Ironman Australia 2018

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Ironman Australia 2018

Postby jonathon.e » 09 May 2018 01:03

Port Macquarie


Last year I turned fifty, and the ever patient Mrs J, asked if I wanted to do something, climb Kilimanjaro was a suggestion, I umed and arrhed but thought no, as we both enjoy Australia I suggested that we go for a holiday, and I attempt the Ironman, which has been on my sights for a few years. The course they say is honest, the definition of honest to me is one that is not biased to a particular rider, HIMUK 2002 was an honest course, the Ilkley tri course is honest, but others have different views. When the race first came to PORT MAC. The competitors complained that the bike course was too hilly, so the organisers just flattened the run route.

The grand plan was to enter the race twelve months in advance, giving me plenty of time to prepare, but, as with homework after the school holidays, it would always be last minute. The downside of racing in the Southern Hemisphere is that training is done over winter, which for my area has been cold, wet and windy, add on injury woes and the grand plan quickly goes to pot. The training would ramp up, injury would kick in and we would take a few steps backward. I was also scheduled to have an operation, which would mean that swimming and running would take a hit and be sidelined for about six weeks, training was adjusted, to compensate for this, however, cancellations, over worked NHS, meant I still haven't had it, and I got an unstructured training regime.

As it would be a holiday, the race being at the start, I decided to ship my bike ahead of us. Some airlines don't charge much, others just view sports gear as baggage so charge accordingly. It worked out better, or more conveniently to ship separately. Qantas, who we fly with, would have charged excess baggage, the advantage of Qantas is that if you book internal flights at the same time as the long haul, they are incredibly cheap and you get to keep 30kg allowance for all flights. Rather than book a cheaper long haul, more expensive internal flights with lighter allowance.

Investment in a Bikeboxalan bike box, should see my bike arrive safely, and not with 'some assembly required' and shipping via The box, still ended up with a hole in it on arrival, due to it being opened and incorrectly closed, the upside was the bike was undamaged.


Ironman racing for me is not about 'racing', I will never amount to anything regarding fast times, or podium positions, it is all about the journey. I have finished four Ironman (M.Dot), races, I will not argue the toss about Ironman finisher or iron Distance finisher, If someone asks if I am an Ironman, I was, I am an Ironman competitor. Ironman or iron Distance racing has a different identity for different people, for some it is a tick in the life box, others it is the pinnacle of Triathlon, others a stupid idea, for me it is the experience, the chance to find out more about yourself, not just in the race itself, but the training, for some on race day they say they feel like death, it shouldn't be, it is about feeling alive, the pain tells you, that you are alive, embrace it. We don't know where the edge is, unless we fall off occasionally. Throughout the training and race day you tell yourself 'you will be an Ironman', as you run/walk/crawl up the finishing ramp you tell yourself 'I am going to be an Ironman', that millisecond you cross the line ' you are an Ironman', yet the millisecond you pass the finish line 'you were an Ironman', at that moment in time I doubt I could do the event again!, So as with SCHRODINGERS cat being both alive and dead, I am both an Ironman and not, so I like to think I am an Ironman competitor, not a racer, or an Ironman as was, someone out on a journey of discovery.

Despite booking the race a year in advance, I will list my achievements for those months,
Longest swim, 3 miles, in 16m pool.
Longest bike ride, 66 mile on the road, 56 on a static gym bike,
Longest run 14.5 mile cross country.
Number of open water swims in the last year, one, at Ripon Olympic.
Last time I rode my tri bike, September at a sprint triathlon.
Last triathlon, September.
Number of brick sessions, six, all at the gym, the run never being longer than a mile.

Due to injury, I experimented with a little and often training, always trying to be able to train the next day, sometimes with fatigued legs, but, trying to get my legs use to operating tired. The downside, is that, it may not work, the mental fight on race day to keep going, and recovery after the race, I expect to be well knackerd.

Australia : Please wipe your feet before you come in.
" you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy "
The country were places are pronounced "woolangonga", spelt 'Cooper Pedy', and are all generally situated a short drive from Dubbo.

Due to Bio controls, maybe due to someone bringing in a rabbit, they are pretty keen on not letting you bring in, anything that may upset the eco system, such as dirt on shoes, anything edible, anything animal related, so best declare it. The bike and everything had to be spotless, I wanted to use my own race nutrition, so took it with my, on arrival I declared it on my landing card, if it got confiscated, no major concerns, but, I would prefer to use what I have trained with, so through the Red channel.

" Good morning "
" hello, what are you wanting to declare "
" well, a large amount of dehydrated sports nutrients, energy gels and milk powder ", the latter was problem most likely to be a problem, due to strict rules on dairy produce.
" is that it "
" off you go, have a nice trip "

From disembarking to leaving the airport, via immigration and customs and baggage collection, plus car hire in under 30 mins, other airports should take note.

