Well this has been a challenge to write. It’s no secret that:
- The race wasn’t a full ‘Ironman’, with the swim course closed due to marine creatures, namely a few local sharks paying a visit to the jetty on race morning.
- My race didn’t go anywhere near to my plan, mainly because I made lots of little silly decision that compounded & magnified to affect my race.
- Mother nature did her best to make it tough and ensure we had a real struggle to get to the finish line.
- Yes there was sharks, kangaroos (taking cyclist out) and even a bush fire (to cut the course even shorter for some)!
So for those chasing a spoiler here is a link to my official results:
So in my race preview I put some pretty bold goals out there and firmly believed I had a a great training base and solid race plan that would allow me to achieve them. I was heading into this race full of confidence, having raced well here in Brisbane so far this season. My goals were well outlined in my race preview found here, also summarised as follows:
- Swim sub 1 hour
- Bike 210 watts, HR 145 aiming for 5 hours 10 min
- Run HR 145, start out solid and hold on for a 3 hour 40 min marathon
- Overall sub 10 hours.
Here is how I went:
- The swim was cancelled, so I didn’t get to even try to achieve this goal.
- Bike 176 watts, no HR data as my band stopped working, and hit 5 hours and 20 minutes.
- I didn’t get any run HR data as my band stopped working. I started my marathon the only way I could, shuffling and walking, this did not change for the entire 42.2km. Running well outside my goal time at 4 hours and 52 minutes.
- Overall I finished the run & bike in 10 hours and 27 minutes, outside my goal time.
So it’s easy to focus on the negatives as there is not 1 goal I set myself that I achieved. However I have taken the time to reflect and learn from my mistakes, turning the experience into learning one. So what are my key learning from this race:
- Stick to my race, nutritional & hydration plan/strategy, regardless of race changes out of my control.
- No matter how small an adjustment of my race plan is, it can have massive impact later in my race.
- I can go deeper than I ever imagined (and probably deeper still) I could go.
- I can find a way to the finish line, overcoming all sorts of obstacles.
- Sometimes it takes outside influences to get me to my finish line. Thank you Ian!
- I need to know my sweat rate and sodium content in my sweat. This will help me make smart decision and adjustments to my hydration strategy in different environmental conditions.
So let’s grab a coffee and reflect back on my trip, race day and how it all played out. I was travelling without any family this time, my amazing wife stayed at home to look after the kids as this was their last week of school and is a pretty busy time of year for them with break up activities and all those wonderful things coming to a close. So this time I was travelling with Ian Donald, my training partner, also know as my Tri-husband by our respectful loving wives!
So we flew in on Wednesday night (actually very early Thursday morning) about midnight. The flight was uneventful and I even jagged a few hours sleep. We had hired a car and chose to drive straight to Busselton, arriving about 4am in the morning. Ian drove the entire way & I try as I might to stay awake actually slept most of the drive, sorry Ian. We checked into our hotel and grabbed a few hours sleep.
We actually woke only a few short hours later and decided to make hay, setting up the bike having breakfast and exploring the surroundings of the hotel with a short walk. Bike setup compete, we headed to the event village to register and check out the expo. Transition was being setup and the vibe was pretty exciting. The volunteers in the registration tent were very enthusiastic, ringing bells for every first timer that registered! We collected our registration kits, weighed in at 72.4kg (which was about 2kg higher than I expected and I was told their scales were a little unreliable)! With that all done we wandered the expo perusing all the nick nacks of the triathlon world.
Heading back to the hotel, we chilled out for the hottest part of the day then headed out for a gentle 30km ride heading away from Busselton toward Dunsborough. Windy was an understatement and the road quality wasn’t great, but the ride felt easy and controlled. It was all about turning the legs over and just getting a feel for the area and conditions. I had received a new tri-suit (I was hoping to race in) and was testing it out, so when we got back to the hotel we headed out for a very gentle 2.5km jog on the foreshore. It was at this point I realised I couldn’t race in my new suit, just another thing I would need to resolve tomorrow. We headed back into Busselton for Thai dinner with some other athletes that were racing from Brisbane. All in all an easy perfect day, where we turned the legs over on the bike and a gentle run!
On Friday we headed into Busselton Jetty for the morning swim trial. Ironman had arranged water safety and a few buoys set out, approximately 500m alongside the jetty. It was amazing, the water was fresh, without being bitterly cold, I was grateful for my wetsuit. But the water clarity was what really blew my mind! I cruised out to the furthest buoy and spotted a couple of starfish at the bottom, grabbed a couple of snaps, chatted to the amazing lifesavers and then headed back to shore.
We decided to drive the bike course after the swim to kill a little time and save heading out again later. The course lived up to the explanations I had read, flat & fast! There were plenty of other people with similar ideas to ourselves driving the course and a fair number even riding it!
