The recently concluded Ironman Melbourne got me nostalgic about the last time I raced that distance. And what a wonderful race it was too. The organization was brilliant, the race course was superb and the entire atmosphere was electric. Follow me down memory lane as I recap Ironman Melbourne 2012
Wow! What a day!
I know I always said that my target was just to finish, but to be honest, I did set some goals, I just didn’t want to share them. So now that the race is over, I’ll let you in on what my targets were.
Target 1: Sub-14 hour finish, under 13:30 would be a bonus. Failing which,
Target 2: New PB, which means going under 15:20, Failing which,
Target 3: just finish the damn thing.
Waking up on race day, I was a little apprehensive. Weather had been bad the past few days, to the point that they had to cancel a few swim practice sessions due to rough seas. Travelling to Frankston early race morning, it started to rain, which did not bode well for the race. In order to meet any of my secret targets, I’d have to get out of the swim, and if the sea was as rough as the day before, that wasn’t going to happen. Luckily, when we got to Frankston, we were told that the sea was calm (I didn’t even want to look at the sea, for fear it might add more anxiety).
|What the hell are we doing up, dressed in rubber, so early in the morning??!!!|
As usual on Ironman morning, the transition area was abuzz with activity. Athletes pumping up their tyres, lining up to use the portaloos, wriggling into their wetsuits. Our pre-race went without a hitch, dropped our Special Needs stuff, our street gear bag, then it was off to see Senn’s family. After a quick chat we made our way to the beach. It was still dark when the pros went off, and it wasn’t any better when we started getting in to the water for our start. The water was cold. Very cold. But once you start swimming, it was alright.
|Our support crew for the day. Thanks Mom, Dad and Uncle Loong and Aunty Nancy for waking up at this obscene hour to watch us do some fool’s errand!|
As we were making our way to the swim start, we heard the horn go off. Immediately all those around us changed direction and headed to the unseen first turn buoy, about 1km away. The course was poorly marked with only the turn buoy as a sight marker. It didn’t help that there were a few swells, making sighting even more difficult.
I think I must have swam at least 4000m because I kept getting lost. I’d follow feet as much as possible but one turn to breathe and the feet were gone. As long as there were swimmers around me, I knew I was on track, but when I lose sight of people’s feet and there’s no one around, I can’t be sure if I’m on course or not. A few times I had to take my goggles off to look around for the buoy. With the goggles on, you just couldn’t see a damn thing!
Coming back wasn’t so bad, at least you could see the lights of the pier, but it can be disorienting at times. Again, strategy here was just to follow feet as much as possible, and if that fails, stop and look around. There were times I found myself in the middle of nowhere, with the closest swimmer about 100m away! That’s how far off course I got!
Finally, I managed to get back to the beach. I’d hoped for a 1:20-something but all the zig-zagging slowed me down a bit. Conditions were the same for everyone so I guess I just had to deal with it like everyone else.
|Just happy to be done with the swim.|
Swim: 1h33m (a PB by just over a minute)
Struggled a bit to take the wetsuit off (actually didn’t want to take it off because it was too cold!), and made my way to the change tent. It was packed, which was good. It meant I wasn’t all that slow after all! Took a bit too much time trying to figure what to do next, so had a very slow T1.
The bike course was great! Long rollers which are not steep but you’ll never know if it’s flat, going up or going down. The tunnel at the far end was great, an excellent touch to the course. I hit 60kmh going down the tunnel, but of course what goes down must come up, so the climb out of the tunnel was a bit of a struggle. Unfortunately being on a highway, there was very little in terms of the scenery. A couple of sculptures here and there and that’s about it.
I had quite a bit of fun out there, maybe a bit too much fun at the beginning. I might have pushed a bit too hard on the first lap, but it was good fun blowing by other cyclists, and that doesn’t happen very often for me! Because of that, I struggled quite a fair bit on the second lap, I just couldn’t put the power down. Having a brand new tri suit on didn’t help either, I had massive chaffing on the nether regions and this didn’t allow me to sit on the saddle properly.
The wind also picked up quite a bit on the second lap, making it much tougher than it needed to be. And it was a strong sidewind, so that made it feel like there was a headwind both ways.
