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Ironman Australia

I started off at 106kg and for my first Ironman I managd to get down to 82kg to race.  However, the life I lead does not lend itself to a healthly lifestyle and now five years later I am 92kg, I've decided that rather than "Lardman to Ironman" a more suitable title would be "Lardman - Pretty fit for a Fat Guy" as I commence preparation for Ironman number 9 - Ironman Australia.

Preparation for this Ironman was not the greatest.  Our son was shipped to the UK for a holiday on his own, so the remaining family decided to take a two week break in Singapore/Borneo at the same time, forgetting it was 4 weeks before the Ironman.  At time when you are normally supposed to be doing your intense training, I was on holiday.  Concentrate on the running I thought, but when you bang your toe against a futon that has the extra leg in the middle of the bed and break your toe, plans took a turn for the worst.

Swimming has been solid, with my children.  We have done a 2.8km ocean swim each month, so swimming is not a concern,  Riding has been consistent too, with many 3-4hr rides, although just didnt have the time for longer rides, so same old story there.

The main thing for me is to get to the event, register and relax with the least amount of stress possible.  However, Air NZ decided to simplify their baggage policy which meant rather than having one bag of 32kgs you can now have two of 23kgs, which  is a pain when you rock up with the former and then have to convert to the latter.  Coupled with delays due to plane leaking water and further delays getting harrassed by OZ customs and then trying to hire a car with a working navigation system, I finally arrived at Port Macquarie 4hrs later than planned.  Left home at 5:00am and got to my destination some 13hrs later and to make matters worse was greated by a rain storm and probably the worst hotel I have ever stayed in, definately a case of where the internet advertising didn't meet the actual product.  A classc case of over promising and under delivering.

So an early night and a 12hr session in bed.  I could have gone for a swim on the swim course, but an ocean swim is an ocean swim and I really couldn't be bothered to get wet.  So I registered and suprising at no point did I have to show ID or even say my name, I just told them I was race number 902 and after signing a waiver they passed me my bag.  I drove the bike course to get a feel for it.  There was a lot of potholes and some sections were serious roadworks, just hope it's a little tidier on race day.

After teaching my triathlon team the importance of riding the course first, I thought I'd document the course, so I could mentally go thru it in my mind instead of counting sheep.

It's basically a two lap out and back to Laurieton.

when you get to Laurieton, there are two loops. The first one 10km from the bridge at Bold Street, reasonably flat, with views along the inlets (except a small hill towards the end of camden head road) and then the atual turn around at pilot beach is a steep drop down to the turnaround and then back up again (approx 5km from bridge), the second loop is out to the end of diamond dead road being a 4.5km ride there and back to the bridge, again pretty flat, road surface not brilliant. 

From the bridge and back out thru Laurieton is 4.3km, it's a nice smooth but indulating road.  From the roundabout at the end Laurieton back along ocean drive, after 3.6km there's a nasty hill that's a 500m steep climb followed by another 500m steady climb followed by a big roll down and back up again, but momentum down takes the majority of the hill back up out. Bonny Hills is 6.5km from Laureiton roundabout and theres some rolling hills, but some long hills with equally long down hills.  7.3km from Bonny Hills you exit Lake Cathie and it's a very flat road, along the coast but sheltered by trees on either side this lasts for 7km before the hills start rolling again, it's 8.1km from when you exit lake Cathie until you get to PMQ Golf Club, once pas the golf club there's a 880m turnaround that's up a hill and down again, then rollings hills back into PMQ. The distance from Golf Club to PMQ and some of the hills are quite nasty, a couple very.  THe roll into pMQ once you have negotiated this hills for 7.5km is beautiful, great views of the ocean. the roll down is approx 5km to the transition (but remember this is a 5km long uphill section on the way out).

So bike course all mastered.  After the issues with de-assembling my bike box thanks to AirNZ, I decided to get it serviced.  Damn good job I did, as my brake cables were corroded and could have snapped at any time.  So the AUS$150 charge seem little in comparison to what could have happened.  So bike all ready to go.  They say lay everything out at least two days beforehand, so you forget about what you may have forgotten and channel your thoughts elsewhere.

Carbo party was great, great speakers and the usual quality you expect from the Australians.  1/3 of the field are first timers, so this really is an age groupers race.  No nerves yet, I guess I'm too old and seasoned for them.  Can't even muster the energy to go check out the swim, as I've done so many ocean/open water swims now (30 in total), what can the swim throw at me, that I haven't done already. 

