Jen McMillan - Race Report – Tre-X Redlands 28 October 2017
Well what do you do when you’ve done an IM, an IM 70.3 and a relay swim of the English Channel with a Half Marathon chaser in the last year and your house looks like nobody loves it? You take a “rest” and try to get some jobs done around the poor old house that has been waiting far too long. But then you train in a bit of a rudderless way and continue to eat like you are training for IM and a few kg start to creep on… Bugger! So it seemed like a good idea to do a Tre-X race or two to give me something to train for and a reason to ride my much loved but largely unridden (like, for years) MTB. And so I entered the Tre-X Redlands Sprint Tri. A 350m swim in a dam (far too short in my opinion 😊) a 10km MTB ride as two laps (definitely the most challenging part since it is supposed to be a bit technical) and a 2km trail run (should be a doddle – surely)!
On race morning I was nervous. You might think it was about the lack of a coherent race plan, or that I had only ridden the MTB three times in the last year (all in the last three weeks) or that I had no idea what the course was like, since I had last been to Tre-X only as a swimmer in a team. You’d all be wrong. In the great scheme of things, what was giving me grief was body image. I was feeling squeamish about putting my “no longer IM weight” body out there on display in a trisuit and running around! Yep – I pretty much always feel like the heaviest “athlete” in show, but generally I am happy with how well-trained my body is and confident that it has the job under control, regardless of what it looks like. Not sure why I was in such a funk considering I am not as heavy as I was before I started training for IM, but on Saturday morning I was there in body funk land. In the “things happen for a reason” file, one of the first people I saw was a great gal from Melbourne, wearing one of my favourite Cycology kits. After saying hello and telling her how much I also liked that kit, she proceeded to tell me that she runs “Body Positive” hikes in Melbourne and was up here to lead one in Brisbane the next day. A bit of that must have rubbed off on me (or perhaps it was when she later told me she thought I was in her age group – 30-39yo, bless her) and I felt much better by the time I hit the water!
I figured I would roll through the swim and save my energy for the MTB, but my partner Duane told me to go out hard on the swim, because I always have a good race if I feel like I had a good swim! I rolled out when the hooter sounded but I could hear Rich in my head telling me to take it out hard and then settle in (my usual race plan). I picked up my pace, hit the end of the swim (literally – had to climb up a steep muddy bank) and ran into transition as second place female outright. Ok, we are doing this!! 😊 And Rich would be happy that I did not look at the time on my Garmin at all!
Helmet on, black t:zero socks on (the perfect socks for these muddy pursuits) MTB shoes on, Camelbak on, glasses on. Grab bike and start to run out of transition, pulling on full-finger MTB gloves as I go (regretting it because they are so hard to get on wet hands). Two ladies get past me in transition – including one in an Australian team trisuit with her name on it! Wow! For me, this was a good transition – no game of Monopoly and no phoning a friend or having a cup of tea! I am off. All this euphoria lasts about 200m, when I turn into the single track and the sole of my right MTB shoe parts company with the rest of the shoe! Bugger! For a moment I consider a DNF, but decide that I will plug on, using the sole as a pedal. It’s only one foot after all!!! I still have another one clipped in, right?! Despite the internal monologue, I have managed to catch and pass one of the ladies who passed me in transition, and another doing the long course. OK! Pretty good for somebody who has an MTB style something like the lovechild of Nervous Nellie and a Sack of Spuds!!! 😊
So the left shoe hangs in there for about another 500m before it too parts company with its sole! Double Bugger!! I consider a DNF for a bit longer than a moment this time, but I have already ridden the best part of a km into the course and I decide I will tough it out riding the soles like pedals, and re-evaluate whether I can manage another lap when I get back to the start.
I loved the course – lots of sets of steps, little timber bridges and flowy switchbacks and a few bits of rock garden. I really enjoyed it apart from the times when my feet would be unweighted enough to fly off the pedals! Eventually, as I nearly came undone with my feet coming off during a great little G-out, I had my second “things happen for a reason” moment when I remembered that I had a roll of electrical tape and a small pair of scissors in my Camelbak!
In the “things that happen for a reason” file, I was not able to wash my bike after my ride Thursday morning. I thought I heard a spoke break while I was out riding and stopped to look for it at the time, but they all looked fine and I didn’t bother testing them all at that stage. So I did not find my broken spoke until I finally got to clean it the night before the race. After a bunch of discussion with my MTB guru, Banger (not his real name – lol) I decided that since the spoke was still tucked inside the spoke nipple, I had ridden about 7km in the forest like that already, and the wheel was still straight (thank heavens for MTB wheels with lots of spokes) I would ride it like that and carry a roll of tape in case it popped out and I had to tape it off to the next spoke. So, IF I had found it earlier, I would have fixed it and not been carrying tape. And IF I hadn’t broken it I wouldn’t have been carrying tape. BUT I WAS CARRYING TAPE!!! Why did it take me 3.5km to remember that!!?
So I hauled off and started taping my shoes to their respective soles! You beauty – just call me McGuyver!!! Then I realised I had taped over my cleats! Bugger! So I got the little scissors and cut the tape away from the cleats. And off we go again. Yippeee! I decide I like this MTB stuff again, and resemble the Sack of Spuds part of my love-parentage just a little less! J I made it to the end of the first lap and decided not to DNF. I have not DNFd a race EVER and I was not planning to start now. So off onto the second lap I went. It was a much nicer lap. I passed a few ladies and a bloke early in the lap – those hill repeats did their job – and was starting to feel a bit better about it all. Eventually I came to a set of uphill steps and was pulling up so hard on the last step that I pulled out of the tape and was again free-footing it! Oh well – only about 1km to go! No stopping me now! Suffice it to say, I was absolutely thrilled to see transition and to flop on in with one shoe still wrapped in tape and one sans sole (still firmly attached to the pedal)! I was pretty rapt to make it through the MTB leg with black side remaining down and all the blood on the inside! With my MTB style this is not always the case! 😊 I donned my runners and cap and off I went.
I think it is safe to say that the battles with the pedals and shoes took a fair bit out of my legs and since I have not done a single run off the bike since about May, my legs were toast. I found the uneven ground across the grassy banks quite challenging and my calves were tightening up with every step. In the end I walked the uphills, trotted the flats and downhills, and waded through the thigh deep creek crossing (wouldn’t it be nice to be taller and say knee-deep?! 😊) Fortunately the finishing flat came at the end of a nice downhill, so I ran over the line with a smile on my face. In the end, I lost a fair bit of time on the MTB leg (surprise surprise) and the run was pretty dodgy. I came second in my AG (there were only two of us) and happily, did not come last outright despite the shoe saga. I would probably feel a bit funny about a second place medal for coming last in my AG, but I am choosing to believe that this is a medal for persistence, when surely a DNF would have been the easier way to go!
PS: The shoes were old favourites and were about ten years old! I had worn them three times in the weeks before and they had been fine. But I had a few accidental unclips uphill, so nipped up my pedals just a titch before this race. Obviously the hair that broke the camel’s back! I went straight out and bought myself a new pair of MTB shoes the next day! Obviously (and sadly) I cannot claim that no shoes were harmed in the making of this race report! ☹
James 'Mahatma' Coate - Great Northern Walk (GNW) 100miler Ultra Marathon
My first ever race report and my first ever miler, how exciting! Before I go too far, hats off to the organisers (Terrigal Trotters) for this event, after having completed in excess of 170km on foot in some pretty harsh terrain, I can see that the planning alone must’ve been exhausting. Fantastic job, I cannot express how grateful I and probably the other runners were for the Trotters’ efforts, brilliant job. As you read my report, just remember that ultra-endurance trail running is just like normal running but slower, longer, sadder and lonely! The Calm Before the Storm. I flew into Brisbane from Cairns the Tuesday before the race. No big deal except for the bloke next to me, wearing what appeared to be a pair of daisy duke cut offs, and who was obviously feeling rather entitled to the entire armrest. I just made sure I had to get in and out of my seat more often than normal, I can be annoying like that. Other than that I spent the week turning my legs over and enjoying the pro-life. Kit was good, nerves were good and coffee was even better. My brother was my support crew so “oh my god it’s early” Thursday we took the long drive down the coast to Warners Bay. Along the way I get the message, bushfire has cut off part of the trail, a chunk of the trail has been closed, working on alternative start point. “Far Out!!” Okay, I said something else, knowing what was on the course maps I knew that there wasn’t a great deal of alternatives to be had. It was an anxious day and a half and not until the Friday night at the pre-race dinner that the Race Director was confident that a solution had been made. There was still the possibility that the fire plus another fire threatened to shut down the entire event, it was all down to the wind direction not changing. Race Check In - Correct Weight 2.30am wake up call, wouldn’t have been so bad if it wasn’t so damn cold. A short drive to the original starting point saw me lining up for race check in and weighing. Just in case I didn’t mention it before, it was cold, freezing cold. Lining up outside of the men’s toilet with wrist bands at the ready waiting to stand on the scales made me draw some parallels to horse racing and jockeys getting weighed. I was just waiting for one of the stewards to call out ‘correct weight’. Pre-race weighing for ultra’s is to monitor athletes for dehydration or hyponatremia. I’ve only ever seen one person with hyponatremia, it’s deadly. A briefing by the race director then had us travelling convoy style to a new start location where we would perform a loop and an out and back section along fire trails before joining onto the original trail and continuing as normal through to checkpoint 1. In total it was only going to cut 2km off the race. Start to Checkpoint 1 (26km) – Tortoise and the Hare It was interesting to watch the start. Half the field were doing the miler and the other half doing the 100km. Less than 1km in was the first major climb and being a 4wd style track it was quite open. Some literally did a sprint up the hill, no way I was going to try and do that, stick to the race plan conserve my energy. My plan was simple enough, power hike the climbs and steep descents. Run where it was possible. Overall though, everyone was relatively bunched together for the 1st half of that leg. It wasn’t until the single trail was encountered which involved a very serious climb that saw the field really stretch apart. The gradient was such that climb had, what was locally referred to as, ‘hugging posts’ installed at the top. Arriving at checkpoint 1, fresh as a daisy. All the replacement fluids and nutrition neatly laid out on the back of the ute. In and out like clockwork. Checkpoint 1 to Checkpoint 2 (26-50km) – Making Acquaintances The terrain was undulating with gradual climbs followed by some pretty sweet downhills dropping out of the range onto some farmlands in a valley and a bit of blacktop. Race plan, nailed it. No stress, easy paced, destroyed the single and fire trails. Spent the time enjoying the sights, some seriously awesome views as well as chatting to other competitors. The chat’s though, seemed like an awkward speed date with every conversation starting the same, “you doing the 100km or the miler? Oh the miler, me too”. “This is my 1st miler, what about you?” Rolling into checkpoint 2, still feeling fresh it was time for a 100% compulsory gear check and weigh in. It was also time for my comfort food, cruskits and vegemite, life is good! Was given some advice from a local runner, try and make it to checkpoint 3 before nightfall, the rainforest section can be tricky. Duly noted! Checkpoint 2 to Checkpoint 3 (50km – 80km) – Made a Friend Leaving checkpoint 2, I was feeling pretty good and slipped back into the race plan no worries at all. 5 or 6km into this leg of the race, some serious climbing started and never really finished. It was at this point that I caught one of my earlier acquaintances who decided to go a little too hard too early. We stuck together which made for some good conversation and just as importantly he was a local runner so he gave some insight as to what was coming up ahead. The running sections here were a little harder to take advantage of, as the climbs and descents got pretty gnarly. One climb in particular hit 60% towards the peak, with 20% - 30% inclines and declines being the norm. Entering the rainforest sections, I quickly understood why it was important to get to checkpoint 3 before nightfall, it was technical rock hopping at its best. I ran into checkpoint 3 bang on dusk. It wasn’t until I stopped that I realised it’s getting cold, very cold! Hot soup, hot potato and my go to vegemite cruskit made me good again. Checkpoint 3 to Checkpoint 4 (80km – 102km) – Feeling the Cold and Slipping Social Standards I’m now in my full thermals, gloves and all. My entire head is so wrapped up in buffs that I was expecting ‘Pauline Pants Down’ to be waving a placard at me demanding I remove my burqa as I went through the checkpoint. Doubling back along the trail, watching my step carefully I found the exit trail rising sharply up from the basin to find an easy going but sandy 4wd track. That little sting in the tail was about a 200m gain in 500m distance, no such thing as switch backs here! After a cruisy km or two, I realised my pack was wide open, stupidly I forgot to zip it back up at the checkpoint. It was also at this point I was realising that the cold was getting to me. A quick check of the pack I was happy nothing was missing and I was back on my way. 2 or 3 others weren’t far behind me and at about the 90km mark we hit a pretty steep and technical single trail downhill run about 1km in length. My left ITB was no longer happy, the downhill drops were absolutely painful and with me transferring most of my weight to my right leg I knew that I would end up overloading that leg and wreck myself. I was tree grabbing and rock hugging all the way down. I let the others pass me but down the bottom where it flattened out, I stretched out a little and I quickly caught them again and we sort of stuck together for a short while. At least my ITB was no longer singing. By now it was freezing, I was suffering in the cold and I was acutely aware that I was slowing up way too much. Myself and one other paired up, despite being relative strangers, it kind of amused me that neither of us had a problem displaying lax social standards in front of one another. This included the ever classic ‘bush hanky’ manoeuvre mid-conversation. Maybe it’s an ultra-trail thing or perhaps we’re just both pigs? Dunno, but it’s those special moments that count….. Coming into checkpoint 4, I realised that I left my joviality back at checkpoint 3. I wasn’t going back for it. Checkpoint 4 to Checkpoint 5 (102km – 130km) – Words I shouldn’t have heard. Checkpoint 4, 100% gear check, weigh in time and medical check. More hot food, foot rub, shoe and sock change. I looked like a bag of garbage. I had a second thermal top, for the life of me I still cannot work out why I didn’t put it on, but I didn’t and I later paid the price. Standing by the gear check table, a well-meaning pacer waiting for his runner to come in gave me some encouragement, I wish he hadn’t. In short, he told me I was killing it, I’m in at a great time, I’ll make checkpoint 5 whilst it was still dark, I could catch a few hours’ sleep and walk the rest of the way to the finish line and still make the cut-off. This would resonate through my skull as I grew mentally tired and seriously muck up my race plan. Leaving checkpoint 4 I was feeling better and it wasn’t long before I hit single trail again. I was happy and I was at a reasonable pace until I found the next uphill section and my ITB started protesting. To make things worse, at the top of the climb my watch froze (at exactly 109km) rendering my preloaded navigation points useless. These things plus the cold and the meaningful advice given to me, threw me off my game. Mentally challenged I pressed on but I failed to take advantage of the runnable sections. I hit the creek line which was hard going single trail with steep climbs and downhills, my ITB not in a good mood and neither was I mentally. After what seemed like an eternity, I was out of the creek section and found myself with 2 other runners and their pacers. They too were suffering and I kind of pushed my way in on their little party, I needed the company and I guess some security regarding course navigation. I was aware that I wasn’t thinking as well as I should’ve been so at least I had some companions. I managed some runs which seemed to do my ITB the world of good and perked me up a little. But now it was freezing, really freezing. Up ahead we spotted something odd, as we drew closer we realised it was one of the runners sitting on the side of the road, wrapped up in the emergency foil blanket, his pacer had gone to seek help. I remembered him from the 1st leg, he was one of the ‘hares’ early on. His race was now over and as he soon passed us in the sag wagon I felt so sorry for him, so close. We then continued our group struggle with one last big hill climb as the final kick in the guts before venturing on into checkpoint 5. I went ahead of the other runners during the climb but it was short-lived when I took a wrong turn. At least one of them spotted