After a tough couple of years of training for three Ironman’s, but missing, Melbourne and Kona in 2015 due to last minute injuries, I was extremely motivated to nail every aspect of this preparation and race!
In order to achieve the goals I had, both in terms of performance and also being injury free, I knew I needed to make change in all aspects in order to improve. I also knew I needed to be very well structured and organised, as January through to May is the busiest time of the year in terms of work – coaching and the running of AP10, and physio both at the practice and also with the Wollongong Wizards which is night and weekend work and also making sure family life didn’t suffer!
In December I put a bit of a plan together, which focused on the small key changes I knew I needed to change and improve across the board; training and timing, training improvements, weekly balance of work & rest (I averaged about 60 – 65hrs p/wk of work during the prep), nutrition, strength and conditioning, footwear, technique etc etc! I also only decided to race once during the prep, which was at Husky and race it really tired after a large block of work and a big session the day prior to mimic Ironman. I think this analysis of all areas and subsequent planning is a huge reason the race was a good one in the end!
I arrived in Port with the family, healthy, injury free and with a great prep under my belt. I felt very fortunate for this and jumping out of my skin with excitement to be able to race. I will also say that I am extremely fortunate to be surrounded with such awesome people as are in AP10. I am definitely biased, but I can say unreservedly that they are a fantastic bunch of humans, who not only motivate me but each other to be better, to work very hard and have plenty of fun while we’re doing it and I wouldn’t have been in in the shape I was for the race if it wasn’t for the group and the environment that they create.
When race day came around I was confident and excited! I started near the front of the waves of swimmers and after the gun went the usual pre-ironman nerves subsided and it was down to business. Everything was quite smooth until about half way when the swimmers feet I was on started to drop off the back of the bunch. Just after this happened it was time to climb out of the water onto the steps and up on the weir. I decided that I needed to run around this fella to try to catch back up to the bunch, but in doing so my left foot slipped out from under me and as it did my right foot went in between two bits of metal (that weren’t covered by the carpet…..) and all my weight went through the foot that was stuck between the metal. I hit the deck really hard, hitting the rails with my shoulder and knee onto the metal, but my only thought was my foot which I was certain I had broken in half given how painful it was. Weirdly my first thought was “I wonder if there is a good foot surgeon in Port Macquarie?” So with a mild amount of surrounding panic, the volunteers were helping me get my foot out that was between the bits of metal by pulling the rails apart. As they did and stood me up I looked down at my foot, which there was plenty of blood but otherwise looked intact. I gingerly put it down and realised that I could bare weight, so perhaps the day wasn’t done yet! As I registered that the day may not be over yet, I looked up to see the group I was with about 50m away, great decision-making AP!!!!
The rest of the swim was pretty much solo and I was really worried about my foot as it and my shoulder and knee were really sore swimming. After I was out the water it was all sore, but I could run through transition ‘ok’ which reassure me a little.
I saw the AP10 crew just out of transition, megaphones in hand who had said I swam 52min, which I was pretty happy with considering. I also heard them call Josh Henry, the fish from Nowra that I coach as leading his (and my AG) out the water in 50min, which was awesome to hear. Despite having a couple of people around for the first 10km, the first hour was pretty uneventful. I passed Josh at about 30km, who was riding really well! At the turnaround the lead AG’er was 2min in front of me, who looked like he was working pretty hard and I was second on the road. Pretty exciting!!! It is something I have visualised all last year was coming back into town half way through the bike, so when I did and saw all my family and AP10 team and got a few shout outs over the mic, I almost got a little emotional, as I just LOVE racing and was so excited to be out there and having the sleeves rolled up
At this point the lead AG’er was now only 1min in front and I ended up passing him just after we headed out of town. It was just about then that the rain went from a drizzle to a full blown down pour, which kept up then for most of the day! Having trained for many hours in these conditions and on terrain that is harder than that at Port (one of the ‘keys’ to successful racing in my book), I welcomed the rain as it made it a bit interesting. I was however thinking about Megan and her looking after Ava in the wet, but which gave me more motivation to make sure I nailed the day with them standing out in the rain!
One of my goals was to slightly increase my power in the second half of the bike, obviously something which I had trained and I managed to do, going 255watts in the first and 258 in the second. I finished the ride 4:52, which was the fastest AG split of the day, not that this really matters too much as it’s all about race start to race finish! I felt fantastic throughout the ride and never had a flat spot at all and I attribute the strong ride to plenty of strength work on the bike and in the gym and also some key changes to the specifics of the bike sessions, which will form part of my and other AP10’ers programs moving forward!
