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The Longest Day


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Sorry this is going to be long...get a coffee and read on...

 

This year's inaugural Dodo Ironman Western Australia saw me complete my 4th ironman race. This was my hardest ironman by far. It wasn't just at one point, it was touch and go, it was at many. Despite this being my worst race, my toughest day and the most I have suffered, somehow I persevered and made it to the finish line. All the plans that I had went by the wayside, in fact it was like hurling them overboard like deck chairs, one by one, wondering if there would be anything at all left to salvage. It was not my best race but in some strange way I think it may have been my best result in what has been my hardest ever test. Pure and simple, it came down to whether I wanted to finish or not. Whether I wanted to be a ironman again.

 

I had originally hoped because the course was flat, that I could actually do a PB. As I'd earlier documented (on http://forums.transitions.org.au/) my dream time was around 11:30. Given that I had a PB of 11:51 at Forster, I thought 11:30 was reasonably possible. In retrospect there were warning signs, which I'd noted but remained postive. About 10 years ago I was faced with some tough decisions if I wanted to continue doing triathlons and ever hope to be an ironman. After some pretty intrusive surgery I had my hip reconstructed and realigned to counteract the effects of osteoarthritis in my right hip. It was a gamble at the time but it was my only hope if I were to have any chance of continuing triathlons and becoming an ironman. Two operations later I was able to get back into triathlon but probably still against all good medical advice and opinion. The purpose of this was twofold, to be able to become an ironman and to buy myself some time. By still having all my bones there, just reconfigured a little, I might have some chance of a technological breakthrough in the meantime before needing a total hip replacement. Unfortunately, it appears that the time that I "bought" is now at an end. While the breakthrough that I was hoping for hasn't yet materialised, there have been some others that may give me some more options to buy a little more time. Anyway, for four ironmans and a little more time it has been a bargain worth striking. I know I would have regretted more not having tried.

 

The Busselton experience has been a great experience. For a first time ironman they got a lot of things right, certainly all the more important things. The location and the people here are fantastic. We didn't have the weather I've been spoiled with at Forster in recent years. Ironically, the day after race day was almost picture perfect like the photo on the poster advertising the race. The people here were very friendly and warm towards us all. This whole area and further south down towards Margaret River has much to offer, great scenery, great surf, good riding and I'll wager, some good mountain biking too.

 

The whole place put me in the right frame of mind for this race and relaxed me as much as one can be a couple of days before such a race. Though, at first I did want to say it didn't look much like the photo. The thing that strikes me about all this is the friendships that have been forged by participating in this sport, triathlon in general and ironman in particular. Even though I have made many friendships already, new ones are always being added, the warmth and support one gets back from this community is amazing. For the most part I was part of the Cronulla Tri Club contingent and received plenty of encouragement from my fellow club mates when I was obviously doing it tough. I drew on everything I could find and even transitions and some of the inspirational stories I have read here helped me keep going. In particular, Fitzy's story Life after a DNF at IMA, gave me the courage keep putting one foot in front of the other, knowing that life goes on and and so must I.

 

Race day, was to my liking. The windswell was about two feet. Having spent most of my life in the surf this was grand. My plan was to cruise the swim and do about 65 minutes as I did not want to push too hard and sap myself as I'd not done enough swimming training, due to things getting pretty hectic at work. From the moment I had made the decision to enter this event, it was like sending a signal to Murphy, who seemed to have a lot of contacts at IBM, who would ensure my life would become very interesting in the months leading up to this. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly suprised to see the clock still on about 59 something as I approached the beach. As I got up and started wading it hit 60 and by the time I ran through the swim finish chute is was 61 something. I was pretty pleased with how things has gone and thought things looked promising.

