Big day for me yesterday at ironman cairns, first time I'd cracked the top 10 as a professional! Yay! As with every IM (ironman) I've started I went in with lofty expectations. As always i had a reality check very early in proceedings reminding me this sport is no joke period! And at the professional level what it takes to be competitive is simply mind blowing! My preparation had gone perfectly to plan and I arrived in Australia Tuesday morning bright eyed and bushy tailed! Dad scooped me up from the Brisbane airport and I headed to Burleigh Heads for a couple of swimming sessions with the master Denis Cotrell at the Miami pool to put the finishing touches on what had been a great 8 week block since South Africa. On the wednesday evening session I was treated to meeting Doug Frost, Ian thorpes coach non the less aswell! I couldn't script better having two blokes watch over me for my final session before the big day and the fact I had the best swim ever yesterday is a direct result of there final pointers Wednesday evening, I pinch myself constantly the situations I find myself in and assure you I never take it for granted. With my swimming arms ready for battle it was off to cairns to put the feet up and wait for Sunday's race start. Dad and I linked up with mum in cairns and I had a very restful and stress free build up to the race which is highly uncharacteristic for me, usually I'm as chaotic as New York at peak hour! Instead I was in bed early Saturday and sound asleep, for the first time I felt ready to rock and roll.
Thanks to being on LA time I naturally woke at 4:30am Sunday morning. As expected felt sensational. I got down some breakfast and It was finally time to head to the start, I just wanted to start my pre race routine to settle the nerves, it's when I stop thinking about all the what iffs. With the bike all prepped I relaxed with mum and dad on the beach till 30min before race start when I start to get dressed and do my warmup, I couldn't believe how organized I was!!! After a little swim and final good luck hug front the parents it was finally time to get on the start line. I lined up strategically next to Clayton Fettel on one side and tim Joe Gambles on the other. I knew Clayton would be a fast starter and I know Joe would be in the lead chase group or main pack which is where I also wanted to be. Being beside Clayton however meant that if he went slow or I happened to get in the right spot on his feet I was there, highly unlikely but better to have both bases covered! I was ready!
The gun went off and as always I was one of the first into the water. I got a great start and but as expected Clayton and Josh (the megastar of the day) quickly took off. I was close to them but not close enough so waited for the next group of the big favorites and slotted onto there feet. I spotted tim van berkle and as the defending champ he was going to be in the wrong spot and followed him. Brayden Currie was to my left so I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. Once the race settled down a little I finally had a chance to think of the final pointers Doug and Denis had given me on Wednesday night. I couldn't believe the effect it had on my efficiency feeling the water better and breathing later in the stroke and I was all of a sudden doing what felt like half the stroke count that I normally would to go the same speed, everything was going perfectly. Barring a few stray arms and wacks to the back of the head from Brayden, I did give as good as I got I have to confess, the swim went by really smoothly. It was long before we where turning for the final few hundred meters to the beach and where previously I'd been hanging onto the front group for dear life I was now swimming to the front of the pack to get out of the water as high up as possible, completely unchartered waters for me pardon the pun!! We hit the beach and I was one of the first to stand, 4th to be precise as my mum took note of that!! I ran into transition with a big smile on my face, I was off to the perfect start.
My transition from swim to bike was a bit of a dogs breakfast. That work I did to get out up front quickly evaporated as I dicked around getting a drink and making sure my snazzy new oakley sunglasses where on straight!! Once i finally got on my bike I hit a small bump with 100m and my refillable hydration bottle flew from the cage sending it and my Garmin all over the rd. Fortunately I was so relaxed and in the perfect position in the field that I had the presence of mind to stop, lay my bike in the middle of the rd, run back, collect everything and put my system back together before setting off again. Must have been quite a sight to see what's meant to be a professional picking up his bits and pieces from all over the race course. With my diabolical transition process now behind me I was finally on my bike and in what I like to call my happy place.
