After many year sof trying and always finding a way to fail, I finally won a race on home soil! But it was not easy!
Coming into the race I felt good, but it is January and following a good break after Kona to let the body heal and recover from a hard 2013, I was certainly not in peak condition. But I was confident I had done enough for a solid performance, even if it would hurt more than it probably should. My predictions were right on both counts - I had done enough to win, and it hurt far more than it should!
The swim was uneventful - I couldn't quite stay with the fast-swimmign front guys, but a comfortable pace had me in the main pack. OUt fo the water and up the steep run to T1 I knew I was in for some suffering as my legs felt like lead, but it was early and I had plenty of bike riding for them to loosen up.
The first 20-30kms of the bike were tough - I had to work hard to get the legs going and entertained some thoughts that maybe they just wouldn't, but sure enough I warmed up and felt stronger as we approached the turn-around point at half-way. By then I had caught most of the leaders, except Romain Guillame and Faris Al-Sultan, who were about 2mins up the road. The group of 6-7 guys I was with seemed content to let them go, but I knew that on this course, 2mins at half-way turns into 7mins on the way the way back very quickly, so I moved tot he front and worked hard to limit my losses. Either no-one else cared about lost time on the leader or they didn't have the legs to help, but I dragged the group all the way back to T2 without anyone taking a turn. So be it. I considered it, but sitting up to let someone else take a turn would have cost us all time, and maybe the race. So I kept telling myself - 'If it's hurting you, it's killing them.'
It was hurting me though, and I got off in T2 feeling well worked, with still a hard 21km to run. And plenty of guys breathing down my neck, including Will Clarke, a great runner. We were immediatley gaining time on Guillame, who had 4mins lead, and Al-Sultan 2mins ahead. By 8kms in I was running with Clarke and Al-Sultan and still chasing Guillame. I got a small lead on Clarke and could see Guillame coming back to me, but I was working hard and my hamstrings were threathening to cramp at any second. I caught Guillame at the final turn-around, but Clarke was right there (it always seems so close at the turns!) and a fast-running Stuart Marias right behind him. I tried to open up my legs down Bunkers Hill, and at the same time prevent my hammies cramping. Thankfully they behaved and I was into the final mile with the SA crowds behind me. There were a few nervous glances behind but I made to the line eventually - my first SA title! A long time coming. Will Clarke was only 23 seconds behind in the end. Too close for comfort, but hey, 22 seconds more than necessary... ;)
I hung around the finish line to welcome in Jodie - what a feeling! Both of us winning the same event, and her her 4th title in a row here! We have actually won the same race before, but that was Alpe D'Huez 2010, before we were even dating!
Now let's see if we can do it a few more times this year!