Ironman Melbourne – The Journey and the Race.

 On the 24th March I completed my first full distance Ironman race, Ironman Melbourne. This doubled as the Asia-Pacific Ironman Championships for 2013. An Ironman comprises of a 3.8km swim, a 180km cycle and a full marathon of 42.2km to finish. I’ve always admired people that have worked full time, had a family and trained for an Ironman. I’ve also wondered how they managed to fit it all in?

In 2013 I had a window of opportunity to find out so after completing a few half ironman races over the last two previous summers I was entered, committed and ready to give it a go. As usual with these things the goal posts keep moving. Initially it was to do an Ironman and finish under ten hours, which then changed to 9hrs 30 mins which then moved closer to 9 hours as the training progressed…and if I was close to 9 hours I may be able to get a qualifying spot for the World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.

 On the 24th March I completed my first full distance Ironman race, Ironman Melbourne. This doubled as the Asia-Pacific Ironman Championships for 2013. An Ironman comprises of a 3.8km swim, a 180km cycle and a full marathon of 42.2km to finish. I’ve always admired people that have worked full time, had a family and trained for an Ironman. I’ve also wondered how they managed to fit it all in?

In 2013 I had a window of opportunity to find out so after completing a few half ironman races over the last two previous summers I was entered, committed and ready to give it a go. As usual with these things the goal posts keep moving. Initially it was to do an Ironman and finish under ten hours, which then changed to 9hrs 30 mins which then moved closer to 9 hours as the training progressed…and if I was close to 9 hours I may be able to get a qualifying spot for the World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.

 
The training had all gone well, plenty of long rides and runs, no injuries, I’d managed to cope with the constant level of fatigue and I now felt stronger than I ever had before. Getting to the start line for an event like this uninjured and in one piece is an achievement in itself and something that I made sure I remembered as I stood on Frankston Beach with 2000 other athletes ready to start the day. Due to a large 2-3m wind swell over the days leading into the race the swim had to be shortened for safety reasons. After getting bumped and buffeted around I exited the water and got out onto the bike. The wind was howling and the two 90km laps were into a stiff head wind on the way out and a strong tailwind on the way home. My goal for the ride was to pace myself and not cook my legs for the run. It took a lot of discipline to let people pass that I could normally ride with but I just had to trust myself that I’d be able to run them down in the second half of the run. The ride was going well, I was getting my nutrition on board and the legs were feeling good. After 160km I was over being on a bike. My neck was aching from trying to hold an aero position for four and a half hours, my butt was sore from the saddle and my quads were starting to cramp when I stood up on the pedals. I came into transition and running off the bike into the change tent felt like my legs didn’t belong to me. More cramping was a worry as I pulled my shoes on. Out onto the run and I had a good idea at this point that the day was going well and the legs felt OK. I had a quick conversation with my legs “hey you two, listen up down there,  42.2 kms at 4min 30 sec per km and there’s a good chance that you’ll both be joining me in Hawaii in October”. For the first couple of km’s I wasn’t too sure if they’d heard me as I had some lingering cramps but once I got my correct pace sorted I started to feel good. Good enough that I had to keep slowing down so that I didn’t cook myself for later in the run. Ticking off the km markers and getting nutrition on board went very well for the first 21km and then I could start to feel the fatigue catching up on me. 25-32km was hard work but once I got to 32km I knew I’d be OK and even managed to crank the pace up. People had told me that there would be some deep dark places I’d end up in on the run as the fatigue started to affect my mental state and that doing an Ironman was the stupidest thing I’d ever done and going to Hawaii would be something that I’d never want to do. I had tried preparing for this situation but it never really eventuated…..thankfully. I was hurting at times but always in control of the situation. Whether it was the training, the nutrition plan or the pacing it is hard to know but it all seemed to be going right. By now I’d passed 40-50 people on the run which was a major help to the mindset of a heavily fatigued body. 37-42 km was tough as I’d expected it to be but the crowd support was really building at this point. The last couple of kilometres were an awesome feeling and the thoughts of all the hard training that had gone in made the pain in my legs disappear. I even managed a quick high five with Oscar as I spotted him in the crowd with Grandma. Running down the finishing chute and knowing that all the months of hard work, long rides and early starts had come together on the day was an awesome feeling. I finished in 48th place overall, 23rd non-pro and 8th in my age group in a time of 8hrs 37 min (23min swim, 4.58 ride and 3.11 run).  I also picked up a Kona spot for October so it’s off to the Hawaiian Ironman, the birthplace for the race and arguably the toughest single day endurance event in the world and the annual venue for the Ironman World Championships. To have managed to do this in my first Ironman with all the unknowns that a race of this distance can throw at you on the day was particularly satisfying.
 
Triathlon may be an individual sport but it’s impossible to do without a good team around you. Being able to do a sport like this is a privilege and it takes effort from those close to you. Firstly I’d like to thank Holly for all her support, encouragement and help on many levels. Without her I simply couldn’t do it. Thanks to Helen, Graham and Oscar for their support. Also thanks to Brent at Footpoint, Jono at Tineli and Danny at The Fixed Wheel for their support.