"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...