Kona qualification and Ironman Melbourne race report

SOME BACKGROUND

A long weekend could not have come at a better time.  Right now I have my feet up, ugg boots on haha and chilling.  I am a big believer on sitting to reflect.  That is how we learn and embrace lessons to help deal with the future with more wisdom.  So this is my reflection time….. 

The training leading up to this event was a real slog.  In my first Ironman I did a lot of my training with members of the Nunawading triathlon club which helped provide me with guidance, direction and keep me motivated towards the goal of finishing.  At that stage of my development I was very aware that my swimming needed a lot of work, seeing as I only started swimming in the middle of 2011.  Also, my right knee was still weak after surgery in August 2011, so my strength on the bike was below par.  It certainly didn’t help that I only started riding a bike over any distance from September 2011.  Haha, prior to that all I did was occasionally ride my bike to work 10km there and back.

After the knee surgery – I knew that bike riding needed to be a big part of my rehab to get the muscles around the knee back to par to cope with the running volume that I was doing.  At that stage (Sep 2011) I was very focused on getting back into running and focusing on pushing my marathon PB time down to the low 2hr 40min mark, where I felt my engine was at.  So in order to keep me sane, I decided to take up triathlons over the summer to enable me to spread my training load with swimming and bike to give me something that I could compete in – but with the idea of moving back into running once I felt that the knee was 100% again.

It was at this stage that I entered the 2012 Melbourne Ironman prior to even doing an triathlon – something I normally wouldn’t recommend to my patients or clients.  To cut a long story short I came in at 10hrs 12 mins at the time feeling like I only pushed it at 75-80%.  

All the way through winter I have been torn between being a runner or triathlete or both.  I have come to realise that to compete in my age group – which is super competitive, I need to make the commitment to the sport of triathlon or they will just kill me come competition time.  So I bought in.  I now am very content with being a triathlete.

THE BUILD UP

As I hinted at before the build up to this Ironman was challenging, mainly as I did 90% of my training by myself.   However, I had a plan from my present day coach Kristian Manietta from Trispecific.  I went off his blueprint Ironman plan that I purchased prior to embarking on the plan.  I decided to go with this as he certainly has more knowledge with integrating the 3 sports and how to train smart with a focus on quality rather then quantity.  This resonated well with me as I have similar philosophy.

The big focus for me in the 20 week build up to Melbourne was getting in the pool 4 times a week and developing a deep swim fitness to ensure that I could use my strength of cycling and running with minimal fatigue after the swim.  As I have quickly learnt in Ironman – fatigue accumulates during the day.  If you lack fitness in either the swim or the bike it will affect your running performance.  So a typical training week for me involved doing 4 swims a week, 3-4 rides a week, with 2-3 of them on the wind trainer, as these were my quality sessions to develop strength on the bike and be able to push a big gear over a sustained period.  Obviously, one of those rides would be a long ride that started as a 3hr ride at the beginning of the program to a 6hr ride by 3 weeks out from the Ironman.  Additionally I would run 4-5 times a week with 1-2 of these sessions being a run of the bike or a brick session.  

During the busy weeks, I focused on being present in the now!  That is focusing on each session as they came up and just ticking them off.  Yes, at times I felt like a machine, where there were days when I would wake up – prepare to train – train – go to work – train at lunchtime – then go back to work – come home eat and then sleep….. get up and repeat it again.  But you just need to get through those days, they don’t last forever.  There is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Going into the 2013 Melbourne Ironman I had a goal of breaking 9hrs 30mins as I felt that I could achieve this with what I was achieving in my training….. then came the day!

RACE DAY!!

 I felt ready leading into the event.  I had ticked the boxes with the training and only missed the occassional session due to work or family commitments.

Jump forward to the race morning – crazy winds – Frankston beach looked like a surf beach with what looked to be 1 metre waves coming into the beach.  As part of my usual warm up, I go for a 10min very easy run to get away from the crowds gathering near the start line and gain clarity and focus on what I am about to do and endure.  At this stage I thought that I was up for a tough day with the swimmers having an advantage due to the very choppy conditions out there.  However, during the run I heard an announcement over the speakers, but I was too far away to clearly understand the content.  Upon returning back my wife looked at my seriously and said “the swim has been shortened to 1.5Km”.  Game on!  I looked at her and said exactly that!  Enter opportunity!

