Sunday, June 22, 2014

waterlogged cairns - an ironman race report

i really have no idea where i begin this report.  it was two weeks ago but feels like forever.  i will just say now that i am disappointed with my result and yet i have no reason to be.  at the time you feel you are making the right decisions and giving it your very best but it changes once you are done.  the fact that i am disappointed shows that i have lost perspective.  people say it is a huge achievement just to finish and you should be happy but that is bullshit.  you do your first ironman to finish and your second to go faster.  i wanted my third to be on a hard and challenging course (which it was)  but i wanted to have a good result  as well.  i wanted to be able to handle whatever it threw at me and i dont think i did that.

Trinity Beach
it is a mission to pack up all your gear but i did this on the sunday and dropt the dogs off at the kennel. i was very worried about molly but it was out of my control and i had to trust that the owners would do the right thing.  up at 2.30am and a drive through terrible fog and i could barely spot if there were any kangaroos around or not.  the flight over was uneventful and i just prayed the bike would make it in one piece. picked up the hire car and drove out to trinity beach.  sadly they had put me on the third floor and i had to lug all my gear up the stairs.  checked the bike and things looked okay. grabbed some dinner and crashed not long after.  

tuesday i dropt the bike off at the local trek dealer so they could check everything and i then headed off to the local supermarket to get supplies for the week.  after picking up the bike i headed out for a 30 min run. this was to be a test to really see how the legs felt.  last year at busselton this run felt awesome.  this time it just felt okay.  my back was stiff but i was doing my exercises twice a day and knew this would improve. my elbow (which had been a nagging problem for quite awhile) was really playing up and i was worried.  but what was also very strange my knee did not feel good.  i was trying all the tricks and i just had to hope these niggles would go away on race day.

early wednesday i headed out on the bike and it did not feel right.  the tri bars were off and the gears were not smooth.  i rode down cook highway and started testing the gears.  then the chain came off and got stuck between the brake.  luckily a guy stopped and worked it out and i rode back.  i put the bike in the car before heading back to the bike shop.  the guy was extremely helpful and sorted it out and also found where the tri bars were out.  they had obviously been knocked during the flight  and it was just the smallest variance but it felt like a massive shift.  so i went away happy that my bike was back to normal.  i wasnt going to come all this way and not finish because of a bike problem.  

I am behind the girl in bright orange.
up very early thursday as i was heading over to green island for the open water swim.  last year this was quite rough and a bit of a challenge and i didnt get to see any of the great barrier reef.  the weather didnt look very nice this time either and  there were already  a lot of rumours going around that the ironman swim at palm cove was going to be cut short or cancelled due to the extreme wind conditions that were forecast.  caught up with pete and crew that i met at this event last year.  i had bought my wetsuit this year and while i started off a bit rough i ended up having one of my best swims.  it was quite choppy like last year and when heading back in it was very difficult and i could only breathe to my weaker side but by the end of the swim i was still breathing to this side and didnt realise it.  this was a good sign for sunday.  i think my time of 29.20 was also my quickest for this distance (1.5k). after the swim sat around chatting to pete and crew.  it turned out to be a nice day.  after arriving back i went and handed over some cash at the merchandise tent and then checked in.  it was great to get it all done. walked around the expo a bit but it was all the same stuff from last year.  did i mention i got another back pack ?  they made you go to the merchandise tent to pick it up and you had to walk the whole way in past all the racks of m-dot stuff.
They had the brightest swim buoys. 

friday was a rest day from anything swim-bike-run.  i had arranged with tim and rae to pick them up and drive the bike course up to port douglas. so after a nice sleep in that is just what i did.  once in port douglas we did a walk around and had some lunch.  it is a nice little tourist town and  very much like dunsborough.  i was pretty knackered by the time i dropt tim and rae back in cairns and i headed home.  i had a power nap before a shower and heading back into cairns and to the welcome dinner.    the food was pretty good and sat at a table with daniel and a friend of his.  i enjoyed the presentation and the speech by sharni and john mcclean was beyond inspirational. amazing, amazing people.  actually the best welcome dinner i have attended.  i was happy to go home to sleep though.

