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CAIRNS 2018 RACE REPORT
WOW! WHAT A DAY – LUCKY NUMBER 9
SWIM 58:32 – BIKE 4:55:21 – RUN 3:19:45 – TOTAL 9:19:18
T1 3:42 – T2 – 1:56
Overall 36th (including pros) – 16th Age Grouper – 5th in 35-39 Category.
After having a pretty good day setting a new PB in Port, it was to be another short 5 week turnaround to Cairns. Nothing that was new to me, as I’ve done both of these races for the past three years. The day after Port Mac, Rich had me back moving again with a short Swim / Bike / Run on the program. The next day the same, but a bit longer. Seems daft, but it works. By the following Saturday I felt a million bucks, my body was ready to rip in, and the mind was strong to now focus on getting a full head of steam up as we go into Cairns.
The biggest challenge for me between these two races is that it is my busiest time of year at work. Years ago I made a promise to myself, and my boss at that time, that I would never let IM affect my work, and my passion for what I do for a brand that I love, and I still stand by that. Another promise I made was, to my best ability, try and limit the impact the training has on my beautiful family. Yeah I might miss a couple of binge sessions, or the start of a team dinner or two because I need to head for a swim or run once the day is done, but neither my good work colleagues or my family ever question my commitment to what I do, and are always full of support. The time disappears between these two races extremely quickly because of this busy period!
So the body was recovered, the niggles that I had before Port seemed a distant memory, and I was firing. I was swimming consistent pace, my bike was strong as ever, but my running was peaking as I headed towards Cairns. I had a couple of real key runs in between the two races that really put my mind in a place where I believed I could achieve whatever I set my mind to (within reason of course). As always, it is a bit of a mental battle to keep dragging your arse out of bed as winter joins us, but if you haven’t realised as yet, I’m a pretty determined little shit!
I had some real good chats with Rich in the couple of weeks pre-race, and it was decided that with the data that I had put together in this lead up, we would do a straight run rather than the run/walk that I did at Port. I was happy with this! Race week was here, and I was off to another conference for a couple of days, home on Tuesday night, to be on the plane to Cairns on Wednesday morning. As you probably know, I work up there in the expo from Wed – Sat, which isn’t the ideal prep obviously, but once again, nothing I’m not used to.
Rich called Friday night to discuss the plan. He had taken on board some of my comments and presented me with a plan that I was super confident of nailing! Previously, I’ve got the plan and tried to convince myself that it was achievable, a “I reckon I can do that” mentality. Not this time. This plan was perfect for me, and my head space during a race. It was to be more power on the bike than previous, faster pace on the run than previous, but it was the right way around for me! Put a few in the bank early, and FKN hold on!
Here’s how the day unfolded.
No stress getting to the race start. The long walk down to transition from the carpark as per normal, got my bike sorted and chilled out with Mandi and Carl from work until it was time to get my shit together. I was a little more nervous than normal, but pumped!
SWIM – 58:32 – 1:32/100m avg - 9th in the age group
I took the same approach as always, into the cage early to get towards the front of the rolling start, however, I did go for a short warm up swim as time allowed. This gave me a bit more confidence that the water wasn’t quite as horrible as previous years. Before we blinked, the pros were away and we are being released into the water. The heart rate sky rocketed as I punched through the swell on the way to the first turn buoy. Not a nice feeling at all. But I just knew that once I turn that first can, we will get settled. From there it seemed to take forever to get to the far end of the course; the orange cans just seemed to keep appearing in the distance before I finally reached the next pink turn can. It was another tough little section heading back out into the swell, but then seemed like a quick trip home once we made that turn. I found a few sets of feet during the swim for a bit of help, but for most part I was in my own space. Once the HR settled down, I was pretty comfortable and felt strong! I came out of the water feeling that I hadn’t spent too many cookies.
T1 was smooth, there were only a couple of volunteers in there again, as per last year, so no help. I had decided to carry my shoes to my bike rather than running in them as I was close to the transition exit, and the transition is quite long. I also took note of the guys that I came into T1 with, and a couple were recognisable as being in my category. Onto the bike feeling good.
