Transitions Naut pulled out an epic first Ironman, he also pulled out an epic first Ironman race report. So in the lead up to Port, if you are having trouble calming the nerves and getting to sleep, grab a warm milk, find a comfy chair, pull on your compression socks and enjoy the read.
This is long winded, self-indulgent and not the least bit amusing like an “Otter” or “Mank”* report. It is however recommended bedtime reading for insomniacs. I have no idea why I wrote it in present tense, it just kind of turned out that way. (I will try and dig up the Otter and Mank race reports from the archives for a giggle. Ed)
I swam the swim, but it doesn’t count because they shortened the swim last year and it was in Melbourne.
I rode the ride, but it doesn’t count because there were other bikes on the course and it was in Melbourne, so I drafted for 180kms.
I ran the run, but it doesn’t count because it was point to point and some of it may have been a bit boring and I was obviously fresh from drafting and it was in Melbourne.
Crossed the line and Mike told me I was an Ironman, but it doesn’t count being Melbourne and all.
I have a wife, daughter and a job. In order to keep all three, I capped my training at about 12 hours a week. I crept over a couple of times, but basically did 3 swims, rides and runs a week, including a long run Saturday and a long ride Sunday. No super bricks for me, just a couple of short runs (10-15 min) off the week's long ride.
Swimming was 5.5 growing to about 6.5kms a week thanks to the motivation of the 1km swim challenge. Long Ride was 80-100km in the Yarra Valley climbs with a longer Beach Road run here and there. Plus a couple of sessions each week on the spin bikes in the work gym. Run was a couple of 8km runs around work or interval sessions on the treadmill with a long run building to 32kms + over the hills of Greensborough and Viewbank.
No real plans beyond 9 sessions a week, but it saw my weight come down to sub 85kgs and body fat % drop by about 6%. I am 185cm tall.
I figured I could go sub 12. Reading Transitions taught me that the Melb bike course was downhill in both directions and I should only need to pedal 4 times to break 6 hours. I knew my marathon pb should translate into around a 4 hour run, it was only the swim that was an unknown.
So I had a goal, ride sub 6, run sub 4 and hopefully swim sub 1:20 (and don't drown as dead people don't ride or run well).
Things start badly, very very badly. Have brekkie at 4:30, then have zero success with the all-important pre-race evacuation. It just won’t happen. Wife gets our 5 year old moving but I underestimate the drive from Black Rock to Frangers and we arrive with about 15 mins until transition closes. At this time I realize I have left my bike nutrition (mega bottle of Infinit) at Black Rock in the fridge and surprise surprise the previously unattainable evacuation finally feels achievable.
I am metaphorically and almost literally sh1tting myself, but I’m not going to freak out in front of the family. A quick raid of my special needs bags resulted in 8 gels and the around 3 hours worth of Infinit I had stashed dry in a bottle in case I dropped my main bottle. My new plan is to use gels and bananas from the aid stations lap 1 then Infinit for lap 2. Don’t know if it will work, but it is calming to have a plan.
Single bottle on the bike, tyres pumped, quick photo with the family then off to the swim start.
I had done the Bayside Tri Club's practice swim and conditions were mild, so I know I can do the distance. But there are a lot of people. A lot. A real lot. And they all look like they can swim like Thorpie and punch like Mike Tyson. I am going to die.
I start about 3 rows back in direct line to the first mark. I get smashed. My race plan says "be more aggressive than usual but don't ruin yours or someone else's day for a few seconds". That plan lasts about 8 strokes and is replaced by "don't die, don't die, don't die, don't die, don't die" and "you can't drown in a wetsuit". Panic attacks controlled, I find myself constantly stopping and starting unable to find a way through or over the packs. Finally at the first turn I spot a gap and do my best impersonation of a sprint half over another swimmer into it, then settle into a rhythm. The rest of the swim is pretty uneventful and boring, other than the bit where I cop a massive elbow direct to the google from a swimmer I don’t even know is near me.
Out in 1:38 which shocks me until I realize that is the pro start time and my watch says 1:15. First goal hit.
Packed. Find a small spot on the floor and do what I need to do. 6:38 but took my time. Run with my shoes to the bike (didn’t want to slip or break a cleat) and put them on at the bike and then out onto the ride.