my torch light and yelled out to me and got my attention, could’ve been a disastrous end to my miler. I knew then and there that the cold was doing me in big time. My watch at least started working again. Checkpoint 5, oh how I loved checkpoint 5, they had a fire going for us! The official temperature on BOM was 3 degrees. That weather station was 9km away. One of the officials at the checkpoint was reading 1 degree. No wonder I felt cold. Again for reasons not known to me, I still didn’t put on my second thermal and the words spoken to me at checkpoint 4 were ringing in my head louder and louder. Checkpoint 5 to Checkpoint 6 (130km – 148km) – A self-fulfilling prophecy This is the type of trail I would normally eat up, largely undulating, open scrub and free flowing. But not this time. I was freezing cold and my head noises had convinced the rest of me that walking it would be fine. That may have been the case, but I robbed myself of time, a lot of time and I’m still angry at myself for that particular leg. Let’s never speak of this leg again! Checkpoint 6 to Finish Line (148km – 173km) – Hallucinations are Real! Coming into checkpoint 6, happy and miserable all at the same time, but mostly miserable. At some point during the night my chest became infected, I was now hacking up yellow phlegm and my mind was with the fairies. I recall my brother convincing me to put my hat on as it was daylight and was going to get warm. I tried arguing with him but I’m glad he won that argument. Another fire, hot stew and mars bar slice was the bomb. I went through another medical check and after checking my weight and standing balance I was given the all clear. Some words of useful encouragement from my brother and I was off. I actually started a trot, it felt nice but was short lived. A rather cool suspension bridge crossing ended with a fairly vertical sandstone wall with steps. I had to drag myself up the steps, my ITB was in a sad state of affairs. For the next couple of hours, I was faced with steep ascents and descents across sandstone rocks, granite boulders, waist height steps, one last mountain and misery, plenty of misery. There were short sections that were runnable at times but I was in no mood. Some runners with poles got past me, that made me cranky, particularly as for a number of sections I could no longer get my ITB to cooperate and I was now literally dragging my sorry butt up and down rock ledges. Then the hallucinations started. I saw people and cars that just weren’t there. I was going to rip into my brother for hanging out at the trail instead of being at the finish line…only it wasn’t my brother, it was a tree. Then I saw one of the officials in a time cut-off point. I knew I was under time well and truly, why would they be there now? Only it wasn’t real, shadows and shrubbery! I hit some short sections of 4wd track and missed plenty of opportunity to get a trot up and reel in some time. My mind had convinced my body that the words spoken at checkpoint 4 were to be treated as gospel. This unfortunately continued even when I left the single trail for the last time and onto the final 4wd track which was more than runnable. I dragged myself down a rather steep set of granite rocks and steps onto the beach front for the final trot home to the finish line, 500-600m of beach running. Best put on a show even though the run will hurt…. only it didn’t. As I trotted down the beach I had the realisation that even though my climbing was shot, the rest of my running was still pretty good. Instantly I knew that I’d squandered many an opportunity to make up hours of time. That little thought was quickly lost though when I ran to the line, cow bells ringing, crowd cheering and I puckered up and kissed the post, no seriously that’s what you do in the GNW100s, you kiss the post at the end. Like the scene from ‘Babe’ “That’ll do pig, that’ll do”, I was done, I’d done it. My 1st ever miler dusted with more than 3hrs under cut off. 32hrs, 47 minutes. I was cracked, but not broken! I celebrated with a bacon, sausage and egg sandwich and cola chaser followed by a 5hr sleep, 1 late night pizza and then another 8hrs sleep. Party on! Captain Hindsight, a hero of the modern age. What good would a race report be without a bit of reflection? A fancy term for “if only…” Poles – I’ve now gone and ordered some running poles. I was envious at the runners who had them and how smoothly they managed the trail at the back end of the race. The support that the poles gave them up hill and down has convinced me to give them a go. Mind games – To be fair, the longest distance I’d done in one hit before this was 85km. To my credit not once did I actually want to stop or sit down and cry. I was always going to keep going forward, unfortunately a combination of sleep deprivation and overall fatigue made me basically fulfil the words of encouragement that were given to me at checkpoint 4. Thinking about how to overcome this isn’t so easy. Experience is one, I’ve experienced it now and hopefully I can recognise it and act on it before it becomes a problem during my next miler. Using a pacer is another. Pacer – Coulda shoulda woulda. So many of my problems could’ve been avoided if only… My original pacing plan using coach Scotty wasn’t going to be a possibility and I let it die there. I should’ve got onto the Terrigal Trotters to seek a local pacer, evidently they were more than willing. My best piece of advice is if you can use a pacer, then use a pacer. Support Crew Equipment – When the back of the ute could be used as a table, accessing my gear was a treat. For the checkpoints where the ute wasn’t going to be that accessible, my gear was laid out in a plastic box on the ground. Bending down when tired is not fun. Next time my support crew will have a small camping table for my gear to sit on at the check points. Hot water was also at a premium and sometimes a few people wanted it at the same time. A small gas cooker for heating soups etc will be included in the support crew kit for my next big event. Nutrition/Hydration – I was spot on, I’ve practiced the same setup close to 2 years now and it never lets me down. 2 litres plain water on the back and twin 500ml bottle of liquid carb mix up front and a handful of gels just for a flavour change on the run. A bit of comfort food at the checkpoints, hot soup, cruskits and I’m good. I use the liquid carb mix so it also adds to my hydration as well as being easier to digest. Shoes/socks – I did a complete shoe and sock change at the 100km checkpoint, loved it. If you have the chance, then do it it’s a good feeling. Support Crew – Best thing, so much better than a drop bag system. All my things ready to go and a friendly face. Clothing – Often overlooked until too late. Champion Systems clothing, my nipples salute you! Eyewear – I wear prescription Rudy Projects with the Impactx2 Photochromatic lenses, best things I’ve ever owned. Protects the eyes from wind, sunlight and from getting eyes poked out by sticks and kung-fu fighting mishaps. Well, there’s probably so much more I could type, but I’m far too busy now planning for my next adventure of ultra trail! Ciao! Mahatma.
Sharon Dean - Ironman 70.3 World Championships - Chattanooga, Tennessee USA
In November 2016 I competed in Thailand 70.3 and was lucky enough to qualify for 70.3 world championships in Chattanooga USA. Since qualifying, my training plan has been specifically geared for this race.
Tuesday night we arrived in Chattanooga USA after 4 long flights and no sleep, only to be told by the airline that they decided to leave our luggage behind in Dallas, TX as the plane was too heavy. They decided to bring the bikes though. With no details on when the bags would arrive we left the airport with bikes and the clothes we were wearing. The adventure continued upon arrival at the motel when I realised I had booked a motel with the same name as one in the city, but the one I booked was 15km from the race precinct. Opps! The following morning was spent stressfully trying to find accommodation near the race precinct. Several sob stories later and making people feel sorry for me meant that by the afternoon we had a new motel near the race precinct but still no luggage. I went for a run down through the athlete village (still in the same clothes I arrived in) and checked the place out. The atmosphere was awesome! I couldn't wait to race here! The luggage finally arrived late Thursday afternoon. Now I only had to focus on the race.
I had a practise swim in the river and a ride through town. My first time riding on the right side of the road was an experience itself!
Friday arvo I racked my bike and found somewhere that served salmon and veggies for dinner. Race morning arrived and I felt ready but super nervous. This was the day I had been thinking about and working towards for the past 10 months. I re read my race plan that coach Em had sent me the night before. I knew all the hard work was done and I just had to go and do it. The air was chilly and there was a final call that the race was wetsuit legal. I didn't mind either way. I went for a short run and did a good warm up then put my wetsuit on and lined up in my age group. The sun was just rising and the river looked amazing. I actually couldn't wait to jump in and swim in it! The age groups had a rolling start so I seeded myself appropriately and waited nervously in line. The start was off a pontoon which I had never done before. As I watched the girls before me start I knew this was going to be a tough course. I reassured myself I would be fine and whatever happened I would adapt, overcome and persist. I approached the start and they were letting about 6 go at a time after a beep. I took a big breathe, jumped in and off I went.
The water was warm and I immediately felt warm in my wetsuit. I started off at an easy pace until my nerves settled. After about 50 metres I picked up the pace and felt good. I sighted well and came to the first turn body which had us swimming straight into the sun and upstream so I couldn't see anything. I knew where I was swimming as I had memorised the course. I could see the huge bridge up ahead so I swam towards it. I could feel the current pushing against me and my arms were starting to feel fatigued. I shortened and increased my stroke rate to see if that helped as long strokes were not working. I managed to make it to the turn to come back downstream, this was about 3/4 way through the course. I immediately felt my pace increase as I began swimming downstream. I was quite fatigued by this stage but still had plenty left. I finally made it to the finish and got grabbed by a volunteer who pulled me up the stairs. I hit lap on my Garmin but did not look at my time. Another 3 volunteers helped me pull my wetsuit off which I had never experienced before. They actually got in the way but it was nice of them to help. I picked up my wetsuit and ran through transition and got handed my bag. I pulled out my helmet and sunnies and through my swimming gear in it. It was a long run to get to my bike but I found it ok.
I executed a perfect mount and my feet went in my shoes perfectly. It felt great to be out of the stupid river and on my bike. I got my heart rate down and began to focus. I knew the climb started about 6km into the course so I rode conservatively and hydrated. I concentrated on staying to the right side of the road and passing on the left. It felt so wrong but I got the hang of it after a while. As I approached the hill there were lots of people cheering. The first bit of hill was a nasty pinch and I had to get out of the saddle to make it up. Then the climb began. It was steep and straight up. I was in my granny gear and grinding up at about 10km/h. I rode in aero to rest my back as it was going to be while till I was at the top. I just kept thinking it is just like in training and I knew I could keep up a slow grind for ages. There was lots of girls walking their bikes up the hill and some had even stopped completely! There was lots of encouragement from fellow competitors when they passed me which was nice. After about 1.5km of climbing we came up to a little township that was full of people cheering and yelling at the top of a steep little pinch of hill. There were crowds of people all standing on the hill like in the Tour de France! Some were dressed up in Elvis costumes and funny outfits! As I approached I got out of the saddle to make it up the pinch and it was the most amazing high I have experienced in a race before to ride through the crowd like that! I think I was the only competitor smiling at that stage even though I was hurting. It gave me a massive high and I powered to the top. After that there was a slight downhill bit before more climbing. My legs were fatiguing but I knew I could keep going. I finally made it to the top of the main climb and then the fun began going downhill. I knew I was good at descending so off I went. I didn't hold back at all and I passed so many girls. The climbing was all worth it to go down hill! When I hit the bottom of one of the hills I couldn't see anyone in front of me or behind me. I was alone in the Georgia forest and hoped I had not gone off course! I started wondering if there were grizzly bears here! A minute later I could see someone up ahead so I stopped panicking.
Once I hit the flat parts I began to make up some time. I knew this was not going to be a fast bike split due to the climb so I didn't bother looking at my time, I just focused on doing what I could. I found a comfortable, maintainable pace and pushed on. I stayed on top of my nutrition and hydration well and I felt good. The aid stations were on the right so I was not used to grabbing a bottle with my right hand. Luckily I managed ok without stacking it! The views on the course were spectacular. As I approached the end of the bike course I began focusing on what I needed to do for the run. I spun my legs out as best I could and took in some nutrition. I dismounted well and a bike catcher took my bike as I grabbed my run transition bag.
I ran to the seats to get ready and I could smell pee! Most of the seats had pee all on them! I was horrified! Yuk! I stayed away from the pee and put my shoes on and dropped my bag. I was off on the run course. I started off easy and I felt ok. About 1km into the course I hit the first hill and my right hammy cramped up completely causing me to stop. I had my cramp spray with me so I overdosed on it and was able to run again after a while. Not an ideal start to my run but I stayed focused and put it behind me. It had warmed up a bit but it was not hot compared to home. I ran up the first two hills and thought they weren't too bad. The course crossed the river on a bridge and then the real hills began! I looked up and saw lots of people walking up the hill. Wow they were steep. I got up the first hill and then there was another hill! My pace was so much slower than usual and my heart rate was all over the place. There were lots of people standing on the hills cheering and drinking beer which was awesome. The course looped through a suburban street which was cool. People were all sitting on their porches with their American flags cheering and clapping. The volunteers at the aid stations were amazing and so wonderful. I made sure I grabbed a few extra clif gels to take home as a souvenir. The course then went back over the river via a different bridge which of course was uphill and smelt like rotten wood. After that bridge I had one more lap to do. So many fellow competitors were so encouraging and supportive. I ran past one girl who yelled out to me "So glad you got your luggage!" She was obviously someone who I had been talking to earlier in the week. It made me laugh. I pushed through the last part of the course with very fatigued legs. The hills were nasty and smashed my quads and calves. I gave it all I had in the final few KM's and my calves started to cramp up. As I approached the finish chute I could see a huge crowd cheering. The atmosphere was amazing. I spotted my supporters in the crowd who handed me an Aussie flag to cross the finish line with. The commentator called out my name as I crossed the line. I got my medal and a cap and a towel. Wow it was such an amazing experience to finish such a tough world champs course! I was proud of my effort and knew I had given it all I had.
Swim - 39 mins Strength: Sighted well and stayed on course. Weakness: I could have shortened my stroke earlier into the swim against the current.
Bike - 3:11hr Strength: Pacing up the hill and riding downhill. Weakness: Gear selection on the hills and maintaining good cadence.
Run - 2:05hr Strength: Overcoming cramps and not letting it mentally affect me. Weakness: Endurance and strength on demanding hilly course.
Overall it was an extremely tough course and I executed it to the best of my ability. I was well prepared and the strength training I had done for Cairns IM certainly helped me in this course. It was the most amazing experience to compete against the best female athletes in the world and I want to do it again one day!!!
Robbie Andrews - ITU Long Course World Championships - Penticton Canada
What a day!!!!
My day started at 4.30am with my normal coffee and toast with my good old buddy TB.
We headed down to transition which was only a ten min casual walk, did all the usual bike checks and got out of there fairly quickly, happy with my set up for a quick T1.
My start time was about 40 mins away and I didn’t want to get in the water too soon so I did a dry land warm up, off for a run for about 12 mins with 6 x 1 min builds to raise the HR. Once that was done it was time to get my wetsuit on and head to the start area.
I was in the 2nd group and had decided to get there early to get a good start position. TB and I hugged it out and wished each other the best of luck ….. time to get in the zone! I positioned myself at the front on the right hand side - the gun goes and all those nerves and butterflies disappear. It was a beach start with some duck diving. By the time I started swimming I realised I was out the front on my own!
I slowed my stroke and breathing down and saw a guy come up alongside me. We were swimming about the same pace and at the 300m mark, I decided to get on his toes. I went into a very relaxed state as I sat on this guy’s toes. My watch beeps at the 500m mark and I looked at the split - it is 7.10 so I think this is a great pace. There was another guy on my toes and he decided to go around us - he ends up swimming alongside us for the next 500m, then we started going through the first wave of slower swimmers. He seemed to be sighting better and was now moving past the guy I was sitting on so I changed toes!!! Great decision, he takes me the rest of the way right to the beach. I have never had an easier swim. I stand up and it’s 45 mins and I’m in the top 10 out of the water of my wave (50 plus).
