Blog — 11 June 2015
Andrew O’Connor’s beauty at IM Melbourne!


Melbourne Ironman 22nd March 2015.

Phil Monfries started this journey by asking, “So Oakey, when are you going to do an Ironman?”

I confidently replied “2015, late 2015” hoping this would shut him up.



To this he replied, “Well we had better get started”. F…

We started season 2013/14 by joining the Adelaide Triathlon Club and doing Moana, Murrayman, Victor Harbor and Geelong 70.3. The season highlight was Geelong 70.3 where we started our Ironman events with 3m seas, 100km/hr breezes and 100 degree Fahrenheit, completed in 6:43. What was I doing?

With the 2014/15 season approaching we knew we needed more Aero stuff and preparation. So we entered the Mooloolaba Sunshine Coast 70.3 with new time trial bikes and in great weather conditions on perfect roads and completed it in 5:31, new hope.

To do Melbourne IM we needed a plan. As always, Phil already had one and given he had passed out on a deck chair after the BUPA challenge he was going to need it. But I needed one as well.

I decided to consider a coach and met with AP10 coach Dave Williamson to explore developing a plan. I outlined to Dave that what I wanted was

  • to complete one Ironman and if possible
  • to beat Tony Abbott time of 13:57. (age 52)

He found this odd but was supportive notwithstanding his high opinion of Tony.

My additional goal was to raise $10,000 for Courage for Cody (Cody Gray), in support of an inspirational young lady battling with a spinal injury.

So I become an AP10er (train smart, race fast) aiming for a sub 13hr ironman time and was required to learn lots of new words and terms;

  • S&C (which I actually did for last 10 weeks),
  • walk/run (which I didn’t really understand until the day),
  • sports dietitians (less beer),
  • no falling (which I failed at),
  • relentless,
  • activations,
  • watch the tram tracks (too late),
  • 8,4,8’s or lucky 8’s,
  • etc

The 24 week training plan included Murrayman, Glenelg & Victor and went well with some minor interruptions including falling from bike after 100k unable to lift right shoulder due to bursitis from swim session so land on head, smash helmet and strain neck (low point in training). Training included 180k swimming, 5,100k cycling and 1,200k running.

That Dave got me to start line was quite an achievement in itself.

Finally race day arrives, woke up at 4am had some cereal and a banana, still calm, than my son Charlie drove Phil, Rapha, Jezza, Ali and me down to Frankston. Jezza queried my aim on way down and I admitted to 12:30 (real aim 12:15).  Remained calm until we reach the carpark in Frankston, nerves have a little win and I dry reach.


Rapha, Phil and I headed to the 3rd group for the swim start (1:10 to 1:21) and had a brief swim to warm up; looking back at the 2500 on the beach was something special. And before we knew it we were on our way out past the jetty. Wave start helped, but didn’t worry about number of swimmers anyway as Dave had said “Don’t worry, Oakey, you swim like a pit bull.” (He meant that in a good way).

The water was clear and the sea calm and I recall seeing large shell fish/clams (not S&C) and jellyfish whilst swimming hoping I didn’t put my hand on one. After swimming offline and being corrected I finally did what Dave had suggested and managed to swim on someone’s feet for 400m. WooHoo!

Remained calm in swim despite coughing up seawater a few times and exited the swim leg after 1hour20minutes, good for me, and was delighted to see my daughter Lizzie on the jetty screaming out my name as I hurried up the beach into transition.

Realising Phil’s bike had long gone I figured he must have got his breathing under control on the swim and avoided a panic attack.  So I headed out knowing I had some hard work to do to catch him, and received some encouragement from NSW AP10 supporter Phil.

Conscious not to overdo the first lap I had a controlled push into the wind whilst busting for a pee (which I couldn’t do on the bike) and ate my Mars bar as I collect my first drink from an aid station. Heading back with a tail wind was enjoyable when at about 2-3k’s out of Frankston I spotted Monfries heading back, so I knew I had about 8 minutes to pick up and needed to work harder.

Turnaround was in Frankston and I could hear Margot’s support from the bridge above but my neck range didn’t allow me to see her. On this second lap at the 112k drink stop I managed to get a drink and a banana, and was pleased that I was drinking and eating as per instructions (more or less). Pushing back with a tail wind I finally spotted Phil’s familiar bike (5,100k training together) and new aero helmet at about 165k’s and after a brief discussion on our swims moved on into town and T2.

Started the run well for about 6-7k which was the same distance of my run off the bike in training. Then in got harder and every 2k aid station was needed, water, ice, electrolyte, coke, vegemite on a stick, etc.

Down along the beach path and the Cramp hit (No!), fortunately a fellow runner offered me a salt tablet which I gladly accepted and requested his drink bottle as well, which he reluctantly handed over. Thoughts of walking with a cramp for 20+k slipped in but after a rough couple I was back and running.

Taking vegemite on a stick from there on, I continued with good support from an old school friend John Rush at about 27, and Alex Hall, who pushed me on after catching me walking a slight hill

As I passed 30k I was determines to run solidly drawing on the courage of Cody Gray who battles with her injuries with such great effort.

At 32+k I only had 4x(8+4+8+4) of Thursday lucky 8’s to go with 4 aid stations to boot plus I was drawing strength from how bad others looked around me.

With about 5k to go I see two of my age groupers, pass them, then cramp up, lose lead only to regain (8,4,8,4,cramp 8,4,8,4 etc)

I Run through tri club supporters, who are cheering on girl next to me, get chicked again. Not to worry she will die when crowd support deserts her.

About 40k in, sense the end, feeling strong again, chat to young man next to me also doing his first Ironman. Both excited to hear the crowd but have to run passed tents to get to red carpet entry. Alex Price spurs me on as I near the end chute; it was great to have him cheering me on as darkness was setting in. Around the corner to see my supportive wife Martha, the kids and Alex Hall cheering me on, side fives then sprint down the red carpet to the finishing archway and big screen, fist pumping to the sound of “Andrew O’Connor, you are an Ironman!”

Cross the line with Courage for Cody wrist band in toe, have Ironman Medal and towel placed around neck. Led away by a volunteer and asked to put left foot up on box so they could remove the timing bracelet, not that easy to do.

Didn’t need to go to medical tent “WooHoo” and it was great to be greeted by AP10er Darrin Rigby with a big hug as I turned corner towards the recovery tent.

Didn’t feel up to pasta or pizza, so went for two serves of fruit salad and ice cream instead. Delicious! On to massage tent where I cramped for 10 minutes before conceding.

Joined family after finding Bridget and proceeded to watch finishers with Phil Monfries coming in just shortly after. The three amigos had made it. And equally as important we had raised $11,122 towards Courage for Cody.

Thanks to all my AP10 training partners, Phil Monfries, Dave Williamson(“El Jefe”), Rapha, Jezza, Nat, Kay, Keat, Jenn, Kirsty, Martinez, Darrin, Killer, Tim, Jason, Sheldon and Meghead, for making the journey achievable and enjoyable. Plan executed in 11:57:04, two hours ahead of Tony Abbott’s time.

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