IRONMAN CAIRNS

MY IRONMAN STORY: Ironman Cairns 2012 6.10.12

It’s 10:14AM and I’m sitting here at the Cairns Airport with Ironman finishers all around me 2 days after competing in the greatest single day endurance event in the world, the Ironman. I’m ready to recap for my family, friends, and other Ironman competitors my Ironman story. But where to I begin?

For most of us, it was probably back in the 90’s or maybe as far back as the 1982 Ironman World Championship in Kona Hawaii where Julie Moss set the stage for Ironman and the world learned what Ironman was all about. Leading the entire day, she would stumble with 20 YARDS to the finish line, her legs would give out even though she wanted it so badly. She pushed and pushed but just steps from the finish line was passed to fall to second place. Those initial days, February 20th 1978 to be exact where the event was born from some marines who  combined 3 events: the swim of 2.4 miles, a bike ride around the island of Hawaii that ended at the start of the Honolulu marathon 112 miles, and then the marathon of course being 26.2 miles. Those 3 events were combined and 15 individuals set out to complete an event. Little would they know that only 34 years later, I would be one of 75,000 people in just 2012 alone to push themselves to the brink.

The history is real, the stories are amazing, and I was first introduced to IM in the 90’s while flipping through the channels and seeing the NBC highlights. It may have been the late 90’s, maybe ’97 or ’98 when I first saw it but not having triathletes in my life or runners kept me away from the sport. Even through college, when I wanted to get a road bike, I was busy spending my bills on trips to South America and Europe, I didn’t choose to spend my bills on that thousand dollar bicycle. In the end, it wouldn’t be the bike I would grab first, but a real pair of running shoes for an activity I hated.

It was September 2008 when I took a cruise with a friend to the Southern Caribbean. I would gain 10 pounds on that cruise (in one week), putting me up to roughly 210 pounds. The only way to get that weight off was running. My first run, September 21, 2008 a 6 mile run at a 9:20 pace (non-gps) in Hudson, MA. I ran my first ever road race 14 days later: a 10 miler, the Apple fest Rambler in 83 minutes or an 8:18 pace. Then for the next 3 weeks in a row I did a half marathon going 1:44, 1:41, and 1:40 at a 7:42 pace.

Lindsay, my girlfriend would be there from the start. Our first date was an 8 mile run that I ran while she rode on my bike! My friend Trevor, the driving force and my inspiration to get into running was there as well, well in the same cubicle with me at work actually! With Lindsay and my family at my side and Trevor’s inspiration, I would run the world most prestigious marathon in the world BOSTON, the following spring and raise $3,000 for charity. I ran a 3:38 that race setting a PR in NJ with a 3:26 only 14 days later. I trained harder that summer and ran a 3:08 qualifying and earning a spot in Boston the next year where I went 3:12, a 26 minute improvement over the previous year. I would run 13 marathons in total within 17 months.

Now, it’s 2010 and Trevor had gotten into triathlons. I would follow him and finally buy that first road bike in the first week of June. I did my first ever triathlon the next month with Lindsay and my family there supporting me in Lowell, MA, an Olympic distance race. I came in 15 of 86 and 3rd in my age group. Then I did another Olympic, and my first Half Ironman in Vermont, with more family in 4:48.20 catching 2nd in my age group. 2 weeks later was an official 70.3 Syracuse Half Ironman in a lousy 5:00.11 due to a stupid flat. But, had I actually stayed for the 70.3 World Championships roll-down, I would have gotten in. Shortly after that race I would go on to PR with a 3:06 marathon in Vermont before making the move to Australia unable to secure an IM spot in 2011 since I had no idea where I would be one year from then.

