Because not every day can be a good day.
So that wasn’t the end to the year I had planned. Basically December was an athletic failure for me and what I aspire to do, but I also learnt a lot. So I guess it wasn’t all negative. So before I move into 2018, let’s get through the end of my 2017.
To be honest I don’t think my build-up was too bad. I know I was a little light on swimming (haven’t needed that much in 2017), and a little light on cycling, but I was definitely feeling pretty strong with my running and figured that would make up for it a bit.
Thank you to some interesting challenges on Running Heroes for the incentives for getting the running kilometres up.
And for the first time I ran around the hilly paddocks of Donnybrook for True Grit (http://www.truegrit.com.au/). This is the first of the last 3 years that True Grit has been more than a month away from me doing an Ironman, so I happily joined Tamara, Carissa and Nathan for the muddy 11km obstacle course. This was a fun event to change up the training and best of all I came away from the day injury free.
A little bit of training and two weeks later and it was off to Rottnest for the day for Sufferfest Rottnest (http://www.sufferfesttri.com/) and the half distance triathlon. 3 weeks before IMWA this was a day to fine tune and see how the body was going. Actually, it ended up being a couple of options closer to IMWA than planned on the day. The swim would have been a little longer than 2km for the faster swimmers. The beautiful clear water of Thomson Bay at Rottnest however was also attractive to the sea life as besides the regular fishes, a shark decided to come past. So I swam almost 1900m, and for the second long distance tri this year had my swim cut short by a shark. Still, unlike the shorter distance races starting afterward, at least I got to go for a swim.
A long transition run later and it was on to the bike for 4 laps and 78km of dodging quokkas, snakes, lizards, tourists and buses. Add in a dropped chain on lap 4 as the legs were slowly tiring and it was a challenging day. But this all just makes the bike course one you have to concentrate on and the ocean views on the north side of the course certainly lift the spirits as well. Plus a quick hallo as I passed T while she was on one of the Oly distance laps was great motivation to push a little more back between the lakes towards the Rottnest township.
The run was a warm 18km and the volunteers were great with helping to pour water on the runners, plus hand out liquids and gels (and melting lollies for those who wanted them). But even with shoes sloshing with water I was reasonably happy with my pace for the run and throughout the day.
After that confidence builder it was just time to not overdo it (pretty much my whole training regime it would seem, will improve that in 2018) and prepare for Busselton.
As usual leading to the event an eye was permanently kept on the weather. It was looking warm but nothing too bad for a December day in WA. Pack the car on Wednesday, get home Thursday from work, load the bikes and pick up Tamara from the airport and a late drive down. After warm days in Perth it was a little bit of a climate change to have 12 degree evenings.
Friday morning means go and join in the Xterra practice swim for a leisurely out and back. Pre-swim we see a guy wearing an Ultraman Australia top and it’s a good chance to say a quick hallo and ask some questions as that’s the aim for May 2018. Matty gives some good advice before we part ways into the ocean. Then back to the apartment to change before getting some breakfast and then it’s check in day for us. The new registration and expo location is nice and intimate at the bottom end of main street Busselton. So we do the usual routine, register, walk around the exhibitors, buy some Bindi, new shoes and some cheap kit before spending the rest of the day relaxing as much as possible. By relaxing really I mean lay out the bike, nutrition and different kit required to get through the weekend as this will be needed for dropping off on Saturday.
Saturday morning is pretty quiet. I get a gentle run in and stretch before we go and do the bike check and rack. Brief encounter with Callum and Alise from The Cupcake Cartel, a little help to some of the 70.3 athletes the other side of the fence, hang the transition bags for tomorrow and out the other side of the tent to collect my timing chip and chill. This was also the convenient time to say hi to James and Muzz who were also in town to do and support the 70.3. Then back to the room to rest up for the rest of the afternoon and evening.
This is the first Ironman I’ve changed my day before food a little compared to the previous two. I might just go back to pretzels and lollies the day before instead of pasta. But maybe not. I’ll hopefully have a handle on this come mid-2018.
Sunday = race day J
Up at 315 so we can have breakfast and get down early for Tamara to start the 70.3. Pre-race it’s back through transition to pump up the bike tyres (when will they make tubulars that don’t lose +30psi overnight?) and then join the wetsuit clad hoard down to the swim start line to watch Tamara and the other half competitors swim out to see.
Unfortunately ¾ of the way through this process the safety crew swings in to action, the chopper circles a shark (two were sighted) and everyone is evacuated from the water. Tamara was about 100m out, so a quick return for her, and no swimming at all for another hundred or so competitors in the 70.3. So the swim stage is nullified and the half resumes ‘drip fed’ from transition on the bike.
I think while all the reorganising is happening I spend a little too long on my feet. I pick up a glass splinter in my foot which I get the ambulance crew to remove and then like most of the Ironman competitors, I don’t drink enough liquid while standing around on the beach waiting for our event to start. Needless to say we don’t get to swim. This completes the trifecta of long course triathlons with sharks for me in 2017.
Eventually the athletes are released 2 every 5 seconds to run up the beach into transition (no need to take off a wet wetsuit today). At least while I’m waiting for 20 minutes to start (thankfully I wasn’t one of the hour long waits) I’m next to some guys wearing Fusion Multisport kit who are cracking jokes and discussing where on course to stop for a coffee seems they’re not doing a full Ironman anyway. This keeps the mood pretty light for the surrounding people which is a good thing.