About 2pm in the afternoon following a little rest/sleep, I raced down to the expo and purchased a new tri-suit from Epix. It was rather an amusing experience, having my wife, Mel, on a video call and showing her the options. Finally settling on one that felt comfortable and met the wife’s approval.
The rest of Friday was pretty relaxed, we headed to Dunsborough for dinner, again with a few others competing athletes from Brisbane, using our meal voucher provided by Ironman! The meals were nice, perhaps a little over the top for what we simple triathletes needed in the lead up to a race, but it was nice to share the time with fellow competitors.
I took the time before bed to do the traditional transition layout on my bags, trying to assure myself that I hadn’t and wouldn’t forget anything. Sleep was welcome!
Saturday I was up at 6ish and headed out for another gear check on the bike, wearing my new tri-suit. Again the focus was as hard as easily possible. We then headed to parkrun at Geographe Bay parkrun. It’s a perfect Ironman run course preview, as they run on the same path as the ironman does only a day later. It’s flat and potentially could be very fast, however I just cruised along trying to remain as relaxed as possible. The tri-suit passed the bike and run test with flying colours.
Saturday is also the day we rack our bikes and transition bags. We headed back to the hotel for a bit to eat and chill out till transition open at 10am. When it was time to head into Busselton for racking, Ian decided to ride in, rather than remove wheels and stack them in the boot of the car, a decision I was happy to support, or even ride in myself. Anyway, we meet in at transition, incident free and went through the process of racking our bikes and bags relatively quickly. I even did a facebook live through the whole process, much to the amusement of the volunteers and a few other competitors! The rest of Saturday was interesting, rather than sit around the hotel waiting, decided to drive the western coast and do a little light sightseeing. This place is breathtakingly beautiful.
Pre race dinner, always have some rice, pasta and a little chicken!
Finally it is race day! I was up at 4am race morning, straight into making my normal eggy-bread, banana and honey breakfast with a side of endura. We headed down to transition about 5am, not crazy early but leaving enough time to do what needed to be done. I arrived and went through the process of pumping up the tyres, setting up the drink bottles, putting my new (profile design aero e-pack) top tube feed bag and then mentally re-visiting the flow of transition. I double checked and triple checked everything (I did not want basic simple errors like my last couple of races)!
We decided to head back to the car to pick up our wetsuits and change over from my transition bag to the street gear bag, which I drop off at the recovery tent on the way to swim start and is waiting for me after the race! It was at this point that strange announcements were being made for all competitors to head bag to transition and wait at your bike for further information about the race.
So after changing bags, we headed back into transition with a sinking feeling, knowing that something was happening. After a long wait and watching the 70.3 competitors (most dry) head out of transition on their bikes, Ironman finally made the announcement that the swim course was closed and no competitors were allowed into the water. Today’s race is now going to be a bike run (duathlon) format only. Now I can’t lie, I was GUTTED, the swim was one of the major reason I chose to race over in Busselton. I met up with Ian and we talked it through, as disappointed as we both were, we still had 2/3 legs of an ironman to complete. We talked through the proposed changes and how best to deal with them, even talking about the nutrition and hydration strategies on the bike and how we need to stick to the plan! We still had 180km to ride and a marathon to run.
So the start was altered to a beach start, self seeded (not very well), filtering down to a two person start approximately 5 seconds apart. Ian and I made a point to remain as close to each other with the aim of starting side by side. We had an absolutely blast running through T1 yelling banter at each other. As you can see in the photo below, Ian had ditched his wetsuit already, so he raced through T1 and to his bike, I had to take a little more time to pack the wetsuit into my transition bag and putting on socks (which I regretted by about 40km in), but as it panned out he was slower at his bike than I was, loading up his nutrition into pockets. I exited onto the bike directly behind him.
The ride was different from normal, obviously I had started a little further back in the field then if I had come out of the water, so I was passing a lot of competitors (not something I normally do). Despite talking about sticking to my nutrition and hydration strategy, I found myself skipping drinks and food with the simple justification of ‘I hadn’t done the swim’. I felt amazing, hitting my desired 210 watts almost perfectly, my pace was on-point, however I had lost my heart rate somewhere inside the first 5km. I wasn’t to concerned as I still had the power numbers to work from! I cruised past the 1st aid station, feeling invincible. I was passing a lot of competitors and my numbers were looking great. I got to about 70km in and glanced down at my calf sleeves and noticed a white crystal like substance all over them. Gave them a quick rub and licked my fingers to be alarmed by the salty taste. Ohhh nooo, I didn’t even think I was sweating at all, clearly I was loosing a lot more fluid than I imagined. I immediately started drinking all my fluid, but it was too little too late, by 100km in I was cramping in the hips, calves, quads. I got back onto my nutrition plan, but by this time I was starting to feel ill, and didn’t want to eat, I keep drinking and couldn’t eat. My race was unraveling right in front of me and nothing I chose to do was helping. I remember thinking the best thing that can happen now is the end of the bike, I need to get off the bike NOW!
