Cairns definitely didn't let me down again and besides the relentless rain
BY CLAIRE POPLE
I did Cairns IM last year and vowed for it to be my last one this decade. I was and did go through some massive personal issues and problems out of my control before during and after the race and I just needed a break. I didn't unpack my bike for a good few weeks after the race and I don't think I ran for at least 2 months, to be honest I didn't do much. Then Kona came around and I went to Pammy and Sven to watch it and got inspired again and entered Cairns again as I had a mate from the UK moving to Aus and doing the race. I was soon back into the swing of things and training and loving it all again.
Fast forward to race week.
We went up to Cairns the Thursday before the race and proceeded to get sorted and registered and checked in etc. This year they decided to change the course and start up in Palm Cove, roughly 20km north, instead of Cairns. They swopped the transitions around. At first I wasn't too happy with the changes but had to just get over it and deal with it.
So all bags had to be packed and the bike ready to go Friday as we were dropping our bikes off Saturday morning between 8am - 9am to get transported up to Palm Cove.
Saturday morning was spent dropping the bikes and run bags off in Cairns. Meeting up with all the other WTC guys for a photo then we made our way up to Palm Cove to drop cycle bags off, check the swim course, make sure our bikes made it up there in once piece and drive the bike course.
I had mixed feelings about swimming at Palm Cove after seeing a photo of the swim course with brown water on the Friday. To me brown or discoloured water equates to Sharks. Back in South Africa as soon as the water turned brown after rain bathing was banned so that is all I thought of..
There was a healthy wind blowing and current pushing up the coast. The start of the swim was about 1km up the coast from the swim exit so thought that was going to be interesting swimming down there in the morning. Not going to be a fast swim and there was all the talk of the course changing... But at the end of the day I figured it is what it is and I just have to deal with what happens race day. I was just hoping it wouldn't be short as then I couldn't claim I'd raced a full IM.
We didn't hang in Palm Cove too long, drove the bike course then headed back home to rest and do nothing for the remainder of the day.
We woke up to rain in the morning, it started during the night and was not letting up. So it's going to be a wet one out there today I thought. I had also noticed that I had a slick tyre on my rear wheel the day before which would make the cycle fun, but there was nothing I could do about that so pushed the thought out my mind.
Got to Palm Cove with plenty time race morning thankfully as I arrived at my bike with my rear wheel flat. I only had one spare on my bike and another in my special needs bag. Annabelle to the rescue and she organised me one from the mechanics outside of T1. IT was pitch black, muddy and still raining. With the help of a few people holding all the tools I needed I stayed calm and changed my tyre with Annabelle shining her mobile phone for light. Wheel changed and now it was time to wait for the start. T1 closed at 6:45 and we were only starting at 7:55. We find some shelter and hung out of the rain for a while waiting and getting ready. Went back and checked my tyres a good few times after that to be certian it was going to stay up.
Wasn't sure why it got a flat but I had decided I was carrying my bike from the rack to the carpets and out of T1, which in fact everyone seemed to do that as there was just sooooo much mud everywhere.
Swim: Luckily the wind hadn't picked up, as was expected to later in the day, which transpired to be wrong anyway. The sea was a lot calmer on race day than the previous day which was good.
It was to be a knee / waist deep type of start, 15 cans to go around in total. Personally I prefer a beach start to a water start so was happy with that. I placed my self on the right as the course was going in a clockwise direction.
Gun (or whatever went off - I don't even remember) and we were off. Got to the first can and some girl grabbed my arm and pulled me back, I was just thinking that was completely unneccessary as she wasn't even that close to me, no need for that. She then continued and tried to go for my googles on purpose. I was just thinking 'Really, so soon into the race!' Luckily it didn't phase me too much, nothing I could do about it. I suppose all the years of lifesaving competition surf swims prepared me for this, girls can be extremely catty in the swims and I'd had my fair share of this happening to me over the years. So the left hand side of my goggles filled with a little water. Not enough to stop and sort out but enough to not really see out of it. There was no time to stop and sort it out so I just continued swimming. To be honest you couldn't see anything in the water anyway and figured as long as I stayed on the right I'd be ok for all the cans. I didn't feel great on the first half, was feeling very stiff in the warm up and first part of the swim. I just kept going then eventually felt better on the second lap. Just tried to stay on someone's feet and get the swim done. It was a slow swim, no one went under 50 mins. I was happy enough with my time but can definitely improve a lot I think. 1:06:28.
Bike: out of transition into the mud field I find my bike and carried it across the mud and grass to the carpets out of T1 and onto the bike at the mount line. The first kilometer or two were crazy. Palm Cove has these speed humps, about 10 of them, we had to go over. They no ordinary speed bumps but rather made out of random pieces and different sizes of rock. And of course throw in the rain and the roads are wet. They threw black mats over them but to no avail. There were so many bottles, spares and even some rear bottle cages strewn across the road from the bumps. I was just praying and trying my best to stay upright firstly and secondly trying not to loose any of my bottles. So now not only were you working your way over the humps you were dodging bottles, cages, canisters, spares etc... Got through them safely with all my bottles and nutrition thankfully.
Out on the road and time to settle into the race. Some girls came flying past me, one with an 'H' on her calf, my category, but I let them carry on and I stuck to my plan. I knew I'd see them again and low and behold I saw them 20ks from the end of the bike, and passed them too. The rain was still relentless and not letting up, to be honest it didn't bother me, I had too many other things to concentrate on to worry about what the rain was doing. The wind didn't seem to have picked up either yet which was great so thought I should get up to Port Douglas ASAP, just incase it did. On the way up there I went over Rex's lookout and down the other side, barely had any brakes so just had to go for it with my slick wheel, dodgy brakes and my right tri bar which was slightly loose for some reason..... So this is really going to be a wild ride. But no time to stop and sort these things out, I just had to roll with it.
About 10k out of Port Douglas I heard my name called.. Ah Evan and Janine, my parents friends from SA whom now live up there, what a lift that bought me. Hadn't seen them or spoken to them in over 10years and there they were in the pouring rain supporting me! Brilliant.. Off I continued to Port Douglas for the turn around, great atmosphere there but as we turned I expected to see my speed drop.... Nope not this time, no headwind to battle into back towards Cairns, amazing, was happy with that.
So back down to the turnaround point just past Wangetti, saw Evan and Janine again and called out to them.
For some reason I kept finding myself with loads of people around me, blatant drafting too, something I definitely didn't want to get caught up in so I proceeded to over take them.. Pulled out and.... great there's at least 7-10 people I have to take.. Once you start you gotta go so I kept having to put in all these efforts the whole time, which actually continued for the rest of the ride, to over take people and stay away from the drafting...
Got to the turning point then headed back up to Port Douglas. A little bit late and I was going through a pretty rough patch, strange I was only at about 85k, not what I needed. I knew I'd come out of it so just continued taking on nutrition and moving forward. Moments later I was back at Evan and Janine and their neighbours, they were now screaming for me, just the lift I needed for the last 10k's to the turn around at Port Douglas. Got to the turn around and saw another friend, Tammy, I hadn't seen in about 5yrs, another lift and now I was on my way back to Cairns and feeling way better. And the wind hadn't picked up yet either.. Bonus...
Then at around 150k mark our President Trav caught up to me. We exchanged a few words and continued to leap frog each for the remainder of the bike and the entire run! By this stage there were even more people drafting all around me so I had to continue over taking up to 10 people at once sometimes as they kept over taking, cutting straight in front of you then slowing down.... But I was stoked when the TO's finally came up behind us, first time of the entire ride they'd come up behind us, and penalised a whole bunch of people. Good they all deserved it. Finally back in Cairns and into T2.
I was hoping and knew I could do a 5:40 ride... I finished off with a 5:34:35. Happy days.
Run: this was always going to be tough. Been injured and managing injuries since December. It was going to hurt and I just had to brace myself for it. I got off the bike in 4th in my AG, 7mins back.... That's a long way back for the amount of running distance I had in my legs, but I just kept going forward, one step at a time I told myself. The first 20k's were ok actually then I started slowing. I'd only done about 5 or 6 runs over 20k the entire year so figured it might happen. I just had to keep taking in nutrition and moving forward. The rain still hadn't stopped and the 180' turns we're getting harder and harder to maneuver around. The support from all the WTC people out there in the pouring rain was incredible. Definitely helped and kept me going. Travis and I continued leap frogging each other and thankfully he had some spare salt tablets he could spare me, as I'd lost mine sometime ago and started getting the signs of cramp in my quads around 35k. I was so close now and ran a bit of the last few kilometers holding my right quad hoping it wouldn't cramp. I was never going to get the run time I wanted or thought I could do which is disappointing. I ended up with a 3:58:27. Sub 4 (just), still admirable I guess but definitely not good enough.
Total time of 10:45:20. 37 mins quicker than last year, always great getting a PB.
I'm happy with the result but disappointed at the same time. This was to be my "last" one again but I might need to do another and see what I can do. Happy that all those hours and hours and hours on the bike paid off massively with going 28mins quicker than last year.
Cairns definitely didn't let me down again and besides the relentless rain I thoroughly enjoyed myself... Until next time now!
"Running down the shoot was an amazing feeling and getting to see my family, girlfriend and friends on the way through the shoot was something I won’t be forgetting
BY DAVE KENNETT
Being fairly new to Triathlon, after only trading the rugby jersey for lycra 2 years ago, Ironman Australia (IMOZ) was to be my second Ironman after completing Ironman New Zealand only nine weeks prior.
Immediately after Ironman NZ, I was looking forward to going toe-to-toe with the Port Macquarie course after having done a couple of 70.3’s there. However my body might wasn’t so enthusiastic. For the first couple of weeks after the race my legs were cactus and my body was tired.
I gave myself three light weeks just training for enjoyment and keeping things easy and then got cracking back into ‘full-structured training’ following the same six-week program as I completed prior to NZ.
I managed 9.57 at IMNZ so I was interested to see how my body would respond in a fairly short time and back up for IMOZ. I was hoping I could go a tad quicker.
The weeks leading into IMOZ went pretty well. My mind was willing but unfortunately I had a few little niggles that meant I had to modify my training a little bit, particularly my running sessions and volume. An Achilles niggle that lasted 4-5 weeks meant that I became very well acquainted with the grass at Curly Park. Just as the Achilles started to come good, I then developed some knee pain which I self-diagnosed as Patella Tendonitis. With only 3 weeks to go, after each run my knee would seize up and become very painful so I started getting a bit worried of how it would respond to a 42km flogging. About 10 days out from race day I decided not to run any more as my knee was getting worse and spent my extra time hoping, stretching, rolling and massaging my quads and peroneals, in the hope that my very tight quads might be affecting my patella tracking.
I travelled up to Port on the Thursday night with my old man. Friday, I had a swim in the river with a mate, nailed a few coffees, registered and checked out the expo a little bit and then tried to relax for the day. On Saturday morning I had quick ride and then returned to give the buffet at Rydes a good touch up. I dropped off my bike and all my gear off at transition at about lunch time and then put my feet up for the rest of the day, trying to be relaxed as possible about the big day ahead. The weather man’s prediction of 40-50km/hr+ westerlies and his comment that the “ironman competitors at Port Macquarie this weekend will really have to earn it” didn’t exactly help my relaxed mantra but I managed to get a fairly good sleep the night before the race, something I normally don’t do to well. I woke up at 3.30am to have my last solid food before the race, tried to get a little bit more shut eye and then I was on my way down to transition at about 5am.
This year at Port we were pioneering the rolling swim start in Australia. I got myself in the sub-60 minute group and lined up with the other competitors as ACDC blared out from the speakers. My plan for the swim was to relax early, after not having the opportunity to warm up, and try and stay on people’s feet throughout the swim. I felt pretty good throughout the swim, unlike the swim in NZ, and after stacking it down the stairs at the weir crossing I made to T2 in a time of 52.25, a couple of minutes faster than I’d hoped.
Into T2, the volunteers helped pull of my wetty off and put the arm warmers on and I was out and onto the road in a few minutes.
My plan for the bike was to take it easy on the first lap, particularly on the hills going out of town and ‘ride like someone who will run well’. I feel like I managed to stick to that plan fairly well and vibrated my way down to the turnaround in fairly good time.
On the way back into town the wind really started to get up so I tried to hold myself back a little bit for 2nd lap. My bike tyre started feeling a bit weird about 30km away from town and I realised a had a slow leak puncture, meaning I could feel the rim hitting the ground if I went over any of the many bumps that the Port Macquarie roads are renowned for. I made it into town and to a Shimano mechanic tent and a combination of the sealant I’d put in my tyres before the race and the air that the mechanics track pump provided, helped to get me on my way , only losing a few minutes in the process.
