Melbourne Ironman Race Report:
I’d planned to keep this short as race reports on IM are for first-timers only, but got a bit carried away once I start typing.. So if you don’t have time or don’t work for the Gov’t or CBA then here is the summary:
“IM Melbourne is a great race, exceptionally well organised with only a few teething problems which should be gone next year. It is a super-fast bike course mainly due to the surface and a fairly quick run too with only a few small sharp hills thrown in. We were fairly lucky with the weather and conditions were near perfect but remember Melbourne can do anything – a few days earlier would have been a very different story. This is however never going to be as hot as Busso and is a perfect race to do your first one in and is close to Sydney too…”
For the other few people who asked me and for anyone else interested in learning the lessons I learned and what I’d keep/do differently for next time read on…!
Training had gone surprisingly well, with only handful of days missed due to work trips and late nights and little or no sick days (Timmy’s reputation for me really is quite exaggerated!) The first thing I did when I started training in the second week of January was to enlist the help of triathlon coach extraordinaire POD and his sidekick Sparksie – as I’d said before Busso “In POD we trust” and it proved to be a wise choice some race day.
POD was clear from the outset that we’d hit an average of around 15hours a week which should be the max for anyone in a fulltime job, Sunday’s off completely (to give the mind a break and allow me to avoid divorce!) and 3 rides/runs/swims a week would be enough for a new PB in the IM. The sessions were very specific and any “junk” miles were cut out…
About a month out I was very over it, tired, cranky and not sure if I really cared about Tri’s as much as the other guys to be putting in the effort to get up before 6am for 6 days out of 7 while having to come up with shitty excuses to miss yet another social occasion. But then came Husky and a solid result (5 min PB) which was a sign things were going in the right direction. The 3 week taper allowed me to refill the sleep bank and by race week I was raring to go..
Training with the boys (Josh, Samsy, JC, Clyde and Conor and others on weekends) was motivation enough to get up every morning as missing a session meant the inevitable banter all day via email about how that morning’s session was THE key session you’d missed!
By race week I knew I was fitter than last time but had no idea how things would pan out with only a faded memory of some severe dehydration in Bussetlon 3 years ago to go by! Sure I hadn’t done the massive volume done by Kronie (30hrs a week), the luxury of a training camp in January and a part-time job like Samsy, I hadn’t ridden an average of 500km a week on the bike and training for 2 ironmen events like Clyde, had a national swimming background like Josh, a background in rowing which had perfectly transferred itself to cycling like Conor, the advantage of growing up in Australia and being able to swim from the age of 2 like Mitch, the experience of an ironman legend like JC or a disturbing love of everything ironman and pain like Juan….but I knew I had the heart to come from a long way behind and chase them down as hard as I could, new citizenship in hand I was the real life ‘aussie battler’ and the underdog! 😉
Felt surprisingly relaxed on race morning, don’t know why but it didn’t seem as daunting second time around. The swim start was a farce and one of the rare occasions the organisers let themselves down on race day. Starting in the near-dark was a strange enough sensation but with 5 mins to start I was still in the shallows trying to avoid having to tread water for too long when I noticed the start line was drifting further and further forward, knowing there was no way they were getting those people back I decided to swim towards them as fast as I could to avoid being even further behind when I heard the siren go for race start. I was only about 100m back but others were far worse than I and I can’t afford to be giving the good swimmers any more advantage! The swim was relatively calm to start (this would soon change) and I cruised it as much as possible but it felt like it would never end especially heading into the dark and not knowing where the buoys were, lesson for next time study the course beforehand.
Out of the water in 1.03 which was slower than last time and a little disappointing, after the race it would turn out most people had slow times so it may not have been as bad as I feared. In any case the noise running up to transition was deafening especially to a disoriented swimmer who’s been repeatedly punched in the head for the previous hour. Running up the chute who did I see but my great mate Martin who had surprised me and flown over from Perth for the day to cheer me on in cahoots with Ange, that gave me such a lift after a disappointing swim I was dying to get on the bike and hammer it!
