide a little longer but then… BEEP BEEP! My Garmin tells me a 1km split. Caroline looks back to see me sneaking up on her shoulder. Thanks Garmin… I have to pass now. As I take over, Caroline nicely says “good job”. I felt guilty passing her so instead of putting on a small surge I kept it steady and gave her the chance to tack on to me. But I can hear her slowly dropping off. As we get to turn around with 10km to go I start to feel a little better. Maybe because I’m in the lead and my dream of winning such a prestigious race is now looking even better. Anything can still happen though… 10km on tired legs… Who knows…
As I approach 13km Jared is there again… I yell out “how far do I have?”. I could see at turn around I had some distance on Caroline but I wanted to know in time. That way I can judge what pace I need to run the remaining 7km. Jared knew exactly what I meant and yelled back “I can’t see her”. A little later “I still can’t see her”. A little later “1 minute, 1second”. That’s how precise he is. I quickly did the calculations and based off what I was running Caroline would have to be running at least 10sec/km faster than me to catch me.
5km to go and I was getting excited. I’d really extended my lead now and started to feel alright. I hadn’t experienced any cramping on the run. To win here in Abu Dhabi would mean so much to me. This is one of my major goal races this year. I wanted to win it so bad that I turned myself inside out to do it. 2km to go and I think I had a smile on my face. I was hurting but I was happy. I wanted to cry, I wanted to laugh, I couldn’t believe I was going to do it. It was such a long day and here I was… Now 1km from the finish. As much as I was hurting I actually didn’t mind that last km dragging on and on and on. In a weird, twisted way I wanted it to last… As I hit the red carpet I didn’t know what I was gonna do when I crossed the line. Hopefully stay on my feet. I started waving to the crowd and then I grabbed the banner and thrust it up over my head. I held it there for a bit then threw it down and put my head between my knees. My legs were shaking. I made my way to the ground where I sat to do the majority of my interviews. My bum was sore, my quads were dead. But I was over the moon!