Monday, May 23, 2016

my first (and last) DNF

Looking the part in Port MacQuarie
it has been too long since i have posted anything here so there are quite a few gaps in the story.  but most significantly i had my first DNF at any event at Ironman Australia and i am kind of okay with it.  i hardly trained for it and there are no excuses.  this is just another part of the ironman journey for me and  another lesson to learn and i certainly have no regrets.  

so i guess i better explain as to why i didnt train when previously i was a training demon.  well it seems it is true and life can actually get in the way of ironman stuff.  i was worn out from doing five ironmans in less than 3 years and thought that having a 12 month break between events would be enough. well combined with the problems at work and both parents going into aged care it seems i could not focus and when you train for an ironman you need to be able to focus on one thing.  training.  so i had some moments of great training but failed big time to do anything consistently.  you know before race day you can go back over your training and have confidence that you have done the hard work.  i didnt want to do that because i would have been freaked out by the lack of numbers.  i did look after the event and it was as dismissal as i thought.  actually it was amazing i did the swim and the bike.  i thought my swimming was consistent and while it was when you look at my running and bike it still wasnt great and i never swam over 3k.  i didnt do a single brick session unless you count the sprint triathlon at hillaries.  the longest ride was 5.5 hours and there were not that many and very few short rides.  not even close to what i would normally do.  i did a total of 13 hours running.  and four of those were two trail runs at just over two hours each.  you cannot wing an ironman.  i also discovered that i was struggling with running because i seemed to have developed exercise induced asthma.  the ventilin stopped the incessant over night coughing but gave me side effects instead and one really bad one on race day.  

pre-race port macquarie

i had three days free before flying to port mac.  i was so glad to be away from work.  i didnt think i would make it through those last few days and i was totally desperate to get away and i needed a break badly.  jingles the adopted cat went to the kitty prison and casey and cooper were dropped off at the doggie holiday camp.  then it was time to pack all the gear and get the bike organised.  new bike and new bike bag.  this time i took the derailleur off and used pool noodles to pack around the frame and more padding around the wheels.  i had the bike booked in for a service in port mac so i knew they would put everything back together for me.

this year i booked a later flight so i didnt have to get up at stupid o'clock.  drove out to airport. it cost me $132 to park the car so maybe in future it might be cheaper to catch a taxi.  both flights were okay and arrived around 5 pm.  luke bell was on the same little plane and our two bikes were the last to come out.  mine appeared to have survived the journey.  this year i was staying at the mantra quayside and this was an excellent decision.  it was the perfect location and facilities.  the room had a kitchen and was very spacious and best of all had a heated lap pool on the roof.  

so wednesday was busy.  and just for the record the weather was pretty much perfect everyday except race day.  it sucked race day.  took the bike in to get put back together and checked over and then headed back to my room and changed before heading out for a run.  managed to get in a 60 minute run over the course and really enjoyed it.  the temp here was quite warm and humid. afterwards i headed up to the lap pool and swam for about 30 minutes.  felt really good and relaxed.  i then headed back to the bike shop to pick it up before returning to the town green for a massage that i had booked.  the guy worked really hard on some tight spots which i did feel for quite a few days afterwards but it was worth taking the risk.  very sleepy after this so home for soak in the bath before crashing.

tried to get up and go for a ride early but couldnt be fucked.  the weather and wind was forecast to be mild all day so figured i would go after checking in.  normally before any ironman event my nerves are totally shot and frazzled.  knowing i was so under trained you would think that my nerves would be worse but it was the opposite.  i was very relaxed and not worried at all.  i think with the lack of training the pressure for a result was no longer there and i could just enjoy things.  so i headed off to check in and get my race bag and any goodies i could score.  i also hit the ironman merchandise.  just cant help myself.  i picked up a couple of t-shirts for thom and lucas and some running gear for myself as well as a cycle jersey by zoot.  handed over the cash and headed home.  it was there when i was looking at my goodies i thought that what i paid was more than i expected.  long story short they had over charged me and so back i went.  turns out the items were more expensive than the tagged price but they still gave them to me for the tagged price.  told me some sob story about selling items in different locations and i was probably looking at the price in malaysian dollars.  all i know is that there is no way i would have paid $70 for a running shirt.  by this time it was almost lunch so i quickly headed out on the bike.  managed to cork my leg on the bottle cages and gave myself a nasty bruise.  rode out to mathew flinders drive before the rain decided to come so rather than risk a crash i turned around and headed home and back up to the lap pool for a swim.  i had organised to meet up with a girl from my triathlon club to swim at the practice session in the morning and then go for a ride so i needed to be in bed early. 

