Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Albany, Western Australia: Long rides, triathlons, and motels

Visit to Albany

Weeks ago I decided that I wanted to travel to Albany, one of the southern most points on Australia's coastline. From my conversations with Cody and Janna, they loved the scenery of the small town, which I didn’t think would be too much different than Perth but I was way off. In route to Albany with Brandon, we were speaking about the triathlon we were soon to be competing in and he spoke about it being pretty hilly, one major difference from Perth which is fairly flat until you drive to the hills on the outskirts. The following is the recap of the weekend events, which includes as much entertainment as I could include within reason containing pictures and videos. (If you want to avoid the Triathlon recap and just want to see pics keep scrolling down!)

After some much convincing; Brandon agreed to meet me at my house around 6:15am on Saturday as opposed to 5am which he adamantly proposed!! Boom, we are on our way to one awesome weekend with friends in Albany! This place is not close, let’s just start with that, it’s a solid 5hr drive and to my delight it actually rained a fair bit and was cloudy, something I am starting to miss back home in North Carolina, clouds, rain, THUNDERSTORMS! As we traveled along, I wasn’t quite prepared for the recently turned 18 year old behind the wheel and his stellar racing, I mean driving skills with his Hyundai sedan. Let’s just say that double lines in the road mean nothing, driving with your knees at 120k is OK and drafting 1 meter behind another car is perfectly acceptable. I think the kid was a little too much in race mode as we moved along Albany highway but I knew he wouldn’t allow us to wreck so I just always made sure my seat belt was fastened appropriately just in case, thanks for the ride Brandon!

Once we finally arrived to our accommodation at the Metro Inn, we promptly found out that check in was at 2pm, it was 11am, what to do? Glad we woke up early and made a rush for our hotel haha. Oh well we changed in the GRAVEL parking lot at the motel and then hit the road to cycle the bike course a bit and look over the 10k section of the run for the race. We could tell the bike course would be alright as most of it was flat or gradual, with a couple hills and turn-a rounds and the run course would be fairly difficult with the rollers it had. After we were finally able to check into our room, we went for a swim shortly after we unloaded everything. The water was filled with seaweed for about 15 meters on the beach but got clear as we made it out further. One thing was certain, the water was much cooler than back in Perth, but I loved it! It reminded me of the water at the Lake Lure triathlon, a bit colder but similar. The reason it’s so cold is because the water feeds from the southern ocean which is in between Antarctica and Australia, along with the addition of actual cloud cover and cooler temps in Albany. Macka, Brandon and I swam out to a pontoon and designed our own practice course for the swim and dove into the cool water, I felt so much better than normal in the water, and I actually felt comfortable! We swam around a mini course and then practiced catching waves into the shore in case we had the opportunity during the race.

Ueli, Janna, Cody, Stevie
 After resting up a bit back at the motel, we then met up with Cody, Janna and Kate for a nice jog along the path where the run portion would be. As we were running I noticed the most magnificent and full rainbow I had ever seen, which start at one end of the shore and ended on an island, AMAZING! (in Indonesia we found out, as opposed to being a pot of gold at the end, there is a “fairy castle” apparently, thanks Cecilia!). Back home again, shower time and then to search for a place to eat in this town, which seemed nearly impossible, especially since we had 9 people in our group! We quickly found a nice cafĂ© which had outside seating and the night ended up being a success, I even ordered a “Smoked Salmon salad” with no extras to keep it simple and healthy!

After a bad night of sleeping, I awoke at 5am with Brandon and he was jacked up and ready to go as he hustled around the room preparing for the race. Fortunately I laid most of my stuff out the night before and just decided to keep a cool approach to the race, with no big expectations and therefore I was VERY relaxed, yet confident. We were blessed with some rain showers while warming up before the race, so everyone’s stuff in transition got soaked, which could make for a bad day sometimes. Onto the race itself, after climbing into my Orca wetsuit I recently acquired from Jason Nuttman, I was in the water, feeling pretty dang confident. Brandon, Macka, Sean, Ueli and Brynt raced in the open division, so they all got to go off first with just one wave of men behind them for all age groups. This was the first swim were I got pretty physical in the water with a few elbows and flying palms to make way in the water. I nearly panicked in the 1st 200m as we were all so cramped but after that I settled and tried finding some feet. I remember thinking, I am actually enjoying the swim portion and thinking about how I would be almost too soon on the bike! Breakthrough for me in my opinion, still not a top notch swimmer by any means, but I felt at home in the water and set a nice PB for the O distance at the same time.