I breezed through T1 and now onto my bike. Time to get comfy and go about making my race plan happen! Scotty told me to start easy on the bike and keep the NP around 235 through the first 50kms. I find I’m doing a lot of soft peddling to keep it under that number. By the time the first 50kms is up my NP is 240 ish but now I can up the effort a little more. The next 40kms I kept my NP around 245 and still felt pretty good. I have built the ride just as I needed. The last 30kms my perceived effort is higher but my NP is only 230 ish so I think that is ok. I finished my ride feeling pretty good and nailing the power that Scotty set me! 245 average NP for the 120kms and 3hrs 19 time.
Now onto the run, I really wanted to nail this run - I didn’t care where I finished as long as I had a solid run. I started running out of T2 and immediately feel like I was going too fast. I see Jinny on the side line and I feel a rush of emotion through my body. I slowed a little and look at my watch – I was running at 4.30 pace and that felt ok for the moment. I settle into just ticking off each KM - I have no idea where I’m positioned in my age group. I get through the first lap (10KM) in 44 mins and I’m feeling good still, the 2nd lap is all about not falling asleep, that was one of the things Scotty told me so I had to keep telling myself that! I get through the next lap and it’s 46 mins so 20km down and 10km to go, now it’s starting to hurt! I have to really start digging deep but I just concentrate on cadence and getting to the finish line. All the crew are now together, Jinny, Jackie, TB, Murph, Lauren and James - they all give me so much strength. I am just running on adrenalin now and I finish the next lap in 45 mins and an overall time of 6.25 ish and my 30km run in 2hrs 15 - that has to be a PB run off the bike for me!
The announcer calls me 3rd in my age and I can’t hold the emotion. It’s an unbelievable feeling to have a great race at the world champs!
And that evening I get to realize my dream of standing on the podium holding the Aussie flag! It’s very surreal. But all this can’t happen without the people that support me and that I surround myself with!
Firstly 17Hrs, Wayne and Christine have been looking after my training and race kits for the last few years. They are a beautiful couple and their kits are amazing. Then there is T:Zero, the whole crew are amazing but Scotty Farrell is the Bomb, not only can I call him a Coach but a good mate as well, thanks doesn’t seem enough!
TB as most of you know is my training buddy and great mate. We do nearly all our training together. We are on the same page and neither of us miss many sessions - I wouldn’t be able to do this without you buddy so thanks!!
Then there is my rock and wife Jinny. For someone who has been such a supporter and believer in me, I can’t thank you enough, I love you dearly honey and can’t wait for our next adventure.
Sandii Rixon - Townsville Triathlon Festival 19 August 2017
Placed perfectly on the calendar a month out from ITU World Champs, Coach Em & I made the call to take leave from work and head to Townsville. It was the only opportunity to get a race under the belt before heading to Europe. After a long winter of training it was bliss to finally have a crack and see what progress had been made. This was no local race with people travelling from all over the country in an effort to bank some early qualifying points for World Champs next year on the Gold Coast. After much deliberation and discussion, due to the technicality of the Rotterdam course and potential for bad weather, Coach Em & I decided it was best to take the road bike to Europe. That also meant taking the roadie to Townsville, even though it was a course suited to TT bikes. It was an opportunity to have a really hard hit out on the roadie and test the running legs after a tough week of double training sessions.
Being a FIFO worker, I now had a very limited time frame to set the bike up how I wanted it for racing. I’d been having some comfort issues over the winter, so booked in a trip to see Michael Baker at Custom Bike Fit to dial in my position. That guy is a genius and an all-round great guy. I had hesitations about changing my position so close to a race, especially with having to run off the bike. I instantly felt I could put more power through the pedal. I was also much more comfortable, comfort equals more relaxed, relaxed equals more power :)
As some of you may know, my trusty 910xt decided to kook it on the Monday before the race. Thanks to everyone’s speedy input, I raced to the computer to purchase a new watch in the hope it would arrive before I flew out Thursday. FWIW I upgraded to the 920xt and LOVE IT!!!
Friday morning was time for some course recon and a chance to figure out how my new watch worked. The bike course followed The Strand and out to Palleranda. Flat & fast with postcard water views. It was absolutely beautiful! With no wind the water was like glass!! A few short and sharp efforts and a run off the bike then it was time find somewhere to eat and put the feet up.
FINALLY…Race day! Routine as usual. 2 slices of toast with jam and a banana. I’d double checked everything the night before so it was just a matter of grabbing my bag and strolling the 400m to transition. I set up my spot and helped a few mates that were doing their first ever tri. Looking around I could see a few familiar faces from the local Gatorade Series and knew it was gonna be a hot contest. I wasn’t nervous. I was more like a junkie waiting for their next hit. It had been a LONG winter of training & 4 months between races.
After the usual pre-race banter and toilet stops we donned wetsuits and went for a warm up. The conditions were perfect! Not too hot, glassed off water & no wind. We eventually got the call up to the start line and got sent on our way. It was the usual rough and tumble out to the first can with the added bonus that when you’re wearing wetsuits, everyone glides off each other instead of the normal pub-brawl. From the first can we thinned out into a long line. My plan is always to get out to the first can as quick as possible then try and hang on to someone’s feet. I got in to a good rhythm and just relaxed and enjoyed it. The super calm conditions and layout of the swim course made it easy to keep an eye on what was happening around me and be able to just keep tacking on to the faster swimmer’s feet.
Out of the water and up the beach, on to the bike and out on to the course. It was a 2 lap course out to Palleranda and back along the coast and a great opportunity to test out the different positions on the roadie. On my way out to the turn around, I spotted who I knew would be in the lead. When I got to the turn around I checked the time difference between us. Not that I would ever be able to catch her, she is a machine, but It gives me an idea when I see her again to make sure I’m working hard and see if I have gained or lost any time.
Back in to town we went, past transition and on to the second lap. Soon after, the girl in front of me lost her water bottle, which required some evasive manoeuvres to avoid. Upon seeing it was her only water bottle, I rode up beside her and offered her mine, knowing I still had my other bottle with Infinit in it. She was young and it was starting to get hot. I felt bad for her as 20km is a long way to go at race pace without any water. I didn’t think anything of it but realised later that what should have been her hard lesson to learn, became mine.
Heading out to the turn around I noticed the wind had pick up. Last lap I had been sitting on around 35km/h and now was doing about 40km/h with the same effort. The penny dropped that as soon as we turn around it was going to be a tough grind back in to town. Heading back to town made we wish I had the TT at times but I was comfortable knowing I can achieve a very similar position on my roadie. It was head down and working hard all the way back to transition.
A quick trip through T2 and it was out on to the run course. The course soaked up the gorgeous coastal views and newly re-vamped Jezzine Barracks. I wasn’t pushing it too hard, just trying to get in to a comfy rhythm. My watch beeped “1km” and that’s when it turned downhill. I had a sharp pain in my side, just under my ribs. “WTF?” I thought. I’ve done everything right, how could I have a stitch? (I used to have bad troubles with stitches but have worked hard on my nutrition to scrub them out). I slowed the pace a bit to let it pass and eventually it lessened. Feeling better I picked the pace back up, the legs were feeling great, I hadn’t cooked them on the bike this time. Getting comfy again the stitch came back, this time stronger. I slowed again to let is pass but it was being persistent. Once it would pass then I would pick the pace back up. This was the pattern for the rest of the race. I was getting so annoyed, thinking “what could it be?” That’s when I realised that my act of kindness was now kicking me in the butt. Even though I had nutrition on the bike by way of Infinit, the lack of water may have been enough to be causing these stitches.
It was hot by now and you could see there were a lot of people struggling with the heat and the aid stations, as always, seemed to be few and far between. The whole run leg I didn’t take in any nutrition. Each aid station I would sip on some water, trying to dilute what was in my stomach. Extremely frustrated and getting angrier every time the stitch came back, I thought “F*** it. I’m not letting this ruin my race”. It must have been around the around the 8km mark I had a glimpse at my watch and thought if I pushed it I might be able to salvage something & could come in under 2:40. I negative split the last 2 kilometres to stop the clock at 2:39:01. My fastest time without a tide assisted swim. I was absolutely stoked with my swim and bike. The fact that I was on my roadie and clocked my second fastest bike split has given me so much confidence heading to Rotterdam. It also showed that all the hard work over winter had paid off. I felt I had the legs for a solid run but nutrition (kindness) let me down. I’m looking forward to the day when I put all the pieces of the puzzle together. Just remember… No friends on race day!!
Shane Lee - Ironman 70.3 Cairns 2017 The tale of a T:Zero 70.3 Rookie 11 June 2017
I signed up for Cairns 70.3 in August last year. Had no idea what I was getting in to. Just some friends were planning to do it and I thought why not! At this stage I had never had a coach and I stumbled along for the next few months through to the Noosa Tri 2016 on my own. After Noosa I decided that if I was going to go all the way to Cairns for my first 70.3 I wanted to do it properly and give myself the best chance to enjoy the experience. And so my search for a coach began. In December I was lucky enough to find super coach Emma Quinn and we started hatching a plan to get to Cairns. Best decision I ever made. I have so enjoyed the training and racing and discovering just what is possible with the right guidance. As we made our way through early races at Caloundra and Mooloolaba, the ultimate goal was always Cairns. But these early races gave me great confidence that the training was working and I was achieving times I never dreamed possible. And then suddenly We were on the plane to Cairns and the main game was here. I can honestly say I loved every minute of the training. It seems I can push my body further than I ever thought possible. So, this is my first ever race report from my Rookie 70.3!
Race Day Wake up at 3 am. Had a very ordinary night’s sleep. Pre-race nerves got the better of me for the first time in a long time. I wake up feeling good to go though. It appears the nerves have all been dealt with the night before. Light breakfast get dressed and off to catch the bus to Palm Cove. We arrive early and are on the second bus of the morning. Good should give plenty of time to check and double check the bike and all the gear in transition. Mostly quiet time on the bus broken by some nervous chatter with my fellow Dalby T: Zero athlete Sarah. I lose count of the number of times we ask each other if we are sure that this is a good idea!! Arrive in Palm Cove and get transition organised. All set early so we have some time to finalise our gear and head to race start. This is a good thing as neither of us has raced in a wetsuit before. Talk about the blind leading the blind!!!!! Anyway, we manage to get our wetties on and start the 20 minute walk to the Swim Start.
The Swim Race plan set by Em has me starting in the second wave. The swim is my strength and usually holds no fears. My only doubt this time was the wetsuit. I get set in the holding area and soon hear the first wave called to the start. What they can’t be starting already. The sun is barely up and I am struggling to see the first buoy! It looks like a lot of athletes in front of me but very quickly I am at the head of the que. And we are off. Don’t mind the rolling start as I do prefer my own company on the water. Quickly settle into my own rhythm and space and head towards the first buoy. Felt nice and smooth once I was through the initial chop. Settle into a nice pace and the longer the swim goes the better I feel. Past ½ way in the swim and I feel really good so decide to up the pace a bit. Into the last 1/3 of the swim and I continue to pass people so I figure I am going OK. In my mind, I thought a time around 30 minutes would be really good. Around the final pink buoy and head for the beach. At this time I can feel the early stages of a cramp in my calf. Kick a little and it seems to go away. On to the beach stand up and a quick look at the Garmin – 28 minutes! Good start.
T1 As I head to T1 I remind myself of Em’s instructions – take your time in Transition!!! Well I may have taken that a bit too far I think – seriously I could have had a 3 course meal in the time I took. My first experience for the day with the awesome volunteers. A lovely lady who packs my bike bag with all the swim gear as fast as I can get it off….The wettie takes a little getting off and I struggle with getting the top half of the tri suit over the shoulders. Finally all dressed, bike shoes and helmet on and good to go. T 1 in Palm Cove seems to go on for ever – seriously longest transition EVER – and then add the challenge of negotiating those speed humps with the random rocks in them in Bike Shoes. Finally reach the end of T1 and on to the bike.
Bike Just settle in get comfortable and take time to negotiate the early turns. Finally reach the Captain Cook Highway turn North and we are off. Plan is to ride solid to the northern turn around and then push a little on the trip back. With a slight tailwind I quickly settle in and the first 30k seem to pass in no time. Through the first aid station with nothing required so head down and go. Plan for the hills is to take it easy and use the time to sit up off the aero bars for a while. Nice steady pace and keep turning the pedals over without stressing the legs too much. Over Rex’s Lookout and I stick to this plan. I get passed by a few – I go past a few as well. Feeling good and enjoy the ride down the other side. Made sure I took the time to take in some of the scenery. Feeling really comfortable and reach the turn around in good shape. Ok, 30 k down 60 to go. I do a quick mental check of how I feel, nutrition plan and everything is good. Back through the second aid station – need some water at this one so slow down. Another first for me getting nutrition on the go. Get it first go and the Volunteer seems just as excited as I am that we nailed it! – Did I mention how good the Volunteers are! Quick mental check again, nutrition is on plan fluids are good – I feel good and the pace is solid for me. The ride seems to fly by and suddenly back to Palm Cove. Ok – 60 K done and 30 to go. The road narrows from Palm Cove on and I get caught in some traffic. Seems to be long lines of athletes with very little opportunity to pass. I back off a little and wait for wider roads. Through Smithfield and on to Yorkey’s Knob road and the final turn back on to the Highway. The airport appears on my left and I know that there is not far to go now. Back off to an easier gear to let the legs freshen up in the last few k’s as per the plan. On to the Esplanade and in amongst the crowds. I see my wife and give her a wave. T2 and off the bike. Legs initially feel a little wobbly but soon settle.
T2 Take your time in transition – same plan as T1 and again I may have taken it too far!!!! Take the time to change my socks, more sunscreen, race belt, nutrition and we are off again! Make sure I don’t forget the awesome new Hot Pink T: Zero cap…
Run Out of T2 and away on the run. The plan is to put the ego aside and walk through the aid stations. Feel good in the initial part so run through the first aid station. Check the watch – sub 5 minute pace for 1st K. Oops – a bit too quick so decide I should follow coach’s instructions and walk through the 2nd aid station. I will walk through all aid stations after this. Water on board and reset. Take my first gel around the 3rd aid station and get some more water. Just after this the belly starts to play up a little. I decide to push on and continue to run. It eventually settles but makes me a little nervous about getting the next gel in. Rest of the 1st lap goes smoothly. I stick to the plan and put together 10 pretty consistent kilometres. Past the finish shute and collect my second lap band. This is it 11 k to go and I complete my first 70.3. Pace seems to drop a little for the next couple of k’s but then settle again at a comfortable pace. I get to 17k with little trouble. Then it all becomes a bit of a struggle. The pace drops again and from this point I just concentrate on ticking off each kilometre. Reach the far turn around point at Airport Ave and tell myself that it is all downhill from here (I know the course is flat but I needed something to hold on to). Through the aid station at 18k and I take a little more time just resetting and getting the water in board. I pass my wife for the final time at around 19k and I know now that I am going to make it. Back past the crowds and the T: Zero tent gives me a huge lift. In to the final k and the smile starts. It stays the whole way to the finish. Round the final bend and on to the Red Carpet – I can see only one other athlete already at the finish so it feels like I have the entire finish shute to myself. Soak up those finish line feels. The smile that started at 20 k just got wider and wider. Across the finish line and I have done it! 70.3 complete. Again the awesome volunteers are there to catch me. Medal around the neck, Towel over the shoulders and they ask how I feel – Bit tired but pretty good I reply. I take a peek at the Garmin – 5:28 – way beyond all my expectations.
