*** many thanks to Takamasa Makita for this race report ***

"Waves, wind and aero-bars"

After starting triathlon 3 or so years ago, this was my second attempt at an Ironman distance.  

The first time (Taupo 2012), I was not even able to make the start line due to an injury (torn calf muscle) 2 months before the race. However, Taupo 2012 was cut in half due to bad weather, which was v unfortunate for those who had trained so hard... 

Not this time in Melbourne 2013, or so I hoped!

Below is a report of my race experience, if of interest to anyone.

LEAD UP

After restarting training in Sept 2012, I had entered several Olympic distances (Mamzar, Yas) at the start of the year, as race/transition training. 

Abu Dhabi race early March was supposed to be the last training race before the big event. However, I caught a nasty cold and, what was worse, the metatarsal in my right foot had started to ache.

The lesson from last year: over-training can lead to weaker immune system and injury. Key = REST!  

So while everyone was out enjoying racing Abu Dhabi, I sat at home icing my foot, seeing FB updates and cheering everyone online and sleeping. It was hard, but I cannot stress how important it was to aid recovery. 

I also bought new cycling shoes and, with the advice from the guys at Wolfis, adjusted my cleats with insertions. 

Another lesson, if something is bothering you even a little bit (shoes, wear, bike), adjust it asap - as it could lead to injury, esp for the longer distance races - and I should have applied this lesson to my aero-bars, more on this later.  

I recovered from my cold. Physio and new bike shoes sorted my foot. I was ready, and flew into Melbourne 4 days before the race.

Melbourne had been exceptionally hot, recording 30+c for 10 consecutive days in March. A few days before the race, it was 34c and the day before the winds were so strong the IM Expo opening had to be delayed. 

Ominous, but as it is something not within your control, you just have to stop worrying. Dubai is hotter, I've cycled in sand-storms, swam in choppy seas - positive talk helps. 

RACE DAY

"Waves"

The waves (and I'm not talking wave starts here!) on race day were close to 2ms and the swim had to be cut short and course changed 5 minutes before the start ... Gutted! 

But again positive thinking. And most importantly, paying attention to the announcements and quickly re-think strategy. 

I resisted the urge to rush towards the beach with the crowd, stood back on a high vantage point to review the course which was being reset in front of our eyes.

This probably saved me 5 mins on the swim as the organisers were unclear about one buoy left on the beach (to the right hand side in the above picture of the beach at the start) and half the people swam to it, which made the swim and run to transition longer. The other half, including myself, swam direct to the swim exit point (far left of the picture).  There was this excellent TriDubai blog post about sighting which is a must read. I just want to add that on a choppy/wavy day, you should sight at the top of the wave/swell, not at the bottom! (Sorry to state the obvious)

You can also see the washing machine start with 2000 others in the video below - the waves got bigger once the pier ended!

So the shortened swim was over v quickly, which was a shame since I was actually enjoying moshed around! Unimaginable 6 months ago. The TriDubai swims really helped.

T1

No drama here, in out - put on bike top and arm covers to prevent sunburn, as the strength of the sun differs in each country, it was important to keep in mind if you will go covered up or not, relying on sun cream. I did carry a small sun cream tube just in case (and used it once when it started to scorch after noon).

"The Wind and aero-bars!"

The bike course was 2 laps of 90km. I was aiming for a 6 hour cycle, average speed 30kmph, quietly confident I had ridden faster than this many times in training.  

First lap, 3:10 - the wind was strong but manageable, and as the race reports I had read from the year before (and YouTube clips) suggested holding back on the first lap so I was happy with this pace, which was comfortable. 

However, I did not count on the wind becoming stronger and myself losing focus in the second lap... I was taking in nutrition as planned and the legs felt fine, so it wasn't bonking. The main factor was neck and shoulder cramp due to the aero-position.  

Now, one would think that having covered same or longer distances in training and clocking a lot of kms in the past 6 months the aero-bars would be a part of me.  Unfort, not so.  In the long practice rides, I would stop a couple of times to refuel/stretch, and the strong wind on the day meant I was too tense in my neck/shoulder.  I repeat the last lesson: I should have listened to my body in training when I did get stiff neck/shoulder. On my return I will go change to wider aero-bars (as I am short but slightly wide!)

It meant limited aero position after 110km and my second lap was 50mins slower than my first, so a disappointing bike leg overall.

T2 

Again, no drama. Quick change of top, sun cream application by the wonderful volunteers. 

Run

I felt good, legs fresh, confident now that I will finish, and made the cardinal mistake of going out too fast on the run.

My target was a 4:30 run, and I clocked 2:05 for the first half. Way too fast for me. And whilst I kidded myself I could keep this pace I slowed right down from 21 to 35km when the course became monotonous, crowd less, sun going down...need to toughen up mentally, just as with the bike!

I was happy that 35 to 40km, with friends and great crowd support, I was able to run faster and strong, clocking 25mins for this 5km, so was it pure laziness before that?! 

The last two kilometres, I slowed down deliberately to savour every minute, as I had been told to enjoy this part by those who had done IMs before me, thanking the volunteers and high-fiving the crowd who had come out to cheer us on. I felt really good I didn't want the race to end. I knew I could have gone under 13 hours if I kept my pace, but time now was irrelevant, I  wanted to relive the journey to get where I was, the long rides, the hard swims, the tough runs and mental preparation.

The one big thing you hear people say and I have to repeat, is that despite triathlon being an individual sport, its the people you meet along the way makes it special.  

Hugh and Kerri, who flew from Auckland and supported me all day. T2A gang (Sharon, Craig, Guy and others) and Jason, who showed me the depth of commitment required. Kevin West and the Pirates (Hasan, Arno, Julio, Janice, Tyrone, Andreya, Jen, Christian plus Mark and Reggie racing together in Melbourne) who brought me back from post-injury depression and set me up with confidence and rejuvenated vigour. TriDubai (Sean, Ian, Roy, Johan and others) for the all-welcoming embrace to triathlon.  

Thank you everyone.

POST RACE

Melbourne is a wonderful city with its cosmopolitan vibe, great culture and people. The volunteers and the crowd were awesome. Despite the not ideal conditions this year, the course is great and I would recommend the race to anyone interested in doing an IM.  You do, however, have to be v quick to register as entry was full after four minutes of opening (or you could go in a "packaged tour"). I woke up at 3am to enter and lucky to get in. 

My goal was to finish, and with a smile, and I certainly did - esp as my friend Eric (superstar) had brought me 3 cheese burgers and choco milk to the finish line, as promised. I probably set the record for fastest consumption of the burgers!

Reggie who had finished just before me needed a Medic so I ran around looking for one (you'd think they would be easier to find!), found one and, felt v guilty but as there was nothing more I could do, left her and Mark, to join the others who were waiting outside. 

So off to the bar, wearing my medal and a couple of drinks.  Prior to the race, I was in two minds about doing another IM distance, but I enjoyed it so much I have signed up for Taupo March 2014 a few days later. 

3rd time lucky, it will be a full distance IM and I aim to finish with a smile, keeping the pace I set in the first half of the bike and run! So more hard miles swimming, biking and running.

See you all at training!

Taka