Doing an Ironman mid winter I thought was a great idea; timed perfectly after being overseas with work, before Megan was due with our first child and would be after some other ‘down time’ with work. I couldn’t have been more wrong!
My priorities are always my family and my work – physio and coaching and this was no different when preparing for this race! This year from weeks 9 to 3 from race day I was overseas with the Australian Team in Europe and at the Commonwealth Games. Most of this time I was staying in a hotel room, meaning very little opportunity to ride or swim! However I focused on what I could do and knew it was just going to be another part of the challenge!
After I got home I had a slightly unorthodox, but in the end effective last 2 weeks of preparation, with some very solid sessions really testing the boundaries a little! This, in combination with some long miles before I left for overseas & a very some very hard work on my strength and conditioning program (which I attribute for a lot of my success in the race) I was hoping was enough to put in a decent performance in the race!
After arriving in Japan early on the Wednesday, the prep was quite smooth and uneventful until I managed to make things ‘interesting’. I slipped on some wet cement and fell off a ledge with all my weight on my twisted right ankle and then fell straight on the cement on my left knee cap, which I have had problems with over time! So there I was, just over a day out from an overseas Ironman that I had worked extremely hard for in training and I was laying on the wet pavement, with a throbbing ankle and bloody sharp pain in my knee. I was hoping that I would get up and shake it off, but it got far worse walking and I couldn’t climb stairs with my knee, having to go up backwards… Perfect for a super hilly bike course in an Ironman! So the next day and a half I spent mostly in an ice bath or trying to stay calm and reassure myself that I’d be fine come race day. The problem with being a physio is that you know exactly what you have done, which wasn’t a positive in this case… I tried a short swim and a short ride the next day and both didn’t go well… As difficult as it was, I decided to not focus on the injuries, as I knew if I did I would be wasting valuable energy. A quote I use and refer to regularly which is below, definitely came in handy. These things, in combination with the the self-assurance that I ran 35km of an Ironman run with a fracture in my foot and I figured nothing could be more painful than that….
“If you enter the arena carrying some excuse for underperformance, you’re mentally prepared to lose. Be 100% in your mind and go 100% for the win.” Frank Dick
Come race morning I had got myself mentally to a place where I was very ready to put up with whatever the race or my body threw at me. Lake Toya, which is very close to the home of some of the worlds best ski fields, along with crystal clear water was an absolute spectacle on race morning. Glassy flat, with the sun bursting through the clouds and glistening on the water at race start!
The swim went well, I held onto the first AG bunch for dear life until about 700m to go, when I was in no mans land and knew I needed to push hard to the finish of the swim. I was told I was 2nd in my age group out of the water and pushed hard through transition and caught the leading 3 age groupers at about the 10km mark on the bike, meaning I was leading the AG race… A new sensation for sure!
Pretty soon after I was joined by fellow Aussie, Jess Ripper who lives in the Ski town Niseko, which was on the bike course and won the race last year in the 35 – 39 AG. It was great to have some company on an otherwise lonely bike course, which was one big loop. The bike course was all it was cracked up to be – very hilly, quite technical, with huge amounts of sharp corners throughout the course and head winds what seemed like the whole ride… The knee was giving me a fair bit of grief, but not enough to slow down, which was a huge relief. Coming back into town I knew that we were the first two AG’ers on the course and had passed quite a few pro men, who started 10min ahead of us. My ride time was 5:16, which was hard fought! I rode 15watts more than my ride in Melbourne Ironman, but was 30min slower…. One heck of a bike course!
Onto the run I had no idea how far the rest of the AG’ers were behind me and I knew that there were some great athletes in my category – the fella that won the AG race here last year and was 7th overall, two guys that went 9:16 and a 9:30 at Cairns this year, amongst others I didn’t know about, so I was running a little scared! At 10km you doubled back and at that time I had 16min on 2nd place, which was a relief, but it was far from over! I was feeling pretty good as the run took the athletes alongside the lake, until about 22km, when things slipped very quickly. The race was starting to grab me by the ‘you know what’ and I very sharply went from feeling good to being in damage control. I decide to walk for a couple of minutes soon after to get in a red bull that I had in special needs. That didn’t sit so well and just when I was rushing to the side to part ways with it, I fell in a ditch and twisted my ankle again, ending up on all fours. I always say that there is nothing pretty about Ironman and this was no exception…
So trying not to panic there was only one position on the podium I was interested in, so I set about keeping moving forward and as they say in Aussie Rules footy – it was wet weather footy! Nothing pretty, just bloody hard work and keep moving forward! At 8km to go I still had 8min on second place, but the athletes behind me looked like they were moving far better than I was feeling, but I made sure I got up tall and picked the pace up a little when I passed them! From there I just had to keep the head down and use every mental strategy that I had in my toolbox!
And it payed off! Coming into the last 500m I really made the most of it, lapping it up and walking the finish chute. I could not believe I had won my AG at an Ironman race and placing second age grouper and 11th overall! So, after turning in my spot for Kona this year with our baby on the way, we’ll be having a ‘holiday’ there next year!
I had decided at 10km into the run that if I was to win that I would dedicate my race to my brother Stuart, who passed away a few years ago pretty much on the day. I race with his pic on my race belt and he was the reason I got back into tri’s after some time off. I pointed to him and kissed the race belt as I crossed, that race was for you Stu.
A huge thank you to my wife Megan, the AP10 team – what an amazing team – Champion System, Nike, Torq Australia, Aqua Shop and Vivo Digital, whose support is absolutely invaluable. Also thanks to the race organisers, an absolutely awesome race and also experience!
There were plenty of lessons to take away from this day, as there often is in the sport of triathlon, which I feel transcend so well into other parts of life. An important one was that the greater the struggle involved with achieving a goal, the sweeter it is when you achieve it and believe me, there has been plenty of ‘failed’ attempts and struggle over the years! That sure was one life experience I will always remember and one of the greatest days I have had in sport! Thank you Japan