The preparation for Port Macquarie was something that taught me a lot about myself and how far I was able to push myself. Meg’s and Alex had everything planned out not just for the 4 months leading in, but for the year prior, so while it was darn hard work, it went very smoothly! We had LOADS of fun as a team – the AP10 group are awesome fun to be around and when I travelled to the race I knew I had never worked so hard for anything and couldn’t have felt better prepared!!!
I was standing at the start line of my first ever Ironman at Port Macquarie. Although I was nervous I had decided to make it my mission to embrace my first IM experience and spend the whole day racing with passion and excitement. I was towards the back of Zone 1 for the rolling start and entered the freezing Hastings River which had a distinct brown tinge to it after all the rain. Visibility was pretty much non-existent and I spent the first 1-2kms of the swim zig-zagging around people. By the time I got onto the weir I finally found a bit of clear water and some decent feet to swim on. The return leg of the swim was fast yet controlled, and my main focus was staying in touch with the group I was swimming at the back of. Other notable highlights from the swim leg worth mentioning include: numerous large logs hitting me, forgetting to turn my watch on (this is standard race day behaviour for me), and watching a dude in front of me have a massive stack on the weir. All in all, I was really happy with how I executed the swim leg and exited the water in 57 minutes – added bonus!
By the time I jumped on the bike I was so excited to get out there and see what I could do. I’d had an absolute shocker of a bike leg at the Port Half Ironman in October and was really keen to make amends. I held myself back on the hills heading out of town as people flew past me, as I was confident that I’d claw them back later in the day. The first lap of the bike was fantastic, and I didn’t even mind the bumpy roads, or going up Matthew Flinders Drive. However, shortly after this point was the first moment that I was aware of suffering some fatigue and that the day had really started to warm up. The combination of these two factors led to some poor gearing choices and my chain coming off. I jumped off and got my chain back on reasonably quickly (by my standards). Rather than dwelling on this, it turned out to be a confidence builder, as I realised that even when things weren’t going to plan I was dealing with them well.
Soon after I was heading back into Port and I could hear a group of people having a REALLY great time…and upon turning the corner those people turned out to be my people! Who knew that a cow, some very un-holy looking Nun’s, Popeye, AP dressed as a woman and small version of Margaret Thatcher could make SO much noise! I pretty much felt like I could go 10 rounds with Mike Tyson after this. To add to my upbeat attitude, not too far down the road were my family & close friends. I was so happy to see them that I nearly cracked both cheekbones from all the smiling and laughing.
By the time I got out onto the second lap the wind had picked up but I was fine until about the 150km mark (this can be mostly attributed to the sheer joy from grabbing my bottle of coke from my special needs bag at the 95km mark), but it was from here that things started to get a little tougher. I was getting really sore (trust me you don’t need details!), the back sections of the course were feeling much bumpier than in lap 1 and it was quite lonely out there with hardly any spectators around. That last hour on the bike required a lot of “being comfortable with being uncomfortable” and after 6 hours and 20 minutes on the bike I’ve never been so happy to see T2 and change out of my bike shoes into my running gear.
The 42.2km marathon was a 4 lap course that took you through the town of Port Macquarie and then out to the suburb of Settlement Point. I figured out really quickly that the happier I was on this run the more support I’d get from the crowd. Their energy was 100 fold what I could produce at that point so I was taking as much as I could from them. I’d made the decision prior to the race that I would run comfortably for the first three laps and see what I had left with 10kms to go. The first 10km went really quickly, and before I knew it I had my first lap band on my wrist. On the second lap the highlights were Banger on the megaphone telling me that my calves looked amazing and Nicki Nugara running beside me and pepping me up, before getting in trouble for this from another competitor. I then met up with Rob Benge on his trusty bike out at Settlement Point and we had a great chat for a good few kilometers. This section of the course was a bit thin on spectators, so having Rob out there made those kilometers so much easier. Although tired, I could still process that all the messages I was getting from the crowd were identical; that I looked great and that I was executing an awesome race. This only helped to grow my confidence as I entered the back end of the marathon.
The third lap was where I thought I would struggle the most, but I actually found this lap the most enjoyable. I was comfortable, in a great rhythm, and there were no nutritional upsets to speak of. Night was starting to fall, and it had started to rain slightly just as I was beginning my final lap. All was going swimmingly until about 8km to go – when I had a blister pop underneath the ball of my foot that made the last section of the marathon pretty uncomfortable. However, I knew in the scheme of things that this was minor and I only need to push on for another 40 minutes or so. Although those last 8km were tough, before I knew it I was grabbing my last lap band and heading towards the end of the race. Just before the finish line, I was able to give multiple group hugs to different groups of family and friends. This truly was the best part of the whole day and I will never ever forget those moments. You guys mean everything to me! I was so pumped cross the finish line after having the best day of my life and seeing a finish time of 11 hours 46 minutes. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined a sub-12 hour finish in my first Ironman on a tough course!
For the vast majority of people my Ironman experience is summed up by the wonderful photos that I’ve been tagged in on Facebook & the parts of the day that I’ve recounted in this report. Whilst there’s no denying that it was undoubtedly the most amazing day of my life, there is only one reason for this – that I was meticulous in my preparation & I had the most phenomenal team of people around me.
For well over 12 months I made a commitment to myself & hoped that by wholeheartedly embracing the training that it would pay off. The thing about Ironman is that the actual day is a tiny fraction of the buildup that goes into the race. The bulk of the journey happens in the training, and the thing about the training is that it’s dirty, it’s hard, it’s often lonely & it pushes your body to places that you didn’t even know existed. At the time I didn’t realise it, but I now know that it was these tough training days that made the race the perfect day that it was. I’d done all the hard work and mental “hardening up” in training. I’d made the nutritional mistakes, confronted & dealt with the self-doubt, and made the wrong clothing choices (boy have I got some chafing stories). These days were sure as hell hard, but were they worthwhile? You bloody betcha they were! They allowed me to enjoy every minute of my first Ironman surrounded by my family & friends. I wouldn’t change one day of my preparation for all the money in the world.
A massive thank you has to go to Megan & Alex, and to the most amazing group of training buddies anyone could ever ask for. Debbie, Juannie & Sticks – I still maintain that I could NEVER have done it without you guys!