I joined the running club and triathlon club in Alice Springs always falling behind to a very strong competitor Ben Streeter in most races. In March 2011, I finally was able to secure an IM spot in New Zealand 2012. Then, the North American Ironman Championships, the NYC Ironman popped up. Selling out in 10 minutes at a cost of $800/entry, I didn’t get in. But my family seeing me and how far I came was so important to me that I signed up for next newest Ironman event, Ironman Mont-Tremblant on August 19th 2012.

IRONMAN

So that is my history, the lead up to my entry. Looking back, it’s pretty obvious how I attack my life and the opportunities, the passion and love of my life, and God’s grace in giving me the ability to see, hear, breath, and touch.

By September 2011 my left Plantar Fascia in my foot was killing me. I finally saw some Podiatrists and Orthopedists. I had a moderate sized tear. Knowing what had actually happened to my foot, it couldn’t have come at a worse time. You need 9 months to prepare for an Ironman, and with 6 months to IM NZ I had to stop running. I took 3 months entirely off from running and the foot was worse; it typically takes 6 months to a year to heal Plantar Fasciitis. Coming back from a NZ holiday in January, I had to do more for IM’NZ. I got 2 Platelet Rich Plasma injections in my foot from a Podiatrist that serves the Australian Olympians from Darwin. I got customized orthodics and got a chiropractor. But the running had to pick up. I started running and made it through, the foot was healing due to this newer revolutionary science where your own bloods plasma is injected into the injured area. Even today, it’s not perfect, I wear orthodics every day but it’s not unbearable. I am still healing. So I went to NZ and it was cut in half, I went 4:53, whatever, it wasn’t what I went there for. So IM came out and offered $250 entry into another IM event. Cairns was a very easy decision to make. 3 months later I would hopefully get to compete.

The story continues. I knew I needed to ramp up my training. I needed volume and more volume. I had 2 weeks of 15 hours and one week of 20 hours but with work and my girlfriend Lindsay and my dog Sydney, it was too much. The next cycle put me on 14 hours a week on average swimming 1-3 times per week, running 3-6 times per week and cycling 3-6 times per week. I was getting there. My weight dropped from 194lbs in January to 178lbs and 5% body fat in May. On the race front, I went 2nd in an Olympic, 1st in a Sprint, 1st in an Ultra, 2nd in a 5k setting a PR of 18:48, 1st in a 5k, 1st in a 5k, 2nd in a 5k. I knew I was ready coming into Cairns.  It had been at least 2 years since I wanted to do an Ironman. But, with the job, moving to Australia, having to buy entry 1 year in advance, and a cancelled event, clearly its difficult and challenging to just get to the starting line.

CAIRNS

I arrived with Lindsay in Cairns on Sunday, one week before the race. The weather was cloudy and rainy every day in Tropical North Queensland. We snorkeled the reef and touched a turtle, we hit up the class III/IV White water Tully River, and lounged around watching movies and eating food. Who knew what Sunday would bring. But enough about this, lets get to Sunday already!

MY IRONMAN

I woke up at 4:45AM put on my 2XU compression Tri suit, timing chip, pants, shoes, sweatshirt. I ate a muffin, banana, and a Monster energy drink. I got my helmet, wet suit, and gear bag, and kissed Lindz. Then, I met up with Dean, one of the 7 Alice Springs Ironman Competitors. We walked the 15 minutes to Transition 1. I pumped up my tires that I had filled with Stans puncture sealant the day before, put my 2 cold Ironman Perform bottles on my bike, turned on the Garmin 500 GPS and then with my bike being only 10 feet away from 2x Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack, I went up to him wished him best of luck and shook his hand. 10x Ironman Champion Cameron Brown and all the other pro’s were there as well. I turned in my bag and walked over to the waters edge, sitting down next to other competitors and supporters. By this time, it’s maybe 6:15AM. I had 45 minutes to the start and 30 minutes till access to the pier because there were 1,500 Half Ironman competitors set to go off before us. I looked out towards the Great Barrier Reef and saw an orange sky with barely any clouds, I looked back to the rainforest to make sure and sure enough, no clouds there either. It was going to be an unbelievable day and nothing like NZ. I stretched for 15 minutes, put my Xterra Wetsuit on, lined up, and then headed to the pier.

