Monday, May 9, 2011
So here is the recap on my experience in Port Macquarie, New South Wales. I arrived 4 days before the race so that I could settle in and get to know the course a little more than just the map and street names in the athlete guide. To my dismay, it rained pretty much the entire time leading up the the race. Full on!!! I did get a chance to swim in the Hastings river each day for a little practice and also fit in a short run and bike here and there when the clouds parted of moments at a time.
Port Mac was really a cute little town. It really doesn't seem like it is on the ocean until you walk a little south of town. To me it was more of a little town that would be on the banks of one of the Great Lakes in the US. There was everything you needed to get by, including a Target( the Aussie Targets are nothing to compare to the amazing USA Targets), but it wasn't too commercialized like some beach towns tend to be. It was a really nice location for the race.
A few days prior to the race I really was dealing with a lot of anxiety. I traveled to Port by myself and being alone for a few days really got me into nervous mode. Thank goodness for my "hosts" and new friends, Angie Bainbridge and Robbie Elder, who came in on Friday to join in the weekend festivities. I was lucky enough to have one of my Sirius teammates hook me up with some of her friends and a lovely house to share on the canals. It was so nice to be around other athletes who understood the pressures of Ironman, as well as the welcoming company that they gave to me. It was so nice to have strangers reach out and take me in as one of their own. I can't express my gratitude more. Thanks guys!!
I was standing at the swim entry ready to jump in, and one of my lucky songs came on over the loud speakers. It is "Walking On A Dream" by Empire of the Sun. I was floored and a certain calm came over me. Nothing else mattered at this point except doing the best I could and believing in all the training.
I was the first one in the water as it was deep start anad we only had a few minutes to get into position. It was a mass start including the pros. I did jump up front with the small group of us. When I gun went off I just went for it. I was immediately creamed by tons of fast age group men. I did get one good solid heel right in the left eye. BAM!! No problem, Im not scared of a black eye. The pack fight is part of the game. I chose to wear my Blue Seventy Element goggle tinted in orange as the water was not clear and it was a little dark out but the sun was peaking. They held tight, never fogged, and worked wonders.
I was happy overall with my swim improvements. This has been and will be a long learning process for me. I am getting more comfortable in the water after each and every race and am grateful for an time I am able to cut off of racing.
I was feeling great coming out of the water. The transition area was pretty smooth and much smaller than my past ironman. I didn't have to run too far to grab my stuff or get assistance. I know I am not the fastest swimmer so having a good quick transition is very important for me.
Heading out on the bike I knew what I was in for, mostly. Robbie and I had driven the entire course the day prior to see the new changes and just prepare mentally. The first 15k are big rolling hills heading south out of town. It doesn't really give one a chance to get into any sort of rhythm for a while. There is the excitement though of just getting on the bike and the crowds cheering so it didn't phase me too much. So after that comes the flats....and the wind. Boy this turned into a much more brutal route than I expected. There is a long stretch between oceanside towns where the road is completely flat. However, the winds were in a whirlwind on race day. I pushed hard and was grateful for all of my desert wind training the past few months. That training really helped me get though and make it a great bike. The road were pretty rough and tough as well. It isn't isn't smooth blacktop paved roads, more like grainy asphalt. I was happy with my decision to ride of HED Jet 6 and Jet 9 wheels for the race. A disc wheel would have put me in a bad position with the hills and especially the wind. The have a really great surface area contact as well which helps me feel more in control with keeping my bike on track, even on the rough roads.
The journey back into town for the loop was much quicker as suspected, due to the opposite direction of the winds. The only real tough part coming back in a 200m super steep up hill that takes every one's breath away. Everyone must be in their granny gear at the very bottom of the hill or else.....you won't make it!! The course was two loops so the first time this little bitch wasn't so bad, but the second time at about 107 miles in, I thought I wouldn't make it!! OMG!!! It was tough, but then again only last 20-30 second of your life....so its not the worst hill in the world:) It took a few minutes to catch my breath after the hill each time, but then again everyone else had to go through the same things as well. I had a great bike ride and really got my nutritional needs met without an cramping or discomfort. So big +++ for the bike ride. My training has been changed drastically this year, and I can see that it is working.
I felt decent coming off the bike and really got into a rhythm right from the start on the run. It was sort of a figure eight 10k loop done four times. Oh man, four loops is a killer!!! I felt amazing on the first two laps and really thought that the first 13 miles got down pretty easy and with a smile on my face. Then I hit lap 3 and stared to fade a bit. During the run in the past it had been my legs cramping, but today it was just a little soreness but more fatigue setting in. No matter how much sugar and caffeine one can pump into their body, after 8hr or so anything is tough for the body to continue performing anything. Thank goodness for Angie and the BRAT tri club section cheering for me as I ran by. I got to pass them 8 times, so it was an awesome jolt of energy every time I came back around past the river. The run wasn't too hard of a course, but there was a part at the farthest turn around when you would switch directions and the wind just smacked you in the face. On all 4 laps I found this to be the most difficult section of the looped course. The winds starts pushing you when you are in no mans land and fighting to get back into the town. This was definitely where the ups and downs of the mind kicked in. I was able to push through each as hard as I could, but it wasn't easy.
Coming into the finish I felt a real excitement come over me. There was no one finishing at the same time as me, so I had finishing shoot all to myself. The spectators lined each side of me and were banging on the signs that were lining the path. I crossed with all the strength I had, and a smile on my face. My first Ironman as a professional triathlete was no complete. It was an amazing experience. Thank you also to Tony Wright, race swim director, for meeting me at the finish line, as promised with a big hug and congrats! That really meant a lot.
I had really hoped to finish under 10 hours, but I was able to improve in each area of this race, and am pretty darn satisfied. Not many things went wrong during the race, but I learned a lot about my abilities, and the fitness level I am at now, and where I need to work on things and get stronger in order to achieve my goals. Ironman Australia was a really well organized race as well as fair. I don't know if I will be able to go back again next year, but suspect I will be back sometime in the next few years.
(Sorry for the lack of pictures. I didn't take many as I was alone with my camera and it rained a lot.)