This was the big end of season race for Vanessa and I, coming just before the start of the snow season. As we started training in February it was our longest season yet, and we were both looking forward to some down time. Vanessa had recently developed really low iron and haemoglobin levels that left her unable to even jog for a few hundred metres as recently as early November. She had started taking triple doses of iron supplements after some good advice from her Dad (a GP), her doctor and Woody and got her levels back within normal levels just before the race. We’d been lucky enough to get a good training block in at Vanessa’s Dad house in the Hunter Valley.
The WTC (Ironman Company) had taken over the organisation of this race from IMG and soon after arriving in Busso it became apparent they had definitely raised the level a notch or two. WA had just come out of their hottest Spring on record with many days in the high 30’s, but fortunately the weather cooled the week before the race and conditions were very good on the day. The pre-race party was the best I’d ever attended with a stage in the centre and lots of great motivational video presentations and speeches. Mum and Dad had come over on the Indian Pacific (famous train journey from Sydney to Perth) and they brought my sister’s delightful girls Clare and Maggie with them - packing signs to cheer us on and chalk for inspirational messages on the road. They even went in the first Ironkids swim/run race the day before the big race that was great fun to watch - they got finishing medals that were the same size as ours. Although after I finished (and after my customary time in the medical tent) we met Clare who gave me a big hug and quickly went straight for my medal, inspected it and stated matter of factly “It’s just a little bit smaller than mine”. No way Clare - ours are definitely at least the same size….I think….I hope.
Maggie in transition in Ironkids - her running technique is better than her transition....
Vanessa’s Dad and step-mum Jan made the trip over and they picked up her brother Mark, a cinematographer who had been filming a wedding all day before getting a 9pm flight from Sydney,(Mark is making a video on the event - it will be fantastic and finished soon) at the airport in Perth at 11pm as he had to do a wedding the day before. They arrived at 2am when we were out to it. We did our customary pre-race meal of soft drink, chocolate and ice cream and crashed out.
Swim 3.8kms - 55 minutes
We got to race in plenty of time, but I had a funny feeling something was missing the whole time. Preparing for a triathlon is like getting ready for a day in the backcountry – so many things to remember and I’m just the type to get to the mountain without my snowboard boots or goggles. Firstly I realised I had forgotten the tape for the my valve cut outs that I’d schlepped with me all the way from Hokkaido. A quick call to Mark and then I realised the transition area would close before he got in so some stealth ninja action on the tape conveniently sitting on the check in table fixed that problem. Too bad if it was white – it went with my saddle and bar tape. Then with 40minutes before the start I realised just like the days on the mountain I’d forgotten my goggles! D’oh. Another panicked call to Mark who turned the car around and went back to get them – the traffic was built up around the race and I didn’t think he was going to make it in before the gun. I’d been reading about how Chris McCormack used to race without goggles and by coincidence did a practice swim from Shelley Beach to Manly the week before with my mate Wayne without goggles to see what it was like. I had gotten my head around swimming without them (was actually warming to it thinking it be hard-core) when Jan (clutching the Goggles) and Mark (clutching about 30kgs of video gear), burst through the crowd on the esplanade to meet me. We had a little jump up and down party before I squeezed through the spectators to get to the swim start with about 5 minutes to go. They’d change the swim to anti-clockwise around the looooong(1.9km) jetty this year (better for me as I breathe on the left and could see the jetty throughout) so I lined up on the right of the field. After the national anthem the guns went off - two genuine shot guns fired by two local police…the say the Wild West for nothing!
My swim went well without much of a problem. I got in a pack occasionally but there was so much free water around every time I got in a group I got pushed and buffeted and thought “I was much happier a minute ago when I was out on my own”, so shifted out to the side of the second pack. The only issue was a big Ironman logo’d buoy at the end of the pier that I thought was the turning point but when I got to it I found out it was only there as a marker and me and about ten other mates thought what the hell was that buoy there for and had to back-track to get back on course. Turns out (pardon the pun) the real turning buoy was yellow and smaller than the superfluous white one, genius. I spent the rest of the swim thinking that this has to be the best swim course in an Ironman anywhere– it’s like the swim course (and as a matter of fact the whole area) was made for triathlon racing. The only downside was the renovations on the jetty had stalled and the spectators didn’t have access to the whole area (when completed spectators can watch the whole course from above). I came out of the water right behind Assad Antimimi – a gun Aussie triathlete in my AG who lives in Singapore and saw 55 on the clock and thought – just where I wanted to be.
Bike 180kms - 4.49
I had a pretty quick T1 cleverly biting off the corner of my salt and vinegar chips while stepping on my wet suit legs so it would compress into my pocket, and I was right back on Assad’s Ass running the bikes out of transition. I had my shoes on already and Assad had his in his pedals, so I passed him while he was getting his feet in his pedals in the first few hundred metres out of T1. I was thinking if I don’t see Assad’s Ass again today I’ll probably be buying a ticket to Hawaii, but deep down I knew that I’d probably see it again at some stage on the run. The new bike course was still pancake flat (gotta love that!) but was about 70/30% chip seal/ hot seal this year, combined with higher winds I reckon it made it a bit slower than last year, but the lower temps meant times were a bit faster. I passed a fair few people early on and then we settled into a group of 5 about 3 minutes down on the lead pack of 10-15 riders. The new "12m from the back wheel of the rider ahead" rule was working really well and everyone was keeping a good long distance away from the rider in front. There was still a noticeable advantage at 12m though and I was trying to get our group to work as a team and take 5 minutes in the front each but our team was a bit of a motely crew and not really working as a team. Me and one other guy were doing most of the lead work keeping us at a good steady 40kph. One guy in our group finally took one turn at the front and ramped the speed up to 43kph assoon as he got there so we all had to work to catch up to him – thanks mate; that was awesome teamwork I thought. I told him next time I was passing him to take the lead to keep it steady at 40 when he was in the lead next time; he looked all skittish and panicked and blurted out something about some other guy in our pack being in his age group, so he then sat back and didn’t lead for another 60kms, passing the tail guys in the group and then slotting in 2nd place to make it look like he was doing something other than bludging, but not actually facing the wind.
