Do u athlon? Well, I do now.

It’s been a while…almost 6 months almost I raced in New Zealand. I missed it. But also my legs were grateful for the rest.

As planned my focus turned to adventure racing – starting with running and biking (kayaking and swimming will probably wait until Summer…or until I’m somewhere tropical. With a cocktail. Jazz hands)

I experimented with fasting too – to see if that increased my energy when training. I think it would’ve more rapidly had I not assumed I could eat anything I wanted during my eating window….but apparently too much wine counters the effects. Silliness.

I got the balance right eventually and now have a 10am to 7pm eating window. (Except on weekends – it’s all about balance.)

The results – I feel sharper and more focussed in the mornings, and the time I used to spend cooking breakfast I put towards meditation, mobility and a decent morning routine. Yep, I am that person.

The couple of pounds I’ve lost haven’t been the worst thing in the world either.


I’d entered the  PB Events Dirty Duathlon in August (8km / 33km / 6km – yikes)  as a goal to train towards. So I started upping my runs and bikes (and both combined) around the trails of Melbourne (You Yangs I love you). There are endless trails – runs and bikes – within an hour in Victoria, it almost makes me want to cry how beautiful it is.

By chance, I saw a duathlon pop up in Lysterfield – shorter distances so good prep for the one in August to see how the legs would fair in transition. But only four days away….challenge accepted.

My pre race preparation on the Saturday was an Iraqi lunch at Free to Feed (yep, with champagne) – beautifulness, and an espresso martini in the evening whilst trying to do my tax returns. A necessity in most occasions, but particularly for anything tax related.

Pre race you say? – champagne has the same antioxidant effects as red wine, and we all know caffeine has many benefits to training….winning.

I woke at 6am. Apple Cider Vinegar, and shot of turmeric, cumin, cinnamon and ginger (yep, every morning) and breakfast – oh and mobility work that makes me look like I’m drunk…which is never impossible.

The old beetroot juice reappeared. Hello race day, it’s good to see you again.

I drove to Lysterfield with a nervousness – it took three Coles Express’ to find one that was open for my usual $1.50 coffee.

I arrived, and as I walked Bert (the beast, my beloved second hand trail bike) down to the race start, kangaroos hopped across my path. Lysterfield had a magical feel about it.

I was met by people hooking their bikes up to the racks. Beautiful, expensive bikes with those drop down saddle things and front and back suspension forks, so shiny and colourful. I patted Bert, and lay her down on the ground so I knew where to find her (yes, Bert is a her).

I registered and the briefing took place. Orange ribbons for bike, pink ones for run. Come on Jess, even you can remember that. I wrote it on my hand anyway.

The race: 2km run, 18km bike, 8km run. All trail.

I knew the runs were relatively flat, so they’d be fast. I planned around a 4.4min/km, to try and save something for the bike.

We were off.

Two women sped off. One in a tri-suit super speedy, I called her the Olympian, and one in a blue jumper, whom I named blue jumper. I took third.

They were fast and the wind was strong. Like, breath takingly so. And god dam the Olympian was fast, because she was an Olympian of course.

I kept pace until my shoe lace came undone. Basics Jess. I lost ground and the front two sped off along the sand. Yes, sand.

The transition.

I reached Bert, and the first appearance of nervous jazz hands came out. I was unsure what I should do and looking to the others for guidance. My legs started doing this weird sideways crab walk around Bert as though I’d forgotten how to pick up a bike and ride it – so I just grabbed her handlebars, my helmet, jumped on, and started biking.

Hello quads.

18km of bike.

We started uphill through the car parks, then into the trails and beautiful single track. I was trying to go fast and not die. Squealing – a lot. I caught up with blue jumper and tried to keep her in my sights, mainly to make sure I didn’t take a wrong turn. We got stuck behind some bikers, she overtook and I didn’t. I didn’t. I waited, and lost ground. More uphill. Come on legs. Blue jumper was gone.

I’ve ridden as Lysterfield a few times, so I know it has tree roots and a few optional jumps that you need to be confident to go over, or prepared to go over the handle bars if not. The first came and I avoided it (there’s always the option to take a side route). They were sneaky, I knew I had to be careful.

On one of my most recent rides as You Yangs, a friend asked me whether I’d thought about what I’d do when I went over the handlebars. When. Not if.