It is pretty busy for the first 20kms or so. Grab some water and a banana at the first aid station and that becomes my routine for the rest of the ride.
After the first 20kms things thin out and most people around me are riding legally. I was targeting a very low heart rate for the first 45kms and it is easy to achieve due to the tail wind. Gel every 20 mins, give it an extra 10 mins if I have scored a banana.
Fly into the tunnel for the first time, cruising past the TT bikes on the way out. I actually forget I am on the small ring and when I realize I botch the shift and drop my chain. Oh well, quick stretch of the legs while I fix it.
Life is pretty rosy at the turn around and then even better as I hit 68 going back through the tunnel, flying past other riders. Then comes the headwind.
I get swallowed by a pack very quickly with people going everywhere. There are people trying to ride legally, people trying to cheat and people who had no idea what to do. I have two cracks at riding off the front, but the longest I survive is about 3 mins before being swallowed up again.
It is lap 1, there is a headwind and plenty of riding left to do so I decide to sit legally off the back and ride a constant sustainable effort in preparation for the second lap's headwind.
Best decision I make all race, for two reasons:
1. A TO pulls up alongside the pack not too long after and rides with them for quite a while breaking them up.
2. Riding a consistent effort leaves me with some strength for the 2nd lap, which pays off for me.
The second lap outbound is kinda dull, probably as I drive part of that road every work day. The wind makes it easy, but I am holding back in fear of the headwind on the way back. Manage to drop my chain yet again making the same stupid mistake, by this time I am in serious testicular pain so am happy to get off for a min. I really haven't found a good roadbike/TT position, sooooooo uncomfortable even through my legs feel strong.
Turnaround, fly through the tunnel and back into the wind with a quick wave to the BIL. Head down, shoulders in and pedal. From the Dandy by-pass (quick tip, if you are in Melb always by-pass Dandenong) through to about Thompsons Road you are exposed to the wind. Every overpass you ride under funnels the wind and makes things even worse.
It’s a case of tuck, pedal steady then a short stretch out of the saddle to get feeling back downstairs, tuck pedal steady. The only pack I see on this return lap disappears off into the distance. I am just staying steady and consistent while regularly picking off other riders. It’s hard, but seems to be working for me. All the riders that had been swapping places with me are now permanently behind me and I feel that I’m not hurting in places I need for the run. The only unknown is whether I have eaten enough with my compromised nutrition plan.
Make a point of looking around on the last bit into Frankston, appreciating the crowds and that I am in an Ironman with just a marathon to go.
Ride time 5:31
Pretty straight forward, have a vollie pack my bag for me which is much appreciated. He then offers to help the guy next to me and empties his bag onto the floor. I point out that my fellow competitor had just packed that bag. Opps! All ended ok and I get a chuckle out of it.
Look at my watch and it seems to say I am at 6:5x. That means I have approximately 4:00 to run the marathon and finish under 11 hours.
Just a marathon to go in 4 hours. I've done 4 of those and my first was the last Melbourne Marathon run from Frankston to the city. So no problem, been there done that, got the finishers t-shirt and medal. My worst stand alone was around 3:52 and I was slow and fat. My PB of 3:25 was in 2012 and I am lighter and much leaner than I was back then. This is in the bag, 'cept I have never done a super brick. I know it is going to hurt earlier and maybe more than I am used to.
Remembering AP's words to the effect that no-one ever said that they wished they had run the first 5kms faster, I start easy. Spend the 1st km putting gels into the loops on my race belt. Spend the 2nd km getting the sh1ts with them hitting me in the leg, then pulling them out and lobbing them in a bin. The next 3 kms are spent wondering how anyone runs the first 5kms too fast?? I feel terrible and am running the way I feel. Things get better and looking at my splits I did the first 9kms in 37 mins. My plan said 5:15/km to 5:30/km pace, aim for 55 min 10kms - I am an idiot. I have started too fast.
I spend the first 10kms obsessing about my pace. It is driving me nuts, but I wanted the sub 11 hours. The little guy in the Kona Winds gear, whom I had taken nearly 3/4 of the bike to get clear of, has caught me again. I am going insane.
To break the mental cycle I decide to check my watch at 10km marks only. I am at about 12kms and disturbed about how much the pain has already built. In standalone marathons the first pain I feel is in the feet at around 20kms, this run my feet already hurt and the 20km mark was still a long way away.
