Maria claimed King Valley Challenge title

King Valley Challenge has been on my bucket list since its inception back in 2010. The first attempt I made was in 2013. 

I woke up unwell on the morning of the event and battled with FOMO, while helping with boats in between paracetamols.

Since then I had participated in only one other relay race, where I took turns with Serge, juggling participating and parenting. 

This year somehow the stars aligned and we hit the road to King Valley late Friday afternoon, with me planning to race and Serge there to support me. 

A lack of training never could stop me from racing, but it was a slightly nerve-wracking atmosphere on the eve of the race, my emotions all over the place, regretting going somewhere and whinging about getting too lazy. However there could be no turning back, except maybe if I fell sick (that had already happened once, so I could not be that unlucky!). 

We stopped three quarters of the way through the journey, at a friend’s house, where I had a restless night with my son Sasha kicking me all through the night. 

Waking up tired and grumpy, I was again regretting the decision I had made, but things changed once we arrived at the starting place.  

Greeting friends, chatting and laughing, excitement building in anticipation of beginning the race shifted my mood towards a more positive spectrum. 

This race has some complex logistics, it starts with the 15km run out and back, then you jump into the boat, paddle 3 laps on a lake - which is total 11.5km - then cycle 39km up a hill and do a final 3km run, finishing at a cool viewing lookout.

Attempting to soak in and enjoy the views after completing 4 legs is an additional challenge to negotiate!

After doing very little, or if I'm being honest, no training over the previous 4 weeks, I was not putting too much pressure on myself over the result. I probably should say that, a part of my racing strategy over the years is to minimise any pressure I put on myself and it tends to lead to the most positive outcome. If the race goes well, that’s great. If it doesn’t, that’s ok too.

We started with the run at 10.30AM and quite a few people took off showing good pace. 

I clearly was not one of them, and watched them pass with very light heart, being worried only about finishing the run without having to walk up the hills, and also not burning myself out in the first 30 seconds. 

Our female field was actually quite competitive, with Sorcha - known for her strong cycling and running abilities, Marlena - paddler extraordinaire, as well as Matilda – another young, strong paddler. 

Sorcha was in the lead after the run, being in front of me by 3 and a half minutes after transition, according to Serge. 

Relive 'Morning Oct 27th'

Matilda was also very close, I saw her and Marlena not far away. 

The race offers an opportunity to paddle flat water boats, and I could not miss a chance to dust off my k1 too. I think it was my first ever race where I paddled k1 after the run. Wow. This was different to the leisurely training sessions I used to! The first 500 meters felt very unstable and I started doubting my ability to successfully finish this leg, with wind picking up as well. 

However I got into the rhythm on the longer sections and, with no cross-chop, caught up Sorcha at the end of the first leg, with 2 more to go. This fact gave me a bit of confidence and I cruised along nicely, enjoying paddling the light fast boat and in my mind, calculating my potential time gain after the paddle. I was feeling like I had victory in my pocket. 

At that particular moment someone passed me like a rocket. For a second I thought it was a team paddler, but then quickly realised that I was mistaken.

It was Matilda - who clearly was taking it very seriously and was not quite ready to let victory slip out of her grasp. 

maria paddling her way to win kvc 18

I got myself together and tried to keep up asking close as possible, without violating the no-wash riding rules. This was a good reality check - the race was on again and it actually felt really good. I was not going to give up just yet and came into transition about a minute or so behind. 

Relive 'Morning Oct 27th'

Here, there was basically time trial cycle race ahead, with a minute or so between two of us. I also knew Marlena would be quite close, even though I could not see her. 

Bike shoes and helmet on and off, off I went, with Matilda in sight, not far away. Although she was quite close, it took me about 10km to be able to catch her. I never considered myself a strong road cyclist, but I knew we both were not at our freshest at that time of the day, so it could simply come down to putting the slightest pressure on my opponent just at the right moment. I tried my best to pass her looking strong and determined. 

I stayed strong and determined for a few hundred meters and then my confidence started to wane again. Glancing over my shoulder again after couple of kilometres, I realised Matilda was not going to let me have it easily and was still nipping at my heels. 

That was at the beginning of a climb with a 600m elevation. I decided then that it was now or never and put everything I had into it, without looking back. 

Feeling a little bit nauseous around 10KM later, I was glad to see the road finally flatten out in front of me and the wind turned in the right direction. 

Relive 'Afternoon Oct 27th'

I dropped the pace and comfortably rolled into the transition area, only to find that my running shoes were not that obvious to locate. A solution quickly appears – a volunteer official lady had running shoes on. 

At the same time as I (not very politely) demanded that she give me her shoes, I spotted mine. That was a relief! I quickly took off for the last run. 

Averaging a better pace than on the first run, I felt exceptionally good, but still relieved the race was over.

Matilda came in about 5 minutes behind me with Marlena not far after that.

It was a great day out, with stunning Alpine views, good competition and awesome atmosphere. I really appreciate all of the efforts the Vigor crew and volunteers put in to the event, and of course my participation would not have been possible without Serge’s help and support. 

Sasha learnt a new phrase at the event “well done” and concluded he wants to be just like his mom.

maria crossing the kvc 18 finish line winner

Relive 'Afternoon Oct 27th'