up early saturday and a final ride and check of the bike.  everything was perfect so i polished and cleaned it with a final check of the repair kit.  headed out to the shops for  some last minute supplies and then it was just about putting together all my gear for the bike and run bags.
loaded the bike into the car and headed into cairns first to drop off the run bag.  also stopped by the expo to buy a couple of shotz bars and extra glide cream.  then drove back out to palm cove to drop off the bike and bag.  there were people everywhere and transition was tucked away behind the beach foliage.  it was very crammed and less than a metre between bikes to run through.  as it turns out this would not be what i was worried about on the day.  the bike next to me in transition belonged to a japanese competitor and was probably the smallest bike i had ever seen that was ridden by an adult.  it was also desperately in need of some tlc and replacement parts. the arm rests were just about falling apart and the drink bottle was tied on with multiple old elastic bands.  as it turns out the girl on my left won my age group and the little japanese competitor on my right finished last.  i had to get the event guy to come over and sort out her bike as it wasnt racked properly and would have fallen off during the night. i wasnt taking any chances.

compared to last year at busselton i slept really well.  i had decided that rather than get up at 3 am to drive to cairns just to catch a bus back up to palm cove i would drive directly to palm cove at 5.30 am and sort out a taxi after the race.  from the moment i walked out the door the whole day just seems completely surreal.  i was also totally unprepared.  busselton is an easy race.  not only the flat course but just the logistics of transition and the finish area.  at busselton i parked 100 metres away from transition.  this alone gives you much less to worry about.   i looked at the weatherzone radar before i walked out the door and i have never seen it where all you can see is green.  there was no brown at all.  all anyone had been worried about was the day being windy and hot.  instead it was going to be wet and cold and i was unprepared and could not do anything about it.  sure rain had been predicted but only the odd shower.  the only consolation was that i would not be the only one out there. and to start i had no umbrella and no wet weather gear.

confronting drive in the rain to transition.  it was still dark.  the race doesnt start until 7.55 am because sunrise isnt until 7 am and the 70.3 race goes first.  the walk towards transition from the car park was miserable.  the ground had already turned to mud.  they do not have lawn in cairns but a ground cover that just disappears and is replaced by mud when it rains.  i was at somewhat of a loss as to what to do so i just headed to the bike and dropt off my drinks and food.  there was no cover at all so i managed to find a section of tent to stand under and think what to do.  then daniel came along and he was feeling the same as me.  he had his family with him and decided he was going to find a spot and get his wetsuit on.  it would probably be warmer that way but how to do it without get mud everywhere.  i decided to walk further down to the swim start and see what i could find which turned out to be a good move as i found a hotel lobby that had a large number of other people seeking refuge.  i managed to find a toilet and then decided it was time to get the wetsuit on.  at this stage i also did not bring enough to drink with me and had to wash down some cliff bloks.  i walked back up to drop off my gear bag and special needs.  then all i had was goggles and cap and thongs on my feet.  i walked down to the swim start.

Cairns 2014 Swim Highlights

ten  minutes out from the start i started burping really bad and i could the feel the start of a stitch pain in my diaphragm.  great.  i was going to choke in the swim.  i burped like you would not believe.  not sure what people around me thought but i did not care.  i had to force it out.  the rain had eased off a bit and the water looked okay.  you could see the swell and chop but it wasnt going to be the worse swim i was going to go through.  initially i was going to start from the right and try to avoid the mass gathering at the first buoy.  but when i looked at the current i decided that i didnt want to risk getting sucked too far over so i stuck to the left and when the hooter signalled the start i dived through the initial waves and started swimming in a direct line to the first buoy.

