Yesterday I started this year’s ironman adventures in Port Macquarie at Ironman Australia. After Busselton in December, I couldn’t wait to get back here to do another one, and I signed up for this race straightaway. I don’t think anyone else in the world does ironman like the Aussies do. Shane Smith and his team put on an event experience here like none other.
The women’s field in Port was small but strong, and I knew I was going to have to bust out a great swim-bike combo if I was going to have a chance against two good runners. I sussed out the men’s field and saw that Jason Shortis had swum here last year about like I would like to so I situated myself next to him at the start. But, after the initial sprint, I popped my head up to see the main bunch splitting off way off to our right, so I smashed myself to hop onto the train—and made it. I have managed to screw up my last couple consecutive swim starts so I was darn happy to be there! The pace seemed “on” the whole swim; at the end of the first loop, I couldn’t believe we were only halfway. I never felt like I blew up, but there was hardly any time to just sit feet and relax; it was like I was always just hanging off the back of a group, and a few age group men flew past me too (they started just a few meters behind us). After what seemed like forever, when I reached the swim exit, I was truly shocked to see 50 minutes on the clock because I could have sworn that I had been swimming for at least an hour! I came out with—guess who—Jason Shortis–by coincidence, I think, as I lost track of him within about 5 seconds of the start.
I had about a minute’s lead on the other ladies coming out of the water and I had decided that I needed to ride out over the hills all the way to the first turnaround (about 1/4 of the ride) as hard as I could to see if I could make some headway. I felt good and was able to push the pace on my own all the way out, so I was quite dismayed when I spotted both girls just about a minute or less after the turnaround. Ugh.
I had to fight to keep my head in the game but there was nothing else to do! The girls finally caught me on the wall, Matthew Flinders Drive, just a few kilometers before the halfway point turnaround. I have never climbed anything of that length so steep in an ironman; it gives me a slight panic attack just looking at it! Whew.
Anyways, I was not pleased to be passed, but after being out front on my own for so long not making any headway, it was nice to not have to think and just follow for awhile. I just sat back and matched the girls pace for about 20 kilometers ‘til about kilometer 105 when we were swallowed up in a massive pace line of age group men. I am sure it was frustrating for all those involved, and this is why we need a gap between our start and the age groupers’; we did not have that yesterday.
I felt quite stuck in there; if I let an inch more than the required 12 meters draft distance open up, some guy would slot right in ahead of me and I would have to sit up and wait. If I tried to overtake one athlete, there was another just ahead, and then I would be too close. But at least I knew that all three of us were in the same situation, and I could see that the other girls were trying hard to stay legal as well, even though it was slowing things down.
On a couple of occasions, I saw an opening and made an attempt to get away, to no avail, until finally with about 30 kilometers to go Nicole (Ward) and I made a bit of a gap on Michelle (Mitchell). It wasn’t until we hit the hills for the last time in the final few kilometers that I was able to get away from Nicole—way too little, way too late!
I led off the bike but Nicole had me out of transition, after which I proceeded to run up and down on the spot for 6 kilometers. That’s how long it took for my back to unlock and for me to be able to run normally; no joke, I was running way harder than I knew I should be at that point and it was yielding me no quicker than 5-minute kilometers. Michelle passed me a couple of kilometers into the run and both girls were gone.
The good news is that after about 30 minutes, I was able to run normally. Although at that point I was clearly just in a race with myself, I tried to focus on the positive: that I could run, and in fact even spent the second of the four loops feeling good running. Heck, just five weeks ago I couldn’t run off the bike. So I had to appreciate running and do my best run for the day.
It ended up that this meant a 3:34 marathon—not impressive by any stretch, but probably as good as I could have expected all things considered. I crossed the line with my 17th top-three ironman finish in a 9:58. And I finished with some positive takeaways:
- I saw a swim that reflected–at least somewhat–the training I’ve been doing in the water.
- I stayed focused for a full 180-kilometer bike ride and led off the bike for the first time in awhile.
- I saw that my hip/back “situation” is indeed getting sorted.
- I got in a much-needed long run heading into Ironman Brasil in just three weeks!
Thank you so much to all those who support me and made this race possible: Ironman Australia, PowerBar, TYR, Recovery Pump, Rudy Project, Zipp, ISM, Vega, FSA, CycleOps, and the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows.