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.
Well, it's been a short two weeks since my first race of 2014…or my attempt of a race given the annoying injured calf strain I had in Wanaka. Since then I've been working very hard with my physio's massage therapist to get the injury healed, as having Challenge Melbourne take place so soon on the 2nd of February was leaving me a bit short of running mileage. I was fortunate to get the injury to a point where I could push a good amount of pain-free running on my body. This allowed me to go into Challenge Melbourne with the confidence that my calf wouldn't give out again.
Flying over to Melbourne's heat wave of close to 40 degrees every day was a stark difference compared to the cool summer we have been experiencing back home, but I love racing when it’s hot! Another great thing was that my sister had traveled over to watch me race. She doesn’t get to watch me race often, so it was perfect to have her there, and as an added bonus she cooked for me while I got my bike and gear organized – fantastic!
Race start was to be early - 6.15am, as organizers were worried about the extreme heat causing health problems for the athletes. The Triathlon Australia officials had told us when we got to transition it was a non-wetsuit swim, which I was happy about. However, just before heading down to the start they changed it to “wetsuit optional,” triggering a scramble as every athlete located and instantly changed into their suits. The water temperature measured at 23.9 degrees – 24 degrees being the wetsuit cut off! I found the water very hot for a wetsuit swim and again felt like I was having a bad go of it. Despite the heat I managed to be with a large group that reeled in everyone except Clayton Fettell before the 30k mark. Clayton was on a bloody mission and got his lead up to six minutes by the end of the 90k bike.
The group was nine strong but still losing time to Clayton every lap, so I knew the run was going to be full on. I had decided to put socks on for the half Marathon as wanted to be comfortable on the run given my recent calf troubles. I had one of the slowest transitions, forcing me to run hard at the start to try and get up to the other athletes in my original group. Despite the effort, I felt really good, and the first lap was going well. Then, perhaps because of all the changes in surface or maybe because I was protecting of my left leg a bit, I got a major cramp in my right abductor. Not a little cramp - the most intense cramp I've ever had! I was frozen and thought right then my race was over. Slowly I got back to walking, and then worked to a slow jog, and after a lot of rubbing and easy running it released! I could finally push again and instantly ran hard, managing to pick up one guy before the finish to put me in as 9th Place Pro man.
I'm pleased with this result and know that with more work over the next few weeks my run will be back to 100%. I’m also happy to announce my next race will be the 30th Ironman New Zealand in Taupo on the 1st of March. Taupo is my old home town, so I am really looking forward to racing there, especially since the last time I raced there I finished on the podium. This will be my first race to gain valuable Kona qualifying points, so really need a great result!
Thanks for tuning in. Until next time - stay healthy.
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- Eric @Clif