Shark – Bike – Bushfire – Run
Ironman Western Australia – Part 2, The Race Report
So here is, the race report for IM Western Australia.
I tried to keep it short, but the day was just so unbelievable that it was hard. The journey was one I’ll cherish forever. It has shown me strength I never knew I had. I hope you enjoy.
Its been nearly 2 weeks since the big day and I’m still trying to find the words to express how I feel about the whole experience.
It was such a whirlwind from the moment I left Melbourne right through to crossing that finishing line.
I can honestly say that once I hit the first stage of my taper, 2 weeks before the day, I was so proud and confident of what I had achieved over the past 6 months. I was proud of the commitment I had shown to my training, health and overall the whole process. To me getting through the months, weeks and days of training was the hard part. I knew that if I committed to the process, come race day, it would be the easy part.
The week leading in was pretty crusiey, work definitely kept my mind busy. Packing the long list of equipment for the event, then keeping up with short easy sessions to keep the body ticking over. It felt so good to see the body freshen up, to have this amazing fitness I was feeling ready and excited.
We left home for our flight to Perth bright and early on Thursday morning for our expected departure at 8:00am. While we jammed packed ourselves into the taxi; my partner Scott, Coach Katee and her husband Mick with all our luggage plus 3 bikes, we were pumped to go. On the way we all received a text message saying our flight has been delayed. Cool, no worries, 2 hours is nothing. Upon arrival at the airport when checking in we were then told our plane had mechanical issues and we were being redirect to Sydney with now a 4 hour delay. Not ideal, but ok what can you do. After getting through all that we sat down to enjoy our coffee when Scott received a text to state we were required to now board a flight to Canberra within 20mins of it leaving. WHAT! After confusion and no answers as to why we were headed there, we were on our way. No word of what was happening with our luggage. We landed in Canberra and still they were unable to tell us what was going on, other than we weren’t flying to Perth until 7:00pm.
So 10 hours now to burn in the Australian Capital Territory.
I remember reading in my notes on my training program the instructions for Thursday were to keep cool, hydrated and off my feet. Turns out we spent the day touring around on our feet and very stressed as we still didn’t know where the luggage was.
A phone call from my coach when she had landed in Perth (the flight we were supposed to be on also) made my day. She was standing at the conveyer belt in Perth with our bags and Mick had collect my bike. PHEWWW!!!
Finally boarding the plane to Perth, we were delayed another hour. Ahh what the hell is another hour hey?! Scott and I finally made in to our motel in Perth at 1:00am.
Friday we made the 3 hour trip down to Busselton, south of Perth. I just couldn’t wait to get there. As soon as we arrived I was straight down to the expo to check myself in. This was like no other check in I’ve experienced. As I was a ‘first timer’ the beautiful volunteer called out to the others and next thing they are all cheering and ringing their cow bells. It was an incredible feeling. They too were as excited as me. I signed my life away, got weighed and was on my way. Straight to the merchandise tent. Quick look through we then went to check out the famous jetty. It was BEAUTIFUL! Just like the photos. The vibes around the town were amazing, I’ll never forget it.
That afternoon a few of us went for a quick spin on our bikes to check they were all good from the flight and to have a quick look over the bike course. It was my first taste of the imfafous Busselton wind. Boy it was strong. But hey, I had plenty of training in wind. That wasn’t going to make me worried.
Saturday was a busy day. Our Tri club, Holistic Endurance got together to do a swim, ride and run. The water was stunning, seeing star fish, turtles, sting rays and even a dolphin swimming underneath us. The water was cool, calm and clear. I couldn’t wait to be out there swimming around the jetty. Off on our ride, it was hot already. Again an insight into what we would be facing on Sunday. A chance then to run on the course, along the coast. Not only did this help settle the nerves but it also made the fire in my belly burn big for what was about to come.
After what felt like forever packing all my gear in to appropriate bags, one allocated for all my bike gear the second for my run gear. Plus two bags for special needs that would I would have access to on the bike and run course if i needed. We set off to drop my beloved bike and gear into transition.
From there outside it was like trying to find a needle in a hay bail, there were bikes everywhere! I loved seeing so many people wanting to achieve the same thing I did. Transition is actually very carefully organised, numbered and labelled. The time spent in transition I was able to visualise how it was going to work, where to enter, where to exit. Also have I mentioned how amazing the volunteers are? They were everywhere being so helpful.
After that, everything was completed there was nothing else to do other than relax. Everything was done. Such a strange feeling, something I had been waiting to feel for such a long time. This was it.
