When Steve Stubbs of XcelSports invited me to country South Australia to compete in the Murray Man triathlon I was thrilled. At first I was just super excited at the idea of supporting a local race, and then I heard my friend Anthony Newman (Newmo) was heading to Murray Man to try and secure a spot in the Australian Age Group Team, so I knew I had to go.
Part one: The journey begins
Newmo and I decided to drive down together, from Sydney to Bermera to see some parts of the country we’d never seen, hang out together, have a good time and of course, compete in Murray Man.
Day 1: Wednesday 2nd November
If you’ve seen that video on the internet lately of the bloke getting swooped by a magpie 16 times, that’s Newmo. For those that haven’t seen it, here’s the video – it’s good for a laugh.
I think it clocked up about 18k views on his Instagram page and was freely shared around the web by friends and people who found it funny (it is). Although he posted the clip about two weeks prior, his phone started ringing off the hook on Wednesday from news outlets across Australia and abroad, wanting to get a story or an interview with Newmo. Funnily enough, he went live on 7news Sydney that night, and did a live cross with The Today Show with King Karl Stefanovic and Lisa on Wednesday morning. If you haven’t seen the interview, go and watch it. He got a good giggle out of Karl (and me) when he said
“I’ve been smashed by a few birds in me time.”
But enough about magpies, back to the journey. We didn’t have a plan; we just wanted to explore and have a good time. We were scheduled to leave on Wednesday, which would give us three days and only about 400kms of driving per day, leaving us enough time to do some training on the road and check out anything we fancied. But! Since Newmo was now a social media sensation and had to do interviews, we had to postpone our departure a day.
Day 2: Thursday 3rd November
After Newmo’s 8am interview on Wednesday, we packed the car and headed out of Sydney. The only commitments we’d planned were to get to the Berri Hotel by Friday. We were staring down the barrel of a pretty huge 1165km drive.
First stop was Yass for a coffee and mandatory photo blocking the ‘Y’ on the sign coming into town. I found this funnier than I should, although finding dumb stuff funny is nothing new for me. Newmo’s always up for a laugh too, so by the time we were finished taking 100 photos with different poses and various layers of clothing removed we were crying laughing.
After Yass we rolled into the metropolis of Gundagai, 370km southwest of Sydney. The local swimming pool had just opened for summer and the lovely woman at the pool told us it was 21 degrees (it was actually about four degrees). Ready for some training, we hopped in. I got through 400m before I was shaking with cold. To stay warm, I tried doing dive start max 50m sprints, jumping out at the end and running back to the start to dive in again. But I got into trouble for running on the pool deck so I gave up after 3x50m sprints. At least I got in a little 550m swim set. Newmo was still carrying his winter coat so he made it to 1000m before the pool started getting so cold it felt like ice cubes might form at any moment, so we headed back on the road.
Another 164 km in the car lead us to the the fly capital of NSW, Narrandera. I’ve honestly never seen so many flies in my life. The Fig Tree Hotel was home for the night, but we decided to drag ourselves out for an hour run to see the town and stretch our legs. Through the thick haze of flies, the running was actually really nice as we found a trail running along the Bundidgerry creek. Newmo was running like the tin man after six hours in the car, but it was nice to get outside after a long day of driving.
- 534km driving
- 4500 dead bugs on the windscreen
- 1.4million flies
- 12km running
- 550m swimming
- 2 coffees
- a lot of laughs
Day 3: Friday 4th November
We left sunny Narrandera at 7:30am and headed for Darlington Point. I had planned a bike ride from here to Griffith, but I had no idea how much road rage the drivers along this road have against cyclists. I’ll never understand why some drivers still feel the need to go out of their way to abuse bike riders going in the opposite direction of them and having absolutely no interference with their driving. Maybe I’d be that angry too if had to deal with that many flies everyday. Anyway, the riding was quite enjoyable although I felt the effects of sitting on my glutes for the past eight hrs as the muscles in my legs failed to fire.
Back in the car and on towards the town of Hay on the Murrumbidgee river, we stopped off for a coffee. I think the bug count on the windscreen was up to around 10,000. We decided not to clean the windscreen for the entire drive to see what it would look like by the end. Brilliant idea right?
Two guys one car
Fuelled up on coffee, we continued driving west to the tunes of “Who Can it Be Now” by Men At Work and “Meet me Halfway” by the Black Eyes Peas. I reckon between us, we didn’t hit one note right the whole time. I actually got a text from one of my friends asking me to stop uploading Instagram stories of me singing. A fair call but sorry, not gonna happen mate!
Somewhere close to the middle of nowhere we spotted a group of Emus right by the road. Newmo slammed on the brakes and chased them through the desert before one of them turned around and started chasing him. He broke his Adidas sandals and almost pulled a hammy in the retreat. It was the best thing I’d ever seen, I was crying laughing.
