Not Going The Distance

Written by Zena Coffey on . Posted in Race report

Words by Steve Holmes

Sprint Finish

One year ago I was staring down the barrel of a fully ruptured ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and medial meniscus tear, through hard work, determination and treatment with Justin (Crest Health) and Kieran (Global Physio Consulting) I got myself into shape to qualify for the World Champs that took place last week on the Gold Coast.

Sadly the last week and a half were tough as I fell ill and was on antibiotics. We also suffered a close family bereavement, which was hard to deal with but we made it to the Gold Coast.

(Pic – Sprint Finish)

So why all that effort for a sprint race triathlon? 

Simple answer, well answers – I have an extremely supportive wife, four children and run a business so time is always of an essence, plus I love the fast paced racing. I’ve completed short distance racing up to the half but time wise, the short stuff wins at the moment. 

To me a sprint race is all or nothing, no room for error, especially when it is draft legal racing. You have to go out hard and then hang on in there. The sprint is where I started back in late 2010/early 2011, I got into the buzz of triathlon and like many suddenly found myself going longer, going further and leaving the short racing for standard distance to long distance triathlon. Why is this the case?? I’m not sure.

So back to the sprint I went, mainly for reasons above but from a work/life balance for us it worked, two hour long rides over 4/5!! Many would be laughing two hour long ride!! My long runs stretched to 12-15km, again so manageable and swimming would be no more than an hour per session, one of which was with Janine at Craigie – I’d highly recommend the squad swim, good fun, knowledgeable coach and you can just get in and get it done.

So to the race, draft legal – it is so exciting and fun. Sadly here in WA you have to have a license and then race open but personally there is no point to this as by the time I got out the water the group would be well away and working together. So my second draft legal race was to be at the ITU World Champs – the all important swim had to be done so let’s fast forward to the race day;


Thursday morning, my race was at 12:50, I woke up just after 5. I tried to stay as calm as I could but that wasn’t really happening, I was a bag of nerves. I wasn’t sure why I was so nervous, I had no expectations of a finishing position. To be honest I just didn’t want to look out of place.

I watched the earlier waves going off, it looked like a mad race to the first buoy of the swim. We were marshalled up to a holding pen and after 10 to 15 minutes we were ushered down to the start line. There was lots of hustling and pushing and we hadn’t even started. The siren went and we were away. Because of my height, or lack of I started in knee depth water and just started sprinting as hard as I could trying to get some clear water in front. This wasn’t happening and there were arms and legs everywhere!! After around 50-100m I had a huge hand grab the back of my wettie, arm over my back and pulling me down under the water and finishing off with a clump to the back of my head!! I thought to myself stay relaxed, it’s going to be hard just do the best you can. I got round the first buoy and thankfully found some water to swim in away from trouble.

Swim Exit

I got out the water not knowing where I was other than on my own and got onto the bike as quick as I could, I started pedalling watching behind me and waited for them to catch me up. I started working with two Aussies and a Mexican in our group and we took turns all the way around the course until around 3/4 km’s to go when a large group caught us. I have never had such a frantic dismount getting off the bike and running into transition. There must have been about 10 or so of us all trying to get to the front. It was exhilarating.

I got the bike back and started running, out of transition a large group of us left at the same time, a big Aussie just absolutely took off and still not sure what position I was in, it was head down and run!! Screams of go Stephen, come on Stephen and cow bells sounding was just what I needed.

The run was two laps, on the way back on my first lap, Louise (an old uni friend racing the standard for GP) told me I was 60m off the podium, I couldn’t believe it. I turned and headed out for the second lap into the headwind and thought ‘wow I must be top ten’. The second lap was hard, I caught eye of one of the Aussie’s in front of me from the bike that we cycled with and in the home straight just absolutely went for it, pipping him on the line. I was ecstatic, top 10 I thought. I was so happy, I was hi-fiving George, cuddling Emma and the kids. Emma screamed to me – you came third, you came third!! I couldn’t believe it. I thought no way, let’s just wait for the results to be finalised. I checked, double checked and asked officials – 3rd it was!!!

We waited around for the medal ceremony and it was fantastic, an incredible, surreal experience that was beyond our wildest dreams!! We just could not believe it. Without the support of Emma and the kids, none of this would have been possible. I am so made up.