A quick visit to see the boss Luke and his family who had flown over to spectate (how cool is that but the way) definitely helped distract me from what could happen on Sunday. Chatting about the whole process of what we had been through and what lay ahead of me, it was such a good time to reflect.
It certainly was an early night for me, I was always curious if I’d get much sleep the night before and Ironman, as in past before previous events, this has not been the case. Turns out I slept like a log!
Waking up at 4:00am, the day was FINALLY here. I remember Scott turning over and saying “Its your Christmas Day.” He was so right, everything I has dreamed about doing was about to unfold.
Well at least I thought it was…
We arrived at the the event and there were people everywhere! I walked straight into transition and dropped all my food, water/electrolytes off at my bike. All was good. I then started hearing announcements being made over the speaker that there had been a shark sighting at the jetty. WHAT THE HELL! Were they serious? Surely not, surely they would scare it off and we would be on our way, this is my Ironman Day. When no announcements had been made the vibes in transitions were getting worse, people talking about what might or might not happen. All we were told was to stay at our bikes until further notice. I remember looking down at my watch and it was nearly 7:00am (our start time) and starting to get anxious, this was our start time we should be in the water, how I thought the day would unfold wasn’t going to plan.
We were finally told that the swim was NOT going ahead. I was honestly devastated! Surely the shark would leave once we all started?
So new plan, we would start on the beach front and every 6 seconds, 2 people were allowed to start. This was to ease the congestion in transition and on the roads. My friend and I waited out in the sun for over an hour. That sun was beaming down on us, it was hot and I was beginning to get hungry. This didn’t make me feel positive at all. I made a new plan for my nutrition, for when I finally got to my bike. 2 hours after our original start time I was out on the bike, it was now 9:00am.
This was the best feeling ever getting out there, we had finally started. I was doing an Ironman.
The first 90km I was having the time of my life, speed was good, nutrition and hydration perfect. I was back to the 90km turn around point in no time. Seeing Scott an my best friend Sara was the best feeling ever. It was definitely heating up though, I was collecting water bottles at each aid station and pouring it over my head, face and back to try and keep cool.
There is about 20km on the bike where I have no recollection of what happened. What I do remember is looking down at my Garmin and it said 110km, from that point on I was in trouble. I started to feel really sick in the stomach. My water was hot, my food melting. Nothing I put in my mouth was satisfying me. I still had 70km to go.
Approaching the 135km mark I start to see a lot of smoke coming from a fire, I thought to myself how strange it was that they were allowed to burn off on such a hot day?! As I came closer to the 135k turn around, someone was calling my name. I couldn’t make out who it was, I was starting to feel so delusional. First I thought it was Scott, it couldn’t be. As I got closer I could see it was my boss Luke and his wife Lisa. They were cheering so loud for me, I was thinking so myself, stop cheering, stop it. As I turned the point I looked over to Lisa and told her I was really sick. She could see it in my face that this was not one word of a lie.
Little did I know that the smoke I had seen earlier was coming from an out of control bush fire. It was headed very close to the bike course. The heat it was projecting towards us was unbearable. Later I found out that it clocked 40 degrees out on those roads.
Nothing improved on the bike, passing aid stations to collect water bottles that were just as hot as the ones I already had. It had nearly been 1.5 hours with me vomiting and unable to keep anything in. I had vomited all over myself, over my bike, still riding. This was bad. I pulled over and this beautiful man stopped to ask if I was ok, he could see I was unwell. I didn’t know what I needed, nothing was working. He offered to get the ambulance, I knew that if he did get them, my day was done. I wasn’t ready to quit yet. I managed to tell him I needed to get back to transition. That was now my goal, it was all I could focus on. He told me to get on my bike and follow him back. So I did. His direction was what I needed, I was unable to make a rational decision. I was finally making my way back to what I thought was transition. In the distance I could see my coach and other athletes from Holistic Endurance, cheering for me like crazy. Again in my mind I was telling them to stop, I was failing, don’t be happy for me! I pulled in as I thought it was transition, got off my bike I was really distressed as I could not cool myself down. I felt like I was cooked from the inside out. I explained what had happened as best I could, I didn’t know what to do. This part is a bit of daze to me, but I remember Coach Katee saying to me, the choice to continue was mine and she would support me with whatever I decided. The look in her eyes, I knew it wasn’t good. She gave me a bottle of crisp mineral water that was so cold that I wanted to skull, but knew I had to sip or it would come up. She also gave me very clear instructions what to do next. To get to transition, cool down by standing under the hose, eat and drink something. And most importantly, that I had this!