 

The wind during the week had been worse but then the wind was still a pretty fresh sou-wester for this time of morning and it would continue to freshen. I got out on the bike and with the wind behind me heading north I felt pretty good and thought I could settle into a good rhythm and maybe post a good bike time. It was on the bike that I started to get the first inkling of things to come. Some trivial yet annoying things happened on the first lap. I had two gel flasks in my back pocket and one mounted in a gel flask holder on the bike. I had used this gel flask holder in Xterra and felt if it worked on rough terrain like that, it would certainly work on the road. A few kilometres before the first turnaround it came unstuck and fell off. I had seen a few other gel flasks on the road and had wondered how their owners were going to fare later in the day having missed out on the precious fuel they contained. The minute saved by not retrieving it, could well amount to 30 minutes of more lost later in the day. So I stopped and retrieved the errant flask. Unfortunately the cap had cracked open and after I stuck it into my back pocket the contents proceeded to leak out the back and down my leg, so that the skin behind my knee kept sticking together.

 

The next annoying thing to happen was my new bike shoe's single velcro straps had some excess length which started to rub on the crank arms and undo. I had to keep reaching down and doing them up. This was starting to become ridiculous. So I stopped at one of the mechanic stations but he didn't have any cutters but he said the next station along had a full tool kit. By this stage I had not yet fully appreciated the extent of the gel mess, but I was about to. I finally got to the next mechanic station at near the second turnaround out near the Bussel Highway and we improvised and used some cable cutters to trim the end tabs on my TR02s, so there was no excess length. Just after the following aid station I discovered the leaking gel and it was everywhere. I managed to get it all over my hands and my bars and I was sticking to everything. I attempted to use the water I had to wash it off but seemed to just keep spreading it! This was becoming insane. I finally finished the first lap on the bike and coming through the roundabout was a bit of a buzz with all the people cheering and the cow bells ringing. The wind coming back had sapped me more than it should have and I was worried that I was feeling tired like this after only 60km.

 

With the wind behind me I headed out for the second lap, just out of town over the bridge at the Wannerup aid station I sought to put an end to the whole sticky mess thing and pulled in and washed myself and the bike down using about 4 biddons of water in the process. With these niggling problems behind me I set about trying to find a good rhythm and see if I could recover some time. It wasn't long before the next problem cropped up and that was my hip seemed to be giving me some pain, which then seemed to transfer down to my knee. It went further and the pain travelled down into my foot to the point where it became excrutiating. At one stage I was cycling along swearing aloud, after a few people looked at me I thought I was being a touch dramatic but sh*t this was really hurting. I was thinking I wasn't even going to finish the bike at this stage and I was desperately trying to think my way around the problem. For a while I tried twisting my toes inwards and that seemed to provide some relief. They say that is part of a good TT style anyway. It still wasn't giving me enough relief so I tried changing my position on the bike a few times to see if anything worked. I finally discovered if I pulled up with my right leg but didn't push down the pain stopped in my foot. Great, I was going slower than ever now. I really didn't want to be ultra slowman. When I sat up I could actually go a bit faster but it wasn't going to be ideal into the wind but there was little I could do. I rode the whole last lap sitting up. I had wanted to do a good bike time, which for me would have been a little under 6 hours but I realised long before this, it wasn't going to happen.

 

After the first lap on the bike I jettisoned my plan for a PB. By the second lap, my backup plan of just crusing and doing around 12 and a half hours went out the door too. By the third lap of the bike I was beginning to think a day light finish might still just be possible. If I could run and walk and just keep it up I might nearly do it. So at this stage I was now aiming for a 13 and a half hour finish. I ran the first 10km all right but I was starting to feel woozy and nauseus. The more I ran the more I realised it was just getting worse. More problems I didn't need. So I started to walk and things seemed to normalise for a while. I saw BigChris out there many times who seemed to keep checking me signs of a sense of humour, what about life first!

