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My (4th) Retirement Race ..

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"There are two types of bike riders, those that have fallen, and ...
those just about to…"

My (4th) Retirement Race. 2016 WTC 70.3 World Championships - Sunshine Coast, Queensland.

It's 32 years almost to the day since my first triathlon. I've been in and out of the sport over that time with shifting priorities of study career and of course family. I had been somewhat focused on Tri’s over the last 5/6 years and I decided I needed a break. I wasn’t happy training anymore and doing this race, a World Championship, would tick the big race box for 2016 and would allow me to spend more time with the family. That was the plan. Hey I might even sleep in one Sunday am and be “normal” and only exercise an hour a day! Maybe…

I had been to a few world champs over the years, but this was the strongest field by far, and the hardest to qualify for. All up there were appx 3000 athletes across all age groups.
35pct female. 114 starters in my old man’s age group (55+). 28 from Oz. 29 from US. The rest from all over the world.

I had been fortunate enough to win my age group in a race at Geelong earlier in the year. A bit of a rough trot post this with my mum dying, and some illness had me not doing much from middle Feb. till July (well apart from two races on 3 week blocks of training each). Three months out I was not committed to the event as it was on Father's Day and the family couldn't / wouldn't come. But it was a World Champs on home soil and had an itch that I needed to scratch...it kept me awake at night… So an extra focus for 8 or so weeks of solid early am starts and squashing things in gave me some sort of “base”. Not as good as last few years but I was kinda confident of at least time trialling v's myself well, if not actually "racing" others. And it was going to be cool to be on the start line with such a good list of local and international athletes. I Wondered pre pace. Could I finish in top half? Top quartile? Top 20? Top 10.. that was the hope but ssshh don’t tell anyone ….

To help me get set in the last 8 weeks I had some good help. Former coach and mate Matt Koorey gave me a few tips about getting to where I wanted to be. Old friend Ken Graham at NSWIS suggested I do some altitude training (I did 6 weeks of 3x 60 to 100 mins on a treadmill at 3500m). And a few mates gave me a gee up when the training seemed a bit hard and 3000m in the pool in the dark in winter just plain sucked. A few work days off mid-week here and there added to what was a really good training block. My heart rate and power numbers were really going well. Happy.

Coming into the last week I was pumped! A last minute funeral (Uncle) meant a change of plans re travel and I left Sydney on the Friday. Landing in Brisbane, I grabbed a car and drove to Sunshine Coast, picked up Matt Korrey and went for a drive over the course with my prime goal to get a look at “that hill”, the one that had bene a hot topic on trannies… the one I had bought a new cassette for (the 11-32), - bought online so no one would laugh at me asking for a 32! I am sure it was going to look weird on a disc on a Cervelo P5! But one look at the hill and I felt I was the one laughing now. Everyone else would be 150% of FTP and I will just spin away at FTP ish. To me the course looked great. Some wind chop on the water and a warm day forecast. I roomed with some cool people from Tri Club real close to the race start. All was ideal. Bring it on!

Race day
Love the late start. 7:45am I think from memory. Had a friend zip my wetsuit up, plenty of time, no tight bits under the arms. No rushing around, so good Ego parked I had an easy aerobic paced swim. Sat on feet and hips and got dragged along. I haven't been swimming as much, so it was not the place to push. This was the plan and I stuck to it. Something about being in a strong field took the pressure off trying to be out of the water with the leaders, and I came out of the 1.9k swim in 30th position of 112 competitors in my age group. Given swimming only takes up about 10 pct of the total time in a tri, I was happy with that. I didn't swallow too much of the blue pacific and no sharks ate me, was even kinda enjoyable. Hey I had just bodysurfed a wave in, bet most of those from overseas didn't that's got to be 10 seconds free! Running up the beach, reminding myself, long day ahead, solid bike and run course, plenty of time to chip away at those in front… good day ahead.

I like to ride my bicycle. I like to ride my bike....
My plan was to ride the first half of the bike (ie the rollers out of town and the flat bit north on the motorway) keeping as aero efficient position as possible, with a heart rate ceiling of 135, and keep a close eye on my power meter - 220w CAP. It was meant to be controlled. Half way through, the execution was working perfectly. I had moved from 30th to 16th in my age group and wasn't even really trying yet (In truth had no idea where I was relatively, but I did know I was passing competitors in my age group - by the numbers tattooed on their arms). Large packs that were drafting in behind other riders were really bad in the groups ahead of me (competitors did a u turn 25pct of the way in, so I got to see most riders that started earlier). I had no idea if it was happening in my later starting and smaller in number age group, so just tried to ignore the cheats and stick to my plan.

