Ironman #5

(Written by Phil)

It has been a long 6 years.  I look back at my triathlon career with a sense of amazement.  From the first time standing on the beach watching groups of competitors fight the waves starting their swims and all the nerves and excitement of the moment, to the predawn hours of IM #5 where I was basically asleep on the grass an hour before the start. 
Getting ready for race day
This race I was privileged to train with a great mate in Les.  Many early mornings in the pool, on the bike, and out for runs.  It was his first at this distance.
Phil and Les
Race week is full of amateur meteorology. Melbourne is famous for 4 seasons in one day, and we have had some interesting weather on race day in years past.  On Friday we met with the CCTS tri club for a carb load dinner and race briefing.  CCTS had 11 members racing. As in years past, I helped conduct the bike and run course briefing.  We were in a room with about 30 people in it and at one point when I was going over the last few kms of the run, I realize that the room is dead silent and everyone is visualizing their finish.  A few of us had goose bumps, me included.  It was a great moment.

Race check in and bike racking went off with no issues and weather on race day looked great.  A bit of wind expected, but nothing too major.  An early night of sleep and we are ready to go racing.
Phil and Maybe after bike check in 
Morning begins at 4am when you are up and need to eat.  For me the biggest challenge of these races is the nutrition.  You can’t burn 7500 calories in a day without taking some in, so you are up early to get some easily digested food into the body.

Transition opens at 5:30, so we are there early to do final bike checks and check on all of our mates.  Lots of nervous laughs from the first timers, lots of all business looks from the pros and veterans.

Swim start was moved from a mass start of 2500 racers to a rolling start to help manage the course and prevent some of the anxiety of first timers.  This is something that IM has been trialing and I personally love the rolling start.  First 500m of the swim were fast then the long 3.3kms starts. As soon as I turned at the first buoy, the morning sun began to wreak havoc.  Really hard to swim with a blinding orange ball of fire keeping you from seeing where you are going.  Only had to get pushed back on course once.
Phil in the green cap on the right
Out of the water and onto the bike. Get some blood back into the legs and head north with a bit of a headwind.  The bike course is on a closed toll road that is a great surface to ride on. It is two 90km laps and the first 45km is a bit uphill.  The tunnel is always fun at speeds of 60-65kmh.  Hit the turn and tunnel again at full speed and then a fast 45kms back to start lap 2.  Half way through the bike, and right on schedule at 3 hours.  As soon as I turned around I knew I was in a bit of trouble as the wind had picked up and my quads cramped up.  About 30kms into second lap, I was putting a lot of effort in but not going very fast. It turns out that my rear tire was going flat and I had to stop to throw some air in it.  I should have changed it out, but thought I could get away with it.  A few k’s later it was low again and I stopped to change it.  The Shimano bike course techs show up to give me a hand and get me back on the way.  Big shout out to them. Through the tunnel again and now the wind shifts to a headwind on the way back in.  Still it is downhill, and I’m able to push some gear to get home.

On the bike
Now time to start a marathon.  The first few km are the most interesting because you never know how your body will react.  I start the run at a good pace, but start to cramp as soon as I try to push it.  After a few kms of this I find my rhythm and push on.  I get a quick update from Coach Jess at the 8km aid station on how everyone else is doing and take some awesome painkillers.
Phil on the run
Because of the delayed rolling swim start, it gets dark on the run very early but I enjoyed an amazing sunset halfway through the run.  After a quick hello and chat to Suzannah and Maybe I keep ticking the legs over and progressing north. There are some very enthusiastic supporters who keep waiting for their athletes and then drive a few km up the road and stop to cheer them on again.
Pretty sunset
One of the most difficult aspects of long distance races is eating.  I burn over 7500 calories during the race and you need to replenish a good portion throughout the day. On the bike it is sugar gels and Gatorade every 20 minutes. However when starting the run, I have learned to stop using gels as they have caffeine in them which can cause you not to be able to sleep even after exhausting yourself for 14 plus hours. So I move on to bananas, but those get old fairly fast and this year they had watermelon. Glorious watermelon. 

It is now very dark outside and there are a few sections on the course that don’t have much lighting.  I join up with another competitor for the final few km. It is always fun to talk to first timers as they get close to the finish.  Soon there are 3 of us as we make our way towards the final few hundred meters.  I see Maybe, but now she is being held by my good friend John, and then see Glenda and Suzannah as they cheer me on. The finishing chute is one of the most special places on earth.  The lights, the music, the amazing supporters, and the realization that you are moments from accomplishing a massive goal make it almost surreal. The two others I have been running with, Robyn and Andre are both first timers so I want to give them a clean chute so I slow up a bit to let Robyn go ahead.  Andre was fighting cramps so he said to go on ahead.  About halfway down the chute, Robyn stops to hug EVERYONE lining the wall.  So I ran by and crossed the line for the 5th time in less than 4 years.
Maybe and John cheering on Phil near the end
Phil at the finish
It was at this point that one of my favorite moments in my sporting career happened. After finishing there are volunteers there to “catch” competitors and check on their well being, help them get some food, and navigate the finishers area.  This year I had the honor of being caught by an amazing friend, training partner, and fellow triathlete Anna.  To be honest I couldn’t really see anything with the bright stage lights but I heard “Philbert!!!!!!” and then was the recipient of the best finish line hug in Ironman history.  Was really special to have her there and will never forget that moment.
Big hug at the finish line
Normally when you get close to the finish there is a rush of adrenaline and you convince yourself that you want to do this again. It had happened 4 previous times, but this one was different.  Mentally, physically, and emotionally drained I knew that this would be my last full distance race for a while.  It is time to take a bit of a break and recover.  I have been lucky to not have any major injuries since embarking on this journey. But now everything just hurt.  So taking a hiatus and looking forward to coming back in 2017 at Challenge Wanaka New Zealand.

Final credits!

Casey Cardinia Triathlon Club – thanks for supporting me the past few years. Good luck to you and all of your amazing athletes.

Peter Warden – Thanks for all the friendly competition and motivation.  Good luck at Oxfam and Port Mac (you crazy bastard)
Peter at the finish
Jess Marshall – Thanks for all the support!

Jess with Maybe at the swim finish
Anna Edwards – You are a true inspiration and look forward to training with you as you take on IM #2!!
Anna at the finish
Les Toth – My training partner, my bike bff, my reality check. Thanks for everything! You jet skied the hell out of that course and are a true inspiration. We have a lot of training to do, and a lot of episodes of Archer to catch up on.  Can’t thank you enough.
Les on the run
And most importantly…

Suzannah – You are amazing. None of this is possible without you and your love and support. From the 4am race mornings, to putting up with not only me but also Les this year. And thanks for letting me get the new bike. J


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