 

The second time through the run turnaround near the hospital, I started vomiting. This was starting to become grave. I knew if I couldn't get nutrition down I was going to be in real trouble. This happened just as I started to run again. My grandmother had always said too many mixtures and too many sweets would always make me sick as a boy. I'd been eating and drinking everything just to see if I could revive myself. A couple of the Bushies, Push Push and Pushette had always said if you are having a lousy day, get your money's worth and drink and eat as much as you can. All good advice has its limit and I'd found it. Mixing Coke, Hi5, water, bananas and cookies, was just too much. What I do love though it while you are having a good vomit someone asking if you are all right, so I make the effort to gargle through the shower of spew "I'm OK" and because they can't understand you they ask you again. It's like basic table manners, not now I'm busy, it's rude to talk with my mouth full!

 

Having emptied the contents of my stomach I felt a little better and felt in good spirits to face the next challenge, which was to be cramps. Both VMOs started cramping. OK I had given up on a daylight finish by now and all I had was from the Fifth Element - "Time not important, only life", although this wasn't completely true. The next target was to make 15 and a half hours the cut off time for Forster. I was getting plenty of encouragement from all the Cronulla guys and the crowd too but people stopped saying you are looking good, that's for sure. It was down to "keep it going" and the like. The crowd was pretty fantastic too trying to lend support as they could. I finally got onto the last lap of the run and got my second scrunchy. By this stage I was taking water and vegemite sandwiches along with dollups of vegemite on a stick. The salt seemed to be keeping the cramps at bay.

 

As I walked off for my last lap, I met Chief and Fondriest, who'd recognised the trannies cap, they said some kind words and sent me on my way. I was supposed to say hello to Mrs Chief but as it got darker I either didn't see her or just lost concentration and forgot to look for her. I don't even know which by that stage. The last lap was a slog and I even slowed in my walking. By this stage I thought I might make 15 and a half hours but I knew it didn't really matter that much all that really mattered was getting home! One piece of good advice I'd received from club mate Dave Allen was "just stay in one piece" accompanied by his walking partner "don't even think about running". I eventually had to sacrifice any shreds of pride and concern with the time so that I could go as slow as was necessary so I could finish. In the end it was the one thing I could salvage from the day and it was the one thing I'd come for.

 

Seeing some of my club mates from NSTC over in Busselton and on race day was a buzz too. I did my first ironman with this club and I'd logged a lot of training mileage with some of these guys, particularly Simo and Eugene. JimmyC finished his first ironman in just under 10 hours and of course Paul Every just looked like he was lapping everything up for I think IM number 35! I am going to have to take a look at his nutrition plan more closely I think, sundried tomatoes and olives, it can't hurt, those gels get sickly after a while.

 

My beautiful wife Jenny was just so happy to see me finish and couldn't have given a damn at all about the time I finished in. She was just happy to see me get there and wouldn't love me any more or any less based on a finish time. It seemed to be the same also for all my friends, and everyone else I have met along the way in this crazy adventure. Anyway there is always another day and I'll be thinking of ways to improve my PB and get around this current problem.

 

My thanks to Yurtie for giving me his last endurolyte capsule, the Cronulla guys and gals for encouragement along the way, Mr Tudjman for shoving some hot food in front of my face in the recovery tent, and to the whole "transitions" crowd for being there in spirit with me. I have this crazy notion that I have joined a very exclusive club, the longer run time than bike time club! My thanks to OHD for that limerick too, I can't stand haikus! And the time was 15:43 a bloody shocker, and worthy of a little derision, if I may say so myself.

Edited by Slowman
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A shocker! Frigging bullcrap Slow, I still don't believe you've been able to do 1 IM, let alone 4. having seen what you put yourself through to race and how you walk after a short ride, there's no justification for derision. This lunatic does 3 hour runs, in deepwater with a belt. (I think he's testing fist running on the grannies with floral swim caps in lane 1!) and hobbles like John Cootes. He should in no way be running on the hip that he's got

 

Awesome effort to get it done.

 

I wondered whether I was reading a report from a night out at Coyotes circa 1989, sticky mess, delirium, having a chunder chat and coming home a few hours too late.

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Awesome effort on finishing, and thanks for sharing.

 

Sounds like just getting out there was impressive enough, but to fight through all those problems and finish it off has made it all the more memorable for you.

 

Great work.

