A crisp day greeted me for the morning of the Coolangatta Gold 2018.
Cool but not cold. Spring was in the air – what better way to spend the day than 46km of torture with paddling, swimming and running all on the menu in what has been described as one of the toughest insurance races in Australia.
Id been training hard for this for the past 5 months and at the ripe old age of 40 decided that rather than entering my age group, id enter the Open Elite Male category and battle it out with the best in the business including 5 time winner Ali Day !!
Ive watched this race for many years and I remember as a kid seeing Guy Leech and all my childhood heroes run along the beach at dusk with a hideous look of pain on their faces. I wondered if that was going to be me today and if it was really as hard as everyone says it is. Only time would tell i thought and I really began to grown nervous not at where I would place but how much pain my body was going to go through.
So after breakfast, stocking up on energy gels, preparing my water and hydration packs it was off to the start line with the help of my handlers who would be collecting all my gear throughout the race. A 15-20 min warm up and briefing from the starter about the course and I found myself on the line with starters gun raised in the air.
BANG!!! We jump on to our skis to begin the first 23km ski leg which is my best leg and the part of the race that i favoured myself to hang in there with the best guys – the adrenalin surges through me but I’m pretty careful not to expend too much energy at the start. I know from experience that a lot of young guys will go out hard so my plan is to conserve energy for the first few minutes and try to wash ride. I manage to get in to the front group and I’m feeling good.
I notice that Ali Day goes full gas to move into the lead after 5 min. No one is prepared to chase him and as i suspected it would be the last anyone would see him all day as he raced off the front of the group.
1 hour 45 min of ski paddling and I’m looking really good – equal 2nd with the first group after Ali Day. We are paddling with the wind and i notice as we near the end of this ski that the wind has built to a worrying 18-20 knots southerly.
Worrying because for the next 20km i will be pushing into this wind in the remaining swim, board and run legs. I know the swim will be the hardest of these. I just hope countless hours in the pool over winter on 5-6 degree mornings was worth it !!
Dismounting the ski – it takes ages to get blood into the legs and the young guys storm ahead in a short 2km run to the next leg. My mind starts to think if this is only a young mans game and “am i out off my depth ?”
I head into the 3.5 km swim off Burleigh in 5th place and it lives up to its reputation as being brutal. Being the weakest of my legs – i get passed by about 4 people but this was expected.
I can honestly say that as i came in from this leg i almost contemplated giving up as i felt sick and wobbly on my feet. Id been going around 3 hours with the last hour in a washing machine !!
After meeting my handlers and taking on some food / drink (and somehow managing to keep it down) it was on to the board.
Again similar circumstances – a 20 knot headwind and arms that feel like I’m lifting 20kg every time i take a stroke. The clock ticks over 4 hours and i begin cramping in the lower back. A young guy next to me looks terrible – worse than me and I begin to feel a bit more confident that at least others are suffering as well !!!
7km left to run and again its into a horrible gusty 25 knot head wind. Its amazing how the mind will automatically look for the easiest way out at this point. Anything to make the calf cramps, spiking heart rate and led weights on your shoulders stop hurting.
I focus on little points along the route – “just get to the next set of flags” then focus on another point “just get to the red bus shelter at Kirra”
As promised to my handlers before the race i would literally bury myself in that last run leg to pick up a place and finish in 9th in the Open Male Elite Category in conditions that were later described as the toughest in years!!
Easily the best part of the day was having my two kids run with me over the finish line!!
When i think about why i do this stuff – its easy when i see their faces smiling and proud of me. I just want to be a good role model for them and to try and be a person who promotes what i preach every day in my profession.
It really is interesting about how i viewed this race when I finished. I got so much praise and congratulations from my friends and family but i think with age and being in the health industry, completing this race and putting myself through that pain barrier is extremely insignificant compared to the fight that some people have on their hands when it comes to sickness, death, depression and the emotional sadness that people go through when times are tough.
I was actually extremely thankful that i was healthy and fit enough to participate in something so great and it made me think about how lucky i am to have what i have and do what i do.
by Josh Meyer.