In the midst of a red wine inspired moment in the aftermath Ironman Western Australia, I decided that Ironman New Zealand was a convenient sort of timing to allow for recovery and developing better fitness (ie three months).
Three months of training, a test day at Sufferfest Bunbury 70.3 and devotion to strength work would see me ready to perform, right?
Perhaps I am not alone, in reflecting on alcohol as being a driver of positive thoughts, with little room for the realities of life!
Christmas, New Year, working longer hours than usual at the clinic were things I had not considered and bizarre Perth weather that had weather forecasters embarrassed and left me short of some long rides (I refuse to ride a bike in thunderstorms).
However, with the loving support of Natalie (who told me I WAS going to go to New Zealand and race having booked flights and accommodation) I set off 4 days prior to race day.
Actually I set off, my bike case set off and my suitcase set off. Only 2 of us arrived, with the rush for plane connection in Auckland meaning my suitcase sat there for another 24 hours.
So, eventually putting my bike together (and changing into clothes that didn’t smell clearly of 24 hours sitting around) I checked in to NZ relaxed version of IM.
I did a reconnaissance ride and drove most of the course (some hills, pretty windy, roads rough in places) – some parts of the bike course aren’t accessible except for race day.
Lake Taupo is beautiful, and so I swam a little (gee, water is pretty brisk isn’t it!).
I ran the lakeside portion of the run leg, and looked at the maps (BIG mistake right there – don’t trust maps, get first hand feel for ALL parts of the course even if it means riding it).
I picked up Natalie and Gabs from the airport the day before the race, dropped off my bike and gear and did my best to forget all about it (still feeling a bit uneasy about my reliance on maps over eyeballing the terrain) and focus on the 2 girls having a good time in Taupo.
By the way, it is easy to have a good time in Taupo. People are really friendly and laid back and helpful. Great place to visit, having a race is simply icing on the cake.
Usual raceday procedure. Get to transition early, prepare bike ornaments, make sure the wheels go around and stop when brakes applied. Make sure gear is set to big cog on back (don’t laugh, I have made this mistake more than once before and it is embarrassing trying to take off from the mount line….). Home and have coffee with Natalie and then wetsuit on, goggles and cap in hand and try to look relaxed (I failed the relaxed look).
I found the swim start (you guessed right, I hadn’t actually done this part of reconnaissance either) and joined the hordes of admiring age groupers watching in awe as the pros lined up on start line.
Then ……….BOOOM …. Shit what was that? Turns out they start IMNZ with a cannon which sounded like it was next to my right ear (I don’t remember reading anything about that in the Athlete Guide).
Fortunately I had wetsuit on so any wetness didn’t show.
Deepwater start, so swim out and get used to the water temperature. Is it just me, or does anyone else shiver uncontrollably whilst the race starters tell you “3 mins to start” and give you a good 7 -10 mins before they start you? At least I was expecting the cannon this time.
With my swim expertise, I was self seeded at the back. Even so, I wasn’t expecting somebody to (accidentally) almost rip my timing chip off my ankle. I panicked, as I needed that chip (Natalie and Gabs wouldn’t know where I was without it, or when to go to finish line when I was finishing). I admit I let this moment get to me, and spent the next 10 minutes trying to get my breathing somewhere near correct order- breath out under water and breath in when you turn your head to air.
Eventually I got the required order of events right, and the swim was actually enjoyable. Lake Taupo is clear, can see the bottom of lake the whole way and can sight from both the buoy line and shoreline when turning to breathe.
Swim over, I stood and jogged/walked to transition. Who has the sense of humour to put a 300m hill to run up to get to transition out of a swim?
I changed and asked my very cheerful and friendly Maori volunteer to put some sunscreen on me (I don’t really tan, I just develop different shades of red).
This guy was really enthusiastic, and totally dedicated to making sure that sunscreen wasn’t coming off any time soon. I was winded just by him slapping it on, but to his credit I didn’t get sunburned!
Off on the bike with Woody’s very clear instructions burned into my brain. Eat before the hill, take the hill moderate then get your act together and find the burn that is just right.
The bike course has a mixture of uphills and downhills, rough road and smooth road.
Everyone knows the headwind is coming on the second lap out to Reporua, but that doesn’t make it any easier to grind your way through.
The enduring memory of the ride for me was the incredible friendliness of all the people lining parts of the bike course, farmers sitting by their front gates with gumboots on shaking their head at the yearly race that brought triathletes down their road, and the surprisingly strong smell of cow manure in parts of the ride. Agricultural, but in a really good way.
I was told that I should ride hard enough that I believed I couldn’t possibly run once I hit the 140km portion of the ride. No trouble achieving that feeling, in fact I was ahead of schedule as by 120 – 135km into that headwind I was convinced that I was cooked by the time I hit T2.
There is a really nice downhill segment for about the last 7km heading into town at end of bike course, and this certainly helped legs recover, and to be honest the mind appreciates speeding into town with cheering crowd lining the road, rather than grinding up a hill.
My volunteer friend was busy with somebody else at change to run, so I got another guy to help me. He was slightly smaller than t1 helper (he was probably only about 125kg), but I didn’t want to risk more body damage so left out the sunscreen.
Shoes on, cap on, race belt on, gels in hand and I wobbled out into the run course.
Fortunately it is a few hundred metres before you get to the crowds, so some of my wobble boots had disappeared.
As I was starting, Terrezo Bozzone (winner of race) was finishing. He was loping up the street like a gazelle like it was no trouble to have previously covered 226km in about 8 hours. Amazing.
My mantra for run was simply to ignore Garmin and focus on cadence and rhythm that would allow me to get to finish line.
This worked really well for first 3 – 4km until I hit the part of run course that I had failed to preview.
There were uphills and downhills and going around corners into territory that I had no idea what it held for me. In truth, the uphills and downhills aren’t steep, but for a body that was feeling a bit trashed by that time and with increasing warmth of the day (unlike the forecast of rain all day) I found this difficult.
With the usual strategy of coke and ice at aid stations being employed, I ended up dicovering a new friend on the day – Red Bull.
I have never drunk Red Bull in my life before, and frankly I think it tastes like crap. But it sure does improve mental status. There was only one aid station that seemed to have it, but this aid station catered to athletes running both out and back into town. So I think I had 4 big cups of this for the run, and will be back for more in future races (but will take it earlier!). Equally, all the coke and Red Bull probably explains why I didn’t sleep much that night either.
Again I have to say that the support of the crowds on the run course is nothing like I have ever experienced before. Super supportive, very knowledgeable and sort of like a family party type atmosphere.
Coming in to finish the second lap I went over to where Natalie and Gabs were standing and explained that I was cooked, and the last lap was going to be slower than ever. Sorry.
As I rounded the corner for last time and ran up the road towards the finishing chute, two other guys sprinted past me (they were also finishing). Geez, who has the energy to sprint the last few hundred metres of a Ironman race. Not me.
I was lucky enough that we had arranged for Natalie and Gabs to be present at the finishing line with Gabs giving me the finishers medal and Natalie giving me the towel (I think she was wanting to give me a can of Rexona too, but was too polite to say anything).
Will I be back? No question, yes.
This is a good, honest and difficult race. I gave everything that I had on the day and came up short on my desired finish time. However I consider myself to be focussed and persistent (both Natalie and my business partner may have used the words “bloody minded” and “obsessive”) and will continue to work on improving my health and train as hard as my body allows me too.
IMNZ 2019? I will do everything in my power to be there, be prepared and be my best.