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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.
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