Sharon Dean - Ironman Cairns 2017 11 June 2017 'You are an Ironman'
Three years ago I decided to sign up for a triathlon at the end of my footy season just to try something different. Prior to this, swimming to me meant pool party’s with mates, riding a bike was when I left my car at the pub and I had to go and get it hungover, and running seemed pointless unless I was running after a football. My first enticer triathlon was somewhat untidy, especially as I forgot to pump my tyres up on my rickety old mountain bike. I did a bit of training and completed my first sprint tri in late 2014. From then I caught the tri bug. Since 2014 I have done 4 x 70.3’s and 12 months ago I decided to challenge myself and sign up to a full Ironman. I came on board with T:Zero in early 2017 and have been under the guidance of Coach Em. The sessions she gave me have been exactly what I’ve needed and I had complete faith in the training I had done in the lead up to Cairns IM. It has been very difficult at times juggling my training sessions around my busy shift work roster while ensuring I get enough sleep when I’m on nightwork. Em has always given me sessions to fit in with my shifts and at times even lightened the load when my work has made it near impossible to complete certain sessions. I felt I was 100% prepared as well as I could have been coming into this race. Before the race I was super nervous. I knew I could do it but I had a fear of the unknown. I was pumped and excited to start. When I arrived at transition Sunday morning the atmosphere was amazing and I couldn’t wait to start. As I put my wetsuit on I could not have felt more ready. I kept telling myself I can do it and I will be fine. I told myself the 3 words I was going to keep in my mind for the day. ‘Adapt’, ‘Overcome’ and ‘Persist’.
Swim Once I crossed the line in the rolling start, I hit start on my garmin and I was off. Having not quite mastered a perfect dolphin dive I stuck to my usual face first into a wave dive and I started flailing my arms about. A few strokes in and my nerves were gone and I was focused. I was swimming nice and easy and made sure I didn’t go too hard. We were nicely spaced out due to the rolling start and I didn’t get too many kicks in the head. I was mindful of the current having swam at Palm Cove regularly so I swam slightly against it. Once I made it to the first turning bouy I settled into a rhythm and tried to conserve some energy and swim long strong strokes. I wasn’t able to consistently draft due to the chop but I managed to draft a few times which helped. I found it difficult to swim straight due to the current and I had a feeling I was swimming off course. Once I turned around and started swimming back with the current I felt strong. As I was approaching the final turn bouy to finish I decided to pick up the pace a bit as I felt ok. Once again I swam slightly against the current to ensure I didn’t get swept away with it. I approached the beach and as I stood up I hit the lap button on my garmin but I had planned to not look at my time as it was not relevant. It was done and now I had the rest of my race to focus on.
T1 I ran into T1 I ripped my wettie, cap and goggles off as I ran. The volunteers helped me with my stuff and put my swim stuff in the bag for me and handed me my helmet and sunnies. I dried my face and shoulders and asked a volunteer to spray me with sunscreen. I was off through to my bike. I grabbed my bike and ran through transition seeing some of my mates cheering me on which gave me a boost.
Bike I settled into the ride quite comfortably. I train of these roads all the time so I knew them really well. I knew where all the hills and dodgy patches of bitumen were and I used this local knowledge as a mental advantage. An hour into the ride I was feeling great. I had to remind myself to go conservatively as I had a long way to go. I was sticking to my usual nutrition plan of 1 serve of homemade freedom fuel (lemon juice and rice malt syrup) and half a homemade energy bar per hour, plus some natural coconut electrolyte drink. At about the 90km mark my chain fell off as I changed down gears too fast. I quickly got off my bike and put it back on without any issues. It was so nice to have several competitors slow down and ask if I was ok. It probably only took me 30 seconds till I was away again, with grease on my hands. Riding into the main street of Port Douglas was pretty cool. There were people everywhere cheering and the MC called my name as I came up to the turnaround. After my second loop though Port I knew I just had to ride straight into town and I was finished. I kept a consistent pace and enjoyed the ride back. There were lots of nice fellow competitors that said hi as they overtook me or gave me encouragement. I did however have a disgruntled German man yell at me for no reason when I overtook him. I have no idea what he said but it was probably not nice. It gave me a laugh though. As I came through the northern beaches there were several friends waiting alongside the highway to cheer me on and take photos which was so cool. I pushed through the final 20km’s of headwind into town and felt good as I was coming into T2. As I rode the final 200m up to T2 I saw a huge group of T:Zero people cheering like crazy for me. I heard lots of people along the esplanade yell out my name. What a great way to finish my bike leg! I was super happy to see that I’d done my ride in under 6 hours.
T2 As I approached the dismount line I took my feet out of my shoes while concentrating very hard so I didn’t trip and fall on my face. I managed to pull it off smoothly and ran with my bike until a volunteer grabbed it from me. I ran into the change tent where I had 3 volunteers all there to help me. They wiped my face for me, handed me my shoes and socks while another one put my race belt on for me. They were so helpful. I didn’t waste any time before I was up and out of T2.
Run I wasn’t sure what my legs were going to do in the run but my race plan was to run for 15 mins and walk 1 min. I felt ok as I ran out onto the course and tried to settle into an easy pace. About 15 mins into the run I felt a horrible unfamiliar pain in my knee which made me have to stop and walk for about 5 mins to ease the pain. It eventually went so I was able to run again. Running past all the T:Zero crew and all my mates on the esplanade was amazing. It helped me so much and made me feel awesome. Unfortunately my knee pain came back at the 22km mark and caused me to stop completely. I was lucky to have coach Em there to give me some encouragement and support (and some Panadol). The pain was terrible but I knew I would never pull out unless my leg fell off, (even then I would still try and find a way to finish). I had to walk a fair bit until the pain eased and the drugs kicked in. It eventually eased and I was able to run for the rest of the marathon. My pace was much slower than I had planned but I was not worried as I had to adapt to my circumstances. I focused on controlling the things I could like my nutrition and staying focused. I had some little flasks of freedom fuel that I sipped regularly and 2 caffeine gels to keep my going. My final few KM’s of the run course were my favourite. As I ran up to the entrance of the finishers chute I had so many people who didn’t even know me high 5’ing me as I ran past. I approached the finishers chute and saw the finisher arch and I wanted to soak it all in. I saw my friends and coach Em cheering me as I ran down.
Then I heard the words I’ve been waiting to hear for 12 months… “Sharon Dean you are an Ironman”. It was amazing, emotional and slightly surreal. I crossed the line with the biggest smile on my face. I’d made it. All the hard work, all the discipline, dedication and sacrifices I’d made was all worth it to become an Ironman.
Overall time – 12:03hr Swim – 1:13hr T1 – 5:52min Bike – 5:56hr T2 – 2:49min Run – 4:46hr
My strengths in the race were my nutrition and hydration plan, staying focused and my mental toughness when things got hard. Things I can improve on are my sighting in the swim, staying consistent on the bike and being more prepared by carrying painkillers etc on the run. Overall I had a massive build into this race and I’ve put so much into it. Training 7 days a week and planning my training and meal prep around my shifts did not leave me much time for the social life that I used to have. I have learnt a lot about myself through this journey and I know it is one I want to continue as I love the lifestyle. I cannot wait to do another IM and see what I am capable of!
Cheyne Murphy - Ironman Australia 2017 7 May 2017 "The Stars Align"
10 months ago I took some advice from a mate Damien Collins, and inevitably a step towards what transpired only a few days ago. I took a leap to switch up coaches to learn new training techniques, and challenge myself with the next level of training to what I’ve been doing in the past. The old saying… If you keep doing the same thing, you will get the same result, and that’s where I was at with the results I had achieved to date.
Enter Richard Thompson aka “The Wizard” (only by me). Rich is an ex pro triathlete, who has won an age group world title in Kona, and can still mix it with the big boys! Flat out knows his shit!! Rich knows how to individualise a program to get the best out of every one of his athletes. Mandi and I met with Rich to discuss my goals and give him a commitment that I was all in to achieve them. From that day forward, all I wanted to do was impress him… to the point that Rich kept telling me to slow down…. “Plenty of time to go fast after Christmas” he would say.
The plan was seamless from the start right through to race day. At no point did I feel like I was out of my depth in the plan, and the steady increase in distance and intensity kept me from injury, and the fatigue was manageable. I’m a pretty motivated little son of a bitch, as most of you know, which had me complete pretty much every session that was put in front of me! Personal motivation was a must all the way through this program as my training buddy Nathe had taken on some new adventures outside of IM, and Dan was following his own program which never seemed to align. So I was pretty much on my own, that is if I couldn’t drag my brother out for a smash up!
The last build towards the race was very solid, but my running was improving that much that I couldn’t wait to get out there and run again. A little sick I know! I was training around 25 hours a week, and managing to fit it in with a busy work and home life….. Mandi may say different with her taking on full time work this year… and I may never get to train like this again, but we will see :)
There were many times that I questioned what / why I was doing a particular session, distance or speed….. but Rich always put my mind at ease with his educated responses. And I think he loved the fact that I wanted to know “why” as most just go out and do it, not knowing the “why”! One thing that I took on board early was to just “trust the system” I did this all the way to race day, with race week even being quite a bit different to my norm.
So race week is here, it came very quickly in the end. I was extremely confident in my fitness, and ability to give it a nudge on race day. I was confident enough, that I would discuss my goals of breaking 10 hours with anyone that wanted to listen. Some don’t discuss goals, but I like to, because I believe it makes me feel more accountable / motivated that people know what I’m chasing! I had to travel to NZ the week prior to the race for work, and Murphy’s law…. I picked up a cold in the process on the way home. Wednesday of race week, I was an absolute snot machine, and was trying to stay positive that I would be right come race day….. But in the back of my mind, there was fury that this had come about! Would I get better in time??? That I did. Each day leading to race day I felt better and better and wasn’t far off 100% come race morning. Rich once again kept me with a cool head that I would be right!
RACE DAY Rich had given me my race plan on Friday morning (another strategic move from him to send it quite close to race day, so I didn’t overthink it), and I had gone over it a thousand times to make sure it had sunk in! It was a little daunting, especially the run plan, but I was that confident in my fitness / ability right now, it didn’t scare me at all. Bring it on!
Here we were, on the start line of my sixth Ironman. The best weather that you could have wanted for race day… I’ve waited for a long time for a day like this, and it had arrived when I’m in my best shape ever! Good combo that! I must have said it a hundred times during the race “Today is your day.” I’ve learnt so much from my previous races. Nothing more so than sinking it in that you can only control three things on race day…. 1 Pacing… 2 Nutrition… 3 Your mind. Number three is the toughest, because if you don’t learn how to control it… it will beat you every time! Everything else is out of your control; weather, competitors, incorrect distances, current, etc, etc. Race morning prep all went to plan, and I was feeling good.
THE SWIM I positioned myself toward the front of the swim, to be with the fast feet, as I normally do, but I seemed to not find a lot of people to sit on, but was happy in my own space. I’ve been swimming solo for the last 10 months, so it’s something that I’m used to. The temperature of the water on entry was a little colder than my body expected and the arches in my feet cramped…. I just had to relax to get it under control and got into a rhythm immediately. Push a little for the first 10 minutes, and then settle in. The swim went well, I swam the exact distance, and my navigation was really good throughout!
Happy Days, out of the water in 55:56. 5 seconds slower than last year. Happy with that!
T1 Transition was a bit of a longer run than last year, and we had to go up and over the run path on carpeted stairs……so my time through T1 was about 50 seconds slower than last year. It was quite smooth though. 3:18 Only thing I will note for my next race is to take two seconds to dry my feet, as I just attempted to put my socks on my wet feet and wasted a few seconds.
THE BIKE Off we go. I had a different plan this year to previous where I would spin up the hills, rather than punching up them and burning my legs out. The plan…. 210W NP for the first 100km, 215-220NP for the next 30, and then 220-225 for the last 50. Either my bike computer or power metre was playing up the entire ride, and I was riding on feel for best part of the race. My power metre would come good every so often so I could get an update as to what I was pushing, and each time this happened I would regain a “feel” for the power I needed to stick to.
Looking at the numbers post-race, I stayed very consistent and ended with a 34k/hr average… a normalized power of 227 watts, and an average cadence of 86rpm. Bang on. I didn’t have too many lows on the bike, nor highs. This is something that Rich had instilled in me, to manage the highs and lows by just “being”. There was plenty of traffic on the first lap, but I didn’t get caught up in it and let the heroes ride off…. See you on the run chumps! Albeit that I passed most of them on the second lap of the bike anyway. I was in and out of town and had a real quick stop at special needs to get my bottles.
Second lap was a ghost town, and I wasn’t far from the leaders in the scheme of things, battling back and forward with the second placed pro female and a couple of others, kept things interesting. But all in all I had the road to myself to stick to my plan. On the way out of town, going up the hill to the Golf Course, I knocked my bike back to small chain ring to spin up… and my chain came off. First time this had ever happened. I attempted to put it back into big chain ring, and it nearly worked, but instead it locked up and stopped my cranks in their tracks…. Still going uphill, I came to a standstill, and nearly fell sideways! Good times! Off the bike quickly to fix it… pretty harmless time wise as I got it straight back on, but not ideal obviously.
I rode away from the few around me on the way home, as they fatigued and I continued to ride consistent! A couple of little crampy niggles in the quads on the way home as I went up hill, especially on Mathew Flinders…….That hill seriously sucks balls! I hit T2….. happy to be off the bike, and what felt to be in good knick.
5:15:56 – just over a 10 minute PB on the course.
T2 T2 was pretty snappy; shoes on, step through my waist belt, and took the rest with me. 1:28. About 30 seconds quicker than previous.
Out of T2 feeling good… The plan: The first three k, do what feels comfortable. No matter what the pace is, just feel comfortable. Remainder of the first lap, and the second to be at 4:50 – 5:00. Then start to turn the screws… third lap to be 4:40 – 4:50, and then the fourth lap, take it under 4:35 pace. As I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t scared of this plan, even though my fastest pace in a previous IM was 5:25 pace. I got word early through Mandi from Nathan that I only had to run four minutes quicker than last year to break 10 hours, which put my head in a good place.
Well………the first k was 4:26 pace… the second was 4:43 (including the hill) and the third was 4:30. Although it felt comfortable, I knew I was setting myself up for a fall, so kept telling myself to “slow down,” even out loud a few times! However, I couldn’t seem to slow down. At the 6k mark I made a decision to stop for the toilet and reset myself. From there, I kept surprising myself every time I looked at my watch, as I was holding pace between 4:47 – 4:56 and was very comfortable. The majority of them at 4:51 / 4:52 pace. It was uncanny how consistent I stayed throughout the marathon. Even when I felt a little fatigued, I was still holding the pace. The second lap passed, and I attempted to turn the screws. I was able to increase my effort, but this was simply maintaining my pace, rather than getting faster as prescribed. I was super pumped to be still holding the consistent pace at the end of lap 3 though, and knew that I was a fair chance of running a 3:30 marathon, which is something I had only dreamed of in the past. I was starting to get a little bit of cramp in my calf / achilles, so I took a bottle of cramp fix from the special needs… well didn’t that taste like shit! I thought I was going to pass out! Got over it though, and it seemed to do the trick for the last lap, allowing me to run strong all the way to the finish. I was on top of that run the whole way, and much like the bike, I kept the highs and lows to a minimum.
