Ironman Cairns – Big Day Out #1


April 16, 2016

It’s that time of season again. 8 weeks out from race day which means one thing, Big Day Out (BDO). An 8 hour endurance test day fully dedicated to Ironman training, all at race pace. Start with a 1 hour swim, 90min rest, 5 hour ride, 90min rest, and then do a 2 hour run; all at race pace, race day gear, race day nutrition. I’m not the genius behind this but our “Coach”, Coach Joe Friel from his book Your Best Triathlon. Fiona and I have used this book as our primary resource for the last 5 seasons and recruited some of our closest friends onto this plan. I have also helped coach several 70.3 athletes, triathlon newbies, and future Ironman athletes under this plan, modified for their experience.

We’re in Build 1 at the end of week 3 of the prescribed periodization plan. This past week was eh, not very good. While training 25.5hours the prior two weeks, last Sundays Olympic Triathlon of 2:09 followed by a 5 hour bike ride, and core training totaled 8+ hours for the day and really wiped me out for the next 2 days. As a result, I struggled to recover and saw my fatigue levels really climb under Strava Premier. I tried to get to bed early and use active recovery and by Wednesday night started feeling better. At one point I thought of getting a Kangaroo Steak but then said screw it; I fuel on plants.

Thursday, the carbo loading began. At 81KG, my goal was to get in 12g of carbs per KG. I did this for Day 1 and Day 2 while training 5 ½ hours mostly in Z1/Z2 or Rec/AE. Having not eaten that much shit in a while, the sugar was very noticeable as it has the same effect on the brain as cocaine, as the studies say; (No, I’ve never had cocaine). I consumed 1 ½ packages of Starburst Snakes, 10+ LCMs, 4 liters of Sprite, 3 bananas, 2 apples, half a loaf of white bread, etc.

After Pad Thai with Tofu and a few glasses of red wine from Keuka, New York I was in bed at 8:30PM on Friday night.

1 Hour Swim

5:30AM Wake up. 2 Pieces of white toast with vegan butter and jam, medium Red Bull, and a medium banana. Music on, and rolling on the roller since the quads felt nasty. 7:00AM Vega Energizer drink and out the door at 7:10AM. 7:15AM a package of Clif Shot Bloks at the gates to the ASALC town pool. Fi and I training for Ironman Cairns were joined by Lynn & Dee training for 70.3 Busselton, Duncan 70.3 Cairns, Nat tri newbie, and Tami in for the Tavis Johannsen Ultra. We took over half of the 50m pool thanks to the help of the ASALC and a volunteer lifeguard who made off with $40 for his kind service. We got some photos together after getting some arm workouts pulling back the tarps and into the water we go. I gave some “Coaching Instructions” and then 3 – 2 – 1 – GO!

I haven’t figured out how to lap the 920XT without including a rest interval so I just kept going the whole time which was pretty motivating. 14:41 for the 1K, 22:02 at the 1.5K, 27:38 for the 1.9K 29:38 for the 2K, 57:01 for the 3.8K swim (all PBs in a pool). With my goal of finally hitting 4K in 1 hour (best prior was 3,930 meters), I knew I had to go. So I kicked and pushed hard while maintaining my form and hit the 4K at 59:59 holding on to 1:29’s for the last 200! The swim felt really good. I was excited to swim in my wetsuit again since the last time was at Busso. My form has dramatically improved through the things we’ve incorporated and changed up a bit this season and it clearly showed. I was very consistent which was a double bonus. On average I swam 29 strokes per minute and 22 strokes per length which is a great improvement from where I’ve been but still have more to go. I burned 960 Calories.


5 Hour Bike Ride

It’s 4:22PM and we got back from the ride about 50 minutes ago and let me tell you, it was AWESOME!!!

After our 90min rest that included some stretching and a Clif Bar, we loaded our weapons (the bikes) and headed out. On board Shelly (Because the black/gray Scott Plasma Premium III always reminded me of the 1967 Ford Shelby Mustang 500 from the movie Gone in 60 Seconds), I had 3 bottles. 1 had water, 1 had Endura, and the other clear bottle had 8 Winners Tropical Gels filled with water. I also had in my Ironman Fuel Cell, 4 packages of Clif Shot Bloks with Caffiene. I bought $150 worth of Endura and $150 worth of Winners Gels to actually try using the fuel that will be on the course. I had the rear disc on, my Scody USA Sleeved Tri Suit, and Rudy Project Wing 57 helmet on (without visor because too much sweat gets on my prescription sunglasses inside).


I came up with the route of the N. Stuart highway to the Tropic of Capricorn, coming back to town, and climbing ANZAC Hill as this will best replicate Cairns with hills, wind, and a steep f***ing climb. Looking at this seasons FTP tests of 313, 300, 300 and past BDO’s, my goal was to hold 240NP-250NP on HR of 130-135.

I got to the tropic in 50minutes at 40KPH. The tail wind helped put me from the high marker of the Stuart Highway to the tropic at 50-55KPH. I turned around and was still able to manage 32KPH into the headwind. I stayed down, aero, and fueled with 3 bloks every 15min and water every 5-10miutes. I saw Fi and she would have been 10min back by then. Also on the way up I saw all my mates who were at the swim this morning! Duncan, Nat, Lynn, Dee, Tami. All doing their own efforts as I had suggested and it really made me feel good to see them out there.

