OK everyone, race report time.
The last 10 or so months of training for this event, my first Ironman, had gone really well. Big progress on all fronts, which included my first marathon, a half marathon PB, and an Ironman 70.3 PB as stepping stone events along the way. I felt mentally ready, which I had heard was such an important part, I was technically very prepared with equipment and nutrition all being tested multiple times leading into the event, as I never want to try something new on race day. The only slight negative is that I had been carrying a small issue in my left hip which I had been trying to sort out for 2 weeks leading in, within about 2km of any run starting during that period, my glute tightened up and pulled my hip joint slightly out of whack, and caused the joint to become quite painful. I knew that it was something I could fight through, and wouldn't force me to stop, but it would slow me down. I had done chiro, massage, salt baths, rollers, and even trialled Normatech boots and pants in the lead up to race day, and it was feeling much better.
Friday was check in day, and organising all my different transition kits, ready for racking. Saturday was racking and transition tour in the morning, a last session on the Normatechs, and home to watch the Raiders game!
Race day was a nice early start, into transition to get the nutrition sorted on the bike at around 5am, then I sat on the side of the river with my wife and soaked up the occasion, watching all the70.3 racers start their day, and reflected on the last year and how much effort it had taken to get to this point. Literally 12 months earlier I was undertaking my first 70.3, thinking that would be the limit to what I was able to accomplish in Tri's. Today I was aiming to break 13 hours on an Ironman.
Swim - target 1hour 20 mins.
For some reason the organisers re-routed the first few hundred meters of the swim leg to a narrower channel between some moored boats after the 70.3 start. This made the start fairly hectic, with a lot of slower swimmers struggling to keep in a straight line for the first stint to the old boat ramp. I got my first really good kick in the head here, straight on a goggle lense, and it felt like the vacuum created was going to pull my bloody eyeball out! A quick readjustment and it was all good. Once we rounded the first buoys and the field spread out a bit, I was able to get in a good rhythm and start passing some swimmers. I had put in a lot of effort in the pool this last year with an aim of building an efficient swim stroke, if not very fast. A benchmark swim leading into the race showed that in 12 months I had taken my 2km average of 2.08min/100m down to 1.53, so this was great progress. For the first time I was able to bridge between swim groups, and take a small rest on peoples feet once I had caught them. Usually I am a solo swimmer, or getting dropped of the pack until I get caught by the next age group coming through, so this was a really good feeling. I finished the swim in 1.18, and came out of the water thinking that I had just had my best race swim ever, and had hardly used any energy at all. It was a great feeling knowing that one stage was over, and I was in good shape heading onto the bike.
Bike - target 6hours 30 mins.
I had my family waiting for me at Flynns beach, only a few minutes into the ride, and I would pass them 4 times on the course in total. it was such a boost to see them all cheering on with hand made signs, and shirts my wife had custom made for them that read 'who needs superheros - my dads a real Ironman!' Without a power meter on my bike, I was riding to perceived effort, and I felt like I was really holding back and averaged 30 odd km/h for the first 45kms to the turnaround point near Dunbogan. I was really cautious of getting ahead of myself and was trying to pace well. The course I mentally split into 3 parts - the hills and rollers near Port, the TT stretches in the middle, and the bumpy stuff down south. I finished off the first 90km loop feeling very good, and headed back out of town. It was in the middle TT section on lap 2 that the fatigue started kicking in. A slight wind had picked up, and a combo of that and tired legs meant I couldn't hold the pace I had on lap one. I had to mentally accept that at this point in time, I just had to do what I could do at that moment, and stop thinking about pace. I had a pretty rough hour thought he bumpy section of the course, and this was mentally the hardest period for me. I just focussed on doing the best I could, but I had this annoying voice in the back of my head saying 'your not even half way yet...' Coming back through lake Cathy, there was a group of spectators at the top of a climb, and a stranger yelled at me on the way past 'Just bring it home Nick!', and it literally felt like I had a gust of wind push me in the back. For some reason that comment completely changed my frame of mind, and I kept chanting it to myself on the way back to town. I had 3 of my workmates, including my boss drive up for the day to cheer me on, and I saw them on the way back, as well as my family, and that kept the good flow happening all the way into town. I finished off with a 6.22. Again, under target.
Run - target 4hours 20mins - 4hours 45mins
I took a few minutes in transition to get set up properly, and let my legs get used to not peddling, and then headed out on course. I had a target pace of 6min/k, and was able to roll out and hit this target easily for the majority of the first lap. At around the 8km mark, my hip joint went. I tried to 'fight' it for a km or so, until mentally it was starting to get my head out of a good place. I pulled into a porta loo for a quiet moment, and just had to reassess todays objective. I focused on forgetting time and pace, I changed my watch so all I could see was distance, and re focussed on two things - keep moving, and doing whatever was possible in the moment. I knew that sometimes the pain would mean I would need to walk a few meters, and rather than beating myself up, I accepted this. I knew my pace would be slower than target, but as long as I used the most I could at any given time, and rode the rollercoaster of energy levels, I was happy. That little moment to refocus totally changed my frame of mind, and set me up for the 'easiest' long run I had ever done.
I found a new short stride gait, with a bit of a left leg hitch that took most of the load off the joint. I was able to keep a pace of high 7min ks up for the bulk of the run. I kept breaking the course up into manageable sections - I just had to do 10k until I finished this lap - just 2 km to the next aid station.. this made it much easier to digest. I had heard a lot in podcasts and such professionals talk about what 'the zone' was for them, and I remember hearing one of my favourite Ironmen, Lionel Sanders talk of his 'zone' being a place where the world went quiet, and the body was so focussed on the moment that it was essentially incapable of thought. I went into this stage at around the 20km mark, and all my head noise just seemed to disappear. I was amazed at what I was able to achieve in this period, I had set out to keep a certain pace until I hit the wall, but the wall never really came. I was on autopilot. With about 3km to go I got a bit wobbly in the head, and I nearly had a fall, so I walked a few hundred meters and had a double helping of coke for the sugar hit at the second last aid station, and kept on plugging.
Its hard to describe the feeling of hitting the finishing chute and having my workmates and family cheering me home and throwing high fives. Its still something Im getting to grips with. 3 years ago I got the hard word from my doctor that unless I changed my health habits, I was going to have some major issues. That was a major turning point for me, and I realised I would not be any positive sort of father figure for my family in my current state. I decided that day to improve my health. Ironman was not even a figment of my imagination at that time. I remember driving home from the gyn not long afterwards with a tear in my eye to tell my wife I ran a whole kilometre on the treadmill - without even walking once!! Ive since dropped over 30kg and totally changed my health and habits. This result is something that never ever seemed possible even a year ago. And to finish knowing I gave it everything I had, and that was the absolute fastest time I could deliver with the cards I was dealt on the day was a great feeling. I finished the Marathon with a 5.04, but finished the event in 12.52, which was under my 13 hour target time. I seriously couldnt be happier with the result.
I dont really know whats next. I came in thinking that this would be my only Ironman. Now Im not so sure. Its a really big commitment with a young family, so It may be shorter distances for a few years until the kids get a bit older and dont want me hanging around anymore:) But I'm going on a 2km run tonight with my 3 year old, as he has been begging me to go racing with him since Sunday, so maybe this whole role model thing is working!
A massive thanks to everyone for their support, its really helped in the lead up.
And as the Ironman motto goes - 'Anything is possible'.