On the 2nd lap, my thoughts were on my bike wheel which helped distract me from the rattling the roads were dishing out. The wind had become very strong by now, bringing the pace right down in certain parts of the course. As the wind strengthened, I made a conscious effort to just ride completely on feel and not to look at my watch so I didn’t get disappointed by seeing my pace drop as the wind picked up. Heading back into town I was looking forward to getting off the bike and getting stuck into the marathon. Overall I managed a time of 5.23.57 on the bike which I was fairly pleased with considering the course and the conditions.
I knew the race would really begin towards during the second half of the run and I was interested/nervous about how my body would respond after NZ and with the recent niggles I’d had. I had thrown a few Voltarens in the back pocket of my top, just in case anything went pear-shaped.
Port is a 4 lap run course, so I planned to run conservatively in the first 2 laps and then hold it together as best I could for the ‘business end’ of the run. Out of T2, I felt fairly good and tried to hold myself back and ticked through the first 15-20km’s in an average pace of about 4.50k pace.
The wind was even playing havoc on the run course, making particular sections, such as along the break wall and out along the water, very difficult and making it hard to keep a rhythm. It really was a great day to fly a kite.
The crowd support in and around town gave you a real boost on each lap and the volunteers were outstanding, doing their best to keep us all hydrated and fuelled throughout the run.
At about the 29km mark, pretty much the same point on the run in NZ, I realised I had one foot firmly placed in the hurt locker and things were about to get very tough. From my experiences in NZ I knew this point in the race would come but I was hoping it would be a little closer to home this time around. My splits really started to slow at this point, particularly in the wind exposed sections. Before I knew it, I was well and truly locked in the hurt locker and it was a mental game for the last 12km’s. On my way back into town and to the finish line I managed to pick up the pace a little as well as surprise a few other competitors with the weird grunting noise I was unintentionally making as a struggled along to the finishing shute.
After such a tough day, running down the shoot was an amazing feeling and getting to see my family, girlfriend and friends on the way through the shoot was something I won’t be forgetting any time soon.
After struggling through the back end of the run I came in with a run split of 3.25.48, a couple of minutes faster than what I ran in NZ and an overall time of 9.47 and a 5th in my age group.
Having a few beers and watching the other competitors come in throughout the night was very inspiring and I’m looking forward to racing IMOZ next year and hopefully for many years ahead.
Thank you to the volunteers and congratulations to all the other WTC competitors, some amazing results by all. Another big thank you to Pete McClean and Rog De Paula Assis for sharing their knowledge and experience with me, your advice really helped me in both IM’s.
Thanks everyone, happy training.
My advice to anyone contemplating doing
BY TIM O’HALLLORAN
Having had a long term goal to complete an Ironman, the time came last year when I felt the time was right. Having 3 young children to raise (with the help of my super supportive wife!) and a busy business to run I knew that I needed to step back slightly in both departments and concentrate strongly on getting fit for the IM and my goal became 2014 PIM. With the kids a bit older and business OK 2014 was going to be my year!!
I joined up with the good folk of Warringah TC for an introduction into Triathlon and entered every Club Race I could for the 2013 year. To get in shape for the PIM 14 I made a bit of a plan and lined up the Canberra 70.3 which I completed in December and then Huskisson 2/14. After Huskisson I then had about 9 clear weeks to really sharpen up on and I threw myself into this with gusto.
I took advantage of the WTC structured swim sessions at Narrabeen and also a number of running classes with Andy. Andy has the distinct honor of after 37 years of side breathing to get me breathing both side on the swim – a huge breakthrough!! Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!
I certainly had some challenges during the training, mainly not enough hours in the day as well as 2 bike crashes – one slip on a wet road, the other being knocked off my bike by a kangaroo at Duffys Forest. Both accidents took me out of around 2.5 weeks in total which affected the rhythm of my training and I lost some crucial big build weeks around 6 weeks out from race day.
I travelled up to PIM with my support crew of wife and 3 kids in tow and a bunch of nerves, my main concern – have I done enough training/am I prepared for this???? Probably not a unique thought to IM competitors and not a thing I could do about it at that point so no point stressing to much so we just immersed ourselves in the event, the beaches and counted down to the event. One of my daughters did the IronKids and loved it, the other two not old enough, next year!
After an almost sleepless night I was picked up on race morning by my 2 friends/main training buddies also doing the event - both seasoned campaigners and was comforted to hear my friend Ben say that he too had an almost sleepless night on the eve of his 16th IM....I was in good company!!!
We completed our final preparations at bike transition and walked around to the swim start. I bade farewell and good luck to the boys and joined the 60-67mins (my race goal was 60 minutes) roll start group. Before I knew it I was walking down the ramp and swimming......relief – I was finally racing!! I just concentrated on nice even strokes and finding some space which was easy enough given the self seed rolling start. I just settled into an easy rhythm and before long we were at the first crossing - up and out of the water - I snuck a quick look at my Garmin – 1.28/100M – ripper!! – I was slightly ahead of my goal time and feeling good. Back in and keep going.....soon enough we were at the turnaround point and on the way home.... I was feeling great and looking around taking it all in, the spectators and the environment loving every minute – 2nd weir crossing and holding my time nicely. Under the bridge and another few hundred metres later we turned for the final leg home, I could see the transition marquee and spectators starting to loom up in front of me......I could hear the commentators and the crowd, final turn at the buoy and a short burst to the exit ramp, up I go.....check the Garmin 58.25min.....better than expected!! fantastic - first leg down and Im happy - feeling great!
I run through transition and collect my gear, helped out of the suit into my bike kit by a kind volunteeer and in the flash of eye Im pedaling away. Coming through town I see my family for the first time, the sight of them cheering with a big Go Daddy brings a little tear to the eye, I give them a big wave and a yell then continue on....then the reality sinks in, I had never ridden 180kms before, my longest training ride was 140ks on nice smooth Sydney roads, this was going to be a big test. I was also fearing the winds......we had done a quick ride the previous day in very strong winds and the same conditions were predicted today.....just hope I can get the bulk of the ride in before they hit.... I concentrated on getting comfortable, working into the race and as importantly - making sure Im enjoying myself – the scenery and the amazing atmosphere the spectators create. Out and back towards Port I was happy with my progress sitting well hovering around the 33ks/hour mark which was my target. Coming into town I was greeted with the sight of the hill that is Matthew Flinders Drive – wow I thought – that’s going to hurt – especially on the second lap with 175ks under the legs!!!..... drop the gears out of the saddle and a furious pedal up – great crowd support!! then continue on into town. It was around here that I started to feel the wind for the first time.... At Flynns beach I saw my family again out the front of our accommodation cheering me on and that gave me a big boost! Back into town at the halfway I was feeling great and looking forward to a strong second lap. Out of town the winds really made their presence felt and the whole way down to the turnaround was a battle. I was watching my average speed drop down below 30ks for the outbound leg and I was working hard at this point to maintain it.....damn!! My only consolation was hoping the wind held its direction for the return. Saying a little thank you to the wind gods - the way home was fast but around 10ks out of town my neck and shoulder started to cramp/spasm and I was hoping this would resolve itself before the run. It was with some relief that I made my way into town towards transition!! I still felt pretty good although I knew I had burned a lot of energy in that wind – my mind then turned to the run....I had run 1 marathon before this in isolation – and that was tough – hows it going to be with close to 7 hours racing behind me.....this was going to be interesting !!! Reasonably happy with my time of 5.53min (30.4K Avg) considering the wind and hard roads. I steeled myself for the feeling of jumping off the bike after close to 6 hours...
Off the bike and into the run – almost done (I really was kidding myself there!!) 2 down 1 to go - wow – that neck/shoulder issue made life very unpleasant straight away! I saw my family on the side and stopped to give them a quick cuddle then back into it! I tried to get into a rhythm but struggled – and that bloody wind!!! I thought I had seen the last of it on the ride but there it was again, seemingly in my face or to my side knocking me around, making life harder than it needed to be....around the 15k mark looking at my Garmin I could see my target time slowly slipping away......this was getting hard!! I settled into a routine of walking through aid stations eating and drinking then shuffling off to the next one. At about the 28k mark I tried to down a gel, then bang, back up it came – and seemingly everything else I had consumed that day!!! I calculated I had about 90 minutes left to run so would still need fuel so pushed along to the next aid station to get some water in....again up it came. At this point I became concerned – I was still a long way from home, mechanically I felt fine, legs were OK and my neck issues seemed to have resolved itself (sort of) but I was unable to hold down a bit of water......would I pass out later due to dehydration?? What should I do?? It was shortly after this I saw my mate Ben passing the other direction and told him my tale of woe....a quick pep talk from him – ‘mate you signed up for this, this is Ironman, if it was easy everyone would do it – you’ve got one lap to go so get into it!’.....fair enough, can’t argue with that! Harden up son!!
The K’s continued to roll on, still no luck holding anything down....I started to feel progressively weaker and shaky but before long I was making the final turn for home, coming across the bridge I could see the laser lights from the finish area lighting up the sky – about 3ks from home nothing was going to stop me now. I knew my family were waiting in the finish shoot for me and this thought kept me going. Collect the final wrist band, for the first time that day I allowed to think to myself – Im about to be an Ironman!!!
Before long I could see the finish area – I was going to make it – I had done it!!! I scanned the shoot for my family – there they were all 4 of them going wild near the finish line – a big group hug from them all – what a moment! This was what it was all about!! – my beautiful wife had pulled 3 young kids around for close on 12 hours in a cold and windy day – what a champion effort!! I left them and crossed the finish line – 11.45 – for some reason I didn’t hear the ‘Tim O’Halloran you are an Ironman’ as I seemed to finish in a bunch but I didn’t care – I made it!! All those early morning starts/long lonely runs after work had been worth it in that very moment. What a great experience and one Ill never forget!
It was apparent pretty quickly I was suffering dehydration so I was taken through to the medical tent for an IV – what an amazing setup and a wonderful bunch of people. Before long I had absorbed 5 litres and feeling fresh as daisy, felt like I could have gone around again!!! I really must have been delusional!! My wife picked me up and I saw my exhausted family, I don’t know who had a tougher day??
Port Mac IM is a superbly run, incredible event and I will certainly be back. The Tri community is such an inspiring, motivating bunch of people – I want my family exposed to it as much as possible.
My advice to anyone contemplating doing an IM - just do it! And if you have family – take them on the journey with you (as much as you can) and involve them in it. All of my kids now want to be an Ironman!! What a healthy and great example to set for them. It is extremely rewarding and a great experience! One Im keen to continue on. First thing I did when I got back to work on Tuesday was look for another race – Im now booked in for Melbourne next year and keen to improve my time. (Plus figure out the nutrition aspect!!!!!)
Thanks for listening to my story, everyone has their own IM story and people take part for a whole bunch of different reasons. What I found out for me is IM is a great metaphor for life in general –fake it and you’ll be found out - persistence, consistency and sheer determination will get you there in the end.
Finally – massive thanks to the Warringah TC for getting me started and although I don’t train a lot with the Club as I live in St Ives and logistically its difficult. Im proud to be a member and also a HUGE thanks to the awesome Volunteers on Race day – they really made my day!
"Best moment of the day, crossing the finishing line
Kurt and Julie Hunziker had a few challenges before arriving at the start line of Ironman Australia in Port Macquarie last month. For Julie, it was never thinking she would enter an Ironman but she did, and now she needed to fit in her training while still working and managing a household with three kids. For her husband Kurt, it was recovering from an accident after hitting a kangaroo while training. But they finished, crossing the line hand-in-hand with Julie winning her age group - and now their off to Kona! Here are their race day stories:
BY Julie Hunziker
Friday 2nd May 2014 – Athlete Welcome Dinner. “Please stand up if this is your first Ironman”. Yep that’s me, 1 of over 645 athletes doing their first Ironman. I feel a lot more at ease now I know how many of us are tackling this great race for the first time.
I never thought I would enter an Ironman. Like a lot of other triathletes I have spoken too, I felt I didn’t have the confidence or ability to 1.Participate in a mass swim start and 2. compete the swim distance required. For a number of reasons, I put those thoughts aside and entered the Port Macquarie Ironman.
