Sunday 6th of May was the day I finally felt that I could call myself and Ironman.
For me this Ironman was about trying to quiet that little voice inside my head saying you haven’t really done one have you. It was about trusting myself and the training I had been doing and it was about learning to be patient when I feel great and dig deep when I felt like crap.
The week leading up to Ironman is all about your mind. People say it as about tapering. But that is only part of it. As an Ironman triathlete you are used to pushing out as much as 20 hours a week in training. You are used to feeling at least a little tired and or leg weary every day of the week. In the week leading up to an Ironman the volume drops way back. You have a whole lot more time on your hands than you’re used to. Suddenly you have time to think. Think about have you done enough? Should I get one more interval session in? Maybe one more run before the weekend. All week the only thing I could say to myself was I am not going to get any fitter in a week.
The next thing going through your mind all day is the weather. What is the long-range forecast saying? Is there going to be wind or rain? Is it going to be hot and humid? On our day we were blessed. There was a little breeze blowing and it was a beautiful mid north coast classic autumn day.
Friday night we drove up to Port Macquarie straight after our Friday night Raise the Bar class at Total Performance Centre. The 2 hour 40 minute drive was nice and easy and getting in to our hotel at 9pm ish allowed a good nights sleep and a good early rise. Wendy and I made our way in to Port Mac to do the organized swim on the course that Ironman had organized and after that I went for a 30 minute ride and 10 minute run over part of the course. It was nice to be out and about and finally getting a feel for what the last 5 months of training had been about. After that I went and checked in and grabbed my race numbers and sticker and bag kit and headed back to the hotel to set everything up. To anyone reading this that has done an Ironman I can almost see you nodding in agreement when I say that when you are setting up your transition bags and going through them at least 5 times. When you drop them in to transition area you are still sure that you have left something out. You see you have to have it all checked in the night before, your bike your run and bike kit all put away in a tent on your race number and not allowed to be touched until you come get it on the next day when you are racing.
That night myself, Wendy my good mate and awesome Ironman triathlete himself Anthony Corcoran and Mr. Air Relax Troy Lowery went out for dinner at Hog’s Breath. It is a funny little tradition I have started the night before most of my most important races. I have a big steak some sweet potato and as may veggies as I can get my hands on. Then off to bed and hopeful of a better sleep than I got the night before Bussleton December last year.
My day started at 12 am Sunday morning. I woke for no apparent reason, looked at the time and realised my alarm was about to go off anyway to drink my pre-race supplement Prep’d. This is a modified Starch drink that helps increase hydration by up to 30%. I drank it down went back to bed hoping to get a couple more hours sleep before the next alarm to go of at 4.30 am.
I think I may have gotten another 90 minutes of sleep but at that stage the nerves were starting to kick in and excitement was already building. At 4.30 am the final preparation started with breakfast. I had my normal 2 egg omelet and a banana and started applying some bio-energy patches to my lower back and hamstrings to help combat a little lower back pain I had been having recently. My rationale was to keep the inflammation down for as long as I could to give me a better chance of executing a reasonable race.
At 5.40 am we started the 1 km walk down to transition area to do the final preparations for the morning, pumping up the tires, putting my special needs nutrition and hydration in the vans and starting some swim warm ups and finally putting my wetsuit on and making my way to the swim start.
The main race started a little after 7 am with the pro men and women taking off. I was going to position myself up near the front to get a good start and hopefully out on to the road nice and early to get some clean road. I remember giving Wendy a kiss and her saying something to me just before I made my way down to the swim start but not much else. The next 10 minutes are a bit of a blur with the national anthem being the only real thing I can clearly remember hearing.
I find the best way to a good triathlon swim is to hold myself back and take it relatively easy at the start. It is so easy to get swept up in the moment and take off fast. Every time I have done that though I have blown up and had to slow right down to get going again. During the swim it is a funny sort of emotion going on. It is the only one of the three disciplines where you can’t really get any feedback as to your actual pace and position. Some say they can, but I haven’t managed to do it as yet. For one hour you swim along following other swimmers and the turn at the directional buoys with not much else going on other than trying to hold good stroke mechanics and swim straight. Believe me that is quite a challenge especially at the back end of the swim (it was for me anyway) where strength imbalances start to become even more apparent and it is very easy to go off course and add precious distance to your swim. My swim seemed to go for a long time. I steeled myself for the slower of my estimated times. I thought it must have been significantly over the 1 hour mark. As I stood up and run through the arch and hit lap on the trusty Garmin I looked up on the stop watch above and it had my split as 59 minutes and 12 seconds. I was shocked. Blown away actually. The day was off to a cracker of a start.
Out on to the bike the conditions seemed fast. Wind was light weather was mild and I felt really, Really fresh. The words from my wife and various podcasts I have listened to recently rang in my head incessantly. Patience, Patience, when you feel good go easy, when you feel crap push hard. It is a really hard thing to do on that first lap to watch a whole heap of people go past you. Just let them ride up the road and ignore them. But I did just that and kept to my power and heart rate figures that I had worked with. With only a few minor mishaps like losing my salt tablets and dropping some of my nutrition I made it back to transition in 5:33:00. My only real drama on the bike was at about 25 km to go I started cramping in the adductors. It wasn’t too bad, but bad enough that I had to use a smaller gear get out of the aero position and drop the power down. Once I hit the hills nearing town though the hills and disruption to the pedalling action the cramping subsided until about 2 km to go.
The part of the race that looks on paper my worst part of the race was for me the proudest part of my race. I am not a good runner. I have to work very hard at it and even then am not fast. I did however have a plan to do the best I thought I could on the day and try to acquit myself well. The plan was to walk the up and down hill of the one substantial hill on course and walk for 100 meters at each aid station approximately every 2 km. I wasn’t sure if physically I would be able to do it. The mental scars from Bussleton last year were fresh in my mind. But I was determined to give it a shot and see what happened. It was funny getting off the bike after 180 km cramping substantially and getting in to transition area I had an anti-cramping drink called Pickle Juice instantaneously I felt the cramping in my legs disappear and as I ran out of the tent I actually felt fresh and ready to run. The sense of euphoria as you begin the run with hundreds of people cheering you on is quite uplifting and also quite dangerous for the unsuspecting. It is very easy to take off way too fast and ruin your whole race in the first 2 - 5 km of the marathon run. But for me I managed to stick to the plan I came up with a plan that I thought was my best shot at completing the marathon well and stuck to it for the entire run. The time in this case was irrelevant as this was the first time I had managed do it in such a way. The time as I said set no world records it didn’t see me racing through the field. But it was over 90 minutes quicker than 5 months ago and in much better spirits. My biggest over riding goal for me on this day was to not be so negative like I was in Bussleton last year. My wife said to me that every-time she saw me, I was smiling. That for me was more important than any-time that I might post.
I can see where I need to and can improve. I plan on doing just that over the next 13 months when at that point I am going to enter Cairns Ironman and attempt to go under the ten hour bracket. In between now and then though I have 2 more ½ Ironman’s this year and 2 early next year before then to keep the motivation high.
I love training and I love racing. It makes me feel good, good about myself and my life. So I can’t see me not doing either in the near future.
Until next time.
Stay safe, Stay healthy, Live your dreams chase your goals.