The lead up
In the weeks leading up to Ironman Melbourne I was feeling great. I had really tried to work on my weaknesses and I was swimming and running stronger than I had before. I had however been battling a niggling pain in my foot being diagnosed with Plantar Fasciaitis. The pain was bearable and I was doing my best to manage it during all of my run sessions.
Ten days out after my final speed session my foot flaired up however a quick trip to Dr Alex Ha sorted it out and made my foot feel great. Then on one of my last days of work prior to going on leave to travel to Melbourne, I strained my Glute/Hip that left me in pain every time my foot hit the ground. This put a big change to my lead up to Melbourne with several trips to the Doc, Physio and Massage. I want to thank Dr Alex Ha who did eveything in his power to get me up to scratch to race. When I thought all was done, he would send me a text to tell me to come in or even do a house call. I was losing hope fast however he wouldn't take no for an answer and kept me going. Thanks Alex.
This led to a massive change to my lead up to IM Melbourne. I did not run at all for the week leading into the race. I was just going to swim and bike on race day and find out how it felt some time after midday on the Sunday.
Onto the bus at 5am for the 40km drive to Frankston. This was great as we did not have to worry about finding a place to park and I was able to get a bit more of a kip on the way down. We arrived in Frankston and were greated with a 30-40km/h westerly blowing. This was no surprise as this had been forecast however the wind had picked up from the prievious day. The swim was changed to a 1.5km swim due to the dangerous conditions and the start was to be delayed 30mins. I headed to the swim start with plenty of time to spare as the start was sure to be crowded.
My swim warm up consisted of a few out and backs to suss out negotiating the chop as best as possible. It was very similar to the worse conditions I have experienced at my local beach at Redcliffe where we do many brick sessions.
The start was delayed again and the tension and nerves among the age group start was growing. Nobody want to give an inch at the start line. It was to be a knee deep start and I was torn between trying to abide by the officials by staying put or holding my position on the start line as the masses slowly walked forward despite the constant calls to hold our position. It had just turned into a slow procession out to sea as the gun finally went off.
I was only about 5 meters off the front line and positioned right amongst the swimmers gunning for pole postion. As the gun went off, it was thrash, duck dive, grab, thrash, swim, thrash, grab, swim. The conditions made it hard even just to swim and even at the front of the pack, there was some breaststroking going on to trying to negotiate the chop and swells.
I got to the end of the pier quite quickly and had to make a slight right turn and aim for two swim buoys located 750m offshore. They were positioned directly in the line of the swell which made sighting and navigating alot easier. Just swim head on with the waves and worry about the buoys when you get there. It was a complete U-turn around the buoys and head back to shore down the waves. For the entire swim, there was no trying to draft off anyones feet as they would just get washed ontop of you or you on them. It was just negotiate the conditons as best as possible. The swim back in was a little more comfortable as we were swimming with the swell and you had the odd swell pick you up and give you a good run.
Arriving to the beach I was among 80% of the field to be washed about 150m down the beach. As I was coming in, I knew this was going to be the case and planned just to go with the swell as it would be quicker to run back up the beach rather than fighting the chop swimming in. This run was the first run I had done in a week and could feel my glute not playing nicely. With the reduced swim, the exit was very very busy and it was a constant stream of runners heading through the showers.
Here is a video of the swim start
Swim : 24:18 23rd in Age Group
With the stong winds blowing this meant the first and third 45kms was into a headwind. There was plenty of cyclists exiting T1 together and once we hit the highway after about 5kms, I set out pushing hard to get away from the masses and bridge up to a good sized pace line about 500m up the road. My bike is usually my strength and I usually have no trouble bridging any gaps and settling into a good rythym. This day, I found myself pushing hard to even go with others who were bridging the gap. It took me 20kms into a head wind to reach the group of about 8 riding further up the road but once I reached them, it was great as they were all riding single file and legally spaced out. Once I reached them, I was still finding it hard to settle into a rythym and my heart rate was still above 170bpm where I usually try to sit around 150bpm.
Not more than five minutes later, I could sense a large body creeping up on my right. It was not just a large body, but about 40 bodies riding the Tour De frigging Melbourne. A huge group had caught up to us just after I had busted my ass to catch some other guys to ride with. They were three and four wide and up each others asses with not a care in the world. Being 100% anti drafting, I looked around and told them all what I thought of them and sat up to drift off the back of the group. Whilst making my way back through the group, the inevitable happened with the clash of carbon and screech of wheels when about 6 blokes came down about ten meters in front of me. I just managed to avoid the crash and let them have it again. I just sat off the back of the bunch keeping a close eye on the front where for the next 20kms they jockeyed and tussled for the front of the group.
