First time round was easy. I had the novelty of being a first timer and executing a moderately successful race on a perfect day with reasonably limited training. How can I better my first race, second time around?
Not a first timer.
Not front of pack.
Not inspirationally struggling to the finish line inside cut-off for any reason other than can’t be arsed training.
Nothing to overcome, endure or battle except the race distance and my general apathy.
The answer is in the question. Read this report and discover if I am able to make the mundane sound interesting. The average sound inspirational and the narcissistic sound inclusive (hint: I fail, especially at the last one).
Less is more, provided you do less more often than you did more.
Translation – My total volumes were lower this year but my consistency was very high for the year since IM Melbourne 2014.
If you are into detail, I consistently did about a total of 9 hours a week consisting of 2 swims (4kms), 2 rides (130kms to 170kms) and 3 runs (30kms to 40kms). I tried to do 4 week blocks, building to a big week on week 3 with an easy week on the 4th week.
My training highlights were:
· 3 marathons – IM Melbourne, Great Ocean Road Marathon & Melbourne Marathon
· Epic ride with the Mountain Chickens (riding mates) which was the Audux ACE250 course but over two days, stopping over night at the mighty Blue Duck Inn
· Actually swimming occasionally, sometimes even in open water and even in rough water
Whilst my numbers were never massive, they were consistent and I hit the starting line feeling stronger than 2014. Except in the swim.
I was probably going to drown.
Things started well.
No wind, flat water and unlike 2014, I remember to bring my bottles full of bike nutrition instead of leaving them in the fridge like last year.
Set up with plenty of time to spare, so family photos, hugs and kisses were all completed at a relaxed pace before heading down to the beach.
I really hadn’t done enough swim training. The one thing I had done was get out on a couple of rough days. So while I was relieved to see flat water, I had done so much mental prep for rough water that it was almost a letdown that it was flat.
The rolling start is awesome. Truly, deeply awesome. In 2014 I spent the first 800m stopping, starting, stopping, starting, panicking just because everyone was trying to occupy the same inch of water. It was like getting on the train in the Japanese subway, only missing the guys with the sticks forcing people closer together (although I can’t actually verify those guys weren’t there). In 2014 I swam nowhere near my potential.
2015 was better. They let about 6 people go every 10 or so seconds. As soon as my face hit the water I was relaxed and swimming smoothly and then bored. Very very bored. Swimming is boring. The sandy bottom is boring. Everytime someone did hit me, it was awesome because it was mildly less boring.
Aside from struggling to see the buoys things were going well. I was swimming very easy and didn’t bother about finding feet until about the 2.8km mark. At that stage another swimmer cruised past so I jumped on his feet. Despite my best efforts, I flicked his toes a couple of times which I believe prompted him to sprint through a gap between two swimmers. I put in my only effort for the swim to stay on his feet, then flicked his toes again, deliberately this time just because I could.
All the time I was passing people.
In a swim.
How is that even possible?
Swim was eventually over (so boring) and I stood up feeling as fresh as Will Smith in the ‘90s, looking forward to the next stage of the race.
2014 Time – 1:14:55
2015 Time – 1:11:01 why couldn’t I be 2 seconds faster so I could call myself a 1:10 swimmer?
Bit more efficient this year, actually found a vollie. Ran to the bike in socks carrying my shoes again this year which seems to be the most efficient technique for me.
2014 Time – 6:38
2015 Time – 5:09
I love riding my bike. I loved it as a kid and the best thing about triathlon is I have rediscovered that love. I love riding my Wednesday morning ride and I love riding with the Mountain Chickens on a Sunday. I don’t love trying to hold a TT position on my bike.
My TT bike is my road bike. It is not new, it is not flash, it is not even carbon. My bike doesn’t have aero wheels, there is no between the bars aero bottle or aero helmet, just a pair of clip on TT bars and a Cobb TT saddle. This year I went a bit overboard and fitted a behind the seat dual bottle holder so I could get my bottles off the frame and be more aero (which I understand now is supposed to be less aero).