Finally I’m away, a measured dash to the transition tent (thankfully the temporary overpass isn’t soaking wet and as slippery as it would have been had we all just exited the water) to grab my helmet, cleats and cycling nutrition before getting my bike and heading out on course. The first few hundred metres are a little technical, but it’s fun and then it’s out of town and into the Ludlow State Forest.
It was a little breezy out on the road and it was already getting warm. The first person on the side of the road was about 30km in, and he was still there 3 hours later when I went past again. I can only assume it was a comfortable spot in the shade. There were people out on course though which was really good, balloons, signs, cheering. I possibly pushed a little hard for the conditions on the first lap and covered the 90km in 2:45 but was feeling good so you go with it. Then it was back into the headwind for the second lap. By the time I reached about 110km I knew it wasn’t going to be a good day. My speed had dropped off, I wasn’t eating enough, was getting a little wobbly on the bike and I assume I was overheating as my body wasn’t really registering whether it was hot or not by now.
The 2nd and 3rd aid stations on the second lap I stopped at just to try and stretch a little and cool down with more water over my head and replenish my liquid supplies. The second lap took about 3:27 which was a fair reflection of my struggles to get around. Still, I got to finish the cycle leg in full as I wasn’t unlucky enough to be taken out by a kangaroo or diverted because of the bushfire out on course.
So I slowly rolled back into Busselton and into the transition again about 230 in the arvo. I assume it was warm by now (Garmin says 37 while out on the bike) and it was carnage in the transition tent. There were a lot of other people who were also in bad shape. It’s amazing to think it takes almost 10 minutes to change some shoes and put on some sunscreen and have a cup of water. It shouldn’t, but it did for me.
Back out of transition and into the run. Well jog. For a bit. The foreshore in Busso is a beautiful place to run, lots of crowd support a good view of the ocean, and a little bit of shade. Turn south and go past the Fremantle Tri Club tent (thanks for the cheers Michelle and Vic), through the first aid station and to the southern end of the course. At this stage I was jogging along ok, sitting on about 5:45 and hoping to do my marathon in around 4 hours. The plan was to walk through each aid station to have a drink and try and keep the energy up. And this worked ok for the first 2/3 of the lap though my gut was starting to give me trouble. Then the walking stretched out a little more. Then in between aid stations.
Going past the PTC tent I got to say hello to Tamara (which was much needed by now) and Carissa and I’d get to say hello a couple more times as I tried to loop the course. Hello to some of the other PTC supporters, Slim, and a couple of Sufferfest crew and the random strangers around the course as well.
There were hoses set up along the northern end of the course. This was great the first lap to help try and cool down. By the second lap I was avoiding the water as I couldn’t regulate my temperature and would get the chills if I got wet. But thanks to Kieren, Fred and Nicole for cheering the athletes on along the northern desert stretch of the course. And throughout it was helpful to have other competitors to chat with. Some doing better, some worse, and some doing it just as tough.
By 20km I was really starting to struggle and not able to down anything except for the odd tiny sip of water. And at about 23 the wheels started falling off. The walking became a shuffle and for the last 3 kilometres the benches along the foreshore became my friend as I shuffled along the path between them before sitting down and resting at each one (because you can’t show favortism when it comes to these things).
Around the northern end of the course one last time (for me) and then it was time to crouch over, throw up the watermelon that I was not enjoying by that stage, and stumble to the next aid station. At least I wasn’t the only one to be throwing up. Or pulling out. I don’t think there would have been that much puke at leavers.
So at 28km into the run I called it a day and for the first time I earned a DNF.
I’m not really sure at this stage I couldn’t complete it. I know I was struggling to move my legs and I had a really upset belly and was incredibly tired. I assume at least heat stress was a big cause. Maybe a nap at the aid station would have been a good thing? I know the front lawns were starting to look really comfortable. Again, I wasn’t the only one with this thought as while me and my co-28km and outer were being given a lift back to the recovery tent, we picked up another athlete who had passed out on a front yard. But looking ahead at the big picture, it wasn’t worth risking longer term damage to finish. But oh I wish I had.
So after being taken to the recovery tent, staring jealously at the (incredibly well deserved) finisher towels, shirts and medals, I met up with T who was good enough to get hold of all my gear from transition, and head back to the unit for a good nights sleep.
Monday was pack up day and drive back to Perth in the rain after a good breakfast. Lots of water to help rehydrate, and once unpacked at home I went out and ran the last 14km to make up my marathon distance. It didn’t get me a medal, but it did help the mental healing process a little.
Congratulations to all who finished the event (and the half) as it was a tough day. The last 5km I managed were for me the hardest steps I’ve had to take in any event (more so than at any stage of the UTA100), so I applaud all those who managed to mentally and physically get through the day. As always a great big thank you to the Perth Tri Club supporters, club mates, and competitors for their support and cheering and for bringing along Bruce for the day. And thank you to all the volunteers who continue to do a great job at every stage pre, post and throughout the event. I'll be back in 2018 and I won't let you (or me) down again.