Quick cheat notes
9th Ironman, 1st Ironman in Australia, 6th Ironman podium, 4th Kona qualification, 1st time I’ve knocked back a Kona slot, Swim leg personal record 1:03:51, (not counting Cozumel) 4th Ironman under 10:10, 3rd post race med tent visit.
Performance nerd notes:
Swimming 3 times a week with swim coach Dom Scholtes from ETPA paid off big time. I was hoping all my work in the pool would give me my first sub 1:05 Ironman swim. However when I saw the conditions the day before the race I gave that goal a back seat and felt that I would be happy with coming out of the water in a decent position.
The conditions at Palm Cove on race morning gave me big relief but it was still as rough as I have swum in any race. The 3.8km rectangular shaped course featured current and chop and a whole lot of wild thrashing athletes. I struggled to see the buoys and never got into a good rhythm. My data showed my pace into the current at about 2:00/100m and about 1:30/100m heading north with the current. All the swim training volume paid off in the last km of the swim where I felt strong and under control. Without my glasses I don’t see the numbers on my watch so I was not sure if I was seeing 1:03 or 1:08. I was delighted to learn I was right, I finally ticked off a sub 1:05 Ironman swim with a 1:03:51. The distance measured by my watch was 3750m. For all that, my swim put me in 7th place coming out of the water.
I have almost no memory of this, it is all a blur, I may have had some salt water in my eyes too. Anyway, I got in and out with no drama until I made what must have looked like the most hilarious bike mount ever. I had scoped out the bike mount area before the race and noted the section of cobbled speed bump to avoid but in my dodgy mount I ended up right in the middle of that heading straight at a spectator on crutches, my feet had slipped off my shoes and I nearly took out the athletes behind me and a few spectators while trying to get my feet back on my shoes. I some how stayed up right and did not kill anyone and got down to business. T1 4:22, I gained 4 places in T1 and headed out on the bike in 3rd place.
Plan was to stay aero as much as possible, eat every 40 min, drink to thirst, hold about 175w, stay away from any packs and enjoy the view. My coach Brad Bevan’s words – “7/10 effort” was in my head but I know there were times when I was pushing too many watts and crept into 9/10. The rolling hills and head wind made that ride a challenge to execute smoothly, my watts varied a little more than I should have let them and I absolutely paid for that in the last hour. My watts dropped in the last hour but I finished with an NP of 170w for the 179.4km That gave me a 5:13:21 bike split. I had been hoping 175 watts would shake out to a sub 5:20 ride, I could see I was going to hit that time and did not worry so much about not hanging onto the watts. Anyone who did this race will tell you the head wind on the returning 70km from Port Douglas into Cairns was brutal, let me also say it was brutal, because holy cow, it dang well was. I was miserable for the last hour. I came off the bike in 1st place but knew I’d need a really good lead to hang on to it. Oh and yes, it was beautiful, especially the section from Palm Cove up to Port Douglas.
My dismount into T2 made up for my mounting disaster, lol, I’ve said it before, I dismount like a swan gliding onto a lake. I was so glad to get my helmet off and to not be riding my bike. I felt surprisingly good, I threw on my shoes, grabbed my race belt and ran. I got out in 2:38, still in 1st and giving myself a little more buffer to what was coming up behind.
My aim was to go steady at 5:10 – 5:15 pace, stay on top of the cals with a gel every 40-45min and sips of coke at the aid stations. I tried a new addition to my race fuel, fruit tingles. (My US friends won’t know about these, I will describe them as fizzy hard candies) The bicarbonate and sugar combined in a little Lolly that I could just keep popping in my mouth. (It worked well though I think perhaps my dentist will disagree.) I was cruising along at 5:05min pace for the 1st half. (Faster than planned) It just felt right. I was not suffering for it at all… until I was. I needed to pee and all the porta loos were occupied, I was uncomfortable and not willing to ruin another pair of running shoes. I was getting splits and updates along the way from my Dad and my coach Brad, I could also see Angela Ballerini catching me. We had words of friendly encouragement as she went by me and I was feeling licked but at the same time I knew I had not made it easy for her. I found a loo and felt heaps better, but was held back by some bronchospasm. Breathing became uncomfortable for the last 8km. I began to get worried about hanging on to 2nd place. I asked Brad where 3rd was and he told me he’d check and give it to me on the way back. Well, he did not wait, he ran a shortcut through the course and popped up on the side line to give me the good news that I had about 23 mins in front of 3rd. That was a relief, kudos to Brad for taking care of me and 17 of his other athletes out on that course. I finished in 3:42:48, one of my best run splits in an Ironman. I was taken straight into the med tent for some ventolin and monitoring.
With a 10:06:59, I finished the day 2nd in my age group, 3rd of all age group female athletes and 11th female including professional women. As a woman in the last year of the 45-49 age group I will say I am pretty darn happy with that. I am still sure I can go under 10hrs. I know I have this in me.
There is an extra long list of thankyous involved in this race. A Covid outbreak in my home state had me scrambling for the border before they locked down. I made a crazy road trip 10hrs north to my parents but then found out that I needed to get into Queensland before they also closed their border. So with not enough sleep and barely enough time I had to continue another 10hrs north to Brisbane where I had to stay locked down for 7 days, subject to same conditions at my home state. My team manager and his family made no hesitation in hosting me despite these conditions. I was finally allowed to make the flight to Cairns 2 days before the race. It was stressful and I struggled with the whole guilt of “1st world” self induced problem I had made for myself. I had put a lot of people out for my very self indulgent endeavor but they just took it in their stride, I owe many thankyous to people who looked after me on my mad juggernaut. Michelle and Phil Stoneman, Simon and my kids, my Mum and Dad, and my Sister and her family. Thankyou also to my Dad who made the trip up to cheer me on and to my aunt Robyn and cousin Tracy, Cairns locals who where there on the day cheering too. Thanks to my old high school friend Shelley and her hubby who were there in Port Douglas on race day and came out for a high five! (That still makes me smile!) My M5 Academies family was a force of nature! So many team mates on the course and so much family on the side line it was a brilliant race experience. I did not make it easy for him, so I am especially grateful to my coach Brad Bevan for getting me to the start line in the best shape I have been in ages.
Thanks also to the huge team of volunteers and the folks of Cairns and surrounds who let us take over their roads for a day.
I had to turn down the Kona slot I earned because Australians are not freely able to travel due to Covid right now and probably until sometime next year. It is a pity that Ironman did not offer Kona slots to the 2022 race knowing we would not be able to get to the 2021 race. I could be really cranky about it but I choose to let it go and just start planning my next race.