I’m a strong runner, so my main objective for training where to maintain my run fitness and focus primarily on my swimming and cycling endurance and skills. I’m relatively new to triathlon and so bike skills, especially on a TT bike where a must.
My alarm sounded at 4am and I rose to eat my breakfast and prepare myself for the day ahead. I love to visualise and I had been doing this for a number of weeks beforehand – visualising the perfect race. I continued this on the morning of my race to ensure I remained positive and didn’t let the nerves of the swim start, never mind the rest of the race get to me.
My primary goal was to finish. I really had no idea what I was in for, I had a pretty good lead up to Port Macquarie – did the training, no major illnesses or injuries and so I knew that if I raced according to my plan, I would have a great day out.
Massive thumbs up to the Rolling Swim Start. Basically, you seed yourself in one of five start groups based on time. Then you gradually make your way through the coral to the front of the line at which point about 10 people start at the one time. Athlete’s timing chips activate once you cross the start line. While athletes seemed uncertain as to exactly how the rolling swim start was to take place, in the end I believe it relieved a lot of anxiety and stress. I heard nothing but positive feedback and I also heard of a lot of swim PBs. The weir crossing was unique and I liked it as it gave me the opportunity to break the swim up into segments.
I had a great swim, stuck to plan – swim comfortably, remain relaxed and breathe!
Yikes, it was windy and if you know the Port Macquarie 70.3 or Ironman bike courses you know that they are hilly. Thankfully us Warringah Tri Club members have West Head and Akuna Bay to thank for being strong hill climbers.
While I was hoping for a faster bike spilt, I think so did 95% of the other athletes. The wind was a major player. Again I stuck to my plan which was to stick to certain heart rate averages which were to increase every 45km or so.
The Lesson to learn from the bike – practice on my race wheels in the wind. While I only rode on 60mm front and back wheel, I was still significantly blown around, especially on lap 2 making it difficult for me to stay in an aero position.
By far my strongest leg. 4 lap course with one hill each lap. My plan was to break the run up into 4 segments, one for each lap. I maintained the same pace from start to finish which was amazing. I would have like to negative spilt but I was enjoying it too much to worry about pushing myself beyond the line so to speak.
I don’t have much to go by other than a few half ironman distances, but I have to say that the volunteers where outstanding. So supportive, so positive, so helpful. Without them, I would not have enjoyed the day as much as I did, nor would I have been able to get my socks on in transition! As for the spectators, WOW. Again, another great bunch of people who got me up every single hill. A big thankyou each and every one of you!
Best moment of the day, crossing the finishing line hand-in-hand with my husband. Who would have thought that after over 10 hours, that would be in the relm of possibility –Amazing! Just for the record, he did have to wait 30 seconds for me to catch up before we entered the finishers shoot together!
I thought I would be ready to hang up my bike and running shoes, but I’m more motivated than ever and look forward to competing in KONA after winning my age category! Kids are very excited!
JULIE WAS ALSO FEATURED AS FIRST OFF THE BIKES AGE GROUPER OF THE MONTH - READ THEIR STORY ON HER PERFORMANCE HERE
BY Kurt Hunziker
Ironman mornings start early and this was no exception. My alarm went off at 4 and I quickly rose to eat my cereal, make coffee and go through the final preparation. This was my second Iron distance race and I was excited but relaxed as for me this year the challenge was getting myself fit enough to make it to the start line in time. On Feb 11th I hit a kangaroo on my bike whilst on an early morning training ride to West Head. As a result I ended up in Intensive Care at Mona Vale Hospital with a collapsed lung, fractured pelvis, broken ribs and broken collar bone. At the time it seemed that it was going to be impossible for me to compete in the race.....my wife even contacted the organisers to withdraw my entry.
As a result, I was stoked just to be walking to transition to top up my tyres and load my nutrition on to my bike and felt confident that I was ready for the task at hand. New for me this year was going through the routine with my wife who was competing in her 1st full distance race. She is a real competitor who is super dedicated and focussed and I was excited to see how well she was going to do.
You could say that with only 11 weeks for recovery the race for me was to the start line not from it.....but I still had the task at hand. The swim is my weakest leg and deciding on a start group was surprisingly difficult. With past injuries I really didn't want to be swum over but I also wanted to come out close enough to good riders to ensure I didn't get complacent on the ride. I chose to go to the front of the 60-67 minute cage. The rolling start worked perfect with my wife heading off 5 seconds ahead of me. I found enough room to be comfortable and still found similar paced athletes to draft off. I stayed relaxed although I had some difficulty spotting the cans amongst the sailboats and splash of the hundreds of swimmers ahead. The conditions and water temperature were perfect although it felt slightly colder once you crossed the weir. The weir crossing was well organised and allows for you to easily break up the swim in to components. I felt good the whole way around the swim course and was stoked to come out of the water in 62 minutes, well ahead of my goal but I didn't feel as though I over did it.
I generally try to keep transition simple, only filling my bags with things I need so I have no decisions to make when passing through. The forecasted temperature was 10 degrees with a chance showers and winds gusting to 40kmh. For this reason I planned to wear sleeves and gloves for the bike leg. Whilst I had trained in this set of kit before, one thing that I neglected to practice before hand was putting on my sleeves and gloves while wet. This is surprisingly difficult and as time ticked away I decided to abandon them. I grabbed my sunnies before getting up to run from the tent. At that point I came to my wisdom and remembered it was going to be chilly so I grabbed my sleeves and gloves and ran out of the tent. I knew the bike rack next to me was vacant so I stood to the side and once again took on the mission of getting sleeves and gloves on. The run to my bike was enough to get me dry enough that the impossible was now possible and I was quickly off on my bike.
I knew the bike course having done the 70.3 in 2012 and ridden it on a couple of other occasions. I really didn't want too overdue it on the hills heading out of town so I took it easy and settled in to my rhythm. By the top of the first hill I could feel it coming on.......I had to pee. At the first aid station I briefly considered stopping but I really didn't want to give away the time. Unfortunately I had neither the desire or ability to relieve myself from the saddle……perhaps an improvement opportunity for the future. As a result, all I can remember from the ride is 5 hours of thinking how badly I needed to pee. I am sure I lost a fair bit of time contemplating stoping at every opportunity and assessing my ability to pee on the move. I still managed to keep to my nutrition and hydration plan and finish in 5:40. Yes there was wind but it really wasn’t that bad. At least not as bad as the pain in my bladder!
T2 took 3 minutes and 32 seconds. Over three minutes of that time was spent in the Portaloo.
I was a renewed man with a spring in my step as I ran from the change tent. I checked my pace at the first km mark and as usual was heading off at an unsustainable pace for me (4:20/km). The hill immediately corrected my pace and as I came around and on to the break-wall I really felt the wind. It was annoying and disheartening as the reality of 40 more kms of running began to sink in. I knew what I was in for and tried to stay positive by convincing myself how much better the wind was then the heat and humidity that often exists on race days in Aus.
I like the four lap course. It makes it easy to break the run up in to small achievements such as summiting ‘the hill’, making the turnaround at settlement point and collecting lap bands each lap. On this day I also had the pleasure of seeing my wife each lap. With three kids we typically take races in turns and seldom share the course so having her hot on my heals was definitely motivational. I was so stoked to see her in full stride each time. On lap two and three I was a bit worried that she might not be able to hang on to the end but my worries for her were quickly wiped out by concern for my own wellbeing on lap 4 as I started to wonder if I was going to faint and collapse. I managed to keep my legs turning over as I passed through this ‘low’ point even managing to keep to pace. Once I got to settlement point I took advantage of the red bull on offer (a rarity in racing) which gave me the ‘wings’ I needed to get me to the end. I also got my final chance to see that my wife was only a couple minutes back and closing in. Her run is amassing and she executed her raced plan perfectly.
I got to the finish shute knowing that my wife was not far behind. Finishing an Ironman is pretty special and I figured that this was likely my only opportunity to cross with her so I turned to wait. Those 30 seconds felt like an eternity as people wondered what the hell I was doing but soon enough she came around the corner and we got our finisher picture crossing arm in arm in 10:19 total time and a 3:27marathon
For me a PB and for her an age group win and trip to Kona! A perfect end to a perfect day.
Jared Medhurst is fairly new to the sport of triathlon but his achievements to date are proof that setting goals, sticking to a plan and training consistently will pay off in the end. Below our Q&A is his Ironman Port Mac race report which was his first Ironman distance race and cracker at that! Now it's back to training for a string of races all in preparation for his first Kona experience:
Name: Jared Medhurst
Lives: Just moved to North Narrabeen
Your supporters:I have to say my Mum is my biggest supporter. She flew over from NZ to watch me race my first Ironman at Port and she has already booked to come watch me race in Hawaii later in the year.
How long WTC member: Since 2012
Why triathlon? I had played soccer since I was 6 years old and had to stop due to a back injury so all I could do was swim to stay fit. I managed to get my back fixed, was back running and I was talking to Sarah Fletcher at the Manly Sea Eagles pool. Sarah mention she did triathlons and this must have planted a seed because not long after that conversation I had decided I wanted to do an Ironman.
Goals for the rest of this season and into 2014/2015: To really improve my swim, get stronger, faster and try to stay injury free.
How do you juggle training & work/life? I am single with no kids so there is not much to juggle, it is just work and training at the moment. I am up and training by 4 most mornings and start training around 5-6 in the evenings. Getting enough recovery sleep is the biggest issue, if I have time I try to get a lunchtime power nap in at work. I take my hat off to all those people that do triathlon who have wives and kids, I don’t know how you do it!
Most memorable tri experience to date: Has to be my first Ironman at Port Macquarie this year. The atmosphere of the whole event was incredible from the race briefing to crossing the finish line it was just an amazing feeling and experience.
Long term tri ambitions: To do as many Ironman as Geoff Thorsen!
Other hobbies outside of triathlon: Surfing when I have the time.
Favourite triathlon race course/location: Port Macquarie, Both Husky Olympic and Long Course and Auckland 70.3 my home town race.
Hero/oes (sport or otherwise) My Parents, they passed on their athletic genes and strong work ethic to me which I am very grateful for. Also my coach Mitch Dean, everything he gets me to do seems to work.
Favourite motto: “I always felt that my greatest asset was not my physical ability, it was my mental ability.”
Tips/Inspiring comments for other triathletes: Consistency is the key to getting the results you want and not having any limitations on what you can achieve, hard work pays off in the end no matter what level you are at.
Jared's Ironman Oz Race Report - off to Kona!
18 months ago I made a decision to do an ironman. I decided that if I was to do an ironman I would need to do some Olympic distance races and some half ironman races before I would be ready.
Fast forward to race week and I had completed 8 short course triathlons, 2 half ironman races, husky long course and countless hours of training. I felt ready to tackle the beast!
I arrived in port on the Tuesday before the race with plenty of time to ride the notoriously bumpy bike course, inspect the weir crossing location in the swim and to jog and drive the run course. Doing all of this helped me put together my race plan for the day.
My coach Mitch Dean arrived on Saturday and we spoke about the plan for the day. The swim was to be solid and controlled but to pushed when needed to stay in the pack. I decided that 5hrs on the bike was very achievable if conditions were ok, so I would head out and complete the first lap in 2.5hrs and reassess it after that. For the run we spoke about trying to aim for a 3.15 marathon which seem achievable by heading out around the 4.15 pace and taking it from there. My power meter had been playing up so I decided to race to my heart rate as well and try not to let it get above 160bpm as much as I could especially through the hills on the bike leg.
This was all just a plan and I questioned it over and over in my head many times. I was diving into unknown territory of distance and pacing and had no idea how my body would hold up to the challenge! I would find out soon enough though.
Swim - this was a new swim start for ironman australia and for me. They had introduced the rolling start which is where you self seed based on your estimated swim time for the 3.8k. You then start with a few people at a time and your time doesn't start until you cross the timing mat.
I really felt this would help my swim time as there would be plenty of fast swimmers around so finding some feet to draft of would be much easier and plenty of energy would be saved!
I seeded myself in the sub 60mins hoping for swim somewhere around the 52min mark.
The start was a lot slower than any other race I had been in and I soon found myself in the wash of a large group moving a good pace. I was going to check my watch at the first weir crossing but completely forgot to do this. At the second weir crossing I was happy to come out behind Ben Bell who I knew would post a good swim time so I decided to stay with him to the finish.
I exited the water with a time of 51.39min just under the target of 52min great start!
