A few months back the plan to enter the SunSmart Ironman 70.3 Busselton triathlon was a simple choice. In 2016 I won an entry care of Endura Sports Nutrition and with a poor training preparation I pulled out a 5:11:54. So this year I wanted to do it right and do some proper training and aim for a sub 5 hour.
Somewhere around Christmas, Tamara also decided that this was an achievement worth considering, so she booked in to the Perth Triathlon Club novice course to see if this would be attainable. And a few weeks in, with my belief in her abilities, T also signed up for the half. Being able to share in a common goal, even if our trainings weren’t always the same, was a lot of fun and something I look forward to being able to do over the second half of the year.
So to start the year we were doing our thing and easing into the triathlon season around sickness and poor preparation. Grateful to be a Sufferfest Triathlon ambassador I competed in the Olympic-ish distance triathlon in Albany and the Olympic distance enduro (basically two sprint distance triathlons back to back) run by Sufferfest. These were tough events and through luck I managed to come out 3rd in the WA Sufferfest Olympic distance Championship. That was a nice surprise and I’ll be trying a little harder this coming summer and if well doing the half distance championship.
Then my regular running partner Jens brings up the idea of doing the Ultratrail Australia UTA100 run in May, two weeks after the half ironman. We’ve done a bit of running together and talked about doing a 100km run previously, but the opportunity came up to do one this year in Katoomba and it seemed like a good idea at the time. So this of course changed my training plan for triathlon season. A little less biking and less swimming (I didn’t mind that compromise) and a bit more running required, particularly trail running and hills. The upside to hills is they pretty much double as interval training, and training with a backpack makes everything easier when it’s not on.
So trundle through running, running and a little bit of cycling. Throw in some swims and the Mullaloo Olympic and Hillarys Sprint triathlons to finish the local short distance season and bring on a long weekend in Busso.
Cruisy drive down on the Friday, and turn in via Tuart Drive so we can drive the bike course. This allows for a quick check of road conditions (still rough at the north end of the course) and some familiarisation for T as well. Once we arrive at the Busselton Festival of Triathlon we meet up with some friends (Carissa also doing her first half) and register and peruse some of the bits for sale. As always purchasing a few goodies for use and then it was down to the resort to relax a little. This was followed by a quick dip in the ocean in the afternoon, some pizza for dinner and an early night.
Saturday was bike check in day, so a quick run to stretch the legs after breakfast while the ladies went for another paddle and then back to the event village to drop off the bikes, have a coffee and catch up with some of the Perth Tri Club crew, help set up the tent for race day, and a quiet night with carbs and another early night. Early starts for events and training and work are overrated, but I guess it’s one of the things you get used to doing after a while.
Sunday = race day J
Early up, nutritious breakfast, stretch, grab the transition bag and off we go. Through the gate, “make sure your helmet is on and your race band is showing”, and set up your own little space for the day. Towel, shoes, shoes, hat, glasses, socks, helmet, race number, nutrition, drinks. Keep the wetsuit, goggles and swim cap as they’ll be needed shortly. Exit transition and keep stretching and try and relax.
Drop off the bag, put on the wetsuit, keep hold of the goggles and cap and wander down to the beach to prepare and watch the earlier waves get swimming. The elites started at 0700, I had until 0805 before getting underway. Tamara had the 0745 wave, so it was nice to wish her well and love and a good day before she splashed off.
That was my cue to go and have a 2 minute swim to warm up the arms and then join the final group of age groupers into the water.
Wade in at the back of the pack, throw the arms over and start swimming.
I’m not the fastest swimmer in the world, but not quite the slowest either. So I just keep swimming, just keep swimming and hold my position about three quarters back in the pack. Actually I’m feeling pretty good and holding a slightly better line then normal for my open water efforts. Two corners done and heading back to shore. For some reason there seems to be a little more chop as I’m heading in and this is explained a few minutes later by some water craft coming up behind me and a couple of guys I’m swimming next to with the operators blowing loudly on whistles and yelling “get out of the water, everyone out of the water. NOW”. Ok, I’m swimming to you, you’re the closest boat to me. One of the competitors already picked up puts his arm out to help lift me in the boat, then pull in another guy and with four passengers splayed on the floor of the boat we speed in to the shore.
Well that’s a first for me, being evac’d due to a shark. Just as well we had training on getting out the water due to shark alarms at Floreat Beach occasionally with the tri club.
So that saved me about 300m of swimming, and I’m happy to have all my limbs and I’ll add 6 minutes to my time at the end of the day.
