So finally we arrive at race week. As you may have noticed, it has been some time since my last blog. Why, you ask? Well, for no other reason than “life” got in the way.
This last year getting to Ironman has been an interesting one. I have learnt heaps. I have made a heap of mistakes. But, I have also ensured that the important things in life weren’t compromised too much...........although, it actually took a while to truly see that.
Since the last time I have posted an entry there has been a great many things happen – some good, some great, some bad and some, well some have just been outright fucking terrible.
Along the way I have been able to enjoy some great times including marriages, births and other fantastic celebrations. One such highlight is my little bloke, Regan, starting school. One of the greatest things I have seen in my life was the smile on his face the morning he got up, put his school uniform on and trotted off to school. Fortunately, he has remained as enthusiastic over the last 5 weeks as he has been on that first day. I’ll be interested to see how long that lasts!
Another highlight was the wedding of my brother Rob, and his wife Erin just before Christmas. A fantastic celebration with the whole family and the first time we had all been together in quite some time. Unfortunately, it’s not too often that myself and all 4 of my brothers can get together, so this was an awesome weekend and great to have everyone, including Mum, together.
Unfortunately, there have also been plenty of lowlights as well along the way, and over the Christmas period we had 2 deaths in the family. Firstly, and shockingly, just 3 days before Christmas my cousin Renee was murdered by her estranged husband, leaving behind 3 children. Sadly, shortly after on Boxing Day, my Aunty Shirley passed away suddenly after a very short illness.
They say things happen in 3’s, and sure enough, late on Boxing Day I received a call from my Sister in law to say that my brother Greg had been seriously injured in an incident at work. He is a policeman in the ACT, and after being called out to a job, was attacked and stabbed 3 times. He now faces up to 4 months of work in rehabilitation after having the tendons in his hand severed.
All of this was on top of a general lack of motivation I was suffering anyway. Why? Who knows, but I think a combination of things. A new job in February, only a month before signing up for Ironman, was probably not the smartest move as it has been a massive learning curve on top of the commitment required for Ironman.
Also, Jorja and Regan had been a bit out of sorts and I was conscious of ensuring that they were not getting compromised when I did have my time with them. As a result of this, every second weekend (my weekend with them) was pretty much a write off from a training perspective, managing to get in an hour or so each day on the wind trainer or treadmill, but certainly no swimming. A small amount of time on swim paddles or stretching was able to be fit in also. However, only being able to train (especially the longer stuff) every second weekend certainly gets me to this point feeling very underdone.......more than normal!
Our race, the Shepparton 70.3, is also a massive undertaking by our club and requires a shitload of work to pull off successfully, so by the time I got to the end of November, I was tired. Both physically and mentally this was not ideal, as I had entered Emo’s Ultimate race in Wagga for the end of November (2/120/20) and I really wasn’t in the right frame of mind to be going and racing this. I was tired and the training had dropped off for the 6 weeks or so prior, so wasn’t sure what would be in store.
Unfortunately, race day dished up a shocker weather wise with some of the windiest conditions I have ever experienced. The 2km swim was in Lake Albert, a protected lake, however race morning saw a very healthy swell greet us. The Northward leg of the swim (x 2) was terrible and felt like I was being pushed backwards.
Out onto the bike for the 120km ride and again, the wind was playing havoc. The plan was to post a fairly reasonable bike time (for me anyway) with a 3hr 40m (easy) ride, which was totally doable based on my training to that point. Arriving back into transition after 3hr58m, I was trashed totally. The easy ride hadn’t happened, and it had taken significantly longer. At times, heading into the block headwind, I was down to grinding out at a top speed of 18k/hr and this has just trashed the legs.
Sadly, my run was affected because of this and I finally crossed the line after 7 hours and 13 minutes. This was well outside my pre race goal of 6.30 and had a huge impact on my confidence.
Not long after the Wagga Ultimate race was when the bad news started to hit (as referred to above) and, honestly, Ironman was the last thing on my mind – especially after the blow to the confidence at Wagga.
Once through Christmas and New Year, it was time to get back into some kind of routine, not only with training but also with work. Unfortunately, work was all out of sorts also with some major changes around structure and job responsibilities and this was causing a fair bit of angst as well. I just couldn’t seem to take too much of a break...........training continued to suffer.
Over the next few weeks in the lead up to flying out to New Zealand, training was done, but no where near what was needed. At best, it was enough to get by but that was about it. In the meantime, the diet was also suffering and whilst all my fellow team mates were getting leaner by the day, well, I was stacking it back on. I reckon I am the only person I know who has put weight ON during an Ironman build!!
It was during the final few weeks (in fact 4 weeks from race day) after a long ride on a Saturday morning, that I pulled up sore with pain behind my right knee. This got progressively worse over the next few days and I caught up with Ruley on Tuesday morning who advised I had strained the “Monkey muscle” and there was probably a bit of tendonitis to go along with it.
This didn’t really respond to treatment, either physio or myotherapy, and got to the point where I was limping whilst walking. Suffice to say the last 4 weeks only had limited running. In fact only four sessions in total.
So finally we arrived to the weekend prior to the race, which was packing weekend for a very early flight on Monday morning. A swim / bike session on Saturday morning, followed by Saturday afternoon pulling down the bike and packing into the bike box – the first time I have had to do this. This all went to plan, and soon I had the bike box packed. Then onto the rest of the gear and supplies needed for an Ironman race. It was soon evident that excess luggage was going to be an issue, so it was time to strip back all of the non essentials to try and pack as light as possible. 30kg’s sounds like a lot, but with the packed bike case weighing in at 25kg’s it didn’t leave much spare.
