Ironman Wrap Up
The week started out with my sister Jamie flying in from the US and showing her around Melbourne. During this time we had typical Melbourne weather, where it was nice one day and then the rain would start. This was of some concern as the runoff goes into the bay and can cause some nasty pollution for the swim. A few of my sprint races this year had the swim cancelled due to bad weather/water quality.
My biggest fear leading up to the race however was the wind. There has been many a day where the winds made riding a bike near impossible. On Friday a cold front moved through and brought with it wind and rain. My friend Peter and I tried to do a practice swim at the pier where the race started, but the waves were so large we couldn’t get out past the breakers. The fishermen on the pier were laughing at us for even attempting to swim. It was rather comical. We met a gentleman from Israel after we washed up on shore who was racing and was really concerned about the waves. We assured him that Sunday would be fine, and hoped that we weren’t lying.
Jamie and I went to the race expo where I proceeded to buy all sorts of Ironman paraphernalia, including a cell phone cover. After spending a small fortune, we proceeded to the race check in and sign in board. It was awesome see all the competitors’ names up on the board and then sign my autograph. Super cool moment (however cheesy it may have been).
Race morning arrived and I woke up around 3:30am to eat and start the mental preparation. We arrived at the Frankston pier about 6:00am to a circus of triathletes. Our bikes had been racked the day before and now it was time for last minute tire checks and helmet placement. One look at the calm water in the bay and a lot of nerves were cast away. It was a perfect morning for a swim.
It was still dark when the Pros took to the water and they moved the start back 15 minutes to compensate for the sunrise. The horn sounded and they were off in a flurry. The Pros can complete the 3.8k (2.4 mile) swim in 45-50 minutes. I was just making sure that I could come in under the 2:20 time limit. Soon it was our turn to swim out to the deep-water start. I hung out at the back of the pack waiting for the horn and trying to keep my wits about me. I never heard the start but everyone ahead of me started to go and so I went. After 1:50 I finally made it back to shore. Well, almost. There is a sandbar that starts about 50m from shore and I was able to run in on the sand from there until 2m from the beach where there was a sinkhole. My legs went out from underneath me and I did an extremely graceful dive that would have won several medals had this been the Olympic games (even the French judge approved). I stood back up with a smile on my face thankful to have finished.
In between the swim and bike is called “transition 1”. Your goal is to do this very fast. However, I took my time to relax, have some water, and talk with the other drips that filtered in. I eventually wandered out to my bike and began the 180k ride along the Eastlink toll way. This is where the real fun begins.
Motivation. I had dreamed of this day for months. I trained almost daily, employed coaches to get faster/better, and steeled my mental acuity in preparation for this. I then flushed it all down the toilet. My bike race was spent having to pee every 30km. That was my motivation to ride as fast as I could to the next water station so that I could pee again. It was hilarious. One of the hardest things about a race like this is keeping your body fueled for 10+ hours. I went through 26 race gels on the bike and liters and liters of water. Plus it was rather cool outside and I didn’t sweat very much. That water had to go somewhere… Since this was my first race I didn’t want to dehydrate and look like a zombie when crossing the finish line, or get carted off in an ambulance. Needless to say my hydration strategy might have been overkill but I finished the bike in 6:40 and had a smile on my face.
I had never run a marathon before. And after 8+ hours of physical exhaustion it was now time to start. After riding for that long, all you want to do is get off the bike and move on. Happy hour continued inside of “transition 2” and eventually I tied up my runners and headed out on the course. Suzannah, Jamie and Maybe (now named Irondog) were there to cheer me on and provided a much needed mental lift. The course snaked along the bay and through the small towns as we trekked north. The first 10k felt pretty good, but soon after my back started to file an official protest. The sun soon went down and the temperature dropped significantly. I pressed on with both walking and running. Along the way, my cheer squad would be there to remind me of how much distance was left and that I was well under the cutoff time of 17 hours.
The finish was at the St. Kilda sea baths, and was a glorious site. My last shot of adrenalin kicked in and I was able to run the last 1500 meters. I rounded the final corner and started down the long straight away to the finish line. Lining the route were hundreds of supporters that were pounding on the sideboards and cheering. It is a sound I will never forget. My sister had brought over an American flag that I draped around my shoulders to help show my appreciation for my home country and all the family and friends that we have there. Crossing the finish line was a rite of passage. A culmination of intestinal fortitude, strength, and spirituality. I was now an Ironman.
Thank you for all of the kind words and encouragement. Triathlon is supposed to be an individual sport, but there is no way I could have done it without you.
See you all again at Ironman Melbourne 2013!! (yes I was crazy enough to sign up for it all over again!!)