My trip to Challenge Taiwan would have to be my best race travel experience to date. While my race result wasn’t the best, the Challenge Taiwan event, the cultural uniqueness and the new friends I met, will make this a trip to remember!
Anybody who knows me can tell you how organised I am, I manage a heck of a lot in a 24 hour period! My streak of perfectionism and my work ethic form a formidable combination; it has given me success and at the same time forced me to a grinding holt! Which is why my airport saga still has my nearest and dearest shaking their heads. I had everything packed, organised weeks ago with extra race supplies.. For some unknown reason I was convinced that I was leaving Monday midnight, 00:05 to be exact. I was tucked up in bed, already had fallen asleep for a couple of hours when I awoke at 10:30pm with the realisation I was leaving midnight on Sunday!! I have no idea how Russ got me to the airport in record time, I had chest pains I was that stressed on the way there! We don’t live close to Melbourne airport, luckily at that time the roads are pretty clear. Russ dropped me at the door and said “I will say goodbye now in case you get on the flight”, with my dumbfounded look I said “highly unlikely, park the car and I’ll see you soon”… Wandering though the terminal a lady from the Singapore airlines counter shouts at me “are you for Singapore Air?”.. Umm yes but there is no way I’m getting on my flight, I will have to settle for the next one! She said “You have 2 mins to check-in, here is your express customs card, I will call for your bike to be picked up now”.. In disbelief I made my way through customs and to the departure gate just as boarding was being announced! Calling Russ, I will still in disbelief and trying to settle my heart palpitations advising him I had made the flight.. Lucky he said goodbye earlier. This also proves that you can be in bed at 10:30pm and make an International
midnight flight with 2 mins to spare, also that you won’t get your bike bag weighed!! Bonus! :-)
Thankfully from this point on the trip was fantastic and definitely the best race experience I have had in a long time. Challenge Taiwan did an amazing job looking after the professional athletes, they ensured that we all arrived in Taipei prior to the press conference and then assisted us with our transfer to Taitung for the race. The training day in Taipei was a good loosen up and the press conference was definitely entertaining to say the least! But a lot of fun at the same time! By the end of the day we were on our way to Taitung and settling into our accommodation.
The majority of the professional field were staying in a self-contained B&B houses that the Challenge crew had booked out, we took over 2 houses and to be honest it was like being on school camp! I had the same room mate from Taipei, fellow pro Katrin Walther. Kathrin had luggage woes and was without bike and clothes, being 5ft 5 I wasn’t much help in the clothes department as Katrin is much taller than me, but she did manage to borrow a few
items from others until her luggage arrived. I wanted to take everything in, I hadn’t been to Asia before.. So every day I made the most of every opportunity and experience that came my way. I was unsure how I was going to adjust to the food in Taiwan, but I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy some of the food and I still managed to locate some western options leading up to the race. The French bakery café in town became a regular trip for a caffeine hit and the pizza place which was just a few doors down from our accom became a popular option pre and post-race. Pizza Pete took care of us and our fuel leading up to the race.
Race day came around quick, I was feeling good but I was unsure of my fitness leading into the race. I had felt fantastic earlier in the year and I had found it hard to keep it going for Challenge Taiwan. I also felt I was little heavier going into the race, but I tried to turn around thinking it would be ok to fuel me. The one thing that was playing on my mind was the bike leg and how much impact it was going to have on me. In the past my bike has been quite strong, but I have battled my bike over the past year and I knew it was impacting my performance not only during the bike portion, but also affecting my run. Race morning was warm, and they had ruled wetsuits the day before which I wasn’t a fan of, I do prefer a non-wetsuit swim. I missed the main pack on the swim, I had positioned myself poorly and I couldn’t bridge the gap and get across. I won’t do this next year!! I found myself alone pulling Britta Martin along the course behind me. I managed to drop Britta after 2km, but I was working alone and wishing I had some feet to sit on!
I started off okay on the bike, I was feeling quite good heading out to the turnaround however, after turning the course does seem like it’s going up more than down. I love the course, it’s undulating and along the coast, beautiful and scenic however, the bike was really making me work harder than I wanted to and it was heating up! I looked at my computer around 80km and it read 35 degrees, coming from Melbourne I was starting to cook! The second lap was much slower, I felt that I was tiring to quickly and I really was battling my bike through the rolling hills.. I knew I would this would be my last race on the Shiv so I just had to get to the marathon the best I could.
I don’t think I have ever taken so long in a T2 tent! My ride had been a good 10-15mins slower than I wanted, I felt that I didn’t have much left. To think I had to run marathon! I had a few tears run down my face, I knew I was
cooked. A lady came to check on me 3 times in the tent because I was taking so long, I think I must have been prolonging the shufflefest!
I started the run the best I could. The run course starts around the lake before heading through a beautiful park area and then through the city for 2 laps, I would have liked to enjoyed the course and scenery a little more than I did! I tried all the tricks with cadence, fuel, putting coke in early.. I was desperate! I had so many low points and I hadn’t even reached half way. Hilary Biscay came past me while I was having a little walk and sook, she encouraged me to run with her which I did for some time but my shuffle was slower than hers. Then Belinda Granger came past me just I was about to complete the last section of the run, a few words of encouragement from BG (actually it was “make sure you finish”) and I was back running again and I kept telling
myself I can make it.. I had a few other low points on the run, a bit of shuffling, a bit of walking….I couldn’t work out which method was being more effective in moving me forward. I finally came across the finish line, a very slow time, but an extremely satisfying moment. I went to the well big time! I dug deep physically and mentally just to finish, it was my worst race result ever, but it gave me so much strength. Iron distance racing has been beating me up over the past 18 months, I have had a few DNF’s which I hate doing, a few subpar results, illness and injury. I felt I had lost the ability to dig deep. I believe I got that belief back again at Challenge Taiwan, it was a tough day but I managed to pull through. Thanks BG, I don’t think I would have got around if it wasn’t for our little chat mid race :)
Challenge Taiwan has left me wanting more! Ironic given it smashed me! I absolutely loved the race and travel experience with the other pros.. The Challenge Taiwan crew were amazing with their support, ensuring that we had everything we needed. Special mention to Michael Dhulst and Charlie Chen, it was a privilege to meet you both, your support was amazing and I can’t wait to come back next year!