Finally done, and then alarm set for 3am Monday morning for the trip to Tullamarine with the boys. The trip was fairly uneventful and we finally arrived in Taupo at about 8pm Monday evening.
Tuesday morning was the time to get the bikes into the shop to get built up and checked over and mine appeared to have travelled ok except for a slightly bent rear derailleur cable, which was soon fixed up by the bike shop. It was decided that a quick check of the start of the bike course was in order, so 8 of the crew ventured out for a 20k ride to check out the route out of town. Unfortunately, this was about the time the rain started and settled in. The temperature dropped and made for a very uncomfortable ride, so it was quickly back home and into the showers.
Wednesday morning was a scheduled 30min swim for the crew, so down we go. It is here that I should mention that I swim in a sleeveless wettie, and have done so since I had my shoulder re-co. I have found that with my fully sleeved wettie, it fatigued the shoulder greatly and I just couldn’t get comfy. Upon entering the water, I soon realised that this was potentially going to be a very.......very......very uncomfortable swim as the temperature of the water seems to suck my eyeballs from my melon and my balls into my throat.
After battling through the 15mins out I gladly turned for home and got out as quickly as possible. After heading home for a shower and breakfast, it was back into the bike gear and we drove to the turnaround point at Reporoa to ride the return leg back into town. Once home, another shower, lunch and then off to the expo where I walked around and around checking bits and pieces out, but in the back of my mind I knew I was always going to buy a new wettie as I just couldn’t see myself finishing the swim in a sleeveless.
After checking out what was on offer and listening on the spiels from the reps from Blue Seventy (which was what my last fully sleeved wettie was), Ironman wetsuits and 2XU, I finally made my decision and I am now the owner of a 2XU C2 Comp wetsuit. The fact that it was a bargain at $230AUD didn’t hurt either!
Thursday morning was off to the swim start again to test it out and I can say, pleasingly, that both eyes and balls remained where they should this time. Whilst still cool in the water, the sleeves made a massive difference and I should be able to get around the 3.8km with hypothermia.
Thursday arvo was back onto the bikes for a roll around the run course to familiarise ourselves with where we will be going. Whilst there are certainly a few hills on the course, it was less than I expected, but will still be testing on the legs, especially after 3 laps.
Thursday afternoon was spent doing the tourist thing with a group of us heading out to check out some of the Jet Boats. All I can say is if you haven’t had a go at these things, then put it on your to do list. Absolutely awesome and the best 30 minutes ever. The drivers are sensational and know every inch of the river and where they can go safely........and for the biggest thrills. Photos to come in due course!
So then it was off to the carbo dinner and race briefing. Now, we know that the weather has been pretty ordinary in Taupo over the last few weeks and the forecast was not looking great for race day. However the race director provided us all with an update of the weather forecast, specifically stating that the low is due to head dead centre over Taupo on Saturday morning!!!
This is likely to bring with it persistent rain, winds to 45 knots and a top temperature in the morning of 16 degrees, dropping to 12 degrees in the afternoon. However, the wind chill factor is likely to push the temperature into single figures.
He also went on to say that a special contingency meeting is to be held at 4pm Friday to get the latest weather forecast and make decisions on the race format dependant upon the weather. The contingency at this point if unable to swim, is a bike/run combination with waves going off at 3 minute intervals.
I’m not sure how I feel about all of this to be honest. I am not looking forward to the swim in these cold and rough conditions...........but, I haven’t come this far to only do 2/3’s of an Ironman either. I won’t be coming back to New Zealand next year, as I simply can’t justify the cost. But..........I don’t want to only partly do it either.
Add to this all of the logistical issues also with warm gear, special needs bags (which I wasn’t going to use) and the like, and it all becomes a bit unpleasant really. I don’t mind if it rains all day like it did last year, but the cold and the wind will just make for a very unpleasant day.
So, after waking on Race eve it was back down the street to get extra bits and pieces that would be needed for race day – extra arm warmers, gloves, long sleeve run t-shirt, rain jackets etc, so a few of the crew met at 9am to have a scout around.
After looking for what seemed like hours, I finally cracked the shits and pretty much decided to go with what I had packed originally, thinking that everyone is going to be suffering the same and feeling miserable. A new pair of merino arm warmers was purchased, as well as a long sleeve T-Shirt for the run, but that was about it.
Headed back to the house for the all important bag packing, before checking in the bike and dropping the bags into rego. Even though I have been through the contents of each of the bags over and over, and I got The Fox and Nico to cast their eyes over the contents as we ran through it all 9as I did theirs), I still feel like something is forgotten, or in the wrong bag, or will be left at home or whatever.
Anyway, it’s too bad now. It’s done.
So, I sit here now at 4pm on race eve, looking out the window over the lake where we will be swimming tomorrow and I can see how black it is. I can see the cloud cover coming towards us, and I can hear the wind starting to build. But you know what? Fark it. I intend to have a good day tomorrow. I intend to smile as much as possible. I intend to thank the volunteers. I intend to take the piss out of myself and others. I intend to smack people on the arse and have others smack mine, but ultimately tomorrow, I intend to become an Ironman.
Good luck to all competing and hope everyone stays safe. Special good wishes to the Shepp Crew. It has been awesome to go through the year with you all and ultimately to this day tomorrow.
Hope you all have a great race