I quickly regained contact with the main group containing the favorites and decided to stretch them out immediately. Josh and Clayton where 2minutes up the rd so my plan was to quickly leave the man field behind and get out of sight and then casually ride my way up to the lead duo. As I passed the group they had a bit off a go at following me so I squeezed out a few little 500+ watt bursts just to open a quick gap and I was gone. I knew they would ultimately let me go as I'm not a renowned runner. Once alone I settled into a nice comfortable rhythm around 300 watts and enjoyed the scenery while I rode across to the front pair. It took me around 60km to meander on up to them and I used this time to eat and drink as much as possible. My legs felt great, heart rate was through the roof but that's as for the first time ever I actually tapered my training off I think perfectly. Once with josh and Clayton I kept the same rhythm for another 20km or so where I grabbed my special needs bag and restocked for the second half of the ride. Once I sorted myself out there it was time to boogie and I began to push a little harder, the last 90km is where the race is really on.
Our lead at halfway was around 3minutes and by 120km it was out to 7. Clayton had dropped off and now. I only had Josh for company which really impressed me as I'd be lying if said I didn't try to drop him, on more than one occasion I twisted the throttle a little to see if I could rattle him but he stayed right there, really impressive. We continued to build our lead and at 150km we had almost 10min and just as I felt all couldn't be better that light headed feeling hit me again. The power quickly went from my legs and into my mind stressing as to what was going wrong, was it nutrition, hydration but It didn't matter. Josh smelt blood and like a real racer quickly attacked me hard and vanished down the captain cook HWY ahead of me while I scratched my head wondering how to get the power back to my pins. It's happened every race so I know the only option is to back off, drink and eat and prey the power comes back. This time it took about 20min to feel like I could perhaps attempt to run a marathon and Josh was now 2minutes ahead of me! I applied the peer again and started to real him in over the last 15km. If there's one thing I've learnt in ironman is never to give up as everyone goes through bad patches, i may have been lucky that mine was only 20minutes on the bike, at least at the very least I was still rolling! Better than on the run! I rallied in those final km's and closed to within 30seconds of Josh as we hit T2. When my feet hit the pavement I felt like a new man and as I'd raced Josh on south Africa where I was able to out ran him, I honestly felt like I was still in the drivers seat. It quickly became apparent I was wrong!
After my career best bike to run transition I took a few more seconds out of josh's lead as I hit the run course. Was nice to put the diabolical swim bike transition behind me! I settled into my rhythm really quickly which as my coach Tim Kerrison puts it to be uncomfortably comfortable. While it would be nice to feel like your cruising on a sunday stroll the reality is your racing professionally so I doubt it's possible to compete at that level without feeling like your having a bit of a dig. For me this pace is very straight forward, 4:15-4:20 per/km pace and 180-185 cadence or strides per minute. At the first turn around after just 3km I noticed Josh had opened his lead up to 2minutes! He was running 30 seconds quicker per km!! At that point I knew I had to stick to my strategy as the only way I'd catch him is if he blew to pieces. After about 4km I got my first look at all the runners, tim van berkle, Braden currie, Joe gambles and Dave dellow. Once again they where flying and once again I knew I couldn't worry about them and run my own race.
My goal for the run was 3hrs 5min, a modest 6minute improvement on south africa and where I felt I was at in my running development. The plan was to get into my comfortable uncomfortable rhythm for the first 2 laps or 28km and then see where I was at. Sure enough one by one the big guns galloped past me. First Braden, the tim, the Dave. Joe seemed to drop off but instead he was sticking to his race plan. When he finally passed me around half way he told me to hang in there, those guys where flying and would pay for it at some point. I was blown away with how calm and relaxed he was and that he took the time to give me a little pep up, good old Tasmanian spirit right there! As I entered the last lap I felt great. My pacing hadn't wavered and I was still within touching distance of tim and Dave. I wanted to lift it but common sneer told me that 14km is still a long way to go so figured i'd hold fire for the final 9km when I passed the start finish for the final time if I had anything left. Josh was still flying and holding his lead, I was honestly in awe how he had raced the race, he just looked like he was going for it every stoke, pedal, and stride of the event, such a gutsy display. With 9km to go dad gave me the nod to lift the pace so was time to commit. I lifted up my arms and dropped my splits by 5-10seconds in pursuit of Dave dellow. Around 2km the finish I'd closed the 1 minute gap to him and 5th place but just as I got to him and looked like I fly by he just took off like a gazelle and was gone, he's a class act Dave and I saw first hand why people speak so highly of him and his ability to run. All off a sudden I was in difficulty and for the first time my stride rate slowed and everything felt heavy. Michael fox was now hot on my heels and in the process of running a 2:50 marathon himself. When he past me with 1km to go as much as my mind wanted to fight I just don't have the running legs to match the speed of these guys, they just have gears I can only dream off at the moment. I started the final lap aiming at 5th and by the time I crossed the line I was 7th, as I knew, a lot can happen in the final 14km, good and bad!! Once again a huge part of the day was the crowds on the run course. By the time you've past everyone 3 times the voices are familiar and sincere and you'd swear you'd all been best of friends since primary school. It's just another unique wonderful aspect of the ironman family and to all those who supported me and the 100's of others put there huge huge than you, the sport wouldn't be what it is without you.
