My relationship with the Melbourne Ironman was a very sour one following the 2013 race. Leading into the 2013 race I was in great shape after much hard work and a great prep. The race was going great until the 7km mark in the run, where a small ache in my left foot that I had had in training (which turned out to be a stress fracture) changed to a knife through the top of my foot – when the bone actually fractured. Pretty soon from there after I had some big nutritional problems, which lead to my demise and finished 15min off my predicted pace, 6.5kg lighter, a bright shade of yellow apparently (I wasn’t really conscious) and 1min off of a Kona spot… So my memories of the race were not fond.
This fracture I had turned out to be a bigger problem that the specialist and I first thought. For some reason the bone didn’t heal barely at all in 6 months and in October there was still a fracture in the bone. The foot specialist at the time predicted I would need surgery, but we came up with the plan of trying some small amounts of running which will either ‘make or break’ the bone – literally. So there started a 10sec run/50sec walk pattern…. Wow. During all of this time I was also battling a shoulder problem that I had also had since the race, so I wasn’t able to swim very much at all either…
This pattern continued until mid January when after trying a run off the bike on a Saturday I ran about 2km and had strong pain once again and walked home, kicking the ground with the opposite foot…. At this time the Physio part of my brain gave myself about a 5% chance of racing Melbourne and probably even less of being fit. BUT the athlete part of my brain still gave myself 100% chance of both, I WAS going to race and I WAS going to nail it. I used the 2013 Melbourne Ironman towel all the time, as a daily reminder of what happened last year and was wasn’t going to be repeated.
During this time and continuing to race day, I spent a HUGE amount of time doing the things I could do. Each night after dinner and work I would spend a LOT of time out the back in our gym working my backside off with functional strength and stability work, as I knew that while I wasn’t going to be able to do the long runs which build the resilience in the legs and body, I needed to make sure that I was strong enough to maintain great form when I was fatigued. I also spent a lot of time on our home elliptical machine after dark! This combined with many hours on the bike…
Coming into the race I had changed the way I did my preparation and build phase on the bike and I was feeling fantastic, best I had ever ridden. However, I was fully aware that I had not been able to do the longer miles in both the water and on the run legs, so I was going to have to really think my way through this race if I was to hold myself together in the last 15km of the marathon.
Arriving on the Thursday gave me plenty of time to do some last easy sessions with the AP10 team, of which there were 6 of us racing. I also felt very excited to be there and very calm, which I think was because if I was honest with myself, I had very little chance of making the start line for the 11months leading into the race, so I felt hugely grateful just to be there. My motto for the day was to race with passion and pride, two values that I consider fundamental to success – personally and on the results card.
My plan in the race was to cruise the swim, as I feel that if not really ‘fit’ in the water, long hard swims can really take away from the rest of the race. After the gun went off I tried to relax and find some decent feet. As per all of the race, it went quite quickly. On getting out of the water, I saw that I had swum 56min…. About 2min slower than normal, but I tried not to get stressed and just relax.. Although I think the AP10 crew may say otherwise with my response when they told me the swim time….
The bike, as per normal, is a ‘difficult’ one with that many people. It continues to surprise me the number of people that ‘push’ the rules out there. That said, I always choose to focus on myself in races, as any energy expended getting angry at others, is simply wasted energy. There were plenty of people that did get given penalties however. In the 15years I have done triathlons I have not been given one penalty, so it always makes me chuckle when others get angry at the TO’s that they “Didn’t do it”. Pleeeease.
My plan on the bike was to stay really conservative, as I knew I needed to get off with as much in the tank as possible for the run! On the way back into town after the last turn, I have never felt so good on the bike in a race. An excellent nutritional plan and the changes I made in my bike preparation really aided this. The AP10 team will be definitely implementing this in the future! I came into town with a 4:48 bike split and in 8th in the 30-34 age group. This is where the race gets interesting for everyone!
Onto the run and I felt great, my plan was to relax as much as I could and be efficient as possible. For the first 21km I had held a 4:33min/km average, which was fine, but as always it was going to slip a bit in the 2nd half. It was great to have the support of plenty of the AP10 crew along the way! Ed Birchall and Dan and Anna Kelly had all borrowed bikes and I had my parents in a car with Megan hopping from one spot to the next to yell, obviously helping immensely.
The aid stations were coming quite quickly to be honest and I was able to maintain a very calm and confident mind throughout the first 30km, something that I ALWAYS drum into the AP10 team. This was already about 4km further than I had run in training, so it is where, as Ed says “the AP jaw started to pop out” and things start to get really interesting.
A famous quote says I love says – “Sport doesn’t build characters, it reveals them”. To me this is the real time of the race, a point which I absolutely thrive on, think about in training on a daily basis and love facing head on. Nothing is easy, everything hurts and to be honest, you are there on your own. You can and should use the energy of the supporters, but YOU have to do it. No one else can. And I love it. From here on I reflected on the key things that motivated me – the failure from the year before, the long hours on the bike and out in the gym late at night, my family and the support that Megan has given me throughout, my brother and also myself – I felt like I really deserved a result after a few failures in my eyes.
At about 39km I really started slipping, the old body was starting to shut up shop a bit and I was running pretty low and I knew that I would have a few guys right on my heals…. I heard someone say through my stupor at the 40km mark – “You’re there, you’ve done it!”… And at this stage I thought “how wrong you are!” I felt like I was trying to grip onto a glass building and slipping rapidly!
I vaguely remember crossing the line – 9hours 10min and 10th in my age group – both quite fitting with the AP10 name! I was elated with the result, especially with the challenges I faced through the 12months. After some time on the ground I heard Megan and my parents through the fence and have never been happier to give them a big hug. While it was a huge weight off of my shoulders to finally post an Ironman time I was happy with, I know it was off of theirs also. Families and close friends ride the ups and downs with you as athletes, so I was proud to be able to share the day and the result with them. A huge thank you to them as my parents and to Megan as her support is unconditional.
The AP10 team are such an awesome and inspiring bunch. As a coach, to have all the athletes racing finish and be super happy with their performances is a huge deal, further adding to the already resoundingly positive day. The support of the AP10 Team in the lead up and those who were there who supporting was invaluable to me and the others racing. Many of these guys just travelled down to solely to support, which is a reflection on the awesome bunch of people we have in the team and also the supportive environment within the bunch. Thank you Ed Birchall for all you did on the day and do with AP10. A huge thank you to my sponsors – Dextro Energy and the team at Vitality, Champion System, Aqua Shop and Blue Seventy, whose support is invaluable in the preparation and success of such a big day.
My goal with Ironman has first and foremost been to post a time that I am happy with. I thought that if I did that, a Kona qualification would be an added bonus. While I am extremely happy with 9:10 – I am not content! After the race I thought “What if I was able to do some running next year and ride a bit harder… ” etc. So it seems like I’ll be racing Melbourne again next year!
I was fortunate enough to qualify for Kona this year, however Megan and I have some very exciting news that means Kona becomes very much a side issue – Megs’ is due with our first little one 2 days before the Kona race!
So Kona will have to wait with a very exciting year ahead! I will get back to Melbourne next year to race, I love it now that we have settled our differences!
Thank you all for the support and I am looking forward to a very exciting year ahead, personally, with AP10 and the awesome people within it and also with our exciting addition in October!