I’ve spoken about build up and training in previous entries to this blog, but nothing really prepares you for the feelings and experiences you get leading up to and on race day of your first Ironman. With everything in place to set me up for a good day, I was very excited and felt ready to try to execute my ideal race plan. I’d spoken to Bruce (Energy Link Performance Coaching) a lot about my race plan and preparing for the unplanned things that this race can throw at you and boy was it worth it! Apart from my transitions and SIS nutrition plan I don’t think a single aspect of my ideal race scenario came off, but I was however, fairly pleased with the final result. It’s a long day out there and things can change easily in a short space of time.
Here is how my Ironman debut played out:
Morning of the race
I felt pretty good when the alarm went off at 4.30am race morning and felt that my light breakfast consisting of toast and banana was a good pre-race warm up. J-Dub and I chilled for a bit while we waited for the girls to rise and after an ALDI Espressi coffee to get me going, I made it to transition plenty of time and the weather was looking promising. It was great to see all the BTC crew before the start and all the good luck wishes and hugs were calming my nerves.I got into the water early after my customary SIS GO caffeine gel, did a little warm up and floated around waiting at the start line talking to Shane about the best lines to swim.
I started on the second row with what looked like a bit of clear water ahead of me, but as soon as the horn sounded I found myself getting beaten up by every swimming with bigger arms than me (that’s 99% of the field). I’d never experienced such a manic swim start as this. I managed to get clocked in the face with a loose arm and lose my goggles around my neck and was desperately trying to pull them back on as I tried to swim and keep position (LESSON 1: make sure you put your goggles on under you cap – I surely would have lost them totally if not). After managing to kind of rearrange them on my face I tried to continue in a rhythm and not panic, but with water filled goggles I was struggling to sight and felt like I was not being the most economical in my swim lines. I managed to find a small group, sit on feet and although feeling like I had gone a bit easy I got out of the water in about an hour and was very pleased to be on land again!
Although nervous about the bike distance (this being my first 180km ride) I was looking forward to a section of the race that I felt I could control well and make ground up on some of the faster swimmers in my category. I’d been using a Quarq Power Meter over the past 3 weeks (thanks to Vince’s generosity) and had a plan of hitting around 225w for my Normalised Power. We figured this would be conservative enough to allow me to run well. I mounted well and got into my rhythm on the 1st lap of the bike and was enjoying the course, but I gradually began to have extreme trouble being comfortable on my bike over the long duration of the course. The Planet X (although a speed demon around Centennial Park) was not absorbing the bumps and pot holes of Port Mac roads very well.
I could see as I approached the turn around point that Shane was having a blinder and seeing the other BTC supporters and riders out there was keeping me focused as I headed back out for lap 2. By the second stretch out to Lake Cathie I was getting very bad chaffing and I was struggling on the 2nd lap to stay in my aerobars without pain (LESSON 2: Train on your TT bike, make sure you are set up comfortably to endure 5+ hours of riding, use vaseline). I could tell from watching my competitors and from my average speed (in the wind) that I was losing ground in my age category and positioning too. I tried to stay efficient, use hills and sections and with wind behind me I sat up and gave my body a rest and got onto the run as fast and as fresh as I could.
Although having 42km’s ahead of me I was very pleased to be into transition and onto the run. I could feel as soon as I stood up (in my new Saucony Kinvara’s) that I was in ok shape to run, although having a severe smiley sun burn on my lower back (LESSON 3: Don’t forget to put sunscreen on your lower back for the bike if you wear a 2-piece tri-suit). Without a GPS (not wanting to carry any extra weight on my wiry frame) I set off on the 1st lap of 4 with goal of running quick when I felt good and trying to hold things together during the bad patches. I started the run in 18th in my category and although catching a lot of places in this first lap I had unintentionally gone a lot quicker than I wanted on the first 5k (LESSON 4: Stick to your race plan and don’t run the first 5k too fast).
Not knowing this I just tried to maintain as much form as possible and was still running well at 20k. As I approached the end of the 3rd lap the monkey had jumped on my back and I felt like I was struggling to move with any sort of purpose, I had managed to move into 4th, but was not making ground as quickly on the leaders as I once was. The BTC cheers and consistent updates and support from Bruce, Chris and Mr Moseley were keeping me moving out at Settlement Point. Cramp was starting to set in on the last lap and I had to stop to stretch momentarily as my hamstring ceased up, but it was all worth it when I hit the finishing chute.
Coming in on my own to the finish I got to trot, savour the moment, high-five everyone and give a big hug to Dani, HD and a huge giraffe (dressed as Bel Fong)! This day didn’t plan out as I imagined it would, but I would not change a single moment. Its experiences like this that you learn the most from and move on in a more positive way. (LESSON 5: APPRECIATE WHAT YOU HAVE WHILE YOU HAVE IT)!
Thanks to Bruce and Energy Link Performance Coaching, Saucony Australia, Michael O’Hara at SIS Australia and Balmoral Triathlon Club for the being the most amazing people to work with and share in this experience. Anyone who knows me from my early running days would tell you that I never use to want to even attempt a half-marathon, let alone compete in Ironman. It’s all down to the fantastic support of this triathlon club, its associates and the understanding of my wife that I can continue to do this sport I love!
Thank you all again, having the chance to go and do this over in Kona has given me great motivation and I feel very honoured.