"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.