For a while it looked like it was going to be another one of my typical 15-hour races. I needed to break 7 hours on the bike if I wanted any shot at Target 1 and by the time I got to the far end turnaround on the second loop, it was touch and go. I had 45km to go and a little under two hours to cover it. At this point I just told myself to HTFU and go for it.
|Starting the bike. It was freezing cold|
The trip back was slightly easier as it’s mostly downhill, but the last 10-15k, it gets harder for reasons I will never know. All the way back I wasn’t sure I’d break 7 hours but just kept telling myself to keep going. When I got back to transition, I wasn’t sure if I had done it, but later I saw that I did, but only just.
|Lap 2, The wind is about to pick up.|
A little disappointed with the bike time, thought I could have done much, much better but it wasn’t to be. Forget about that and let’s move to the run.
|Happy the tunnel is over and done with.|
Bike: 6h49m (PB by about 12 minutes)
The change tent wasn’t as full as before but there was still quite a few guys in there. Again, a little hectic with what to do next so spent more time in there than planned. Gotta work on my transitions. But the extra time did give me a bit of a breather, it let me set down, rest and think about the torture ahead…
As I ran out of the change tent, I found out that Senn had not made the intermediate cutoff on the bike and was pulled out of the race. I was bummed for her, she had never not gone the distance at an Ironman race. And to travel so far to get a DNF was just not on. But she kept her spirits up and now I knew I had another supporter to carry me through the marathon.
The run was a point-to-point run starting from Frankston and finishing in St Kilda. The course was very interesting, first taking us along the beach to the southern end of Frankston, then along some trails by a small river, before finally taking us out onto the main road. Along the way to St Kilda, the course would again take you off the road and onto a footpath a few times. Sometimes we’d be running by th beach, then we’d be atop the cliff looking down on the sea.
I was a bit worried that a point-to-point course would be mind numbing and lonely, since you won’t get to see other athletes coming back the other way. But the way it was set up here, I didn’t have to worry about that. Because there were a few twist and turns, you’re always looking forward to see what the organizers were going to throw at you next. And you’re never quite alone, there’s always houses or shops to look at while you’re running past. And of course the great Aussie spirit, strangers cheering you on as you run by.
|The start of the run gave us an off-road tour of Frankston.|
Out of T2, I knew I was at 8h40 race time, so if I was going to finish and meet Target 1, I’d have to run a 5h20m marathon. My last marathon at SCKLM was 5h25m, and that was on fresh legs. My Ironman marathons have never gone under 6 hours. So Target 1 was looking like a big, big ask.
|It was an interesting run course: we’ll be down on the beach one minute, then up on a cliff the next.|
At km7 Emma came riding up to me on a mountain bike and said I was looking strong. She rode with me all the way to 10k and chit-chatted with me. And she said that if I can keep this up, I might be looking at a daylight finish. From that moment on I knew that I wasn’t going to stop running. I’d walk the aid stations, but between them (they were 2km apart), I would run. I would not be tempted to walk, I would just run.
And so it went, 2km run, walk the aid station, 2km run, walk the aid station and so on. At 18k, the bus that was transporting supporters drove by, the doors opened and there ware Senn and her parents cheering me on. At the 20k live site, there they were. At the 34k live site they were there too. This really gave me the push to continue running. Unfortunately, they couldn’t catch a bus in time to watch my finish.
Also, I knew there a lot of friends back home that were tracking us. This too, gave me the motivation to try and finish this as quickly as possible. Thanks everyone.
With 8k to go, my Garmin died (so much for 20 hour battery life, huh!). I knew at that point I had just over an hour to make it to the finish to meet Target 1 and started wondering if I could get the bonus as well. At 5k to go, I picked up the pace a little, wondering if and when I was going to hit the wall. At 3k to go, it was clear the wall had been demolished and was not going to get in the way. At 2k, i took my last drink at the last aid station and knew this was it. I had no idea what my timing was, how much time I had left, but I knew, I just had to go for it. At 1k to go, I ignored all the pain in my legs and just went for it. I picked up the pace and ran. Next thing I knew, I was in the finisher chute, I could hear Whit Raymond’s voice calling me in and the crowd was cheering. Hands reached out on either side and I slapped them all! Then I got to the little ramp at the finish line and started to leap, only for my quads to start cramping up, giving me a lame, half-jump.
|The atmosphere at the finish was electric!|
|My victory leap became a lame-assed trot across the line, thanks to a cramp!|
Run: 5h06m (PB by almost an hour and a half!)
That was my finish time. A personal best by an hour and half. The run was my third best marathon time ever, even faster than my last two standalone marathons. Had I not gone to the toilet several times, I could have gone sub-5 on this one. And I’m really happy I managed to run all the way, something I’ve only done once before. I think that was the key to getting that time.
Ironman Melbourne was a superb race but it does have a few niggles. It’s the first time ti’s being held so we did expect a few hiccups. I think the swim course could have been better marked and the finish area could have been better organized, I wasn’t sure what to do next or where to go. Thank God there were plenty of volunteers to help. I’m sure it was a logistical nightmare getting more than 1600 bikes and gear bags from Frankston to St Kilda, but the organizers handled it well.
|The finisher swag. This is what we worked so hard for.|
|A nice touch: for AUD10 you can have your name and times
engraved on the back of the medal.
This race is definitely on my Can-do-again race, and Senn has unfinished business here. It’s an expensive race, but given the experience we got, it was well worth it…
Pictures courtesy of Finsherpix.com and Grace Tabitha Lim Clark
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