After arriving in Cairns on Thursday night there was a lot of commotion finding our bikes, it turns out the airport had shipped in a few flights full of bikes that hadn’t been able to arrive the day before. After almost taking someone else’s bike (oops!), we bundled into our accommodation and found some rather dodgy pizza to eat.
Friday and Saturday we seemed to be rushing around doing things like bike testing, athlete check in, and organising gear for the race. Kat and I had the pleasure of cycling up to Palm Cove (the race start, around 30km north of Cairns) on Saturday to check our bikes in. After dropping off our transition bags we headed back for a communal dinner and had an early night in anticipation of our 03:30 am alarm.
I absolutely love the moment my feet hit the sand. I've never been a fast swimmer, so for me this is where my race starts. I grabbed my bike “Pammy” and got away swiftly feeling the buzz of race nerves and caffeine working well. The bike course was second to none. The first 33 km we headed north on the Captain Cook highway, a road that follows the coastline towards Port Douglas. On the right the sun rose over the ocean and on the left was a tropical rainforest, painting a postcard-like picture. The day before David Wiles had given me some valuable advice “make hay while the sun shines' ' which seemed to stick with me through the bike course, knowing the last 60 km would be going into the wind. The first 30km seemed to fly by and I had so much fun, I even managed to pick up a bottle without dropping it this time. There was a very strong headwind coming back into cairns which made it hard to hold on at times, but knowing the end was near I pushed hard the last 30km aiming for a sub-3hr bike split.
I arrived at T2 and almost couldn’t get off my bike. I was excited but also nervous to run, this was my second half Ironman distance race, and though running is my favourite discipline I wasn’t sure if going so hard on the bike would impact my run. I started off way too quick and after about 4km decided to back it off and try to keep a consistent pace. The run course was amazing! 2x10km laps up and down the cairns esplanade which was lined with supporters. I don’t think there was a single spot on the course where there weren't any supporters. It was also good for spotting all our Warringah buddies, on the run course I saw Fred, Becky and Caroline. We all cheered each other on and gave a few sneaky high fives along the way. It was hot during the run, about 29 degrees and very humid. I took nutrition and/or water on board every 10 minutes and at every aid station. With 3km to go and after keeping a relatively consistent pace I called out to Miriam (Chief support crew) ‘is it too early to go for it?’, thankfully she said not yet, at the next turn. At the next turn I tried to up the pace, there wasn’t much left but the sound of the finish line made me smile.
As I turned down the finish chute I saw my amazing coach and idol, Bec Hoschke, who gave me a high five. I looked up to the clock realising I had no idea what time it was. I remember thinking ‘6hrs would be great’ (my first 70.3 was 06:36), as I crossed the line I saw a time next to my name: 05:35. At first I didn't believe it so I checked my watch. It matched, taking me by complete surprise. Feeling elated and rather dizzy I went and found Miriam and Bec and sank into a deep fog of post race bonk.
We waited and cheered on the rest of the Warringah athletes. We found some food conveniently on the side of the bike/run course and cheered people on as we ate some salty chips and pizza. Later in the day after we walked up the esplanade cheering all the full Ironman competitors. For me this was just as much fun as the race. The atmosphere at the finish line was incredible, you could hear the roar of the crowds from 2km away. We waited for Kat to finish the run, she amazingly managed to take out the full distance in 11hrs 48, placing 8th in her age group- and she smiled the whole way. It was an inspiring performance. Huge kudos to all the brave Warringah’s that tackled the full, you’re all amazing and hard as nails!
Thank you Warringah for allowing me to fit into such a welcoming and supportive community. Massive thanks to my coach Bec who inspires me to bring my best self to training and to race day, and thanks to Miriam for coming up to support us. I can hands down say that Cairns has been my favourite race day yet and I can’t wait for next year!