Bike - heading out on the first lap conditions were reasonable and the winds hadn't picked up yet. I had decided to use a disc for the first time so I was happy it wasn't blowing too hard yet. At the first turnaround at Camden Head I was well ahead of schedule averaging over 37kph. Heading back into town winds were even more favourable and I managed to maintain this speed with the legs still feeling ok! I hit the infamous Matthew Flinders hill for the first time, I got into the small chainring early and made my way over the hill. It was lined with spectators which seemed to take the sting out of it and as I hit the top I saw JARED ROCKS in yellow chalk on the road which took away more of the pain and put a big smile on my face!!
Heading through town to head out for the second lap and I heard plenty of support in few spots which really lifted my spirits.
The second lap out and the angry port winds had come out in force! I had started to pass a few people and decided to put in some effort into the head wind knowing my legs would get a reprieve on the way back into town. This decision really paid off as I pick up a few more people at the turnaround and on the way back into town!
My second trip up Matthew Flinders was epic my family (mum and my two brothers) had made their way to the hill and had joined my mate Greg, Mitch and his girlfriend Sandi. Everyone of them ran beside me up the hill shouting encouragement as I passed Jason Shortis at the top, I had goose bumps all the way up!! What a feeling!
The wind took a bit out of my average speed but not enough to derail my target time. I took my last trip through town hearing the cheers again knowing I just had to hold it together on my run.
I came in a bike split of 4.55.56, I had hoped for 5hrs but expected it to be more so I was really happy with that.
Run - I hit the run knowing this is where things can go horribly wrong! I checked my watch and was running at 4min k's and knew I needed to slow down I got it down to 4.12 and felt good so decided to hold this and I would see how I felt after the first lap.
I tried to work out where I was in my age group at the turnaround but still wasn't sure, no sign of my support crew either? Plenty of other support on the course though from the warringah club!
I was still feeling really comfortable on the second lap and had maintained my average pace of 4.12 so I decided to carry on with it. My support crew showed up half way through the second lap and gave me the news that I was sitting in 4th place in my age but Scotty Hobson was losing time fast. I was still feeling ok and Mitch instructed me to just keep it steady and not to get excited!
The hill on crescent st was really taking it out of everyone and I was lucky enough to have some great support here from the Warringah club which really helped me keep pushing over it!
I am not sure what happen on my third lap but by the time I got to me support crew I was told I was in 2nd place now! I didn't even see Scotty Hobson or Luke Martin when I passed them!! I thought they were kidding me at first!! So many thoughts came flooding into my head but I had to push them aside and concentrate on maintaining my pace for another lap and a half.
My legs really started to fatigue on the last lap and I started to lose time, I was hoping I had put enough into the guys behind me so I could hold my position. My average pace dropped slowly as I realised there was a possibility of a sub 9hr time!! I tried to keep it as steady as I could as I ran with Trent Chapman for the rest of the race.
Grabbing my last wrist band I headed for the finish line. I had nothing really left to give as I made my way into the finish shute. I looked around and soaked up the feeling - I have just finished my first ironman - crossed the line and stopped the clock. 8.55.01 with a 3.02.49 marathon.
I couldn't not believe it, what a day! Everything had gone to plan my nutrition, no mechanical issues and had run over 10mins quicker than I had planned.
All the hard work had paid off, Mitch had really prepared me for this race and it showed throughout the day. To have him there and my family made it even more special a day I will never forget!
I have heard negative things about this race from the rough and tough bike course to the bad swim and the boring run. I have to disagree with all of this and I maybe bias and have nothing to compare it to but Ironman Australia will hold a special place with me forever, and I will be back to race it again.
"It was not my usual happy go lucky day but I finished, collected my plaque as a legend and can now feel satisfied that the job is done"
BY JEFF MCNAUGHTON
My 10th Australia Ironman
This race was for me all about finishing to get my 10th Australian Ironman under my belt and that Legend status. This was my 11th start so had 1 DNF under my belt through mechanical failure in 2009.
The day started out great with an easy start to the swim and a PB thrown in at 58 min 30 sec. Big smiles coming out of the water. This rolling swim start is a winner as far as I am concerned being able to swim in your own space and not be fighting other numnuts (trying to be polite here) was fantastic.
Onto the bike and the wind started but the first lap completed in 2 hr 55 on target still, all going great. Lap 2 and the wind is getting bigger and down Flynn’s beach hill got hit by a side wind going at about 60kph and shifted the bike 3 ft sideways. That is a very moving experience. Once I sorted out the mess I made in my pants I continued on and it was a lap of concentration. Must thank my supports here for some of their posters of encouragement as ; “May the Course be With You”; “It is not so __effing hard really”; You make a great Ironingman with a picture of an ironing board”. The wind was certainly blowing us about and there was no relaxing on this lap. Got to about the 155 km mark and the puncture god hit so I had to do a quick change and back on the bike in 5 mins front wheel all good. 10 kms later the back wheel punctured and now out of spares so needed to wait for the backup guys. About 20 mins later all fixed and back on the bike for a 6 hr 30min finish. A lot slower than I hoped so the PB for the day was out the window and it was all about finishing but this is what Ironman is all about, recovering from problems as they will always happen.
So now it was a process of Left foot, Right foot and repeat some 15000 time and it would be all done. The good news here was that this process was a success no Left foot, Left foot efforts so all good on my feet. Outside of being quiet cold the run was really just a process of keeping going. The amazing thing all around me was the number of people walking. I had not noticed this in previous races so it must have been a tough day out there.
For me this was probably the hardest Ironman I have done but I think that was because I put extra pressure on myself to finish. It was not my usual happy go lucky day but I finished, collected my plaque as a legend and can now feel satisfied that the job is done.
Onto 2015 and running with my own number.
"It is was without doubt the greatest day of my life!"
BY PHIL WHITEHEAD
Competing In Ironman Port Macquarie was Amazing. From a individual view point it is was without doubt the greatest day of my life.
Being relatively new to triathlon being convinced to have a go at a sprint event in Husky about 18mths ago. I instantly loved the sport and the adrenaline of crossing the finishing line. Looking for a bigger buzz ,my logic was the longer the race the bigger the buzz. I wasn't disappointed.
Having never completed a event of this size ever before the trepidation and excitement were like nothing previously experienced. The swim format was less hectic as other ironman starts that I've seen from YouTube being a self regulated start. I found the process suited my nerves and certainly created less anxiety with fewer bumps with less competitors in the water at once. Getting out of the water at the weir allowed to empty my googles. From the swim and onto the bike I was stoked to have one leg down. Amazingly I felt strong all day on the bike and albeit with a nasty bit of wind was loving it. After many lonesome hours doing laps of west head I think it was the first time I truly enjoyed having a tri bike over a roadie. I tried to eat and drink as much as possible and held a little in reserve knowing I was entering uncharted water running a long way after riding a bike 180km for only the third time and never had to run.
The run was the real highlight of the whole day each lap being ticked off was a sign I was getting that little bit closer to the finish. It is amazing jut how quick the sun can go down during the event. Was really satisfied to run the whole way, only slowed to grab a water or Gatorade.
The high of competing in port was amplified by having my wife and children plus extend family and friends there to watch. Great the the run course was a 4 lap course allowing to have plenty of high fives and yahoos from all. Wearing a warringah tri singlet on the run (and warringah cycle top) gave a massive boost from the cheers from spectators and other team members alike with shouts of "come on Warringah" being only new to the club all the support makes you feel bullet proof.
The sense of pride and achievement hit at several times throughout the day, yet culminated in the finishers shoot where seeing my 7 year old son, very very supportive wife and 63 year old father all crying with pride and hearing for the first time
"Phil whitehead you are a Ironman"
A small bonus was beating my expected time by 1hr30min.(Actual time was 12hr 32min)But a week later in still on a massive high and only now have the issue of figuring out where will my second ironman be.
Being a newish member to both Warringah and triathlon's in general as president of the club you and all members should be congratulated on such a professional and welcoming club it is, something not easy with such a large membership. After having a little break for the next week or two I hopefully will continue to meet more of the club on rides etc over the next few months
"All smiles and positive words that are so important when your body starts to ache and your legs stiffens made my day."
BY DANIEL NILSSON
I was fortunate enough to be able to sleep in the day of the race because I was staying in the hotel just opposite the start – at least that was what I was trying to tell myself when the clock went off at 0450. Half an hour later with oatmeal breakfast in the belly I did the final check of the bike to make sure that it hadn’t lost any pressure in the tires overnight. It all looked fine and I went back to the hotel for another 20 minutes sleep.
All of a sudden I found myself walking under the arch and the race was on. I knew this was going to be a fun day but also a tough day. I felt good during the swim and I think the rolling start made the start bearable, I didn’t even get kicked once – maybe I was swimming to slow - well the mind starts to think as soon as there is an opportunity.
Picking bag number 141 from the bike bag wall felt good, swimming done – now let’s go biking! Prior the race Sofia and I had worked out how I should eat and in what order. I tried to eat one Breaker every 45-60 minutes and also had half a banana at every aid station. I refilled my Gatorade every other station and filled the water on every station. I felt good coming to the famous hill where I dropped to the small chain ring and climbed it as fast as my body could. I also noticed that I overtook quite a few riders during the hills which also gave me a bit of extra energy. Going out on lap two was harder than the first (of course) but mentally I still felt ok. I forgot my salt pills in my bike gear bag but luckily I had salted peanuts in my food bag so I was snacking along as much as my stomach could bear it. The rest of the ride was uneventful and coming back into the village felt good. I had tried to eat and refuel as much as possible in order to have a good start on the run.
Run gear bag number 141 found but tangled with another bag – annoying – note to self – make sure this does not happen next time and always check the gear bags on the morning! Legs felt good and my body was literally flying – maybe not very fast but still flying! Again I had decided to leave my watch at the transition since I wanted to be able to enjoy the atmosphere instead of always looking on my Garmin. I never looked at any clock during the race and for me that felt good! Receiving the black band (first out of four bands) felt good but still mentally challenging since that meant I would have to do that hill another 3 times. Luckily I saw Sofia and a lot of Warringah fans along the way and you all kept me going. On lap number two I was thinking of all volunteers helping out and making sure as many as possible would become Ironmen that day. For some reason I always get sentimental when I get tired but without all volunteers I would not have been able to make it. All smiles and all positive words that are so important when your body starts to ache and your legs stiffens made my day.
After eating the most amount of Vegemite in my entire life (I normally hate Vegemite) I proudly finished on 10.53.33. Thank you all for a fantastic day and for all the joy!
"Certainly not my fastest Ironman but by the same token not my slowest."
BY GRAHAM LATTA
I will start by saying that Port Ironman 2014 was a long day. The days before were clear and relatively warm. However, while race day was clear the wind had picked up which made the cycle leg quite tough.
The day started off with the new one lap swim course. At about the 1.5km mark in the swim you had to climb about 10 steps up and over a weir to get you into the top canal, which you repeated on the return leg. The swim also had on trial a rolling start where by you were sent down a shute and straight into the swim. Athletes spread their start over a 15 minute period. I liked the new swim design as it was a lot less congested, which has been an issue over the past years.
My T1 was slow. I take ages to get my wetsuit off over my calfs. Had two guys trying to yank it off me.
Got going on the bike leg and tried to take in a fair few calories. I can’t recall the roads being that rough in past years. It was a bumpy old 180km. While the wind was up on the first lap it got increasingly stronger by lap two. It was a strong cross-wind blowing from the west. As you went past side streets it blew you sideways. I was climbing the hills around Bonnie Hills when a guy 50 metres ahead gone blown straight off his bike.
I am not the most efficient and fastest cyclist, this coupled with the wind and road surface added probably about 20 – 30 minutes to my cycle time.
My T2 time was no faster than my T1.
I usually can tell after about 300 metres as to how my legs feel for the run. They did not feel good. Hoping I would feel better I plodded on. However, by about the 4km mark I knew it was going to be tough. Only 38km to go. Did have a glimmer of hope on lap 2 of the 4 lap run where I started to get a bit more rhythm but this was short lived. Pushed on into the night and kept trying to take in food and drink but after a while nothing seems appetising.
Saw Smithy and Thorso hanging over the rail of an outside bar. They offered me a beer. I simply snarled and swore at them. Kept the Cliff Young shuffle going and eventually made it home. It was would have been even harder without the support of people along the course.
After crossing the line I just wanted to go home, I had had it. Went to medical, got a quick check over, picked up my street gear and went home. Had a shower, laid on the lounge and shoved a pie down my throat. Felt better.
