For the first time in my life, I am thinking about retirement.
This is a new thing for me, because I never planned to live to be old enough. When I was in high school, I didn’t plan on living to be 29 years old, so I wrote my will (yes, I wrote a will in high school) in a way that one of my best friends would inherit all of my wealth if I died on the last day of 1999. My friend didn’t take the bait, probably for a number of reasons, including 1) I was living half way across the country 2) I wasn’t worth enough money to go to the effort of killing me 3) It’s New Year’s Eve for the New Millennium – are you really going to spend it knocking off a friend for money?
I didn’t put money in 401K plans for a long time, because I never assumed I’d be around. I always imagined getting crushed by a car while rollerblading on Central Expressway, or forgetting to look the right way as I step in front of an 18 wheeler. I’m seriously somewhat surprised every month I’m still alive on this planet. This might explain my approach to long-term planning in life and my choice in my romantic relationships (“Sure, she’s crazy but I won’t be around that long, right?”).
Now, I’m not thinking about retirement anytime soon – it might be in 20, 30, or 40 years, but for the first time I’m realizing it might happen. So I am announcing that at some point, I will retire. No promises on when.
But, in my usual arbitrary fashion, I have picked out the where long before the when. My place of retirement: Forster, New South Wales, Australia, which was the site of the half-Iron distance race I did last weekend.
First, let’s talk about the race.
Friday, I packed my belongings into the Bunting’s family truckster, picked up Christine, a teammate from the Warringah Tri Club, and we were on our way to Forster.
My instructions from my coach were pretty clear – don’t risk injury in this race just to find your limits. Use this race to find your pace for Ironman Busselton (just four weeks after this race). The week before I had a work offsite that was draining in other ways but did let me recover physically from a generally abusive weekend. I woke up Sunday feeling pretty good and ready to race.
A half-Iron distance race usually features an age group start (i.e. you tread water or run off the beach with only the people in your age group), which I much prefer to the salmon-spawning melee of an Ironman. Challenge Forster was a shallow water start, so all good. I started out with some decent pace, found some space for myself, and settled in. I’ve never done a two lap swim before, so this was a new experience. Aside from the fact that it wasn’t really clear where the swim exit was (so the first pros out of the water were either running through the crowd, through the forest, or along the beach), the two laps didn’t really impact the race, except that around buoys you sometimes had first-lappers and second-lappers all clustered together.
For the first time I did have someone grab my skull during their stroke. It wasn’t just a glancing blow – they actually contracted their hand muscles and were clutching my cranium for a good second. I resisted the urge to kick them or being eye gouging.
About half way into the swim, I realized that I had never put on my timing strap. So I wouldn’t likely get an official result, and anyone checking my progress online might think I had either slept in, DNF’d, or decided to just eat waffles. Now, you’re going to screw something up during a five-hour race – how you recover and deal with those mistakes determines how you’re going to do. I shrugged it off, and put my head down and kept plowing through the murky waters of the Forster keys.
In the end, apparently they mis-measured the course and it was short, so it’s hard to compare my time against the Port Mac 70.3 last year.
But while the water is murky, the Forster Keys are flat and smooth, and you can get a great swim time. Especially when the course is short…
This was the first race with my new bike + race wheels. I don’t think I’m stronger than I was a year ago in terms of raw power output, but my endurance is better. There’s also a chance that my front tire was leaking air, since the tire was low once I loaded it into the car for the drive home.
The course is great – mostly shaded from high winds, though there was a tailwind going out and a headwind coming back. The course is largely flat but features a gradual descent on the way out and a false flat climb on the way back. There were a few cars on the course, and it did cause some slow downs – for example one ute (Americans, think El Camino) decided to park in the middle of the road at the turn around at the end of the bike course. Rumor also had it that the guy running with the blood on his face was hit by a car. Extra points for him for finishing despite a nasty looking facial injury.
A few people had warned me that the course was rough. But honestly it wasn’t as bad as Port Mac, so it felt fine. Bad surface in some places combined with slight incline plus headwind did make the return trip more challenging, but the incline is so slight, you never really need to be in the small chain ring except at the turnaround.
My race plan called for me to chill out during the first 30k, pick it up in the middle, and then push a bit in the third 30K. I followed plan well, and got off the bike feeling like I had a lot of energy in the tank.
Even when you’re suffering on the run, you’re surrounded by the ocean, and it’s beautiful. The turnarounds on each end of the three lap course are rocky points surrounded by water. It’s more of a trail run and not a road run, which is actually great on your legs.
The run across the bridge is a little annoying because it’s hard to have people passing both directions given the limited pedestrian pathway. Now add in a single pedestrian (or a gentleman in a motorized wheelchair) and a bit of chaos ensues. But minor drama in the grand scheme of things.
There’s one decent hill to run up, but other than that, it’s an easy run course.
My legs were pretty tired after the 10K mark, but my heart rate stayed low, and I feel like I could have kept going. My pace did creep back up above 5 minutes / km, so my time here was about 4 minutes slower than Port Mac. I know I could have pushed it harder, but this is the warm up and not the big event.
Crossed the finish line, pigged out, went for a swim. All done? Not quite. I rode my bike about 5K back to where it was parked while wearing my transition backpack. Then a chicken burger, and we were on our way back to Manly.
Overall, I think I’m in much better cardio shape than last year, though I am not as strong on the bike or the run, but the swim sessions certainly have given me a lot more endurance in the water and on the land. But I have a massive sunburn from failing to re-applying sunblock.
The Challenge series is great. I’d definitely do this race again next year.
Now back to retirement
For now, Forster is my current retirement target. It has old, opinionated barbers, beautiful coastline, small restaurants who smile at customers but are annoyed by tourists, and it’s spread out enough that you don’t ever feel cramped. Apparently the population increases 300% during Chrissie! But it’s four hours from Sydney, and I’m sure I can find a ranch property to build a small house on where I can raise the 20 Rottweilers I will have once I retire.
More race details than anyone needs
Stop reading and go do something else. Unless you’re a triathlete, the rest of this can’t be that interesting. And even if you are a triathlete, you probably have better things to do. Like getting in some extra ks in the pool. Go on!
Race report details:
Strava – Bike
Strava – Run