Swim Start
met fiona at 7 am and it was a little fresh but not too bad.  quite a few people out early for a swim and we had our wetties on pretty quickly and headed out.  the water temp was  good and headed down the course and felt very relaxed. probably swam out for 750m before heading back.  i really enjoyed this and it gave me some confidence that race day might not totally suck.

arranged to meet up with fiona for a ride shortly after the swim at her place which was at the top of the run course. managed to get on my bike without injuring myself and headed off.  weather was perfect.  we rode out on part of the course and onto mathew flinders drive which was great for fiona as she could see it and ride up it and not have the fear of the unknown on race day. we came back into town and rode out to the run course turn around at settlers point.  this was nice for me being flat.  fiona had to go and check in so we parted ways and headed back to my room.  met up again around 6 pm for the carbo loading night which was pretty average.  the entertainment and the food.

so the day before the big day and bike check-in. got up early and went for a short ride before another swim in the lap pool.  spent the day getting everything organised and making clothing and gear choices.  i had decided that i would go back to wearing proper cycling gear for the ride and fuck the transition time.  packed up the bags and headed of to transition.  quick trip to the supermarket and back to the room to do as little as possible.

the race

i slept quite well and only woke a few times.  felt pretty good and didnt have any of the headaches like last year.  bought different pancakes and they were disgusting so my first mistake was not eating enough.  walked down to transition and set everything up.  since my room was directly across from the swim start i went back to my room and made use of the un-smelly toilet and avoided the line up for the stinky loos.  headed back about 30 minutes before the start and got my wetsuit on and handed over my street bag.  i still wasnt nervous so i was really enjoying myself.  the weather looked great with very little wind and perfect temp.  water was calm.  fiona then located me so that was great having a friendly face to chat to and help calm her nerves.  it was the last i saw of her for the day.

as usual my swim started off badly, got worse then slightly better and i thought about quitting so many times and cursed myself for doing it and regreting every swim session i missed.  so much crap goes through your head.  the water was nice and a few people got in the way but otherwise pretty ordinary swim.  wetsuit annoyed my neck and i had put a tonne of glide on.  this is an issue i need to sort out and i used new goggle anti-fog which is not as good as my old one.  slight current assist on the way back and i needed it by then as i was getting tired.

into transition and i dont know how long i was there but it would have been a good ten minutes. when i got out to my bike and saw how many were left i realised i was behind already.  this was a new position for me.   so begun the ride to hell.  i dont know what it is about this bike course but one day i will nail it.  i was determined to enjoy the ride at a manageable pace and do the easy things right like hydration and nutrition.  with a lack of time spent aero i knew my neck/shoulders were going to hurt and while i had stretched my back during the swim it was highly likely that towards the end that would hurt too.  i had some heat rub with me and before i got on the bike i had a few puffs of my inhaler.  the first 45k was okay.  the roads were just as bad and there was little wind.  it was spitting a little bit but nothing to worry about.  i cant remember alot about the first 90k.  i know my neck etc started to hurt and the heat rub improved things.  i know it started to rain as i rode into town for the turnaround but it was just light rain.  it was on the way back out that the real rain came and the gusty wind and then more biting cold rain.  you could see this huge front of rain coming across the ocean towards us.  i wasnt too worried.  done it all before so i figured i would be okay.  just keep going.  i knew i was at the back of the field.  there were far more asian competitors than i normally see.  while swimming and biking is not there best leg i have to admire the way they get through it and then can run and run well.  a few of the guys had no idea how to ride the hills.  i do remember on the first lap that i took chances going downhill.  i needed every bit of free speed but once it started raining i wasnt game enough.  it was very nerve racking going down some of these hills on those roads and even going up my back wheel had a few little spins and sliding.

