For the month of November I am based in Australia to race a few high point 70.3 events to try to get my 2015 season and potential World Championship qualification off to a good start. The campaign didn’t start as planned, as I missed the highest point race due to contracting the plague on the germ tube flying overseas. However, the schedule was overly aggressive anyway and I did have two more events with a contingency race and I now have a win under my belt. All is well down under! I thought I would share some thoughts on what it is like to train and race in Australia. This is not so much a comparison to North America but more some observations about racing in Oz that I have noticed from two seasons coming here to race.
My first observation is on the number of fans who come out to watch the event. The town of Ballarat is probably of similar size to Nanaimo, BC and yet the number of people out cheering was incredible. It seemed like the whole town was out. I think not having football or hockey to occupy too much bandwidth is a good start for creating excellent race fans of alternative sports. Also, Australia has a very impressive history in the sport of triathlon so there is an incredible number of participants and race enthusiasts. It was very motivating to have thousands of people calling my name in a funny accent. I highly recommend that experience.
I have heard about many animals and insects in Australia that are deadly and/or poisonous. Between snakes and spiders, I am pretty much afraid of the bush. I have now discovered you have to include the birds as well. At the Australian Championship in West Australia, there were two points on the bike course where magpies would swoop at riders going by. I was swooped by the birds there and here in Melbourne and it is certainly frightening having a bird trying to claw at your head. The birds swooping at me in Melbourne were grey rather than black and white so it seems the “aggressive” birds are not limited to magpies here in Australia. Look out birdwatchers.
If you are a person who appreciates flat courses, Australia is your continent. Despite Ballarat being home to the Australian cycling championship, with large rolling hills surrounding the city, the bike course for the race was nearly completely flat. The same applies to the course in Mandurah and as far as I can see from the course profile, West Sydney is also quite flat. Ironman courses in Australia would not be a climber’s dream but do make it possible to achieve very impressive overall race times. If you are looking to set your best time in an Ironman event, you could make it easier on yourself and try one of the lightning fast courses in Australia. I guess Kansas and Florida would also be good options, but you would miss out on the magpies.
So these are my initial observations racing in Australia. Now it’s time to get back to my coffee, which almost without exception is fantastic in the city of Melbourne. Honestly, this city would give both Seattle and Victoria a run for their money on coffee culture. Every fifth shop seems to be another super hipster café with fabulous pastries. Life is good.