I’m going to list the pace for each km here, because it blows my mind! 4:26….. 4:43 (hill)…. 4:31…. 4:44…. 4:48…. 5:31 (toilet) …. 4:56…. 4:50…. 4:53…. 4:50…. 4:53…. 5:02 (hill)…. 4:47…. 4:52…. 4:48…. 4:51…. 4:51…. 4:53…. 4:51…. 4:52…. 4:47…. 4:54…. 4:58 (hill)…. 4:51…. 4:50…. 4:55…. 4:55…. 4:50…. 4:52…. 4:54…. 4:45…. 4:53…. 5:03 (hill)…. 4:53…. 4:53…. 4:52…. 4:53…. 4:51…. 4:53…. 4:53…. 4:50…. 4:47.
Run finished in 3:24:19 – Just short of a 25 minute marathon PB. Unbelievable!
After chatting with Rich in the lead up, I chose not to wear my heart rate monitor during the race as this would only mess with my head if I saw that my HR was up in comparison to all my training! I had the power / pacing plan to follow based off all my training results, and if I executed that properly, my HR would be fine! I didn’t look at my overall time during the run but was running some sums in my head as I hit the last lap. I didn’t slow down through the finish chute as I knew I was on a good thing and that Mandi was waiting for me after the finish line. Apologies to anyone that I ignored in the chute!
I crossed the line just after the second place female pro who they were in the middle of interviewing, so this lead to getting announced across the line after the fact… and no decent finisher’s photos…. In fact, my finisher’s photos have “pro female” “9:46” on the screen as they started earlier than us. Oh well.
Finish time of 9:41:00 – just shy of a 35minute PB from last year.
The Times: Swim: 55:56 - 1:30 pace T1: 3:18 Bike: 5:15:56 – 34 k/hr T2: 1:28 Run: 3:24:19 – 4:50 pace TOTAL: 9:41:00
With finishing before the crowds, I was able to go across and give Mandi and the kids a hug before heading through to recovery…. And one thing that I will never forget about this day is Mandi saying in my ear….. “YOU DID IT BABE” Melted my heart, as I know the extra stresses this selfish sport puts on her life, and how stressful it is watching me on race day. But there weren’t the low points in this race that she is used to, so may have been a little better for her!
That, coupled with Mandi and the kids popping their heads up all over the run course kept my chin up and powering on. Ryno running along with me on the break wall telling me how well I’m going… and asking how fast are you running? So good…. Corey falling down the rocks as I ran past, a little bit funny!
Although Rich couldn’t be there, and my best mate Nathe couldn’t either, it felt like they were there through Mandi, as Nathe was feeding her stats, and Rich was sending Mandi through my trigger comments to pass on. The best was on my third lap, running through the busy section just prior to the finish line. Corey pops his head out and says….. “DAD…. RICH SAID TO BE THE HERO IN THE MOMENT…. NOT THE VICTIM” one that we had discussed prior…… the crowd erupted in laughter that this 13YO was throwing deep comments at his old man!
I love these guys so much. It’s a tough gig training for this sport, especially with the program that I have been through in the lead up to this race. So many sacrifices, but I hope the positive influence that I am instilling in my children far outweighs the sacrifices. Seeing how excited they are to see me as I pass each time during the race tells me I’m on a good thing!
The crowd and on course support from the RTC and the TZero crew was amazing once again. It makes a tough day a whole lot easier! Thank you.
What did I learn:
If you put in the work, and stick to the plan on the day, the results will come.
Control the controllable and let everything else go.
Control the highs and lows, keep them to a minimum and flat line them the whole race.
Fitness is your ultimate ally. If you have the fitness you need on race day, you can battle the demons that tell your mind to slow down.
My nutrition may need to be dialled up a bit with pushing my body harder.
If you finish earlier in the piece… you can get in for a massage no problems.
Cramp Fix tastes like straight vinegar! WOW! But it seems to work
I’ve pulled up extremely well. I had no irritations from race day, and have no niggles… so albeit there is some deep fatigue in there… I’m feeling like I’m ready to get back into it!
Sue Desbrosses - Ironman Australia 2017 7 May 2017
‘Sue DesBrosses…you are an Ironman!’ So I made it then! What a journey! What a day! Dream, Believe, Achieve…I forget how many times I repeated this to myself throughout the day. There were many times in training when I doubted my ability to swim, ride and run so far, let alone consecutively and times when things stood in my way, like a torn meniscus and a suspected hernia but on the day there was no room for self doubt.
My pre-race nerves were mostly about whether I had everything I needed. After all, the tri gear for an Ironman had covered the entire bed. I felt better when it was all checked in and I was slipping into my wetsuit in a car park, standing in other peoples pee. My mates were in the same pen and we were all equal parts excited and terrified. Had I run through the race enough times in my head? But then the beautiful day was breaking, the water looked inviting, Men at Work sang on the radio…what could be more appropriate at the start of my Ironman Australia? Be in the moment…and I was.
I love swimming and I’ve come a long way since learning freestyle as an adult 4 years ago. The rolling start reduced the number of blows and by the weir crossing at 1.7k I was feeling comfortable. My right hand was going numb but I’d anticipated that. By the second weir crossing at 2.4k I knew I could swim home strong. The sun was in my eyes now and it felt like the salt water was dragging all the water out of my body to dilute the ocean but that passed. When I hit the sand my watch said 1:16:00 and I was ecstatic. It set me up well for the day.
T1. So cool having attendants! Putting lycra on a wet body was harder than I’d imagined though. 0:09:00
After 5 months and 3000 kilometres of riding, my bike felt like more than an inanimate collection of atoms - he was my buddy and he behaved perfectly despite the poor condition of the roads. Within 15k of starting I’d lost a water bottle. The route was littered with bike gear. I lost my repair kit and eventually got the mechanic to tape my torpedo down after it had come loose 3 times.
The hills out of town weren’t so bad on fresh legs. I tried to stick to the plan, assessing my effort and shovelling food and nutrition in. My Central Governor protested at 135k but then was silent as I slogged it back into town over the interminable flat stretches, where the fading daylight was making the wild grasses shine and back over the hills for the last time. It was fun watching the other riders; the guy who would barely make it up each hill but then shoot off like a bullet at the top – hadn’t he been doing hill repeats? Or the man who fell off in slow motion in front of me at the top of a hill and looked like he’d just woken up. One competitor said to me ‘tiny little circles’ as he passed which was very Zen-like. Turn your feet over and over and you’ll get there. So I did. I had a tear in my eye when I saw my friends at the top of the last hill. That was a hard ride – 7:34:26
I saw 2 of my girlfriends in T2 (another had pulled out). 0:04:00 minutes.
When I saw my best mate on the first lap he said ’You’re an endurance runner this is what you do!’ Sage words at that moment. I thought if I run 2 laps maybe I can walk the rest if I need to but it was dark now and cool and I love running. There were loads of spectators too. I had a stitch for the whole run, which was quite painful by the 3rd lap, especially after eating or drinking but I knew it wouldn’t kill me. My friend told me I could make 14 hours if I ran the last lap equal to my first. My girlfriends sang Helen Reddy’s ‘Ironwoman’ to me as I jogged up the last hill (they were pretty drunk by then) and I finished my marathon in 4:55:00. My longest training runs were 20k and I only did short brick runs so I was amazed at how well the run went.
I ran down the chute because I could see people in front of me and I didn’t want them spoiling my finishing photo! One of the officials said to me ‘That was a great finish!’ and it was…it was the finish of my first ever Ironman! I quickly passed through recovery to see my mates. I said ‘I feel like a cider’ and they said ‘One’s already been ordered for you.’
What an amazing day. Brilliant coaching Scotty! You wisely told me to lose my ego and helped me understand that this was MY race and that it was going to be very different to an Olympic or 70.3. You saved my knee with the reduced running and gave me enough variety in training that I never tired of it.
Liz Butler - Ironman Western Australia 4 December 2016
Well on the one hand that was one of the most amazing days of my life but on the other hand it now all seems like a bizarre dream.
Beforehand: With the small exception of the 'basket case half hour' on Friday when my bike was first diagnosed as un-fixably unwell, I honestly wasn't remotely as nervous as I thought I would be.
Right at the start of this whole process 6 months ago I was already worrying about how terrified I would feel at the start. In fact, the prospect was so enormous it almost prevented me from embarking on the whole thing at all. Mercifully the reality was so, so different. I really felt totally fine both the night before and the morning of the event - bafflingly so...I was nearly worried that I wasn’t worried! I really think that identifying what makes me most anxious are equipment and gear issues (and how far out of my depth I am with these things), was quite a light bulb discovery.
Once I realised this and was able to acknowledge to myself that (regardless of whether they turned out to be good) I had made my own decisions as I had gone along, in my own time about what to use, what to wear, what to eat etc. I had mitigated against as many things as I could (by practicing tube changes etc). Recognising that I wasn’t just totally winging it with these things was really quite empowering.
Nervousness about what I had inside me and how hard it was going to feel seemed to have dissipated completely too. I really was trusting 100% that you would not have let me go to the start if you didn’t think I’d done enough so what would be would be. Thank you so much Rich for getting me to that point!
The swim: Literally about 30secs before the start, Jen and I realised that we were on the wrong side of the beach to get a good line to the left hand side of the first buoy, so we made a dash across the sand to the other side. This was good for 2 reasons, first it meant I did have a decent line to the first buoy (and beyond) and second there was no real opportunity for last minute tension to build. We were off.
The first section to that first buoy was a LOT more thrashy than any swim start I’ve been in before. There was so much pushing and shoving, punching and kicking. I did have one moment where I thought "oh my god this is horrendous I can’t do this” but in reality, bailing was not an option and issuing forth a single loud “for f***s sake” seemed to release enough tension to let me just get on with it!
Once I reached the first buoy I managed to move to the very left of the pack and there was really only the odd swimmer between me and the jetty. The rest of the swim out to the end was actually great and I was very comfortable, just trying to swim long and strong and get the most out of each stroke.
The first half of the swim back to shore was a little bit frustrating as I got a bit caught. I was behind a wall of men with a couple on either side, all of whom were punching arms wildly, kicking very hard and making an awful lot of froth and noise, but weren’t really going anywhere. In fact the activity all around me was generally so frenetic that it did go through my head that maybe someone had shouted ‘shark’ and I was the only one that didn’t realise! Although it was frustrating, my own thoughts were making me laugh so I stayed relatively relaxed and after trying to get through a few times and getting squeezed and punched out, I managed to go sideways and finally got round them.
The last km or so into the beach was relatively smooth sailing again.
T1: actually felt quite elated when I came out of the swim and really couldn’t stop smiling. I think it was the first of several mindful ‘holy s**t’ I’m actually doing this moments….which I’m so glad I had!
For some reason when I ran into transition despite my best efforts, there weren’t actually any volunteers nearby to grab so I had to get on with things myself. I was calling for help with my wetsuit but couldn’t get any attention. In the end a lady nearby who was a co-ahtlete for a blind participant (by definition an actual angel!) helped me. Not much else to tell, I snaffled a cliff bar and I thought I was being quick in transition but?!!? I swear there was no tea was made!
The ride: The first section was a little frenetic and it took a while for the nervous energy to dissipate. To be honest the bike is a bit of blur. On the one hand it was really long but on the other hand it went in a flash and I can’t really remember much. Once again you were right! Have you done this before or something?
I always find it a bit mentally challenging at the start of the bike because it’s clearly lots of people’s strongest leg so I get over taken a lot. The mental strategy to shut paranoia out this time was to remind myself that to be over taken, I must have come out of the swim first. I mentally got my own back too as towards the back end of the race, I passed a lot of people who looked way fitter than me!
There was a lot of wind but again not impossible, although it was very unpredictable in where it was coming from. The road surface was rough, but the up side of that was that it felt like zero gravity when you hit the odd smooth patch. Although I was a bit concerned that I wasn’t going hard enough and I was a bit uncomfortable, I think I was mostly mentally in a good place for the bulk of the ride, particularly once I reached the half way mark. No obvious worm holes descended and still cracking hilarious jokes to myself near the end!
T2: Once again elated to be back in transition, after all, 'only' a marathon to go! I think I was actually pretty speedy this time but I did have to sneak in a bathroom break.
The run: Again the first section was a little crazy and it took a while, probably 8-10km to settle into it. I found the fact that the course was 4 laps (and in my mind each lap kinda had 4 sections), quite good mentally as I was only ever focusing on getting to the end of that section. The 'settling into it' bit for me was as much about accepting that I was going to be out here doing this for a while as much as finding the right pace/HR.
What was reassuring right from the start was that I wasn’t aware of feeling the ride in my legs (possibly that long sit down on the loo helped!), or in my mind for that matter, so there was no panic or concern that I wasn’t going to last.
I have to confess once again to not specifically recalling or focusing on the race plan, apart from using it to note that I was going too fast at the start. My own take on the plan became to try and stay consistent and rhythmic and just keep running. There were so many people around me walking that it was so tempting to give in to that. The ‘no just keep doing what you’re doing’ mantra was on repeat.
Nutrition was a challenge most definitely. I had a gel in transition and resolved to have one every 5km ( I was carrying my own). At every aid station I took a mouthful of water, a mouthful of endura (if I hadn’t just had a gel), a mouthful of water and threw a cup of ice down my sports bra. I’m sure that has made for some particularly flattering photos!!
I was trying to take the gels just before an aid station so that they could get washed down with some water. There was a point at about 30km where I didn’t get the timing quite right and was aware I was pretty much out of fuel, didn’t feel like another gel and the aid station was a km or so away. Judy said she saw me at that point and commented that I looked as though it was all starting to bite and my running style had changed. Mercifully it was short lived, I was able to pull on my big girl pants and threw down another gel and normal service quickly resumed. From then on I also had some coke at the aid stations. The back end of the run was hard but not hideous and to be honest I wasn’t having to dig quite as deep as I thought I might.
Going into this I actually thought that having run marathons before was a disadvantage because I knew what I was in for and how hard they are in isolation let alone after a swim and a shimmy on the bike. However what proved incredibly useful was the mental chatter that I was able to have with myself along the lines of “oh god this is hard” …..”but aren’t marathons always hard?”…..”hmmm yes”….”does this feel any worse than Motatapu?”…..”hmmmm no”……”did you stop then?!”…..”hmmm no”….”so do you really need to stop now”……”hmmm ok no”……
Once again apart from the (I think) short-lived nutritional blip…..I was mentally in a good place the whole way through the run. It would be a stretch to say I enjoyed it but I very nearly did.
One anecdote from the run: I quickly learnt that iron men don’t really chat! Marathoner shufflers do, so this was a lesson. One poor chap was victim to me trying to jolly myself along. I'm quite embarrassed that this came out of my mouth now, but at the time I was trying to distract myself and make someone else smile…the former worked…the latter possibly not although I’m pretty sure his pace picked up?!? Me: “So I’ve been pondering!” Random ironman: “Sorry?” *** puzzled blank stare**** Me: “Do you think one fly picks you out and decides to follow you? Or do you think you run through different flies territories?” Random ironman: *****puzzled, what are you, blank stare and perceptible pick up in pace***** Me: “Ok, just my project then…”
Other stuff: Ironman is undoubtedly about strength, fitness endurance and all the things we know or are told we have to train to build but what I hadn’t realised I was also developing in those hours watching the black line, spinning those wheels, bounding up hills or shuffling those flat paths is an ability to be completely within yourself and be at ease there however you're feeling physically. For 12-16hours of the event you physically and mentally occupy a space 50cm radius around you and if you’re not happy there, I imagine it would be interminable, for me though, mercifully it was quite a comfortable spot. I felt content within myself and (mostly) in control the whole time.