Coming out of T2 I saw Meg’s and Ava and was feeling great, but knew I needed to ‘settle in’ as soon as I could. I stopped and gave them a little hug and Meg’s gave me the timely advice of ‘BE PATIENT!”
My foot was pretty sore, but ‘ok’ and despite having to loosen my shoe off more and more as the run went on, I am pretty lucky that it wasn’t slowing me down!
I use heart rate a lot to measure output on the run and pay very close attention to cadence and pace as well, so when my new Garmin decided at 2km into the run just to switch off, despite being fully charged it was a bit of a shock. But as I always tell all our athletes, it was a matter of dealing with it quickly, without creating anxiety and also finding a way to still ‘get it done’.
At this stage I was told I had a 6min lead on the next AG’er, which was great but something I tried not to think about, instead focusing totally on myself and what I needed to do during every single moment. Plenty of people after the race had said how they tried to chat to me or if I remembered certain things, but I had very little memory of much else that was going on other than the constant self check that I go through of things like; nutrition, form, cadence – on repeat, with a few cuss words to myself occasionally!
Meanwhile it was pouring with rain…..
I saw my parents, who had spread out on course and Megan chasing Ava through the puddles and it was at this stage I thought – “get this job done” and also “perhaps Ironman isn’t the hardest thing I could be doing today!”. Megan later told me jokingly that at this stage she thought, “he better bloody win!” – I still wonder if it was a joke though…
In training I had only run to 25km in my long run, as I didn’t want to risk reoccurrence of my foot injury, so I knew that after 25km things were very much an unknown and I knew it was going to get tough, which I was prepared for! At about 28km my hammy’s started to cramp on an increasingly often basis! I also knew that the second Ag’er was catching me and looking good at this stage, but to be honest, the gauge was on red and pretty much on max, so I didn’t have much more to give! I was passed by Jordy Wright, an awesome triathlete from Melbourne at the 37km mark, looking a million bucks at the same time I was doubled over with the old cramps again – which I would of loved to try to respond, but there was no chance!!!
The last 5km were a blur of emotions, as they always are in an Ironman. A fine balance between trying to survive and also fighting back the feeling like you are going to start crying with joy and relief at any step! I will never forget this finish – perhaps one of, if not my favourite moments in sport when I stopped in the finish chute to give Megan, Ava and my parents a hug, followed by a lot of fist pumping and screaming! I had done it and achieved what I had dreamed and planned for over the last couple of years!
I had won my Age Group – 35-39, was second AG’er and 11th athlete overall. I was over the moon and also extremely relieved!
I am even happier with the result as I didn’t sacrifice my family or work lives – as they are always first to me. Also to start of triathlon as a 40min for 1500m swimmer… and develop over many years it has taught me a lot, specifically I think helps greatly with my coaching, as I totally understand how it is not to be any where near the front!
It is moments like this that make all of the hard work, sacrifices early mornings and nights worth each and every second.
The feeling of elation is vital to continue to believe in through the tough times – which it is when it is the most difficult to believe you will be there again. It is these times that make the passion so real, so heart felt and so memorable. And I also think that by overcoming difficult times, you learn a lot about yourself as a person. It reveals how important not only eventual success is to you but also how important the lesson of not succeeding and then fighting for it is. When you don’t fold in and take a step back, but instead go back with more desire and resolve and eventually succeed, it is a great learning experience.
At the roll down ceremony for Kona, Meg’s was happy to go again and my dad was all in, but I felt I was 50/50 whether I was going to take my spot…. When I arrived Josh Henry (who had come 6th in our AG) told me there were 5 spots. For me this was my decision made, as Josh and his family were desperate to go to Kona and it was the goal he had when he came to me to be coached last year. So I decided to roll my spot down to Josh, which was made even sweeter when his twin sister Sophie also qualified! To see how happy he was with his ticket to the big island was pretty special!
A huge thank you to my wife, Megan who is an amazing support for me and for our daughter Ava. Also my parents who are at each and every big race I do which means a lot to me! All the AP10 team as I mentioned are an awesome bunch that I love spending so much time with and motivate me and each other to be better! Also a huge thank you to my sponsors & supporters; TORQ Nutrition, Xterra Wetsuits, Titan Performance Group, Caden wheels, Skin Strong Australia, Simple Cycles & Cobb Saddles for all they do for me!
I am now back into training properly and have never been more excited about the process of daily training, as I have identified some key areas where I can improve and get quicker. The next race for me is the Vitoria Half Ironman in July while I am in Spain working and then the quest continues to post a sub 9hour time for an Ironman hopefully later this year!