Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ironman Melbourne

Ironman Melbourne Race Report

This was the first running of this race and a big step forward for the Ironman brand and triathlon in Australia/Asia. We had heard rumours of the mystical “Ironman Melbourne” for over two years and at times we had wondered if it was ever actually going to happen. But sure enough it was announced in mid 2011 – it was to be on March 25, 2012, and not only a full length triathlon, but an 'Asia Pacific Championship' with big prize money and Hawaii qualifying chances. Vanessa and I were keen to race it but when the date was announced we had decided against it. Normally we might have signed up for an olympic distance (1.5/40/10) in April but would still have low expectations. Then a week before the entries to Melbourne opened for the race we spoke with Coach Woody about maybe entering and he said it's probably not a god idea but if we could get one or two four days break somewhere warm maybe we could give it a go. Unfortunately we were stuck in Hokkaido and it was going to be impossible to get out in winter, but we had a rush of blood and signed up anyway. D'Oh - I don't know what we was thinkin' I tells ya! 
Sold out in 5 minutes but we got in! We're luck right!....anyone.....anyone...Bueller?

To make it worse Niseko had an even larger than usual snowfall and we didn't get any outdoor rides in at all. But another thing that swayed us as well as wanting to be part of the 'first race' experience was that it would be a 'cheaper' race to do. We were heading back to Aus early to mind my parent's house in Killcare while they were on their round-the-world trip, so we wouldn't have to pay extra for flights, even got the flights Tokyo to Melbourne and Melbourne Sydney on Frequent Flyer points and we had some family in Melbourne who happened to live right on the run course, so we got free accommodation too.. (thanks Peta/Dick and Judy!). It was great that my Mum and Dad and Ness borthers Justin, Joel and Mark and his girl Bella made the trip down to watch us as well, it did add some pressure to underdone athletes though...

Through the winter it was tough to get enough training done, we fudged through it with a bunch of one hour sessions and got three longish rides done on the indoor bike (computrainer), we didn't get to ride outdoors at all, got one long outdoor run of 2 hours and then headed out for our end of season road trip to central Hokkaido with Kuni. This year it was a 'taper tour'; doing powder turns at -20o and drinking beer at noon when the lifts were on wind hold. 

Taper week.

We flew straight down to Melbourne and promptly got the bikes together and went out for a two hour easy ride, up and down the famous Beach Rd, I was hoping I might come across famed white-trash/bogan, cycle hater Shane Warne and his purple Lamborghini. As soon as I saw those the personalised number plates “WARNIE” I would blow this biggest Bushman's Blow you'd ever seen (still couldn't shake my cold from Niseko...the HiraFLU)....right on his windscreen. It would have been awesome. Unfortunately no sign of a plastic surgeon in the area so he was not sighted.
Sydney Siders are supposed to take the piss out of Melbourne at every chance, but Ness and I had been several times and always loved it. Before you collect your official Sydney-Sider identity card you have to swear an oath that you would take whatever opportunity you get to put crap on people from other states and particularly Melbourne  (Bloody Mexicans!) and Queensland (Bloody Bevans!.....Don't ask). Besides as a Sydney Sider you have poor public transport and infrastructure, sit in traffic for two hours a day, deal with impolite and impatient people in most of your daily interactions with strangers and pay a fortune to live in an average house, it helps if you keep repeating to everyone who will listen how awesome it is to live in Sydney, it kind of makes you feel better.


You also have to swear an oath to hate Qeenslanders with all your might every year for the annual 'State of Origin' Rugby League game, but I kind of lost it when I was 21. We were all Aussies after all - sure Queenslanders were mostly racist rednecks, and if you didn't follow an Aussie Rules team in Victoria you were put in the isolation ward with tuberculosis sufferers, but that was a small price to pay for great weather and a Barrier Reef or great cafes and an awesome sporting culture. We could live in either very happily.

The race was a bit of a logistical challenge, starting 40kms south of Melbourne in Frankston, with a ride up and down a freeway from Frankston, then a point to point run into St Kilda.The expo, Welcome Party and dinner and awards show were really great, with the Welcome Show being in a Grand Hall hosted by Daniel MacPherson, and with Melbourne comedian Raymond J Barthdoing a great job.