I registered in the usual efficient Ironman way, based at The Glasshouse a large exhibition centre just down from the hotel. Bike racked and bag drop off on Saturday, at transition, about 10mins walk from the hotel, so good so far, and it continued that way, every helper, volunteer was polite, and courteous such a great atmosphere.

Race day:

He, who is without fear, is a fool.

Probably more so for this race, due to the lack of large volume training, but, if we don't try, what will we know.

The swim:

Wetsuit optional, so on with the neoprene, only a couple opted out. The swim was a one lap, estuary swim, so extra buoyancy from the salt water, the swim start was a rolling start, four gates to put the competitors in the right time so as to avoid too much of a melee due to the initial narrow nature of the first 500m, as it went between the floating gin palaces, I have total sympathy with Dave, one of the original club members who hit one, with the glare of the low sun, it is surprisingly easy.
Plenty of canoes and paddle boards in the water for safety, keeping the swimmers on track. Just before the turn point, you exit the water climb a set of steps, swim a further 400m before climbing out and back in.
I chose to put myself in the slowest group, find some clean water and avoid the pushing, if someone hits or kicks me in the swim, it is just annoying, I would hate to hit someone and ruin their race. It must be old age, but, it took me about fifteen minutes to settle into a natural rhythm, the water was warmer than expected, however, on reading the news report the next day a number of swimmers were treated for hypothermia!!
Sighting was easy and I hit the turnaround at 40 mins, so happy, the return was slightly quicker, and exited the water around 1:18ish


The usual efficiency, grabbed my bike bag and headed for the change tent, it is a long day, so a small amount of extra time spent getting sorted can reap benefits later, discomfort early on can escalate exponentially throughout the day.
Note to self, despite putting on sunscreen, you can never put on enough.
Collected the bike and exited transition.

Discovering why triathletes are bad riders.

The bike course is a two lap affair, very scenic, if you have the time to look around, I would say, mainly rolling, with additional added gradients for more fun. The first seven miles are hilly, these you hit four times, twice out, twice back, a long flattish stretch, with added hills half way along. The course is energy sapping, the road surface is rough, similar to rural English roads that are maintained regularly, a headwind on the way out, which increased as the day went on, with a temperature of plus 25 degrees, clear blue skies.
The strategy was to spin the course in a lowish gear, always taking the first and last seven miles on the 39, so as not to stress the knees or heart, it is not the distance it is the pace that kills you, aiming to finish, not DNF. Nutritional plan was, drink every half hour, gel every hour, this was done, which may have helped with the race on a whole. I initially set off with six gels, and 3x750ml bisons, trying to reduce the use of the supplied race Day hydration, I did try it but failed to like the taste. I would pick up water at the aid stations to maintain hydrated, as I sweat a lot.

Great support on the course, excellent road management and traffic direction, where detours for local traffic was not available, any cars on the road drove slowly with their hazards on, no stupid drivers trying to get nowhere fast. A couple of opportunities to grab a beer from the odd house, a couple of guys handing out ice cold tinnies from a cool box, and one group which consisted of a priest, a nun, a cowboy, a pilot and an Indian with a sign that said, 'Tired, stop for beer, BBQ and Banter', tempted, very tempted.

Towards the end of the lap, you get to Mathew Flinders Drive climb, it's reputation, perhaps worse than its bite. Just prior to the climb there was a feed station, stopping to use the facilities, I propped my bike up, whilst inside the portaloo, I heard a crash, a gust of wind had caught the bike, oh well, it happens as they say. Retrieving the bike, it seemed ok, until I put pressure on the pedals in low gears when they started slipping on the final section of Mathew Flinders drive, they kindly lay carpet on the roadside to prevent cleat damage, opting to unclip to prevent further damage, it was the walk of shame for the final 15metres. On the second lap I just walked all of it,, opting to go for the slow time, rather than the break it and don't finish.

Coming back into town, prior to the turnaround, I had mentally got it stuck in my head that the turnaround was next to transition, I had memorised the route through town, downhill, fast section, couple of carpeted ramps, tight left handed, right handed and 300 m to the transition turnaround. So, fast downhill into town, 30mph, move to right hand side to take the left hand turn, look up to see signage, finish left, lap two go right, the turnaround was not where I thought, quickly swung left, scrubbed speed off, locked wheels to take the hairpin turn, doh!,

Moving onto the second lap, was possibly one of the hardest mental parts of the race, my back was tight and painful trying to stay aero, maybe due to the four days travelling, my body felt tired, again possibly due to travelling, and knowing I had those hills to deal with again, twice. The joy of Long Distance racing is working on the problem, dealing with it, and not pulling the pin and stacking it because that is the easiest option. Solution to problem, spin in low gear to reduce fatigue, stop at aid stations to stretch back and cool down, break the lap into 14 mile sections, keep up speed above 10mph to ensure finish of bike section in under 10hrs. The first aid station was at the golf course just out of town, stopping to stretch and take on water, I looked across the road, and saw Camels, loads of them, big, healthy, happy looking camels grazing on the grass. Australia has the biggest population of camels in the world, but despite visiting OZ twice before I had never seen them, cool, and kinda surreal in the moment.