BIKE – 4:55:21 – 36.24k/hr avg – 12th in the age group
The bike plan this time round was heavy, but I was very confident in getting it done. I was to ride 255 – 260 watts for the first 40k (which would take me to PD) and catch as many athletes as I could, geeing them up on the way past to come with. And then settle in to 240 – 245 watts for the remainder of the ride. To hopefully end up in T2 with a 240W avg, ready to run.
To put this into perspective, I averaged 208W in last year’s ride, so quite an increase.
I felt good onto the bike, and picked up Duncan who I knew from a previous race, he is a very strong athlete and he came with me, sitting his distance. Some hot heads took off past me heading out of town. Before too long I’d picked them back up and had a decent train behind me going into Port Douglas the first time, with a 39k/hr odd average (many thanks to the tail wind). The lead changed a few times, but it seemed that once they came around me, it was time to relax and back off, and put me in a bad position, so I’d make my way around them again. I wanted to race my own race and stick to my plan, but it definitely helps if you have others in similar performance to pace off. I was feeling strong and pushing my power into the headwind on the way back to the turnaround for the second trip to PD, taking stock of how many riders were ahead of me. Outside of the pros there were only one or two trains of five or six riders.
I had a quick stop at special needs to grab my bottles of nutrition, and then had to track back down these riders, which didn’t take long. I was back in contact at Rex’s lookout, and before too long back to the front. I could see that a couple of the guys were starting to struggle on the hills, so knew that they would drop off at some point. Back into Port Douglas the second time and I was still bang on the plan. Coming out of town, I was back on the front and pushing my power, still feeling good, limiting any highs or lows by keeping a cool head. About 10k out of town I took a look over my shoulder on a long straight to see no one behind as far as I could see. I guess they are gooooooone! Sticking to the plan, I just kept ticking off the k’s picking up a rider here or there and spitting them out. J I had a young guy come past me who was riding strong, so I went with. This was a blessing, as he was riding really consistently and keeping me honest on the power. I sat back off him the whole way back to town, never going to the front (I didn’t owe him anything). We were punching into a solid headwind in certain parts of the trip home, but it was bearable. There were a couple of occasions that I questioned if I was going to have legs for the marathon, but I just kept telling myself that “today is your day”. Throw it all out there! One of my challenges I’d set myself was to ride under 5hrs, and I knew that if I nailed the plan I’d achieve that, so that kept me interested as I got closer and closer to town looking at the numbers.
Back to town and into T2 feeling good knowing that I had belted the bike! A 7 minute PB on this course.
THE RUN – 3:19:46 – 4:45 pace/km – 6th in the age group.
Another smooth transition and out onto the run feeling really good. The plan for the day…. the first 5k at 4:30 – 4:35 pace… the next 5k easing off to 4:45 pace, and then I had 32k to hold onto 4:45 pace. Which is a reverse of my previous plans where I would go out conservative, and attempt to get faster each lap. I was actually having to pull myself back in the first couple of k, as I was on 4:20 pace, comfortably. Good problem to have I guess. The first lap went pretty quick, and I was feeling good. There was some awesome support on and off the course which made things a little easier to deal with. Mandi spent most of the race down in a dead part of the course where you double back on yourself, which was a massive help to me on the day. Not only to see her smiling face, but to be able to concentrate on what she had to tell me in regards to splits, how far to the guy in front, and what was going on behind me, also messages from Rich… and some wise words of her own of course. I had the RTC crew hanging out of the RSL on each pass, the TZero crew giving me updates in town of positioning and messages from Rich who was back home in front of the computer… probably more nervous than me. I even had random people telling me my position. They know how to pump a guy’s tyres up!
I knew that Nathan Sandford from Cairns was only about five minutes behind me, and Duncan not far behind him. Both these lads can run, so I knew I was in for a race today, especially with me coming off the bike in 9th position. I had plenty of work to do to hold on to this placing, let alone pull some of the guys back that were in front. But knew all the same that it was mine to take, and mine to lose!
I will say here again that Kona wasn’t the be all to end all leading into this race, Rich has instilled in me that this result will come when it will, and that I just need to focus on having my best day, getting to the finish line as fast as possible, and have no regrets of leaving anything out on course. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when he would say to me.
