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National School Triathlon Trip April 2014 - Lucy Cliff

I walked through Sydney airport by myself trying to find group departures with my bike in a massive cardboard box (originally for an electric bike) and a bag. It was a short flight to Melbourne where we waited for a while for three minibuses and a removalist truck. With team managers at the wheel/s, we then travelled another two hours, stopping for quality pre-race food at KFC, and on to Lake Crusoe in Bendigo where we would be competing.

We got our bikes out to start setting them up. I was almost as nervous as I was about racing –scared my bike would later fall apart in the race. Dad had drilled the tightening pressure of every screw into me, and we had practiced it a few times so it was fine. By now the steady drizzle of rain had started that we would see for the next 3 days! (The last day was fine). Bikes had to be left in transition at the event until the last day.

A trial day gave us the chance to train, checkout the course, adjust the bike, and pass scrutineering. (Spearman’s did a great job of getting my bike setup right and even at the last moment ordered a 15-25 rear gear cluster, and so with my tire diameter it was right on the 7m maximum allowed rollout without needing to lockout gears).

The course was swimming 600m in an old reservoir, riding 16km along a country style road - 2km uphill then back down with four repeats and a 4km cross-country style run mainly on dirt, across and up the dam wall then around a part of the lake returning with a fast finish along the top of the wall.

Along came race day, and I was fairly nervous – it was my first triathlon with competitors from other states. Because I came 5th at State out of the six who qualified, I was pretty sure I would finish in the last third. I got a great surprise when Dad, after driving all night, arrived just before my race. It was still raining though and everything in transition was sure to be soaked.

Positioning myself on the right of the start line we started in the water, hanging off the pontoon in a reservoir of which you could kind of push off from. I quickly got some clear water but then my goggles were soon wacked off by a stray arm. With about 400m of the U-shape course to go, my feet, arms (I have a sleeveless wetsuit) and face were completely numb but as they say I guess it was a good thing. I came out of the water in a large pack behind three leaders and overtook a few running up and then back down the steep dam wall to transition.

It was raining steady during the bike leg, the road was narrow so the turns were especially tight but I found I had an advantage with practice from the Illawarra Tri club race and work we had done with Nathan Miller in bike handling. I overtook a few more people on the first lap and slipped into 5th position, which I maintained for the rest of the bike leg. The downhill section in the middle of the course was a bit annoying with the rollout of 7m because I was spinning out, although a good tuck did the trick. Mostly, I was just happy that I managed to stay upright - having not much experience racing in the rain especially on slick tyres.

Off the bike and onto the dreaded run. I actually felt good running out of T2 and starting the long, straight and muddy track beside the lake. Personally, I’m more of a swimmer so my tactic on every run is to just hold my place. Unfortunately two girls overtook me – I did try to stick with them. Back along the lake towards the finish line my legs were aching and burning so it was lucky no-one was in sight behind to demand a sprint finish. When I came through, I couldn’t believe I came 7th. It was an awesome result for me.

The NSW girls intermediate team won on overall position points with places: 2, 4, 7, 9, 12, and 25. We later got the mud off, and went on an excursion to a gold-mine for which founded Bendigo.

On the last day we all took part in State relays. I was placed into an all-age relay to swim. We were the B grade team, but the team managers pleaded with us all to do our best to get maximum points in an attempt to beat QLD and WA! Our team did better than expected getting the Gold for the all-age girls. On overall points for the meet, QLD where first but we were a close second, and apparently closer than has been the case in many years.

A great experience and thank you Illawarra Triathlon Club for your support!

Lucy Cliff

Im in the back row - 4th from the right !

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