About 45kms or half way in I hit the really hilly section - Upper Rosemount road.
I felt great. Really really good. The hilly section had lots of people off their bikes and walking!! I was glad I was avoiding that, I was climbing well. This positiveness wasn't some pop book self-help sports phycology ranting to one self, I was the most controlled and held back I think I have been at 2 hours or so into an endurance event. Not my usual go till you blow self. I was moving well, feeling strong, nutrition good. I was looking forward to some serious hurting in the couple of hours that lay ahead.

>>>. A SIDE COMMENT. I'd noticed on these skinnier roads with corners a few funny bits where people didn't keep left. Assumed then it was Americans and Euros that ride on the other side of the road. But we are in oz and they have to stick to the left ... well they are meant to ... a few times I had to yell for people to move left … just sayin' ....

2nd lap almost done and I had gone up the last hill - it's all perfect. Good level of exertion in the hard bits, but not too much. I'm ready for a hard 40 mins time trialling back into to the beach and then a good hard 21k run. Ride for show run for dough… Bring it on. But let's not get ahead of ourselves………

I climbed the last hill and now it's the final steep descent with a 90 maybe 110 degree turn at the end. There was an ambulance placed at the bottom of the hill, the only one on the course (was that a sign?) Second time down the hill, I was probably doing 70/80kph half way down, I see four people in front, on their brakes doing 40kph at very most, riding like triathletes ie not like cyclists!

I have to make a decision, keep attacking the downhill and let them know I'm there and coming through, or slow up behind them and potter around and come out of the corner 10 secs slower.
Time. Tick tick tick. Time… Time is money. Or something like that ....

Attack the Pack, pack bites back…
Descending fast with my ears pinned back I'm yelling "on your right" "on your right"
over and over, loud. The riders in front have to keep left unless overtaking. We come into the corner. They are all braking still (me thinks… so slow.. they should learn how to descend and corner ... .. my years of cycle racing and learning by following good riders down hills has me descending at a level above most, modesty aside).

So I'm going fast, braking well and then, ... then, $hit!!!! one rider moves right across in front of me!! Almost rides sideways across the road to do it! WTF!!!!! And he's not moving back, staying on the wrong side of the road, taking the apex and not moving out ie blocking my line through the corner.
I see it happening. Yell more. What the hell is he doing? I decide to try and bounce off him, but the angle is too big and my front wheel gets chopped away by the rear of his bike, only softly, but it's enough to lock my tyre like a brake. I'm catapulted into the air and then I'm upside down. Falling. Flat on to my back.

Hindsight. I'm sure this rider was from overseas and didn't drift out of the corner as they were not used to moving to the left. That's the only way I can understand the line they took and kept and how I was chopped off... they were trying to stay outa my way.. just the wrong way!!!

Am I dead yet?
I land on my upper left back with a crunch. Left side of helmet and side of arm also smacked hard. Not good. Not dead but was wondering for 5 secs or so will I die? No. Seems by hearts still beating. I'm just winded maybe. Ok, keep eyes closed. Maybe I can hide from the pain. The Ambulance guys were there quickly and asking questions. Can you move your toes, fingers? They want to move me; I'm forced to open my eyes. They discuss sending me to hospital but then decide to wait a few mins as it would be hard transporting me from there. Anyhow ....we chat. They check my ribs, lungs, range of motion etc. They are less and less concerned and are starting to get surprised re lack of broken bones. One guy comes over and calls the fall “spectacular”, says - I could hear you yelling at them to stay out of the way from way back etc. I am talking to the ambos and saying lets just see if I go into shock etc. Seems I was great entertainment. I notice my new Garmin 735xt watch and new Rudy Project helmet were both smashed. That’s 1k gone...wonder how the bike is….. I sure wasn't roadworthy anymore….

Somehow, 15 mins later, I'm back in the race, or at least on the course. My intention is to get to the transition area back in town, slowly, and pull out of the event. The ambos were happy for this to happen ....they had checked my lungs and seemed to think I was ok - it's probably just muscular, maybe some cracks which we agreed they can't help anyhow. I did ask them about bandaging some cuts for me but they seemed not so keen as that would mean doing paperwork.... I think they were happy to see me go.

Slink home with my tail between my legs… I ride the 20ks into Moololabah in a fair bit of pain left arm / side ribs. The bike speedo/computer turns over 3 hours and I'm annoyed because I won't even break 3 hours. "Really!" ….how embarrassing one part of me thinks, the other part (the small sensible bit) of my brain says wake up, no one cares.

Moololabah is going off. The crowds are big and loud with cowbells ringing and lots of yelling in various languages. It's a beautiful day but I am in my own little world, no longer part of this racing one. Just transiting from A to B. Trying to not get hurt.

I enter the bike to run transition area, a place I normal try and move fast. But here I just stay out of people's way and rack my bike. I get my running shoes (for walking now) and plan to see the officials and pull out of the race. Sigh... this would be my 3rd DNF in 33 years, the first in 1990 and the second 2009, not that I remember.... much … oh well. One a decade is ok. Isn't it? ....