It was an amazing day. In fact, it has been an incredible experience from day 1. Now I’ve completed it and I felt happy and physically mostly OK during and feel totally ok afterwards, It’s hard not to think that it therefore must have been easy and anyone could do it. What was all the fuss about. Intellectually I know it wasn’t easy so I’m desperately trying not to down play my efforts.
It was the ultimate example of ‘don’t try and eat the elephant whole’ but if you do as you’re advised and eat it in small pieces, suddenly its gone.
Doesn’t mean you don’t want to eat another one though!! ;-)
Nick Rinaudo - Action Asia 3 Day Ultra, Nepal, 60km 29 October 2016
I've never been a superb runner by any stretch of the imagination but the build to this race opened my eyes to the "joys" of 30k+ trail runs. Consistency was undoubtedly the key in building a solid base and developing the confidence to be able to achieve this outlandish goal.
Getting there Turns out Australia is a long way from anywhere. Long haul (mostly overnight) flights are never great but when there are a few over a few days keeping focused on rest, nutrition and hydration can become a challenge.
Rough flight times Brisbane to HK - 9hrs HK to Dhaka - 2hrs Dhaka to Nepal 2.5hr
The event itself was run by Action Asia Events, a Hong Kong based action sports company, hence 90% of the athletes where from HK. It was a really well run event that kept you guessing until the last minute - the first look at the course was the briefing the night before, around a camp fire, on printed google maps with a hand drawn map. Courses where marked with fluro coloured ribbons (different colour each day) which, being Diwali (the festival of colour) was not ideal as these become highly sought after by the kids in the local villages along the course.
Accommodation Housing 100 odd people in the hills of Nepal is not an easy task. Most were in the two local "resorts", ten or so in tents and four of us ended up in a local home stay which was mind blowing. A hand built brick and timber house with compacted dirt floors, outdoor long drop and shower...and a plasma TV! Some of the most happy and accommodating people we have ever met. A real connection with the family which ended with a special goodbye ceremony on departure.
The race itself:
Day 1 Distance 22.2k Time 2:53.02 Elevation 1156m Max elevation 1988m Result - 2nd
Day one kicked off with 95 competitors (52 in the 60k / 43 in the 100k) toeing the start line which consisted of a 2m wide patch narrowing to a 50cm wide path for the next 5kms. Course description was basically straight down followed by straight up. Then straight up again. Down. And straight up again. Absolutely brutal. Ran with the eventual winner (a French lad from Hong Kong) for the first 17k pushing the pace hard as the excitement and lack of oxygen at 2000m got the better of us. I somehow managed to get to this point with only one sip from my flask which was I had emptied 5 Clif gels into at the start of the day. Not ideal. As we came to the final suspension bridge with 950m to go, my French opponent managed to run off to take the lead and the win while I bonked heavily. The last 850m took 19 minutes. First (and last) time I have ever experienced complete nutritional deficiency. Overall a cracking day with some amazing scenery and downhills along the way.
Day 2 Distance 20k Time 2:50.29 Elevation gain 1082m Max elevation 1948m Result - 3rd
After a considered and focused recovery, I started day 2 strong and where most of the competitors found it a more difficult course, I felt it played to my strengths. Long downhills with sharp climbs and undulating flat. Loved it. Believe it or not there was still plenty of climbing and the scenery continued to amaze. A group of 3 including myself, my new French buddy and my soon to be English buddy pushed the pace hard from the start and formed a fairly handy break away which lasted to checkpoint 2 at the 16k mark where my two new mates powered through and managed to put a 2 minute gap into me. From this point it was basically downhill, and being the nimble mountain goat that I am, I decided to go full gas and attempt to close the gap. Minor issue - trails in Nepal are around 30-50cm wide, generally a mix of slippery clay and rocks and have what can only be described as a 50-150m drop straight down. Decided it was better to pull it back a gear and cross the finish line on foot and not in the Careflight chopper/on a donkey. Overall l limited the losses on day 2 and held onto second by 10mins.
Day 3 Distance 17.6k Time 2:08.21 Elevation gain 817m Max elevation 1762m Result - 3rd
With the narrow start line getting to the front today was going to be crucial. Unfortunately I missed the lead group at start which put me on the back foot from the beginning. Kept them within site for a while and settled into a nice pace. Nice flat run through some rice fields before a sharp descent to a somewhat questionable suspension bridge. Rolling hills with a number of large villages all the way to first checkpoint at a Buddhist monastery located on the top of a mountain (surprise). As we were not allowed to run through the monastery, this gave an opportunity to take a few snaps and reflect on where I was in the wide world. All the work done leading up - 4hr solo trail runs, lunch time gateway repeats and several Sunday trail races started to hit home. Here I was literally walking through a Buddhist temple at 2000m elevation overlooking the Himalayas. Fair dinkum, absolutely amazing. Once through this section the racing started and it was back down hill to the valley. The first 200m consisted of 1000s of multi coloured prayer flags hanging from the trees which made for tricky descending on the rough, winding terrain. The final 8k consisted of rolling hills and almost flat terrain before two steep climbs to the finish. Overall an incredible (and significantly faster) day. Crossed the finish line to a traditional ceremony just behind my French and English counterparts to take 2nd overall.
Biggest takeaways from the trip -
I'm going back to Nepal. This place is stunning. The location. The people. Overall experience. Just amazing.
Always stick to the plan. A race is a race - nutrition nearly brought me undone on day 1.
Take lots of lollies and hand them out to the kids in the village who cheer and run with you as you pass though...pretty cool
Pick the right hydration system. I'm running a Salomon S-Lab Sence Ultra which hold 2x500ml flasks on the front and nothing at the back. Advantage - having 1L / 8-10k forces you to drink what you have and fill up at the next checkpoint. Disadvantage - having to stop every 8-10k to refill. I would say this lost me time on day 2.
I will do another trip like this (Mongolia or China in 2017) and would highly recommend it to anyone interested.
Massive thanks to Coach Rich who provided a huge amount of support and encouragement throughout the build, especially while he was prepping for Kona and Worlds. When I couldn't be bothered training, just thinking about the work you were putting in kept me focused and motivated. Thanks mate.
And of course a massive thank you to my wife Tahlia, and my lovely daughters Tess and Rosie who allowed me to pursue this goal and gave up plenty for me to get here. You’re the best.
Leah Belson - 2016 Hervey Bay 100 13 November 2016
To be honest – I did a whole lot of things wrong. To make it worse, I knew they were wrong.
To be fair – I did do a lot right (or as right as I was able to do).
A week out from the race I had a bikefit adjustment done. I’d been getting severe cramping across my shoulders and neck on rides any longer than 50km. I just couldn’t fit in an appointment any earlier so a week out was it. On assessment, it was discovered I suck at sitting on a bike in any kind of aero position correctly – or any position correctly really. The saddle which I was super happy with (for rides under 50km) was all of sudden causing all sorts of problems. So after much discussion, it was decided to swap out the saddle for a test one that ‘encouraged’ me to sit better…… for longer. It’s a work in progress anyway. This was risky I know but it is one of the things I did right because any pain I felt on race day (and there WAS pain) it wasn’t from the new positioning of the bike or the saddle. In fact, I believe it saved me from a whole other world of pain that could have occurred.
Unfortunately, I didn’t expect the change of saddle to change how my saddle bag and double hydration holder would fit on the back of my bike. AND… I didn’t check this until late Friday night. Long story short, I put the hydration holder brace on incorrectly so when I put my bottles on the back (on the morning of race day) they immediately pulled the holder down and the bottles were facing the ground. Bugger. I noticed this when I was racking the bike in transition. Double bugger. So I made a quick decision to remove the holder altogether. I removed my canister (filled with tubes and tools) so I had access to two drink bottle cages. I squeezed a second tyre tube into my saddle bag along with tyre levers (just in case… a very foreboding ‘just in case’). I had two drinks (which I thought were both skratch hydration to keep my carbs up), my food and spare tubes. Good to go, right? Turns out I messed up something here. Back to the morning’s nutrition – 1 bowl of crunchy nut cornflakes with milk and about 5 teaspoons of Greek yoghurt two and a half hours before kick off. I couldn’t stomach any more. I was a bundle of nerves. I should have taken a gel or an electrolyte drink or a banana or anything other than NOTHING with me for before the swim. I was hungry by the time we were at the swim start.
SWIM Now, I am mildly terrified of the ocean. Ok, a little more than mildly. The fear is real, people! Anyway, one of the right things I did in the lead up to this event was #alltheswimming both in the pool and ocean events/training. Absolutely hands down handled this swim better than any other open water swim I have done ever in my life! This is super important because – it was a bloody tough swim. EVERYONE I spoke to after the event said how absolutely horrendous the conditions were. I’m being completely honest here when I say, I actually didn’t find the conditions that terrible. Now, I think this is mainly because ocean swimming (for me) is always bloody terrible so it kind of felt the same as all the other times (condition-wise). Yes, it was super duper swelly. And yes, it was damn hard to see the VERY FEW buoys out there. Seriously HB100 … would it have killed you to add an extra buoy or two??? And yes, the swim was DEFINITELY longer than 2km – this may have been because I was swimming out to Fraser Island for part of it, wondering why I was all alone (again) in the ocean with no-one around me.
I felt I was sighting better than previous swims except when my goggles fogged right up. I just couldn’t see anything especially with the swell. Each time I looked up all I saw was a wall of water coming for me. I lost my mojo a little when I couldn’t see anyone or anything except water. So besides that I feel that MOSTLY, I swam it really well. As per the plan from the coach I concentrated on long strokes. Kept moving forward. No breast stroke. No real panic. Just steady L3 heart rate swimming the whole way. Boom!
I was actually very comforted by being swam over by the next wave of competitors who caught up to me. Seriously – they hit me in the head, back, feet… didn’t care. I was like “PEOPLE!!! I see PEOPLE!!”
I came out of the water with a smile on my face which unfortunately (for photos) was ruined by the beard of algae/moss/green stuff I was wearing. Fortunately, I wasn’t alone. There were a whole range of creatures from the black lagoon emerging from the water. I was disappointed when I saw I had taken just over an hour to swim the 2km (2.5km) course. I thought I was going to be told I couldn’t continue and this messed with my head a bit. I figured I would just run to the bike and hope for the best. No-one stopped me and said I couldn’t continue but it played on my mind for the next hour at least.
BIKE When I got to my bike (which I found relatively easy! Thank you proper numbering and the massage shop across the road that was my landmark), I was a bit down thinking about the swim time. I firstly grabbed my electrolyte drink and guzzled a whole lot down. I remembered my coach telling me not to have anything solid to eat straight up so I quickly ripped open a gel and took care of that. More water was needed. I think this is where I put the wrong bottle back on the bike. Anyway, after working out I was putting my gloves on backwards, I was wheeling out of transition. My mum and Trish yelling lots of support to me the whole time. I remembered to smile (sans moss). I nearly stacked it in the first 50m trying to press the button on my Garmin to activate the next leg. Really need to get better at taking my hands off the bars!!!
Now I don’t believe in blaming the course or conditions or other athletes or anything outside of my realm of control for how I perform. The course was tough – absolutely. The gravel road was not kind to my arms. I didn’t realise how fatigued they were until I was on the bike. My arms got more fatigued because of my lack of bike handling skills. That is, I am not confident to use the drop bars so my hands and arms stay in the same position – the whole time. It’s a bit rubbish and I know this. The gravel road was also the bane of my existence causing two flats in almost the exact same spot but more on that later.
The first lap was ok. I concentrated on staying in L3 as much as I could. The ride out is pretty much a steady incline. Couple this with gravel roads and a no passing zone (which makes you feel really bloody useless especially when you have a traffic jam behind you with swearing and huffing etc from ‘faster’ competitors) it’s a tough slog physically and mentally. There’s a real pinch of a hill that is included in the course which you have to (of course) do four times. Wow. Doesn’t that test you out! I had seen this hill the day before when we drove the course. It freaked me out and I had been feeling ill about it. I will say that I rode up that hill… four times… seated… steady… successful. I felt good about getting it done. I made my ‘stop zone’ not long after that as a kind of reward. I need to stop to eat and hydrate as (again) this is one of the things I cannot do while riding. First stop I had a bit of skratch and a gel. I just didn’t feel like eating my sandwich at that point. Riding back into town was great (downhill mostly). The gravel / no pass zone was crappy but got through it. It was great riding past my supporters with hilarious signs of encouragement. I rode past the bidon exchange thinking I was ok.
The second lap was harder. It was getting hot and the ride up hill seemed steeper. The no passing zone caused the same amount of panic/discomfort as before. The only thing that comforted me was knowing all the fast people would soon be finished and I’d be left to my own pace on the next lap most likely. I got back up Gataker’s Hill the same as before – slow, steady, seated… and stopped at my reward zone. I ate part of my Nutella sandwich but it just stuck in my mouth and throat. I guzzled down some water to help shift it. Got passed by my training bud, Donna who quickly checked I was ok. I waved her on and set off. It wouldn’t be long before I was stopping again. The unsealed road did its thing – punctured my tube. Fortunately, it was my front one which I can change a bit more confidently than the back. I was on normal sealed road when I noticed the flat. I pulled over and just got to it. Shit happens, right? This was it. Just deal with it and get it done. My tired arms and hands struggled but it didn’t take too long to get it changed over and back on. I was annoyed but not too much.
Passing back through town with mum and Trish yelling support was the lift I needed. Melinda from T:Zero was an absolute champ out there giving me huge smiles and words of encouragement each time we passed.
Third lap I was really beginning to hurt. I pulled up at the bidon station and guzzled down half a bottle of water. As I can’t grab the bottles while riding I had to stop. That’s ok – that was in the plan. Just get it done and get moving. The volunteers were freaking awesome! Every single one of them throughout the WHOLE event. AWESOME. Riding back up out of town I started to cramp up in my right foot. My arms were incredibly fatigued and my head was playing games with me. I started having thoughts of stopping. These were brief but were there. I had to shake them off. I was hot. I hadn’t eaten enough and I was tired. Rode down Gataker’s Hill knowing I had to go up it again when I turned around. The road here was really rough and hurt my arms badly. I got up that hill again and looked forward to my stop zone. I ripped open an LCM and had half. I couldn’t stomach any more of it. I guzzled the rest of my skratch and then some of my water. I reset my head. I stretched my toes in my cramping foot and set off. Flat tyre number 2 was waiting for me.
When I heard the hiss of the tyre I almost cried. Ok… I did cry. Just a little. I stopped. Swore silently to myself and got off the bike. I had a drink. I had a think and got down to business. I was thanking my foresight at this point for squeezing a second tube into my tiny, tiny saddle bag. I must’ve been looking very sad because a lovely man stopped his race and helped me. I actually told him not to – I didn’t want anyone stopping their race for me. He just said, “Nah, it’s ok. I’m just having a bit of fun with it.” I didn’t know if I wanted to punch him or hug him. Fun? It was definitely not fun for me at that point. I was very grateful for his assistance as my hands were so incredibly sore I don’t think I could have got the tyre back on alone.
I was tired and pretty deflated (pun intended) but I tried to remember my mantra. I am the storm. I am the storm. Only thing, I didn’t even feel like a gentle breeze – I was at my lowest point I think here. Even worse than on the run which I pretty much died on. I think I felt worse here because I know I can ride better than that! I know my bike handling skills are holding me back. I KNOW I should have sorted that out way before now!
Eventually I was back in transition getting ready for the run. I didn’t check my time. I didn’t want to know. I knew I’d stuck to my heart rate zone as best I could and that’s all I could ask for.