Into transition which is something I’m getting slightly better at. Usually.
Wetsuit off smoothly, grab a gel, put on socks, cycling shoes, grab bars, have a sip of water, put on helmet, glasses, grab bike and out of transition.
Enter the cluster fridge of people trying to mount their bikes and not paying attention to anything around them, start pedalling, look over shoulder for any cyclists on their second lap and away we go. Around the first two corners and a wave and cheer from the Perth Tri Club tent (thanks guys), have another drink and try and settle into a rhythm.
Along the waterfront, back across town, then head north on the smoother stuff and have a bite from the bar. As usual there is a photographer at the bridge as I’m chewing away, but that’s ok, I’m eating something J Get passed by the faster people on their second lap, pass some slower than me. Towards the top end of the ride on Tuart Drive the road roughs up a little. A gel bounces out of my bike box so I put the rest in my back pocket. Actually, eat one now for some more energy as I’ll be needing that soon.
A quick cheer to Tamara as she’s going the other way is a nice perk up. Then around the far turn and back to town. Pass Carissa and a “good effort, keep it up” before getting to the aid station. Empty one of my bottles into my front one and have a drink so I can grab a fresh electrolyte bottle from the volunteers (who are all awesome, never forget that!!). It’s probably the worst electrolyte mix I’ve ever had, sorry Endura. Warm and weak, so I’ll have some as a last resort and mix it in with my existing mixture if I need to.
Coming into the outskirts of Busselton for the first time and I pass Michelle who tells me it’s just mean to catch my wife on the first lap. I smile, agree, wish her well and continue to the PTC kit just up ahead. It’s great to see T out on course, so we ride next to each other for about 15 seconds and have a nice quick chat. We’re going well, nothing hurts, love each other, see you soon J And I pick up the pace again before a referee tells me off for not passing completely within the 25 second allowance.
Back through town, wave and cheer past the club tent again. Hit another pothole on the way out of town and hope that it’s not the one to crack my wheels (while it’s always nice to upgrade, I don’t want to have to do so just yet). And back north again. Fumbling around to try and open my second bar wrapper on the rough road has me drop it, swear about the lost energy and hopeful to not be pinged for littering and a 5 minute penalty. It’s not deliberate but you never know. But I’m not the only one to have fumbled. There are unopened gels, bars, rogue bottles, food bags and even a couple of bottle cages that have worked their way loose from their previous owners. A lot of flats on my first lap, not so many on the second. Not sure if that’s just because there are now less people out or if the course has decided that’s enough puncture victims for the day.
Unfortunately there have been other victims of the roads. Earlier someone was being cared for by an ambulance in the aid station zone (remember to take it slow through these if you’re after anything and if there are people in front of you collecting bottles then be aware as bikes don’t always react well to bottles under the wheels) and out on the second lap someone was being tended by an ambulance on one of the bridges with everyone being told to slow down through the area.
Reach the turn around after cruising a little slower than I should the last 5-10 minutes, only 22km to go before the run, have my final gel and get back on my pace. Cheer Tamara as we pass each other, cheer Carissa. Throw out the horrible bottle of bleh, grab one of water (it may not be needed (it was) but the Funky Trunks bottles are worth collecting) at the aid station and keep cycling. There are still a couple of people passing me, but mostly I’m passing others as being in that last group out there aren’t too many who really started the run behind me unless they were a little closer to shore than me in the swim when the alarm was raised. So a good ride back into town and back to transition.
Remember to dismount cleanly from the bike, hear my name and look to say hallo as Nathan takes a quick pic (thanks for the help and support all weekend), run in my cleats (thankfully it’s mostly grass which is slightly easier than running on the pavement) and rack the bike, off with the helmet, have a quick sip of water, off with my shoes, on with my running shoes and grab my hat and running belt with number to put on as I’m running out of the transition area. Use the underpass and now the run starts.
I’m actually feeling pretty confident at this stage. I thought I may have held back a touch too much on the bike (I did), but at the same time I also really wanted to see how well my run would go as that’s what I’ve been doing all my training on. The plan was to sit at about 4:40 min/km as this has been by comfortable pace when running without a backpack. After cycling for 90km it did require a little bit more of a push, but with shoulders back and a good attitude it was a good starting point.
So lap one of three, past the PTC tent. More waves, cheers and a couple of high fives which helps raise the spirits a little and puts a smile on my face. It’s nice to be running in a club top for the first time as it really does make a difference when more than 2 people are cheering for you. The first lap continues pretty smoothly, just do my thing, try and get a couple of gels in me, water at each aid station and the odd sip of Endura (much better blend at the aid stations on the run). See Tamara heading the other way so a yell across the path of support and love again (probably making the runners around us sick) and quick cheers and encouragement to other PTC crew. Past the club tents (cheers and smiles and low fives), and around the turn for lap two.
