Woohoo! 4 days in Cairns without the kids! How exciting! That was one thought, but the main feeling I had leading into race day was relief. Entering the 2020 Port IM in 2019, it had been more than 3 years of waiting. Even Port this year was halted for me 4 days out when I had Covid.
Now Cairns isn’t my favourite course, but it’s relatively easy to get to and the swim suits me.
The logistics of this event make the Saturday anything but relaxing as your race gear is dropped at 2 locations, but getting frustrated or stressed at this stage is counterproductive, so you just go with the flow. Having the calming influence of my wife Sarah (she was racing the 70.3) certainly helped me prepare for what is a mentally and physically challenging day.
Race day arrived and as expected the SE wind was beginning to build. This would mean a choppy swim (woohoo!) and nearly 100k of headwind/crosswinds on the bike (boooo!!!).
Into transition to prep my bike and the only minor stress I had was when the volunteers stopped athletes from using the restrooms inside the transition area (What the?).
(Side note- one pre race restroom stop is rarely enough….)
I was feeling relaxed as I left transition, knowing I still had 1 3/4 hrs before my 7:40 am start (way too late). Finding Sarah and sending her off for her half was as emotional as ever. Now, I don’t know why I get teary before IM races but that’s what happens and it only lasts a few minutes.
I sat and waited, listening to music, thinking of my family and missing my kids. It was the first time they hadn’t been here (since they were born) and it was also the first time Dad wasn’t toeing the start line with me. I was relaxed and feeling good.
T-20 mins, time to suit up and warm up. 4-500m, DONE. Time to stand on the beach and wait and wait…….and wait. Rolling starts are rubbish! Anyway, I was moving closer to the front and was in the back third of start group 1. Plenty of feet to find and a good drag to have heading into the chop. Sat on various feet for the first 3.5km and then chose my own line to the exit, Swim, tick, done!
Now T1, visualising where my gear bag is, grab it and off to get changed. Now I don’t know what the ….. I did in there but I eventually came out and found my bike. A very slow T1.
Got my head in the game nice and early, something I didn’t do in my last race at Husky. Learning lessons from 2019, I knew that I had to conserve more early, because the last 60k is a headwind, roads are bumpy and somehow every athlete seems to disappear. The bike is my weakness, so I can only ride to how I feel and what I’ve done in training. Doing anything else is a short term plan and unlikely to work out (sometimes you may fluke it).
The course layout allows you to segment the bike and focus on each section. As I made the final turn at 117k, I was feeling good and in control ( the opposite to 2019). A few times I distracted myself by counting the rear spokes of the bike in front of me (12.0000001m in front hehehe). At this stage the wind was getting stronger but the important thing is to stay aero, keep the nutrition up and don’t go anaerobic…… there’s a little run to finish this thing.
Coming into T2 is a massive relief, your butt needs a break and your bike is covered in all types of whatever. Again, a lack of racing sees me have a slow transition, I even put my number belt on while seated. Exiting T2, I’m 16 mins ahead of where I was in 2019. I await the first k split on my watch while focusing on technique and keeping a low HR. Beeeeeep 4:54, ok good! 23:01 first 5k. Hmmm, ok, it’s a little quicker than my schedule and my training runs. Uh oh, gut pains, not once, but twice. On lap 2 then on lap 3, quick but pointless pit stops. Those 2 1k splits 6:34 & 7:01 (ahhh crap).
Legs still felt good as the business end of the marathon (30km) began and Sarah tells me Manly had won. At this stage my confidence was sky high, I kept the nutrition up and only 4 athletes had overtaken me. The last lap felt great, it was tough, but the splits reflected my effort so I was happy. A 3:21 marathon, faster than any of my previous IM races and a solid 10:15. I had made up 21 spots in my age to finish 21st. So happy, so tired, so hungry!
Next stop Kona…