Ironman Cairns Race Report
I had been registered for Ironman Cairns last year but after the heat stroke, rhabdo and haemachromatosis issues I had to pull out at the last minute. It was a tough call especially as my parents were already committed to going there but I was in no shape to race. The flights were transferable within a year so I decided to just put it back a year and do it then. The winter ended up being tougher than usual to stay fit and at the end of March, my fitness was at all time lows. I’d slowly clawed my way back, but the early season races in Busselton and Bintan had not ended well. Grasshopper, I was not weady. My FTP (bike dick-measuring technique), run pace and swim times were all still down on optimal levels. At the post-race party in Busso when I was 'tired and emotional", I'd confided in a few mates that I was considering pulling out of the race, after I went that bad in a half IM, how could I expect to race well in 4 weeks in an Ironman! But it was all paid for; so in the cold light of day I decided by hook or by crook, I was going to race. In reality; early June is too close to winter for me to do an Ironman, as in late March I was still fat and pisshed at the HK 7s and a long way from IM fitness, even though the ticking bomb clock strapped to my chest read 10 weeks and counting down.
But fitness had been coming back slowly and I had been cramming and the high fat low carb diet had my weight down to optimal levels. I went over 4 weeks without beer. The horror. The horror. I had done a good run session with Gav Stuart in
Melb 2 weeks before the race - designed by coach Woody – 30mins easy and 20 x 3min moderate 1 min
easy. Gav took me on a great tour of Melbourne’s top run spots and if we take out the
drink and toilet stops, we covered 26kms in about 4.30min k pace. I was
surprised that I was able to do that as I still had limited confidence in my run, so it gave me some confidence that maybe race
day wouldn’t be a total disaster. I did some more cramming for the run in Singapore but that had left me a bit short on the bike which I had neglected - bladdy frustrating this game - you get better at one discipline and it takes away from the other straight away!
|Ten weeks from South Stand|
|Take your pick.|
The journey down to Cairns was a bit painful from Singapore. When I signed up for the race I just assumed there would be direct flights from Singapore to Cairns and didn’t even check. Unfortunately though we had to fly via Brisbane and pick up the luggage and lug it on a bus from international to domestic and then go back north to Cairns. Developed World problems I know, but still a PITA.
|The fourth discipline|
The Welcome Party was exceptional – in a nice Convention Centre with decent food and comfortable seating and tables. The speeches were very moving and included an unforgettable speech by Sharni McNeil who is dying from ALS/ Motor Neuron Disease. It is about the worst disease you could possibly wish on someone with a slow insidious death with a fully functioning mind while the body's nervous system slowly fails around it. She walked to the stage in a slow unsteady gait and gave such a terrific speech there was hardly a dry eye in the house - and I was no exception. She made gags about us all walking like her after the race and speaking like her after post race beers and getting to check out her guys butt for 14 hours race day - so good, she hit that speech for six. She is from Wollongong and had done the half distance in Cairns two years ago and planned to do the full this year, before she was diagnosed a year ago. Her mate had told her he was going to do the race with her: tow her around in a canoe for the swim, attach her to the rear of his bike and then push her in a wheelchair on the run. This sort of stuff is one of the great aspects of the sport as my mate Dave Speirs would say: "You cannae buy that".
|Sharni after her finish! So good.|
The swim had been moved in this race almost every year, from Yorkey's Knob to Cairns Marina and it was now in Palm Cove, which I actually prefer as an area to stay in over Cairns, so I booked the accom there for the trip. I did not do due diligence though and the place I booked was pretty shitty. It was like a Motor Inn pretending to be a resort. The ‘Full Kitchen’ in the room consisted of a microwave oven and bread knives and forks. I always look forward to the farmers markets and buying all the great small farm produce in Australia - delicious full fat farmed milk, butter, eggs and of course well raised meat of all types. But it was annoying not to be able to make a big sausage bacon and egg fry up that is my staple race week (who am I kidding every day!) diet.
The night before the race I watched the Aussies crush France in the rugby and then got to bed pretty early, I was struggling to sleep as usual for pre Ironman and then the next-door neighbours got home and started going at it - Aussie pissed-argument style. The paper-thin walls meant I could hear every word of their Bogan fightathon, which I have to admit, was pretty amusing. This bogan chick was giving it to her bogan boyfriend with both guns blazing “You f$#*ng wanker, I’m the f$#*ng one who has to be with your f$#*ng daughter when she’s f$#*ng crying, because her f$#*ng dad has been a f$#*ng prick to her again. F&*k you for making me do that you f$#*ng prick”. And on and on it went. He was copping it like a pussy too.
