Sharks, Bushfires, 37degs – Emotional Lows and Highs!
Goal for the Race – Qualify for Kona, time and place doesn’t matter!
I love this event and have raced here 3 times previously, qualifying for Kona in 2008. It’s a perfectly flat course with the best swim on the Ironman circuit around the beautiful Busselton Pier.
Following Ironman Barcelona (after a short rest!) I kept up the training, in the back of my mind there was potential of a work-trip coinciding with IMWA. Unfortunately this didn’t work out, so last minute decision to enter 10days before!!! – Yes I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone I was coaching, but fortune favours the brave!
I arrived in Busselton on the Wednesday night before the race, woke up on Thursday with a cold coming (despite being super hygienic on the flight out). Never mind think positive and get lots of rest I’ll be fine. Memories of 2009 where I raced with a cold were flooding back and already thinking what a waste of time and money this could be. Thursday was a day of getting everything sorted, registering and bike building.
Felt slightly better on Friday so went for a practice swim, fairly rough seas which was great fun. Swim going very well the Phantom wetsuit was awesome, I swam half the race distance at an steady pace and was on-target for a PB swim over the full distance (and I didn’t see any sharks)! Also went for a very short bike and run to keep the legs turning over.
A terrible nights sleep, and I felt worse on Saturday so went of searching the local shops for Lemsips whilst checking the Australian Anti Doping Websites to see what I could take to ease the symptoms. Glad to say I did start feeling better by the end of the day. Early to bed and I was feeling positive for race day, even with a forecast of 32oC.
Race day dawned perfect, calm and cool for the start. Very organised and relaxed in transition with an hour or so to go. About to sit and listen to some motivational tunes and the announcement comes ‘would all athletes please go and stand by their bikes until further notice’. That only meant one think SHARK! I was sat with a local who had access to some of the event support team who very quickly confirmed a shark had been sighted and the 70.3 athletes were pulled out of the water! Turned out to be a Shovelhead/Bonnethead which are harmless to humans!
This provided great entertainment on the run course with numerous chalk drawings of sharks on the road, and lots of inflatable sharks also!!!
After a long wait they announced the swim was cancelled. At this point my motivation disappeared, I was thinking I might as well go home as I know that I needed the swim buffer to fend of the strong bikers and runners to qualify for Kona. After much sole searching, text and calls back home I managed to pick my spirits up; execute the bike and run plan and save the extra energy from not swimming for the end of the run. In the back of my mind I thought that everyone may go off super hard having not had a 1hr swim to warm up.
We were set-off in pairs in 6second intervals from the beach, with a run up to transition (as if we had come out the water). My assumptions were correct, lots of people heading of flat out on the bike.
With the course being flat it is fast, but the wind soon picks-up with the sea breeze. Almost all of the bike course is inland with some shelter from the wind, it also means it gets hot! I took the first lap steady hitting a lap time of 2hrs 24 at the 90k mark, hydration was going well, I could feel that it was hot but wasn’t too affected by it. Onto the 2nd lap and I had to hold myself back, I know its hot and better to save some for the run, I sneak a look at the Garmin and it’s over 37degs, good decision!
The 2nd lap was carnage, lots of athletes getting off their bikes and lying at the side of the road. Abandoned bikes every where and ambulances sweeping athletes up. 2nd lap 2hrs 26min, 2minutes slower than first so all going well.
With the staggered/TT style start then there is no way of knowing what place I was!
Onto the run I set a steady/conservative pace aiming for about 3:20 – 3:30 marathon, hoping to have lots left to pick up the pace in the last 5-10k. All went well for first 2 laps, stop and stretch at the half-way point and keep going. Again lots of carnage already on the course, I’ve never seen so many people stopped or walking on the first lap of the run in an Ironman. It feels great as I was always passing people and not being passed (not normal for my Ironman runs!). At the 26k mark it started to get hard, despite putting ice in my hat and every available pocket at every aid station my body temperature was way to high and I started to feel the heat affects (well it was 34deg still!).
I tell myself Just keep running and moving, your still passing people and not being passed (even with more athletes joining the course having finished the bike leg). The pace drops and I get slower and slower, walking every 3 or 4th aid station changes to every aid station in an effort to keep cool. I’m now driven to keep going just to finishing, get some shade and cool down (or jump in the sea!) One way on the run course wasn’t so bad with locals providing hose showers to try and cool down, the other direction along the beach path with no shade or cooling wasn’t so!
Eventually onto the last lap and I walk for the odd minute hear and there, and make it to the finish. 8hrs 55. Sub 9 ! but not the Sub 9hr I hoped for at the start of the season!
Off to the recovery tent and feel pretty low, in my head I hoped that I may just make the top 20 in my Age Cat, so on a lucky day a roll down slot for Kona maybe possible (8 slots I my age group), contemplating whether I should continue racing in 2018 Ironman or step-down to 70.3 where I have had great success this year. Eventually I get my kit back and check my phone, message from Denise says can’t really tell my result but from the tracker it looks like I had done really well!!!!! A quick check of the live tracker on line showed I was lying 5th in may age group (I was in shock at this stage!) I thought the result would change as with the rolling start faster athletes could still be on-course (and the timings etc weren’t very consistent on the live tracker). Time to relax and see what happened.
It took about 2hrs for the results and live tracker to update properly, leaving me in 7th in my age group with 8 Kona slots. Mission accomplished, time for an huge Hawaiian Pizza! As they say in Ironman ‘ Anything is Possible’!
Season goal complete!