OLYMPIAN Ryan Bailie and defending champion Jake Birtwhistle were more worried about tight calves, than any looming sprint finish at Thursday’s Aquathon on the Wollongong foreshore.
Back into full training before the ITU World Triathlon Series begins in March, the pair had started to overpower the field, which included three-time Hawaiian ironman champion Craig Alexander, but were far from free-striding towards a last kilometre showdown.
“It was almost like a battle of the calves,” Birtwhistle said later. “Ryan and I train together every day, so we know what each other are going through. I said about three k’s in, I was starting to cramp in my calves and he was like ‘yeah, me too’.
“Just trying to make it to the finish line was the first priority, it was kind of a sprint finish, but we weren’t going all that quick because were just trying to use our calves as little as possible.
“It probably looked a bit funny, how we were running, but we got the job done I guess.”
As they emerged past the Wollongong Continental Pools and along to the finish line at Belmore Basin, Birtwhistle has reminded Bailie and the large crowd why he is regarded so highly for his run leg.
Birtwhistle had come out of the water more than 20 seconds behind the leader, but crossed the line raising four fingers, to signal the number of consecutive Aquathon titles he’s now won. “I’ve always had to chase on the run, so that’s nothing new,” he said.
“I was in an all right position, it’s probably less (gap to make up) than before, as much as it would be nice to be up there with the leaders.” After missing out on the Rio Olympics last year – Bailie and another Wollongong Wizards member Aaron Royle led the Australian charge – Birtwhistle is now focused on Commonwealth Games selection.
Birtwhistle is working with biomechanic experts to improve his swimming technique, before the first chance to qualify comes at the Gold Coast world series round in April. “I’m trying a few different things this year, seeing different biomechanics and stuff, and seeing exactly what’s going on,” he said. “Just trying to get a bit of science behind it, as well as just trying to swim hard.
“It’s not easy, not being a natural swimmer, but if I want to be at the level I want to be at, I have to put in the extra yards.”