Hey Hey It's ironman Melbourne

SWIM 3.8km 1.01

The swim was at a suburb about 40kms south of Melbourne called Frankston towards the Mornington Peninsula, so I was told. I didn't know much about it but every time I mentioned it to someone from Melbourne they would roll their eyes and say, Ahhh Frangers...with a slight chuckle. We didn't really spend much time there aside from checking the bikes in and driving down there in the dark on the morning of the race. My Mum and Dad managed to come down to Melbourne for the race, as they were about to start out on their round the world trip but their boat got delayed a few days so they shot down to catch the race, arriving the night before on the train from Sydney. We were trying to meet up before the race start but their bus from Melbourne was a bit late so we ended up hiding the keys for our hire car for them to pick up. It was still pretty dark in the lead up to the race and after dumping my race day bag, started following a very narrow pathway to the water that was crowded on both sides with spectators. I sensed it was moving too slow so hopped off it to go wide through the crowd and re-joined the narrow path just before the water. I got to the water's edge and found Ness, she was standing at the water's edge looking pretty worried. The water was cold! I gave her a kiss for luck and said if it's too cold just drop out, which she ended up having to. Her body temp was 27 degrees after the swim!

Poor 'lil Ness might need to stick to Asian races.

There was a 200m swim out to the starting point and I started to swim out with about 7 minutes before the start and heaps of people were still faffing around on the water's edge or ambling out. I thought at the time – these guys need to get a hustle on or there's no way they'll make it to the start before the gun. They need someone out there shouting at people to get a move on, but there was none and as expected heaps of people were still making their way to the start when the gun went and there were complaints about it afterwards. When I made it there I positioned myself toward the front of the wading crew and two or three guys kept drifting forwards towards the stand up paddlers there to hold people back. We were right next to the starter blow up pillions so it was annoying that just a few guys were causing people to shift further forwards. I shouted out to them “Farking 'ell guys will you stop swimming forwards?” One came back straight away “It's a long day mate why worry about it”........He should listen to his own advice I thought, but stuff it I wasn't in the mood for a debate so just left the chumps to drift 20m ahead.

Was pretty dark at the swim start still

 As we were so far from the shore you could hardly hear the gun, they played the national anthem as the guys waded forwards, then the gun went and it was on. It was still dark and sighting was tough with tinted swim goggles, and I was determined to just swim easy as I was supposed to be treating this as a training day. I found myself in a big pack with a lot more ahead than I was used to. On the turn-around I lost my way a bit again and was swimming waaay off to the right. Damn I thought, I should be better at navigating by now, but still swam a fair bit too far. Anyway just swam easy and came out in a pretty shitty 1.01.

Slow Mo-fo

BIKE 180kms (4.51)
The bike leg was what I was looking forward to up and down a freeway (The Eastlink- so they tell me) that goes from Frankston 45kms up to the north of Melbourne and back down to Frangers again, then up and back again to make an even 180. The surface was smooth as silk and the terrain, slightly rolling with a slight rise out and slight descent back. Having a crappy swim put me in a really congested crew on the bike course and there was a lot of riders fighting for space. The draft distance at this race was 12m from the back of one wheel to the front of the next. Drafting is a really big issue in triathlon, especially in long-course/Ironman. I once wrote that is was like drugs in cycling but a closer parallel would be to diving/simulation in soccer. They are both complicated issues with a major impact on the sport, that 90% of people, even of those who have an otherwise good understanding of the sport over-simplify. 

Good to ride outside for a change
There is a big unspoken truth to both – for diving it's that if a defender fouls enough to stop an attacker's progress or off balance and off the ball, if the attacker falls over deliberately to let the ref know that the contact has ruined his momentum, then it's not really diving as most people classify it. For drafting it's that there is still a very big benefit to riding behind someone else and that this causes 'pace-lines' to form and doing time at the front of the pace-line is much harder than sitting at 12m in the pace line. The intricacies come in soccer with guys falling over for penalties with minimal or no contact. In tris when there is a line of riders sitting at the legal draft distance and people overtake one or two riders, then duck in the 12m space it is bloody annoying and in some races illegal.

