ASTC: Tavis Johannsen Ultra 2017


It’s long, as always but I hope you enjoy it.


Just over 10 months ago Deb, Tami, Lynn, and Pete surprised me along with Fiona by coming to OLSH parish in Alice Springs for the 5:30pm mass. It was the weekend before heading to Ironman Cairns and they wanted to show their support for me in my attempt to qualify for the Ironman World Championships. They believed in me, believed that I would get it done. It truly was meant to be and just over 1 week later I received my Kona Qualification. These people, to me are family. They know that I’m a man of faith and it’s not just from the massive tattoo of Jesus Christ on my forearm. But just because I have this tattoo and the words “Passion and Love” as well as “Grace and Peace”, it doesn’t mean I am perfect. No, like all humankind, I am a sinner and by no means perfect. As a Roman Catholic it is my belief that we should be as much like Jesus as possible, knowing how difficult that is because of our many flaws from human nature: jealousy, bitterness, and judgement just to name a few. It was around this time that my adversary stopped talking to me; someone that I had known for more than 5 years, trained with and raced with. And as the signs of disrespect mounted, so did my pain and internal struggle. But that turned around today and the spirit of Tavis Johannsen through the amazing works of God showed why sport can empower people, lift spirits, and help to heal invisible wounds. Today I competed in the Tavis Johannsen Memmorial Triathlon and by most measures, it was my best ever triathlon.


After the weekend in Stawell, Victoria to see Brad and Emma race in The Gift as well as have our own adventures we flew home on Tuesday to Alice Springs. Into the pool for Robs Set 1 4k swim followed by a 60min lift of 4sets x 8 w/ 1min rec on increasing weight. I decided to do squats and regretted it for the next 4 days.

Wednesday was a 30min run at work, a 2hr30min easy ride on the trainer and road bike, and a 16min brick with legs truly feeling like bricks from the lift.

Thursday, a faster 30min run at work, a 4.1k swim set from Coach Robbo, and 30min rec on the trainer.

Friday I felt fine but getting off the bus I suddenly felt like crap. I felt a fever running though my skin. I did some errands then went for a 60min goal run that was a total failure. 20min into the run I felt like total crap and felt my skin on fever pitch. I managed another 5min but then had to walk back home 30min. I crawled into bed, took some Echinacea, Flu medicine, and tried to sleep but had had a Monster only 90min before. Part of the Cairns Crew (Nat 70.3 and Duncan (IM)) came over for dinner. I made a vegan meal of Lentil Vegetable Soup and Mushroom Brown Rice Risotto. Fi made a cous cous salad all from the excellent book Simple, Tasty, Good. We finished 2 bottles of white and I was feeling much better. I coached them about the Tavis which was going to be Nat’s longest race yet. I went through the Cairns IM as well having done it twice before. It was a great night and the plan was to ride in the AM with Cairns supporter Chelsea.

At 3AM Fiona woke up in agonizing pain. She had varicose vein surgery and a lump formed. She thought it was a clot and we didn’t know what to do. She said Sydney was lying on her leg. She had some aspirin and we went to bed. We ditched the ride and slept in till 9am. She felt better when we woke up and this was to be expected for 12 weeks post-op.

I reluctantly went for a ride to Standley Chasm for 3hr2min for the 105km ride. TSS was 161.6 and the effort was solid. After a Normatec session I fit in a 1hr easy treadmill run and 30min of core. We headed to the Alice Springs Running and Walking Club Barret Mile. I didn’t do it because a) I wasn’t going to win b) I’m not fast c) I didn’t want to break anything d) the Tavis was the next day. But Fiona did it and in her 3rd run in 6 weeks post-op she took 3rd place in 6:08 just getting edged out at the finish. She got $250 for the 6minutes of work vs Emma’s $1,000 and 2nd places $500. We had a vegetarian dinner at the Juicy Rump with Garlic Bread and fresh Loaf bread. It was very tasty. We also had 1 Cider each.

