Race Report: - The Turtle, IM Australia 2014

As we know Ironman isn't always about the pointy end of the field. In a race of 1600 competitors there will be 1600 different stories. Some peoples race goes better than expected, some worse. Regardless of who you are Ironman is about dealing with the things that happen during the day and getting yourself to the finish line. This is "The Turtle's" story and how she got through her day.

This was IM # 5 for me, and second time at Port. Based on my training and previous race times, I had estimated a 14:30 finish, broken down into 1:30 swim, 7:00 bike and 6:00 run. I had hoped to do slightly better in the run, but hadn’t ever had a good run so wasn’t tooooo hopeful.

I ended up pulling off a 14:45, with a 1:21 swim, 7:42 bike and 5:28 run. So long story short. Swim = good. Bike = rubbish. Run = good.

Long story long...

I’d had some difficulties with my back at my last race in March (Challenge Batemans Bay), so had been spending a lot of my time getting and keeping it good. I have a bulging disc (L4/L5), and some osteo arthritis in my lower back – but it’s the disc pressing on the nerve that has caused me issues over the last couple of years. I went into Ironman having no problems with my swimming, biking or running. I kept the massages, stretching and strengthening up, and felt pretty good. It also seemed it was the swim-bike combo that aggravated it, as I had no problems in any single sport during training.

I had also been training with a power meter, and had my goal outputs for the flats and hills, as well as my short term maximums. With the wind however, I took the disc cover off the back, and put a low profile rim on the front. For the sake of the hills (and preserving my back over the long course) I took my roadie with clip-ons, and had tweaked my position to be uber-comfy.

Swim. I started in the something – 1:22 corral, and ended up swimming a 1:21 after an uneventful and enjoyable swim. I also had stopped a couple of times to stretch my back and loosen things up, in the hope it would help long term. I found the rolling start worked well, although I did miss the excitement of the mass start.

T1 – uneventful, and slipped on some arm-warmers and stuffed a piece of neoprene down my suit to insulate my chest a little.

Bike. Here’s where things get iffy. I felt great for the first 20km or so, watching my power on the hills, and using my smaller gears to keep from pushing too hard early on. However, this is where things started to go pear shaped. My back started to get super stiff and I was getting muscle spasms across my whole lower back. I couldn’t stay in the aero bars more than 2 mins, and even on the hoods I had to keep standing on the pedals to relieve the pain. Stretching didn’t help (only aggravated the spasms) but getting more upright (standing) alleviated the pain entirely. But I wasn’t going to walk 150km! The pain had migrated through to my quads by 100km, and I could barely put out 100 watts when seated, so there was a lot of stand-pedal-sit-coast-repeat going on. By the second lap, I also noticed I had started to get a bit wheezey, which wasn’t too surprising as my 2 main asthma triggers are exercise and cold. But I’d never had a problem in a race since my first one in Port in 2006. So I started huffing on my inhaler.


T2. It was great to get off the bike, but agony to sit down to put my shoes on. I thought "this is going to be a reeeeeeeaaally long day" – but when I stood up and started running, the pain was gone!

Run. My plan was always to run 4 min:walk 1min, and I did this from the start. My wheezing got a lot worse on the first lap, especially coming in from Settlement Point in the wind. I huffed on my inhaler but it didn’t seem to make much difference. Oh well. I kept the run:walk going, and was still running my segments through to the end of the last lap – which is a first! I wanted to pull off an average pace < 8min/k, and finished with an average of 7:48. I saw "Bored@" a couple of times (and I believe I almost caught him!), and stopped for a walk and talk with Coffs Pete somewhere along the way. I was really happy with my run, and it was the best IM run I have ever done – I guess I saved my legs on the bike!


Finish – Unfortunately, it just didn’t do it for me this time. I didn’t get the buzz I used to. Maybe the pain on the bike knocked the edge off the enjoyment for me. But I just didn’t feel it. I haven’t registered for next year, as my next event is the Surf Coast Century 100km run. I’ll wait till after that and see which excites me more. Then decide what I will do next year.

I have an appointment with my physio and doc next week, but I’m not sure what they can do for me. I suspect that it wasn’t the disc issue that caused me the pain, but the swim-bike combo aggravating my arthritis. I’m still in pain sitting or twisting over a week later. But lying, standing and running are fine. It also took a fair while for my chest to settle down, so I’ll talk to my doc about a different medication (stronger?) pre-race to help.

Anyway, that’s the story of The Turtle. Cheers!