After the high came the low, rode out of transition in a daze and still surrounded by a wall of noise I got on the bike and pedalled but it just didn’t feel right, around the first roundabout and nearly came crashing down, the reason was soon evident – a flat front tyre. SHIIITE! I got off at the side of the road and watched as the Shimano van went flying by refusing to stop at such a narrow intersection. At this stage I was starting to panic, I knew my dreams of Hawaii were already gone up in smoke (they were borderline to begin with). With a string of profanities which I later suffered terrible guilt for given the kids watching! I considered my options with my first ever flat tyre in a race and first time changing a tubular tyre… First mistake was to try the foam canister, didn’t fit it properly and watched it spray all over me and the watching spectators, in hindsight it wouldn’t have taken me around the course anyway. Then ripped off the tub with my teeth as couldn’t get my fingers under it! The new tyre went on fairly quickly but slightly askew which would later cause me to cack it down downhill at 60km/hr but was rock hard so good to go. The people around me at this stage had all swum 1:20 and were mostly non-athletic looking but I knew I had to somehow get the head back together and try and at least maintain my proud 100% record below 10hrs….
The bike course was smooth as silk on the Eastlink, slightly uphill on the way out, downhill on the way back. It was a fast course, much faster than the flat Busso and I felt strong throughout. I was at least passing people and moving up through the field but it was pretty clear from the groups streaming back the other way that there were many large packs out there upfront something that didn’t help my mood and I had a face that would have turned milk sour coming into town on the first lap. Chatted to Mitch out there who seemed to be struggling but was still smiling as usual. It was actually cold out there but that was welcome after my last experience and I finally overcame my fear of peeing on the bike, once I’d started I couldn’t stop and the bike shoes were only fit for the bin by the end! It was a big boost to come in off the bike in 5:18 which was around my predicted time with but with hindsight I should have aimed higher. I started the run wondering what might have been and just how far back I was on the others (estimate was 20-35mins)…
Anyway “bike for show – run for dough” is Housey’s mantra and I had some serious work to do to make up group. The first 2km loop went way too fast and I had to pull it back a lot to keep at 4:30’s and the keep the HR down… I was on the leg I loved the most and had the advantage of knowing that no-one else would pass me for the rest of the day. It is a big advantage to have your strongest leg last as psychologically you are passing people for the rest of the day and feeding off their energy! HURTs runners would clean up here..
I had some company along the way which helped kill some time on a long day, Sparksie and POD were zipping along the course on their bikes and letting me know how it was looking up the front of the field. Sparksie told me I was only 2mins down (a lie) and POD ruined it 5km later telling me the gap was 20mins! I love a point-to-point course, just seeing that finish line getting closer is a big advantage and at halfway I felt really good and was holding my 4:30min/km target, I knew this would slowly drift out but I would be thrilled with a 3:15 marathon (4:37’s) something I didn’t think was possible pre-race but with ideal conditions on the day now a distinct possibility…
The km markers came and went and it seems strange to say but I was actually wishing for more of them! I was running well and knew I would catch some of the boys before long – this was confirmed by (ex-BRAT) Chris Dunn and Hilly at 30km and 32km approximately who told me Clyde and Josh were just up in front. So at 30km it was time to throw caution (and a particularly unfriendly team runner who had been my companion for a while) to the wind and pick up the pace…. It was as the saying goes – hammer time!
Not sure what was going on here!