Also of concern is that I hate walking in a marathon, when I start walking I find it hard to start running again. When I ran my pb, it was the only time I didn't walk during a marathon. In this run I am walking the aids stations from aid station # 2. My rule is I get water on the run, walk at Gatorade, walk through coke, once enough coke is down run again. This rule gets harder and harder to stick to, but I do and by not walking the entire aid station I pick up a lot of time on other runners around me.
Kona Winds and I are still swapping places, he passes me in an aid station then I pass him in between or vice versa. Along the way the pain is ebbing and flowing, with each flow getting a bit more intense.
The advantage of a home race means I can count down the suburbs to Mordy where the live site and special needs are. I want my special needs. I want the Red Bull in one of my daughter's pop-tops.
I get it and it sucks.
I get a boost from the live site and being served my special needs bag by the vollie, but the Red Bull sucks.
I drink half on the run then toss it in a bin. Did I mention that it sucks.
Back to counting suburbs.
I know the stretch from Mordy to Brighton is a roller coaster and remember running it back in 2006. It is going to be hard, but I have an ace up my sleeve. I call them family.
My Aunt and Uncle live at Black Rock, about 10kms from Mordy. My wife, daughter, Mum, Dad and my Aunt are all planning on walking down to the path to see me come by. I just have to run there and they will lift me through to the 32km mark which would just leave 10kms of pain. I can do 10kms of pain.
The stretch from Mordy to Black Rock is horrible. My splits show I was very slow. The pain is growing with each ebb and flow. Fortunately I am in an ebb when I see Steno, but it quickly turns into a flow when I have to run up the few ramp to street level. Just have to get to Black Rock.
I see Mum first, not really a surprise as at 6ft tall she is easily the tallest in the group waiting for me. The others come into view as I am waving but they haven't recognized me yet. They see me. Calls go out to my daughter as she is playing, bored, waiting for Daddy. My wife is videoing on the iPad as I approach, while telling my daughter to get ready for a high 5 - multi-tasking in a way that comes naturally to mothers.
High 5! Words of encouragement from all and I can hear the emotion in Dad's voice. Up straight, cadence lifts, past the runner in front and off up and around the corner. 32km mark here I come.
I make to 32kms and I am hurting. That's ok, I have been here before and hurt worse. 10 to go and I just have to stay steady. Time is still manageable but I think my pace has dropped (it had).
In my first marathon I hit the wall hard right on the 32km mark. I didn't really know much about the wall or the second wind at the time, but I learnt quickly. Once I got my second wind I jumped in with a pacer and advised that the last 10kms was about your own private hell. I think he was trying to tell me to shut up and run. That had been a slow marathon.
So now I think of the last 10kms as my own private hell. The last 5kms as a special room in my own private hell. The last 10kms of this run will live up to my thoughts.
The pain is constant, but strangely not the worst I have ever experienced. Maybe walking the aid stations made the difference? Kona Winds has disappeared, I think behind me, not to be seen again. I am also steadily passing people and I take strength from this.
With about 5kms to go I catch a member of the Knox Tri Club. He is hurting bad. I pass him while he is walking, then he passes me on the run only to walk again. This happens 3 or 4 times. A mate rides alongside him for a little while, telling him about last year, does he want to succeed like the guy last year? I can tell what my new mate is thinking, yes I want to be an Ironman but I really want this pain to stop. I don’t see him again after about the 40km mark, but I am sure he finished strong.
With 2kms to go I know I am going to be an Ironman. Other than the aid stations, I haven’t walked.
My race plan was thrown into disarray before the race had even started, but I stayed calm, adapted, managed the pain and negative thoughts and now am within sight of the finish line.
Once in start of the finish Shute I pick up the pace, partly because that's what you do and partly because I can clear another runner and have the Shute to myself. My hammy goes into spasm and I spend the first half of the Shute running like Quasimodo. It comes good, give the box a nod as Mike Riley calls me an Ironman, then arms raised across the line.
Shake hands and chat with a nice man, whom about 10mins later I realise is Greg Welch. Opportunity missed, I really regret not thanking him for what he has done for the sport.
Towel over the shoulders from a vollie who takes me to get a medal and into recovery for ice cream.
Run time of 3:56.
All my goals times, met including my dream goal of a sub 11 hour finish.