Went for a 20min ride on the bike course the day before the race, few challenging hills leading out of town, but I found I could comfortably get up them in the big chain ring, so obviously all that hill training with my tri/cycling team girls has done me the world of good.  There was a good vibe around town I had that feeling of "just can't wait to get into the water and on to the bike".  The day before the race is actually quite boring, you just sit back, relax and mentally prepare.  I am a great fan of cheese and unlike NZ, the Aussies have some great soft cheeses, as good as you would get in France.  Is it wise to eat such food, probably not, but they tatste so good.
So race preparation done, what a lot of preople forget is "after the race".  When you have finished the race your not going to get to sleep, there's so much caffeine and electrolites in the system it's just not possible.  So you need to get rid of the sickly taste and eat/drink something.  KFC and Gin & Tonic RTD's is becoming a favourite post race meal for me, so had to strategically work out where the KFC was in relation to the motel and start/finish line and make sure the fridge was stocked (as a bad race means the liquor shops will be closed when you need them)
I really messed up my accomodation, got a place right next to the swim start, thinking the finish would be nearby (as the bikes are there) only to find out it's a split transition and the finish libe is about 1-2km from the motel.  Have rode back to a motel after a race before, so just need to make sure I have the right bags to throw everything on my shoulder/back.
Well bike was racked at 1:30pm, nothing left to do after that.  One last check that I have my tri-suit and swim gear then put my feet up for 15hrs.  Watched a movie on TV, then finally decided to call it a night at 9:00pm.  Getting to sleep is never an issue, I nodded off quite quickly and my body clock woke me up at 4:20am, beating my alarm clock by 10mins.  I sleep so well before events, not even thinking about the race ahead, that I worry I'll miss my alarm clock call.
Sitting down having breakfast (pancakes and ultragen) I felt the cold air come from under the door, the weather forecast warned that whilst the temparatures will be in the low 20's during the day, it would be more like the low 10's in the evening/mornings.  I checked me email and txt messages whilst eating, thinking the hardest part of the first hour is to eat and hope that a "number 2" comes along.  I remember one of the early races where I was so nervous I couldn't eat and I surely suffered later as a result, so nowadays being a necessity it all goes down without any issues.
My preparation with nutrition for the day was all prepared the day before, but planned whilst packing back in Auckland.  Only one tiny change as I decided to put a couple of bottle in my bike special needs bag instead of carrying them on the bike.  I brought along three of the oldest and most un-used drink bottles with a view to trading them on the course for some nice souvenir bottles.
The start's are always the same, you get prepared and then just watch the clock countdown.  I was fortunate to get help from the BlueSeventy people who showed me techniques to get into my wetsuit I didn't know (as a result no chaffing), then meet a couple from Mt.Albert which helped pass the time. 
The swim was a deep water start and as we floated the currents pushed us pass the start buoys and in the end the officials gave up trying to get us back and just fired the gun.  The water was a bit choppy and there were currents, but I regard ocean swims as honest ironman swims.  I was convinced I had had the swim of my life, but my time said otherwise, no idea how I ended up so far down the field, I was passing people all the time.
Swim over, quick dash to transition.  The helpers were fantastic, not only did they quickly rip off my wetsuit, they were putting my bike shoes on for me.  I was really looking forward to the bike so couldn't wait to get on it.  The main hills are all the first 10km of the race (and of course the last 10km, plus it's a two lap course) and I felt great.  I had a goal to get thru the first lap uunder 3hrs and I made it with 7mins to spare.  On the return leg there was a brutal hill that totally smashed my legs.  As I ascented the hill I noticed a carpet in the gutter, didn't pay much attention to it or realise what it was for.  On the second lap, those hills I flew up in the big chain ring on the first lap, were now small chain ring efforts.
Nevertheless I made 120km in just over 4hrs and I knew I was slowing.  I gritted it out and pushed on.  The bike officials where just great.  I was headdown on one section quite close to the rider in front, when the motorbike pulled alongside me and just gave me a warning.  He mentioned that the rider front kept getting out his saddle and fell back towwards me, so it was not really my fault, but told me to keep an eye on him.  These are the officials you need, who understand cycling and what you are going thru.  so 8km before the end of the race that nasty hill approached.  I have never dismounted a bike before, but when your pushing up a hill and then feel you bike going backwards you know it's time to get off.  I then discovered the carpet was there to protect your bike shoes as you pushed your bike up the hill.  I wasn't the only one, there was quite a crowd of us doing the same.  Those brave enough to stay on their bikes blew and and where soon passed by the walkers.
Getting off your bike is such a relief, as the bike leg is one leg where your ironman can be over due to mechanical difficulties, but once your off you bike you know you have done it.  I actually managed a dismount by taking my feet out my shoes for the first time.  I wish I'd done this before as it made running to transition so much easier.
Running shoes on and loads of vaseline applied I was off.  Being a "larger" person than your average ironman I do suffer from chaffing, so was determined to make sure it was not going to happen this time around.  I can definately say now, that the two things you need to prevent chaffing is vaseline and a razor!
I wasn't sure how my toe was going to hold out, so I started on a very simple stratgey.  I was going to go thru an aid station, take on nutrition and then run for 5mins.  This was about the time it took for the pain to become too intense, so I would revert to walking.  With each aid station being 2km apart, this did put me on a 8kmph pace, which wasn't too bad.  It was a four lap run course.  On the last lap, the continual over compensating for a hurting left leg, meant my right leg was now knotting and starting to hurt, so I missed a few of my 5min runs.  Whilst walking I met this really nice Australian guy called Greg.  He was shuffling along with me.  He told me how in his late twenties, early thirties he ran 9hr Ironmans and had been to Kona three times.  He injured his back in the army and now cannot compete at the level he used to, but cannot give up the sport and now settles for 14hrs - truly amazing guy.
I really enjoyed the marathon, the four lap format meant there was always plenty of great support.  The down side is you could here the "you are an ironman" being called out to the finishers, whilst you were only half way through your run.  It got dark very quickly, the glow sticks where out at the 10hr 30min mark, so only the fast guys missed them.
The finish line is always a special place, you get energy from the crowd and no matter how much you are hurting you bound down the chute.  I made it, Ironman No.9 completed.  Having done 8 different Ironman events, this remains one of the only ones I'd like to come back and do again
1:16:06  Swim
6:29:54  Bike
5:59:57  Run
13:52:29 Total

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