RUN You know what the best thing about getting to the run leg is? It’s knowing with absolute certainty that you’re going to finish. There’s no doubt. If I had to crawl for 18kms then that’s what I would do. There’s nothing else to be done but move forward using your own two feet. No ocean, no flat tyres – just me. I packed up my pockets with gels. Drank about half a bottle of skratch and set off. I was pleasantly surprised to be running 6:30km pace for the first 500m…then the cramps hit. Stomach cramps so bad I knew it wasn’t good news. The ONLY good part of this was public amenities RIGHT THERE! It wasn’t the first time I would call upon this building in a state of urgency.
I tried to then run at least 3km without stopping. The stomach cramps were not helping so I swapped to a run 800m /walk 200m deal with myself. It was during this walk phase that I got a slap on the butt from Melinda. I really REALLY wanted to return the favour and I got close a couple of times but she slipped away. My 800/200 deal changed each time I had to run (kind of literally) to the loo. I just went with how my gut was feeling. If it wasn’t cramping, I was running. If it cramped I walked. I used the water stations to walk through – got ice down the front and back of my top, had water poured over me, tried some coke. I managed to get one more gel down at the 8km mark but that was it. Getting to the last lap was bittersweet. I was so SO happy the end was in sight but bitterly disappointed I couldn’t bring it home in the run. I’ve done so much training and have worked so hard but I felt I just couldn’t pull it all together. I ran through the finisher’s chute, high fived my friends and my mum on the way and then sat down on one of the chairs and got very emotional. I had known it was going to be hard. I knew I would struggle but I just wanted to ‘do better’.
The volunteers in there were wonderful. They poured water on my neck and wrists, took my timing chip off for me and brought me watermelon. I had a bit of a cry, some more watermelon and then set off to find my friends. Their welcome was amazing. I am so lucky to be surrounded by such support. I learnt a lot – so much actually and I’m working on feeling good about what I achieved. I spoke to one of my inspirational Ironman finisher friends, Mary and she told me that the conditions WERE hard and that I need to take that into consideration. I felt that it was a cop out to say the conditions were hard (because they were hard for everyone) – but I think I know what she means. The week following the event was an absolute roller coaster of emotions! I want to do/be become so much better but know that I need to be patient, work hard and accept the body I’ve been given. It will come.
Things to work on:
Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition
Bike handling skills
Swimming technique (get stronger in the arms to maintain long strokes and not get so fatigued)
Checking all the things BEFORE race day
Running off the bike. Running in the real world. Running in general.
Things to be happy about:
My commitment to training
The swim and my improved confidence in open water
Swimming technique (focused on long strokes as much as I was able and this worked really well in keeping me on track)
Staying in L3 for both the swim and the ride. Totally OWNED that heart rate zone!
Finishing 100km of swimming, biking and running.
So many people to thank for helping me. My T:Zero Multisport coach, Steve (so many texts and calls and insta messages and facebook thumbs up… seriously – the best at putting up with my neediness!); Mark from dynamic Bike Fit for all round awesomeness and availability with advice and practical assistance; Jaci for joining me on this mad adventure (and who OWNED it on the day); my village of training buds (too many to name but all super spesh); my fam bam; my son for reminding me he’s proud of me and my non triathlon training friends who put up with my ridiculous obsession with all things swimming, biking, running…. Only 150 or so days to go ‘til Ironman Cairns. OFFICIAL STATS and STUFF Swim - 1:03:45 T1 - 3:56 Bike - 3:08:57 T2 - 3:48 Run - 2:25:00 Total - 6:45:25
Check our Leah on Instagram - @leah_maree_71
Jen McMillan-Ironman Western Australia 2016 4 December 2016
“Jennifer McMillan – You are an Ironman!” Peter Murray said so, and in that moment one of my life’s dreams came true. Back when I was a young whippersnapper, I did the odd triathlon (mostly Olympic distance) with friends and family. One of them, my friend Charlie, used to say “Jen, we’ll do an Ironman one day!” I’d say, “yeah, we will!” Charlie is no longer with us, but I finally did our Ironman! And I had a blast doing it. The Swim… Despite my concerns with Rich’s race plan (starting in the middle and near the front – blimey!) I got in there and took it out harder than I usually would. I calmly weathered my brand new goggles cracking their frame off and just kept my head down and kept breathing. I was feeling a bit flat in my swimming in the lead up to the race, but was rewarded on the day with 3rd in my age group! Couldn’t have asked for a better swim and was really surprised hearing people screaming out “great swim” (probably not to me, but I took it anyway J) as I ran up the beach.
The Ride… My usual race plan for the ride goes something like this… Jump on bike. Get head down and go. Check out current speed. See something a bit faster than expected. Red haze descends and I bury myself in the hurt locker to maintain an unachievable average speed. About an hour later I realise I have not eaten or drunk anything and I try to get some nutrition in. It’s too little and too late, and I generally run flat towards the end of the bike or the start of the run!
This time I settled in for a little “mental drafting” (staying just out of their draft zone but using them to restrain my pacing) on somebody who I deem a suitable pace to keep my heartrate in the right zone, and I start my “90km warm up.” I use this time to get my nutrition dialled in – alarms on my Garmin every 15 minutes told me to eat and drink – and I chow down on copious quantities of vegemite sandwiches and Clif bars in ziplock bags carrying messages like “Remember Charlie!” and “Keep Eating!” I have never eaten so much on a bicycle in all my life! Sometimes when the alarm would go off I would think “but I only just finished the last lot!”
In the back half of the race I ramped up my heartrate a bit and came home strongly. I was feeling fantastic and pretty happy with my ride, and had a short moment of mourning for the race I might have had if I had a decent run! But at the end of the day, I am a pragmatist with all sorts of torn things in my left hip plus a dose of bursitis, a plan for a 5minute run/3minute walk regime, and a solid desire to get home before the 17hour mark. So my 20seconds of mourning passed without denting my confidence.
The Run… (well, run/walk really) I headed out and got settled into my 10minute warm up. My Garmin buzzed and I ran. It buzzed again and I walked. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and Repeat. According to Garmin Connect – rinse and repeat about 43 times!!! It was the world’s longest interval session! I really enjoyed it out there (testament to how good nutrition on the bike can prop your psyche up forever!) despite my last six weeks of “running” training consisting of a lot of deep and shallow water running and three run/walks in the last two weeks – none longer than 15.4km! My hip started to feel a bit sore about halfway through, but a quick calculation told me that at my current pace I would crack 15hours, which was 2hours better than my pessimistic plan of “get in before the cut off” and 1hour better than the pragmatic time I had expected with a busted hip. So I ignored the hip and stuck to my plan like glue! The reward was a time better than expected - 14:17:05! Before I hurt my hip I had been aiming for 15hours! I was chuffed beyond measure. It had all gone perfectly.
Bribie Road in all conditions – through rain, gales, heatwaves, pestilence and plague (ok the plague was butterflies, so not really that bad J) is a sensational preparation for Busselton!
I used to think my super-power was swimming straight, but now I realise it is being able to pace myself in a way that I can sustain across the whole race.
Being well-fuelled really rocked!
I need to find a tri-suit that I can ride in for 180km and run for 42.2km! Changing clothes cost me ages in transition – I did everything but phone a friend and have a game of Monopoly in there!! Learned friends have pointed out I could have been under 14hours if I had just got my act together in transition! Yeah – whatever!!! Gotta leave some room for improvement next time! Jen
Nat Conroy -Conquering Crackenback. My Cycling Comeback & The Captain’s Ride 2016. 10 November 2016
"“I-think-I can. I-think-I can. I-think-I can”
Seven days ago ‘The Little Engine That Could’ and his famous mantra helped me to reach the highest peak in Australia. 734 kilometres and 10,596 vertical metres of climbing set a significant challenge, but one I am so glad I accepted. Even during the darkest moments of the ride, when my grimaces could not be mistaken for grins, I might’ve shed a tear or two, but I never thought I couldn’t do it.
When my manager first suggested I throw my hat in the ring as a company representative for The Captain’s Ride, I scoffed. After finishing my second ironman in late 2015, and having struggled with a debilitating back injury since early 2014, I’d set aside 2016 to reset and recuperate. I’d spent a lot of time and money on the road to recovery; I was making significant gains and if I was going to jeopardize that, it had to be for something very special.
Shy by nature but never shy of a personal challenge, after a couple of days I started to seriously consider the offer. I must confess I’m a T:Zero ‘phoenix athlete’ – “retiring” every 12 months only to reappear from the ashes when the thirst for a new challenge arises. After talking the opportunity over with my husband (aka Coach Steve) and Coach Rich, the decision was made. They convinced me, I trained my butt off for four months to prepare, and the rest is history!
I flew into Sydney on Friday 28th October, meeting the other two company representatives at the airport. Following our shuttle to Mittagong RSL, I signed in, collected my team kit and got to work making sure my trusty steed was fully functioning and prepared for the six days of cycling to come.
A launch dinner followed where Steve Waugh introduced the key ride personnel, VIP participants, and shared stories of some of the very special children we were all riding for. Athletes John Maclean and Michael Milton then shared their stories which left us suitably inspired in anticipation of Day 1. It was during this dinner I realized I was one of only six women (plus Anna – in a league of her own) participating in 2016 and therefore my chances of securing a BFF friendship with her had significantly increased…
Day 1: Mittagong to Goulburn (121 KM; 1175 M elevation)
I won’t lie, my entire trip was pretty much made within 20 minutes of breakfast on Day 1. Anna Meares sat down and ate with my roommate and I. The three of us chatted for a good 20 minutes before we had to leave to get ready. Looking back I cringe a little when I think about my immediate plunge into fangirlism at that breakfast chat. She must’ve thought I was a total weirdo. After the chance encounter with one of Australia’s most successful and inspirational athletes I wasn’t sure the ride was going to get any better than that.
Always conservative when it comes to judging my ability, I decided to self-seed in Peloton 3. Little did I realise a number of my fellow P3 mates were new to cycling and had never ridden in a peloton before! Within ten minutes I’d seen two crashes. I promptly made my way to the front of the pack and resolved to promote myself to Peloton 2 the next day.
Despite their lack of experience (but to be honest, I can’t really talk), Peloton 3 was the nicest group of people. I also got the opportunity to ride alongside John Maclean and Michael Milton in P3 who were genuinely lovely, approachable and incredibly inspirational.
We arrived at Goulburn Police Academy in the early afternoon and I was fortunate that Anna chose to sit at my dinner table that night where she was the VIP interviewee and shared her stories of training, life as an athlete (not as glamorous as one might imagine!) and overcoming significant setbacks on her way to becoming one of Australia’s most decorated athletes. Day 2: Goulburn to Canberra (151 KM; 1179 M elevation)
Feeling considerably more relaxed going into Day 2, I decided today was the day to step it up and join Peloton 2. After all, how many chances do you get to ride with Anna Meares? I embraced the opportunity and was lucky enough to ride beside her, chat to her and draft off her a number of times throughout the day. From my recollection, the ride was not particularly scenic but, disturbingly enough, characterized by a plethora of road kill.
Riding into Canberra we took a detour and stopped by the Governor General’s house for lunch. We were welcomed by a round of applause led by the Governor General himself. After lunch, all pelotons rode together to our night two accommodation at the Crown Hotel. I was satisfied to see the end of the day and even more so when Adam Goodes gave me a fist bump as we finished. Adam was the VIP interviewee on Day 2 and spoke in depth about his football career, the Go Foundation, the moment he realised he’d lost his love of football, and the importance of regular meditation practice in his life.
Day 3: Canberra to Cooma (123 KM; 1392 M elevation)
Having found my place in the perfect peloton, I approached Day 3 feeling strong and relatively optimistic. I’d never ridden more than 100 kilometres over three consecutive days before but I wasn’t too concerned. I knew I’d done enough training and that Coach Rich had prepared me well.
Today it was just me and the guys in P2 as Anna had flown out from Canberra to attend to other commitments.
Day 3 was the first true test of my strength and spirit. We were belted by nasty head and cross winds all day. It was one of those days I wished I was a little heavier just so I had some stability on the bike. Thankfully we had a stop at Breadbo Bakery just over half way, where I downed 1.5 salad sandwiches, a salad and some cookies for ‘lunch dessert’. Sadly it did not result in some instant weight gain to curb the crosswind effect!
The wind intensified after lunch and I immediately regretted destroying so much food at the rest stop. I started off feeling a little sluggish but eventually worked my way back into a rhythm. Our peloton was sticking together which was helping to reduce the effect of the strong wind. About an hour in I lost focus for a split second and dropped my chain. Despite a quick fix I struggled to get back on. The amount of energy required to fight my way through the headwind alone drained and frustrated me. Our peloton leader came back to help me and after drafting off him for about a kilometre I was able to re-join the peloton. Suffice to say I was glad to see the end that day.
Day 3’s VIP interviewee was Matthew Hayden who talked about his charity work in the Tiwi Islands, being determined to follow his dreams (and keep working at them) and his unwavering respect for his captain, Steve Waugh. We were also treated to a presentation by cinematographer Abraham Joffe whose company Untitled Film Works was documenting the ride for us. He introduced us to his latest work Tales By Light which is definitely worth checking out on Netflix.
Day 4: Cooma to Adaminaby (127 KM; 1638 M elevation)
Today I woke up completely exhausted. Yesterday’s head wind and probably more so “chain drop gate” had really destroyed me. My eyes were so puffy I looked bee-stung. The -3 degree temperature outside didn’t help lift the spirits of this native Queenslander either!
Today the pelotons were split up a bit to even out numbers and I was joined by another two females. The estrogen injection into P2 was welcomed. Mostly because it meant with three females in the group there was a lot more influence on where and when proper toilet stops would take place!
Despite the freezing conditions (I was not at all prepared, having to borrow a skull cap, neoprene cycling gloves and wrap plastic bags around my toes before putting my shoes on), the lack of wind was a blessing.
Our P2 self-elected Day 4 captain Danny Frawley (former AFL captain, coach, larger than life character and an all-round genuinely nice guy) and ‘The Captain’ Steve Waugh led the entire day. It was the first day I really noticed the characteristics of great leaders stand out in the group. By this I mean Danny & Steve said they’d lead the entire day and that they did. Goodsey (Former Captain, Browlow Medalist, Premiership winner) was constantly communicating with the group, pumping everyone up with positive reinforcement and encouragement and celebrating wins throughout the day. Dual Premiership Captain Mark Bickley stayed at the back of our peloton, protecting weaker riders against the wind and praising the team’s efforts. It really made a huge difference to the overall morale of the group. I was thankful we had so many brilliant leaders in P2.
At lunch I was treated to an impromptu (and very painful) massage as my back was becoming increasingly painful. The last 20 kilometres post-lunch was a struggle but so rewarding when we pulled into Adaminaby just on 2pm and the entire local primary school (eight kids) was waiting for us to arrive!
Day 5: Adaminaby to Khancoban (121 KM; 2481 M elevation)
Today was by far the toughest day of the entire ride for me and arguably one of the toughest physical tests I have endured. The scenery was spectacular and thankfully so; as I crawled up the one massive, steep, relentless climb at what felt like snail’s pace (probably slower), at least I had some beautiful views to distract me! My back injury had flared up and the first 60 kilometres was fairly painful. I must admit I shed a tear or two here as memories of training for Busso 2015 and having to get off and stretch it out every 30 minutes came flooding back. During the climbing suffer-fest I’m pretty sure I went a little cray cray and was reduced to counting pedal strokes to get me to the top. But hey – whatever works, right?
