Tri Fraser Coast – 21 August 2016
By Steve Bennett
When you think of Hervey Bay, you probably think of 2 things – whale-watching and pensioners.
Well, now you can add a triathlon to that list.
Not to be confused with the Hervey Bay 100 (that is a whole other level of lunacy) –the Fraser Coast Tri is a winter event held by the Run Inn (the same people who do the Bribie Tri series).
It is only in its second year, having been held in May 2015 and this year they postponed it to later in the year and filled a slot left vacant by the cancellation of the Rainbow Beach Double Triathlon. An Olympic Distance only event in 2015, but this year they added a sprint distance.
I had to go up to Hervey Bay for work on Thursday, so I stayed til the weekend when I was joined by my brother Derek and Tarn who drove up on the Saturday.
I did a bit of a course recce of the bike leg on Friday morning – looked good albeit with quite a technical left-right-left-right out in the suburbs, but the majority of it was along the esplanade, which if you have been to HB you will know is straight and flat and a good road surface. Only one very small ‘hill’ to speak of too. So far so good.
The run leg I was familiar with, having done Hervey Bay parkrun a couple of times now. It too is flat and mostly straight. The only slight worry was when I did parkrun on the Saturday before the tri there was a thick fog around at 6:30, which didn’t clear until about 7:45-8 am. The same conditions were forecast for the Sunday.
Well, as is often the case, the forecast was wrong (seriously, I want to be a meteorologist – where else can you be wrong 75% of the time at work, and still be guaranteed a job? ) and Sunday was a little overcast but otherwise crisp and cool. Perfect conditions for race day.
Tarn and I were a little tired, we never sleep particularly well the night before a race and this was no exception, plus we stayed up to watch ‘our’ Ash Gentle in the women’s Olympic triathlon. Not ideal preparation at 2 in the morning though.
Transition was a lot smaller than we are used to (think about half the size of Straddie!) and felt quite rushed – we had to be out by 6am, then walk the 1.5km down the road to the swim start for a 6:35 am start (supposedly).
The TO’s told us that there had been some last minute course changes. Due to the late pulling out of a lot of their course marshals (very poor form by them in my opinion – but I’m sure there is a story behind that) they had to cut out the technical section of the bike leg through the burbs and effectively made it 4 laps of the esplanade. I was pretty happy to hear this as in my opinion it made the course potentially a lot faster.
My swim went well. It was probably my best leg of the day actually. Not too cold at about 21-22 degrees, probably could have done it without the wetsuit, but I need all the help I can get. Very shallow water which would be reassuring for those not comfortable with open water and zero chop (HB is very protected by Fraser Island so there are rarely any waves to speak of). There is quite a strong current going with the swimmers, so another bonus for me. Navigating under the Urangan pier was a little tricky, then up onto the beach the other side and into T1.
I felt very sluggish on the bike for some reason and couldn’t get up to my usual average speed. There was a cross-wind in a few spots, but it really wasn’t too bad and nowhere near as bad as some other events, like Mooloolaba or Caloundra, so I don’t know what the problem was. If you are not yet comfortable riding at pace with other riders around you, I can highly recommend this event – I was on my pat Malone for pretty much most of it, no danger of getting busted for drafting!
Bike done and it was on to the run leg. I have had a nagging hip injury since attempting the Gold Coast Marathon last year and it just won’t go away. I was hoping and praying that it would hold together for this run, which it did, for the first 3 k’s anyway, then it started to get very painful.
This would have to be the quietest triathlon event I have ever done. Towards the 5k turnaround point of the run I had not seen another human being for a minute or two and I was starting to wonder if I had taken a wrong turn! There were no spectators whatsoever (I guess all the pensioners were still in bed) and it was kind of spooky.
At about the 7k mark I was overtaken by a couple of runners, and although I didn’t realise it at the time, one of them was fellow clubbie Julie Zeller – who went on to finish in second place in her age cat with an impressive time of 2h 26m – not bad for what was only her third OD, not bad at all!
At the 9km mark the run leg sends you out along Urangan Pier, which I was quite looking forward to before the race, but I quickly changed my mind once upon it. The original run course which had been published a few weeks before had us turning around at 500m along the pier (it is 900m long in total) but this had obviously changed and I remember thinking ‘where the hell is this turnaround?’. The pier is quite rickety with the timber having seen better days, but worst of all it wasn’t closed to the general public so there were lots of keen fishermen casting their rods on it and getting a fish hook stuck in your face would have been a fairly unusual triathlon injury to say the least. There was quite a strong headwind on the way back in too.
Mercifully, at the end of the pier is about a 200m dash to the finish line, where I stumbled across the line.
A lesson for those new to the sport- if you are doing anything with a run over 5k’s I highly recommend taking the extra 10 seconds in T2 to put on a pair of socks. Just like the ones that were sitting in my bag, not in transition. I have a nice matching set of blisters on my feet and some bloodstains on my nice new shoes to testify to that.
Overall though, a fantastic event and I highly recommend it. It is still finding its feet, and working out some teething problems so I am sure it could use our support in coming years. But Hervey Bay is the perfect place for triathlon in many ways. Spectacular scenery, good weather, nice quiet, flat, straight roads, a sheltered salt water, shallow swim and a healthy local tri club to back it up. Cheap accommodation and good eating and drinking. We will be back.
Good results all round for SBTC – Julie got 2nd as I mentioned, Joanna Bolton got 3rd, Tarn Bennett got 3rd and my brother, who is not a clubbie (yet), but I will give him a mention anyway, got 3rd in what was only his first sprint tri. In fact the only one not to podium was me. I got 5th, which flatters me really as it wasn’t my best race, but I was happy just to finish.
Also worth mentioning that although he is with another club, the overall winner was Kieren Storch. Not sure if you know him but he is a physio with Body Leadership and a really nice kid. So well done Kieren.
Tri Fraser Coast done and dusted! Joanna, Tarn, Derek, Steve and Julie