I aimed for more of an outside lane and waited with the other 850 starters and watched the Pro’s go 5 minutes before us. I checked my brand new goggles and peed myself just to make sure I was all set to go! Then we were off. Over the 2 lap course I would get kicked in the face once, have my feet touched and multiple times, but it wasn’t the mass chaos of 1,600 competitors of New Zealand. I was checking my splits, feeling pretty good and thought I would break 1:10, my goal. Unfortunately, I came in 1:14.17 362 out of the water. I think I really slowed down over the last 800 meters even though I was taking multiple 10 count strokes for form and pressure. {Going forward, I need to take off at least 4 minutes in this swim. I’ll do this by taking a better line and pushing myself harder}. Even though there were alligator signs and no one swims in the water right in from of Cairns because of this, there were no fatalities.

T1 took me 4:05 and was a ¼ mile run. I saw Lindz before I entered T1 got my bag, wet suit off, put my race belt with my bib on it and then ran to get my bike with sunglasses on and putting my bike gloves on while getting there. I picked up the bike ran and jumped on. I moved on the bike and put my feet in my shoes and velcrow-ed them shut. 30 seconds later I saw Lindsay again through the massive crowds. After some turns, I arrived at the Captain Cook Highway and headed north to Port Douglas.

From the minute I hit the bike I started passing people and this would continue for the rest of the day. The smooth roads were glorious compared with the crappy Alice Springs Bitumen roads there. The sun was shinning brightly; it was 84 degrees. My bike was loaded with close to 1600 calories including a protein bar and 10 energy gels. I ate them every 20 minutes and grabbed 2 new bottles at each aid station. I’m very glad I loaded up my bike because not all of the aid stations carried gels or banannas. It was really about getting a bottle of water to put on my face, arms, and legs. And then the electrolyte drink I would drink. I did 2:30 for the half, saw Macca and the Pro’s pass, the helicopter above me and off to the sides. The pace would slowly fall apart with the hills of 6% and I would get some on the descents where I hit a max of 41.1 MPH. Knowing the course from the previous years relay team, I improved my time by 2 minutes and stayed quite consistent. I saw one other person with my bike, had my name called out in Port Douglas from the announcers, saw beautiful vistas and really had a lot of fun out there. I felt so good. I was really hydrated and had a nutrition plan that really really worked for me. I didn’t see the crocodiles at the bridge as some other people did. At mile 95, I had a first. I peed all over my $10K bicycle. Yep, I had to. I looked back to see if anyone was there but there were a lot of times where there was no one in front or in back of me which was great. I emptied another bottle of water all over me to clean myself up! Ah, the things we triathletes do to save a couple seconds!

Over the course of the ride I just rode, I wasn’t thinking only 100 miles to go, only 80 miles to go. I really did have fun out there. I was looking at my temporary IM Tattoo on my arm thinking this is your day, this is what you came here to do, You ARE going to DO THIS. With 2 miles to go, I took my gloves off, got my feet ready and thought of what I was going to do once I hit transition. I put my feet on my shoes, came off to the side for quick transfer to running, passed off my bike, got my bag, into the tent, and wiped off my muddy feet from the grass. Put my brand new Asics Noosa Tri 7 shoes on my bare feet, visor on and took off. Out of T2 in 1:57 which ranked 3rd in my age group and 26th out of the entire field! Although my first mile was a 7:52 those first few steps were painful.