Probably should have trained with the new bottle holders. If I had, maybe I wouldn’t have kicked the bottle with my primary nutrition straight off the bike when I tried to mount it. Then I wouldn’t have lost time trying to find the bottle in vain. I am jinxed. In 2014 I left my bottled nutrition at my accommodation, this year I kicked it off my bike. Good thing I am pretty easy going and after about 20 seconds of searching I gave up and started riding.
Northerly winds in Melbourne usually build in strength over the course of the day and so with that in mind I decided to push a little harder than last year on the first lap. Traditionally I take a while to warm up and so I wasn’t comfortable for the first outbound leg. Not just “this TT possie is severely compromised and therefore so are the family jewels” type of uncomfortable, but also my legs were feeling heavy and it was a bit of an effort. But the Springvale Rd turnaround came quickly with the opportunity to wave to the Mountain Chickens that had dropped by to spectate.
Due to my compromised nutrition I was drinking from my remaining bottle sparingly while eating gels I had in my pocket and whatever I could grab from the aid stations. It wasn’t until I was ¼ into the first return leg that I remembered I had a bottle with 4 or 5 scoops of Infinit in my special needs bag. You know, that bottle I put there in case I did something stupid like kick my primary bottle clean off my bike. The bottle with enough Infinit to get me through the second lap. I have no idea why it took me so long to remember it was there.
So I madly shoved down what was left in my surviving bottle, taking big gulps at a time and not worrying about washing it down with water. Mistake #1.
The Frankston turnaround appeared at around the 2 ½ hour mark and I was feeling good. Legs were getting better and better, the wind hadn’t built as much as I expected and my nutrition concerns were gone now that I had remembered my special needs bottle. How close could I get to a 5 hour ride time?
Cruised from the turnaround to the aid station where I picked up a bottle of water then cruised to special needs. Stopped and grabbed my spare bottle of Infinit and then used the water bottle to fill it, shake to mix and off we go.
Should have shaken it more. First mouth full and I get a lump of powder and I no longer have water left to wash it down with. Mistake number 2. I should have grabbed 2 bottles of water so I had one left after I did the mix.
All the way to the next aid station, the only liquid I had was concentrated Infinit. By the time I reached it I had a dry and sugar coated mouth. Pretty sure I ate Clag as a kid and my mouth didn’t feel this gummy.
I was still riding well. Into the wind, passing lots of people and feeling much more comfortable than the first trip into the wind. Average speed was dropping, but much more slowly than I expected and my heart rate was comfortably lower than I expected. All was well with the world. Except the whole mouth/Clag thing.
Then the nausea started. It was towards the end of the outbound leg, not too bad at first, but not what I wanted.
No panic. I still had about 45kms to ride, with the wind. Bit over an hour to get on top of it.
I was pretty confident it was related to too much concentrated Infinit with not enough water in increasingly hot conditions. So easy solution, I was way ahead of where I wanted to be so just cruise back with the wind, drink water with just small sips of Infinit and take on bananas at aid stations.
It was a good plan. It worked. I cruised. I sipped. I ate bananas. The nausea eased while my average speed rose even without me trying.
2014 Time – 5:31:02
2015 Time – 5:18:06
Much, much faster than last year. Not sure what I did in T2 last year, but I did find a nicely knitted scarf in my Run bag post race.
2014 Time – 5:14 knit one, pearl one
2015 Time – 1:34
Nausea behind me, I started the run feeling strong. Legs were good, just needed to settle into a rhythm. Last year I start wayyyyyyyyyyy too fast, this year I had a secret weapon. A GPS watch with an extended battery so I could know my entire race time.
It froze 1.5 kms into the run and didn’t start again.
No problem, my 5km split was right where I wanted it (not that I knew it at the time). By aid station #3 the nausea had returned. I battled with it for a while, but by 15kms I had been on just water for a couple of aid stations and it didn’t help. No matter what I took, I was immediately struck with nausea that was getting more and more severe.