I go to the officials in T2 run change area and say I am hurt and think I want to pull out.
He bends down to remove my timing chip and I say stop, hang on, I will just speak to the medic first. I am in a chair at end of bike racks and ask a medic to check me out. I want to see if I'm ok before I wander off back to the apartment. I think I want him to tell me stop you’re damaged. I spend main in transition all up as he checks lungs etc. Medic thinks I'm ok lung wise, probably I've tenderised my rib eye - I think that's Queenslander for strained my intercostal muscles. He says I can carry on if I do things within pain limits. Within pain limits... what does that mean ... ?? I walk around a bit. Ok it hurts, but I can walk … So I decide to have a walk up the next hill, to the next timing mat, so people tracking me on the Internet in Sydney at least know I'm alive. Then I will pull out. Yes. That's the plan. Pull out.

Hot. Hilly. Noisy. People everywhere yelling. I reach that timing mat... it's a nice warm day and the view is lovely but I'm in pain. What should I do... Where should I go ... Lost. Fk! I decide to just walk slowly. Real slow. Man I hate walking ....

An official (Warren?) rides up on a Vespa rides up and starts chatting to me. I look at his badge and remember his name. I think we raced together back in the 80's. He puts my arm in a sling as I had been carrying it like that position. It doubles well as a place to keep a water bottle, chocolate bar etc (triangular bandages really are amazing!). Ina n encouraging “you can do it way” he tells me I have to finish the race.

I walk a few more Ks into run course and the bandage is attracting attention now. Ok now I am not just a slow walker in a overpriced sleeved skinsuit… I am an injured one. Lots of people are saying "yeah way to go" "gotta get worlds medal" etc. I still didn't really care and it was a crap way to be spending the day.

So I continue to shuffle along in my own little world. In truth it's hurting, but not too much. It's manageable, whatever that means. Goodness knows how many natural painkillers are flooding my body. At that stage I'm walking 11 min per Ks. I have always been a slow walker. I hate walking. Did I say that? J I just don't know how people can walk fast and then can't run fast. I'm only covering 5.5kms an hour and k am hurting. But now I am starting to think, hell I will finish this thing. Will probably take me 8hrs15 mins if my in the head maths is correct, but I will. I think I can, I know I can. One of two laps done ie half way of the 21.1ks woo hoo!! I wonder will I be last?

Oh, hang on .. OMG. There is an 8 hour time limit!!! "

I realise I won't make 8 hour cut off to get a finishers medal and finishers towel and it will still be a DNF next to my name. WTF!!! Do I care? I shouldn't. But I do now!!!! I'm doing maths like crazy, but my brain is not working. I think I need to drop to 9:30min ks. My fancy GPS watch is smashed from the fall, but I have my bike computer in the sling (picked it up when I got off the bike). Its battery is near flat, but I switch it on at each k marker to see the time of day and work out where I am pace wise. Maths n splits going around and crazy in my head. I'm still not going to make cut off. And to make matters worse I'm over hydrated and need to go to "port a loo" at every aid station. More time wasted. Aaagghhh.

I want to finish within the cut-off time. Focus. How? Race craft. Walk the tangents of each corner. Can I "run”?? I manage 25 shuffle steps before breathing hurts too much. With 20 steps I recover. Punch out some blistering 9 min 30 Ks. Some of them I do walking backwards to see if it hurts less. I focus on passing some poor guy called Graham who is severe cramping and needing to stop. We chat and support each other but bizarrely swap positions multiple times. I think he's racing me as he gets 100m ahead. I'm going to have to stick with him if I am going to make cut off.

About 13 ks in I eat some of a fruit bar I had stored in my bandage. I started choke as some gets caught in my throat. I can’t cough to clear it, now I really really think I'm going to die!! I’m trying to yell out help to the people I can see 100m up the road but I can hardly make a noise. I stumble into some toilets. There are no taps!! I need water … I can hardly breathe and I am sure I am going to have a heart attack. In the end I spy a family sitting over to the right. They are non-English speaking but somehow get a drink from them J Ok. Better. How much time did that cost me!! Man that was awful.

