Ironman Western Australia, Busselton 2009

Time: 10:14:20
Swim: 52:51
T1: 1:50
Bike: 4:46:54
T2: 2:22
Run: 4:30:23

Race Analysis here

Staying with friends of my mums in Busselton gave me not only the perfect environment for my final couple of weeks training but the immediate pre race was perfect. I’d had so much sleep all week including 8 hours on and off the night before. I also had just what I wanted to eat – a monster steak and salad the night before and the morning of the race I couldn’t face eating too much (I take this as a good sign now) so had a slice of toast and peanut butter with two scrambled eggs on top.

I felt very relaxed and despite the 6am start the transition area was bathed in daylight which seemed to help ease the tension.

It was a beautiful morning and the water look gorgeous. I got in for my warm up early and made sure I was one of the first in the starting pen to ensure I was on the front line. Warming up from there and looking back as over 1,000 wetsuit clad bodies filled the beach was pretty scary.

It was a water start but in standing depth water which made it easier for people to hold there positions. Once underway it was pretty rough for the first 5 or 10 minutes. It seemed the guys immediately to my left had decided that rather than sight to the kink in the jetty they wanted to go diagonally across to the main group. Why they didn’t start over there I don’t know. I stuck to my line eventually one of them decided to swim straight across my lower back which prompted a massive freestyle kick from me which seemed to connect.

Not my proudest moment but pleased that it further confirmed my confidence in these rough swim starts.

I found myself to the left of the main front pack and whatever I did I never quite got across and in to it. I think because I was sighting off the buoys thinking I’d join them there but they never went round them staying close to the Jetty instead. The last 500m or so was very choppy and slowed us up. On the return leg we’d been told the buoys were just for sighting until the final turn buoy. The Jetty has a big kink in it and the sighting buoys kept you close to the jetty. I left the pack and made a beeline for the final turn buoy thus cutting the corner. I was surprised no one else did so when a Kayak came alongside I thought perhaps they were pushing me back over but they were just for company. I enjoyed my solo swim even with having a heart attack when I suddenly saw this big pink Jelly Fish which I managed to swerve round. I reach the turn buoy ahead of the pack and exited the water in just over 52 minutes and 2nd in my age group. Pretty pleased with that.

I had 4 helpers in transition ! Was super quick and got thoroughly covered in sun cream getting out on the bike in under 2 minutes. Now to get my sub 5 hour bike split. I stuck to my plan of going steady for at least half an hour to warm up. Several guys went hurtling by but I just stuck to my guns. Riding the whole first lap on my own and often without anyone in sight. The wind was strong and after 15km I was a little concerned that this was going to be the one Busselton race with slow bike times. I needn’t have worried by the time I was coming in to town my average was over 37km/h. Through the town section I could see a pace line of maybe a dozen riders not more than 30s behind.

Leaving town on the second lap they started to come by. My initial reaction is to think they’re going a lot faster but I kept my head and reminded myself they’d have to put a spurt in to come by. I settled in the pace line at about 8th spot and happy that this would help me pace the next lap before I pushed on the last. Very interesting being in a pace line – everyone is clearly trying to keep it legal but every so often it would concertina up and you’d see people sitting up to keep the gap. Then it would kick off and you’d have to work hard to stay with it. I must admit I was  pretty pleased to note I was the only one in a normal (ie non aero) helmet and more or less the only one without a disc wheel. That said I was riding a P3C with Xentis so I can’t complain.

At times everyone entered the draft zone and if following the letter of law the whole line should have leapfrogged each other with last ending up first, 2nd last, 2nd etc… Eventually  a motorbike ref drove along the line I was told I was borderline drafting and should be careful. The horror of getting a drafting penalty kept me more than legal from then.

About 2/3rds in to the lap after the highway turnaround I decided I could go faster but didn’t want the pack with me. I was at the back by now so pulled out and pushed the pace to go straight by the whole line and then kept at that pace to try and ensure no one came with me. I was pleased to see they didn’t and in fact, when I got to take a look at the town turnaround either the pack was miles back or my move had broken it up. Either way I was really pleased.

Final lap and I felt I could push. My average was at 37.8km/h so I knew if I held it together I was on for a great time. I could see ahead a large group of riders but as I picked off lapped riders I started to wonder whether it was just perspective that made them look like a group. Then coming along Tuart drive I could see what looked like a pace line. I was catching them pretty quick and thought how strange there’s an organised pace line a full lap behind. As I got close I noticed a female pro and realised it was a paceline ahead of me that I’d caught. I slotted in at the back for a couple of minutes and noticed to my delight that the guys that had belted by me in the first 15 minutes were at the front of it. I’d caught them so quick I decided to just go straight by and none of them were able to come with me.

Spurred on by this I kept pushing in to town finishing with a 4:46 bike split and leading my age group. I headed out on the run in the position I’d dreamed about and visualised so often – just under 5:45 on the clock needing a 3:15 marathon to get sub 9 hours.

In the run up to this race I’d been running well but out on the run it was immediately clear that I’d been fooling myself about any sort of run form. You cannot hide from my lack of run training. After 4km I changed to run walk. On top of this it was HOT. It must have been hot as I’ve never before heading out on the run felt hot. It was sufficient for me to really focus on getting cooled down.

By the turnaround I was feeling pretty good and running fine between aid stations but was starting to get twinges of cramp in both legs. A little like Kona but not quite so bad. I’d got some pretty expert opinions on this after that race and given my lack of cramping previously I reckon this is almost certainly lack of run training. My focus now was to get it under control. Like Kona I took salts, gels and drank loads not knowing if it’s due to dehydration or lack of salts or both.

Over the next 90 minutes or so I had a gel at EVERY aid station and took 4 salt tablets and drank loads – way beyond any sensible advice on dosage for any. Finally I needed a pee and following that I had no sense of cramp.

I was running comfortably for a while and getting a real boost whenever I passed mum with Lorraine and her family. Also seeing Jo out on the course was awesome and she did just the right thing when with a big smile said something like “I’m taking a photo of the guy with the fastest bike split in his age group”

It wasn’t long before my lack of run training  tracked me down and my legs were shot. The walks through aid stations started to be extended a few minutes beyond. After the penultimate station I ran really strong, just like I’d hoped Id have run the whole race. What sparked this running hard was seeing a 50+ year old run by me. It wasn’t like he was the first to do this but for some reason at that point something snapped inside me and I decided I had to run hard to the finish. In sight of the final aid station I realised I would have to walk that one before running strongly down to the finish.

4:30 marathon for 10:14 overall. Chuffed to bits with swim and bike but overall a little disappointed

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