The Days Before the Ironman
One of the highlights of the whole trip was our breakfast with most of the 80 strong Filipino contingent. Thanks to Fred Uytengsu and Princess of Sunrise Events we had an excellent breakfast together and discussed our excitement for the pending event. Fred even arranged for the eventual female winner, Caroline Steffen from Switzerland, to give some words of inspiration to us all. She also won Melbourne Ironman 2012.
After putting our transition bags into Frankston we simply ate well and rested.
We had a very big late lunch of smoked salmon with avocado, scramble eggs, ham, mushroom, tomato, spinach, chicken, green tea and even a glass of red for me! We were in bed by 6pm and had a restful sleep knowing we had trained well, tapered appropriately and had done all we could to be ready for the grueling task ahead of us.
Definitely no carbo-loading occurred this time. Luckily we had Tri-United 1 as our triathlon warm up before Melbourne as Natasha learned a very valuable lesson. Despite not eating much bread, pasta, rice, noodles etc. for at least a month before Tri-United 1 Natasha decided to “carbo load” a little the night before the race. She ate a simple Japanese Udon Noodle dish that reacted very badly with her stomach so that she was quite ill several hours before that race and up to gun start. That lesson was well and truly learned from and neither of us would make that mistake again here! We stuck to our regular nutrition of quality meat, vegetables and fruit.
They say that your race day nutrition is the 4th leg of the triathlon. Get this aspect of the race wrong and your results could be greatly affected. Due to the success I had experienced with my new healthier way of eating I planned to eat healthy on the bike and run and definitely wanted to go with a minimum number of gels and sips of sports drink.
I planned out how many mouthfuls of food I would need for a 7 hour bike (if I ate a mouthful of food every 20 minutes) and ensured I had the nuts, beef jerky and energy bars to last me till the end. I strapped only one gel bottle to my bike in case of emergency.
My hydration for the bike was EFS (Electrolyte Fuel System) which is gluten free and suits my primed lifestyle. I was confident that I would be fine on the run as I knew they had plenty of water stations and bananas available for the athletes.
The Race – Swim
Standing with 2000+ other triathletes knee deep in the chilly water of Frankston beach was fun. The race start was 7:38am and the atmosphere pre-race was one of excitement and apprehension (especially for the 801 newbies to Ironman). Having completed one before is a little reassuring as you know what to expect. The fear of the unknown must have surely been on the minds of the Ironman “virgins”.
The swim was fun but very cold. I tried valiantly to warm myself up before the mass swim start by peeing in my wetsuit but it was only temporary warmth. There was only 1 person without a wetsuit in the entire field, and he was a 20 something Aussie dude with a pair of blue board shorts on. The other triathletes were amazed to see him standing there without a wetsuit and were openly asking him why? His response was that he was too cheap to buy one. He could afford the $850 entry fee but no wetsuit! He should have borrowed one like I did as the warmth and buoyancy are a definite advantage in the swim.
I had a relatively good swim although the mass start was a little hectic. Many arms and legs were flailing around everywhere and I was happy for my extra upper body strength to get me through the “washing machine” surf. It really took at least half way until I felt as though I was swimming well and I tried to breath properly and enjoy the swim as I knew the tough bike ride was drawing ever closer.
The extra buoyancy of the wetsuit worked as my Hokkaido swim of 1:24:16 was improved upon by over 10 minutes to be 1:13:35 for Melbourne. I was the 1184th person (out of 2190) out of the water which was the 146th person for my age group.
I ran to get my bike gear but had trouble using my fingers as they were still so cold. My feet were also freezing. I am so glad I packed bike gloves, a beanie for my head and ears, as well as an extra bike top to put over my Sante Barley tri-top. I definitely needed the extra warmth as it really took at least 3 hours to finally warm up a little on the chilly bike course. My transition time was 9:42 which was too long when compared to Natasha’s speedy 5:59. Well done Natasha.
After my chilly swim I ate 2 bananas and hopped on board my trusty Specialized tri-bike.
My first 60km was in less than 2 hours and I was feeling good. I was eating my nutrition every 20 minutes (alternating between beef jerky, dried apricots & macadamia nuts and energy bars) and was imagining a 6 hour bike split. The next 30km were to bring me back to reality.
The 60 to 90km bike was into a wind and slightly uphill. It was around 70 minutes for that 30km and I was thinking more in terms of a 6:30 bike split. With a 6 hour bike I thought my dream of a sub-11 hour Ironman might come true but the longer the bike progressed the more I realized that a more realistic expectation was my original sub-12 hour goal.
I was pedaling away at a nice steady cadence, was feeling light in my shoes and was pretty happy for my first 90km. I knew the next 90km wouldn’t be easy but at least I knew what to expect having biked 180km for the Japan Ironman.
I had many riders fly past me and it was joyful to watch the pros speed along on the opposite side of the road. All in all, I had 360+ bikers overtake me. This however did not worry me in the least. We all have different strengths and I was determined to stick to my race plan and pace. I was anticipating a 6:30-6:40 bike split with a dream of 6:20 if I somehow could do it.
At 165km I heard a familiar voice greet me. It was my team mate David Richmond who had made up the 28 minutes I had on him from the swim. We had a quick chat as he then settled down to speed past me onto the end of the bike. I decided I would try and stick with him as much as possible even though I was not confident of doing so. Having passed me initially, I then passed him (surprisingly) and then did not see my buddy again until the change tent of transition 2. I think David must have given his all during the 165km to catch me, and then having done so, had nothing left in the tank to maintain the rage!
From David: “And you are right….. the last 20K on the bike was brutal with the head winds, cold and making up the time. With the run to come, I followed your advice, and listened to my head – saving some juice for the start of the run, rather than chasing you into T2. It was a great experience.”
I had just consumed my first energy gel at 164km (I tried to do the whole race on natural foods as much as I could) so I think it kicked in just as David rode past me. So, I then put my head down, rode past him and was able to maintain a decent pace till the end of the 180km bike. It was a definite motivation to know that my training buddy was hot on my tail expecting to pass me again.
The last 30km were brutal for all still out on the bike as the head and crosswinds had picked up and were making biking difficult. However, having survived the mountains (2km elevation), winds and driving rain of Ironman Hokkaido I at least found this one easier by comparison.
Arriving into Frankston proper my bum was sore, my legs a little weary but I was glad I had made it. The 180km bike was done and now I could do my favorite part. I tried to take just gels and an energy bar for the last 40 minutes of my bike and not have any more solid foods. I was very happy with my bike split of 6:43. It was a long way from the pros but commensurate with my ability. I have a lot of scope to improve on my bike and will endeavor to train harder and smarter after this experience.
I got in just ahead of David and had my shoes on when he rocked up and sat next to me. It was great to see my team mate there as we had trained so many hours together in preparation for this event. He said he cramped a little on the bike so I knew he would have a hard marathon but would definitely make it home. Apparently our other team mates (Joey and Jonah) were to greet David in transition just before he headed off.
I put on my Sante Barley t-shirt over my tri-top, changed pants to the same running shorts I used in Hokkaido and liberally applied Bodivance anti-cramping cream to my legs. This cream heats your muscles so as to ward off cramps. It worked well as I had a stress free/cramp free marathon. It was nice to be greeted by David’s wife Deng as I started my 42.2km run.