At about 15ks of 21.1ks done. I start to think I can possibly make the 8 hour cutoff. There is a pub out there with an announcer and he walks next to me and tries to ask questions. Crowd is friendly and offering me beer. Tempting. Banned under ASADA / WADA rules? I think best not to have one ;)

Aid station is packed up, lucky I didn’t need a drink. Bit a problem, up ahead there's a big hill and a headwind. Little things, but this time is now possible, but challenging. Need to focus. But what else am I going to do. Roads are closed. Stopping to sit will just hurt and take forever to get back to the finish in the sag wagon …
At about the 17/18k mark, who appears in front of me, my mate from country Wagga Wagga, Mr nice guy Geoff Breese or Go Easy as he's known. He's finished and showered and come back to the back of the race to encourage back markers home -as he normally does. What a great guy - I'd be at the pub! He walks with me. Jogs little steps with me. Makes me laugh (that hurt actually!) and encourages me to look after myself, but keep moving to make the cut off. I can’t speak and walk (or jog) so it’s a very one sided conversation. Lucky he likes a chat J. At the 19k mark I know I I'll make the 8 hour cut off, I smile. Happy. Relief. Thanks GE.

I see another friend, former top Pro, my former coach Matt Koorey (trannie MJK) he is having a giggle at me and saying“your allowed to pull out you know” (Matt knows this broken ribs in a race feeling only too well and I'm guessing is thinking of my health) I jibe back I'm getting the same medal as you mate! I laugh a bit and tell him to "F-off" as I walk on my way..

The Finish
Although many have gone to the beach, or to the pub, many have stayed the last k is filled with people clapping etc.. I can't look sideways at anyone; it hurts to move that way. Finish shute.. I shuffle and think I want to cry. I raise my right hand a little and kinda wave to those that clap or encourage me (if I could see me I would think I was stupid ... but anyhow). The finish shute - not its normal sea of pain through exploding muscles and high heart rates, it's just one where my body is starting to relax as the jobs done... I cross the line. Did I smile at the camera or do anything? Don't remember. Some guy gives me a high 5 which I struggle to do but I say “thanks Mark”. ... who is that guy I wonder … why do I know his name … WAIT! That's 5 times Hawaii Ironman triathlon winner and legend Mark Allen. I'm not up for a chat though (I'm sure he wanted to talk to me;), so I just shuffle along to get my oversized plastic medal and an undersized towel. For some reason I do shed a couple of tears here.... relief, pain or disappointment.. maybe all.

Results in – 7h:52m I finished 104th and last in my age group (of the finishers) and 4th last overall 8 mins inside cut off. I could never have imagined I could be that slow 8 hours earlier. I ask to go to medical again to get checked out. Again, they decide I'm ok. Give me a couple of bandages and send me on my way. More thanks to Geoff and his wife Cathy. They took me to medical, picked up my bike and clothes. Such nice people.

So beers n burgers are the next leg of the festivities. Firstly with the Warringah crew, then on to the official party. I even venture to the dance floor for a shuffle. I had Panadol and Nurofen but wish I could have bought some Codeine. I can’t lie down or sleep, so I spend the night propped up wondering about the crackling sound is in my rib area…

The next day I pack up (with some help). It's kind of a struggle with multiple bags and bikes etc. I ask Geoff to take a few heavy back packs in his car and I will pick them up later. Somehow I take a backpack bike bag and bag on wheels to the airport and I'm off on the plane in Sydney. When we land I think I better get an X-ray - things just don't seem right, talking’s getting difficult.

Fast Forward two hours later I'm admitted to Intensive Care at Manly hospital with 7 fractured ribs including 4 clean breaks at the back where I landed, a punctured and partly collapsed lung and blood pooling at the bottom of same. Neck collar for a few hours just to add to the fun!

The next 11 days are a bit blur. Sleeping in a chair as I can’t lie down. Drugs every four hours.
I can shuffle to the kiosk on about day 4. They make a good espresso and sell a fine choc mint magnum. I'm on 4 types of pain killers (love the opium based ones – hillbilly heroin I find out is its nickname!). The realisation that I can't go to Hawaii on holidays with the family is heavy on my heart and mind.

11 days later
I get out of hospital and I go home. Still sleeping in a chair. Still high as a kite.

3 weeks in
My ankles are swollen from sleeping in a chair. I’m back at work but struggling with pain and tidiness. I’m seeing a physio and working with sucking on a “Spirometer” machine to open up my lungs. Family away and living alone I feel pretty crap.

5 weeks in
Still have a Heamothorax at bottom of lung. Ribs are healing but very slow, another month or so for full healing I’m told.

6.5 week update – 19 Oct
I think my lung might be clear maybe. I went for a 4k jog with some short walks at about 7 min k pace! I cant carry heavy things or wear a back back. Sore and tired constantly, I can fall asleep anywhere (office meeting room 2:30pm nap is quite regular still now)

So..that’s my race report .. and its looking like a real retirement for now....

Till next time ;)







Edited by Mjainoz
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Great report and fingers crossed for the healing to speed up. Majority would have given up but then you wouldn't have the 'oversized medal and undersized towel' (great description btw!) to show for it.

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Now that is a report, thanks for sharing and I hope you are recovering well. Oh, and did I say BLOODY HARD CORE.





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