I had a lot of confidence in my riding ability and running ability and suddenly my attitude shifted.  I suddenly believed I could qualify for Kona.  I knew that I would be behind after the swim, but knew that I would only be 4 or so minutes behind compared to 10-15 minutes.  

So wetsuit on – out for the warm up swim – man the conditions were just nuts!!!! There was current pushing you away from the pier big time.  I was surprised by the amount of people standing on the beach almost scarred to try the conditions.  As unless you tried having a swim it was difficult to pick up the clear current pushing you in that direction.  So I lined up as close to the pier as I could get.  Other triathletes had a similar idea to me…. but many were starting a long way from the pier…. making it super tough.  

On the start it was insane – feet, arms, triathletes everywhere – it felt like a sea of triathletes in a washing machine….. nuts – but in a strange way good fun!  I kept telling myself to stay calm, just move…. get through this and you are on your way.  After getting kicked twice, elbowed three times and head butted once…. I started on the way back which was difficult as the sighting was very hard.  

Onto the bike, a relatively quick transition and I was away.  My aim was to work with perceived effort on the ride and not speed as the way northbound was straight into a headwind of 25-30km/hr with some being faster.  To my surprise I caught a few very good swimmers in my age group in the first 45km.  Bang – that was a big confidence booster.  Turning to come back, wow – that was awesome a massive tailwind where I averaged 44.6km/hr in that 45km.  In hindsight I probably pushed that a little quick – as I came in at 2hr 18 mins for the 90km, which is generally on half Ironman pace.  Oh, well…. I paid for it a little in the 3rd league – back into the wind I went.  This was for sure the hardest part of the day, moving away from Frankston with every pedal, knowing that I had to come back the same way I came.  Straight into a headwind that just sucked!

The focus at this point was to keep any negative thoughts out, keep pushing forward and keep the nutrition a priority.  Upon turning at the 135Km mark near Springvale rd on east link my morale was boosted by the chance of a nice tailwind to push me home.  Ha, how I was wrong!  In true Melbourne style the wind seemed to change to a cross wind and the challenges persisted on the bike.  There were 2 occassions where it felt like a gust pushed my bike 1/2 a metre to the left when it hit my bike.  Challenging!  

Frankston in sight, off the bike.  Oppppsss I left my running computer on the bike.  Oh, well they had taken my bike off by that stage and in the transition tent – my only option was to run the marathon by feel.  2Km into the run and the first drink point, I checked my electrolyte container – opppss number 2 I left the running container in the transition bag.  All I had left were 3 tablets left over from the bike.  Hold on body!  My nutrition prior to this point was spot on, so I had the belief in my body to hold on!

I switched to coke 20Km into the run and had 2-3 High 5 gels every hour or so during the run.  No signs of cramping, everything felt ok.  I ran within myself, at a moderate level for the first half of the marathon building to a mod-hard effort level in the back end.  

With 8Km to go my beautiful wife caught me – yelling to me she said you are coming 16th in your age group – push it home!  Suddenly a switch went on inside me… I knew I could catch these buggers.   I tried to raise the bar, ticking them off as I passed them 1, 2, 3, 4…. where is the 5th?  I knew I was coming 12th at this stage…. with some awareness that there were 11 spots in my age group for Kona.  Then I could see him, looking like he was starting to struggle. I passed him with 1km to go, hoping that I could hold him off to the line.  13 seconds up I was by the finish line.  Wow – racing for 8hrs 50 mins and only 13sec…. Just goes to show that you need to fight it out to the end!

The following am I found out that I gained an automatic qualification for Kona.  So now I am going to enjoy a 5-6 week chill out with the aim of getting into a decent program with the build for Kona.  Lots to work on….. Swimming needs a lot of work!  Bike needs to continue to gain strength and I certainly need to run better off the bike then I am.  I would like to see me running a 3hr marathon off the bike in the next 1-2 years.

 

happy reading and running!

 

Rosco