i saw caron and then pete and it was nice to have company.  i was tired when i got to the final turn around.  i couldnt feel my hands or my feet.  they were so cold.  my neck was killing me and i had taken everything and done everything i could to help it.  i realised at this point that something was wrong with my mouth.  it had started to feel very strange when i went to have a drink and the inside of my mouth was very dry.  it was the strangest thing ever and i knew that my lip and mouth was puffed up like a friggin blow fish.  the only thing i can think of was i had a reaction to the ventilin.

This was taken a few hours after the race.
The inside was worse.
after pushing my bike up mathew flinders drive i didnt think i was going to be able to get back on it. i was fucked.  seriously. all i could think about was getting back to transition.   i had nothing else on my mind.  it was while i was riding the last couple of hills one of which is short but so fucking steep and all i wanted to do was not fall off my bike that i knew i probably wasnt going to head out on the run.  it was still raining and i realised the ride last year was a walk in the park compared to this.  my two longest rides ever have both been at ironman australia and i broke the record big time this year.

there is a difference to the pain you feel when you are pushing things but you have trained for it and the pain when you havent trained.  this pain was miserable.  and it wasnt just the body but the mindset.  i think  my body could have gone on after a sit down in transition but the mind wasnt interested at all.  and the body will only go where the mind leads it.  the mind controls the pain and not only had i not trained my body but my mind and heart wasnt in it.  i chose not to walk a marathon in the mud and rain. i dont see anything redeeming in it. there is no fun in that and if i am going to do anything i would rather do it well than very badly.  i think of all the people who keep going no matter what and stagger across that finish line with 15 minutes or less to spare and i didnt want to be one of them.  i didnt want to finish the race that badly.  i saw the medical people and they had no idea what was wrong with my mouth but said i could continue if i wanted to even though i was shivering my butt off as well.  if this was my first or maybe second or even third i might have gone out and tried to finish at all costs.  but it wasnt and i knew i had no one to blame but myself.  i thought about the medal and the towel and the feeling of not quitting and then i thought of a hot shower and the left-over pasta in my room and i handed over my timing chip.  it is the strangest feeling ever.  knowing when to call it a day is hard.  you lose a certain amount of perspective and that is what can keep you going but i think i knew all along that it was going to be a long shot to finish.  the weather certainly had not helped and maybe things would have been different but you need to train to survive bad conditions and i barely did enough to handle a good day.  7.5 hours is a very long time on a fucking bike in the rain.  this is called the ironman journey.

so am i going to make the same decision as last year and try to go back to port mad for a third attempt at redemption ?  no fucking way.  i am doing busselton at the end of the year and compared to this it will be awesome and i am really looking forward to it.  then i am going to enjoy getting back into the shorter races and doing different events and some serious bike rides.  at this stage i have no plans to do the 70.3 in may.  i doubt that i will do busselton IM again at the end of 2017 but i am going back to port mac in 2018.  the event is licensed until then and you never know it could be my last chance to give the toughest course in australia a proper crack.

i am feeling good about getting back into training.  i have had a good break.  i got this photo and framed it and it is on the wall next to the race number i never wore.  i had to put one second in for the run so it would generate.  this is to remind me every single day of my one and only DNF.  the background is the rain coming towards me from the coast.  normally you would see ocean.    and i am looking forward to blogging more.

the weather after race day was magnificent and these are some pics i took of the course the day after. and believe it or not qantas managed to damage my bike again on the way home.  fuck you qantas. somehow they pulled the seat from the seat post.  at this stage it appears that only the stem needs to be replaced. but hey according to qantas that is what insurance is for,