Alex Price – Ironman Oz 2012
Ironman Port Mac. What a ride to get there and what a day!
Something that I have thought about a lot since the race is the journey from being so deeply disappointed after having a terrible day in the Busselton Ironman in December 2011,
To the exact polar opposite, yelling “C’MON!”, as I crossed the line with tears running down my face, as I finished the Port Mac Ironman in 9.35. The journey involved many changes and development, but also involved trusting myself and the processes which I implement on a daily basis.
To explain why I was extra keen on doing well in the race, I need to mention that 3 years ago I got back into triathlons after a several year break following my older brother Stuart passing away. This was the stimulus that got me back into doing something positive on a daily basis and helped me with a very tough time. Soon after I raced the 2009 Port Macquarie Ironman for Stuart. On that day however I felt I didn’t do the race or the purpose justice, as I needed to walk much of the last part of the run. With this being the last IM I did at Port Macquarie and although I seldom mention it, this added extra motivation in combination with the poor race at Busselton, to make sure the race was a success and is something that drives me daily.
It’s not an easy road really trying to explore your limits when it comes to triathlon, especially Ironman. You may only race once or twice a year and if it doesn’t go to plan, you can’t just make it up next week or next month. So, following the disappointment of ironman W.A., I set about carefully dissecting what went wrong.
Although it was the last thing I wanted after a poor race, I had decided prior to the race that my body and also my mind needed some down time, after not having a break since coming back from a stress fracture in April 2011. So, reluctantly I took 4 weeks nearly fully off training, which I knew would pay off come the ironman at port and later in this year when I will race in the Long Course world champs in Spain. Even though I often prescribe my athletes time-out from training, it is never easy!
Then I set about really figuring out what went wrong with my nutrition in the heat of Busselton, which was the number 1 cause of a disappointing day. With the help of Rebecca Hay – Sports Dietician, I went over my nutritional plan with a fine comb, which meant sweat analysis testing and careful race day planning. This in the end, was one of the huge ‘keys’ to my race in Port and I owe a huge thank you to Rebecca for her help.
I then spent a lot of ‘Alex time’ – which I analyzed ‘why’ and ‘how’ I was going to have a successful race in Port. Invaluable time being able to be self critical, not only from a coaching perspective of how to improve, but also from a personal level, reinforcing how desperate I was to unlock the Ironman lock. Once a plan is made, it is key not to doubt your self or the process for one minute, even when training races are below the typical standard as a result of time off training over Christmas.
Leading into the Ironman, I felt I had the perfect preparation in training. My nutrition and pacing strategies were very carefully planned and practiced multiple times in race specific training. I had planned my 16 week training program very carefully working on any weaknesses and developing the necessary areas to do well on the Port course. The volume of running my body was able to withstand was much above what it had in the past as a result of several areas of training and recovery I implemented. This combined with the excitement of Megan, my fiancée, doing her first Ironman meant I was pretty relaxed and confident when we headed up to Port. I decided to keep a very low profile this year in the few days prior to the race, which I think greatly helped compared with previous races. To also have my parents travel over from South Australia added an extra element of excitement t o the day.
The pre-race days were great, I had 4 AP10 athletes racing, Megan, Michael Perry and Shannon Spargo, all who have been fantastic training partners through out the journey and inspire me with their dedication. We had a great lunch together with all the families on the Friday and a few training sessions. I was and am very proud of all 3.
Race morning was very exciting as usual, all went without a hitch and Megan was relaxed, which was nice to see. We had a last hug before we entered the water, which was a special moment. Then it was time to get it under way. I had a very good warm up in the water and after a delay, it was on. The swim was reasonably non eventful, except I had to continually keep reacting to speed changes, more than normal in an Ironman, in order to keep with the first main bunch. I swam 54min, which I expected. Entering transition I had a big group of AP10 supporters just near my bike, Kellie and Lisa and a few others, who were very loud, followed by mine and Megan’s parents. Wowee, I think I can yell loud, my mum scared me a little with how much jumping and screaming she was doing!
The bike felt good from the start, that said however, my goal on the bike was to ride easy, not worry about anyone or anything else, to stay emotionally very calm and to make sure nutrition was perfect. I think I achieved all 4! After riding the whole first lap el solo, basically without seeing anyone, a HUGE pack caught me just heading out of town, riding 2 abreast… While I have been racing for 10 years, I am proud to say that I have never been done for drafting, as it goes against everything I believe in. I don’t really see a huge difference between cutting the course or doing other illegal things to make you go quicker. Yet to some, it’s an accepted form of cheating. In the past I would have got annoyed at this, but I decided to have a rye chuckle and try to stay nowhere near the group. Next thing you know the draft busters got pretty much everyone in the pack. I laughed even harder when they all blew up at the officials with the usual excuses. On the race goes!
It was nice to not feel flat or tired at all through the ride, which I attribute to some great training changes and carefully planned and executed nutrition, thank you again Dextro Energy! I was even happier when I started the run and felt amazing, better than I had in any training session I had done! You beauty, but don’t get too excited, I was again trying to stay very calm and relaxed.
For the first 30km it was a matter of executing a careful nutrition and pacing plan. I let people go, without any consideration of going with them and continued the positive psychological strategies that I had rehearsed in training and visualised regularly in the lead up to the day. To be honest, I couldn’t believe it was happening and how good I felt. I think I even said that to my mate Jon when he was next to me on the bike at some stage. I felt great. I kept seeing Michael and Shannon on the course, which was great and I tried to give them some words each time we passed. With 10km to go, I knew it was time to open the gates a little or a lot. So down with some pure caffeine and time to drive the nail in the coffin. I then passed quite a few people who were fading, which gave me further confidence and for the first time I thought about others in the race. I saw Megan running at this stage, which was awesome to see and inspired me further. With about 5km to go, it was the first time I allowed myself to get out of my calm state of mind and think about things that really drove me to the next level of hurting myself: My brother and how hard I had worked on a daily basis for years to get to this point.
This was such an amazing last part of the race. To then come down the finish chute, to see my parents and to give them a hug, still smiling and everyone crying, was something that I will never forget. Ever. It was one of the greatest single moments I have ever had and will take some beating – we’re getting married in January 😉
Finish = 9hrs 35min, 33rd overall. By no means is this as far as I want to go, the good race has only fuelled the fire more than ever. And while I didn’t win or podium in my age group, the result had a huge sense of achievement on many levels.
To then watch Michael and Shannon finish, was also a very proud moment from a coaching perspective. The boys did an amazing job. I then made my way onto the course to see Megan finish her last two laps and finish in an amazing time, which was very special. To have seen her develop since she started the sport less than 2 years ago was something that doing an Ironman provides – shear joy, relief and a huge sense of accomplishment. It is a special sport. It does not discriminate and you cannot bludge it like you may be able to a half. It requires a lot of dedication and commitment to get to that finish line and I take my hat off to all those that do.
To get to the finish does not happen as a solo journey. It requires a lot of people to help in an otherwise quite selfish pursuit and for that I want to say a huge thanks:
Megan, my parents, Ed Birchall, Dextro Energy for their amazing support, Champion Systems, Cervelo Australia for the new bike for race day, 220 Magazine for the build up and support, Aqua Shop and Blue Seventy, my training buddies and the whole AP10 team – who were amazing support on the day including – Jon and Linda, Linda Gregory, Ian Gregory, Kellie and Lisa and Sam Bowden. Thank you all!
Now onto the next journey – World Long Course Championships here in Spain!