I got to transition and Scott was there on the sideline, I couldn’t even look at him, I was so disappointment with myself, I knew I had let him, my coach myself and everyone back home down. I hated this! The volunteers took my bike and I wobbled over to the guy with the hose and I stood there while he sprayed me down from head to toe. This was heaven. I walked over to get my run bag and got organised. The volunteers gave me iced water and help me put it down the back of my top and under my cap. Part of me didn’t want to run, how could I possible get through a marathon? I had been vomiting the past 2 hours. I remember looking around and there were girls everywhere looking as sick as I was. Some vomiting, some crying, some encouraging us saying we could do it. One girl close to me was hysterical, she was so distressed with the whole situation. It actually made me feel uncomfortable. I had to get out there and at least try. I walked out and again got hosed down with water, then spotted a familiar face. Mick (coach Katee’s husband) he had followed me in since seeing me get off the bike. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but I know it was encouraging. Katee and him both believed in me that I could at least try.
So I did, off I went. Out on the run! The crowd along the beach as just insane. The vibes they were giving me made me forget about the past 6 horrendous hours, I was doing this. I was going to give it my all. They were cheering my name, hi fiving and running alongside me. An incredible experience. I got to the first aid station where I took a piece of watermelon, it was the best tasting watermelon I’ve ever had. Finally something that my body would take! The next thing I knew I was passing through more and more aid stations. One of my favourite parts of the run was seeing Katee and the HE crew, I was smiling (and probably crying) I could see the joy in them that I hadn’t given up. I was doing this. It gave me so much strength to keep pushing.
I then saw another another spectator/friend Paul who was on this bike motivating us along the path. He rode alongside me for what felt like eternity. Constantly checking in, telling me to pick it up. He distracted me from the pain I was in. My body was hurting and I was still burning hot.
The minutes, the hours and the KM’s passed, the sun was setting and I was just focusing on the next thing. Get to the aid station, pass that KM. The tiniest goals, felt like the biggest. But ticking them off gave me more strength, it was rewarding. I needed to keep distracted.
On the final 3km of the run I could see a friend ahead, Shelly. I’ve know her as long as I’ve been in the triathlon world, she was walking. I needed to get to her. I did, I told her we had to get to the finish line, we were nearly there. We ran/walked that last 2km before finally hitting the beginning of the finishing shoot. We were there.
I cannot explain the thrill of it, running down that red carpet, lights flashing, the tunes pumping, people cheering for me! I wanted to stop and just watch, take it all in. I wanted this moment to last forever, but I also wanted this whole experience to end. I was hurting.
I could see my name on the top of the finish line banner, Pete Murray calling my name. It was everything I had imagined, however the feelings were 100% sweeter. I had finished. I did it!
A volunteer grabbed me and asked if I was ok, I had no idea if I was. I could see Scott, Katee and the support crew by the sideline, they gave me my finishers towel and walked over to them. Katee had my medal and she out it over my head and hugged me.
I had finished, it was over.
By this stage I was very emotional, seeing everyone so happy for me. I was so happy for me. I have never felt so proud of myself, than what I was feeling in that moment. I had beaten all the demons in my head, I had delt with all the curveballs that were thrown to us, I had overcome the thought that I was going to give up while out on the bike. But, I didn’t.
I DID IT!
It was hard to comprehend what had happened across the day, the sharks, the bushfire, the heat. Everything was/is a blur. But I know I am so pound of myself for finishing what I had started.
The following day it was important to debrief. I had said I was never doing it again. That I was done. After many chats and reminiscing, I found out that over 700 athletes (from 2,600 including the 70.3 athletes) pulled from the event. That someone hit a kangaroo on the bike (could this be anymore Australian). That temperature were much higher than what was predicted, much higher, 36 by 12:00pm.
That the conditions we were faced with were very challenging, some saying worse than Kona.
This helped me not be so hard on myself, sure my times were slower than anticipated, but I did the day as best as I could. I nailed the training leading in and looking back, it was the experience of a life time.
So my response has now changed when people ask if I’ll do it again. From “never again,” to “Cya in May at Cairns Ironman.”
I want to experience the whole thing, swim, bike and run. I will not stop to I am an Ironman.
So, my quest to become an Ironman continues.
I CAN AND I WILL BE AN IRONMAN