The saving grace of the mammoth ascent was the resultant decent shortly thereafter. What an experience! I’m pretty conservative on the bike at the best of times but I hit the drops and flew around the bends on Day 5. I’m far from an experienced cyclist but I felt like a pro and loved every minute of it. Descending through Mount Kosciusko National Park offered some of the most spectacular views and vistas I have ever seen. I would highly recommend it!
On arrival in Khancoban, Goodsey took us through a spontaneous stretch session as it was his last day with the team. He is honestly one of the nicest, humblest people I have ever met. A true gentleman and champion.
Day 6: Khancoban to Lake Crackenback (91 KM; 2731 M elevation)
The finale. Today I was feeling quite nostalgic and a little bit sad as we prepared for the last day. Three climbs of three, six and nine kilometres respectively were tackled prior to lunch. My back was holding up okay but I had some physio treatment and Nurofen at the break just to make sure I was as prepared as could be for the final ascent.
Post-lunch we made our way out to the final 17 kilometre climb to Dead Horse Gap. The first 10 kilometres of this climb were the hardest. I rode the entire 17 kilometres seated. I’m not a fan of standing in the saddle even though in hindsight it may have helped relieve the pressure on my back a little. There were many times I thought long and hard about whether I would make it. Thankfully in my mind’s eye, the answer was always a resounding ‘yes’.
Riding up at our own pace meant for much of the ascent I was riding solo. It actually didn’t faze me at all (thanks to hours of solo Ironman training in a previous life!) but The Little Engine’s mantra came in very handy. I had a couple of mini stops along the way to refill my water bottle, but I was determined to keep going and knew there was no way I was letting the team down.
Peloton 1 arrived first and then our peloton rolled in shortly thereafter. We all met together at the top, taking some group photos and celebrating with copious amounts of Coke and red frogs (we know how to party!). As members of Peloton 3 started to arrive we clapped and cheered. Michael Milton’s arrival left me speechless and being witness to his achievement is something I will never forget. To stand there and welcome in a multiple Paralympic medalist who had just climbed the final ascent on one leg! No excuses. Not today and never again.
Once all 65 riders had arrived, we rolled out to complete the final few kilometres to Lake Crakenback together. We arrived at Lake Crakenback Resort and Spa to a round of applause by support crew, families, friends and foundation staff who had followed and supported us on our journey. I felt so proud of our achievement and so grateful to be part of such an amazing team.
To be honest I was nervous and apprehensive before the ride began, not sure what to expect. In hindsight I needn’t have been as what I found was an inspiring group of people who welcomed me with open arms. I built enduring friendships throughout the week and I feel privileged to be part of a special group of people bound together by a significant and life-changing experience.
The entire week was by far one of the most challenging, fulfilling and rewarding experiences of my life. I feel both proud and grateful to have raised over $12,700 for the foundation while testing my own physical and mental limits and enjoying the company of some incredible human beings along the way.
This may seem odd, but I almost feel guilty I had such a wonderful experience. I was there to give everything I could to help these kids and their families who struggle through life every day, yet I was walking away physically, emotionally and spiritually richer. I guess it’s true what they say – you get out what you put in.
From Entoure and their superbly planned scenic cycling routes, to the dedicated team of mechanics and peloton leaders, massage therapists, physios, support crew, film crew and nightly MCs - the event organization was impeccable, seamless and a perfectly executed production.
The week touched me in a way I had never expected. Each day I was inspired by the stories of the very special children the Steve Waugh Foundation supports. My days were filled with personal challenges aplenty but ultimately, rewards beyond measure.
As 2017 approaches I have started to ponder what the next challenge will be. I have a feeling it will need to be the definition of epic to surpass The Captain’s Ride 2016. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience.
Thank you to all my friends, family and supporters who donated to the ride and to Coach Rich for preparing me so well and believing in me. To my husband Steven who always believes in me and supports me 100%; you’re the best.
* The Steve Waugh Foundation exists to champion the stories, provide life changing support and improve the quality of life for children and young adults living with a rare disease. If you’re interested in taking on the Captain’s Ride challenge in 2017 to raise funds for this very special charity or if you would like to make a donation, please visit www.stevewaughfoundation.com.au
Hannah Hogan - 2015 Noosa Triathlon - 1st 35-39
Noosa Tri… the largest, oldest, and highest profile triathlon event in Australia, attracting athletes and spectators from all over the globe who descend upon Sunshine Coast paradise for a weekend of multisport adventure. Who doesn’t want to race Noosa at some point in their lives, and I can’t help but suspect there is an element of perceived status among seasoned athletes and weekend warriors alike, to tell their work colleagues with pride (as they hobble in to work on a Monday morning) that they had just raced Noosa Tri and totally “smashed their PB from last year”!
After a massive 12 months of training and racing under Coach Rich & T:Zero Multisport, Noosa Tri was the last race on my list for the year, and I had unfinished business on the year before having only 6 weeks of structured training under my belt and clocking a 2:17:36 in 2014. I felt that with a solid 12 months of training that I could best this time convincingly.
The only person I had to prove it to was myself. But before I go into the nitty gritty of the Noosa race details, I want to recap on the year that’s been. Following on from Noosa last year, the main goal was Ironman Melbourne in March. I remember the build up being massive, week by week, more and more fatigue set in, until I pretty much existed in a zombie like state of consciousness, and sometime unconsciousness after crawling off my TT bike some days and passing out on the floor to recover. But all in all I loved it, and learned so much about myself good and bad as my limits were regularly tested, pushed through, and tested again. I also shared my Ironman journey on Instagram and was overwhelmed by the support I received from complete strangers across the world, who now have become some of the people I check in on regularly to see how they are traveling with their own triathlon adventures. The race itself was an amazing experience, and under the guidance of Coach Rich, we put a plan in place that saw me swim bike run 140.6 miles with a smile on my face and finishing stronger than I could ever have imagined. From then, we built up to Cairns 70.3 and then pulled out the big guns on Sunshine Coast 70.3 in an attempt to qualify for the 2016 Ironman 70.3 World Championships amongst a hugely competitive field of athletes all vying for the same piece of glory. Sunny Coast wasn’t a great race for me in that performance wise I struggled alongside many other athletes that day in the heat, but we got the job done, and I was over the moon to secure my spot on the start line for Worlds alongside my fellow T:Zero squaddies Damo, Scotty and Coach Rich! It was a very proud day for T:Zero, and I can’t wait for September next year! However, in all that hype and then post-race downward spiral I tend to experience, I wasn’t sure the year could get much better than that, and after Sunny I felt tired physically and mentally. Rich and I spoke a little about me taking a break, but with only 6 weeks until Noosa Tri, and then driving to work one day during recovery week and feeling a stir in the pit of my stomach at seeing the commuters all on their bikes cycling to work for the day, I knew I had enough fuel in furnace to see the 6 weeks through. Noosa I’m coming for you, and it’s time to play a little triathlon!
We changed a few things up on my training program to maximise my run leg and ensure I could hold the intensity required over the 10km, and I have to say it worked on race day when I blew my 10km PB time for an OD by almost a minute. I didn’t feel much swimming love over the 6 weeks, and thought this might cost me on race day. But with the wetsuit swim confirmed in the week or so before the race, I felt confident enough with my strength that I could stay in the moment and not fade over the 1500m.
So now to Noosa…
Its funny how in the week before a race, so much can happen to stress you out. I mean we all lead busy, demanding lives and it would be almost ridiculous to think that taper weeks always to go plan and that a reduction in training hours meant we could sit around on our butts and rest and indulge in a massage or two, but no… generally quite the opposite! Less hours training mean more hours to catch up on everything you didn’t do while you were training all those crazy hours in the weeks before, such a catch 22 and why can’t clothes wash themselves and our floors have a self-vacuuming function? Is that too much to ask?!
So yes, my taper week was filled with preparation I had left to the last minute to exhibit FOHER at the Noosa Tri Expo, and it saw me on my feet pretty much from Thursday through to Saturday straight. I was exhausted to the point on Saturday afternoon I was sitting in the gutter waiting for a friend after checking my bike in at the last moment, trying to do an Instagram post when a familiar face approached me to ask if I was okay (some of you might know her at @corky93 - thank you Courts xx). I remember looking up in a daze, I could barely string a sentence together, I was dehydrated, my throat was sore and I knew in that moment I needed to wrap this day up and put my feet up to chill out before the big day. To say the least I was a bit worried, and when I got back to my apartment and my leg cramped, I thought this was me done! But then when a call from the coach came to talk the race through, and a few key words along the lines of, “get out there and be an aggressive beast tomorrow, and dominate from start to finish”, were uttered, a switch went off in my head, and I knew it was game on. There was no doubt I had a big job to do, and despite feeling shattered, I knew over the Olympic Distance I would have to dig deep and so pushed any negativity or doubt from my mind. I called on the memory of the Raby Bay Sprint Tri three weeks before and the depths of the hurt locker I put myself in for that, and told myself that’s where you need to be tomorrow, and if I wasn’t in a world of hurt at any point then I wasn’t going hard enough.
The Swim After transition set up my friend and I went for a coffee to pass the time. It was very relaxing even though the nerves had kicked in. I could feel my body doing its thing and preparing for the fight and flight (I needed both today!!). I went for a warm up swim and felt out of breath, slow, lethargic, and my first thought was oh crap it’s going to be a long morning, but then I justified it in my mind and asked myself when I have ever felt amazing in a swim warm up before a race (not that I can recall) if anything this was an even better indication of how I was going to race once that gun went off! (I love mind games)! J
I stayed as calm as possible and found a nice shady spot to wait until the 35-39 girls were announced into the pen. We were called soon enough and I filed in and found my spot. I sucked in a few big ones and started my watch about 10seconds before the gun went off. My mind went blank when the sound went and I sprinted for the waterline. My heart rate was racing but by the time I got to the first buoy and turned, I felt in control and strong and did not let go of the bit I was literally chomping on. I felt the swim was a bit long, but running out of the water I didn’t even look at my watch when I hit the split button. Who cares, just go go go!
I flew into transition and got my wettie off quickly, threw on my glasses and helmet and grabbed Snaps and we were off. A big burly guy was blocking my way coming across the mount line so I wheeled Snaps around him, jumped on and took off like a rocket! No problems with getting my feet in and my legs were spinning fast. I was breathing hard too. I gunned as hard as I could and kept the pressure on my legs so they were stinging. If they weren’t stinging, I was wussing out and pushed harder to get the sting back. There were a couple of guys ahead of me and when I felt super strong I made a surge past them and tried to hold them off all the way to Garmin Hill. I stayed in aero and small chain right the whole way up, spin spin spin! Then when I got to the top I threw it back up in the big girl gears and pedalled as hard as I could to gain some speed on the descent. I was as aggressive as I could possibly be and caught and passed as many people as I could. At the turn around I thought that’s it, today is going to be a good day, and I pushed hard heading back up the ascent, catching a big group of guys. I got my golden moment passing them down the hill and I got in my best aero position and held on tight, flying down I told Snaps to hold steady and she did. Unlike last years cluttered madness, the road cleared up and I had space to breathe the rest of the way into town which was fantastic. The cycle felt like it was over in the blink of an eye and all of a sudden I was back on the main drag and made sure I wasn’t coasting or being lazy because I was getting close to T2. In I flew, flying dismount, yeehaa no flats, bike done, let’s get these legs running!
I almost threw Snaps back on the rack and got my helmet off as fast as I could before getting my shoes on and grabbing everything else to run out with and put on as I went. This is it now Hannah, this run will make or break your result if you don’t give it everything. If you get slack and slow down then you don’t deserve to win, so don’t be a wuss, the glory will be worth every bit of the pain so move your ass! (Whatever you have to tell yourself right!!!)
I kept my cadence as quick as I could and focused on what Rich had said to get everything under control and feeling strong and into a nice rhythm within the first 4minutes. While I was focusing on the job at hand I looked up in the first km and recognised an old squaddie from way back when, who was running up ahead and caught up to him. I lined my hand up and whacked his butt cheek as hard as I could (we have that kind of friendship)! It executed perfectly and the sound effect that came from it was a nice clean loud THWAAACK! As I ran past I couldn’t help but burst out laughing as he spun around and realised it was me! He ran after me and said, “looking strong H, keep up with me if you can!” Ok I said, let’s go! So that’s how the 10km went, my mate Thiso playing the rabbit, and having a right old good time high fiving people as he went like it was no effort what-so-ever, while I hauled ass and ran as hard as I could determined not to let him get out of sight. I kept hanging on as my breathing got heavier I stayed in the moment and couldn’t wait to see the turnaround point, but then also dreaded it for fear of what could be coming behind me. I took the turn, sucked in some big ones and took off again. Thiso got away from me a bit and I felt the heat of the sun on my shoulders. Come on H, you’ve got this, it’s just like a training time trial now, nothing you haven’t done before. The shade of the trees was heavenly and I ran through every sprinkler I could and took just a sip of water at each aid station. I found a second wind heading back into town and dug deep to keep the pace. For only a split second when it was hurting so much did I think of slowing down and those dreaded thoughts almost entered my head, but before they got the chance, I told them to BUGGER OFF!!! (Keeping it PG rated here). I told myself it doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing, just run as hard as you can and know that you gave everything and that’s all that matters, don’t give up just because you might be beat, be a fighter, be dominant til the end and own this race for yourself! So that’s what I did! My legs were almost numb but they didn’t falter, I felt a few twitches on the inside of my right leg where I got the cramp the night before, but I told it to shut up and behave and there was no way I was walking so hold it together leg. I knew if I could just get around the loop I could bust a move to the finish. More sprinklers, love it, bring it on, and before I knew it I was on the home stretch. Thiso was still up ahead checking back on me to see where I was, but I didn’t let go. This is it, the last km, you’ve got this now! I don’t know if I even managed to pick my pace up but I was breathing super hard by now, and I didn’t care what I looked like running past everyone, it was all a blur. I heard a few people calling my name as I went by but I was right there where I needed to be... right in the hurt locker, burying myself! When I saw the finish line I smiled, and it became an all-out mission to hang on til the end. Thiso slowed down and ran beside me and as we got to the end I turned to high five him but missed haha… Ahhh crap!!! I fucked my finish line shot!!! Dammit Thiso… but who cares…. I laughed out loud and that was it, I was done… I bent over in absolute exhaustion trying to catch my breath back. I looked up at my time and almost fell over! 2:14:26!!! WTF!!! I couldn't help but let the emotions from such a massive weekend flow and took a moment to take it all in and comprehend the result still not knowing if I had even placed. I was so happy with the time in itself!
When I started out in this sport I was the slowest on the bike and the slowest runner in my squad, and I wasn’t sure I’d ever be a sub 2:20 OD athlete let alone be able to clock a 2:14! The conditions were perfect, and I had the race we all dream off, but it was not without a few battle scars. As I walked through the water sprinklers I felt a sting on my feet and looked down to see blood through my beautiful fluoro racing shoes. Uh oh, what’s the damage going to be today? I was too scared to take my shoes off so made my way slowly through to where the watermelon party was happening and chowed down on my favourite post-race food. I was happy and very content no matter the result, so when I saw the final results, yep I shed a stupid tear. What a way to finish off this year. I called my sister who had been trying to reach me and she already had the results up and we shared a laugh, I think you’ve done it Hannah… I think I have too... 35-39 Noosa Triathlon Champ!
“Pain is temporary… Race results on the internet last forever” – remember that!
For all the splits nuts out there here is the breakdown of my Noosa race: Swim (1.5km): 20:50 Bike (40km): 1:04:43 Run (10km): 43:57