After the unpleasantness of my last blog post, it’s nice to be able to share a more encouraging post and remind everyone that I’m still on the winning side of life.
Late last year I decided I needed another challenge to focus on, so I decided to sign up for another half ironman. There were two reasons I chose to race Port Macquarie. First, there was a big group from my club going, and team support makes these events all the more enjoyable and rewarding. Second, I could throw the bike in the car and drive there. I probably didn’t really consider how far the drive was, and the fact I would have to drive home after the race. I have now learnt that it is also a good idea to check out the course profile. It wasn’t until I was well into my training that I discovered there were a few bumps (read: hills. read: one massive hill some people have to get off and walk their bike). To late now…
Image: Team Pursue via Pursue Club Instagram
A week out from the race I saw my race number was 2444. I joked that it was lucky I wasn’t from China, as 4 is considered an unlucky number, and I had three of them! As it turned out, instead of being ‘unlucky’ I had a good omen: 2444 is the Port Macquarie post code. As the volunteers handed me my race pack, they joked that there would be a lot of locals jealous of my number.
On the day before the race, after doing a practice swim (hands down best swimming conditions I have ever raced), we went to go see what all the fuss was about with Matthew Flinders Drive. It was tough, but doable…and hopefully doable with 80km in the legs.
On race morning, we couldn’t have asked for more perfect conditions. A light breeze, no rain – bliss. Although I was flying solo at this event (my PIC couldn’t make it down), I was thankful for all the Pursue members to settle the nerves. I was one of three doing the 70.3 distance, with 11 doing the full Ironman distance.
There’s no better feeling than starting the race. No more anticipation – just go. I pulled out my best swim time, averaging 1:52/100ms. Steady, consistent and strong (for me). I raced to transition to my rockstar racking position (I was the first bike in transition, as I had to move from my original designated spot due to a green ant mound taking up residence there too).
Image: IRONMAN in Port Macquarie via FB
Heading out on the bike there are a number of hills for the first 8kms. I was a bit worried I was pushing too hard, as I was overtaking a lot of guys. But I felt I was maintaining a comfortable pace and this continued for the whole bike leg. I didn’t have any moments of thinking “I hate this”, “What the hell are you doing this for?”. I was loving it, so much that I was excited when I saw the sign for the dreaded Matthew Flinders Drive. Words of affirmation were said out loud and there was no way I wasn’t making it up. I watched as numerous people stopped and unclipped, but I was determined I was going to make it. There are a lot of spectators on this hill, and I got the lift I needed by them calling out my name and telling me I was going to make it. And I did…(meanwhile I think my heart rate spiked to about 190 beats). For me, the indication of a good cycle leg is overtaking guys, but not having many girls overtake me (and of course getting in enough nutrition and staying consistent). It’s a confident boost to know you’re holding your own with the girls on course – and of course I love nothing more than saying “On your right” and shooting past a guy.
I was feeing confident I was going to make my sub-3 hour goal on the bike, but my excitement was short-lived when the guy in front me stopped dead in his tracks, causing me to panic stop and unclip. I felt for him as his chain had fallen off, but he stopped on a small rise, and my legs were too fried from the monster hill that I couldn’t get started again. I couldn’t believe I had just made it up Matthew Flinders, and now I was scooting myself along up the tinniest rise. Finally I was back clipped in and heading back to transition, but those few minutes cost me my sub-3 time, and I finished the bike in 3:02.
In the lead up to this race, I was most excited about the run. I had an awful run in Cairns, but this time I had been training using a run/walk strategy. The plan was to run strong between the aid stations, and walk the aid stations. I knew I would be mentally stronger, as walking wasn’t a failure – it was part of the plan. Sadly, it didn’t turn out that way. I was feeling very ordinary all run with bad reflux and couldn’t take in any nutrition. I pulled out a reasonably good 10km, but then faded. Part of me wanted to throw in the towel with 10km to go, but I knew I had done so well to this point. So I stuck it out. I was encouraged and rewarded with team support each lap, and there is no better feeling than knowing the finish line is only minutes away. My goal was sub 2-hours on the run, and I finished the run leg in a time of 2:02.
Image: Amanda from Pursue Triathlon Club
My watch was telling me lies and I thought I had finished in 5:44, but the official time was 5:48. It’s a 9-minute improvement from Cairns, but I have to remind myself that every course is different, and this was definitely more challenging. The best thing about the rest of the day was cheering from the sidelines all the Ironman athletes.
Image: With Amanda & Kathy from Pursue (who did a sneaky drive down to support us) cheering on the Ironman athletes
I’ve had a solid 6 days of recovering and being lazy, but I’m ready to get back to training for the next challenge.