But wholly shit it came into my head space when I got to the second lap of the run! Haha. I was now in 7th position, knowing that there were 7 slots to Kona in Cairns last year, and a few more spots were on offer this year across the categories, I needed to hang in there.
After taking off out of T2 on the first lap, nailing the first 5k at 4:31 pace, the next 5 at 4:41 pace, I was a little bit ahead of the plan and feeling really strong. This is where the top three inches comes into play, the mental strength to battle from the 10k mark through to the 10k to go mark is what makes the difference between a good race, and a great race. It was time to hold on to a 4:45 pace for the next two laps. The big message from Rich pre-race in this marathon was, if you’re going to actually die by running the next k at 4:45 pace, stop. If you’re not going to die, run 4:45 pace. Fair enough.
I’ve done it enough times now to know the mental games that you have to play with yourself to keep ticking off the k’s. “we only have to run out to this deadshit part of the course one more time” “just get back into town and use the crowd” “Mandi is just up here, get there”. You’ve got to have your triggers, and turn negatives into positives.
I was nailing my nutrition all day, and the stomach was reciprocating well, along with my muscles. The second lap is a bloody battle, but even when I felt like I was struggling, I was still holding onto my pace, which keeps the mind strong. I had conversations with Mandi as I passed, around the guys behind me, and that I felt like they were catching me. The message back was, don’t worry about what’s going on behind you, concentrate on sticking to the plan, and you will catch the guys in front. After news early in the race that these guys behind were close, and the guys in front were 4 plus minutes ahead, it was all about holding on to what I had, staying consistent on my plan, and what will be, will be.
I was getting word through the back end of the second lap, and the start of the third that I was now in 5th place, and the excitement was growing after battling through that middle 20k, whilst still holding my pace. The reality of running a sub 3:20 marathon was real, and the new mind games start with 10k to go, to get to that finish line as fast as possible, ticking the k’s off one by one. The message came from Rich as I came back through town. “you are on a treadmill, stay there!” The other word was that the guys behind were fading further back, and 4th place was only just ahead of me. Wholly shit…. Where’s third, I want to catch that rooster! Haha.
Knowing that I was in this position, and that it was mine if I wanted it, I was asking myself the question of “how bad do you want it”? “DO YOU WANT IT”??? Turns out that I wanted it pretty bad. I hadn’t cramped all day, but with 8k to go, my hammy showed signs. I gave it a big NOT TODAY BROTHER, threw in a crampfix, and found a spot where I didn’t aggravate the little bugger!
Back passed Mandi for my final run out to the last turn around, in fourth position. Hearing those beautiful words “see you at the finish line baby” was music to my ears. I received word on the way back to town that I was now in 4th place, with 5th place only 20 seconds behind me, but that’s ok, I just need to get to the finish line as fast as I can.
I started talking to myself again to get home. “Enjoy this last six k, you are going to remember this run home, this race, for the rest of your life”. “This is the day you achieved the pinnacle of this sport”. “Head up high, and take it in, enjoy the crowd’s attention, and know that Mandi is waiting for you at the finish chute”. This will go down as my most memorable, knowing that I had ticked every box possible on the day, and that I had achieved what seemed like an impossible reality only a couple of years ago. Sub 10 was a goal back then, and now I’ve hit a 9:19, the sixteenth fastest age group athlete on the day, and I’d left nothing to chance with roll down. Wholly shit! I’m still battling to get my head around the achievement. The finish line was a relief to see, and the emotion was hard to hold back! Mandi was so excited, SO GOOD! “you did it babe, you’re going to Kona” she said to me! WOW! The pace for the last 32k was 4:48 pace, which left me with a 4:45 pace overall! Nailed the plan!
I was a little crook after the race, but I got a magic pill from the medical tent to settle my guts, and I was good to go. Bit of recovery, some food, and into the VIP tent to watch the finish line… with a couple of cheeky ciders! All whilst answering some of the 1000 messages I had on my phone from my awesome support network.
Fair to say that I didn’t sleep much on race night, it could have been the copious amounts of caffeine in my body, or the thought of what tomorrow brings for me, but either way, I was lying there at 1am with possum eyes.
