IMWA. This race, this prep, anything to do with getting this far, WAS BRUTAL. No doubting how draining and life devouring this experience was. Would I change it? Possibly, but I'll keep the what’s and why's to myself.
Day Zero. Straight off the back of a three-week hiatus post-Busso 70.3 mostly due to illness, I started working yet again under the guidance of Tim. Cue a demoralising week of threshold testing and I was certainly back to being “one of them”: an out-of-shape dad dreaming of the IM red carpet.
Not long after this I re-applied myself and ground out day-by-day, only occasionally losing my shit which unfortunately happens to me. This happens when alcohol is re-introduced into my life. I thought I was not worthy, or even able to continue ironman training. This was in July and race day was in December, but I had already quit several times over.
Fast-forward several months, I flew over to Sydney to have a few days with Tim and Dez (I'll always be grateful to both of these beautiful people). This was also to catch up with Terry and Elechia Jones and the MX crew and have a training weekend in Newcastle. This went for me better than expected and gave me a very false sense of my fitness, even after the coach had me spewing behind a tree during some one-kilometer run efforts.
I returned home near on straight into taper and a bit of urgency for the start line to come. I felt although I had a three-week taper of which the coach will probably disagree and tell me it was a whole 10 days, a taper into an Ironman is something I had not experienced and was not expecting the sickness that followed. I was extremely irritable, always hungry and felt like I had a hangover.
The last few days of race week and I started to feel good. I was reasonably excited yet conscious about staying off my feet and resting. I was extremely eager to ride again with Terry and Elechia and we did. These two gave me the final few pieces mentally that I was craving!
Race eve, my family all let me be as I had asked. I made my own food, drank my drink, relaxed in Norm and chilled out watching cricket.
Race morning, I rose at 3:30am after an uncharacteristic great night of sleep, had a strong breakfast with coffee… and the always important but less spoken about pre-race poo!
I wandered along the run track to transition a little emotional. Peta (my wife) came with me as she does, carrying my bag. I got set up, sorting my bike and had the usual pre-race banter, I then found the Joneses, donned my wetsuit and made way to the start line.
Now, something for me was amiss, and I still don’t really know what it was but I had no anxiety. This was extremely unusual; I didn’t let it bother me but in the past I’ve had nerves even for a sprint event.
The rolling start got underway and before long I had navigated off course by making a simple error of not sighting myself and following the feet of someone else. This was easily corrected and I then decided to swim my own race and tow anyone that may have wanted it. The swim passed quickly and I exited the water in 1:01. Considering I'd had only seven weeks' swim training I was pretty elated and jogged my way to T1.
T1 – I jogged through, grabbed my transition bag and removed the sole contents of a Clif bar, started munching, threw my wetsuit at a very happy volunteer and proceeded to make way to my bike alongside Brad Martens where banter ensued. Leaving T1 feeling in control and pretty happy, I made an effort to run well past the crowded mount line and get going. My feet slipped into my shoes, at this stage my entire family and entourage had got trackside and seeing my Mum wearing one of the kids' Shark heads gave me a seemingly endless smile.
Onto the ride, I got moving and started to implement my nutrition plan. I had worked tirelessly on this with Chloe. I emptied my front bottle rather quick, too quick. I reached around to grab my other bottle to refill… it was gone. I got some water and filled the front hydration and then noticed it all pissing out the bottom (it was cracked). I had now lost all of my electrolytes (rookie f'n rookie). I was only about 30 kilometers in. I continued to drink solely water.
I came back into town for the first 90-kilometer loop in 2:20 and well below target power. I grabbed my special needs which had one electrolyte tablet in it, I drank it and continued with water and my food. I was now also completely solo on the bike and had no one to chase or work with (I had no one on the first lap to really work with anyway). At around 160 kilometers I could feel myself starting to cramp, tried to eat more, and then never let it enter my mind again.
Rolling into town I caught Mike Robinson, we exchanged a few dramatic excuses and then ran through T2 together.
Exiting T2 I grabbed a cup of electrolyte hoping it would help, and walked my way out as I had planned with my bag full of nutrition and a bottle of water.
I jogged on easy with a smile on my face though the first 10-kilometer lap. I must have had heat stroke or some other disorder as I thought I had this ironman thing in the bag. I had come off the bike in well inside the top 10 for my AG and actually thought I might hang onto it.
The next lap things started to get uneasy, pace was good, heart rate was climbing. I started to feel sic, and I stopped eating.
KaBOOM. Twenty kilometers in, I was at a standstill. Barely able to jog, I started spewing, I started cramping. Cramping for me is something I seldom experience, I can only recall it happening once during training and never whilst racing. These cramps were everywhere: my legs, my stomach, m arms, even my back. No worries, I’ll just jog on slowly...
I was then making very poor choices. While I was never going to stop, I refused to eat, refused to drink, refused to listen to good solid advice. I completed the first half marathon in approx. 1:50 without working too hard. The back half took over three hours.
I was and am still shattered by this. I never got a second wind, I never got the magical boost at the last lap band collection everyone told me about, nothing. The last kilometer took me forever, still spewing, walking and crying slightly.
I walked the finish chute. I recall stopping, hugging my Dad and staring blindly toward the line. I embraced the line and respected ironman for what it is and what it has meant for my life, I hugged me wife, my kids and my Mum.
I got carried into recovery and pretty much started sulking to myself and being even until now very hard on myself. I have in the past few weeks thought of selling my bike, not trained, drank too much and am only now after calling it quits, being brought around by a great mate that I am seeing what I have achieved.
Let's start with what I did wrong, then I will get to what I did right.
I understand some athletes could only dream of an 11 hour finish. I genuinely walked to 11 hours, and this will always haunt me. Call me an egotistical elitist if you want; I’m allowed to be disappointed.
Will I do Another IM? I’m doubtful I want to put my family through the months of training again.
A few words to my Coach, Tim… What you’ve done for me I can’t put into words my feeling of gratitude. We’ve worked together for 18 months and I have achieved results I truly believe I could not have achieved without your guidance. You put up with my bitching and sooking but always have a way to wheel me around and get me back on course. We will achieve great things!
Long-distance racing is a battle of attrition, with the win often going not to the one who goes out fastest, but to the one who slows down the least. Strength rather than pure speed is key to success in triathlon, says four-time triathlon world champion Chris McCormack.
The Imposter complex is a feeling of not belonging, of being a fraud, undeserving of success or attributing your successes as fluke or luck, with the fear that your peers will find out how inadequate you really are.