Back in town, I climbed ANZAC hill and as I climbed the 17% grade I was thinking to just get up it. It freaken hurt and HR climbed from 130 to 149 and power climbed from 240 to 550! At the bottom and across the street and I engulfed a 500ml Coke-Cola at 1hr45min in. I filled up the empty bottles and headed back. I was putting further distance into Fi and saw Dunc again as well. Near the top of the “hills” I thought I had a flat on the rear wheel and then all of a sudden got a fanga bite on the front wheel. I looked at the Brightside and saw how quick I could fix her. It was around 5minutes thank you C02, and on my way I go.

Finish loop two, climbing ANZAC hill again, which hurt way more than the first time, back to the Servo, and another 500ml of Coke-Cola which was absolutely hitting the spot at 3hr20min in. I realized then I’d be heading to the tropic for the 3rd time. Bam. Back up, back down and feeling strong. I felt really good out there and positive even on the road with no speed limit. No Cars past me at 200-300KM but there were at least 20-30 road trains and coming in to town on the 2nd trip I was 1-2 meters off a 50meter long road train at 40KPH, crikey! Fi said she had to get off the road 5x due to cars coming both ways.


Back at home and I was so happy with my results I held 243NP at 81% IF, my HR at 128 was the lowest its been and low zone 2. My Variability Index was 2% so I was constant throughout and my aerobic decoupling was -.4% according to Golden Cheetah. This was the fastest ride I’ve ever done covering 185.8KM in 5hours on a course that is a decent replication of Cairns which climbs nearly 1,100 meters. In fact I was nearly 1KM faster than any other 5 hour ride including prior BDO’s.

After the bike I was down from 182.2lbs to 176.4lbs or 2.6KGS. I had no salt tablets as I was experimenting and seeing my body’s impact. I had a winners bar and 2 bottles of Gatorade then we headed to the gym to start the run at 5PM. 4,000 calories burned.


2 Hour Treadmill Run

We use the treadmill for multiple reasons including: consistent pacing, ease of mental focus, form, softer landing, no need to carry nutrition, music, safer etc. Using the mill saw drastic improvements for me at IMWA improving my IM marathon best from a 3:34 to a 3:26.

I started up the mill watching U2 Live from Stone Castle in Ireland. Almost immediately my entire core was in pain and cramping. From the front under the rib cage, around the sides, up the back ribs on both sides. I knew this feeling from my first Ironman Cairns and prior IM’s. It’s a feeling you can only do in a day of training like this. I told myself the same thing as Cairns’12 – “Just get to the next aid station”, well, just wait 20minutes and it will go away. But, it never did. I was plugging away at 4:39/km for the first 20min then 4:34/km for the next 40min and even though I felt mentally good, the body was suffering, but I covered 13KM in the first hour. Quick pitstop and down 1KG in hour 1. The cramping came back around almost immediately and at 1hr10min I found my motivation and an emotional moment. I decided then I was going to be dedicating my race at Cairns to Fiona, Karen & Jock McPherson, Dad & Donna, Mom & Tony as well as all my besties and closest supporters. And of course to all the Wounded Warriors who I am raising $1,406 for. PLEASE DONATE NOW: I was visualizing sitting on the ground at the Kona Roll Down at Busso and having Karen go up and then Fiona. It gave me purpose and was a great moment. Unfortunately, it was short lived and at 1hr20min I wanted to stop. The cramps were taking their toll and wreaking havoc on my body. I fought for 10minutes going to the darkest spot I’ve been in. But, I never found my way out. I stopped at 30min to go because I just needed a minute.

I told myself that I was doing great, my day was the best it’s been. I said that 30minutes was a freaken joke. That I could do that easily do that. I got back out there but the cramps were excruciating. 14minutes later, another stop. I started up again finding anything I could to get me through it, The Killers – Human, Bon Jovi – Born to be my Baby, Guns n Roses – Sweet Child of Mine. I did actually pick it up to 4:25/km for a minute on increasing pace but then backed off a bit just to hold on and finish fighting every minute till the end. By the end I was 173.4 pounds down 4KGS on the day and about 10,000 calories burned on the day. Damn salt. 2,240 calories burned on the run.

I managed 25.9KM over the 2 hours which is in-line with the first BDO from last season but slower than the 2nd. But, I never felt that bad before. 4 cans of coke and 1 bottle of electrolytes on the run, never got me back to where I needed to be to run smoothly. Learn by experience.


The day was a big success and after finishing with a massive recovery drink of Soy Milk, Chia Seeds, Brown Rice Protein, Mangoes, and Bananas and some leftover Endurox R4 (no longer consuming Whey Protein), we headed to Lynn’s where the entire group was there and we went over everyone’s day. We all had a great day with each person learning something from the highs and lows. I didn’t think that the family I found last season with Karen & Jock & Family, Deb & Mary, Matt & Family, Lynn & Pete was replicable but after a day like yesterday that unity is certainly coming close.


The last takeaways are what I was thinking about on the bike.

1)      My first 3 ironmans: Cairns, Mont-Tremblant, Wanaka were 10:08, 10:20, 10:39. While the courses increased in difficultly my training was composed of some rough plans I found, to just training, to an emailed plan through Wanaka. But then, in 2013 when I met Fiona and we started following Joe Friel’s book “Your Best Triathlon” I immediately set a 32min PB to 9:36, then 10:15 (Run bonk), 9:43, 9:22. So, it’s pretty clear that consistent training through a dedicated, purpose-built plan provides…results.

2)      I also thought of how this would be my last BDO on Shelly. I’ve bought a new bike which I have yet to unveil but wanted to honor this bike that has treated me so well. The bike with all its accessories will be for sale in the next few weeks. Thanks for the great times and adventures Shelly.

I hope you enjoyed reading this and that you were able to take away something positive away from it whether you are a triathlete or live a sedentary lifestyle.

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