so no sharks to worry about this time.  the water was fine but murky.  it was going to be a tough haul to get through the 3.8k.  i felt pretty good though and just made sure i kept my stroke rate up a bit more and tried not to swallow any water as that can cause so much trouble.  getting out to the far buoy was probably the hardest part. swimming across the top part of the course i had to breathe to my right to avoid getting a mouthful of water.  i think i am faster swimming on my more uncomfortable side.  it feels faster anyway. apparently you have less bad habits on your least favourite side. swimming back into shore was okay and you had a bit of a current and swell advantage.  then it was back across and around again.  i kept track of people swimming around me and tried to make sure i was passing people or at least maintaining a good pace with them.  i was pretty glad to reach the last turn around and head into shore. while it did seem to take forever it was the easiest part of the swim. at the beginning of the swim i had this thought go through my head that having tough conditions like this was really what ironman was all about and that i really was going to be tested.  i was pretty happy with myself when i got out of that water.  i had survived another challenge.  i never know my swim time as i leave my garmin on the bike and i didnt spot the clock when i came up through the swim. my swim time was 1.19.59.  compared to my other ironman swims in MUCH better conditions this was an excellent swim.  and 4th in my age group.  the advantage of being with the old girls.  there were only 20 in my age group.

This is how bad it got.
transition was a nightmare.  i had to go pee and should have done so in my wetsuit but it didnt hit me until i saw the loo.  again i had no one to help me get my wetsuit off and there were people everywhere and the tent was the smallest area i have been in.  the mud did not help.  i decided i would not put my shoes on until i got to the road.  i also decided to carry my bike from where it was racked to the red carpet that the pros had laid out for them.  it was here i put my shoes on and realised i had left the glide chamois cream in the shoe so that came for a ride and as it turned out a run as well !  i took too long here (again) and have now committed to re-thinking everything i do and use as i am losing much needed free time.  and it is no longer funny.

the first part of the ride was nerve racking.  they had covered the cobble stone speed humps with black rubber so as you went over them you could feel your back wheel sliding out.  a lot of people were losing bottles and gear from their bike.  i just wanted to get out onto the road so i could get this thing done.  i didnt know how i was going to do it and all i could think was it was going to be a long day.

Heading out from transition.
i learnt a few things from this bike leg.  that i no longer hold any fear of riding hard for 180k and that i can suffer even more on a bike.  at the start i was actually feeling a little sorry for myself.  maybe it was good that i didnt start out too hard but i needed to get my shit together and that is when i came across sharn and her team.  i yelled out to cheer them on and then nearly had a little cry before thinking to myself that i had NOTHING to complain about.  it was at this point that i started to ride.  if you want to know what sharn and her team are about go to this website.  truly inspiring.

after riding over rex's lookout the first time and hitting the flats i really upped the pace.  things were very wet and a bit cold and i couldnt see shit because my glasses dont have wipers and since they are prescription taking them off was not an option.  i wiped them down every now and then and that was enough to get by.  the only plus with the rain was that the wind was staying away.  if it got windy then it would truly be a miserable day.  i like how the ride goes up to port douglas as you have something to look forward to.  sadly with the weather there were not as many people around.  but those who were it was a fantastic effort to stay out in those conditions.  the volunteers were amazing.  i ate really well on the bike but again my downfall was not drinking enough.  the weather did not help and the high 5 mix on the course was so diluted it didnt taste anything like mine.  this probably explains why i felt as bad as i did later on.  another big lesson learned. however i did manage to pee on the bike for the first time ever and trust me i only did this because it was raining.  the hilly section of the course never bothered me and actually broke up the ride.  once back in port douglas again i could now just focus on riding from there back down to cairns and i needed to only get over the hilly part one more time and i would be relatively safe.  it was a lonely ride back.  the field was quite spread out at this point and once past the turn around you no longer had any riders coming the other way.
my face says it all.