The 7th Annual Tavis Johannsen Ultra RACE DAY

Up at 5AM for the 7AM start. 2 Pieces of white bread w/ vegan butter. Gear together and over to the ASALC. In the car I drink my 200mg Caffeine ARO supplement. (About 3 cups of coffee). Set up transition. Vaseline on ankles and wrists, wetsuit on. G’day and G’d luck to all my mates. Shot Bloks pack 15min before. I had lane 3 all to myself with Sean and Ben in the lane next to me and Nat and Deb in the other. Fiona and her sister Jennifer a few lanes over and didn’t look at anyone else. No warm up whatsoever.

SWIM 2,000 Meters – 29:51 (2nd out of the water, Personal Best)

I have a new $700 TYR Cat 5 wetsuit but it’s not going in chlorine so I used by Xterra Vector Pro with USA Scody Sleeved Tri Suit fully zipped up. At go, Ben took off. He quickly put in a body length on me. This is someone I fully respect and will never discount him. He kept moving to a few meters of gap and I thought to just stick to my own race. I also thought he was trying to mess with me. By the 275m I was back on his feet, with him at the wall, and by 300m I was in the lead (or so I thought). I kept consistent on 1:27/m-1:30/m pace and kept moving. By the 800m Sean caught back up to Ben and they were swimming side by side. Nat to my right was also doing great and leading her lane. The 500m splits were: 7:17, 7:35, 7:31, 7:28. Clearly the 1:17 for the first 100m made me a bit tired for the 2nd quarter. Compared with the Olympic two weeks ago where I went 7:17, 7:27, 7:25, I was slower and the arms felt heavy and not fresh. I skipped Robs session on Saturday but I think it was still best. This is my fastest pool triathlon race but I did cover 4k in 60min on Big Day Out one year ago. It’s a PB and fastest Tavis Swim improving from 35:14, 32:40, 30:18 over the last 5 years. Breaking 30minutes was my goal. Mission accomplished.

Transition 1 – 1:20

I get to the bike rack expecting that I’m #1 since I covered Ben and Sean by a good 80meters. I look over and see Duncan. “Are you serious???!!! Did you really just friggen do that??” I yell over to him in complete disbelief. “I have a good coach”, the smart-ass responds referring to myself and Robbo. Now Duncan certainly didn’t pull my Tavis Debut where I jumped out at the 1km thinking I had completed the 2km distance and stripping wetsuit off in freezing weather and either way it wouldn’t matter. But, I did beat him by 10minutes at Ironman New Zealand only 7 weeks ago. It’s ON in CAIRNS MATE!!!

BIKE 60KM – 91minutes, 60.2km, 131avg/hr, 266 avg power, 268NP, 119.3TSS, 89%IF

It took me 4minutes to catch up and make the pass on Duncan to take the lead. My plan was to stick at 90% IF based off my current FTP of 301. The legs felt a bit heavy but I was cranking away with my new Ceramic Speed Pulley system and my rear disc on. I had the aero helmet on as well and staying low. I felt something hit my foot and there went bottle 1. I had on my to do list to buy XLAB Gorilla Cages for the rear, done. By the turn around I had 2min into Duncan, 3min into Ben Gooley, 4min into Ben, 5min into Sean. Fiona had past her sister and was 10min back. I hit the 20km in 30min. I was eating 3 Clif Shot Bloks every 20-30min and had 3 salt tablets drinking electrolyte drinks of 2 bottles. I hit the 40km in 60min and the gap was growing. On the Stuart Highway I noticeably backed off the intensity with the goal of staying above 40kph and picking it up back into town; that was a mistake and clearly cost me a sub 1:30 time which was my goal. But HR was right on Ironman effort and speed was good. I finished losing a minute on lap 3 and finished with my fastest longest ride ever. This was an improvement since 2011 from 1:44, 1:40, 1:25 (shorter course), 1:35 (5min flat), to this years 1:31. It’s not only the fastest ride, but the most powerful ride in terms of watts and IF.


