A bit about me:
I’ve been around this sport since 1991 starting in the Milo junior series and finishing up in 1996 at the age of 17 pretty much burnt out and wanting to explore other sports mainly surfing and drinking. This continued until 2012 where I realized I was getting too fat and something had to change, I started back running at park run and met a few guys in the local tri club so I decided to buy a bike and enter my first race for 15 odd years (Gatorade Raby bay). Finished the race in 25th and knew there was a lot of work to be done, so I started doing club races and entered another Gatorade and managed to finish 5th in AG one place ahead of now friend RBR (I don’t let him forget it either).
I decided that long course is where I wanted to focus on and went about working my way through the different distances with the plan on entering an Ironman in 2016. Noosa was my first OD followed by a couple of Kingscliff’s and then last year completed challenge GC, SC HIM and Port HIM. I was now totally hooked and when I mentioned to my training partners about entering Cairns 2016 they said let’s do it in 2015, how could I refuse.
Training for me started in December with a decent base behind me albeit carrying a calf injury, I’ve never seemed to learn from my injuries and this would be the case through my whole training block. I was offered some great advice but took little of it on board and continued to break down until I decided it was time to take it serious, It cost me over $1k in med bills to realize it.
Someone who I now class as a good friend put together a training plan of sorts based around my current lifestyle. With a young family I was always concerned of the impact such a race would create, I managed to follow the plan for 20 weeks with minimal changes only caused by ongoing injuries, making it to taper feeling pretty happy with my progress. I still don’t quite understand the taper process, I actually found it more stressful then the training as it was difficult to slow down and stop eating while trying to keep sickness at bay.
Cairns the lead up:
The group of four that I had trained with all headed up to cairns together deciding to send the families up on the Saturday, this gave us time to set the bikes up Friday, explore the expo and attend the welcome party Friday night. The banter between this group never ends as RBR would attest and I think it helped to calm my nerves through my first IM, the family arrived Saturday morning and the boys decided to ride the bikes to palm cove even though we had booked the transfer. Up to this point I was quite calm but I never wanted to ride up as I was concerned about riding on the wet, busy roads running tubbies. Sure enough our youngest member who you may know Sam (Aust junior Ultra runner) punctured on tubbies, I felt so bad and went about helping him resolve it as best we could. This pretty well ruined his race as we filled the wheel with pitstop and decided not to change the wheel and reassess on race morning.
Sam’s tyre was flat!! We decided to pump it up early and see if it held pressure until swim start which it did so we ran with that. I guess this helped me because it took the focus off the race and didn’t give me the opportunity to start stressing. I also had my family up there and I was pumped ready to go.
Lesson learned, don’t sit around chatting when you should be in the pen getting your position sorted. I ended up having to start at the back of the hour group, I believe this slowed me down a fair amount as I had to jostle for position for the first half of the swim, re entering the water around the flags I succumbed to some sort of stitch which I have never had before. It led to me shortening my stroke until it passed, turning the last can I decided to put my head down and try and make up a little amount of time with a 6 beat kick to get some blood flowing, I exited the water in just under 56 min which I was quite happy about.
I clearly need to practice these, 5 and 4 min transitions with a bit of chatting but I guess being my first I was a little unsure of what to expect and It may have helped me calm down.
I went into the bike fairly confident knowing I had put the time into training with a lot of hill work, now I look back I think that was my downfall. I watched as the top riders went passed and remembered friends saying to me don’t worry when this happens as you will find yourself riding through them later in the day. I hit the Port turnaround feeling really comfortable with my nutrition plan working well, that’s when I realized we had some serious wind/rain to contend with.
I tried to focus on staying aero and keep within my power numbers whilst continuing to take in fluids, this worked well and I hit the turnaround still feeling ok. It was at about the cane fields heading back into Port that I felt myself struggling to take in nutrition and by the time I hit the last turn at Port I physically couldn’t put anything down which also meant I couldn’t take in salt tabs. I started to dry reach and this continued all the way back passed rex’s lookout where my quads blew and every down stroke they would go into spasm.
I again tried to focus on being aero thinking the longer I can stay down on the bars the quicker I can get off this damn bike. I felt some reprieve from the winds when we entered the housing estate just out from the airport and my spirits lifted as I think we were only around 20k from home and said to myself this is just like doing a casual ride along the coast at home. I entered the dismount line expecting a handler to just help me off my bike and take it away from me(like on TV) but soon realized this wasn’t the case and I had to run it an extra 30 odd meters, might not sound like much but after 180k in those conditions I didn’t want to spend another second with my bike.
I ran to the change tents actually excited about running a marathon even though my feet thought otherwise.
Running out of transitions I had my family positioned around the main turn to the finish and apparently I gave a look to my wife like ‘I don’t want to be here’, mainly because my feet were aching from the bike shoes. I had a nutrition plan put in place for me ( ½ gel and salt tab first aid station followed by 100ml coke and salt tab next station and repeat) I entered the first aid station and drank coke and no salt tab, the next aid station I took ½ gel and no salt tab. I think that’s when I realized I had to focus otherwise this run was going to end messy, from then on it became like clockwork and I just focused on each aid station and it’s funny how you forget you are running a mara.
I wasn’t tired, I felt surprisingly fresh and this appearance must have shown as my wife said to me after the race she couldn’t believe the change in the course of 6k. I knew I had to pace myself well and looking back I think I did averaging 5:30’s (not bad considering I expected to walk a fair amount). I was told if you are handed a glow stick you are having a bad day so I expected one at the last turn around near the airport but thought If I just lift a little I maybe lucky, the last 4k I averaged 4:55’s and I found myself running on pure adrenalin and not wanting to stop, at one stage I looked down and I was running at 3:51’s and I just laughed at myself.
At this point emotions kicked in as I realized I had pretty much completed my first IM, I hugged the family on the way into the finish chute, made a dismal attempt at high fiving mates in the VIP tents and finished with what I think was a respectable time of 10:39.
Loved it, will be back for another go. But this was only possible with the support of my friends and family and most importantly my wife who made a comment when I finished..... “I get it now”.