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!