Big Husky

Tick… Husky is one of those bucket list races that, if you are into long course triathlon, you have to do. And now I have.

Of course it isn’t really fair to treat the event as a tick a box and move on kind of thing. You don’t become a bucket list race by being average. Husky is anything but. Elite Energy consistently put on awesome events (just like Mountain Sports do for trail running), the kind of events you just have to do, and its easy to see why Husky is their pinnacle. Great location, smart course design and smart planning that spreads everyone out into their own space during the race. Little Husky (the standard distance event) was only my second triathlon and had wet my appetite for racing in Huskisson.

For me Husky was a bit of an isolated event, sandwiched between Christmas and a new year ski trip and a trail running buildup that culminates with Ultratrail Lavarado in Italy in June. So it was more of a “base builder” intended to get my body reacquainted with operating at a hard level for a long time. (And burn of some of the fine french food I was still carrying around).

My last race was IM70.3 Western Sydney at the end of November so its been nearly 3 months between hitouts except for a sprint distance race in December hosted by the Hills Tri Club at the Sydney International Regatta Centre. Getting back to Aus in mid January and picking up a nasty case of flu on the flight reduced a 4 week build to a 3 week build. My training was certainly limited but I managed a few good ocean swims and a couple of solid brick sessions.

Coming into race weekend I was feeling ready to go but wasn’t expecting too much as I simply hadn’t managed enough bike time or long runs. But at least I was over my flu which had reduced my first few attempts at long runs this year to slow 10k carcass hauling barely breaking 1 hour.

The only negative of Husky is being such a huge weekend finding somewhere to stay, especially at the last minute, can be a real challenge. I was only ever going to spend Saturday night in town and this ran afoul of most hotels minimum stay requirements and the hotels that were available were ridiculously priced. I figured I would try my luck once down there and it turned out there was plenty of space at the Myola Caravan park, just across the creek from Huskisson and connected by a ferry that runs non stop on race weekend. Turns out it is a brilliant place to stay as its just as quiet as any other weekend but only minutes from the action.

#husky ready #triathlon #swimbikerun

A photo posted by Matt Jessup (@mattyjessup) on

Once I had my tent up I headed into town for a quick bike shakedown, checked out the expo (it was outstanding), registered (fast and smooth) and checked my bike (also painless). All up a great experience.

I then grabbed some food and headed back to the campsite to prep all my race day gear and have a swim in the creek.

Through the night it poured rain and there was plenty of thunder. Unfortunately, this is pretty typical for me and Husky. I used to take my inflatable boat to Husky pretty regularly to camp and dive and every single time the weather was rotten. If anyone wants to pay me not to attend future events, I am open to offers.

By race morning everything had cleared and the only real pain was packing up a wet tent at 4 am in the morning.

Husky has a split start with the pros and initial AG waves starting between 6:30 and 7am with the remaining AG’s starting at around 8:30. My wave was straight after the pros so nice and early which I was extremely happy about. I must say I have been very doubtful about this set up but it worked perfectly no part of the course was congested.

Enough background… let get on with the race.

The Swim

Let me start this by saying that my last 2k swim in Jervis Bay (at Callala) took 56mins and ended with a vomit in transition. I have come a long way since then, One discovery I made at IM70.3 Western Sydney was I swim much faster without sleeves. For Husky I was debuting my new Roka sleeveless wetsuit.

My swim went great. As usual I cruised around at a medium level of effort. The water was clean and flat. Things did get a little congested at the turning buoys but that’s pretty standard (The pros just caught me as started the second lap, they were heading for the finish and just ploughed over the top of me like I wasn’t there!)

I finished the swim in 47th place – Inside the top half of my AG. A 36min time a full 20mins faster than 2 years ago at Callala. I have never cracked the top half of the field in a swim before! Wooohooo.

The Bike

A good transition and I was out onto the bike. Of course being in an early wave and having a good swim means a relatively clear course ahead which would be great if I was at full power, but I wasn’t. Instead I was stuck “out of phase” with a bunch of serial drafters who would all tuck in behind me on every downhill, pass me near the bottom and leave me needing to start all over again on the next climb once I had dropped back the mandatory 12m. Husky bike course is made up of plenty of rolling hills and with a strong southerly blowing did make things tough and quite frustrating at times. Where were the TO’s?

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At the end of the first lap I took on water and electrolyte. Had another gel and as I went to wash it down with the water the bottle exploded in my hand. No good to me but a few 100m out of the aid station I contemplated where to put it (the broken bottle wasn’t going to stay back in the cage) and in frustration decided I would chuck it. I had already had two bottles shaken loose and lost a spare tube so figured it was no harm. The TO who appeared out of no where disagreed (what about club draft????). Fair enough and I copped a 5min rest at the end of the next lap.

After the penalty, I did claw back a bit of time and passed a few people for the second time on my third lap but I had blown 8 places in my stupidity.

I finished the bike in 45th so had gained a couple of places from the swim exit despite the penalty.

The Run

Another good transition and I was out onto the run. Again I was holding pretty good pace and looking at around 45mins for the first 10k lap. My big challenge on the run is to not let my mind trick me into being overly conservative and believe I can keep my pace up through to the finish. Unfortunately, today my mind won and I clicked into run/walk mode.

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The run course itself was nice enough and it was cool seeing pros pass by as they finished their second laps. I wish I could figure out how to run like that!

The Wrap
By the finish I had gained another 5 places and finished in 40th in my AG. In percentile terms that means it was my second best long course AG result and it could have been better. One day it will all come together into a perfect effort.

In terms of Husky 2016 I can be happy with my swim and the fact I gained places on the the run and finished further up the ladder than my preparation suggests I deserve. All I can think is experience counts for a lot and the rest can be attributed to my awesome Roka wetsuit .

I don’t know when I will head back to Husky, but when I do it will be less tick and more boom.

Bring on Buffalo Stampede, Mt Solitary Ultra, Ultratrail Australia and Ultratrail Lavaredo.

And with that… tick.

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