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Its a strike!

Trial Bay Triathlon – February 2022

By Bertrand Bride

Before we start, I will alert you to some unusual spelling of some people’s names. Rest assured Bernard has not gone senile (although this may be imminent), it merely reflects the various and many official mispronunciations and misspellings during the weekend.

Wow what a weekend of merriment we had. Thankfully, unlike at the Kingy tri, nobody experienced disasters before the race and people were in fine fettle. We even had our Honourable President racing – albeit on one leg – but what a leg.

The first question on all competitors’ minds was what weather would the wild and unpredictable South West Rocks bring us this year? After a wild storm washed out the event in 2020 (just prior to the virus-that-cannot-named appeared on our shores), 2021 went off without a hitch. And, whilst there was rain forecast, the Trial Bay Gaol ghosts looked after us and gave us perfect racing conditions on the day – around 25 degrees in the water, early 20’s air temperature and not a drop of rain until the last competitor crossed the line.

The Byron Breakers brought along another strong team – a total of 22.5 comprising 15 competitors and 7.5 wonderful support crew; our 2 Joint Support Chairpeoples Becky and John, Joana (I’m going to come last in ten-pin bowling), Daz (I’m just here for the beer), Valentina (plus Jayden The 2nd), Nissa (future breakers triathlete in the making) and Claudia (manager of multi-generational Charlie)

The race was on Sunday but most people arrived Friday afternoon and settled in, with a few of the team deciding to not risk rain on Saturday by riding the cycle course that afternoon – which was a new route for the event. Once we’d finished the lap, the consensus was that the one steep hill was not as bad as remembered 😊 We then realised the race leg was 2 laps.

Chef Claire and Chief Chopper Hun started preparing the chicken/tofu Thai green curry for 17 people (a meal proudly sponsored by SimplyClean – available at all sensible stockists). Luckily, we catered for a few more stomachs as some of those training for the Tweed Enduro half-ironman seemed to have more than one – indeed I am sure Jaime consumed more than his body weight in curry – is that even possible?

Much to the delight and interest of the support crew, the competitors began assessing the start list. Lucky we did! There was Charlie in the 85+ age category. Now, don’t get me wrong, Charlie is no spring chicken, but surely he’d never pass for an 85 year old without a lot of cosmetic work? And as Nevida has previously commented, his impressive pecs would always be the giveaway. For those of you who diligently follow my reports, you will remember that at his first tri race at Kingy, 2 weeks ago, Charlie was initially reported as coming 3rd in the 30-34 female category. So, it is even more impressive that he was put in the wrong age group again. The Breakers do not have anyone in the 85+ category so there was some robust discussion about whether he should say anything and just take the points – assuming that is that he would beat the other (presumably actual 85+) competitor.

A few carb-loading alcoholic beverages were consumed, and everyone went to bed with a full stomach.

We woke on Saturday to an overcast but still pleasant day. Some people cycled the course and others went for an easy pre- breakfast swim with the aim of meeting up at the café in the camping ground (located next to transition). The water was perfect – it was warm with little swell or chop. Despite this, Greg decided to test out whether he could dent one of the 2m wide metal permanent buoys by swimming straight into it headfirst. Greg learnt a valuable lesson: buoys are harder than heads.

The distances at the Trial Bay Triathlon have always been slightly different to a standard sprint. This year, it was a 750m swim, 26km bike ride and a 5km run (which ended up being only 4.75km). But the organisers added another twist. They had been asked by National Parks to not transition through the camping ground. This meant that the only route from transition to the road for the cycle was along a 400m stretch of muddy, stony and tree-rooty path, barefooted and with bike.

How could this be done safely under race conditions; we asked the organisers? Well, the go was that they were going to lay literally (as my 18-year-old would say) hundreds of pieces of carpet along the whole length, along which we would have to run with our bike to and from the road, whilst dodging the runners who would also be heading out this way on the run leg. The team immediately and unanimously decided we must have a person with a camera stationed on this stretch to capture the inevitable spills and thrills.

After all this confusion a few of us were getting caffeine-edgy, so we sauntered off to the campground café and met up with the cyclists. We had coffee and breakfast and after copping abuse from the very pissed off café owner because “youse triathletes prevent the locals coming because of the road closures” and “youse triathletes never come to my café”, which was an interesting rant to the 14 triathletes sitting right there! We wandered back to chill out.

Registration was at 4pm so obviously there was time to slip in a hula-hoop competition. There weren’t many participants but the clear winner (the only person who could actually hula-hoop with anything resembling style) was Joana.

Registration was at the Country Club as usual, and the plan was to support the venue (as they were also sponsor) by eating at their restaurant. Unfortunately, the menu was very limited, but as long as you like chicken parmi, chicken schnitty or chicken butter curry. you were ok. And if you didn’t like meat or animal products then you could always go for the only vegan option on the menu, chicken and feta salad - absolutely true! So, we decided to have a pre-race carb-loading beverage at the bar instead and then did our own thing for dinner.

