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By Kate Geagan and Matthew Dillon
The Rhodsey Chronicles: Episode 1
What life is like for a veteran athlete trying to finish in style
Editor’s note: Kiwi Bryan Rhodes has competed as a triathlete for over twenty years, including fourteen years as a professional. Over that long span, he has been on the podium countless times and won four Ironman races. Bryan is a survivor- performing for two decades at a high level in a sport where simply finishing one race is a big accomplishment for most. After enduring a season of injuries and disappointments in 2013 and nearing the end of a storied career, Bryan is giving it his all this year to get the results he needs for one more shot at racing Kona. Join us in cheering him on as he gives us the straight dope throughout the season on what life is like for a veteran athlete trying to finish in style.
I chose Challenge Wanaka to be my first race of the year. After taking a break late last year to go fishing, tramping, and shooting with my retired father, I had to ramp up my training again in early December, as Wanaka is a full Iron distance event. My training picked up really well around Christmas, and by New Year things were looking really positive, especially considering how average summer had been for me, to say the least. The field for Challenge Wanaka was the best on paper the race has seen - 17 legit pro men on the start line. I was a little worried, as I thought only five weeks of training for a tough course might leave me a bit underdone.
Since my training was now up my running and I had been feeling really good, I decided to institute some speed in my programme and Thursday - the week before the event - did a track session of 10 x 1km repeats. After the third effort I felt my left calf getting tight. As I tried to complete the fourth 1km rep my calf gave a sharp pain and I was forced to quit. I thought then my race was not going to happen and I booked in straight away to my Physio Therapist only to find out I had a calf strain.
My stress levels went up and I was having sleepless nights. Being a Kiwi, I really wanted to support the Challenge race in Wanaka and thought I'd just keep training, do some water running and Physio treatment and see what happens. As the race got closer I realised that a running a Marathon would be crazy as I could only manage a thirty minute jog pain-free. I started to look for a team runner but couldn’t find any takers, so thought I'd just start the race and have a good training session.
The morning of the race was very cold. However, there was not a cloud in the sky and everyone was saying it was going to heat up to 30 degrees as we entered the 14 degree water. I started well in the swim and tried to get on Dylan McNeice's feet but dropped off after 400 meters as couldn’t get my arms to work in the cold water. I lost four minutes to Dylan in the water and was shocked as I usually don't have a bad swim. I stayed with the lead chase group and was 2nd onto my bike and felt strong as I headed off to try and make inroads on Dylan's lead. The first section I gained a bit, but after 20k I was just struggling to keep warm. By 50k I had been caught by a group of guys who I tried to stay with but couldn’t maintain the pace and was dropped very soon afterwards.
Since I wanted to make the most of the day, I pushed on and had as much fun as you can have on a tough 180km course with 2065 meters of climbing. I entered the transition in what I thought was 11th place and decided to go out and run, as running off the bike is often different than just running in training. My leg was aching straight away, however, and my compression sleeve was doing little to support the strain. I ran at an easy pace for 10k and decided that I might be doing more damage to the leg, so I made the tough choice to pull out. I found out later that three others ahead of me had pulled out, as well, leaving me in 7thplace at the time. Had I known this, I could have jogged walked it in to make a little bit of prize money.
So, Wanaka was a hard effort, but not the podium result I had hoped for as I know I could have been in the hunt for 2nd or 3rd. 1stwas out of the question, as Dylan's performance was on another level considering the toughness of the course and weather.
Next race is Challenge Melbourne on the 2nd of February. I’ll keep the treatment up and go for that podium spot!
Until the next report, happy training!
Cheers Bryan Rhodes
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