Sunrise as I walked onto the beach Race Morning

   Onto the bike, I knew with the course being 3 loops, I would be able to see all of the open racers after the 3 turn around points, which was motivating. My goals were to get as close as possible to the open athletes before the run if at all possible. I noticed Macka was pushing the pace up front which was no surprise to me and then I noticed Brandon and Ueli mixing it up a bit just a bit behind Macka. I was rolling past people initially and then realized that I actually beat some decent triathletes out of the water and a group of about 5 riders where pacing behind me while I was doing all of the work solo on the sweet set of Flash Point wheels that Scott Mison let me use. After some quick thinking, I pulled out a page from the Ryan Baugh/James Haycraft playbook and slowed back to let a few of them pass me and then I just stayed with the group for a good remainder of the race. It’s all about learning right? Why not save some energy for that run off of the bike and use some bodies around me to keep me pushing along during the bike? The best part about race was, knowing I was where I needed to be at every point in the race, on feet in the water and around people on the bike course. Over the last 8k I decided it was time to just set sail with some guy whom was wearing every aerodynamic product on the market including a disc wheel. My fastest portion of the race was the 16k and I ended up riding everyone in that small group off of my wheel pretty easily, did I leave too much on the course? Possibly….

     The run was nice and smooth, I opened a bit quick with a controlled 3:22 1st k but kept it in the 3:30ish range from then on out with a 3:24k at 8k when I was breaking one of my rival age groupers. I felt very smooth but at times, I felt like I was honestly going too slow for the race, because I have the mindset of longer course races of which I am trying to understand pacing and patience. While running I was able to see everyone as it was an out and back 2 loop course, so I quickly noticed my coach Paul Mackay, better known as Macka, had a substantial lead into the run, until he missed the turn around and surrendered his lead momentarily. It was great to see Janna, Kate, Brandon, Brynt, Mick G, Stevie and Ueli out on the course; it always gave me a little boost. In the end I passed an age grouper that ended up being 3rd in my AG with 800 meters remaining thankfully. All in all, everyone came away with some positives from the race in one aspect or another. I know that from now on I am going to try “Glucodin” tablets in the morning before the race because it really got my glycogen up and the body prepared for battle. As a quick recap, I swam under 24 minutes for 1500m, biked right at 1:05 for 40k and then ran a 35:06 for the 10k portion, finished 2nd in my age group(missed the $) and set over a 2 minute PR in the Olympic Distance with roughly a 2:04:50. It great to see my training is really coming around and having my 1st taper week in training paid off big time!

After the race and the awards we hit the town for some coffee of course and a bit of food. For the 1st time since the 2nd night I was in town I had fast food and I went for it(4 months)! Hungry Jacks combo meal with a double cheeseburger, chips, frozen cola, and a sundae, it was well deserved! Once we hit up some local tourist shop, then next stop was off to the Natural bridge and cliffs.

WOW, how beautiful was this place, beautiful water, amazing rock formations and mountains at the edge of the water which were covered with the bright green arrays of grass and bush. I was able to soak up this place a lot and I made sure that I had more than enough pictures of everything. Watching the waves crash into these huge rocks was amazing, especially when the water splashed anywhere from 20-25 meters into the air!

After hanging out at the cliffs, when had an eventful drive to the wind farm just down the road. I have included some pretty cool pictures of this place, which I never really see back in the US. It makes perfect since to conserve energy with using natural resources to assist in powering a town. Just thinking about one of the blades falling off seemed pretty terrifying as we would have nowhere to go and everything in sight would be CRUSHED! Brandon snapped a pretty amazing picture of me at the windmill, which may be the new update to my facebook profile! The remainder of the day and night, Brandon, Ueli and I hung out, venturing the city a bit and settling into some great Italian food in town. Thanks to Ueli for providing us with some laughs and motivation with the wide range of videos you have on your computer!

After a too early bedtime at 10pm(Ueli and I are both night owls, while Brandon is an early bird), I awoke at 6am and decided to knock out a run with Ueli before breakfast. Upon leaving the motel he quickly pointed out the highest hill/mountain in the area and said “let’s go there, Yes?”, with hesitation I nodded. After climbing up the mostly gradual hill, we arrived at a lookout point fairly quickly and the views were great of Middleton beach. Ueli is traveling to Rottnest Island this week and we had a nice chat about what to expect and I highly recommended that he must snorkel! After showering, breakfast, Brandon and I hit the long road ahead back to Perth, with Ueli taking the scenic route with Kate back home. It was a great weekend all around, I was glad to have good friends around me as well as even more motivation to improve and prepare for the Busselton Half Ironman with Coach Mackay.

Looking ahead into the future for my blog post, I am going to compare and contrast two AMAZING triathletes of whom I have been able to train with recently, one of whom is my coach and current Triathlon WA Open points leaders Paul Mackay. The other will be Ueli from Switzerland, whom competed in Albany and I have mentioned several times in this post. One comes from a professional career in short distance triathlon and the other is solely an Ironman distance athlete who prefers the distance longer and the terrain more difficult. Two Professionals with 2 different mind sets


  1. hahaha! That video was AWESOME! Reminded me of you and G$ on the subway in NYC singing Johnny Cash! I miss you, CL, but glad you are having a blast--live it up and train hard!

  2. Thanks Ky, I was thinking about all of our trips back in the day, miss the good ol days...hope to swing by Colorado on the way home, keep a space on the floor for G$ and me.

  3. How I wish I can also visit that amazing place. All the photos that you post really show the beauty of that place. I also love the motel. I can see that you really had a great time.

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