Topgear Cycles Team rider Virgini Bernard took on the challenge of a off road triathlon in NSW and was first age group women to cross the line, here is her race report and photos.
Better late than never (it’s been three weeks now!), here is my Xterra Jervis Bay 2016 story.
I was pretty excited to head again to Jervis Bay for XTerra Asia Pacific and Australian championships. My training had been pretty relaxed since Crackenback, but it seemed to suit me well at the time and I was pretty happy with how well things were going for me in the three sports.
This was my second time racing XTerra Jervis Bay, having raced there 2 years ago. Since then I had also become quite knowledgeable of the region since my partner Scooter grew up in Nowra and his parents still live in this area. I even went on – what I thought were – MTB training rides at Christmas and Easter (yep, a lot of road trips from Melbourne).
Two years ago I was a complete beginner in MTB’ing and I had unresolved health issues which meant that although I was very happy to be at the start line and then reach the finish line, this race in 2014 definitely wasn’t the race of my life.
This time round, not saying that expectations were high given how long my racing season had been, but there were definitely expectations of competitiveness improvement!
I had plans to drive there with my good friend Chris Dimos (an Epic rider as well, dealing with the good people of Berwick Cycles) who is also quite addicted to all things off road. Unfortunately Chris had come down on his last training ride (the Sunday before!) in the Youies, smashing his shoulder on one of the nasty rock gardens. Diagnostic was broken collar bone. Chris eventually still decided to come with me on the drive, which saved me from trying to book flights and buses two days before the race…
Chris had rented a house by the beach, sharing with other athletes. One of them was Renata Bucher and she was waiting for me to complete a training lap of the bike leg, we also ended up riding with Elite Triathlete Penny Hosken. The start of the ride was similar to the bike course two years ago, with some riding on 4-wheel drive roads with huge deep puddles. To my surprise the second part of the ride was on single tracks I hadn’t ridden before. Speak of secret training at Christmas and Easter!! The single tracks were in pretty good conditions and this bike leg (one lap 30km) was a lot of interesting fun!
The next day (Friday) Renata and I went on a little swim and (part) run reccie. It was really good to get to know her better and share her experienced elite race prep, especially the swim reccie that I have never really done properly. The rest of the day went by quickly just sitting around the house resting up the legs, watching the heavy rains as they came and went…
Then came race day. One word when we woke up: STORM. The weather seemed bad enough in the morning when the enticer and sprint races were on. By 11:30am when we lined up for the Championship race, it was havoc. No rain, but the wind and the chop were shockers.
The XTerra people decided that we would do a one lap 1.5km swim instead of the usual 2 lap 750m swim. It was bad enough trying to swim through the break once, they didn’t want people to fight through that twice (and tired the second time).
I had a chuckle thinking about our swim reccie the day before, completely useless!!
So off we went. The current due to the waves was huge. I’ve made the mistake before to still spot the buoys in these conditions. That leads to a terrible fail, right? So I was very careful to keep sighting way off to the left, because that’s where the waves were coming from. Well, that worked pretty well and I was feeling sorry for all the people I could see drifting away…
When I exited the water I knew I was well placed, but quite unsure of overall placing.
The transition areas and race HQ were situated on the RSL car park 600m from the beach. So we had a “pre-T1” transition area where we could put runners on to run to T1. With all the rain we had the day before and overnight, T1 was already a mud fest.
I reached my bike and I can see that all the other bikes around are still in. Winning!
Off on the bike, I decide to ride conservatively on the fire roads. It would be very easy to go hard on these sections and be cooked with 25km to go. At the 5km point, I get passed by another female age grouper, and I am very proud to say that I decided to stick to my plan. No chasing. But then she passed me, slowed right down and I ended up on her wheel in about 15sec. A bit puzzled, I rode around her and I can hear her breathing hard. Like, hard. With 25kms to go. Well, good luck to her. I never saw her again (except on the podium!).
I went around the bike course feeling very slow. Ha! The week before I had raced the You Yangs Crazy 6hrs and this course is very very fast. So on this sticky muddy technical course, I felt… slow. I even stopped for a couple of mud baths. But then nobody caught me except a few guys. So surely it wasn’t that bad!
Back in transition and my support crew is hysterical. Still leading!! I put my runners on and I’m headed to the beach again for the 2kms beach run section.
Yes, it was still windy, and we were running straight into it. I ended up having to carry my visor in my hand, it just wouldn’t have stayed on.
The run was a mix of beach sand, sandy trails, muddy trails, puddles, a bit of road. A lot of fun. I was happy to be able to run at a good pace after my horrible run leg at Crackenback. I was passed by a couple of guys but no girl, woohoo!
Onto the finish in a little under 3hrs, first female age grouper. I managed to beat one of the 10 female pros so I was 9th female overall.
And because it really was my day, I won an XTerra wetsuit as the fastest female AG split.
I had no idea they were giving away wetsuits for fastest swim splits! Nice! And I also made the video cut, which really makes me feel like a movie star, just for one day.
Big shout out to my favourite bike shop people, Top Gear Cycles’ Peter and Celine and the team for the on-going support. It’s great to know that you guys are only a phone/text message away for advice and gear selection. I’m very proud to be racing under your colours… also because this tri suit is fantastic!