By this time it was 1:45pm hot and humid with no cover. My entire core was cramped coming off the bike even though mentally I felt great. Thanks to the books and articles I have read, and the 14 marathons previously run, I didn’t panic. Aid stations were every 1.8 miles so I thought just get to the aid station. You’ll eat and drink and feel better. Get your run legs back. The first aid station and everyone there after was the same. I would run to the start of the aid station: water on the head, eat banana and watermelon in 1 mouthful, drink the flat coca cola, 2 cups of ice in my suit in the front, 2 down the back, more cola drinking, water on the head, and another cup of ice down the front. With the help of Macca’s book and just going through the first aid station, I just came up with the perfect strategy. I was cooling my core, getting my glucose levels up, and getting back my form. Within 5K I was back and I felt great.

True, the legs hurt but I would be running 7:30ish miles and then walk the aid station. It was a great combination. I really wanted to break 3:30 and was watching my splits come down from an 8:22 average to an 8:10 but I never got below the 8:10 barrier. By mile 14/16 it started creeping up but slowly. I was evenly splitting the run and still feeling really good. I never thought, only 20 miles to go, only 15 miles to go. I was running past the Sugar Cane fields, next to the worlds oldest rainforest (300 million years) and picking person after person. I saw the Pro’s, cheered on Macca, saw Lindsay 5 times and other Alice Springs Support crews; it was great. I also saw nearly all of my mates out there. Next time, I need to push harder and work harder to get that sub 8 and then really work to keep it there. The Esplanade was lined with thousands and thousands of people cheering all of us on. We were able to see everyone multiple times in the 2 lap course. And there it was

2K to go, 200 meters to go. I started celebrating, having felt great all day long, having come so far in 3 years 9 months. Hands up, cheering on the crowd, cow bells and more cowbell. I hit the runners shoot, arms wide out, hands up, I crossed. An Ironman Finisher. I would run a 3:37.15 and finish in 10:08.24, 68th of 800. I went from position 362 in the swim to 89 on the bike to 68 on the run. I came in 6th in my division.

Towel around me, Medal around the neck, escorted to the massage tent, I would lie there face down, getting rubbed down and thanking the Lord for the day and everything he had blessed me with. I always knew how much I loved God, Jesus, but until I completed this event I didn’t know just how much. Everything I have is because of him, what I’ve been blessed with and by trying to do my best day in and day out no matter what that may be, by using your body and pushing it to the best of it’s abilities, bringing out the truly best that it can do, as Ryan Hall says, “It glorifies and Praises the Lord.”

The rest of the story goes that I spent $261 to change my flight to the next day because I thought I had a good chance to get to Kona, but only 2 spots were given which went to the first 2 competitors, one of them being my friend Tim who did an insane time of 9:22.25 and took 18th overall. But, it was great to go to the awards dinner, see and hear from the Pro’s and also sit next to a guy who went 9:19 taking 3rd in his division of Males 35-39 who earned a Kona spot.

GOING FORWARD

Now I’m flying at 30,000’ looking over the red center below me heading back to Alice Springs wearing my Ironman Finisher polo and hat. I have 4 races in Alice between now and IM Mont Tremblant including 2 half marathons, the first next weekend. I’ll make sure to recover between now and then, and then get right back into it with a solid 5 weeks of training, then if all goes to plan, I’ll be in Canada, on the start line ready to set a PR and get the ultimate goal, the hardest thing for a non-professional age-grouper athlete to do; earn a spot in the Ironman World Championship. If it doesn’t happen then, then I’ll sign up to do Challenge Wanaka on January 19th, 2013 in Wanaka, New Zealand, and I will try to get into Ironman Western Australia for December 2013. I also have to set a marathon PR and break that 3 hour barrier next year.

THANK YOU

This wasn’t a recap, it was a story. I’m passionate about many things in my life and this is clearly right at the top. It has consumed me over the last 4 years and while you may have known some of my story, I hope I have rubbed off some positive vibes for you through my message. Thanks to Lindsay for the love and support, my family and friends, Trevor, Anthony, Sean, Jess, Alice Springs Triathlon and everyone else who helped make this possible. Thanks for reading and please share this with anyone you want to try and inspire! God Bless you.

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