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Well done Slowman - you should be so proud of yourself! When I first met you, you were dreaming of doing 1 Ironman (1 and only 1 you kept telling me!) and now look - 4 races later and you are still going strong. The most important part of your whole journey is that you have never quit! That shows true character and determination! Good on ya mate!!! :lol:

 

:D

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Thanks for the kind words. This is just another aspect of ironman. In every race there are all those individual stories of good races and bad races and shockers, this time it was my turn but I decided to be stubborn about it. Seriously, I don't think it is something I want to repeat. I will be visiting Mr. Laurie Kohen (orthopod to see what options there are) we've already had discussions but now it is time to put some plans in place.

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Great read Slowman. Incidently, I passed your website to a ironman friend of mine some time ago who was recently diagnosed with arthritis - he was very grateful for the information, and also said it was good to know he wasn't the only one.

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Slowman, you ARE an Ironman. Like everyone else has said, congrats on the great race and report. Time shmime. It's adventure we're really after, and you certainly had plenty of that, Indiana!

 

By the way, what's with the crap "Whether I wanted to be a ironman again."?!?!?! Mate you have been and always will be one ever since you conquered you first IM! (but yeah I know what you mean... It's good to keep reminding yourself that you 'still' are one eh? :lol: )

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Well done another IM under the belt even though it was the race from hell, I thought I was doing it tough in the run but after reading these race reports my race was a walk in the park (well almost ) Just got back from a surf Slowman its about 0.5m in Esperance and dropping off.

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Slow - must admit that I too dont know you & therefore no knowledge of the gammy hip so mate - well done.

 

& also WELL DONE to all you others who did IMWA on Sunday - great work guys!

 

As the others have said - sometimes the best laid plans can come to nought - I thought I had a bumper leadup just before ForsterIM in 2002 - but I caught a bad chest cold and also didnt know I had a thyroid complaint lurking under the surface that 2 mths later knocked th bejesus outta me.

 

Yep - we just put it down to a bad day at the office - esp. you Big Chris. :lol:

 

But again - grand effort to all - take a break - enjoy summer - have a feed & a drink & a surf & whatever & come back mentally & physically fresher & stronger next time!

 

All the best guys!

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Slow,

 

Id rather have a dentist drill every root canal than suffer what you went through. You are a powerful old Jedi. Surely that fine piece of medical technology in your hip is better utilised throwing the rail into some tidy south side swells than putting yourself through that. The rate I'm going I'll be reading that section of the Slowman manual about running with artificial hips very soon. Im sure it just says "Refer to the section on acceptable pain relief dosages"

 

Is Jenny going to take up the family sport?

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JimmyC, I was going to add root canal therapy can be beneficial as a distraction to arthritic pain :lol: . I think Jenny thinks one idiot in the family is enough. I actually don't have any parts in my hip that aren't mine - yet. I am thinking of more surgery soon, I still have some options that don't yet require a prosthetic replacement, be it a resurfacing or a total replacement. I want to get my femur straightened back out again, at least that way I will have my full range of movement back again. I have been thinking about this nearly all year. I just came back from a surf at Garie, though, it wasn't all that exciting at 1-2' NE wind slop, but I plan to avail myself a little more for a while.

Edited by Slowman
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slowman

im curently standing and applauding,i to had a shocker of a day at the halfy at forster this year bike probs,crams,bad ankle ,high heart rate etc but i came away with more positives than any other race i have done,i have never had a problem in racing over the years apart from lack of training,but when your day falls apart from forces out side your control there is no greater feeling than finishing,thank you for sharing your story

 

finishing is winning

prenda

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Just read your race report Slowman . Truly gutsy effort and definitely worthy enough to hear those magical words "you are an Ironman".

 

One piece of good advice I'd received from club mate Dave Allen was "just stay in one piece" accompanied by his walking partner "don't even think about running".

 

Dropped in on Dave on Monday night and got his IM race report. I thought the huge blister problems he suffered in the run were horrific enough without reading your saga. One tough day at the office for quite a few people.

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