i saw the sharn team one more time and they were making their way back up rex's lookout.  AMAZING EFFORT.
once i hit the flats after ellis beach the wind picked up big time and the rain and so did the people sitting off my back wheel.  seriously guys are you not embarrassed drafting off a chick ?  i knew i had to ignore them and concentrate.  that last 20k was the hardest i have ever worked on a bike.  i was cold and my legs felt like they were starting to cramp.  i had felt it when coasting on the downhills but at least now you had to keep moving.  ironman coach said that the race would be a test of your training and if that is the case then my training on the bike paid off - especially in this last section. and funnily enough it is all because of a little game i play with myself in the last 15k of every long ride.  who knew.

as you head back into cairns you turn off at yorkeys knob to take some back roads similar to the run course from last year.  i was very happy to reach the esplanade and to know that i was only going to be a minute or two over six hours (6.01.52). this was an excellent ride and 4th in my age group.  i had actually moved down to fifth spot overall as one girl was quicker in T1.  if this doesnt motive me to stop fucking around in transition then nothing will.   when i first got off the bike i felt okay but i then headed into the porto loo and this is where things went very strange.

bike highlights

transition here was also a mud pit and the porto looo was not stable.  as i got in it started swaying and after that i did not feel right.  i sat down in transition and all i could think about was coach ironman telling me not to waste time by trying to avoid heading out onto the run.  i was meant to get my socks and shoes on and head straight out.  instead i was jibbering shit to the volunteer.  who knows what i said.  something about not being able to see and the rain.  the fucking never ending rain.  i poured water on my feet to clean them off and managed to get my compression on and my socks and shoes.  the dizziness had improved and so i headed out into the rain again.  but from the very beginning i knew it was going to be a long day.  i hoped that it was just that initial transition to running but deep down i knew it was more than that.  the course is three laps and there were some sections with lots of people and other parts that were just miserable lonely affairs.  the positive i can take away is that i did keep running and only walked at the aid stations and i had 3 toilet stops - the last one of which i had a really good pee and things felt much better.  i just wasnt running very fast. i did feel better running than i did walking so this was motivating.  at the beginning of the third lap i did a time check and knew that i was very close to coming in under 13 hours which was my goal.  i had a very tough time around the 27-32k mark.  but i kept going even though i really wanted to stop.  it was still raining and i was trying to avoid all the major puddles and mud piles and because of this my feet stayed relatively dry.  i couldnt see crap through my sunnies and some parts of the course were poorly lit.  so thinking on my feet i took the tinted lenses out and stuck them in my back pockets - along with the chamois cream i still had and never had to use.  so it may have looked strange with just my clear prescription inserts but at least i could see.   i saw tim and rae and daniel on the run course and it was great to know they had all made it through. i also saw pete on  the lonely part of the course and he was doing it tough so i walked a few hundred metres with him.
Only on my first lap.

Run highlights

the last 3k were the hardest i have ever run.  you think you are running fast and i guess compared to some parts of the marathon you are but it feels like you are putting in a sprint effort.  the finish line could not come quick enough and it wasnt until i reached the end of the esplanade that the pain was forgotten.  what i learnt here was that i could run 42k when i felt like shit.  i couldnt believe my wet and cold day was about to end.  my first two ironmans i do not really recall the guy yelling out my name and saying ' you are an ironman' !.  i always felt like i didnt really get to enjoy the experience so this time i was going to enjoy it.  i took my time running down the finish, there was some fist punching and then i did a bit of an aeroplane and high fived a lot of people i could not even see because of the blinding light they had set up. however i did hear pete murray yellout my name and yes i am an ironman !!!!! a three peat ironman.

my run time sucked.  it is not my worse effort but i feel like i let a good result slip through my fingers.  my finish time of
13.01.47 was just short of my goal.  i had many opportunities that could have made the difference.  but that is ironman.  i will finish the wrap up blog in the next few days.  even with my hideous 5.20 run i managed to finish sixth in may age group.  my run was 11th in my age group so my swim and bike gave me quite the buffer.

a nice downpour on my 2nd lap

the rain eased off a bit for my finish

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