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!