I spent the first 20kms overtaking long pace lines and when I was sitting in a pace line shouting at people who were overtaking me not to slot in the 12m space in front of me, that they should go right to the front if they wanted to overtake. Eventually things thinned out a bit and on the way back from the 45km turn-around point and about 55kms into the ride there was a group of 6 of us riding at similar speed for a while. So I went to a few of them as they went towards the front and said – "Let's do three minutes each at he front - 3 minutes eh" holding up three fingers. The problem is for guys who refuse to admit the unspoken truth (that there is an advantage at 12m) doing turns at the front means they are a 'drafter' and thy turn their nose up at you. Bloody frustrating – watching the pros hammer back the other direction at 43kph in a long legal pace-line, I thought 'Jeez, I wish I was riding with those guys they know how to work a pace-line'.

 Anyway I went to the front for my three minute pull, got into a really aero position and took long periods with my head really down low. I looked back after 2 minutes and the other 5 guys were no where to be seen. Damn, might have over-clubbed my effort there – damn power-meter was a week too late arriving! So I was that far ahead I wasn't going to wait for them now, so I just rode ahead. I ended up doing the next 50kms by myself – I was trying to catch the next group ahead, and signing Celeine Dion's “All By Myself” outloud in the voice of Cartman from South Park to keep myself amused. I went back into Frankston on my Pat and got a special mention from announcer Whit Raymond – who called me a 'well-known athlete' would have preferred some more flattering adjective related to my performance, but hey I'll take it!

I never managed to catch the group ahead and the 6 guys ended up catching me 20kms out of town, when one of the guys came past me I said - “damn that was a long three minutes!”. We ended up catching the group ahead and my ol' mate Gavin Stuart who I met on the run course in Busselton last year when we ran shoulder to shoulder for 2+ hours came up to me on the bike. We had a bit of a chat and on we went. I ended up starting to struggle a bit and with people continually dropping in the 12m space I got dropped off the back while taking a pee. I cam across two other guys and the three of us did the last 30kms together with one guy doing 2/3rds of the time in front, me doing 1/3 and the other guy sitting at the back until coming into T2 when he shot around and came first into transition. Some people. 

I was pretty smoked but glad to be off the bike and in a good mood running into the change tents – they were playing Barry Manilow's “Copacabana” on the loud speaker and was busting out some dance moves while running into the change tent. The volunteer ladies were loving it up....yup, I still got it. The three of us got changed and ran out together, both the other guys ended up qualifying for Hawaii, me.....not so much. I was running OK about 4.30-40 k pace at the first aid station and the cup I grabbed had hardly any coke in it. So when I came to the next station at 4kms I grabbed a really full cup of coke and I gulped it all down, but 100m later, I vomited it all straight back up and then some more. 'Damn – that was not a good start to a marathon' I thought. Normally the gut at least waits until the run fatigue kicks in at 20+ kms before calling stumps. I thought maybe it'll come good as it sometimes does. I was running OK still but from then on every time I took anything in, I would vomit within two minutes. When I wasn't throwing up I was running OK as the glycogen in my blood had not run low yet, and I went through the first 10ks in about 45minutes. 


The continual vomiting was pretty embarrassing as there were spectators in front of me every time I threw up, which was probably about ten times to keep going. I apologised to them each time afterwards, and they gave me some slightly unsure encouragement. At the 14km mark I noticed my pace dropping outside the 5min k pace as my glycogen started dropping. Eventually I was throwing up even when I had nothing in my stomach and had not drunk anything, just bringing up yellow bile and I was leaning on a few house fences strugglin. I ended up having to walk through to a point at the 22km mark where there was a spectator point that I thought Ness's brothers would be at, and called it a day there. The thought of dawdling through another 22kms for a finisher's towel was not very appealing. I saw Ness there as well – not a good day for Team Colless, but that's the way it goes in this sport. . 

Sayonara Ironman Melbourne

It's bloody unforgiving sport and when you put yourself on the start-line, even if you're not race-ready you try and lie to yourself that maybe everything will feel surprisingly good and it'll be an unexpectedly great day, but out on the course there is no way you can pretend you've done the work if you haven't done it. Still I always knew this race would be a bit of a shit-fight and the real goal for a Kona slot was Hawaii 70.3 for Ness and IM Regensburg on June 18 for me, and IM Austria on July 1 as a back-up for both.

Me and my mate Gav from IMWA at the after party - he could have KQF again - some IM chick groupies were trying their luck on us at the party, but Ness was on hand to keep them at bay. Yup, we still got it.
Met my best mate Davey Speirs down in Melbourne and we both had the same spare night to hang out -unbelievable timing. What a pleasure!


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