It’s the biggest in the southern hemisphere and second biggest in the world, Noosa Triathlon is a well-organised machine and an event that every aspiring triathlete should experience. Let me tell you why.
Not only are you surrounded by triathlon elite and cream of the crop age groupers but each leg of the race provides you with something special to treat the senses and challenge your abilities.
The weekend is full of activities from which you can participate in or just wander down and spectate from the many vantage points along the way. My personal favourite is the criterium racing on Saturday. Position yourself at either end of the hotdog course and watch the bravery/lunacy unfold.
So let’s get down to business. Noosa Triathlon is an Olympic distance event with a 1.5km swim, 40km ride and a 10km run, which starts and finishes in the heart of Noosa.
The Noosa Swim
When you walk onto Noosa Main Beach you’re presented with a view of what paradise might look like. 9 times out of 10 the water will be beautiful and clear and the swell will be mild and accommodating. The course generally follows the line of the beach so spectators can see all the action from start to finish.
On most days you’ll still see the bottom no matter how far you swim out from the shore. And for those nervous swimmers, there are safety pontoons strategically placed around the course as well as plenty of helpful lifesavers willing to lend a hand and point the way.
As with any race starting from the beach, my advice is to keep your knees up as you head into the water, find some space you can call your own, slightly wide from the pack, and get into your rhythm early. The main challenge will be to navigate the number of swimmers in the water at any one time. Although like most races you’ll find yourself surrounded by about 20 people at each turnaround buoy that seems to appear from nowhere.
The Noosa Ride
This is my favourite offering of the day. The ride provides a magical mix of technical turns, scenic climbs, fast straights and one hell of a downhill. The course starts in the heart of Noosa and makes its way along Noosa Parade and onto Gympie Terrace where you are presented with a combination of roundabouts, pedestrian speed humps, and tight turns as you make your way towards Gyndier Drive and the famous Garmin Hill. To this point the course is slightly undulating but nothing too challenging.
Garmin Hill is where the fun begins
At the 10km mark, Garmin Hill is where the fun begins. This stretch of the race is like a little oasis away from the real world as you weave your way up through the state forest. There are no spectators cheering you on, there are no aid stations, just you, nature at its best and the hill. It’s quiet, calm and picturesque, but can be daunting for the first time Noosa competitor. This is where you need to pick a comfortable gear, start spinning and just enjoy what the hill can provide. Gather your thoughts, don’t go too hard, and try and take in the sights and the sounds of the forest and your fellow competitors. Say hello, offer a smile of encouragement or if appropriate, have a chat on the way up.
It will take you around the 10min mark to tame the hill, clear your mind and prepare for the next stage of the ride, the Cooroy-Noosa Rd. When you get to the top of the hill you turn right, go up a slight rise and turn left onto the Cooroy-Noosa Rd where you have the chance to get on the tri bars and put the hammer down for 8km. This stretch of road leading up to the turnaround is relatively flat and perfect for getting into a good cadence and seeing what those legs can do. After 8kms you turn around and get to do it again!
But what goes up must always come down
Well, it’s time to come down, and fast! You’ll know when this next stretch of road has arrived by the presence of a sign suggesting that motorists slow down, 1.5 km of straight road (with a slight right at the end) straight down, and a strategically placed ambulance.
This is the ‘choose your own adventure’ part of the ride as there are many ways to get to the bottom. Typically the choices have been; slowly, at a medium pace, fast, 100km per hour insanity, and in some instances, in the back of the ambulance, you just passed at the top of the hill. So be careful. The crosswinds also play a part so there is a good reason why hay bales are scattered along the left-hand side of the road towards the end of the descent. Move to the back of your seat, feather the breaks if you need to (more the back ones than the front ones), look ahead and not at your front wheel, relax and hold on! Oh and don’t forget to smile ….. No matter what adventure you choose, it’s freaking awesome fun! (apart from the one that involves the ambulance)
Once at the bottom you’ll notice you pop out on the same road as the entrance to Garmin Hill. You then just retrace your steps back into town and start preparing for the run leg.
The Noosa Run
The run leg is where you truly appreciate the spectacle that is the Noosa Triathlon. The course itself is nothing too technical as its relatively flat and basically mirrors the first part of the bike course as it hugs the Noosa river. However, it does have a little twist at the end. At about the 7km mark the course plays with your mind a little. Instead of being a straight out and back, on the return leg, you take a detour into some back streets. So don’t forget to check out the course map and be mentally ready for it.
Even the Jack Daniels drinking, durry smoking, Metallica fans are embracing this great sport.
The run is about lapping up the atmosphere, engaging with the spectators and appreciating this great sport of ours. As you head out from transition you’ll pass the grandstands, wall to wall supporters cheering you on and the club tents where your teammates will be taking pictures and offering words of encouragement and hope. Then, aligning the entire course you will see kids, mums and dads all cheering, clapping, calling out your name and sticking their hands out for a high-five. They’ll even have their sprinkler systems set up in front of their house to give you the opportunity to quickly cool yourself down. Last year one of the locals was cranking out Metallica through his stereo system in an attempt to motivate everyone.
To me, this is the essence of Noosa. People of all walks of life (even the Jack Daniels drinking, durry smoking, Metallica fans) embracing this great sport and encouraging the 8500 competitors no matter what age, sex, race or disability. That’s pretty special.
So if you decide to come to Noosa there are a couple of things I would suggest you do, apart from training hard:
Arrive a couple of days earlier and take the opportunity to enjoy the venue, see other events and familiarise yourself with the course.
Do a practice ride of the bike course, especially Garmin Hill so there’s no need to be worried about it during the event. (Don’t worry, it won’t ruin your taper)
Register on Friday as it gets pretty busy on the Saturday from the second the gates open.
Get to transition early and give yourself plenty of time to find your bike and set up. Remember there will be another 8499 competitors doing the same thing at the same time, so it can get a bit crowded and hectic if you leave it too late. Lap up the atmosphere and post heaps of photos on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat.
No matter what your goal might be. Whether it’s to achieve a specific time or just complete the event, allow yourself to take in the atmosphere and really connect with the people and the venue.
Make sure your water bottles are secure on your bike as I lost one going over a timing map at the top of Garmin Hill.
Know where the green zones are where you’re allowed to draft.
If you come and watch this year, I guarantee you’ll want to participate next year. So do yourself a favour, just register and make it happen. You won’t regret it!