Ironman Cairns 2016

From the Ironman-

One day I will train properly for these silly races…

This race was put on the schedule as it was the last full Ironman distance in Australia that I had not completed.  I did the 70.3 a few years ago and really enjoyed it, and also we were due for a holiday. I signed up for this race long before all of the drama of the cancellation of IM Melbourne and everyone being reallocated to this race or Port Mac a few weeks ago. Additionally, my parents wanted to come out and see me race again and to see the Great Barrier Reef (while it still exists). 

We left the house early on Friday morning for a 9am flight.  It was a damn good thing we did as there was a semi truck fire on the freeway that closed it down during the morning rush hour.  As we sat in the lounge watching the chaos on TV and also watching all the bikes headed over to oversize baggage, the race brain began to kick in. The flight was full of triathletes and there is always a nervous buzz of anticipation. 

We landed in Cairns and picked up our brand new rental car (10kms on the speedo) and picked up the keys to the apartment in Palm Cove. After dropping off the luggage and Blossom (the new BMC tri bike) we headed back to Cairns to pick up my parents who had flown in the day before.  They were staying right across from the expo and check in, so we took a walk over and took a look at all the merch and picked up my timing chip etc. I picked up some c02 canisters and gels and we headed back to Palm Cove.  After dinner I put the bike together, and we called it an early night. 

The next morning after a quick jog and spin on the bike to make sure every thing was in order, we walked over to rack the bike.  One problem, for some reason my brain justified that I wouldn’t need my helmet.  Wrong.  So I ran back to get the helmet all the while the wind started to pick up. Finally I got to transition and have a rock star parking spot for the bike.  As there are 2 races going on at the same time and approximately 4000 bikes, you can get lost really easy. Bike bag was dropped off and Blossom was racked; we grabbed some lunch and then headed back to Cairns to drop off my run bag.  Once the running around is done, we headed back to Palm Cove and the wind really picked up. 

The day before the race was beautiful in Palm Cove
I awoke race morning to the sound of rain. Rain was predicted at 80% with 3-8mm.  It wasn't lying.  But like all tropical rain showers, it quickly moved on and I got dressed to headed down to transition for final bike check.  Our apartment was 50 meters from the start, so it was a quick walk and I really only needed to check tire pressures and strap on a few gels. I wandered back to the house but took the long way and have a nice quiet walk trying to mentally prepare for the day ahead. I went back and picked up Suzannah and headed to the start line.  The 70.3 went off at 6:30 and we started at 7:30am. I really enjoy the new rolling swim start initiative that keeps everyone organised and (IMO) safer. As I am not the best of swimmers, I started at the back and watched 2000 competitors start their journey.  I was relaxed, focused, and ready for the day ahead.  It started raining.
Before the swim
Phil and his fan club
Phil and his parents
Swim Start:  Got out in the water and damn that water was warm. 25 degrees.  The race encourages wetsuits due to jellyfish in the water, but any other race they would have been banned. It is a 2 lap swim and I hit the far end of the course on time even against the current.  The trip back in was quick and was I actually sitting above my goal pace after lap 1.  Then things got crazy. The wind, waves, and rain had picked up, and lap 2 was an exercise in survival, and unfortunately someone didn't survive. I got back out to the top end of the course and the waves started to really increase in size. Made it to the turn and started heading back in but we were all getting tossed around out there and sighting the next bouy was impossible.  About halfway back the life savers start telling everyone to head in to the beach.  I swam in a bit and continued in a direct path to the swim exit and came up about 100m short or so. No biggie, the lifeguards did a great job and it was absolutely the right call to bring everyone in.  Later in the week we found out that a 47 year old competitor was pulled from the water unconscious and later died in hospital. 

Swimmers being kicked out of the water
So we were off to a wonderful start.  There is a bit of rain about, but got onto the bike and headed north up to Port Douglas. It takes a bit to get your bearings after being tossed around in a washing machine and I don't really get comfortable on the bike until about 40km in. The course had a few climbs in it and the surface was terrible.  I got up to the turn around in Port Douglas and right into a 30km headwind and into a pouring rain shower.  Up the hills and down the hills again, then back out to Port Douglas.  The bike is full of mini races for position.  My arch nemesis was a guy on a black and orange Merida and a full Singapore kit.  I’d pass him, he would pass me, this went on for 40 km.  Coming down a hill I had a good run and went to pass and he tried to grab a gear and his bike made a god awful noise and dropped a chain.  The trip back from Port Douglas to Cairns is about 70km and was into a full headwind.  There weren't many places to hide from the wind out there. At about the 165km mark, I started to experience double vision.  It was really weird, and I could not get my eyes to focus.  Oh well, just kept it pointed straight and hoped for the best.  Somehow Singapore Lance caught me at about the 170km mark, with my vision I just let him go. Then it was about survival.  I hit the final straightaway and had good road surface and some energy left in the legs so I grabbed some gear and watts.  About 200m from the bike finish, I pass Singapore Lance. I win.
Starting the bike leg
I had been going for just under 9 hours now and it seemed like a great time to start a marathon (FML). As I was sitting in transition, one of the volunteers helped dump my run bag out and saw that I had a toothbrush in there, I asked him to check the bag for a small tube of toothpaste.  He laughed and found it, not really sure why I needed it. I threw on the run shoes and hat and grabbed some water.  As I left transition, I started brushing my teeth much to the amusement of everyone lining the course.  You see, after 7 hours on the bike and consuming nothing but sugar gels and gatorade your mouth is gross. I didn't want to spend the next few hours with sugar mouth so I made a decision after the last race to brush my teeth before the marathon.  Best. Decision. Ever. 
Starting the marathon with clean teeth
The tun was pretty uneventful and flat. The top end of the course was raining on all 3 laps and there was a nice breeze for the final 3km back to the next lap. You meet some lovely people out on course and it was great to run a few kms with a friend from our running group. Chatted with a really nice girl who was finishing her first race and quite a few others from all over the world.  I hit the final turn and headed back into Cairns and the finish line.  The finish chute is an amazing place.  Loud music, lights, screaming spectators and plenty of high 5’s. I crossed the line in 15:08 and finished IM #6.  After some finisher photos and a quick bite of a sandwich, I walked out to see my amazing wife and parents who were supporting me all day. Big hugs, a few tears, and more photos. 
Some of the supporters along the run
Pretty evening in Cairns
IM finish line #6
Finisher medal

We grabbed the bike and headed back up to Palm Cove.  Once home, I grabbed a beer and headed to the shower.  Shower beer = victory. 

Next up is Challenge Shepparton 70.3 in Nov then we head across the water to New Zealand for Challenge Wanaka in Feb 2017.  

As always a big thank you to training partner Les, and of course, my amazing wife and coach Suzannah.


  1. So glad we were able to be there with you! I am in awe of your dedication, determination and desire!


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