A 10 year break and a Kona Spot

The following is My Wife's (Wendy Holt's) day at Busselton Ironman. You may have read my day on how not to do it and the mistake laden day. 

Wendy's is an expression of a person with mental strength and character and an ability to refocus and adjust when the need arises. Anyway enough from me. Here is Wendy's Bussleton experience. 

Ironman Western Australia – 3 December 2017

After 10 years out of triathlon, 2017 saw me return to the sport. Twelve months ago I set the goal of going back to Busselton, to not only finish another ironman but to hopefully break the 11 hour barrier for the first time. With no swimming and commuting my only form of riding over the past 10 years, there was a fair bit of work to be done. On the plus side, my running had improved as I had completed 6 marathon in this time.

Race day was to prove eventful with extreme temperatures, kangaroos knocking people off bikes, bushfires and the cancellation of the swim due to sharks. When it was announced that the swim would be cancelled, I felt a mixture of disappointment and excitement. Disappointment as we wouldn’t get to complete the full race and experience what is one of the most beautiful swim courses in the world. This would also mean I would not be able to see if I could achieve a sub 11 hour race. On the other hand, with my weakest discipline removed from the race, I was excited to see what I could achieve on the bike / run.

Once it was confirmed there would be no swim, I knew I had to refocus and concentrate on my race plan. There was nothing we could do about the course that had been set, so it was important to let go of the disappointment and focus on what I could control. My approach to this race had always been to focus on myself and my own race plan and not get caught up with what everyone around me was doing. This was even more important as my husband, Michael was also racing and we thought he would be anywhere from 30 – 60 minutes in front of me when we commenced the run. His strength was in the swim and ride whereas mine would always be the run.  My overall goal was to make sure I had an evenly paced race and not blow up.

The 180km ride was going to daunting as I hadn’t ridden that distance since my last ironman in 2007. This year saw a new approach to my bike training, with no long rides completed on the road. The majority of my training was completed indoors on the trainer working with power and the longest time on the road being 1.5 hours. I was therefore unsure of how I would cope with the distance but had to place confidence in the training I had done. My goal was to average between 31 – 32 km / hr and ride as evenly as possible over the two lap course. With the race starting with the ride and not the swim, I knew it was important to go out conservatively as we would be feeling extremely fresh. I had listened to Terenzo Bozzone speak the Friday before the race and he advised that the first 90km should feel easy, the next 45km start to feel harder and the last 45km hard. With these words resonating in my head, I rode within myself for the first lap, concentrating on nutrition and hydration. Past history has shown that the second half of my ride is usually at least 30 minutes slower than the first and I didn’t want to repeat this. With temperatures increasing, I was also aware of the importance of keeping hydrated. I had never seen so many athletes lying or sitting on the side of the road during an ironman as I did during this race. The temperature was taking its toll and I was determined not to be another victim sitting on the sideline. When I came to the second last aid station and there was no water available and a queue of competitors waiting, I decided to stop and join the line. I figured it was more important to lose a few minutes rather than risk the potential effects of dehydration. The cold drinking water and water the lovely volunteer poured down my back was a welcome relief and definitely worth the wait.

Over the last 20km of the bike, I felt quite strong and began passing people. This is not something I’ve experienced before during an ironman. During this time, I pushed as hard as I could in an effort to achieve the goal time I had set before the race. I was hoping for somewhere between 5.40 – 5.50 hr and was happy to see the Garmin reading 5.48 when I hopped off the bike. I was happy that I had been able to maintain focus during the 180km and not drift off as I have a tendency to do. All of the stationary trainer work was definitely paying off and had made me much stronger at the back end of the bike. I also told myself to focus on the bike and break it down into manageable sections rather than thinking too far ahead. I was looking forward to the marathon as this was where I felt strongest but made sure I didn’t think about this whilst riding as it can be a daunting proposition knowing there is still another four hours to go.

In the last km of the ride, my adductors began cramp and I had to slow and stretch them out. I was a bit worried about how they would cope once I started running. As I entered T2 and sat down, my hamstrings also cramped so I had to quickly stand up to get some relief. Luckily my husband had given me some cramp stop, so I took a mouthful and it seemed to work almost instantaneously. Coming out of T2, I grabbed some drinks and headed for the volunteer with a hose. It was hot and I knew keeping cool was going to important.

As with the ride, my aim was to run consistently at 5.30 – 5.40 min / km pace and hopefully run a sub four hour marathon. I had been training at 5.20 pace off the bike, so I believed this to be a realistic expectation. I exited transition with 2 other girls and found myself running with them. I felt good and running felt effortless. When I ran 5.06 and 5.12 for the first two kilometres, I knew I was going too fast and if I kept this up, things would get ugly towards the end of the marathon. I knew I had to let the other girls go and stick to my plan. I would see them both again later in the day when they had slowed considerably and couldn’t maintain the initial pace. I was then able to hold a fairly consistent pace for the majority of the run. My aim was to run the whole way and not walk (even through aid stations) as I run best when I can maintain a consistent rhythm. As it was hot, I knew how important it would be to get plenty of fluid at each aid station. I made sure I grabbed water and coke to drink, water to throw over my head and ice to put down my tri suit. I also took advantage of the spectators on course who were spraying hoses and had buckets of water.  This helped to cool my body a little and allowed me to continue running. Between 28 – 37km, my pace slowed a little but I knew I was still on track to break 4 hours. I was still feeling quite good and was drawing on the energy from the crowd to push me along. I had friends and family at different parts of the run course, which I used as motivation and being a four lap course, I got to see them regularly. I broke the course down into sections and just ticked off each one in my head rather than thinking of 42km. When I saw my friends at the 37km mark for the last time, I was relieved knowing I was on the final stretch. At this point, they told me I was in third place in my age group by one minute. Somehow this spurred me on and I was able to find some more energy and quicken my pace for the run home. I’m glad they hadn’t told me this information earlier in the day as I may not have stuck to my own race plan. With a couple of kilometres to go, I caught up to Michael who was not having the day he had hoped for. This was a reminder that ironman doesn’t always turn out the way we hope and plan for. He urged me to go on and finish my race strongly. I enjoyed those last few kilometres and when I crossed the line, realised I had achieved my second goal of the day. I had run 3:54 and gone under four hours for the first time in an ironman. On a tough day where only four pros went under 3:10, I was extremely happy with this time. My overall time was 9:50 and I’d like to think I would have been close to 11 hours if we’d had the swim. I guess I’ll just have to come back and try again!

This result was enough to place me third in my age group and qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. It’s been seventeen years since my first ironman in Forster and I’ve never come close to qualifying. I believe patience and consistency has been the key!!

Wendy Holt

Posted on December 24, 2017 .