And so to the actual race…

It was a later than normal start with first waves off at 7.30, so wake-up time was reasonable for a change (except for Charlie and Claudia who were staying 65km away in Nambucca, I’m guessing to suss out the course for the 2032 Nambucca Triathlon). The ladies were off first starting with the 60+ categories – a sensible decision made by the male organisers to warm up the water before the more fragile men took off.

In the 55-59 male age group, Benz (being the stronger swimmer) very kindly offered to pave the way for Hun through the water – a true team player as always. All was going swimmingly well until they (and all the other competitors) turned at the furthest buoy and headed for home. It was like someone had attached a bungee cord – the current was strong, and you had to dig deep just to make progress. The less confident swimmers were struggling. As they reached the end, Benz and Hun were swimming side-by-side - 1st and 2nd in their category. As they got closer to the beach Benz gave Hun a big smack on the head –Hun couldn’t decide if this was a slightly misjudged “go get ‘em tiger” or a “that’s for tickling my toes for 750m”.

It was into transition and off with the bike for a trot along Shagpile Lane. We shouldn’t have worried. The organisers had done an amazing job – spray marking the whole length where the tree-roots and big stones were underneath. It was an interesting experience, dodging the fluoro markers.

The cycle course was two laps starting basically flat, then a steepish 400m hill and a gradual downhill. First time round was fine, but the hill was definitely steeper second time ‘round and a fair few competitors walked it (none of the Breakers did of course). And then back along Shagpile Lane to transition. A quick change into runners and off we went on the lovely run course, along tree-lined tracks through bushland.

For those of us who had competed at Trial Bay before, we knew the run course was hilly for the first 3km or so. But after a tough swim, a longer than normal cycle leg and an extra 800m running with your bike, the legs are starting to feel it and the hills are hillier than you remember. But you know you are close to the end, and you just have to drive on. You’re looking at the numbers of any competitor in front of you, and especially anybody who passes you, who vaguely looks your age and gender. But the brain is a bit foggy – was that 546 or 564 who just passed me and are they in my age group or not? – they had grey hair – but they also had their name and “AUS” on their back, which is never a good sign. Keep the legs moving, keep breathing. The end is getting closer. Down the last hill, onto the flat heading out to the final turnaround. You turn and there’s no one with grey hair in sight – you can start to relax a bit (unless you’re Greg, finisher extraordinaire). It’s then flat until you hit Shagpile Lane for the last time. 200m to go you can hear the spectators cheering people across the line. Better speed up a little to look good crossing the line. Over the little bridge, slight right turn, finish line ahead, put on a burst of speed for the crowd and through you go. That was a tough one.

And thankfully, after all the hype, we later heard the carpet had a victim, although the account of what happened varies depending on who you ask. Claire, was apparently minding her own business, running the last 200 metres to the finish, when a tree root suddenly jumped out and tripped her up. She went flying and badly grazed her knee. Luckily a heavily pregnant woman was on hand to help Claire to her feet. Claire set off but only ran 5 metres more when the cousin of the first root jumped out and tripped her again. Down she went, same knee, more damage. By this time the heavily pregnant lady had gone into labour due the exertion of lifting Claire and was unable to help a second time. Claire heroically got herself up and staggered, bleeding to the line. None of the Breakers actually saw any of these events. Greg, on the other hand, says Claire got carpet burns on her knees from the night before. Which is more believable, I ask?

There were also some memorable finishes.

Nick E discovered that the finish area was waaaaay too short for him and decided to just keep running through and into the recovery area with the vollies madly shouting “stop Forest, stop!”.

An excited shout went up from Deb, “we have our first vomiter” as she rushed with her phone camera ready to the barriers. Joni had finished in an amazingly fast time given he hasn’t done much training, but it appeared to have taken its toll. As he crossed the line he went white and fell to his knees. Joni says he’d dropped a contact lens on the ground, but Deb reckons he was milliseconds away from throwing everything on the ground. He recovered well and Deb is still waiting for our first vomiter.

Casanova Pete came across the line and was so relieved he immediately hugged a random mature female athlete who had finished at the same time – she certainly didn’t seem to mind one bit being embraced by a handsome and fit youngish man. Nevida on the other hand!

Nick A crossed the line and said he felt great (plainly the drugs hadn’t worn off yet). To be fair, he finished in a great time and is improving every race.

Greg finished in his legendary style as he did at Kingy. He spotted a male competitor ahead with 50m to go and set his laser sights on him. He entered stealth mode, silently pumping the legs and arms, and timed the attack perfectly for maximum frustration for the other competitor by overtaking him 1m from the finish line. Note to all Breakers – make sure Greg is not behind you at 200m to the finish line.