Surprisingly, felt o.k. the next day. Certainly not my fastest Ironman but by the same token not my slowest. Four minutes inside my slowest Ironman. Even my Kona finish last year was faster than this year’s Port.
Saying all that, bring on Port 2015.
"It is an amazing experience and one that is 100x better when you experience it yourself."
BY DAN HOWITT
A Day of Redemption at Port Macq.
Ironman, a race where half the battle is making the start line fit and uninjured. Goal 1 achieved.
Seven years since my previous attempt at this race and how times had changed for me. Having a 4 week old daughter had mad the last month of training challenging, but nonetheless I was fit and healthy and had trained consistently for my 10 week prep. With a time of 14h 39 in 2007 after walking the marathon, 2014 would be a different outcome, hopefully.
We woke at 4:30 on Race morning with clear skies but a solid breeze. Transition is surreal world at Ironman, it is quiet and calm as everyone does last minute checks and prepares for the day ahead. Walking to the swim start it seemed to get colder and I got very emotional. This would be a long day without my two girls.
Not attending briefing had left me confused as to how the swim would work with a rolling start. At 6:30, the Pros were off and it was a short 5 minutes before the age groupers started. Going off in small groups, it was three minutes before I hit the water. This system rewards mid pack swimmers, it prevents fast swimmers getting in packs, so finding feet in the swim was near impossible. The novelty of climbing out over a weir was lost quickly as athletes bunched up. It was like a swim start halfway through the swim.
Leg one done 49:11, Swim was short (not the first time). Into transition and it was cold and wind was gaining strength. I felt great heading out on the bike as we had a cross tail wind heading out of town. Roads weren’t as bad as had been talked about out the back, but still not fantastic. At the far end of the bike, the wind was all over the place as we changed directions numerous times, making it hard to keep my HR consistent.
Heading back into town it was time to take on more fluids. Grabbing a drink bottle in a cross/head wind is not easy, but I was successful 3rd time lucky. First landmark of the bike is when I hit 100k to go. I got there in 2h 20 at 90km it was 2hr42. Heading back out and our tailwind was now a cross headwind and speed was 5km/h lower than previous outward leg. It was time to be patient and keep up the nutrition, it would be a tailwind home. 90-135km seemed to take forever but once on the homeward journey I kept myself entertained by working out my likely bike split.
As seems to be tradition a huge pack always catches me at 160-170k and I was thinking, “Where the ---- has this pack been for the last 5 hrs?” Back through the hills and the pack broke up with most of them going backwards. Feeling strong, I stretched and increased cadence preparing for the run. Bike- 5:47.
No injuries to slow me down and no wife to chase me down, how was I to approach this? Km 1- 4:12, 2- 4:22, 3- 4:18, 4, 4:16…… HR 150-155- Fantastic! Lap 1 43mins and feeling great. All of a sudden I’m looking at 3:15-3:20 run split. In the excitement I was 20 minutes late for a gel and with 17km to go it started to bite. 5:30, 5:40, 6:05 pace is now appearing. Using Dad and Sarah’s tactic of walking only aid stations was what experience told me to do. It was bloody hard. Running from the last table was the last thing I wanted. Then I thought of my daughter and wife. I had been there for the birth. On that day I was telling Sarah it was healthy pain and so was this. 5:35, 5:18, 4:58, pace was heading the right way and with 8km to go, it was time to stop walking. Seeing Dad with 3km to go, we high fived and he told me to “Run home to your girls.” Emotions came from nowhere, this race, this performance was for them. The sacrifices they’d made to get me there were incredible.
The last km was painless, I remember none of it, it is a feeling of ecstasy running down the finish chute. The sense of relief, joy and fatigue hit you hard as you cross the line. Run – 3:29, Finish 10:14:30.
It is an amazing experience and one that is 100x better when you experience it yourself.
"The race was everything I had hoped it would be and made me hungry to go again ..."
BY MATTHEW JESSUP
Sitting down a week after one of the biggest challenges I had undertaken in my life, it’s amazing how quickly it all flashed by. My road to doing an Ironman has been very short, starting in June of last year. Although the last month of training felt, at the time, like a long, tiring drag.
The Short Version
My race at IMOz went perfectly. I went in with an unusually realistic goal (sub 12hrs) and a plan to enjoy the day. From the start it was a dream. The new rolling swim start was brilliant. I seeded myself midfield and had a clean swim, not running up the back of slower groups and not getting swum over. My previous experiences with wave starts in 70.3’s were not ideal compared to this. It was much better. Coming out of the water my Garmin said 1:09. Exactly on plan.
Onto the bike the next big benefit of the rolling start was evident. There was a lot less traffic.
I was able to easily roll through the field. There were no clumps of riders and everyone was able to ride very clear lines; you could avoid the bumps and holes. I had a great ride splitting 5:20 despite calming it down a bit on the second lap and the increasing wind. I exited T2 in 785 places better than when I exited the swim.
A few quick calcs told me 6min/km would give me a sub-11 finish. This was way better than my goal but also a time I had dared only dream of achieving. So out I went and stuck to the plan, taking a zero risk approach running between aid stations and walking through. Before long I was collecting my 4th wrist band and finally, for only the second time in the race, seeing my family right before I headed up the finish chute with the very last bit of dusk light in the sky. I finished in 10:49 and 60th in my age group in the increasing cold and wind.
The race was everything I had hoped it would be and made me hungry to go again (and faster on the run). I signed up for IMWA as soon as I got home:-)
The Longer Version
Background and Training
In June last year I discovered Strava and took up running after losing a bit of weight. I had never run before. Even when I had to do cross country at school I put in minimal effort (more like a half arsed walk). Why schools don't teach running is a real mystery to me!
I also hatched a plan to build a new bike. I’ve long enjoyed building bikes but never ridden them much. At which point I discovered Strava was even better for bike riding than running. So combined with a loss of appetite for my previous passion, racing yachts, I decided to put my new hobbies to work. Originally my goal was ultra-trail running but for various reasons I found myself signing up for the 70.3 in Port. Armed with an excuse for yet another new bike, I discovered WTC thanks to its duathlons being the only, and best, multisport events locally at that time of the year. I knocked off the 70.3 in Port in an OK time and immediately signed up for IMOz in 2014. I also realised my swim was rubbish and needed heaps of work. It still does but Andy and Symon at least helped make it respectable. I finished off the year with Little Husky and the Callala Classic distance race. The latter being a highlight picking up 6th in AG. A quick ski trip over the new year was the only break before getting back into training.
First long ride back I bonked massively. It was a scary experience and a warning that I carry
in the front of my head whenever training or racing now. Stupidly I also took on the Big Swim and got thoroughly smashed. Not a great start back into training. Then came Geelong 70.3, the hottest windiest day from hell ever. It toughened me up big time and refocused me for a final push towards my goal.
To keep things interesting I also managed to squeeze in a Marathon (Orange, great race BTW), a few MWCC cycle races and the B2B bike ride as well as a few Parkruns. That all got me through to about 4 weeks out, at which point days were getting noticeably shorter and the final 2 week taper could not come soon enough. At least I was getting in plenty of swimming (swimming is a psychotic experience for me, where excessive amounts would make me go crazier than a retired swimming great on stillnox). Before I knew it, I was in the car driving to Port feeling fresh and excited.
The Port Experience
I remember my first time arriving in Port for the 70.3 last year. There was a buzz and so much happening and I was super excited for my first triathlon. This time was even better. There was so much going on with so many triathletes about. I love seeing the town come alive. As soon as I arrived, around lunch time on Friday, I went straight to registration. There was no line and the only surprise was the weight shown on the scales and the fact I had to read it out to the person as I had assumed the scales were sending the data wirelessly. Apparently the rego process isn't that advanced yet!
While I was getting registered the family had hit up the merchandise shop and the kids were armed with bells and IM shirts. We also spent some time in the 2 expo locations looking at plenty of things to buy. We then checked into our apartment at Flynns beach, put the bikes together and I went for a cruise with my 7 year old son. He enjoyed riding around Port as much as I did and he was very pleased to have hit 28kph on the flats heading out to the punt at Settlement Point.
The big concern for Friday evening was what to wear on race day. I had packed with 2 plans. Plan A was my Epic trisuit that had served me so well since my previous trisuit blew a zip 10min before the start at Callala with my white Zoot arm coolers that worked so well at Geelong. I have been paranoid about getting sunburnt since the 70.3 in Port last year. Plan B was bike shorts and jersey with arm warmers, changing to tights and T-shirt for the run. The forecast said COLD so I went with Plan B and packed up my transition bags and headed off for the race briefing dinner.
I have three things to say about the race briefing dinner:
1. There will one day be a riot and/or massacre at one of these things if they make 2000 totally wired triathletes line up so long for really crap food. Maybe they could learn some lessons from their rolling swim start. Actually this could be a great place to retire the AG waves to.
2. The food is crap (I know I kind of already said that).
3. The video briefing is great why not just stick it on youtube (it is 2014 after all). It was good not to have to listen to the normal spiel in race briefings although there was enough of that beforehand. Why am I listening to a Mat Rogers interview? I mean he was a great rugby player but this is a triathlon???
Saturday morning I went for another short ride before meeting the family at transition where my son was ‘racing’ in the Ironkids. Like me his favourite leg is the bike so when I arrived early and realised the race was only swim/run I quickly called my wife so she could prepare him. Ironkids is a great fun event and my son even had Pete Murray call him out as an Ironkid. Even better was there was a 500m run for under 7’s so my daughter could finally get to race and all the funds went to the Kids Foundation. Post kids races I checked in my gear, which took 3 laps through transition because I kept forgetting things, and went for a quick swim. We then headed off to watch the Kids Foundation duck race... we didn't win! The rest of the day we chilled out and I think I got to sleep pretty early.
4am we are woken by the sound of fireworks going off in the street. Normally that would be annoying but today it was timed perfectly. A very small breakfast and several visits to the pits and all is good. It’s kind of nice being able to just show up, pump up your tyres and go racing. On arrival to the swim start I put on my suit and said final goodbyes to the family before entering the middle corral. There were five in total and I was aiming for 1:10 for the swim which was the middle one. I was quite surprised how many people were in the first one. I guess there are plenty of optimists out there. Standing there I kind of need to pee. “No worries”, I thought, “it will warm things up a bit when I start swimming”.
Slowly but orderly the race was started. I say slowly, but the rolling start meant heaps more people away far quicker than the wave starts I had experienced at the 70.3 races I had done. Eventually it was my turn and off I went. It was great and I was swimming in a nice slot and before long I was turning to head under the bridge and over the weir. The 90deg turn towards the bridge was the only time things got tight in the whole swim. The single lap swim course worked a treat and the weir crossings definitely added to the experience. It was amazing how much colder and sweeter the water was on the other side of the weir. Before long I was heading under the finish buoy. I checked my watch and I was on 1:09. Exactly on plan. I was also disconcerted I couldn’t pee while swimming. Oh well, there was always the bike where I could use some discretion.
The transition tent was busy but not too bad. I found a volunteer and he unpacked my bag and then helped my get my wetsuit off my legs. Everything went pretty smoothly and before long I was on the bike. The bike is my strongest leg and so finishing the swim midfield meant that there would be a bit of riding through slower riders. Easy. Normally there are plenty of traffic jams with bike bunches slowly crawling along that are impossible to get past. There was none of that at IMOz. I think I only had to call out 3 times in the whole ride to let people know I was passing. Given how many I passed I think that was pretty good. Into the second lap, the wind had really picked up and even though I was feeling really good I backed off a little to make sure I was OK for the run. My nutrition (High5 gels and energy bars) was working well and my drinking was perfect. The famous bumpy roads at Port had caused problems when I did the 70.3 so I made a few minor adjustments for this race and I didn't lose a single bottle and had plenty to drink. The road just didn't seem that bumpy this time. I finished the ride in 5:20. The 60th fastest time of the day. Not bad given I had never ridden 180ks before. Turns out I cant pee while riding either, probably a good thing.
I even passed Chris Froome who checked out my stem, no doubt impressed with my bottle mount.
I exited T2 in 163rd overall a full 785 places better than I had entered T1. I was feeling strong and my clothing change strategy seemed to have been smart. My race belt however quickly reminded me that I had been waiting to pee for the last 6hrs. Lucky the first aid station was only 2kms in to the run. I had done some quick calculations and figured that 6min/km would get me a sub 11 finish which would be a dream result so I focussed on running that pace on average allowing for walks through the aid stations. This made for a very relaxed run (in relative terms). 10 months ago that pace would have killed me over 5k. I only had one long walk along the breakwall on my 3rd lap when the wind had really gotten up. There were people still out riding at this time... that would have been hard. Before long I was collecting my 4th wrist band and then turning up the finish chute, seeing my family for the second time that day just before the finish. The race was done and I was stoked to have achieved a result that was just a dream, especially given my lack of physical activity in the 36 years leading up to 10 months ago.