Bit of an extension to this report…..
I can’t not talk about Monday, WORLD CHAMPS ROLL DOWN TIME.
I’ve really enjoyed attending the roll down in the past, even well before I was ever in the mix. There’s so many good stories, and achievements come out of it, with people reaching this incredible milestone in their journey… some in their first effort, some 15 IM’s down the road. It was quite a surreal feeling walking over there with Mandi knowing that I had secured my spot with my 5th placing, and I didn’t need a roll down to be heading to Kona. I’ve grown a great long standing friendship with the Voice of IM Pete Murray, and over the last fourteen years of being involved in events with ASICS, he has seen the path that I’ve been on. He knows the battles I’ve faced of getting to this position, having been to Kona twice himself. It would be a special time today for the both of us, as he gets to call me up on stage to receive my slot to Kona. He didn’t disappoint. It took forever to get to my age group however, but once there, he called the four names out that beat me on the day, and none of them were there. Pete did a quick mic check to see if it was on, and then led into his announcement for myself. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck as he told a bit about my story “MR ASICS” as he calls me, and I bounced up onto stage for an embrace with the big marn!
The support, and messages of congratulation that I have received since is out of control, thank you so much everyone.
I’m not going to get all soppy here and thank Mandi, the kids and Rich, as they know how I feel about them, and that I can never repay them for what they have aided, and allowed me to achieve.
Watch this space though, as I’m planning on putting together some words about my “journey” of sorts from the fat kid to Kona qualifier, and the coping mechanisms that we have introduced as a family to get to this point.
It’s nearly been two weeks, and I’ve been gently training since race day. Another week or so of cruising, and then back into it for the run to the big show!
For the last two seasons I have watched incredible ironman athletes run down the finish chute in Cairns. Wanting to be a part of the action, I signed up to compete in 2018. After watching my partner Larissa do an amazing job at Ironman Cairns 2017, I decided to ask her coach Em, if she would be willing help me reach my ironman goal. Seven months later it was race time, and thanks to Em’s preparation I was feeling excited and confident of making it down that chute.
This is by far my strongest leg of the race, I followed coach’s orders and got to the front of the swim start. After 200-300m I managed to find some clear water and get into a great rhythm. The plan was to swim strong but hold back given how long the day would be. I swam mostly alone until just after the turnaround, before swimming into a group of five. I stuck with this group until the end which was helpful considering it felt as though we were swimming against the current. Although, it wasn’t exactly a ‘free’ ride to the swim exit with this group, I had to put up with a few blows to the face, including losing my goggles at one point. Happy with my debut ironman swim, time of 56:55 and still feeling fresh.
My first experience of an ironman transition. Turns out it comes with a helpful volunteer and chairs – very luxurious compared to other T1 experiences. My plan was to wipe down my feet and face, before the usual socks, shoes, glasses, helmet routine and then apply sunscreen before jogging off to the bike. Spent a little too long fiddling with my bike shoes, but apart from that happy with my T1.
Having only started using power 6 weeks ago the race plan for the bike was something new to me. The plan was to ride at 70% for the first 90km and if feeling good, up to 75% for the final 90km. Apart from my heart rate monitor disconnecting itself from my watch at the start of the ride, the first 40km went according to plan. This was probably aided by the friendly tail wind all the way into Port Douglas.
At that stage, as I headed back from Port Douglas, my legs started to feel a little heavy - which had me worried given the 140km or so to ride. In hindsight it was probably just the fact that I was now riding into the wind. I had to really focus on my race plan during the next 10-15km, constantly reminding myself to avoid surges. Although with some great views along the course it wasn’t too difficult to forget about any struggles I was having. Eventually my legs got over their little tantrum, and by the time I was turning back to Port Douglas everything was on track once again.
I followed the plan for the rest of the race, as expected there was an unwelcoming headwind for the final 20km. The reward for getting that final 20km done was the ride through the crowds along the esplanade, a great feeling. After the race I realised my average power was lower than I had hoped, in some cases by upwards of 10%. Perhaps my inexperience riding to power, especially over this type of terrain had contributed to the low numbers. In any case I was delighted with my time of 5:26 on the bike. There is no way I would have been able to pull that off six months ago, but there is definitely room for improvement.
