Friday, June 12, 2015

Pinch Me - Ironman Australia

This pretty much sums up my feelings as race day approaches!
-photo credit for ALL images on this post: Darrell Nash/Nashyspix
Yes, it was a very good day when I landed in Port Macquarie. The entire town embraces Ironman and truly pulls out all the stops to put on a tremendous race. There is simply a difference between racing an inaugural race and one that's been around for thirty years. The race crew and volunteers turned this little Australian town into an absolutely magical place. Leading this crew was my amazing homestay. Darrell picked me up from the airport and from then on I received nothing less than their red carpet treatment. So, before I get into the race report I must give a heart felt thank-you and bravo to them!

Darrell Nash/aka: Nashy has a killer photography and framing business. He was incredibly gracious with his time both leading up to the race and during. It is with great honor, to his work product, that I provide my race report mostly through his lens.
Despite the monsoon rains that started five days before race day, I really enjoyed training in Port Mac during the lead up to the race. I was feeling better than I had any other day since IM Taiwan, and believed I was capable of pulling off a dominating race. My head and heart was in it!
Photo by: Darrell Nash:
During our recon of the bike course we stopped for an impromptu photo shoot. I surely wasn't "model ready" in terms of hair, make-up, etc. but Nashy knows how to capture a great shot. 
Photo by: Darrell Nash:
The scenery certainly doesn't disappoint here! The photo backdrop below overlooks the southern tip of the bike course. I enjoyed looking out at the course with nothing short of complete anticipation! 
Photo Credit: Darrell Nash:
Before the race I had the opportunity to speak to kids at a local elementary school. It was the highlight of my trip! Let me tell you, the questions these kiddos asked had me laughing for days! I told them their job was to make me smile during the marathon. Despite my frustrations out on the run course these kids lit me up. I have already forgotten my spits and race time, but this experience will remain embedded in my heart forever. THIS is what it's all about! 

Race Day: 
The rain finally let up a few hours before the start and we absolutely lucked out with weather on race day.  (PS: I learned that in Australia they say "lucked in" to express being lucky, whereby "lucked out" means unlucky. Seems more logical than our reasoning). 
After a solid warm up (yes the fear of bull sharks entered my mind while out there solo), hugs with friends/competitors, a few adjustments and prayers full of thanks I was ready to rock.
2XU/ Pre-race:
Left: I swear I can never get my timing chip on right the first time. Quick adjustment before go time.
Top: good luck hug with Christy Sym. Great to have you back healthy and racing again my friend!
Bottom: Legend, former champion, and rockstar gal Lisa Bentley returned to celebrate the race's 30th anniversary.  
ROKA: The water was incredibly disgusting (and likely polluted) from all the rain, but no complaints here- I was thankful to be out there. I got out in front quick and then faded a bit before hitting the stairs that we had to go up and order (twice). 

From this point on I just sat in with the chase group and remained there through the rest of the swim. Nothing exceptional, but was in a fine place as we set out on the bike. 
Check out that clean water!?!?
Specialized: I tried to stick to my race plan for the first 30 miles. Unlike in Taiwan I was able to get my heart rate and power on track. I felt I was riding well and pushing hard. I reacted well to people as they came by and things seemed to be clicking by just fine.
The course is two loops with some good rollers and one steep short climb. I made the final turn around at the far end of the course and started to feel the effects of the poor road quality. I was warned about the rough road and trained on similarly surfaced roads in Noosa. The chip seal and rough ride certainly takes it's tole and with 1+ hour to go my legs and gluts were on fire! 
Thankfully the Cobb fifty-five saddle kept saddle comfort in order.
 With 20miles to go my stomach started to rumble. I was ahead of my fluid needs so slowed consumption through the duration of the bike. You can see in my face (and bloated stomach) that things were not all smiles over the closing miles.
Overall my feelings about the bike are abysmal. I was riding very well a month+ out from race day but since leaving for Taiwan my output was sub-par. I am determined to make things click on the bike when race day rolls around...sadly it just wasn't happening here. 

Brooks: The three loop run course is fairly flat with only one slight climb on each loop. The first loop proved most difficult for my stomach. Sadly I was in and out of the port-o-potties. "Shut up stomach, what is your deal?" Digestion problems are not typically an issue for me.
After the first 10k things started to improve a bit and I was able to put together a decent pace. Michele Wu caught me and I sat on her shoulder for almost a full loop. The pace honestly felt too slow, but I figured the top 3 had too much of a gap on me so I had to secure my position. With five miles to go I got ahead of Wu at an aid station and before I knew it had put in three minutes on her. I was feeling better over the last 10k than I had in hours. My typical run pace and cadence started to click...better late than never?? 
I remember telling myself that if I could hang on to 5th this would be a finish to be proud of.  I was humbled and reminded how grueling this race is and the roller coaster of emotions that comes with Ironman racing. I had big goals for this race, but in the end fifth it shall be. Indeed I am proud to have made it to this electric finish line!
It was sad that this Australian adventure had to come to an end. I am so thankful for the time I spent in this beautiful country. I met some absolutely amazing people during this journey and will forever hold them in my heart. I can't thank the Nash family enough for your hospitality and friendship. 
...and with that it was back to reality...