Well, what can I say…. nothing went to plan on my first trip to the western state… This was, as many of my journeys have been, quite a learning curve! Nothing worthwhile is ever easy, so they say, and that is definitely the case with me and racing an ironman well!
My prep going into Busselton was awesome, I actually couldn’t have asked for better, other than a little more time. I had started my prep for it after returning from overseas, which gave me 8 weeks of good IM specific training, with a few races thrown in. I had done many long rides prior to this time, in the lead up to Las Vegas, so I knew my ride endurance was there. I carefully built my run volume, with a past history of run related injuries plaguing me.
This was a really interesting process, which I think I will use a lot with the athletes I coach over the coming seasons. I did this by trying to get my body used to the physical stress of running well whilst fatigued (the backbone of IM performance), but minimising the risk of injury and the overload of bones and tendons, which in the past is what has caused me the greatest problems. This meant double runs, consecutive run days and brick sessions amongst a few other things.
A typical week leading in Busselton would look something like:
I had really put myself through the wringer in training in order to be ready to ‘race’ the IM, rather than just finish nicely. I am always very particular when it comes to the other keys elements, but had also paid more attention than ever to recovery, course simulation, acclimatization, race nutrition, diet, sleep etc. In other words, I felt like I had dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s in my prep. The weeks leading in to Busselton I felt great and really confident that I was on track to break the 9:30 mark and perhaps low 9’s…… All the key sessions I had done added up to that, but as I know now, it was not to be.
For those that haven’t been, Busso is a gorgeous place and I can see why the race is so popular in the racing scene and reminded me a lot of my home in country South Australia. Unfortunately the other thing that reminded me of home was the heat…. The days leading into the race were hot, with it reportedly reaching mid to high 30’s at times on the course on race day. Michael Perry, Ed Birchall, two of my great friends whom I also coach, and I (along with our SUPER supportive partners) were all staying at a great house just out of town. Michael was doing his 3rd IM, with his previous times of 11.13 and 10.28. Ed, was doing his first IM and, like Michael, had been super consistent with his training leading in and had never dodged anything I had given them in training.
Race day started super early, 3am, which reflected the early race start of 5.45. I went through my usual routine of small black coffee, followed by a 10-15min ‘wake up’ jog and stretch/loosen up. I then set about getting in as many calories as I felt comfortable, which included peanut butter on toast, Sustagen with water and got as much fluid in as well (I knew it was going to be hot), with Dextro Carbo Drink, with some added salt.
We then left for town, giving Michael and Ed their last instructions and advice for the day and then trying not to get nervous myself…. I had started the race knowing that I would not be happy to just finish, which would mean going easy, but was keen to put it out there a little for what I knew I was capable of achieving.
The swim is truly unique, swimming out around a 1.9km long jetty (almost like the designers knew they’d have a race there back in the 50’s when it was built!). I had a pretty average first half, but managed to get in a decent pack and felt better coming back into shore. From there the first lap of the bike went well and I had set both an effort level and a HR that I wanted to stay below on the bike, which I was able to do comfortably. When we came back into town on the first lap of the bike I realised I was in the leading pack of 4 age groupers, with only one cyclist about 20 seconds in front. I was feeling great and doing it easy… Then it all hit the fan! At about 70km I started to cramp in both quads and when I tried to stretch, my hammy cramped, to which I kicked the ground and ran off the road and almost crashed… Would have been pretty funny to see from behind, but that was the beginning of the end of the day! I then spent the next 110km trying to stop cramps, getting off my bike to stretch and trying hard to get calories in, which was largely unsuccessful, all while trying to be as mentally positive as possible…. The small glimmer of hope that I reassured myself with was getting off the bike, changing positions and the cramps in my gut and legs going away…. The glimmer soon faded when I started to run…..
After 12 km of limping through the run, I found myself lying under a truck, telling Megan, (my now fiancee as of 3 days ago!!) that I hated this IM in Port Macquarie (yep, had no idea where I was) in between dry reaching and vomiting….. And still having a LONG way to get through in the run. I did get to the finish line, not that I remember much, or want to for that matter, but as I said, nothing worthwhile is easy….. And another IM had gone all over the pavement….
On a much brighter note, Ed and Michael KILLED their races, smashed them. Michael went 10.07 and Ed 10.36 – on a very hot and windy day… A huge achievement for both of them, showing that consistency in training and throughout their race pays off! Ed had promised to de-robe if he went under the 11 hour barrier, as he said he would have been stoked to break the 12hr mark…. Some of the Busselton local ladies have never seen anything like it. While Michael was equally as happy and will use the race as a building block to no doubt another PB at Port Mac in May. We all wore the new AP10 race kits supplied by Champion Systems, which were super comfortable and looked awesome out on the course.
A HUGE thank you to the K-Swiss team, who made Michael’s, Ed’s and my races possible in Busselton. I am hugely thankful for the support, even though I may not have seemed like it after the race! Ha. Also a huge thank you to Craig from the Aqua Shop and Blue Seventy, who have recently come on board with the AP10 and both myself and Michael swam in awesome new wetsuits thanks to you, with Ed also flying the Blue Seventy flag around the Busselton jetty. Dextro are always great to work with and I appreciate the ongoing support and relationship which I have with them.
So, while I am probably the most disappointed I have ever been after a race, there will no doubt be plenty to gain and learn from it. I am still trying to figure out where the cramps and gut shut down came from, as I have never had problems like that before. But what I do know, is that I now have an enemy in Ironman and I will continue to prepare meticulously in order to succeed. I have had plenty of people offer their ‘advice’ since and say, ‘uh you just went out too hard’ – but I had started the race knowing that I would not be happy just finish and roll through the race. Instead I put my neck out a little (NOT a lot) in order to achieve a result I knew I could if I had a good day. And I guess, that is how you get break through performances, not by always being conservative, it is also how you learn. As they say, it’s not if you fall, but how high you bounce after you do that is important….
This time it didn’t come off, but to quote Florence and the Machine – “It’s always darkest before the dawn” – it won’t be too far away!