As I stood on Frankston Pier on Saturday morning after my practice swim I looked out at the swim course and my first thought was ‘’Good grief that swim looks like a long way’’
I had made it, an Irish winter of long rides, many early mornings in the UL pool, mucky runs along the river Shannon, I had finally got to Melbourne and was about to kick off in less than 24 hours.
Briefly the city in general was very nice, the people are friendly and the race was being run in a very professional manor, it was easy to know where and when to be, I had family to run me around, and I would say that taxi’s would work out very expensive. The tram system and train routes would be the way to go but how feasible that would have been around an ironman is something I was glad I didn’t have to find out.
Below is my account of the course and how I found the experience, the race report has been broken up into the three courses, hope you enjoy.
A one lap 3.8km T-shaped course, as I said above it looked a long way. Spectators clambered for a spot on the pier the morning of the race, some couldn’t find a spot it was that crowded, my brother-in-law included. The different thing about this swim was a rolling start. This is something that was new to me in any race and I am on the fence as to whether it was a success or not, it is something that is going to be done on a more regular basin in Ironman events in the future, so is worth mentioning.
We were released in groups of 6 every 3-5 seconds. The beach had been divided into 4 zones, zone 1 for sub 1 hour expected times, (this is where I was) Zone 2 up to 67 mins, zone 3 to 80 mins and zone 4 for the rest. This made for a much smoother swim to the first buoy, I was swimming with other athletes of a similar speed and there was a lot of people behind me. Other than leaking goggles, the ones I had trained in all winter, (a tip, don’t put sun screen on your face and then expect your goggles not to leak) I had a good swim, I came in on the 1 hour mark exactly so was very happy with that.
A smooth run through the transition tent and collect the bike was all that was needed, there was a cooling shower to wash the salt off which was quite welcome.
A two lap, fairly flat and very smooth course. Each lap was an out and back route along the East Link Motorway, which meant we were quite exposed to the wind. As I said I had exited the swim after an hour having started in zone 1, this meant that as the wind picked up during the morning I was 20km or so into my cycle before I felt the wind picking up. With this in mind I would advise anyone who is doing a rolling start in the future to put yourself a zone up and get started ASAP.
I got to the turn point in 90 mins and turned with a now strong wind behind me. Sitting up and barely spinning the legs doing 40kph makes cycling very easy, even though the temperature was climbing to 28 degrees. I was very aware of the return journey ahead of me to get back to the top end of the cycle. (Especially with my experience in Dubai last November)
As expected the 90-135 km stretch was painful, I was proud of myself that I didn’t panic and just let the course come to me, I was having twitches in the legs that I couldn’t stretch out, and the climb in and out of the tunnel near the turn point were hard work. Once through them I know I had the wind to push me home, again cruising at 40kph but was getting tired at this stage.
I finally reached T2 after 5:50 on the bike which was a very good time for me, especially having not pushed too hard and feeling fairly comfortable throughout. It remained to be seen how the legs would cope on the run with the heat, only time would tell.
This was another first for me, a point to point marathon running north along the coast from Frankson Pier to St Kilda near the city centre. I thought this was going to be lovely, but mentally when I look back on it I never felt like I had ‘’turned for home’’.
Still, a beautiful route. The first 14km or so for me went quite well. The legs and my core felt strong, I wasn’t cramping, I had made the decision to walk through every aid station spaced at 2km intervals and started well. Once I got this far though the 2km run was becoming more of a problem and walking more regularly a necessity
I fell off the proverbial cliff within the next 5km or so and I made the decision to walk to the finish line while I still could when I hit the 19km mark. I’m not sure if any of you have walked 23km, I certainly hadn’t. Let me tell you that at 6kph it is long and boring, my one saving grace was that my brother-in-law was with me on his hotel rented bike. He stayed with me all the way helping me count the kilometre markers down (with the exception of a quick pit stop for a pint for himself) and buffering the many text messages that were flying around. I honestly don’t know if I would have held it to the finish without him.
The finishing tunnel arrived as my watch ticked over to 12:57 and took me another 50secs to jog down. (yes jog, I held it for nearly 4 hours that 100m sprint to the line) With my cousin and his family waiting and screaming me across the line the emotions took over and I was so glad and relieved to have reached the end.
This is a race I would recommend to anyone who has similar travel and accommodation opportunities that I do, going off your own bat I would say that the distance travelled is a very long way and you would need 2 weeks before the race to recover. That being said it is a course to set a PB, I know it didn’t work out for me, but I do believe that if the temperature had been what the long term forecast had promised of 15degs, I would have been able for a very fast time by my standards, gunning for sub 11.
I would like to take this opportunity to say a quick thank you to all of the people who got me to this point, that is all the people I have trained with over the winter, my family in Ireland, Dubai and Australia, and especially my wife, Gretta. She is undoubtedly the most patient, supportive and understanding partner I could ask for and as we all know doing events like this wouldn’t be possible without that support at home.
Wishing you all a good season, happy racing to come.