I was kind of being entertained by it and could not decide whether to end my entertainment and go into confrontation mode by telling them to be quiet or just lie back and listen to Bogan’s Days of Our Lives as maybe I couldn't sleep anyway. I'm not a big believer in sleep deprivation the night before a race affecting performance, so was not too worried. In the end I drifted off to sleep at 3am and had the alarm set for 5am so "Whatever you f$#*ng low life bogus prick scum bitch dick"!
|And abusing your loved one loudly at 2am.|
The start was a leisurely 7.45 and I walked the 2kms to the transition area to get there in plenty of time. It had been raining steadily most of the night and the area was a bit of a quagmire already and once again I realized I’d forgotten my nutrition bottle! D’oh, I’m a world champ at that. I did the math and walked back home, picked it up and got a guy to put it in my frame (there was no more access to the bikes) and made it to the start with just enough time. I kept doubting myself that I’d mistaken the start time as 7.45 was really late for an Ironman and was thinking "No it must have been 6.45" and after several dreams where the gun went and everyone was swimming while I was running to the beach, I thought today it will actually happen. Fortunately it did not.
|Wait for me guys!|
SWIM 3.8km 1.02
The swim was a beach start that went pretty smoothly, apart from the several Aussie chumps who can’t but help and try and creep before the gun, but before you knew it we were underway. The water was a murky brown typical of the mudflats of the Cairns Coast and the brownness was exacerbated by the constant rain. I soon found myself in a decent sized second pack and tried to swim with a straighter arm with steeper entry into the water as you always should in the chop and just counted down the minutes until it was over. Nothing too remarkable, the only thing of note was one dude I did the whole swim with cut every single buoy, not by much and it did not make much of a difference, just a bit weird to watch him go. I guess it was a bit congested and hard to turn at 90 degrees so many times, but rules is rules innit eh! it kept me entertained watching him approach every buoy and waiting for him to duck inside it every-time. I wondered if I should say something as we both ran to T1, but did not bother. So much 'holier than thou' crap in tris and I coulndnae be assed; pick your battles - I would be more likely to bullock a dude dropping into my legal space on the bike - which is more annoying and actually affects my day. The constant chop never let up throughout and all times were a bit slow. I was happy to see the time when I got out; as I was worried it would be 1.05 or worse. The fastest pro time was 50mins and Cam Brown who did 55mins, won the race and has won IM NZ 10 times said it was the hardest IM swim he’d done.
BIKE 180km 4.52
I knew my bike was still a month or so from being at it’s best but still hoped to put down a time to keep me competitive for a Kona slot. I had a one-piece aero kit on but had it unzipped to the waist for the swim. Unfortunately the zipper had separated by being so spread out under the wet suit and the bottom few teeth of the zippers were a bit bent, so it would not do up. I was tugging at it and trying to join it while running to the bike but no joy. When I got to the bike I thought, I’ll invest 30secs into this, as it will cost me more than that to do the whole ride with an unzipped front. Unfortunately I stood at the bike for those 30secs looking down but there was still not joy and I was watching dudes pile out of T1 so I thought "That's it, wardrobe malfunction or no I’m out there". I just tried to keep my head closer to my hands and tuck my shoulders together and down so my massive cleavage and gaping shoulder straps were not exposed to the wind. I don't think it cost me that much in the end.
|Happens to the best of us.|
Unfortunately right from the start the legs did not feel good at all. Hips, quads and hammies were aching and my power was down. 250-60 watts felt really tough and I was just hanging on to a group for the first 40kms, I was dropped off the back and clawed on again a couple of times and it took full effort and concentration to stay on. I hate the feeling of just hanging on on the bike as I'm a bit proud of riding with balls and pulling hard, but I just had nothing early on.
|Don't wanna be.........|
After 90kms the group dropped me for good and I rode solo for quite a while until 40kms to go when I finally came good. Having ridden 220w while I was solo probably helped get me feel fresher. In the last 40kms I got caught by a group of 5 or so but me and one other guy Allister (who was the real winner of the beer mile) and I did all the work to tow them back into town and I was pushing 250-300watts and feeling much better, which was a nice change from limping into T2 feeling spent.
RUN 42.2kms 3.38
I was doing the math and counting the guys ahead and guessed I was about 6th-10th in my AG off the bike (turns out I was 9th I think – I am not much for pouring over numbers post race). Anyway I knew with this race only having 40 Kona slots, and 4 in my age group, that I had to run a pretty sharp marathon to get a slot. IN IMWA last year I was a bit pissed after the race that I finished relatively strongly but still missed a slot by a few positions. Running out of transition at 4.45min/k pace might have yielded me a PB, but given the race and slots, I never really gave myself a chance of qualifying that day. So before the race in Cairns, I had thought if I was near a slot I should run at a pace that would give me a slot and just try to hang on. So I went through the first 14kms in 65 mins, which was a pretty decent City to Surf time for me back in the day, but I was a different athlete these days and I still felt good. About the 20km mark I think I was in a Kona qualifying position but the vultures began to circle soon after.