Yesterday was far and away the best ironman I've ever put together. My run split of 3:01 was absolutely unbelievable for me, I never thought I'd be close to 3hrs this early in my time in ironman. Once again my swim and run performances where the highlights for me. For whatever reason my bike simply isn't firing at the moment but I guess the time and commitment it's taken to improve on those two weaker disciplines of mine has to have a cost somewhere else. For the last couple of events my power has been 5-10% off where it was the past couple of years so that's something I need rectify if I want to be competitive. I know I have a good bike leg in me so that will come back at some point, for now I need to ensure I'm a complete triathlete and that means focusing on the swim and run. Patients is going to be my best friend in this sport!!
So a huge shout out to my competitors. Josh was simply a class above. 1st out of the water, 1st off the bike, and first across the finish line speaks for itself. I just loved how he took the bull by the horns all day, just awesome to witness. Tim, Braydon, Dave, I've seen suffering like I saw on the faces of you 3 in that final 14km and to still post 2:50 marathons is just incomprehensible to me. I realized my uncomfortably comfortable feeling will need to be adjusted a little if I want to race you lot in the final stages, a good lesson indeed. Joe raced the smartest race of everyone in the field and had it not been for a rampant Josh hambugoler hahaha he would have been Asia pacific champ. 9/10 times his performance would win the title but I have a feeling this is just the beginning of big things from Joe in the full diatance ironman races and just awesome to see another tassie export kicking ass on the world stage.
From hear I'll head to Nice IM as I'm told it's a race track I'll really enjoy. I lived in the area for a couple of years so will be nice to race somewhere familiar. I'll take a lot of positive from cairns and as with every triathlon I do learn some valuable lessons. With all the variables that can be grown at you in such an event I think everyone no matter who they are learns something new from each race, that's one of the beauties of this ever evolving sport. I have to mention Tim Reed as he is just a wonderful ambassador for our sport. Hes always there for me and just genuinely wants everyone he comes across to do well, so refreshing in the world of professional sport. He learnt me his ultra fast front race wheel and when I forgot my goggles he came to the rescue with a bright pink Holly Lawance special addition pair of Roka's for me to race in. Whatever the color they made me swim faster than ever before so won't be the last time I'll be asking for something from tim! Having mum and dad there was obviously fantastic. They have dragged themselves from sport to sport and around the globe watching me strut my stuff. They must scratch there heads from time to time to wonder what they ever did to produce a son so obsessed with sports that involve wearing Lycra!! Still 33years later they are still there on the barriers with the most Distinctive voices I hear throughout the day. It was the first race for mum but dad had been there 12months prior for my greatest ever sporting meltdown. He cut a wry smile when I crossed the line yesterday as while on one hand was proud of my improvement in the sport i still haven't been able to top his 3:00 marathon PB he did at age 55! Think I've got some decent endurance genes from big tone! I could write and write all day but I'm tired and need to catch up on some sleep. Didn't sleep a lot last night with the caffeine equivalent of 20 espressos pumping through my veins and the adrenaline of my best ever ironman made it difficult to switch off!! I'll certainly catch up on those zzzz's tonight but in closing thanks again to everyone that came along yesterday, competitors and supporters alike, your all part of the show and I can't wait for the next Asia pacific champs!!
Stats from the day
Swim (6th out of the water)
Ave power 298 watts
Ave heart rate 160bpm
Max heart rate 181bpm
Ave speed 42kmph
Ave heart rate 158bpm
Max heart rate 173bpm
Add in a few min for my rounding Down haha and transition and you get 8hrs 11min.
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