I first raced Forster in 89. At that stage I had been doing well in shorter events, but had yet to complete anything longer than OD. I had to write off to the RD of Forster with my previous race history to be allowed to start as I hadn't done anything long before. Low & behold, they not only approved my entry, but seeded me with no. 11. My bike looked so out of place in amongst the "big boys" bikes, with their sponsors everywhere, so I got a niko pen & wrote "This Space for Lease" on the homemade wheel cover.
I had a good race, for a while. I was top 20 out of the water (expected for a Qlder), and then held on to be around 40th off the bike. This however was where it all fell to pieces. I'd originally thought of going long because I was getting back problems that only flared when I ran sub 4min pace. So I figured I won't have that issue in an IM. The only problem here, was if I rode hard for over 5 hours, the back problems came on no matter what speed I ran. That walk out to the water park was the worst time of my life. What really amazed me though, was I actually caught someone. And not just anyone, but Mike Prentice, one of the top Triathletes in Qld at the time. I walked with him for part of the way back, until he told me I was looking better & should run. I must have been gullible (young & dumb I think AVAGO said), but I started jogging and managed a jog/walk the rest of the way. I came in just under the 11hr mark (sub 13, so still an IM), and vowed to come back next year & do it properly.
Fast forward 12 months, and I lined up at the start, not seeded, but sponsored. I did do it properly that year, and until I got a slow flat and had to repump my tyre twice in the last 30km, I was actually considering a top ten finish. Until then, I was with a loose group riding top ten, and figured I had a few of them in the run. I came in on the bike about 5 minutes after thes guys, but had burnt a few candles to stay where I did. I finished the run better than I thought though, and came in 12th, which, at the time was dissappointing because I could only think about what I missed, but really, was beyond my wildest dreams before the race.
The memory that sticks in my mind the most from this race, and from my whole triathlon career, was the bike turnaround in Forster. My dad had probably only seen me in 1 or 2 races, ever. He was certainly not the type of person to get excited, and hardly ever let a smile break his face. Well, he & mum came down in the caravan to watch (my brother was also racing this day), and as I came round the roundabout, all I could hear was Dad screaming and cheering. I think that gave me more energy than the bananas & anzac biscuits we were using for nutrition.
Unfortunately, I had only 1 more IM in me, and after Kona I decided to have a small break from Triathlons. That small break became 19 years. I've done 1 real race since then (Corporate Tri's don't count), and if I can get my injuries sorted, my next race will be IM Aus. I was hoping to do it this year, to mark 25 years since retirement, but it wasn't to be. The plan is now 2017, so watch this space.
ps: I plan on using the same wetsuit (I used it in my 1 race back & it's still fine), and the same bike as back in 90.
A photo of the Transitions "family" from Port Mac
Like many, my first introduction to IM was WWOS on channel 9.
I’d recorded the 1995 Hawaii with Mark Allen’s final win, and PNF’s collapse 400metres from the finish. But it was the image of the late night age group finishers that really blew me away. NFL player Darryl Haley. Ralph and Katy Perry ( no, not that Katy Perry) in their 60’s crossing the line together at 60yo+. I was hooked. I must have watched that video hundreds of times over the early years.
Having to qualify, I went to Forster for the Half in 1998 and absolutely smashed myself for what is still my HIM PB of 4:50.But that wasn’t fast enough for a first round invite, so I sweated for a month or so till Glenda rang me up to offer me a rolldown. I can still hear her saying,” Would you like to do Ironman next year?” and my reply was “ I’d kill to do IM”LOL.
They moved the 1999 race from April to May. It rained all day and was absolutely freezing. The only thing harder than racing that day would have been supporting/volunteering. I remember Mrs Flashman passing me as I walked up the Bennett’s Head rd hill ( MFD equivalent …on the run) telling me “Come on”. She qualified for Kona that year. I remember my Dad standing on top of a wheelie bin in the dark, videoing my finish line salute and hearing the emotion in his voice yelling encouragement. On the drive home, all I could think of was how I was going to qualify for next year, and that there was only 48 weeks till IM.
Every race from 1999 till 2003 I crossed the finish line holding up a sign for my daughter, and then in 2004 for my 5th time finish I managed to convince the ex- to let me take my 5 year old to Forster . The photo of the two of us crossing the line together still hangs on the wall. During that same race at about the 30k mark of the run, I came across a guy in his early 20’s , walking, wearing an MPTC top. I said, “Come on mate, we’ll run it in together”. Craig is in that photo with my daughter, and despite our 20 year age gap, we’re still good mates more than 10 years later.I've even used it as my avatar photo.
This year will be my 7th time at Port. I really like the place but, for me Forster still holds pride of place from the days when it was the only IM in Australia.
I’m an incredibly lucky man to be able to participate in this lifestyle with my lovely wife. After her first IM finish in 2012, we dropped in to Forster and I showed her the old course. Standing at the top of the hill, beside the sea pool, looking down the straight of what would have been the 400metre finish shute, I had goose bumps trying to explain the atmosphere. The feeling running up that last 50m sand dune and turning left at the top and seeing it all laid out for you and a couple of other people finishing at the same time was special.
It’s kind of hard to explain the evolution of the Ironman “brand” over the last 20 years. I’m certainly not trying to detract from the current day experience because the race distance is still the same. The pain felt is commensurate with the amount of training put in, and how hard you push yourself on the day. For those that were part of it, there was a sense of achievement from back in the day where you had to qualify in a race, rather than being the fastest with a credit card and logging on to a computer. With Port only closing entries last week for this year’s race,it will be interesting to see if the marketing department tries to create something to re-create that demand.
One thing is for sure, going to “the show” for the first time is still a very special experience. The Thursday night Carbo dinner with Mike Reilly where he counts back through all the Finishers from 5x / 10x / 15x , etc, then the loudest applause for the First timers.It’s like being welcomed into a big family.