Jaime was flying on the run, as usual. I was fortunate enough to be on the carpet when he whizzed past chasing another athlete (who turned out to be in the age category above - phew). And when I say whizzed, it was something to behold. Even if I had not done the swim or cycle and had just started the run 200m from the finish, I still couldn’t have kept up.

And when I eventually did get to the finish line, Panini Hannini was waiting there looking as though she’d been hanging out for a long while. She asked me my time and I told her, and she so nicely said “surely that can’t be right, as that means I was way ahead of you?” True, but I did point out that it is very difficult competing against a machine.

The results started being posted and they were looking good for the Breakers.

A very special mention goes to Panini Hannini for being the overall female winner (and of course coming 1st in her age category).

Special mentions to the podium placers: To Nevida, Sandra, Jaime and Hun for also coming first in their age categories and Jaime for coming 8th overall. To Robyn and Pete for coming 3rd in their age categories.

A mention too for La Presidenta Deb for competing with a very dodgy foot and aiming just to finish and get points for the club, who finished 4th in her age category after being expertly coached in the art of the run/walk by Nevida.

Also worth noting that after her no-sleep disappointment at Kingy, Robyn stormed home, beating Benz by 24 seconds and only coming 18 seconds behind Nick E. Watch out boys, Robyn is coming!

Particularly exciting was Charlie being announced as coming 3rd in the 20-24 male category. Let’s just summarise where Charlie is in his quest to get into every age category: At Kingy he was 3rd in the 30-34 female category and at this event he started in the 85+ male category but came 3rd in the 20-24 males. Just for the record he is a 55-59 year old man. We very much look forward to the next instalment of Charlie’s Age Category Lottery.

The results in time order were:

Jaime: 1st M35-39 - 1hr21:30s – and 8th overall

Panini Hannini: 1st F35-39 - 1:28:34 – and overall female winner

Hun: 1st M55-59 - 1:33:41

Joni: 7th M40-44 - 1:37:57

Nick A: 9th M30-34 - 1:38:27

Nick E: 15th M35-39 - 1:47:02

Robyn: 3rd F60-65 - 1:47:20

Benz - 8th M55-59 - 1:47:44

Deb - 4th F55-59 - 1:51:10

Charlie – 3rd M20-24 and 13th M55-59 - 1:54:43

Sandra – 1st F65-69 - 1:54:57

Claire – 6th F55-59 - 1:56:08

Greg – 15th M55-59 - 1:59:24

Pete – 3rd M70-74 - 2:06:05

Nevida – 1st F70-74 - 2:11:26

Fantastic results by everyone and the Breakers earned maximum points in for the North Coast League. Hopefully this is enough to keep our position at the top of the table.

Thank God the triathlon was over so we could concentrate on the main competition for the weekend, ten pin bowling.

There had been a lot of fighting talk before the weekend, mainly from Joni, and so we were looking forward to seeing whether he could back it up on the day.

Two games were played and there were 2 major prizes up for grabs: The person with the highest total points from both games was going to be awarded The Bowling Ball Breaker trophy, hand drawn on the top of a pizza box from the night before. And the person with the least number of points was getting the coveted Wooden Spoon (on loan from the AirBnB for the event). The excitement and tension in the bowling alley was palpable.

Jaime surprised everyone, including himself, by starting at the same blistering pace he does in triathlons. He had obviously been practising. But could he maintain it?

Benz and Daz were consistent as always and were always going to be in contention, and Nick E was in with a shout. Undoubtedly Sandra had been practising on the quiet and matched John in the first game.

The end of the first game was drawing to a close and it looked as though Jaime had an unassailable lead.

But then Hun was temporarily possessed by The Dude from the Big Lebowski and bowled a strike on his last set. And then another strike. And finished with a 3rd strike in a row and winning the first game. He celebrated with a beer or 2, which strangely did not provide any benefit in the 2nd game.

At this stage, there were a few contenders for the wooden spoon – they would have to dig deep if they wanted to win (or is that lose?).

We were into Game 2 and as the bottles of prosecco got lower so did the general quality of play. The exceptions were Jaime (who stayed on soft drinks like all good professional athletes) and Claire who seemed to get better and better as the game went on – you could tell she’s training for the Enduro.

And when all the points were tallied up, Claire was rewarded with 3rd place in The Bowling Ball Breaker competition. In 2nd place was Jaime and winning by a narrow margin was Hun.

And now for the big one. In 3rd place in the Wooden Spoon competition was Nissa. In 2nd place was Nevida and the worthy winner with an almighty low 94 points from 2 games was Becky.

It was a Jones whitewash and not rigged at all.

Thanks to all for a fabulous weekend.

The next triathlon is the Tweed Enduro at the end of the month. Best of luck to all those courageous/mad Breakers competing in the half iron-man and also to those racing in the sprint.


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