I thought about Tavis a lot during this part. Each year coming into this race I pray to Tavis; a guy I never knew but had more passion about this sport than anyone around. He’s an absolute legend having been one of the founding members of Cyclezone Mooloolaba and I pay respects to him and race hard with the hope of honoring him and the legacy he has left. For if it were not for him and the earliest members of this club, I would not have met my wife, raced in Kona, or had the family I do here in Alice Springs. I felt his spirit help me on the day and would see it in all its glory soon enough.

T2 – 1:10

I put on my USA Socks and new Wattie Ink USA Cap to complete the USA ensemble. It’s been a year with the ASTC gear sitting in a drawer and I didn’t want to rub it in people’s faces that I and Fiona are members of Darwin Triathlon Club.

RUN 15KM – 1:08:23 – 14.5km – 133HR


It was my slowest run out of my 5 Tavis’s. I expected this since I’m still up about 3-4kg from the holidays, I’ve been averaging 70km/week, I don’t feel fresh, and the Tuesday lift session. It’s not an excuse nor the warmer temperatures and I know I have so much improvement to make on my run but I am working on it and will continue to stick to my Cairns plan. I’m pretty much in the same swim and bike fitness as a year ago and know what to do differently over these next 7 weeks. Last year I held 140HR; that clearly translated to faster times, fatigue is obvious. But I did finish first setting the course record and besting my time from last year by more than a minute to 3:11:45.


I ran 40minutes more of cool down supporting many of my family and friends and had the support of people like Deb who came out there just for me. Fiona ended up taking 2nd to her sister since she’s literally done nothing in 6 weeks and her sister is on school holidays, putting in training to beat up on her younger sister! Great job Jennifer! Unfortunately, our Nat didn’t take the expected 3rd position because in typical crazy Alice Springs fashion, a pit pull with no owner in sight nipped at Nat and got her. Hopefully Nat will be faster in Cairns to beat out the crocs!

At one point during the day, I was approached by my adversary. This person extended their hand to me and made a peace offering. It’s all I wanted to hear. I wished this person the best and believed I had finally received the respect that I was looking for from at least this one person. On this day, I knew it was Tavis’s doings.

Fi and I spoke with Tavis’s parents who came to the race. It was hard for them. They lost their son way too early in life, leaving behind an entire family, a community. They spoke about his passion and love for the sport, for the comradery. It makes me reflect on my triathlon journey and knowing that using Tavis’s roots of Triathlon in the Northern Territory as my personal foundation to Coach Fiona, Karen, and myself to the Ironman World Championship would have been something that Tavis would have nothing but respect and admiration for.

I know many were shocked about the result. This was Jennifers second race in Alice Springs and she did phenomenal. To me it seemed like she wanted Fiona to have it. Duncan was even more obvious that my record and 10min win over him did not earn him the Perpetual Trophy. But, I am not on the ASTC committee like I was for more than 2 years, I don’t RD anymore like I did for 10+ triathlons, or support in anyway. No, when Olympic finisher Miles Stewart came to Alice Springs, Fiona and I left the committee, joining a club 1,500km away. Thank fully, I was only able to race today because of my conversation with Miles a couple weeks ago. There’s many other things that I could say but instead typed it here: Duncan, Jennifer, I won the NT Duathlon Championship trophy back in 2012 on a similar “technicality”. The #1 & #2 athletes come from Western Australia. So I’ve been on the receiving end of this type of situation. You have earned these my brother and sister, enjoy it.

I love triathlon so much. It is a massive peace of me (and my skin). This club gave me so much and while it is clear that there have been many ups and downs over the last 6 ½ years, today was a highlight. My Best Ever Triathlon. But the bigger highlight was the character that can be brought out of people through sport on the basis of a legacy of substance.

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