I once again enjoyed the novelty of the chairs and volunteers. They even put sunscreen on my neck while I changed socks – incredible! Off to the run.
My plan was to run/walk the marathon at between 4:45 and 5min/km - 14 minutes on, 1 off. The idea was to stick closer to 4:45 for the first half marathon. The first 10km went to plan, everything was feeling good and even the weather was perfect. My stomach then really started to get sick of gels and chews. On my next walk break I couldn’t stomach another chew and skipped it, thinking I was better off not feeling sick.
At the beginning of the second lap, I tried to continue with my plan and get back on the gels. My body didn’t approve, and my stomach problems got worse. Skipping my nutrition then caught up with me and I felt zapped of energy, becoming light headed with very heavy legs. At this point I decided to slow right down and see if I could recover – rather than continue and have to be sick. So, I walked until I felt I could try to run. I couldn’t get back to my planned pace, rarely dropping below 6 min/km when I was running. A few aid stations went by before I decided to try and take on different foods. Over the next few stations I had some banana, watermelon, coke, and even found a cookie. To cool down I also started using ice and pouring it down my trisuit. Eventually something started working, I was able to run for longer periods of time and the pace started increasing. For the last 10km I felt back to normal and was able to maintain between 4:50 and 5:10 min/km, although I continued to walk the aid stations.
In the end I was proud of myself for turning around what looked like a potentially long run leg. I finished with a run of 4:11, much slower than planned but much better than it was looking at one point. It goes without saying but running down the finish chute was a great feeling.
Delighted with my first Ironman race, I can’t wait to pick my next one and have another go. Huge thanks to my Coach, Em, who not only prepared me for the race but was a brilliant supporter on course - as I’m sure all T:Zero athletes would have experienced.
It’s taper time, time to start getting fresh and prepping yourself for the big day ahead in a couple of weeks. It’s a time to reflect upon the work you have done, the sacrifices you and your loved ones have made for you to be where you are and to remember how lucky you are to be in a position to be doing an Ironman in the first place.
In a perfect world, we remain completely zen about it all, cruise into the race with linear, cool as you like emotions intact and crush race day like it’s a walk in the park.
However, this is so far-fetched from what normally goes on. For most of us, we go into self-sabotage mode. We reflect on our training, but rather than focus on how much we have done, it’s about what we missed. We begin to doubt our strength and fitness and enter into a somewhat negative mindset which from where I sit, isn’t going to help things in both the lead up and on race day.
Whilst hindsight is a beautiful thing, let’s instead bring our focus to what lies ahead, what we can control and how we can set ourselves up for a kick arse taper.
Control the controllables: we say it time and time again. There are a few things you have control over. Such as the few listed below:
Embrace the butterflies:
You’re going to feel nervous leading into an Ironman, particularly if this is your first one. But rather than trying to suppress these feelings and be super positive all the time, embrace the nerves and butterflies – it means you care and it really is a part of why we do this amazing sport. If we didn’t get the butterflies, it wouldn’t scare us and then what’s the point right!?
So embrace all of the feelings that come your way and whilst it’s important to keep things positive and focus on what’s to come, remember that they’re all a big part of the journey to that finish line. It’s a rollercoaster is this Ironman thing, with big waves of emotions - the better you can navigate your way through it all and stay mostly positive, the better your experience will be.
Enjoy the experience:
As mentioned earlier, it’s a time to reflect and be grateful for everyone and everything in your life that has lead you to being able to be where you are today. It’s a privilege to do this sport, so get out there and enjoy the experience, soak up the atmosphere, the highs and the lows, embrace it all! You deserve to be there, but you are also very lucky to be who you are – adopt an attitude of gratitude!
Go forth and race well. Find your flow, race with grit and above all, embrace everything that comes your way both in taper and race day. It’s one hell of a journey you’ve been on to get there and such a very cool moment in time it will be when you’re smashing down that red carpet like a young Jane Fonda!
“Things work out best for those people who make the most of how things turn out” Coach John Wooden
Coach Scotty Farrell
Click here to find out more about Head Coach Scotty Farrell
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