|Eh get orff! I've still got 15kms to go!|
I ran with some dude for the first 20kms who seemed to know about 50 people racing on the course and spectating. Turns out he stopped to do a shit at some stage and he told every single one of the 50 when they encouraged him "Stopped to do a shit; it cost me a minute". I definitely can understand when working so hard for time how that would be front of mind and also the need to "prove yourself" to others; as at the end of the day that's what is behind a lot of sporting achievement - Hubris and trying to prove how tough we are - - "Guys I am actually a 1 minute faster athlete than this performance I am putting on for you, if it wasn't for that damn shit I would be 1 minute further up the road I'll have you know." Weird; but I do get it -after all this hubris is probably behind a lot human evolution - why else do we need to progress to this stage of uber-advanced evolution with skyscrapers and so much of modern society, instead of just hunting and scavenging for food? It's just guys trying to prove how awesome we are by inventing stuff, building stuff, performing arts or showing mad skills on the sporting field so chicks will be impressed and we get laid to progress our genes. Anyway after listening to this guy tell someone about his bathroom sojourn for the 30th time, I almost said to him 'Mate no one gives a shit about your shit OK!'. There is too long to think on an IM run and I had the line all locked and loaded but held it in. There were no females around to impress with my razor-sharp wit that may help me progress my genes, so why bother? Not sure if I made the right call or not. At least it made it in the report for your reading pleasure and to ensure I am still viewed as a virile potential mate just in case aiiight.
|My genes are wicked.|
After 25kms I began to slow to 5min k pace and slower and then 8kms from home I was really just totally out of fitness and cooked. My mate Stefan from Tokyo and Singapore (who got the last Kona slot in our AG) went through me at the 38km mark and gave me some verbal encouragement to try and run with him; he had been giving me encouragement during the run a few times on the many turnarounds, which was very well received and I'll never forget that valour at the coal face - thanks and congrats Stefan! My mate Leighton from Singapore did the whole run at about the same pace as me, a few minutes behind and also was also very generous with his encouragement at the many passing points. It is always very kind when people expend their limited energy on race day to boost you up. To be honest I’ve given up high-fiving kids during races; their pokey little palms only mean well, but they send me backwards a few grams of energy! Can’t you little buggers push me on the back like those Tour De France fans do to riders when they are struggling up a hill! I wanna go this way yo! Give me a shove into my back forwards, not a push from the front backwards! Anyway Stefan ended up running a further 6mins into me in the last 4kms as I was pretty much cooked and walked more than I ran through those last few kms. My sub 3.30 run split soon turned into a 3.38. Cest La Vie, I had no more to give Guv'nor.
Once I made the finish line I decided to do the ‘BlazemanRoll’ over the finish line as I was thinking about Sharni and what a completely horrible disease ALS is and I thought it was the least I could do. I also felt like a lie down in the soaked carpet might be fun. Funny, but not many people got the meaning and relevance to Sharni but IM Asia CEO Geoff Dixon did and he gave me a big handshake and said "That was awesome". Some other Bondi lifesaver dude who apparently is famous in Aus and had done an IM gave me my medal and told me that it was a very slick time.
I was pretty deep in the hurt locker and some doc chick took me into the med tent by wheelchair and gave me a drip, which made me feel much better. Some banter with the docs in there made me feel more human again and I eventually made my way to the hotel nearby that I had wisely booked for the night. It was weird checking into the hotel topless and shoeless feeling like a homeless guy with only one of those silver fold up heat blankets for modesty, but people were very understanding and kind.
|Yes Ma'am, I have a room booked under "Colless".|
I went back to the finish line with my old mate from Tokyo Daniel Barron (AKA Wombat) who had a decent day in his 3rd Ironman. We got to see Sharni finish and heard her finish line speech that was very moving again. The rain was still falling though, and it had not stopped all day. Apparently it was the lowest max temp in Cairns since 1967. I had a decent day at the Beer Mile the next day too - making it 2 starts for 2 (official) wins in my Beer Mile career.
|So Proud and physique brought to you by fat.|
So I did much better than I thought I would before the race, but still missed that elusive golden ticket. On return to Sing for some strange reason I signed up for Ironman Coeur D’Alene on June 28 and also IM Japan in our ‘hometown’ of Hokkaido on August 28. Don’t know what I was thinking but I had been looking at IMCDA for a while and wanted to race it instead of Cairns as it is later and a better course for me and probably weaker field, but the free flights swayed me to race Cairns. When I asked Woody in January which one I should do he replied "With that timing you could do them both" – which stuck in my mind and I do like that about Woody; that he doesn't see Ironman as this once every 3 year event that is some monumental algorithm like a lot of coaches make it out to be. So that quote stuck in my mind and the fact I am going to Kona for a month regardless, as well the duty free Bombay Sapphire I'd been drinking made me pull the trigger to race. I've only just gotten fit, so don't really feel I need a big recovery and would like to cash in on the fitness gained through the race too. Will see how it goes.
|Seemed like a good idea at the time.|
Damn I need some rehab or intervention to get off this Ironman sheet.