Sunday, 10 June 2012

Ironman Cairns - The Postmoretem

When signing up for this race three months ago, I knew it was going to be a tough ask as it was only allowing me 4 weeks to try and back up after competing in Ironman Australia. However, with the addage that this was now an Ironman race and the fact that I had family in Cairns that I could catch up with whilst there, it was a race that I could not go past.

I had recovered from IM Oz relatively well and had no niggles in the body. I had done only some light training with a couple of testing sessions however I was unsure how my body would feel on race day.
I have an Aunt and Uncle who live in Cairns and I was so lucky to be able to stay with them for my time in Cairns. It was amazing to catch up with them and they were amazingly hospitible not to mention the one button press espresso machine they have that kept me going. There was also approx 15 friends from Redcliffe Tri Club competing in Cairns so this weekend was going to be great. I also had my Wife, Mother and Sister fly up to watch me and cheer me on.

Race Day
The weather leading up to race day had been miserable. Each day had constant drizzle so it was a blessing when I woke up on Sunday to perfect conditions. Not a cloud in the sky and very little wind to be seen.

I headed down to Transition with my wife Hayley, mother Terry, and sister Storm to set up. I got down there nice and early and headed to the swim marshalling area to get a spot close to the front.

I positioned myself on the front row right next to the right hand swim bouy. As the gun sounded, it was the usual mad dash for 100m and then try to settle in as quickly as possible. I have worked very hard on my swim over the last few months so was again keen on a solid swim. The two lap swim went by fairly uneventful and I exited the water feeling quite good.

It must have been a slowish swim course as I swam a time of 57:30 however was stoked to learn later that I was 6th in my Age Group for the swim. A 56:40 at Port Macquarie only had me 17th in my age group.

Once again, my plan was to go fairly hard for the first 15km and try to settle into a good place. Early on, I already had three or four strong riders around me so it seemed as it was going to be a fast ride from the start.

We had a Tech Official riding alongside us and he seemed to be a no second chance official. He pinged two blokes for drafting penalties which seemed to be very harsh as I thought everyone was riding quite legal. The two blokes who received the penalty decided to put the hammer down to get up the road prior to having a 5 min breather. I decided to tac on the back of them but remained the 12m draft distance behinde them. Immediately we had broken away from the pace line we were riding in, and we were flying on the way to Port Douglas sitting on 41-43km/h for alot of it.

Getting close to the turn around in Port Douglas we could see that the helicopter that was following the pro leaders was not too far in front of us so we were wondering how close to the front we were. The problem with going with the two blokes who were done for drafting was that when they pulled off to serve their draft penalty, I would be left riding hans solo. At the turn around, I saw that we were only 1 minute down from a group of about 8 riders including the womens pro leaders so once the two blokes pulled off, I put the hammer down for the next 10km to catch the group in front. I finally caught the group and tacked onto the back legally for the rest of the ride.

The bike was amazing riding along the Captain Cook Highway along the waters edge, up over the hills and lookouts and weaving in and out of pockets of rainforest that lined the coastline.

Pulling into T2, I wasn't feeling great as the last 10km of the bike the pace had picked up to about 43km/h and the pace line I was riding apart of had splintered up. I rode into T2 with Justin Granger (one of the pro men) so was stoked to just be alongside him, but wasn't sure what price I had paid during the bike.

Bike 4hr 59min 50secs. First ever sub 5hr bike.

From the word go, I knew this was going to be a tough marathon. My legs were already jelly and I just wasn't feeling the stride that I am used to. I set off at a very controlled pace. Heading out to Yorky's Knob, I passed the oncoming pro's who were about 6km up the road from me.

My goal was to run 4:45min/km avg pace and maintained this for the first 6km. I decided to dial it back to 5min/km as I knew I had no chance maintaining this pace in the heat and the fatigue I was already feeling.

This run was one of the toughest runs I have done as I battled for nearly the entire 42kms. I was not feeling good at any stage and just turned it into a battle to see how long I could hang on for. I was in 2nd place coming in off the bike and had slipped to fourth by 21km. I remained here until 3km to go where I was passed by two other blokes to slip back to 6th in my age group however the athlete tracker still had me in fifth.

I battled through to the end I got to see my Mother and Aunt swanning it up in the VIP marquee above the finish chute. I slogged the marathon out in a time of 3hr 31mins for a total time of 9hr 34mins.

The highs and lows
Going by the athlete tracker, I thought that I had finished fifth in my age group and would have missed out on Kona Qualification by one spot however I soon learnt that 4th had already qualified previously so that would have bumped me up to fourth. I was over the moon however was not getting my hopes up too much as I still had to get it confirmed at roll down the next day.

Well, when I arrived at roll down, I learnt that I had finished 6th instead of 5th as one of the guys wasn't on the athlete tracker. All four Kona spots were taking once again by the first four hence I missed out yet again on the big ticket for Hawaii. Lesson learnt, you aren't on the plane until you are on the plane.

Despite the emotional rollercoaster, IM Cairns is by far the best race I have raced. I was able to visit my Aunt and Uncle and stay with them. They are the most hospitible people I have ever stayed with. We got to cruise around in a 1949 Pink Cadillac, eat crayfish tail during a family dinner and have leftover crayfish tail omlettes the following day.

The foreshore of Cairns is amazing and the restraunts and cafes are amazing too. This is one race that I will definately be back for next year.