On the last lap the wind really picked up and the guy finally went to the front and put the hammer down big time and I was caught by surprise and lost him and the other guy who was 2nd as they rode away. I had no problem with him not leading if he was flat out hanging on to the group but when feeling fresh and still not to taking the lead, I guess it’s tactical racing but it’s also dirty pool and not competing with honour. What made it worse was he rode 6 minutes faster and qualified for Hawaii too. Was awesome watching him party like a rockstar at the awards night.
We had a strong shower going into the finishing area at lap 2 out of 3 and me and my 19mm tyres did a double wheel slide on the wet roads in the roundabout in front of the announcers, family and about 500 other spectators going onto lap 3 and was lucky to keep it up-right – I do it all for the fans. I did the whole of lap 3 on my own in no-man’s land behind the lead group and in-front of the massive packs behind. I got some small respie from the increasing winds when lapping people but the wind was really strong and was bemoaning the lack of cover – at least the way my race went I was never close to getting a yellow card for drafting - I heard 10% of the field got busted. I knew it was going to come down to the run so I wasn’t worried about losing a minute or so to the lead guys I was just squirming all over the place on the bike trying to hide from the wind. My speed was dropping below 35 and even 30 into some of the really strong winds. The last 5kms into town was directly into what felt like gale-force winds and I counted down every metre down to the magical 180 into town. Going into town I saw a cyclist off the road on the left before the roundabout and thought he was heading into T2 when I went around the roundabout and back to the guy I didn’t realise the entrance to T2 was in the roundabout and was headed out onto a fourth lap. I got to the guy I had spotted on the left and turns out he had pulled over to change a flat and then was wondering where the hell I had to go. After weaving around a bit and getting abused by a couple of guys going out on their third lap behind me I guessed maybe I had to go back to the roundabout, did a U turn and rode back to my sniggering fans in the roundabout and sure enought there was the entrance chute tucked away in the corner and sheepishly went back to it and into T2. Awesome way to finish the ride.
Run 42kms 3.42
The run was a 4 loop course along the beach front and into town next to the finish chute which was now in the main drag. There was plenty of crowd support and great aid stations throughout - a really good run course – no respite from concrete but aside from that perfect. I had done a run block recently and hoped to go under 3.30, but it was not to be. I had a pretty good first 12kms, was making sure I went no faster than 4.20 km pace. The lead pros were on their 2nd lap and I was surprised how long they were taking to overtake me as I wasn’t far in front of them. Onto lap 2 and the inevitable slide in pace started a bit earlier than I hoped for. 12kms in and there it was again – Assad’s Ass. As I watched it wobble into the distance I was thinking – it’s too bloody hot in Hawaii anyway. I had a pretty tough time on lap 3 I kept telling myself no matter how much pain I was in I was not doing it as hard as the Aussie cricket team in Adelaide. But I then realised I had not been drinking much stuff with calories andwas too focussed on the water and ice in the aid stations, so I forced down a gel which I hated and thought I was going to throw up for two minutes, but then I felt much better, and was able to pick up the pace relatively for the last 10kms.
I calculated I had to run 5 min k pace to go under 9.30 and could tell that wasn’t going to happen but it was enticing enough to make me think maybe it was possible if I had made a mistake with my time calculations. But there was no mistake and my habbit of falling desperately short of the time markers continues (10.00.48 in Vineman etc)– bugger! Going into town just before the chute a bloke says really aggressively “on your right” I looked down and saw he was in my age group – great – then looked and saw he had an orange wrist band which meant he was heading into the finishing chute too. Awesome, I could use a sprint finish I thought. I skipped into the other lane and gave it all I had not looking back. I ended up getting over him by 3 seconds into 15th in my AG.
The roll downs went down to 10th at 9.21, Woody always says to make sure you go to the roll down as you never know……I was much closer than I thought, and for the second time would have qualified in 40-44. I’m starting to think one day it’ll happen.
All in all the race was absoultely fantastic. The locals in Busselton never cease to amaze us with how friendly they are - even more apparent after spending a month in Sydney. The volunteers were the best trained of any race I’d done (running on the bike course when handing you a bottle and moving their arm with you on the run are personal favourites). The organisation and party at the finish chute at 11pm to get in the last few racers was fantastic and Mike Reilly is my new favourite race caller (sorry Whit). It is very close run with Copenhagen for our best race ever. Anyway onto wine tasting and Cab Sav drinking in the Margaret River and the Niseko powder - off-season baby!!
Post race Gibson family albumn cover @ Voyager