Challenge Shepparton Race Report – 16 November, 2014

Time: 5:01:39 (a post kids PB – previous best 5:07 at Geelong 2013. Shepparton last year 5:12)

3rd in age group (age group winning time 4:59:51).


    Category rank Pace / Speed
Total Time: 5:01:39 3  
Swim 0:36:12 8 0:01:54
T1 0:01:17
Bike 2:42:15 2 33.28
T2 0:01:45
Run 1:40:09 2 0:04:45


I don’t remember how many times I’ve raced Shepparton half, but it must now be at least 5.  I have raced it 3 years in a row post kids, and at least twice pre-kids.  Despite conditions often being hot and windy, and a course that is very flat, and sometimes boring, it’s one I love going back to.  With the change in the race from Ironman to Challenge, the race moved to a new course – based out of the lake in town, rather than Kialla lakes.   I did my first Olympic distance race in the early 1990s at Shepparton, and the swim in those days was in the lake in town, so in a way I felt like I’d come full circle.  The new course definitely gets the thumbs up, and is far preferable to the one based out of Kialla lakes.

Training Lead-up

I raced Melbourne Marathon 5 weeks prior, so my focus had been on recovery.  I continued with some longer rides and race pace work on the bike, but my run training very much took a back seat.   I attempted a 10-15km run a week after the marathon, but as I discovered, this was too soon, and quickly turned into a walk / run.  Other than that, my longest run post marathon was an hour.  A few weeks prior to Shepparton, I made the decision to appoint a triathlon coach, so I moved into a transition period of a coach managing my marathon recovery and taper.

Pre Race

I travelled up to the race on my own, leaving family behind.  It’s a long day to keep little ones occupied, and my husband, who isn’t the best at watching races at any time, decided to stay home with the kids, rather than travel up as well.  Whilst it would be great to have them at the finish line, having an afternoon to myself to lay out all my gear, fluff around with race stuff, and only worry about putting myself to bed, is a luxury!

One of the things I was looking forward to was being able to support some friends, Beth, Di and Jenny, racing their first half ironmans, and I knew a number of other people up there, so didn’t feel lonely in the slightest.

Arrived in Shepparton, and went straight to check-in, picking up my race pack, numbering bike, helmet, and then racking my bike.  I had a quick walk through the transition area to get familiar with swim / bike / run entries and exit, and took note of where my bike was located.

I found my friends shortly after and hung around while they checked in their bikes.  They were all looking remarkably calm.

After checking in bikes, a few of us went for a very quick swim in the lake.  We didn’t put on wetsuits, and although cold when first getting in, the temperature was quite pleasant once you got wet.  The water was quite clear, although there were a number of reeds in patches.

I then checked into my accommodation, put all my race gear together, and went for a very short jog.    Realised I’d forgotten to pack deodorant so took a quick trip to the supermarket.  I did feel as if I was on my feet a lot in the afternoon, and before I knew it, it was time to head out for dinner.

I met the girls, and some other friends, for a dinner in town.  We’d eaten there last year, and rebooked this year.  Service was appalling and it ended up being a much later night than I’d have liked.  Still, no use stressing about it.

I was asleep pretty quickly, just as the rain started to fall.  I woke numerous times to the rain, and had my fingers crossed that it would rain itself out before morning.

Race Day

I woke, before my alarm, at 3:50am, with strong wind and heavy rain.  Peeked out the window and the rain was horizontal!  Spent the next half an hour messaging friends and not feeling at all like getting up and ready to race.  Still, had breakfast early, and started to get things underway. I raced at Portarlington in 2013 in wet, windy and cold conditions, with a good race, so despite preferring not to race in those conditions, I knew I could do it.   By 4.30am the wind seemed to drop, and the rain stopped. Amazing how that turns your thinking around.

I arrived at the race just after 5am, and setup my transition area.  It was still dark then, and I wished I’d packed a head-torch.   Just as I got my transition setup, the rain started again.  I found a plastic bag, and covered my running shoes with it.  A quick double check that everything was setup correctly as I like it, then out of transition.    I went for a short warmup jog, and felt good.  Joined the toilet queue and was quite impressed to see that someone was actually cleaning out the portaloos after every few uses.  Supersprint really do take care of all the details.

I moved under cover to put my wetsuit on, then checked my bag into the bag compound area, and made my way to the race start.  I found my friends, and for the most part, stuck with them until race start.


I always like to, and had planned to do a swim warmup.  Unfortunately I didn’t get one in before the start.  As no-one else was in the water before their wave star, it didn’t appear that you could go into the lake prior to the start.  There had been mention about warmups in the nearby pool, but that seemed a bit hard at the time.  I was also concerned about getting wet and standing around in the cold.  It rained (bucketed at one stage) while waiting for the start, and it was freezing cold.

So my only warmup was a short swim from getting into the water to the deep water start.

I found it quite hard to go hard at the beginning – presumably through lack of warmup.  I often feel like this at the start of the swim – I feel like I could easily say, ‘stuff it, just cruise’, but I but pushed it as best I could and soon found some feet to settle on.  The swim was not congested and  there was a lot of open space.  In another small detail that impressed me – the lake had underwater ropes marking the course, so navigation was very easy.

