The dust has now settled on what has been a pretty crazy Ironman Western Australia. Now that I have had some time to digest the events of the weekend, I have been hit with one overwhelming realization – I have to train through another Perth Winter in preparation for Kona 2015.
Signing up for Busselton as I sat in my apartment in Kailua Kona seemed like a magnificent idea at the time, especially considering how much I wanted to come back in 2015 and the amount of my Blackfins comrades who were due to back it up at Busselton too.
When I returned back to Perth, ready to dive in to another Ironman program, I was taken aside and informed that both of the Kona conquering Mike Musk and Lee-Anne Flugel had pulled the pin on their Busselton campaigns. At first I was sad, then I realized that as Mike would no longer be using his Zipp disc to race, it would be mine for the day – minor victories.
As it turned out Mike did ALL of my long sessions with me anyway, we spent hours and hours on the bike and circumnavigated Perth by foot on our long runs. It’s not often that I’ll jump into thankyous so early on, but these long rides/runs also doubled as therapy sessions as I was constantly checking the sanity of this undertaking. Thankyou Musky, you were instrumental in me being on that start line with any shred of confidence.
Aside from the first week of training, my body never put up much resistance to the reintroduction to training. Generally speaking I grew more confident as the race grew closer…that was, until race week rolled around. I came to the realization that this could all go horribly wrong and now if I came unhinged on lap one of the marathon, there would be more familiar faces trackside to see me suffer and no lava fields to hide in. It was a brown paper bag moment.
Toeing the start line, the nerves dissipated as I thought about my friends doing this race for the first time and remembering that I was in their shoes this time last year. As the gun went off I jostled for feet and found a reasonable pair to take me out around the end of the Jetty, from here I decided I would crack on and find another escort to carry me to the shore. As I slowed through the chop, I found myself back on the exact same feet 15 minutes later. Fail. I felt like I was 300m off the shore for about 20 minutes as I watched my watch tick dangerously close to my target time. I exited the water just in time and made my way to onto the bike.
When I hit the first turn around on the bike I saw all the super fish and realised I had made the second group on the bike. The front group later split demoting us to the 3rd group on the road AKA group Illingworth, as he and a friend joined the party at the 140km mark. I was particularly careful heading into t2 after crashing heavily on dismount in the Busselton 70.3 earlier in the year. Success.
Matt and I left transition side by side and after hearing a few early splits to the leaders I couldn’t help but feel like I would need a Carfrae-esque performance to catch the front of the race. I blame the crowds for catapulting me into the lead 20kms into the marathon. It was simply phenomenal. There was basically nowhere on course I couldn’t see a familiar face. The Stadium and Exceed tents were particularly boisterous. As I moved into the lead age group position the leader was kind enough to turn to me, shake my hand and say “congratulations, you are the new age group leader, next stop professional/s”. There was no one left to chase and I soon realised that for the remainder of the race I was going to be the hunted and the race was on. No matter though, I only had 20km to go. If you were on the sidelines or live tracking and saw my pace slow at this point, it was because I was saving my legs for the inaugural IMWA Beer Mile the following day and definitely NOT because the wheels were coming off faster than an F1 pit crew could manage. As I made my way toward the finish turn-off, I moved by Matt Illingworth again. I gave him an encouraging pat on the shoulder I later learned was misread as an ‘I have just lapped you and am now finishing’ pat on the shoulder. The finish chute was a blur as I find it always is but I could hear my friends on the sidelines were almost as ecstatic as me. When I crossed the line, Simon Beaumont and Pete Murray congratulated me before querying whether I had done 3 instead of the allotted 4 lap run course; my heart skipped a beat before my simple maths and counting prowess reminded me of the distance on my watch and the number of lap bands I had on my wrist. Phew.