At the 15 km mark I cracked. I couldn’t believe it.
15 kms is nothing. I am an expert in the mental games to keep running. I have developed great pain management techniques. The plan had to been to make Mordy before walking and that was the fall back plan for my fall back plan. Mordy was still a fair way away and I was walking.
Actually I wasn’t just walking, I was hanging onto telephone poles, seats or whatever I could trying to vomit. But all I was getting was burps, nothing was coming out. And I hate nausea!
No, you don’t understand. I HATE NAUSEA. I am known for shoving fingers down my throat at the first sign of it. I have played over a quarter of footy with a broken wrist, tried to play with a broken collarbone and fought off countless doses of the deadly Manflu. But give me nausea and I whine more than a small being dragged around to wineries by his parents (never happened to me and there is no residual bitterness).
By 22kms I wanted it to be over. If I just curled up in the gutter an ambulance would turn up soon enough. Or I would die. Either or, I wasn’t fussed. It was about that time Pete, a fellow triathlete from work appeared on his bike. Bastard! How can I give up and die when there is an audience.
Time to switch plans, I was up to about Plan P by this time, the new plan was to make my family at Black Rock about 28 kms in. Once there I could lie down for a little while and decide if I would finish.
Walk. Stop and try to vomit. Burp. Walk. Try to run. Repeat.
As Black Rock got closer things started to improve. The nausea was a little less regular and a little less intense. I could stomach a little water. The runs got longer, the walks shorter and the stops less frequent.
By the time I reached my family I was burping on the jog, stopping almost non-existent.
This time I took time to stop and have a chat. Explained why I was so late (they had waited a couple of hours because last year I was faster than expected) and generally enjoyed their company and support. No lie down was required.
After a couple of minutes I took off with my daughter running alongside me for about 50 metres. In all the horror of the last 15 kms or so, this was a highlight.
Things continued to improve. After the 32 km mark, I was able to hold a jog for the entire gap between aid stations. Coke and water were going down ok, with just a huge burp about 1 km after the aid station.
I started to pass people. People who had passed me at about km 15. People who were in my age group. People I didn’t think I would see again.
I passed a couple just before the last aid station and used that as motivation to run through the aid station. I used it as motivation again to refuse the multiple beers thrust in my face running through the Giant zone. “Beer or water, beer or water”. I never usually turn down a beer, so I turned down the water as well to stay consistent.
High fived Mum who had reappeared at the start of the finishing chute, then high fived Paul who I had seen at numerous points, then waved to Dad who was up in the stand taking photos.
Cruised across the line, staring at the clock waiting for it to display my adjusted time. Then off to recovery.
Attempting to eat 1 scoop of ice cream saw the nausea return and when medical caught me trying to throw up it was off to the medical tent. Some rest and an anti-nausea tablet and I returned to life.
2014 Run Time – 3:56:15
2015 Run Time – 4:57:45
2014 Finish Time – 10:54:04
2015 Finish Time – 11:33:35
It was a race of what could have been.
Off the bike I felt in a good position. Legs were fresh and I was nicely ahead of 2014, the nausea was the only concern. Little did I know how concerned I should have been.
On the positive side, not only did I learn what I am capable of with consistent training, I also learnt about what can go wrong. I have a better understanding of the importance of not overdoing the sugary nutrition, especially on a hot day. This is the problem with never doing a Half Ironman, you don’t get to learn these lessons in other races. Such is life.
Will I do another Ironman? Not sure. I did this one because I managed to do it on the cheap. If I was doing it again I would want to buy a TT bike and spend a few more hours on training. Not sure if I could justify it to my family.
I think my next challenge will be 3 Peaks. I love riding my bike and going sub 10 hours on that ride seems to be a respectable challenge.
Regardless, any day you can find an excuse to spend the whole day out in the open exercising is a good day in my book.