I’d really done minimal swimming (my only swimming in most weeks was literally 25mins while the kids were doing their swimming lessons), and given my swimming is my weakest leg I was pretty happy.  Once I’d got through the first hundred metres or so, I felt good and settled into a comfortable pace – sitting on feet for most of the way.


I had a great transition, and the fastest in my age group.  My transitions in my last few races have been shocking, so I was pleased to have a good one.  I also put my shoes on the bike before hand (something I’ve been nervous about in recent races), and was pleased to get the mount right without any issues.  It has definitely given me confidence again with my transitions.


The bike was a 2 lap course, and flat.  The first lap went very quickly, and I was loving the ride.  There was a headwind going out, but I felt strong, and overtook many people.   My coach had told me I had the ability to ride solidy, so I was keen to prove that I could.

Lap 2 was a bit harder, and I went through a bit of a down patch between about 55km – 65km (the turnaround).   It coincided with letting 2 women get past me – we’d been playing tag earlier, and I should have been able to stay with them, really only losing them mentally rather than ability wise.  The headwind seemed to get stronger, but I knew that once I got to the turnaround, it would be a great tailwind coming back.  And it was.  Looking at Garmin data afterwards, I was consistently sitting at over 40km/hr plus coming back!  My highest recorded speed was 48.8km/hr!

Overall, I felt strong on the bike, and was very pleased with how I rode, and enjoyed the bike.   I seem to ride quite well in tougher conditions like that.  I saw a number of people on the side of the road having come off, and I was very cautious around the corners.  I’m pretty terrible at the best of times, but with wet conditions I was extra slow on corners.  I watched someone slide off their bike at the first turnaround in town, so it made me extra cautious.

I fumbled a lot with eating / drinking. I’d carried gels in a bag on my toptube, and fumbled with getting them out, opening them, putting the wrapper into my jersey.   I’ve used a flask in the past, so might go back to that, but I’d opted to have some different flavours this time.

I had 2 sports bottles on my rear bottle cage, and water on the aero bars.   I felt like reaching behind to drink was disrupting my pace a bit, so didn’t drink as much as I should have.  I may consider swapping front water bottle, with sports drink, and putting 1 water bottle, and 1 sports drink on the back in future.  As I did at Hazelwood, I’ve upped my intake of gels on the bike, and had 5 in total.



I got out of my shoes way too early, so I was riding with feet on top of my shoes for longer than I should have.

I was fast off the bike, and into T2, and out of transition quickly.  I fumbled a bit putting my cap, sunglasses, and gels in pockets as I was running out, but still recorded the fastest transition time for my agegroup.    After really slowing down in transitions in recent races, I’m pleased to have been able to nail both transitions this time round.


I had a great run, although I did have a slight feeling of ‘it’s a long way to run’ thought when I first started!   Fortunately that passed quickly, and I found myself running well and feeling strong.  It was a 3 lap run course, and a much better run course than the Kialla lakes run.  I’m sure the cooler temperatures helped.     Except for one or 2 female pros who were a lap ahead, and one other person from a different agegroup, I didn’t get passed by many females.   I caught sight of Beth, Di and Jen, i in short succession and they all looked to be running really well.

As I headed into the last few turnaround, I could see that there was one female making up ground on me.  Based on her race number, I thought there was a good chance she was in my agegroup, so I tried to dig deep to finish ahead of her.  Unfortunately she caught me with a few hundred metres to go, but I still finished strongly.  Turns out she was in my agegroup.

I took a gel at about every 5km, and drank a small swig of coke at most aid stations.   No tummy issues, and I think nutrition was spot on.

My final run time was 1:40:15 – one of my fastest HIM runs for a long time, and not far off my half marathon PB.




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I loved the beer bar setup in the recovery area.  Fruit on the tables and a bar in the corner.  I decided to hold off having a beer until my friends had finished, so lined up for a massage, then collected my bike, and got changed.  Found Di and Jen and shared a beer.  Beth had finished as well, but wasn’t in the recovery area, but I was thrilled to learn that all 3 had finished with great first half ironman times.



I’d also looked up the results on the online tracker, and with results showing I’d come third in my agegroup, headed across to the presentation area.  Beth and Di thought they embarrassed themselves taking photos of me, but it was great to have a mini cheer squad!




Conditions were tough with the wind, but I loved the race and felt strong from start to finish.  My goal had been to enjoy the race, race solidly and I did.

I was treating the race as a season warmup, particularly given I’d raced the marathon 5 weeks prior.  I didn’t go into the race with any time expectations, and although I raced with Garmins to record data, for the first time ever, I didn’t have any screens showing heart rate, time, speed or pace. I have always wanted to do that, but never been game, and it was a good experiment. For the bike I just had distance and cadence screens showing, and run, just distance – and I only had these showing so that I could gauge my timing for nutrition.  It was good to race entirely on feel.  My heart rate seemed to be at a similar zone to where I would normally aim to race at anyway.

I’m incredibly proud of my friends Di, Beth and Jen who completed their first half ironman – for Beth, it was her first ever triathlon.  Being able to share in the weekend with these wonderful friends topped off a fantastic weekend.


I’m on an easy recovery week this week, then I’m looking forward to getting started on my new program in preparation for Challenge Melbourne in February.

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