My overall result was 10:49 for 60th in the 35-39 AG...
"About 2 kms from home I realised that if I applied the afterburners, there was a slim chance I could give myself a birthday surprise PB"
BY SCOTT FREEMAN
Not so much a race report but a report on the journey to get there.
This time 12 months ago I was broken, exhausted and sitting on a bench inside a toilet block somewhere between Port Macquarie and Lake Cathrie seeking refuge from the heat.
Having completed approximately 130 kms of the bike leg for Port Macquarie Ironman 2013, I was questioning my decision to enter a race described to me as one with “a rich history, encapsulating the heart and soul of Ironman racing in Australia”. At the time, I remember thinking I was barely 2 thirds of the way through the bike leg with a marathon to go.
No-one had warned me of the river current that on the change of tide, held me virtually stationary for what seemed like 20 minutes with the swim finish in sight, the hill coming back into Port Macquarie on the cycle leg with a well worn carpet path beside it for those forced to concede defeat or the short steep hill on the run leg leading out of Port Macquarie that humiliates you not once, not twice, but 4 times!!!
Needless to say I finished the race in 2013 with my tail between my legs and a time of 12:40 vowing never to return!!!
You can imagine my trepidation approximately 6 months later, when, after a night on the cans with friends returning from Busso IM 2013 celebrating multiple PB’s, I awoke, a little dusty, to find my credit card lying next to my laptop on the couch. As I scrolled through the emails wondering what new cleaning product I had purchased, to my horror I discovered a communication from Ironman Central
“Congratulations – you have entered Port Macquarie Ironman 2014!!”
That was not the worst of it, as it turned out I would be racing Ironman on my birthday!!! It was clear at this point there were demons to be exorcised.
During the months of January and February I was able to dismiss the misadventure that had befallen me however come March 2014 the reality of the birthday from hell loomed large. I was desperate!!
I have been a member of Warringah for about 4 years but up until this point I had been very much an outsider on the fringe of club activity. I’d attend Husky and Club Champs every year but rarely engaged in club training – I simply wasn’t good enough – or so I thought. I’d linked to the club’s closed Facebook site months earlier and was aware of Smithy’s Saturday morning club rides and wondered whether this could be my salvation?
I remember my first club ride well, rising at the crack of dawn feeling like the new kid on the block. Never having ridden in a pack before, I found the experience a little intimidating but after a conversation with Billy I began to grow in confidence and enjoyed the friendly banter while my eyes fixed on the wheel in front.
As we cycled along Bayview on the way to Church Point I enjoyed the view and cursed myself for having waiting so long to join a club ride – that is until we hit the hill just beyond Church Point leading up to the top gate of Akuna Bay. I confess, I don’t remember much after this point other than watching the blinking of red lights disappear off in the distance. I had lasted a total of 38 minutes into a 4 +hr club ride.
With nothing better to do on a Sat morning I committed to ascending solo up McCarrs creek road and truncating my ride by returning to Manly via French’s Forrest Rd. This revised route allowed me the luxury of putting all of my effort into the ascent safe in the knowledge that once at the top it was all downhill back to Manly.
Not once during the ascent did I see the blinking of red lights from the WTC pack and I can only describe my humiliation as complete as I reached the top of the hill, heart pounding, breathing heavily, strain etched on my face, only to find the pack waiting there for the newbie– better that they had continued on without me.
As soon as I arrived the pack took off and it appeared that my humiliation was destined to continue for another 4+ hrs. I don’t know whether my despair and humiliation was visible to others but I am ever grateful that one of the club members Killer (Claire) Keeling took pity on me and offered to hang back from the pack and cycle with me for the rest of the morning – she then proceeded to tell me what it meant to get “Chicked”!
Having never previously ventured further than West Head, the 4 hr club ride (5hrs for us) was a ride of discovery for me as we took in the sites of Bobbin Head. Upon returning home exhausted I was introduced to what I believe is the most important part of the Ironman training regime – the Nanna Nap! Having slept most of the afternoon I awoke with a sense of accomplishment and made a mental note to set an alarm on the next occasion an opportunity for a nanna nap presented itself.
I continued to attend the club rides over the following weeks and will forever owe a debt of gratitude to “Killer Keeling”, who displayed true WTC spirit by initially providing me with a draft (minimal thought it is) to assist me to stay with the pack and then hanging back on each occasion I was inevitably dropped to provide some witty banter and take my mind off some serious saddle issues that had begun to emerge.
As my fitness improved I was eventually able to keep up with the pack and later still, engage in conversation during the ride. This afforded me the opportunity to pan for the small nuggets of golden advice from Smithy as I became acquainted with rides I had only read about on club blogs ie 4 Gorges, PIS etc. (On some occasions it was possible to get 3 or 4 nuggets while on others – none – just a lot of panning)
It was not long after successfully managing to stay with the pack during a club ride that Killer Keeling began to show her true colours.
KK: “You do realize there is a marathon after the ride for Ironman don’t you, what are you doing for run training?”.
Me: “Nothing – it takes a whole week for my legs to recover from Smithy’s Club Rides.”
KK: “Toughen up Buttercup. Come join me for a run home from the CBD to Manly”
Me: “You frigg’n run from the CBD to Manly??? - You are certifiably INSANE!!!”
It had been revealed - my riding buddy over the last couple of weeks was one of those freaks who runs from the CBD to Manly and there was an open invitation to join the FREAK CLUB!! Be warned the initiation into this club is brutal – there is the climb from the Harbour Bridge up to Military Road and then the climb from the Spit Bridge up to Sydney Rd. (There are also a number of bus shelters along the way in which to seek respite – as well as the 144 and 143 bus).
For the next couple of weeks as I changed into my running gear after work – I wore the tag of OFFICE FREAK as a badge of pride. Although my exhaustion levels had prevented me from being able to implement any “brick” training I felt I was ready for Port.
The atmosphere before an Ironman race is unique. When Ironman comes to town, you know about it! The city streets are lined with Ironman branding, there is a big marquee, the Expo, barricading and finish line along with over a thousand fit looking athletes in town. This all adds to the nervous energy surrounding the event.
Spirits were high at the pasta party and race briefing as some of the legends of IM Port Macquarie were recognized including our own Rob Howitt. Little were we aware that the news we had all feared was about to break – forecast for the bike leg was 30-40 knots of wind. (Training was over – all that was left was to pray)
As much as surviving a mass swim start of 1500 people is part of Ironman folk law, it’s effectively akin to running the City to Surf without starting in waves. Under the self-seeded regime, introduced at Port for the first time this year, 5 swimmers are released into the water every 5 seconds. For the faster swimmers this means a clear run, for the slower swimmers such as me, it means less time below the waterline as the likelihood of being swum over are greatly reduced. Ultimately – everyone is a winner!!
This year the swim route was altered to include a weir crossing. I had not encountered this before in a triathlon event, but essentially about 1/3 of the way during the swim athletes were required to exit the water and climb stairs up and over a structure that had been erected to enable the athletes to cross the weir – the same occurred for the return journey. For the less strong athletes the opportunity to feel terra firma under foot twice during the swim leg was an unexpected and welcome opportunity – I am not sure the stronger swimmers would agree.
Thankfully this year, the current that had held me stationary last year did not present itself, allowing me to complete the swim with a PB emerging from the water 186th out of 285 competitors in my division.
After a quick transition I was on the bike winding my way across some fairly bumpy road out of Port. Although bike leg at Port is considered to be tougher than other IM bike legs in Australia due to its undulating nature, there are also long sections of relatively flat road for those wanting time on the bars.
As I approached the first hill those controversial words recently uttered in the spirit of victory at the Club Championships echoed in my head
“There are two types of triathletes – those that live on the Northern Beaches and those that wished they lived on the Northern Beaches”
With that mantra in mind I thought - I’ve been eating mountains for breakfast every Saturday morning with Smithy, Killer Keeling and the rest of WTC triathletes for the last two months – bring it on!!
On the return journey approximately 8 kms from town athletes face an imposing hill (longer and steeper than the one on route to West Head) with a red carpet running up the hill for those athletes who falter before reaching the top.
Large crowds gather at this hill urging athletes to dig deep to overcome this Goliath. 3/4 up this hill, legs straining, eyes fixed on the road immediately ahead, cranks barely turning, I heard those magic words “GO WARRINGAH!!!”. True to form – there was Smithy & Co urging our athletes to conquer the hill. With those words power surged back into my legs, my bike became lighter and Goliath had fallen.
By the end of the first lap I had improve 40 places on my division ranking.
The second lap proved tougher as the winds picked up and the ability to remain on the bars was crucial. As I battled into the wind I repeated the mantra “size of a mouse – heart of a lion” in my head. This seemed to work however as I continued to pass my fellow competitors the seeds of doubt began to appear – could I hold on or was I destined to blow up and again seek refuge in the toilet block at Lake Cathrie?
In 4 years of racing I have never been pinged for drafting – this was about to change. Approximately 1 km from Lake Cathrie a TO pulled alongside and held out a yellow card. True it was that I was within the 12 meter draft zone (8-9 meters) however in circumstances where there was a long line of bikes, I had consciously dropped back a substantial distance after being over taken to avoid any draft advantage. To drop back further would have risked being overtaken by the cyclist behind, not through their own effort, but simply because of my need to slow down to avoid the draft zone. I thought the penalty was a little harsh – them’s the breaks.
With that in mind I powered, past the toilet block, the source of so much contemplation the previous year safe in the knowledge a 4 minute enforced rest at the penalty box was only 15 kms away. My time in the penalty box proved invaluable with an opportunity to take a much needed breather, refuel and take stock of how my day was unfolding before tackling the last 40 kms. Goliath had been conquered once and although my legs were wearier and wobblier for our next contest, the mental battle had already been won the previous lap and it was not long before Goliath fell for the second time that day. From there it is only a short ride back to transition. I entered transition in 126th place having made up 60 places on the bike leg. Only a marathon to go!!
The Run (4 Laps)
I have never run a marathon by itself or anything near that distance. I’m just don’t love running that much. However after 6 hrs on a bike, I love riding even less and the opportunity to run a marathon, even if it is only to get off the bike, becomes surprisingly appealing.
For those who run on adrenalin rather than ability, the start of the run in Port is great as the beginning of the course is lined with spectators – this is a Rock Star moment! Approximately 1 km into the run I was feeling good and saw Matty Rogers (ex Wallaby) ahead running comfortably. I fell in behind as we climbed the only substantial hill on the course and once on top began assessing whether I could hold a move to the front.
All of a sudden an official photographer appeared 100 meters ahead and vanity kicked in. Here was my chance for a photo beating Matty Rogers (no-one needed to know he was a lap in front!!) and with that I briefly lifted the tempo to gain the extra 2-3 meters I needed.
As I ran for the next 1-2 kms I could hear Matty Rogers breathing right behind me and using me as his pace bunny. How did I know it was Matty’s breathing right behind me? Well because spectators were continuously screaming “Go Matty” and from time to time cameramen on motor bikes would appear right in front of me to film the guy behind.
One draws strength from wherever one can during an ironman race as you continually set new goals. No stopping until the next aid station, no walking the hills etc etc . As I listened to the breathing behind me a new goal formed - by the end of the race Matty would not only be able to spell “Warringah” he’d be able to draw the whole logo, better still, he’d have nightmares about it!!!
For the next two hours I heard nothing but “Go Matty”. Occasionally he managed to free himself momentarily of the monotony as I stopped at an aid station but on each occasion I was determined to ensure the reprieve was short lived. Eventually the cheers began to fade and I was on my own.
With the distraction behind me I was now able to focus on the other Warringah athletes and supporters. The camaraderie and encouragement out on the course is extraordinary. I remember at one point hearing my name from a somewhere above me only to look up and see Smithy, Bev and others having a drink on a deck overlooking the race as I reached up to give Bev a Warringah High 5!
About 2 kms from home I realised that if I applied the afterburners, there was a slim chance I could give myself a birthday surprise PB with a sub 11 hr. race. With that in mind I stormed home to hear those words “Scott Freeman you are an Ironman” with an overall marathon time of 3:45 having pulled back a further 37 places on the run and PB of 10:59:17. Demons exorcised!!
