So, two years later here we are, back for part 3 of my Ironman journey.
If you’re interested, or to freshen up your memory, you can get up to date on parts 1 & 2 below.
- So you wanna be an Ironman?
- My beautifully ugly obsession. The good, the bad and the ugly of Ironman Triathlon
To say it’s been a roller-coaster of a journey is an understatement. There’s been a lot of ups but some very low lows.
As I sit here and reflect on the past 2 years, I’ve learnt so much about myself. These challenges have taught me things that I may never have learned if I’d had an easier and smoother journey. I’m so grateful.
Returning from Cairns this time last year with a broken clavicle and 4 stitches in my face, I was absolutely gutted. My race before that, was in Busselton WA, 2017. A cancelled swim due to shark sightings and a shortened bike course due to bush fires left me deflated from the day. I felt I had not truly becoming an Ironman.
I couldn’t help but wonder why this was happening, why was each race ending with me feeling so broken, both physically, mentally and emotionally. It made me feel so out of love with the sport, something that had given me so much joy the past 5 years.
While I was recovering from my injury I didn’t think that continuing on with these big events was something I ever wanted to do again. I will never forget the feeling when I got back on my bike for the first time in over 3 months after my shoulder recovery. I was so underwhelmed. I hated it. After not pushing it too much, I decided I’d just let it be, that desire might return later on.
Thankfully it did. Over time I started craving being back on the bike, being with my tri buddies. I started tossing up the idea of getting back into some races. After much debating and discussion, I decided that I did want to have another crack at Ironman. It turns out I wanted it more than ever. But I was only going to do it if I could convince my best friend Sara to do it with me.
With over 6 months from race date, Sara and I made a pact. We were going to do this. It was on!
As the weeks flew past, I felt like I was regaining some of that fitness I had lost, but boy it felt harder than I ever remembered.
Starting from a lower base of fitness than ever before plus trying to rehab an injured shoulder was posing it’s challenges.
I was trying to find the balance of not over doing the shoulder but also not fluffing the process of preparing for what is one of endurance worlds toughest challenges. This is where my coach gave the greatest guidance. Adam from Beckworth Racing was a huge mentor for me throughout the year. I’m so grateful for his work. As the weeks due closer I was starting to feel my best, things were coming together. An Ironman build is truly unique and getting to the end in good health and uninjured was always my aim.
6 weeks out from IM Cairns I raced a half ironman distance (1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21.1km run) in Port Macquarie. Boy I’m glad I pencilled this race in!
It was another big learning day for me. Trialling nutrition, race strategies and testing how the body was feeling. Safe to say I was excited to be racing and may have overdone the bike on a tough hilly course which compromised my run.
After that race I made significant changes to my nutrition and my bike plan leading into Cairns.
It was soon time to fly to Cairns, heading up the Tuesday before. It was certainly a nice change in weather. The cold weather had really set in in Melbourne so 25 and sunny in Cairns was just perfect. A few short sharp sessions to keep the body ticking over helped nicely. It’s amazing to seeing the town transform into Ironman Village. Athletes from all over the world here to do the same thing you are. There is such a buzz around.
On the days leading in to the race the weather wasn’t great. It was all: wind, rain, sun, repeat. However it wasn’t anything I hadn’t already trained and prepared for back in Victoria.
The night before Ironman I had the worst sleep I think I’ve ever had before a race. It was an early start in Palm Cove, alarms off at 5:00am to begin the final prep before we were to head down to the swim start.
The sun started to rise, we could see the water was actually the best it had been all week. Still not amazing, but better than the day before. The wind was up, but again we knew that.
One thing I’ve learnt from racing, is wasting energy on being nervous is exactly that, wasted energy. Deep breaths and focusing on the immediate next task at hand kept the nerves at bay. Sara and I suited up and got in for a quick warm up swim, the water temp was cool and refreshing. We were ready.
A rolling start on the beach was slow but exciting, watching people enter the water knowing that they had begun their Ironman journey is great to watch. In we went at around 8:00ish am. Bring it on, 3.8km of challenging open water swimming. There was a lot of people in the first 200m trying to find their momentum as they were swimming into the waves. It was hard at the start but I knew it would settle, just breathe and pass them until I found my groove. The swim was honestly the best part of my day, I was wrapped with my time in those conditions, and to think this time last year I was in a sling unable to move my arm for 13 weeks! It was pure joy!
Straight out of the water, trying to clean the famous Palm Cove mud from my face, I was so happy to be running into transition, I felt so good. Getting on the bike was a slow exit, with lots of other doing the same. Seeing familiar faces who were cheering me on was awesome! Now it was time to settle in for a very scenic 180km on the bike down the Captain Cook Highway. My plan was consistent heart rate (especially on the hills) nutrition and hydration. With the Port Mac’s Half Ironman experience in the back of my mind I feel like I achieved my goals for the bike. My time was slower than expected but I feel the last 70km stretch from Port Douglas back to Cairns challenged me. With a tough head wind I knew I needed to reassess to save my legs for the run. As I was getting back into Cairns city I was so close but the wind was making me feel slower and slower. It was just head down and pedal, focusing on who was ahead, trying to catch them until I was on the esplanade. I was so pumped to see people as I flew down the last 3km. 180km ride was complete.
Transition was heaven, having the beautiful volunteers help you get ready to run, offering food and water, tying my shoe laces. Its only brief but their kindness really gives you such good vibes to get out running.
Running out of transition and onto your last leg is the best. Having friends and family there all cheering for you along. This transition was the best I’ve felt coming off the bike, in any race. The plan for the run was stick to pace and keep on fuelling. I stayed on track until around 21km, I really started to slip in pace and my stomach wasn’t feeling great. My selection of nutrition wasn’t appetising anymore. Soon after it became a run/walk. I loved the 4-lap course, by that time of the day it helped me so much knowing where people were across the course. Knowing they would be there, offering support and encouragement really did help.
Before I knew it, I was finishing my 4th lap and soon to be running the down the famous red carpet. So much emotion came over me, tears running down my face, I had finally conquered my long dream of becoming an Ironman. 2 years in the making!
The music was pumping, friends, family and strangers were cheering so loudly. Hi fiving everyone along the side, the famous words “Jaimie Lee, you are an IRONMAN” while crossing the finishing line.
I knew my best friend Sara wasn’t far behind, so I waited for her. Seeing her run the red carpet and being awarded with her medal was the absolute highlight of my day.
We did it, we are Ironmen!
The feeling is hard to explain for me. It took so much emotion, time and sacrifice over the past 2 years to earn the experience of feeling that feeling in that moment. It’s something I’ve wanted for so long. The meaning behind this race was so much more this time around.
I guess when you want something so bad, you can push through anything to get it. There is always a way, we just have to dig deep to find it.
Thanks for the kind words or support throughout this journey (and for reading along).
I truly appreciate it.
Here’s to the next adventure, whatever it may be.