Heading into and out of the tunnel for the first time, a group of about six had got away and this was a good opportunity to get away from the masses. I took off up the climb out of the tunnel towards the first turn around. Heading back towards the tunnel after the turn around and going through an aid station, a female pro was brought down right in front of me by some fool who swerved across to try and grab a bottle. I just managed to miss that one too. This race was becoming carnage.
With the wind behind us, it allowed the groups to spread out a bit more and for the return trip on the first lap. We were holding 45-55km/h that was great, however I was still unable to relax. I was constantly on the gas trying to hold my place in the pace line. This is where I look back on the race and know where I stuffed it. I was 75km in and my heart rate had not dropped below 165bpm. I really should have backed off with the tail wind but my ego got the better of me not wanting to lose too much time whilst riding up to 60km/h on the flats.
I hit Frankston and was not looking forward to the next 90km. The next 45km into the wind was absolutely brutal. There are several long climbs and I was suffering big time. I was that drained that each time I looked down to grab a bottle to drink, I would get massive head spins and blurred vision. There was times where I could not see a thing for about 15 seconds and just held my bike straight hoping there was nothing in front of me. This happened about 6 times during the second half of the bike. I was starting to get quite emotional too and just wanted to jump in a cab to see my wife and friends who had made the trip down to watch me. If there had have been a lift directly to the finish line, I think I may have taken it however the easiest way to get back to St Kilda was to ditch my bike at T2 and run the 42km.
Heading into Frankston to finish the bike, I sucked it up and tried to reset myself and start from scratch for the run. I had ridden myself into tenth however it had cost me so much more.
Bike : 4hr 53min 10th in Age Group
The crowd in the streets of Frankston were amazing as we headed south for 800m prior to turning around and heading home to St Kilda some 40kms away. As the run follows the coast line, you can see the city waaaayyyyy off in the distance and it is daunting to think you have to run there.
My hip was pulling and hurting from the minute I started the run. The impact of my normal running style hurt alot so from the start, I adopted a shuffle trying to minimise the pain. I could actually manage my goal race pace of 4:40min/km and thought I only need to do this for a bit over three hours. I managed to hold this for the first 6kms but was going downhill fast. My feet had gone very numb. Major rookie error - I had laced my shoes with elastic laces but due to not being able to run, did not get a test run in prior to the race. They were too tight and I had to stop to loosen them though the damage was done and they were numb for the first 20km. This was only the start of the wheels falling off. I had come off the bike in about 50th overall therefore I was mixing it with the big boys of the race. All of these guys were quality athletes and quality runners knocking out 4:10min/km. I was feeling absolutely rubbish and this was compounded by me going backwards throught the field fast.
I had a good laugh at one stage with a spectator who threw the good old cliche of "Your looking good mate, keep it going". I quickly responded with "No I don't, I look like shit". This brought a good chuckle from the crowd around and put a smile on my face.
The rest of the race just turned into an internal battle trying to ignore the hords of runners swooping me up. I just plodded along with one foot after another. Most of the run is a bit of a blur as I just ticked off the kms as they came. I set myself the goal of the 34km mark as I had been to this point and knew the course home from there. Once there, the 8km remaining still felt like a marathon ahead of me but I just got through it as best I could. Even hitting the 39km, the 15 mins left to run seemed like it would take forever.
The finish chute at IM Melbourne was great as it was about 200m long. I spotted my wife Hayley and friends Tommo, Casey, and Boonie and heard Knighty's wife Jaime call out just prior. Getting over the finish line, I was just happy to be home and happy I didn't catch a cab.
Run : 3hr 42min
Total time : 9hr 4min 26sec (Reduced swim distance)
26th in Male 30-34
This race certainly did not pan out as I had planned. In the weeks leading into the race, I felt I was definately in a postion to put a very solid race together and challenge for a top 5 spot but knew a top 10 was all that I needed.
Post race, I was not too disappointed. Whilst I was disappointed with the result, I had come to the conclusion during the race that this was not to be the one. At no stage did I ever give up, and even though my pace had slowed dramatically I still got to the finish as fast as I possibly could in the situation.
I am not sure where I will head to from now. I told myself numerous times during the bike and run that this would be my last ever race (although I have said that to myself during Ironmans before). I am entered for Ironman Cairns in June though I am in no hurry to get back into training. I will have a good break for now and see if the love returns. I am definately keen to race another Ironman with the knowledge of the mistakes I have made, and hopefully adjust and implement a plan to combat them.
For now, I am looking forward to sleeping in and spending alot more time with my wife Hayley who has been an Iron widow for a long time. She has been absolutely amazing in supporting me in all of my racing and training. A massive thanks to my friends Tommo, Boonie, Casey, Taylor and Jonas for making the trip down. It was also great to have so many fellow RTC team mates down in Melbourne for the race too.
Thank you to everyone who has followed and sent messages along the way and on race day. I love youse all, em eh.