FOOTNOTE: This report won Scott an entry into another Ironman event following the WTC Ironman Club Champs Division II win this year....and now that the demons have been exorcised, Scott decided he would return to Port Mac for a third time!! Can't wait for the report in 2015 :-)
Robyn Nordstrand may have been doing triathlon for a while but age and a mammoth back operation hasn't stopped her from keeping doing what she loves. Her motto "Doing something is always better than doing nothing!
Name: Robyn (Granny) Nordstrand
Your supporters: Husband, kids and cycling friends
How long WTC member? 18 years
Why triathlon? Apple had a gym instructor who was a triathlete and talked me into doing a BRW team triathlon at Narrabeen, I enjoyed the race but had to do breast stroke in the swim. I was so elated to finish I decided to try sprint races. After
a few races I thought it would be fun to do a Half Ironman which then progressed to Ironman. I was addicted! The worst part was having to learn to do freestyle and today it stills scares me!
Goals for 2013/2014 season: To compete and finish at Club Champs 2014 (done!)
How do you juggle training & work/life? I have a very understanding husband who does most of the housework and cooking!
Most memorable tri experience to date: It would be World Champs in Kona 2005, it’s a tough race and I had finished 5th in my age group, it was a surprise when Thorso told me 5th place was a podium finish, very thrilled and happy!
Long term tri ambitions? I had back surgery in 2013 and I’m hopeful I will be able to compete in another Ironman in 2015, progress is very slow but steady.
Other hobbies outside of triathlon: Family outings & minding 4 grandkids. Reading when I have the time.
Favourite triathlon race course/location: I have a soft spot for Forster Ironman as this is where I did my first Ironman race in 1999, the swim was safe , the road terrible and the run was great. The residents were all very supportive and it’s a great place to spend a week.
Hero/oes (sport or otherwise): Thorso and Chrissie Wellington
Favourite motto: Doing something is always better than doing nothing!
Tips/Inspiring comments for other triathletes: Listen to your body, be consistent and make each training session count.
One of our younger club members, Emily Kempson, raced her second Ironman in Melbourne last month and was the youngest female on the course. She had a great race and qualified for the Hawaii Ironman World Championships - a dream come true! Here is her detailed report on the course and her Ironman experience. An informative and inspiring read for those of you aiming to complete your first Ironman Tri.
By Emily Kempson
Two weeks before race day, the sleepless nights started. I woke up almost every night and struggled to return to sleep, with thoughts about the race and possible scenarios running through my head. As you can imagine, this lack of sleep starts to build up and by the time I arrived in Melbourne on the Thursday before the race, I was already mentally tired. I had also had a couple of Ironman ‘nightmares’, not something that I remember happening to me at my last Ironman at Port Macquarie last year. In the first dream I was eaten by a weirdo fish in the water and when I got onto my bike I found I had forgotten to put my nutrition on. The next morning I was able to laugh it off but the second dream which occurred two nights before the race and shook me up a bit more. I was having the race of my life, everything going to plan, until I got about half way into the run and had to pull out! Boy was I glad to wake up and realise the race hadn’t actually occurred yet!!
Ironman is an amazing event. This being my second Ironman, I have come to respect the event a lot more and found it to be a completely different experience the second time around. The spectacle that it is made into is really just incredible. Picking up my race pack on Thursday, I had a chance to explore the Expo on St Kilda waterfront and of course get my first look at the 2014 finish line. It looked somewhat lonely with the clock off and the grandstands empty. I was back on Friday evening, to attend the athlete briefing located about 800m up the road at the Palais theatre next to Luna Park. It was an amazing venue with the artworks and high ceilings, but to be honest I have come to expect that sort of stuff after attending the 70.3 World Champs last year.
The briefing is the first time all the athletes are together. It gives you a chance to chat to other competitors and of course have a look at your competition! I sat down next to an American who was doing his first Ironman. He told me he wasn’t nervous but his legs tapped throughout the entire 2 hour event so I am pretty sure he was lying! The briefing also covered expected race conditions: 14-18 degrees, slight wind and most probably a few showers. If someone had asked me about ideal racing conditions I would have said these, so it was a real morale booster to know the things out of my control were going to be on my side. After a bit more entertainment from a previous ‘Australian Idol’ competitor (I had never heard of him!), a speech from Craig Alexander and a run through of the course and rules, I was out of there and back at the hotel sorting and packing the transition bags.
A main difference of Ironman to other events is the transition procedure. It takes careful planning to make sure you have everything where you want it because after checking in your bags on Saturday morning, you are NOT allowed access to them again, especially not on race morning – so pretty much if you forget something you’re in real trouble!!
The drive to Frankston for check in on Saturday morning was a weird experience. It took about an hour to drive there and just knowing in the back of your mind that the next day you were going to be running the return journey was a little scary. Actually, it was a lot scary! It was also my first look at the swim course. To be honest, I was expecting not to be able to see the buoys, so to have them just within eye sight was a good sign! Not only that, but the calm Frankston water was nothing like I had seen in the videos of last year’s event which had showed the competitors getting picked up and thrown around in the big swell. A quick check-in of my bike and bags, a look around the transition entry and exit points, we were soon on the return drive. Things were definitely starting to become real now!
Race morning!! I awoke after hardly sleeping at all but I had expected that, so it was okay. A quick shower at 4:30am before putting on the race tattoos (I was competitor #128 and Age group allocated ‘D’), and putting some tape on my wrists which had written on it all my messages for the day (this included my play list to sing on the long run leg!). My body was trembling for most of the morning, trembling for two main reasons; the first being that I had been on taper for the last two weeks and my body had so much excess energy it was ready to burst, and secondly because I was so scared of the day ahead. Scared is the best emotion to describe what I was feeling. Of course I was excited, but the day had so many unknowns that it was frightening! A quick banana at around 5am and we were in the car where I was able to stomach only half an Up&Go – not much before an Ironman event, but solid foods were definitely not going to happen!!
The drive to Frankston was even more daunting than the day before. This was because there was now cones set up on the other side of the road, which would become the run course in a few hours. We arrived reasonably quickly this time and took a short walk to transition to pop my nutrition onto my bike, pump the tyres and put in my special needs. Special needs is another unique part of the Ironman events, allowing competitors to pack their own nutrition to be accessed half way through the bike and run. At Port Mac last year, I hadn’t used the special needs option but this year decided to use it for both the bike and run. I placed a spare tube and nutrition in the bike and some water, jellybeans, salt tablets and a snickers bar in the run. After that, it was just a waiting game sitting around in the cold (typical Melbourne) waiting for the sun to come up and swim start to open a.k.a. go time!! A last minute check of my bike and it was time to put the wetsuit on.
Determined not to miss this year’s start after last year’s disappointment, I had my gel a little early and squeezed through onto the beach for a quick warm up. The water was icy! Absolutely freezing! This was no Sydney beach! 15 minutes before my race start we watched as the Pro men and women had their starts and disappeared around the first buoy and then our start line was opened up.
The volunteers at this event are amazing. There was about 7 of them that standing in their clothes, in the freezing water for the entire 15mins holding up our start barrier to ensure a fair race! I stood about 10-15m off the centre, towards the left side, knowing that I like to breathe to the right and that it would give me a better eye sight of the buoy. I was positioned about 4/5 people back from the front and was chatting with the people around me. It’s really hard to describe the start line. There is about 2000+ people trying to find a good spot for themselves- male, female, young and old, everyone just moving around and as nervous as each other.
The race was started by a Toyota car parked on the sand beeping its horn, not exactly the cannon I had heard in Vegas World’s last year however when it sounded chaos occurred! The water depth allowed about 10-20m of walking before you had to start swimming. Unfortunately some looney in front of me decided he wanted to keep walking, long after the other 2000 people had started swimming, slowing me up fractionally but more importantly causing a back log of people around me and behind me, not such a pretty sight!
After last year, I knew that it was really important not to swallow too much water, or it would be hard to eat on the bike, so I worked really hard as I swam through the washing machine of swimmers to watch my breathing. The first buoy was 850m away but it came around very quickly due to the current of the hundreds of swimmers in front of me pulling me forward. The first buoy turn was more chaotic. I came to a standstill as people from all directions were trying to squeeze in at one spot to get around. I could hear the water safety people going nuts, other swimmers yelling “Just keep swimming don’t stop”, but really it’s just a bit of a patience game anyway, no point going crazy here it’s a loooooooooonnnnnnnnnggggg day ahead!!!
After that I settled into a fairly comfortable rhythm, occasionally interrupted by an arm into my face or kick to the stomach, but after the amount of races I had done recently, I was more than capable of holding my own in the water. The buoys still caused a problem every time we all approached but I was feeling pretty good, so it didn’t bother me too much. I actually felt like time was going really fast around the first three buoys but between the 3rd and 4th buoy was 1km of swimming straight out which really was a test mentally. This crazy guy who was about twice my size with a moustache kept tapping on my feet continuously, so I again interrupted my rhythm to let him go past, of course not without a death stare and a few taps on his feet to return the favour. Finding feet to sit on at this stage of the race is still very difficult. People are spread all over the place and many of them seemed incapable of swimming straight anyway. Around the last couple of buoys I was more than ready to leave the water! As you approach the last buoy, 250m to go, you can start to hear the crowd and the distinctive Ironman bells ringing and of course Mike Reilly’s voice over the loud speaker!
Swim 3.8km: 1hr 1min 57sec
The transition experience is amazing at an Ironman. The crowd is about 4 to 5 people deep for the 100m run into the change tent and they are all extremely vocal! I was lucky enough to spot Mum on the run in and also got a few “Go Warringah” calls as I came in too. It’s always nice to know people are cheering for you! Entering the tent, I was able to see that one other girl in my category had already picked up her bag, I was in second! I had a little trouble getting my wetsuit off, getting caught on my watch and timing chip but the amazing volunteers are there, taking off my wetsuit for me, getting my socks ready and handing me my helmet and sunnies. In no time they had already repacked my swimming stuff back into the bag handing it back to me to run it out to the allocated area, and I was suddenly back into the open where the crowd was still going off!
As I ran through to pick up my bike, I saw Mum again giving me a big cheer and really giving me a lift before I tackled the bike course. On the mount line was Rob Howitt’s (a fellow Warringah athlete, you know you’re doing okay if he is around!) support crew- I didn’t know it at the time but we exited the water about 15s apart- who gave me a big cheer too and I was on my way- well I was on my way after a little stumble getting onto my bike but who was watching anyway!?!?
The first 5km on the bike is really exciting, your heart rate is up, there are people still ringing the cow bells and it’s just an amazing feeling but soon enough that all dies down and you are left pedalling along alone! Already, more than an hour into the race, it’s really important to get on top of your nutrition straight away and that I did, just trying to settle into a nice rhythm. My splits were telling me I was going a bit too fast, so I spent the first 30km trying to slow a little and settle down, despite feeling as though I would be able to maintain that effort. At the first aid station I tried to pick up a banana but unfortunately missed on both attempts so had to settle for the nutrition on my bike. It wasn’t too long before I caught the lone competitor from my category ahead of me on the bike too and a quick glance at her form I could tell she was going to hard and would suffer in the latter part of the race, somewhat pleasing for me! The course follows the Eastlink roadway, which is pretty much identical to the M7 cycleway, something I had made my stomping ground over the last 12 months, so my body and mind were at ease with the slight rises and falls of the road. As we approached the first turn around point we entered a tunnel, with a super-fast descent down into it, and then a longish steady climb on the other side (well this part isn’t on the M7!). The descent was so fast it was hard to control your bike but it was an incredible experience, especially with all the carbon wheels echoing around you! The climb on the other side was a toughy but I ended up making up a lot of places on it, before turning around and descending back down and climbing back up the other side.
Unfortunately, as soon as I turned around I realised I had turned straight into the wind and my speed would drop significantly – it’s lucky I controlled my tempo on the way out after all! I had expected the wind to be in the other direction but I don’t mind a bit of wind knowing that the bike is my strongest leg, the harder the cycle usually means the more time I get on my competitors. It was definitely a lot harder to get nutrition on the return journey though, with the wind throwing you around a little so I settled onto the tt bars and pushed through. Occasionally, I would cycle through small patches of crowd on the side of the road with their bells and cheering but my personal favourites were the “I’m from South of the border” people dressed in big Mexican hats with maraca’s, undies on the other side of their pants and moustaches – I don’t even know what they were saying but it was funny! The other amusing thing on the bike was all the men who rode past, pretty much looking like professional triathletes yet they couldn’t put a tattoo on their calf the right way up, with an E looking like a 3 and some upside down K’s- this made me laugh too. Oh I can’t forget the one guy who forgot to take his goggles of in transition so rode for six hours with goggles around his neck!
