Cairnsround 2 was an interesting contrast. The previous race had been organized by Ironman competitor “Challenge”, so this was my first time doing an official Ironman in Cairns. The course was a little different, and actually a little better, in that this time we swam off the end of the pier in Cairnsrather than Yorkey’s Knob, which is a 20 minute drive away. It made it easy to get to the start as it was just a short walk down from the hotel. The only downside with swimming off the pier is you have a 400 metre run to T1.
Before I begin, my aim was always to break my IM PB of 10:32:00 which I did here in perfect conditions 2 years ago. Given it’s a lot harder training with parent responsibilities, a stress fracture that took me out of running for 3 months at the start of the year, and getting smashed at work over the last month, it was not going to be easy. But Deb had supported my training and given me permission to race here (and stayed home with Josiah) so I was always going to give it my very best, ie I wasnt here just to tick any boxes.
The race started later than they normally do, 7:55, because they let the half Ironman off first. Later starts are good as you dont have to wake as early, but when you are racing for 10+ hours you need all the daylight on offer in the middle of winter. A 5:50PM sunset had me in line to receive the indignity of finishing with a glow stick… something I did in my first IM race and hoped never to do again. A later start also means the winds have a chance to build. It had been quite windy the last few days in Cairns and the forecasts were that it would do this again.
So we set off in the swim at 7:55. It was a two lap out and back course. On the out legs you just have to look for the buoys, so sighting is a little hard, but it’s the same for everyone. Fortunately on the return leg we had Paul Allen’s Octopus in the harbour to aim for which was helpful. I felt quite good for about the first 3k, I think the wind must have picked up by then as it was very choppy at the outer mark. Coming back in I think we had a bit of a headwind which wasn’t the best. I was hoping to swim about 1:03 but ended up swimming 1:08 which was my 2nd worst IM swim time, so I had to make up 5 minutes somewhere.
The first part of the ride was quick and uneventful. It was amazing to see by the time we hit Yorkey’s knob the half IM leaders we’re already on the run having competed a 90 km bike!
We got the odd tailwind boost heading up to Port Douglas. About half way up I was passed by Ant, a mate of my cousin Sinclair who was also racing. He seemed to get away at a rate of knots so I figured I may see him on the run given his PB was about 10 minutes shy of mine.
Must state how awesome it is riding on the Captain Cook highway. It must be one of the best Ironman bike courses in the world.
Heading into Port Douglas the first time around the wind was giving us all a boost in speed, but this is obviously a double edged sword. While someone might ride 33km/h with no wind, a 20km/h tailwind might let you ride at 40 with no increase in effort. But heading into such a wind you’d be working much harder to average even 25, and since average speed is not a linear relationship with time and distance you lose out anyway.
Just after I made the turn into Port Douglas (about a 12k out and back loop) another friend Matt Palmer was heading out. He was on fire on the bike, and unfortunately just missed out on a Kona slot at rolldown this morning by two positions.
I almost had my race end in Port Douglas. We were down to half a lane each way at this part of the course. I took a drink from my aerobottle and looked up and was heading straight for a traffic cone. No time to avoid so I hung on and took it out. Fortunately kept going upright and carried on (and there’s was nobody coming the other way). Only damage was my front speed sensor being taken offline. Since I didn’t want to stop for 20 seconds to repair, I did the rest of the race with only the average speed showing on my watch, no current speed on my speedo.
We then headed back out of town into the headwind and about 30k later turned around and headed back to Port Douglas. I passed Sinclair at this point and we exchanged words of encouragement. Back into Port with no tailwinds had me excited, however they picked up again just as I did the turnaround.
Heading back to Yorkey’s I ran out of liquid about 10k short of an aid station. Not ideal since its hard to replenish liquids when you go into deficit. But I figured it should be okay. Fortunately Ant passed me again about 5k later (no idea when I passed him). I noted he had a fresh bidon on the back so I asked for a sip and he gladly obliged. Many thanks.
Ant started getting away again heading back into town, but he provided good motivation and I managed to stay with him and the snake of riders he was riding with. It’s easy after riding 140k to sit up and take it a bit easy, after all it’s been a long ride. Having someone to push you is just what you need at this point, even though I felt the legs were a going to be starting this marathon a little more tired than last time.
Harding back into town I needed to pee and was unable to pee on the bike (only once managed to do that, last time in Cairns). When you think it prolly takes a minute out of your race to stop at a loo and pee, this was annoying. Oh well, I had to hold on. Managed a 33.1k average speed and a 5:27 which was a few minutes up on my target, so I had made up for my lousy swim. A run PB was now the target.
The run started really well. It got even better when I managed to pee on the run! Only just heard of this skill 5 days ago, and yesterday I managed it twice! Very happy with that time saver. Got into town (21k) in about 1:45 and hadn’t yet walked an aid station (and had only been passed by 1 person). From then on it became a bit of a battle (which is par for the course). Allowed myself to walk aid stations (I knew this would happen) but despite the desire I didn’t walk anywhere else. Deb’s one bit of advice “don’t dawdle” stuck in my head, and it saved my PB – 10:29 was the time on the clock as I finished. A 3:46 run (an IM PB by about 2mins) saved the day.
Kinda good to do a PB in non-perfect conditions, as save for a silly mistake in the swim a couple of years ago which cost two minutes, that race did have perfect conditions. It makes it harder to ever break your PB if you set a PB on a perfect day.
So all up, a very happy result in a great race, which is only going to get bigger and bigger. It was nice to be able to race that course again.
PS – it was dark when I finished. They were handing out glow bands at the final aid station. I didnt take one when offered, and they didnt force me to take it. Was happy with that outcome 😉