Monday, April 07, 2008

Port Macquarie Ironman 2008-04-07
4th Female, 10:00:02

I found Nicole Ward just before the race. We were both nervous flurries putting on our swim caps and trying to get to the start. I said to her, “Nicole, I’ve been bad, I haven’t been going to swim squad, I will next time.” I felt instantly better with my confession out there in the open. We found Leanne and giggled as we climbed under the finish shoot stands to get into the water.

It wasn’t a good swim. I knew as I approached the chute that I’d had a longer than usual experience in the Port Macquarie Water. I’d got a bit scared in the churn, there had been a current. I hadn’t been going to swim squad.

Once I was on the bike I was happy. It’s easy to get a bit daunted by the hills at Port Macquarie but if you don’t mind a few of them, it really is a very spectacular course. The hills rejuvenate. We sailed into town at the end of every lap, the spectators’ cheered and we smiled. It was a good time not to think too far ahead.

The second lap we had rain. Quite heavy rain really. I had a lovely moment as I tasted the water running into my mouth thinking how little it bothered me. On race day it’s just one of the experiences that are thrown in. Just as I thought this someone rode past and said, “this is miserable.” I felt lucky.

Port Macquarie put on a show for us once again. It’s such a spectacle for first timers to see. They don’t see it all either. At every aid station there are scores of volunteers, lining up in formation to deliver, water, Gaterade, Anzac biscuits and bananas on the fly. They have to run with us as we come past on the bikes. In the first lap there’s always a bit of a high failure rate as competitors and volunteers sort out the process but throughout the day it gets better and better until there are hardly any tell tale signs of squashed Anzacs appearing on the road.

I had chasing to do in this race. That bad swim, had to be made up with by my legs. The race leaders were out in front and getting further with every lap. They really are amazing to watch Chrissy Wellington and Kate Major. I’m glad they’re the best in the world! We get to see them out there all day and gosh they do a professional job of it.

I just set about riding my bike, not being too cocky about the hills, but using what I had in my legs. I felt a little sluggish for quite some time but things got better. It’s nice having a few races in my experience nest now as I can refer back to each.

In the last lap and a half of the run I started to feel in my zone. My legs felt strong, like they could withstand something if I asked it of them. I’ve done this race before and to change the experience I have to get out of “survival” mode in the run, and turn into race mode. This is what I did.

I ran harder, faster down the hills. I know my legs can take this. I took the tail wind and ran with it. I took my goo to make sure I had the energy there. I ran to get there fast.

By the next turn around I realised I was getting a lot closer to a few girls in the women’s field. They were all looking good. They’d been looking good for hours and I had no expectation of catching them. But I had to run at my new pace and the fact that I was catching people became an easy motivator.

By two-thirds of the way through the last lap, I was within site of Sarah in 5th. I train with Sarah. She’d been looking fantastic all day and I know there is not faltering her. I had no expectation of catching her but I kept running harder. At the next turn around I was only 100 metres behind. It still seemed like a very long way. Friends kept cheering and the race became exciting. As I came past Sarah she said “well done Prue, 4th’s only 100 metres ahead, have some coke and go and get it.” It’s one of my favourite moments in an event. The best sportsmanship I’ve ever personally witnessed.

I ran harder thinking to myself “I’ve always wanted to run with a bike.” The bike was the 4th place marker. I caught the bike before I caught Ali and I was tempted to be happy with that.

This was all in the last kilometre. Sarah had also found more inside her, and was running superbly from behind until we got to the finish shoot and she was 25 meters behind again. We finished with 1 second between us in a sprint finish. I am so excited and so thrilled to be part of this. Sarah and I have very different strengths and races in triathlon. It’s wonderful seeing that the sport caters to different approaches and I’m so proud to be one of two Sunny Coast Girls off to Hawaii.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Port Macquarie Ironman Training

I give myself two marks out of ten for each Ironman I do. The first one I receive before stepping foot on the start line. It’s the mark I give myself for my preparation, and no bad race can take it away. The next one is for what I do on race day; it’s about what I did during the race, if I stay tough, if I give it a good go, if I’m proud of what I do. I’m an engineer, so I deal with lots of numbers but funnily enough I keep the numbers to a minimum in my sport. Last year I got to the finish line of Port Macquarie and I said, “I don’t care what the numbers say, I never expected to make it through that thing, and I’m just so proud of myself for doing so.”

I’m happy I said that, as I can remember saying in conversation one day, “if I finish an Ironman and I’m not happy with myself, then it’s time to find a different sport.” Too much goes into an Ironman, to not feel a sense of accomplishment, no matter what the outcome. So anyway, that was last year. This is now and this is a reflection on the last few months which has been my preparation.

It’s been an unusual lead up to Ironman. I’ve done a 12 hour all night mountain bike race, my first off road triathlon, a choose your own adventure triathlon course (I got lost), and I’ve been back to Goondiwindi - Hell of the West Triathlon to question why I do endurance sport.

Things have gone to plan and things haven’t gone to plan. I’ve raced and pulled up great, I’ve trained and pulled up not so great. One day I didn’t make it out of the garage after my long ride and had to commence recovery with a bowl of muesli from there. Another day my long run turned extra long with bonus adventures as I got lost in a forest, found in someone’s back yard and soggy in a Queensland bog that was a sports oval before the rain started back in December.

I became an inaugural member of the 9km an hour club, which Al and I formed on a steep 5km climb on a memorable mountain bike ride. AlI I could think was “I have to go faster than 9km an hour, I can’t do this for 35 minutes.” Jeff didn’t hang around for the invite to our club.

I’ve enjoyed mixing long road rides, with mountain biking adventures. When I first went off road it was like running on a bicycle. I’m still scared of the rocks I’ve made improvements and it feels great. It also seems to make all the other sports seem easier.

I’ve experimented with less than optimal bike positions (my cleats were too far back on my time trial bike), and out of alignment on my mountain bike. I’ve done long runs with my camel back, to finish runs hydrated and fresher. All these things seem to tell me a little bit more about my body and how it works in perfect and less than perfect situations.

Twelve hours on a mountain bike at night became a great experiment in managing nutrition. Lapses quickly showed up in the dirt as the first thing to was co-ordination and cadence. I drank blueberry juice, coffee, coke, water and sports drink. I ate easter eggs, tuna sandwiches and home made biscuits. I tried to swallow some kind of baby food but thought better of it.

The Sunshine Coast and the active people here are continuing to surprise and inspire. We have over 20 people from this area competing in Ironman this year, we all have different stories. We'll all be out there again together on race day.