My bike ride can be summarised as follows, first lap great numbers, rising temperature, strong winds, the second lap, terrible numbers, survival mode engaged, insane temperatures and absolutely no wind! I rolled into T2, never have I been so happy to get off the bike. I walked, because that is literally all I could manage with the cramping preventing any other movement. I passed an athlete lying on the grass vomiting profusely, I took the time to alert medical support and continued into the shade of the tent. The heat at this point was intense and zapping everything it could from me! I collapsed into the plastic chairs in T2 and poured cold water down the back of my neck and just sat there. At this point I couldn’t contemplate the marathon, I just needed to cool down. The volunteers in here were amazing, running around looking after everyone, with ice, cold water and sunscreen. It took a fellow competitor to convince me to put my running shoes on and head out to start, 42.2km wasnt going to get any shorter by sitting in the tent. 1 step at a time was the discussion we had. With that I headed out of the tent to get hosed down before starting the epic task of trudging 42.2km.
I managed a jog to the first aid station, about 500m, then stopped again and started on the coke straight away (normally I wait till 30km before switching to coke). Today I figured I needed all the help I could to get this done. I tried Vegemite on a paddle pop, gummy lollies, a pretzel, more endura, more coke absolutely anything I could to try to get some energy to be able to trudge to the finish. By kilometer 16, my left leg gave out and I had a full leg ITB cramp. I could do nothing more than a walk through to kilometer 19. I had tried to jog a few times with no luck, but with a lot of shaking and gentle stretching it finally let go and loosened up. I had seen Ian pass in the other direction, catching me with every lap. I told him he had to catch me! My metal struggle continued through every aid station, the walks got longer and the running/jogging/trudging got harder and harder. By 37 I was cooked, literally done and with a parkrun (AKA 5km) to go I didn’t think I could finish. As luck would have it, Ian run up beside me, put his arm around me and said ‘Let do this’. I was close to breaking down and told him to go on without me, finish your race, I’ll get there later! To his amazing credit, he said, no way and walked with me until I could muster a slow shuffle. And that’s how I finished the marathon, with a slow shuffle beside my super amazing supportive training partner Ian. We even joked that our wives and family tracking us back in Brisbane would now have figured out that we were together, and hopefully would all watch the live stream of the finish line.
So I crossed the line as I started the day, with a great mate! He got me through those last testing kilometers where I didn’t want to run, but he helped me find a way! It wasn’t technically an Ironman race, but I can tell you it hurt a hell of a lot more than any of my previous 4 ironman races! I hobbled into recovery sat with the finishers medal hanging heavy around my neck and ate ice cream and milo, pizza and drank solo. We eventually went and had a massage, collected our street gear bag, I got changed and headed out to see if we could watch a few other athletes cross the line!
After watching the energy at the finish line, we collect our bikes from transition and headed back to our hotel. I showered and collapsed into bed, my legs aching and twitching all over the place. Sleep was broken, but I woke up the next day a little disappointed in the way the day played out for me. Poor Ian had to relive numerous time, my complaining, my debriefing, my breakdown, my full race analysis. I have come to the simple conclusion that there was not 1 single thing that effected my performance, but a series of silly little things that compounded all day, starting with a cancelled swim!
What would I change? I’m not sure, I think every race teaches you something. On that fateful Sunday I learnt a lot about myself and just how mentally ill prepared you can be. Ironman is tough, taking it for granted, or even assuming you have it covered, being over-confident, is a risk not worth taking, it will and it did bit me on the ass. Lesson learned.
I could and have analysed this race, replayed in my head time and time again, finally realising I can’t change anything, My biggest take away is “DON’T DO DUMB THINGS” and “DON’T MAKE DUMB DECISIONS”.
Monday was all about recovery and catching up with as many competitor as possible to hear their stories, most told a similar tale to myself, everyone’s day was affected by the weather and that cancelled swim! We re-hydrated together, shared stories and celebrated the achievement of everyone, cause that’s what we Ironmen do!
If your interested here are the links to my data from the day.
I need to give a massive shout out to my amazing and supportive wife, without you I cant do what I get to do! Thank you for always letting me be me! To Ian, you got me there brother, I don’t know how, but you did, for all my whinging and whining I apologise and for all your amazing support I cannot thank you enough for looking out for me all the time! To get to the finish line of any event there are sacrifices and challenges, to those that have supported me, or given up anything to allow me to do this, I am forever grateful! THANK YOU!
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Till next time build consistency, keep smiling and live to Tri!