Mildura was the next stop, located just across the border into Victoria and only about 80km from the South Australian border. We sampled some of the local Thai cuisine (It actually wasn’t too bad, who knew!) Then we enjoyed the endless nothingness, a commodity that’s plentiful in Mildura.
An hour later at the South Australian Border, Newmo was taking a photo of me at the Welcome to South Australia sign when a border official, or some sort of cop in a car with flashing lights, gave me an absolute earful for ‘being a hooligan,’ Welcome to South Australia!
We arrived at the Berri Hotel about 9pm that night, the legs were feeling pretty stiff after two days of 15 hours of driving. It was definitely worth it though, as I got to spend some quality time with my mate, and since we both work away most of the time, that was pretty special.
- 631km driving
- 74km cycling
- 17,000 dead bugs on windscreen
- 34 emus
- 1 x Australia’s angriest truck driver
- 1 x road train
- 2 coffees
Part 2: Murray Man Triathlon
My mindset was out of whack
Hindsight is always 20/20 right? Upon reflection I was in no shape (mostly mentally) to race. I should have listened to my gut earlier but I was looking forward to catching up with my mate and supporting a regional event in South Australia, the only Australian state I hadn’t been to before, so I entered the race anyway.
I was optimistic about my form. I hadn’t been breaking any records lately and I’d only been doing about 15 hours of training per week. This amount of training doesn’t help me improve, but it does help me enjoy my fitness and workouts without getting too wrecked. I had a niggling feeling that I hadn’t given myself enough of a break after Ironman 70.3 World Championships, and my head just wasn’t up for racing.
Remembering IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships
I’d put a huge amount of focus on the Ironman 70.3 World Championships. I’d had a specific eight week training plan, and it took a lot of mental effort; both the training and the event. For those who don’t know, I actually had a pretty decent race. I was in the front group in the swim, and sat towards the back of the main group on the bike until about 70km, where a positioning error cost me my chance at fulfilling my potential on the day. I was sitting last wheel in a group of about 20 guys when we went past a penalty tent.
The four guys in front of me pulled up at the tent, leaving a gap of about 50-100m between me and the rest of the field. I panicked and went full gas to get across the gap on a really tough part of the course and when I got there, I just exploded. Between that point and T2, I lost just over five minutes to the leaders. I ran a solid half marathon, picking up a couple of guys but not making any time on the leaders (actually losing time to some). 1:13++ is nothing to be ashamed about but the truth was I knew I wasn’t in the real race anymore and that was hard to swallow at the time. I finished in 17th place in 3:53, but was totally devastated with the outcome.
I actually won Challenge Vietnam seven days after the Ironman 70.3 World Championships, but I was mentally burnt to a crisp. You’ll see why I’m telling you about 70.3 World Championships when we get to the Murray Man race.
The day before Murray Man triathlon
Now back to Murray Man. The Saturday before race day, I did my usual pre-race preparation. Usually this involves a bike ride on the course (if possible), a swim in my wetsuit or speed suit depending on what I’ll use on race day, and an easy jog in the evening. To be honest, after all the driving I was feeling pretty ordinary and super unmotivated, but I persisted with my routine anyway.
That night there was a great turnout for dinner at the Berri Hotel, the title sponsor of the race. A big thanks to the Adelaide Triathlon Club and all the crew who were so welcoming on the night. I was honoured to have a chat on the mic with everyone about some of my experiences throughout my career, good and bad.
Murray Man – race day
On race day, I started the swim and after about ten strokes, I knew it wasn’t happening. Not physically but mentally. It’s amazing to experience the power of the mind, for better or for worse in these situations. I (just) made it through the 1.9km swim, coming out miles behind, and jumped on my bike, but 20km later I was back at the car getting changed and feeling pretty sh**ty.
A DNF turns into a great day on the microphone
Instead of racing, I spent the morning on the microphone with Pete Nolan, sharing some of my limited knowledge and ‘harassing’ those athletes I knew with some cheeky remarks. I actually had a really good time chatting and playing a positive role in the event. In hindsight, I should have done a teams event or maybe the short distance event, but oh well, I had a good time anyway.
Newmo has a great race
Newmo had a great day out, knocking 19 minutes off his best time, coming in at 4:54. He was over the moon and so was I, because he spends most of his time working in the mines and barely gets any time to train. I was really proud as he must have listened to some of the tips I gave him in the car on the way there. He even said they really helped him in some areas. I love seeing people achieve their goals and be happy. His success was just what I needed after I’d had such a crappy race.
Murray Man – a quality triathlon
At the end of the day, I’m glad I made the trip to be a part of this fast growing event. Steve and his team at XcelSports should be commended for putting on a quality event for South Australian athletes that’s safe and relaxed, yet challenging and well thought out. Barmera is a top spot for a triathlon and well worth the effort to get there. Plus! I had a great time with Newmo on the road. I’d definitely recommend Murray Man to anyone keen on doing a brilliant country triathlon next year.