The rest of the marathon went in a blur, hearing people’s surprised shouts of encouragement as I went by helped me, as too did Ange, Louise, baby Jack and Martin who were spending a week’s wages on taxi fares and jumping out at different spots on the course on the way home roaring support. I even had the energy for a fist pump and high five on seeing them an I was feeling nothing short of awesome –so different to Busselton . My first BRAT to pass was Conor (who I came upon suddenly and was struggling but later came good) then Dave W and finally the scalps of Josh and Clyde at 39km just when I had almost given up hope…! I had made the decision early not to slap any asses (a trademark of mine) partially because I was a good guy and partially cause part of me felt it could all come crashing down any minute and I would suffer the ignominy of being slapped back…the scalps I was really after – Samsy and Kronie proved to be just out of reach however (and I will have to live with the consequences of that for years to come!). Both with fantastic races despite some question marks over drafting but for a first-timer and an old-timer absolutely brilliant times…
The second half of the marathon was a 3min negative split and 4:23’s average for the day, 3:05 was my 4th fastest time out of 9! And most importantly faster than Charlie by a minute (I Don’t get much to brag about over beers!)
I was delighted with the result of 9:33 which seemed impossible 8 hours previously and it goes to prove you should never give up in an ironman as it’s a very, very long day… I was nowhere near a Hawaii spot on a very competitive day which was a little disappointing and despite my claims this would be my last I’ll definitely be back. Watching the old timers (40-44’s) go up to get their spots made me hungry to want to come back and do another for that Kona spot sometime!
What went well:
• Nutrition: Got it spot on this time, maybe due to ideal weather conditions. Never felt sick, a lesson to practice nutrition on EVERY long ride, have a plan and stick to it.
• Get a good coach – someone you trust so that you never doubt for one minute that you have done the work needed and someone who can get you back on the horse when the head is down.
• The weather – we’ll never have ideal conditions like it, little or no wind, no rain, no hot sun. Beware though 3 days before was horrific, Melbourne can do anything and next year could be a completely different race.
• Keep the head – something will always go wrong and when it does it’s all about how you react, sometime too adversity can help you to focus a bit more.
• Supporters – really helped on the long run back to Melbourne, I hadn’t planned the logistics but they had thankfully and always seemed to pop up when needed most. Martin’s long trip over to cheer me on will never be forgotten, good friends like that are very rare!
• Build-up races –Husky and Wollongong, both good distances, a chance to try out race nutrition and a confidence boost on a good day.
• Sickness – no sickness of injuries this time which is as much luck as anything, getting to the start line is sometimes harder than the finish.
• A supportive partner – it goes without saying IM is the most selfish of all pastimes. It is not just the 16 hrs a week you are not at home it is the countless early nights and eyes rolling in your head on nights out. I am extremely lucky to have someone who puts up with far too much and looking back on it was on her feet supporting from 4am till 12pm that night when she flew home for work all while 30 weeks pregnant! Make no mistake it is impossible without them..!
What didn’t go so well:
• Puncture – I have racked my brain on this one and wondering what I could have done differently but there is probably not much, if I had noticed in transition maybe there would have been help there and then again who knows…
• Bike Split – In hindsight and even with a generous (?) 10min stoppage on the side of the road the bike time was still slower than everyone else, this is debatable and maybe I wouldn’t have run as quickly but possibly have pushed a bit harder.
• Swim – there is no doubt about it to get an Kona spot I am going to have to improve by 5-6mins on this, the swim was always the session that got shortened or dropped on busy work days and I didn’t go to a single squad session. I used to think that the extra effort give relatively little reward but 2 swims a week average is just not good enough for a poor swimmer like me.
• Training – was near perfect throughout but maybe starting a bit earlier might have helped on this, next time I’ll bike harder in training and do another session a week, that was where I lost most time.
• Staying off the beer for 2 weeks before – Makes not that much difference, have a beer or two it helps you relax!
Well done to HURTS members – Charlie (scorching 9hr despite a season of injuries), JC (the old guy did well and is a living example of the benefits of HURTs can make on watching how much he’s improved), Clyde (who smashed some demons and also the 10hr barrier), Mark, Richie Palmer and anyone else I’ve missed… I think we might have a few more takers this time next year!
I even got praised by Timmy in his blog instead of the usual abuse….it must have been a good day!