Challenges @ Byron
Updated: May 16
The 2023 Byron Bay Triathlon written by our Chief Correspondent Huw Jones
The Byron Triathlon is traditionally the last event in the North Coast League series before the NSW Club Championships, and it always sets a few challenges for the athletes.
The first challenge was the rain. After many weeks of glorious Autumn weather, the heavens clouded over and the rain was falling. Race-day started off as predicted, with competitors racking their bikes in steady rain, always a particularly unpleasant and foreboding experience. Fortunately, we were Byron-blessed, with the Norse gods and Nimbin crystals shining upon us and the rain stopped before the start.
The second challenge was our Byron locals. “Sharing” is not commonly favoured in Byron, with “Mine” and “Piss Off” being the preferred welcome to visitors, especially those pursuing health through sport. One of the organisers had unthinkingly put a timing mat 20mm over one of the motels’ boundaries next to transition. Just before the triathlon started the accommodation caretaker was seen unplugging the mat and removing all the cabling. He didn’t talk to anyone. He didn’t ask someone if they could move it. He just said “this is mine, piss-off”. Ironically, his motel was probably full of triathletes!
Challenge no. 3 was working out how to start the event. The athletes guide had unexpectedly advised that each event’s competitors would be wearing the same colour cap, e.g all 390 sprint athletes were wearing yellow . Plus there were no start times given for each age category. As we all congregated somewhere near the start line everyone was wondering how they would start us off. Everyone that is except the people already in the ocean. It turned out to be a rolling start, with 4-5 people allowed over the start mat at once. Thankfully, there were plenty of super keen athletes (aka sacrifices) heading out to the first buoy. Which leads us to the next challenge…..
…….the ever-moving sand bars in the bay. These always cause a challenge for the Byron Surf Club in deciding (1) can the swim go ahead at all and (2) what is the best route through the surf. The route was reminiscent of last year’s event, with a 100m wide trough from the beach creating a seriously wicked sweep from right to left. Normally this would be a godsend, but they positioned the first buoy just beyond the trough so everyone had to wade out until they were level with the buoy and then launch themselves, hoping they would get round it and not be swept straight past. The water was waist deep in the trough (for anyone about 178cm tall) and there was no point trying to swim it as you were swept left immediately. You had to keep your feet on the sand at all times. This meant the taller, stronger and heavier people were at a distinct advantage. At least 50% of the first wave of competitors missed the buoy totally and had to come back to shore and try again. It was certainly a gruelling start and sadly got the better of Sandra and Joana, both of whom are a good bit shorter than ideal for the conditions.
Aside from the swim, the course was excellent and fast.
The bike leg sensibly went up Lawson Street first before doubling-back, then going along Bangalow Road. This meant the turnaround was closer to town, and importantly reduced the number of pissed-off locals living on Bangalow Road.
The run leg was simple and effective. Each 2.5km leg was out along the footpath on the ocean side of Lawson Street up to the roundabout, back along the other side of the street, along the gravel path to the soccer fields to a turnaround and back the same way.
The Breakers team had a few extra challenges of its own leading up to the race, with certain point-winners out of contention:
Mick Donnelly was the first to go with a badly strained back. We all wish him well in recovery and look forward to seeing his smiling face soon.
David Mildren was unable to make the event partly because of work commitments and because the sprint distance is just waaaaay too short for someone training for the Cairns Ironman next month. Good luck David – you’re going to smash it, although in my opinion all 70.3ers are slightly mad – but in a nice way.
Deb “La Presidenta” Fuller frustratingly hurt her back a week before in very suspicious circumstances. The official reason given was she was doing some light weights and twinged her back. The unofficial story is the “light weights” were a couple of bottles of very nice chardonnay.
The Clarke-Super-Duo, Nerida and Pete, were AWOL (absent without leave) again and were last heard of in Oaxaca de Juárez, in Mexico. It will not be a surprise to those you know N&P to hear that Oaxaca is home to some of the best mezcal.
Irv was very disappointed to be diagnosed with W.A.S. (weak-ankle-syndrome) by his doctor in the week before the race. It was particularly remarkable as W.A.S is usually the affliction of ballet dancers and synchronised swimmers. Let’s hope Irv does not decide on a change of sport (although I for one would be keen to watch him in the pool). Not to be left out, Irv keenly switched his entry to the Aquabike Sprint event.
Charlie supposedly had another gig to attend after seeing the forecast.
A few mentions:
Amazingly, out of the 16 club members who entered the Sprint, 7 got on the podium and 12 were in the top 10 of their age category and therefore earned points for the club in the North Coast League series.
Unsurprisingly Jaime was the first Breaker across the line in the Sprint in a sizzling 1:06:38, securing 1st place in his age category and 5th place overall.
Huw was the second Breaker over the line in a less sizzling but not-bad-for-a-sixty-year-old 1:18:13 and taking 1st place in his category, and most importantly a massive 29 seconds ahead of Nick.