This end of the course is always more populated with spectators and the atmosphere is always great. Lots of noise, chalk writing on the road, music, announcer, lots of atmosphere. Around the mid-course for up and back it’s a little more subdued. But then you go past the dancing gorillas. These guys have been dressed up and cranking the music every race I’ve done in Busselton and it’s nice to have a minute in each direction or Grinspoon, ACDC, Metallica, you get the point. It’s a big perk up. Then at the top end of the course it gets a little quiet with just the first aid tent and the other runners for company.
Getting tired so apart from T most of the club mates I pass just get a thumbs up unless I’m actually passing them. Then it’s a quick “good work, keep it up” and I try and keep my pace. Busy end of the course, cheers, turning point, cheers, random stranger comment saying I have nice running form and looking strong (I’ll take it) and I’m well into my last lap. Somewhere along here I catch some runners who are doing 4:55 and I sit for a minute to gather myself before pushing on again. There’s only about 4km to go so I want to push a little again now. I haven’t seen T yet as I approach the final u-turn. Then I see her as she turns 25m ahead of me. We wave in passing, I make the turn and pass Victor and we have a quick hallo before I move up to Tamara and we have a 30 second chat. She’s doing well, looking strong, we encourage each other, a quick touch, say we love each other and it’s back to our own worlds.
I know this is the last 3 and a bit kilometres I have to run today so it’s time to start picking it up. Quick sips through the aid stations, keep picking up the pace. For me I’m going well, compared to the elites, not so much. But I’m happy. Last pass of the tent (thanks for the cheering all day PTC, much appreciated) and the happy left hand turn into the finishing chute. This year I don’t try and pass anyone in the narrow confines towards the finish line, so I don’t get an accidental high five to the face. Remember to smile over the line for the photo and give it a few seconds before stopping the watch. Official time will be recorded and the event photos look better (remember that tip girls and boys) when you’re not looking down at your watch.
Medal, towel, smile, lean on fence. I’m stuffed and I know I pushed it a little as the stomach curdles a little. But that’s also a combination of only having gels bars, water and electrolytes for the last 6 hours.
And seeing 4:53:14 on the watch makes me happy as I expected about a 5:20 coming into it due to a lack of training and taking it easy on the bike. I know, I need to add in 6 minutes for the boat ride. Still gives me a sub-5 hour half so I’m pretty happy with that. And really happy with how the run went which was my biggest aim for the day. The swim on reflection was going a good pace for me as well.
Time to go inside the recovery tent, grab a spearmint milk (Masters, please remember to bring more milks next year if you’re going to be the official recovery protein drink) as it’s all that’s left (and only about 20 of these), some water and sit down on the ground. Time to reflect a little, stretch, take a photo of my number and medal and just relax. When I get up 5 minutes later, it’s time for a couple of lollies, some electrolytes and bag retrieval time. This way I can message Slim at the tent for Tamara updates. She’s just gone past the tent on her last lap so I stretch a little more, then head into the sunshine behind the finish line to await her arrival.
Half an hour later I get a message T is passing the tent for the final time, so I pay more attention and see her coming down the finish chute. It’s inspiring to see someone set out to achieve something and do it. And being able to see Tamara cross the line and hold her 5 seconds later it something I am incredibly lucky to have done. I won’t see you cross the line at your next half my love, but I am glad I was at your first.
Then getting to watch other PTC people and friends (Steve, Carissa) cross the line was very enjoyable and I know what needed to be done to get that far.
Thank you to my beautiful wife Tamara for sharing in the journey with me and for allowing me to share in her first Half Ironman event. I am extremely proud of you. And thanks to Carissa Ball for also doing her first IM 70.3 event and joining in the fun and games. And enjoying it enough to consider doing it again in December. Congratulations to other friends and club mates who also partook in the day, be it competing, supporting and especially volunteering. Thanks to those who have shared photos since, some of which are shown as I was a little to preoccupied to do my own photography during the day. And thanks to Perth Triathlon Club for your support each lap. It was the first time I’ve raced in a club shirt and the extra motivation and cheering and high fives were certainly appreciated.
It was a great day full of PBs, cheering and achievements and it didn’t take long thereafter to start planning for December.
Now back to my taper for the UTA100 trail ultramarathon next weekend.