Options appeared to be:

  1. Freeze and eat dirt / break face
  2. Try and get your legs over the handlebars and land on your feet
  3. Ninja roll
  4. Throw the bike from under you and jump to the side

I chose number 5. – Not to ever put myself in the position where I would need to consider 1 – 4.

But then I’d never raced before.

I reminded myself how to ride the trails – now and next. When biking you’re supposed to look at your now – what’s in front of you, and your next – what’s coming so you can prepare. I’m pretty awful at both. And when you go over rock gardens or roots you assume attack position, like a ninja on a bike if you like.

Skrillex came on just as I hit the downhills. I leaned back, my bottom narrowly hovering above my rear tyre, probably not quite the attack position I was taught. Bloody hell this was fun. And a little bit terrifying. Now and next, now and next. Attack attack attack. But no sight of blue jumper or the Olympian.

We hit flats and I decided to attempt a gel on  my bike for the first time (no, it didn’t occur to me to stop). One hand on Bert the other on the gel. I forgot my now and next, and didn’t see the jump in front of me. No choice but to go over one handed. Bucket list ticked. Didn’t die. And got some gel. Winning.

We hit the cornering that Lysterfield does so well. Some people call it hairpins corners but I call them horseshoe corners (erm, because they’re the shape of horseshoes…). The aim is to go into them and turn your body to turn the bike, and try not to brake. And try not to break.

These ones were more like Shetland pony shoes, tiny, tight – especially on a 29” bike. I shouted at myself a lot, and squealed. There would have been more nervous jazz hands but that wouldn’t have ended well on a bike.

More turns, more like My Little Pony shoes. Golly.

I took a Shetland Pony shoe corner too tightly and my back wheel hit a tree root and jumped up. I won’t tell you where my men’s saddle jarred into, but I ruled out walking, or being able to move, later.

Recovering, I made a mental note that Lysterfield was again, looking magical. And I was grateful to be here. Trees, wildlife, blue skies.

Always grateful.

Suddenly I knew where I was, and where the transition was. My legs felt good, bloody tired, but good. I went faster into the single track then out into the open. And suddenly I saw my resting place for Bert. I laid her down and took my bladder out (no, not that one) of my harness to lighten my run. I took a few steps on jelly legs and did a kind of Tina Turner in high heels shimmy. I stopped and shook them out.

As far as I knew I was still in third.

I began to run, familiarity of trail running returned and I started following pink ribbons amongst the trees. 8km, come on legs.

I stopped, toilet stop. Never been done before but somehow I’d drank too much coffee, then too much water during the bike ride. Yikes.

I recovered and began again, open fire tracks. And uphill. All the hills. I was at 4.5min/km on heavier legs than I was used too. I wanted the hills to stop.

I reached the top and blue jumper caught up with me. Wait. Caught up, with me.

I had been in second. Oh dear. Game on.

I ran faster. Downhill came and the right kind of jazz hands came out. I let go, my legs let go.

Blue jumper was right behind me. I dropped to 4.15min/km. 4km left. Holy moly. Sorry legs.

I kept pace and more downhill, I broke away, maybe about 100 metres in front. And then the flats. Open fire track flats, probably my least favourite because they’re fast and long and it’s harder to put any distance between you and the next person.

I kept my pace and we turned into the home straight, 800m to go. I figured blue jumper would have a strong finish as she looked experienced, so I upped my pace to just under 4.00min/km.

My lungs exploded, my mouth did this weird sideways thing. Maybe to get more air in. I felt like Sylvester Stallone.

I looked for the pink ribbons and my nervous jazz hands came out again at the thought of getting lost. Sylvester Stallone with jazz hands. It happened.

My legs and lungs were on their final….legs. I literally had nothing left in the tank, in my lungs. But I somehow carried on.

The finish line.

I pretty much dived over it. Sideways mouth,  jazz hands and all. Head first.

Second place.

I would’ve cried, but I didn’t have any energy too.

Blue jumper came in, about 20 seconds behind me.

We shook hands, I was unsure whether she’d seen my jazz hands or sideways mouth, so I tried to smile normally. I failed.

I went back to Bert and laid down next to her, patted her and thanked her. Blues skies and the water. What a magical place. What a magical race.

The organisers had put food on – amazing. So I filled up to try and alleviate the shaky feeling I had. My legs were on point but my nutrition has been lacking, good to know for the longer race.

My mouth returned to normal and I sat in the Winter sunshine watching the others come in.

Sunday morning spent well.

Sorry legs.


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