By the time I was cycling back into town for the second turn around, the crowd had done the seemingly impossible and had enlarged! Smiling all the way back through and hardly having to pedal at this stage as the roads narrowed and the pack I was sitting in condensed together, I was able to really soak it up. The noise as you come through is crazy and really gives you a lift! I was still feeling really good at this stage, and decided that since I would have the wind at my back, this would be where I “turn the screws” (as my coach James Swadling would say), or my dad just calls it “Turbo Time”. A couple of salt tablets later, I lifted the tempo and really focused on putting some good times down. I knew I was doing my job when I started to catch some of the people that had zoomed past in the first 90km. I caught up to some big packs and was moving my way through when the dreaded motorbike pulled up next to me. My stomach dropped! Sometimes I think I am really lucky to be born female and to have a bit of a baby face because the nice man just gave me a warning- I needed to apparently overtake the entire pack, yep all 20/30 people or probably more because the pack disappears out of eye sight, if I overtake anybody at all. So thanking the man for kindly reminding me of the rules (“PHEW!!” was all I was thinking actually…), I was to be much more careful for the rest of the journey, they don’t give people second chances!! As I approached the tunnel and subsequent turn around for the second time, I realised how lucky I actually was as more than a handful of people were sitting in the penalty box!
By now the wind was significantly stronger and 135km into the ride, my legs were not exactly fresh anymore. I also noticed that my watch had been playing up and no longer told me where I was up to, but would occasionally still give me some splits, but of course with my watch playing up, who knew if they were accurate anyway! A quick check of the race time from a fellow competitor and I was pedalling away again. It’s one of the best feelings to be overtaking huge amounts of people in the last 45k of an Ironman cycle, with most of them aged 30+ and male, and here I was a 159cm 20 year old female with a bright pink helmet leaving them behind. I wouldn’t think these people like it too much… #yougotchicked! I rode completely on my own for the next leg of the cycle and into the wind made it a bit of a struggle but knowing the wind which was worsening by the minute and with a lead on the other girls meant they were going to have to battle with it more than I did, so I focused on staying aero and getting to transition as quick as I could. At one stage, I was pedalling along, on my lonesome and the motorbike pulled up next to me a second time, what? Slightly confused, I turned to my right for them to ask me if it was my second lap, ‘Yes’ I replied and then remarkably the officials then start to cheer me on and say how well I was doing and let me know that I was making the “men look bad”! This was a pretty special experience, I am almost 100% sure that they didn’t make the effort of doing that to anyone else in the race and I was really a bit overwhelmed by the experience. Here are the officials that hunt down drafters, and yet they had made a special effort to come and congratulate me! ME! They dropped back shortly after but it wasn’t long before they rode past again, with both the driver and official giving me some positive words and cheering me on. The best part was yet to come though, when I spotted my new ‘friends’ booking the group of people slightly ahead of me that had been clearly breaking the rules and taking turns drafting through the wind- Thanks boys!!
Bike 180km: 5hr 26min 25sec
Coming back into town at the completion of the bike leg the crowd seemed to have lost a little bit of energy yet for me the atmosphere was buzzing! Composing myself I was able to slide of my bike, hand it to a catcher and into the change tent I went! This was one of the best parts of the whole race for me, with about 10 volunteers waiting in the tent, they gave me a standing ovation as I entered (there was no one else in there at that time) and literally clipped my race belt on for me, sun screened my shoulders and helped me with my shoes! As I left there was one other lady coming in and I could hear them giving her a standing ovation too. It just amazes me that these ladies probably did that for every single competitor that came through, for hours on end and I was so thankful for that!
As I started to run I actually felt great! I don’t think I have ever felt that fresh coming off the bike in my entire life, not even at a sprint triathlon! I knew that I had cycled within myself and was being rewarded for that and I also knew that I was in the lead (but not by how much) – my race plan was so far intact! I had swapped watches for the run to ensure the battery would last the entire event, but it also meant I now had no idea about overall time. As soon as I was on the course I noticed I was getting huge amounts of crowd support, with five competitors running together, I would always hear “Go Emily”, “Looking Strong Emily”, “Go the chicks”; almost making me feel sorry for the men I was running with but at the same time it was really uplifting. A short turn around point later and we ran past transition, I saw my catcher had put my bike back nicely but more importantly noticed the other bikes had still not returned, so I had at least a 5min lead. Running back through the town was like running through a party! I saw Mum again, she was going crazy (well I guess she did have to wait three hours since she last got a glimpse of me), and Rob’s support team cheered me through as well! The best part was when I felt as though I had only just started running and I was already at 2km; that never happens to me!
I decided early on that I was going to walk the aid stations but try to keep every 5km split under 30mins (6min km’s), which would get me a 4hr 12min ish marathon (which funny enough I did exactly a 4hr12 marathon, pretty good guess-timating!), a PB by more than 20mins, but I knew that I would have to have a little bit of spare time for when the going gets tough later on. I set about ticking off the km’s and taking in the atmosphere. The Melbourne run course is really special to me because it runs straight through Chelsea, where my Great Grandfather grew up, and he went on to become a Professional runner. If it wasn’t for the Olympic postponement because of WW2, he probably would have had a shot at that! Approaching 98years old, I don’t know how many more races I would get to tell him about, so getting a good race in his home town was something that had been on my mind since I entered 12 months earlier! When I eventually got to Chelsea and knew my race plan was going well, and it gave me the tingles- this was fast becoming my race to lose.
I had heard from previous competitors that Melbourne IM was not a spectator course but again, having a baby face does come in handy, getting support from everyone I passed! Eventually Ian Gard (another WTC), who happens to own the physio on my street (it’s a small world here we were running at the same place, same time on the Melbourne IM course) caught up to me and we were able to have a chat. He was able to give me an idea of time, although he didn’t stick around too long, moving much quicker than I was, so we parted ways and my mind was set on that snickers bar awaiting me at 19k. When I eventually got there, I was greeted by a huge crowd watching the event unfold on the big screen, with one supporter telling me when I (finally) got my Snickers to “carb up, you’re going to need it later!” I also heard on the loud speaker my first confirmation that I was winning the category. It was official; a Kona spot was now within my reach, with just 23km standing in the way!
The next km’s would be some of the toughest, with a couple of really nasty little hills, that were so steep at times I didn’t know if I could even walk up them! Pretty much everyone walked up these, so I didn’t really mind. The thing that got me was the immediate pain in my legs when I started to run again- it was absolute agony and I still had 20km to knock over! Despite this, I guess other people had it worse, overtaking two of the pros whom I believe got hypothermia (ha so extra kilos DO come in handy), yet in the spirit of Ironman were going to walk to the finish; one of the reasons I really do love this sport!
I ran most of this section with a lady called Amanda (Mandy) and we cat and moused it all the way to the finish, trying to come up with a positive remark every time we passed each other (She was much better at that than me!)! Mum was trying to follow me in the car and it gave me a massive boost to see her every 4/5km or so, with the bits in between being really lonely, despite still receiving huge amounts of crowd support. Some of the stand out bits on the course was the ‘movie quote kilometre’ where someone had stuck a movie quote on every tree for the km, many of them from Rocky, but my favourite was: “Do I look too turtly in this?”. There were also chalked messages all over the path, for most of the last 15km, my favourite being “Look across the road at the lions” -I looked across and there were lion statues in the garden of the house- followed by the next message “Look over there, a naked lady”. Hahaha!! Wonder how many people fell for that one? My favourite sign of the entire day though was: “Toe nails are for sissy’s” - Pretty much right on the mark there!
The last 10km was one of the most painful experiences of my life, I was so close to a Kona spot, and did NOT want it taken from me in the dying stages. The closer I got the worse those thoughts were becoming- getting overtaken in the last 10km is bad, in the last 5km is really bad, but in the last two km’s would just be heart breaking! I really tried to lift in this part of the race and was rewarded by catching a fair few people and also getting more crowd support… Again I am really sorry for any of the males that I ran with because I knew most of the messages of support were being directed at me!! With two aid stations to go my legs started to seize up, first my quads and then my hamstrings, but having cycled this part of the course in my preparations the day before, so I knew I was so close! The last 3 km’s felt like the longest of the whole race, especially the final one! I kept looking at my watch, 800m to go, 700m to go and finally I felt as if I could relax, this race was mine! High fiving the crowd and feeling like a celebrity for the last 500m, people banging on the side, bells ringing and of course Mike Reilly not only announcing that I was an Ironmans but also the winner of the female 18-24 only seemed to increase to volume of the crowd (was that even possible?)!
Run 42.2km: 4hr 12min 37sec
Total 226km: 10hr 46min 53sec
I crossed the line to be caught by a volunteer “catcher”, finisher’s towel placed over my shoulders, a medal around my neck and chosen for an interview by the cameras. The finish of an Ironman is pretty emotional, you just want to cry – cry because you finished but also cry because your body is in so much pain! Greeted by Kate Shedden (an awesome chick that I have raced and Canberra and Husky, but lucky enough for me she has just gone up a category!) at the finish was really cool too, congratulating each other and just being so happy to finish! I left the recovery area almost straight away to find Mum, but unfortunately I didn’t know she had missed the finish and wasn’t there yet, so I lay on the grass, where people seemed to recognise me and congratulate me on my win. Two families in particular came over and said things like “Hey is that Emily? Look over here it’s our friend Emily! Emily we were watching you all day and you were so strong! Hey look kids, it’s Emily!”, “Emily? We just wanted to say we saw you a couple of times on the run and you just don’t sweat! Made it look easy! Congratulations!”. How do you respond to these people you have never met before, greeting you like this?
Eventually I got up and had a look at the clock still not sure of my overall time, 11hr 15min, WHAT! Low elevens was a crazy good time, but I had been sitting there for a few minutes so, maybe cracked 11 hours? I was eventually reunited with Mum (after stumbling over to information and borrowing a phone to ring her) to get out my own sphone and read a text from my awesome training buddy Lucy, who said I had done a time of 10hr 46min! Mum and I just cried for a while, we couldn’t believe it, that’s about 1hr 20min faster than 10 months ago! Mum also didn’t know that I had won it and then when I told her she just cried some more! We’re going to Kona!!!!
I really wanted to stay and party at the finish line, but unfortunately my body did not allow it, with cold really starting to hit me, and I honestly had absolutely nothing left (I actually couldn’t even make it to the car and I had to stand with some construction workers while Mum drove it up and then they assisted me into the vehicle!). By the time we got back to the hotel I had 14 texts and 19 Facebook notifications from my amazing support crew which was really cool, thanks guys!!
Ironman Melbourne was seriously like a dream come true for me! I probably could have continued thinking it had been a dream except the pain that I felt all over my body was no dream. Blisters were covering my feet (one particular blood blister was still bleeding the next day!), I had some pretty bad sunburn (which is so bad I will probably have it another 12 months) and of course the pain aching through every muscle in my body (Like seriously even my biceps- What are you sore for? You hardly did anything!?).
Overall I was really happy with my race, and going over the day I don’t think I would have done much differently had I the chance to do it again. I guess the best part of all this was how much I learnt on the day and the people I met along the way! I am really looking forward to Kona, but going even further ahead I really think I have a lot of improvement still left in me which is really exciting and I can’t wait to do a couple more full distance events in the coming years!
Lastly, I just really want to thank everyone for the messages in the days leading up to the event. It’s pretty overwhelming for me how many people made such a big deal out of it like they did and it did keep me going in the tough parts. To my coach James Swadling, who planned my taper and training program to perfection, I have never run that well in my whole life and could not have done this without him! To On Australia, it means a lot to have a company believe in your potential. On shoes are awesome and I wouldn’t want to run in anything else anyway!
To my family, who have been amazing, what 20 year old in their right mind would do an Ironman? From the early morning wake ups, to when my brother cycled out to drop me some water on my long runs, to them all coming and supporting me in the lead up races and just knowing that they are really proud to have me as their Ironman Sister means a lot! And to all my friends who are amazing and give me heaps of support, thanks so much!
The dream continued well into the next day when people came and stopped me in the street to congratulate me and wish me well in Kona, like these people who I have never met before, one of them even asking if I was going to make this my career! It has been a really special experience, something I will never forget!