Brooke and Gracie battled hard in their age category finishing just 5 seconds apart with Brooke getting 3rd place, and they were impressively the 10th and 11th overall females across the line.
Christie had recently come back from an ankle injury (FYI – it was not W.A.S.) and excitingly got her first podium placing in her triathlon career. I am sure it will not be her last.
Elize recently moved to Coffs Harbour allegedly to join a secret triathlon training camp. And it certainly paid off as she took out top spot in her age category.
Robyn sensibly made a last-minute switch from the Olympic to the Sprint and we are very glad she did, as she came 2nd in her age category.
Our resident long courser (and also slightly mad) Claire was deservedly pleased with her 3rd in her age category.
The quiet achiever Margreet is gradually making her way up the ladder, thanks to her covert swim courses.
James Aris (newish member) gets 2 special mentions. Firstly, for competing in and finishing his first triathlon. Secondly for being Marketing Manager at Stone & Wood so we all look forward to a sponsorship deal being signed with the Breakers together with a slab of Pacific Ale provided gratis to all members.
Byron Bay was Aoife’s first ever triathlon. She had done all the hard work leading up to the event, putting in the kms in the pool, on the bike and pounding the bitumen. One thing she forgot to train for was how to securely strap her timing chip to her leg. Whilst Aoife successfully completed the course, her chip is apparently still completing the swim leg.
And Joana also gets a special mention. Although she was not able to complete the swim, she courageously continued and finished both the ride and run. And after crossing the finishing line went straight to the timing officials and DNF’d herself. Big kudos.
Filippo did not get the memo and was one of only 2 Breakers competing in the Olympic event – and this was his first Olympic distance race. The elusive Luke was apparently somewhere in the Olympic mix and quietly took off to the UK directly after his finish. Have a good trip Luke.
We also had 2 Breakers in the Aquabike Sprint event and they came home strong. Barb and Irv were both 1st in their age categories and Irv was the 2nd competitor across the finish line.
Additionally, the Breakers had a very impressive 4 members crowned 2023 NSW State Sprint Champions for their age category: Jaime, Huw, Elize and Christie. Gracie also paid me to tell everyone that she was almost runner-up NSW State Sprint Champion in her age group (behind Brooke).
The WTF prize this year goes to our Olympic Relay Team of Andy (swim), Tom (bike) and Guilia (run), and their helper for the day, young Luca. Andy is a very strong swimmer so had no problems with the conditions and the 1.5km swim. T1 went well and the timing strap was given to Tom. Tom is not race fit but is very fit, so finished the 40km ride strongly and handed over to Guilia. Guilia has been doing a lot of run training since she and Tom moved to Port Macquarie and is currently training for the Gold Coast Marathon, so the 10km was a breeze. Guilia crossed the finish line with a surge of speed – big hugs – lots of congrats. She takes off the timing strap and realises there is no timing chip on it. It was safely stored in a bag under the Breakers marquee 😢 Officially they got a DNS but unofficially they did an amazing time – well done 🤣
A big thanks as always goes to our wonderful supporters and vollies: Joint Presidents of the Breakers Supporters Club, Becky and John K were joined by Deb, Benz, John C, Kayte, Felicity, Mat, Bernard and Deb's neighbours Trevor and Kerrie👏 Another round of applause goes to Larissa for conducting the transition tours on Friday so professionally. Considering this was her very first triathlon in Byron we can blame her for anyone who went the wrong way!
And the biggest thanks goes to Deb for the huge amount of work she did to help organise the event locally with NX Sports, including navigating and managing the various wants and desires of the oh-so-difficult Byron councillors. Thanks Deb.
Despite the AWOL-ers, pre-race injuries and mislaid timing chips, the Breakers had another fantastic event with many podium placings and brought home 24.5 out of a max of 30 points.
In time order:
Jaime C - 1st in M36-39 - 1:06:38
Huw J - 1st in M55-59 - 1:18:13
Nick E - 5th in M35-39 - 1:18:42
Brooke F - 3rd in F20-24 - 1:21:49
Gracie R - 4th in F20-24 - 1:21:54
Christie H - 3rd in F40-44 - 1:24:46
Zvi A - 10th in M35-39 - 1:24:57
Larissa W - 7th in F25-29 - 1:26:27
Elize S - 1st in F35-39 - 1:26:39
Robyn D - 2nd in F60-64 - 1:31:33
Claire O’M - 3rd in F55-59 - 1:33:01
Margreet W - 6th in F40-44 - 1:34:32
James A - 21st in M35-39 - 1:47:04
Joana S - DNF
Sandra K - DNF
Aoife G – Lost Timing Chip
Filippo O - 13th in M30-34 - 2:34:25
Luke B - 39th in M25-29 - 2:55:16
AQUABIKE - Sprint
Irvin E - 1st in M40-44 - 1:04:04
Barb J - 1st in F60-64 - 1:28:44
Andy K (swim), Tom (bike), Giulia (run) – great time but officially DNS
What a team! Go the Breakers.