PORT MACQUARIE IRONMAN RACE REPORT
Its Saturday 9th May, a week has gone by already since I completed the Port mac ironman. Its 120pm and Im sitting in the car travelling back home to Alice springs, feeling sick from an overdose of subway cookies, donuts and more unhealthy food Im too embarrassed to type/admit to. It seems to be a ritual post ironman races, I feel like I can say ‘I did an ironman’ to justify pushing the most deep fried, sugar loaded, chocolate coated items into my mouth. Maybe this time, being vegetarian and eating pretty healthy for the last 6 months, and sitting in a bumpy, warm car, I may have pushed my iron stomach too far…. ok time to take my mind off sugar and onto a race report J
Leading up to the race, all week in Port Mac it was pouring rain, even thunderstorms at times (we delayed our practice swim that Thursday morning by an hour as there was lightning over the swim course :-0). The weather iron gods came good again though and race morning the weather was perfect – the water so calm and hardly any wind and no rain! Up at 4am for a muffin and red bull then off to transition for the usual bike checks. For the first time I put in a special needs bag for the bike that I really would use – a red bull and a full bottle of coke. I was surprised that the bike course this year only offered water and endura, no coke, and for most of my long training rides I had found a big benefit in using coke for the sugar and caffeine hit, I just hoped the bottle I was placing in special needs wasn’t going to explode (I had learnt the hard way on one 5 hour bike ride that you can’t put coke into a drink bottle and expect the fizz to disappear….my white bike became brown and sticky that day)
I lined up right next to my husband, who looked like a furseal lined up with a few thousand others, ready to slip into the poo brown water that awaited them. We decided to line up in the sub one hour holding pen, knowing that our goal times were around there, so we placed ourselves somewhere in the middle of this line. Five at a time the swimmers were released from the pen and allowed to enter the water, running over the timing mat to officially start their race. I held Kevins hand up until the waters edge, kissing him and wishing him luck before running off into water to start off my 5th ironman race. The water was colder than the day before, even taking my breath away a bit. I tried to push the pace for the first few hundred metres to stay on Kevins toes but lost him quickly (I have now retired from being his swim coach since he beat me by nearly a minute on the swim, well done husband J). For the whole swim I tried to keep finding feet to draft off but was surprised that I had to pass a lot of swimmers (later finding out that a lot of people probably seeded themselves higher than they actually swam). The water was so brown that I couldn’t see my hand in front of me, and a few times I felt my hand on top of someones back and with nowhere to go I had to swim over them to get into clear water, sorry! Highlight of the swim was definitely crossing the weir – the swim went along a river with a weir cutting across it just before the half way mark, meaning we had to go up some stairs to get up and over this and back into the water. On my second weir crossing I must have looked a little tired – as I approached the stairs I remember two men in red volunteer shirts grabbing me by the arms and literally lifting me out of the water onto the weir platform. I quickly said thankyou, ran across the platform stopping for a second to take in the amazing view – thousands of swimmers looking like a giant trail of ants in the water spanning a few kilometres over the river, not too many times you get to see this while in the middle of an ironman swim! I couldn’t help but smile and quickly ran and jumped back into the water to join everyone. Swim time 56minutes
I quickly entered transition, sat on the chair while volunteers ripped the wetsuit off, and empty the contents of my bike bag gear all over the ground (the volunteers in an ironman are amazing and do nearly everything for the athletes on race day, undress you, redress you, feed you….. its awesome!). I quickly put on the helmet, sunglasses, socks, shoes and as much nutrition my pockets could handle and ran out to the bike, just as I got there I heard the announcer call ‘Kevin Coyle from Alice Springs’ over the start of the bike course, I was only about 20metres behind him! I realised he must have beaten my swim time, damn, hopefully by not too much, and knew he was off to a good start in his race. Once on the bike you make your way through town over quite a few hills, which was bumpy enough to allow my bottle of Gatorade to pop out off my bike. NOOOO I screamed, maybe a little too load as everyone around me suddenly looking over as if I had killed a baby meerkat… I made a mental note of the extra fluids I would need to pick up at the next aid station to make up for that… The bike course was fun – enough hills to keep you working but some nice flat bits to get aero and try and get some speed up. I saw a few girls in my age group pass me early on but just tried to focus on holding the power I knew my legs could handle for a 180km ride. About an hour into the ride I saw my old Melbourne tri club coach, who was racing as well, at the side of the road fixing a flat tire. He looked up and smiled and cheered me on, still being an amazing, supportive coach despite the bad luck he was having in his own race. The bike course was 2 laps and the fatigue started to hit on the second lap. I grabbed the special needs bag just at the right time and skulled nearly a full bottle (1 litre!) of coke hoping for the sugar and caffeine to work its magic. Fast forward about 30minutes and the magic happened, I started to feel really good again, helping me to push through a head wind that was growing on the second lap. After 8 shot blocks, 5 bottles of endura, 1litre of coke and 5hours 32 minutes of peddling I made my way into the transition again
42.2kilometres of running…….. but not once did I think that I had to cover this distance. Breaking anything down into smaller pieces makes it easier and this is so true in an ironman, especially, I find for the run. Today I wasn’t running a marathon, just 22 repeats of 2 kilometres, where at the end of each of these I would get rewards such as coke, red bull, lollies, water and a 30 second walk…..easy! One of my key goals for this race was to run a 3:30 marathon but as soon as my legs hit the run course I knew this would be tough. The hills on the bike had chewed them up more than I had anticipated and holding the 4:45min/km pace I had planned for felt too hard. My mind was quick to become negative due to this and having a few girls from my age group float past me, running a lot faster, I found it hard to not get even more negative. Thankfully I soon saw my mum on the sidelines and then Kevin on the course and that was enough to get some focus back and keep a half decent pace. It was a constant battle though, the legs were tired, periods of dizziness and nausea, knees giving way, pain from my toes (note to self to not wear new socks in a race – 7 toe blisters as a result!) and just constant arguments with that voice that tells you you are going too slow and its ok to walk…. I tried to stick with it though, didn’t once walk up that one big hill and kept running as fast as I could with a smile on my face, finishing the marathon in a time of 3hrs45min
At the finish line as the time ticked over 10hours 21minutes I saw him waiting there, waiting in the rain, arms wide open, my husband with the biggest smile on his face, ready to welcome me home. Finishing an ironman is such an amazing feeling, something I don’t believe you can really put into words but just have to have to experience it yourself, but to have the love of your life, your best friend, your coach, your husband also there at that same finish line also having finished that same race, just multiplies that feeling by a million. I couldn’t be any luckier in life.
At the awards presentation the following night, a 93yr old age grouper world ironman champion was being interviewed and put into words why I love ironman so much, he said ‘for the shorter races you can just get through on not much work, but in ironman YOU HAVE TO DO THE WORK’. The race will show you your strengths both physically and mentally, it will reward you with a finish to justify the dedication and training you did to successfully complete such a long race. But it will also show you your weaknesses, the areas you brushed over in training, the gaps in your body and mind that will slow you down.
Time to do more work!!
- 7 toe nails blisters (soon to be 7 lost toenails!)
- 1464mg of caffeine consumed (equals about 14 cups of coffee)
- Resting HR at 2am after race morning: 105bpm
- Husband beats the wife in all three legs of the race (never to happen again J)
- First time under one hour for the swim, 5 minute PB
- Being called over the line by the voice of Ironman Mike Reily for the first time
- First time crossing the line as a Coyle!
And just in case you were wondering what my toenails look like….……………………