Sticking to the plan, the second lap was doable, tough, but it got done, a number of riders got picked up by medics, one apparently, whilst replacing his bidon in his aero carrier behind him stuck it into his rear spokes, luckily not too injured.


A leisurely affair, tight thigh muscles, but happy to get off the bike at last.


To sleep, perchance to dream, aye, there is the rub

Initially I was to opt for the run, walk strategy, but went for the walk, stagger approach. 26.4 miles ( yes it is 0.2 miles longer ), is just broken down. 4 laps, off the bike with eight plus hours to finish, 4 mph, and job done. Jog when I felt like it. Great support from everyone, plenty of aid stations to keep the motivation going. I was initially worried about my calfs, they had been cramping badly for the preceding few weeks, concerned that they could end the race for me, I used calf guards, something I rarely use, my knees which often give me problems, were remakedly compliant I assume due to reducing the stress and spinning easily rather than pushing for a faster time. The back in the lumbar region was sore, and my feet were getting bruised, but no blisters. The atmosphere electric around the finish area which you pass eight times on the laps. Also, a lot of support which seemed to get more loud and alcohol fuelled when the run went out of town into the suburbs.
Prior to the event, I got an email regarding the Oceania Tri Club championships, and my affiliation. BCTTT was not listed, but as race positions meant prizes and benefits I emailed a local tri team to see if they wanted an extra team member. So for the day, I raced for Team T-Rex Triathlon. All my race info on the application had BCTTT on it but it wasn't recognised so being nice, why not let others get the benefit of my racing.

The final lap went quicker than the last as I spent most of it chatting to anther racer, with a lot more Ironman races under his belt than me, he, like me was init for the experience not the time, so walking cannot be that bad.

The End:

Getting the finish right in an Ironman is an art. You need to have the finish tunnel to yourself, or you get a number of names on the signage and not just your own. Don't race anyone else or they could transpose your names, don't ruin someone else's moment, after five attempts I think I can get it right, by getting that spot light as Mike shouts " John Cameron, from Great Britain, You... ARE AN IRONMAN ".

Once through the finish arch, you are medically checked, certified as insane, given a medal, passed on to the finishers t shirt table, and into the recovery area. There is food on offer, but a suppressed appetite after 15hrs of racing, I went straight out to meet Mrs J, who has the hardest job of the day spending 17hours waiting around in all weathers, picking up the broken pieces, and then spending the next few days looking after me, a huge thank you to her effort.

Prior to any race I give her a list of my expected times and splits so she knows where to be, given the numerous variables it could go wrong so here is a list with expected and actual.

Expected. Actual:
Swim start: 7:25. 7:33
Swim exit: 8:55. 8:51
T1 exit. 09:10. 8:58
Bike lap 1: 12:40. 12:08
Bike finish. 16:15. 15:45
T2 exit. 16:25. 15.53
Run finish. 22:15. 22:20

In conclusion:
Excellent race,
Great location,
Fantastic support
Easy going
Well organised

Downside: expensive if not combining with holiday, and expect to race tired due travelling.
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Re: Ironman Australia 2018

Postby Jimba » 09 May 2018 07:18

Fantastic read, now late for work :lol:

There are so many pearls in their Jon I will read again. Tremendous achievement. 8-)
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Re: Ironman Australia 2018

Postby Bopomofo » 09 May 2018 08:51

Truly inspirational. 'Well done' cannot sum up the amount of respect I have for your achievement.

I must be getting soppy in my old age, but at the "You are an ironman!" part I had a tear in my eye.
I had fun once. It was awful.
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Re: Ironman Australia 2018

Postby Kevy427 » 09 May 2018 13:28

jonathon.e wrote:Longest swim, 3 miles, in 16m pool
56 on a static gym bike
are worth medals in their own right :shock:

jonathon.e wrote:I initially set off with six gels, and 3x750ml bisons
Hmmm, the bisons may have been slightly excessive. Try a Guinea pig next time as they're an easier fit into the bottle holders

jonathon.e wrote:they kindly lay carpet on the roadside to prevent cleat damage
Something Jack should consider for the annual cleat/sock longevity trial?

Interesting to see how others deal with race day 'issues' and is a good lesson about mind management. Hearty congratulations to you on such an epic achievement 8-)
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Re: Ironman Australia 2018

Postby CCS » 15 May 2018 09:27

Wot Kevy said..... 3 miles in a 16m pool!!! That's quite something!

Seriously great effort - and as ever a great write up.
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Re: Ironman Australia 2018

Postby Jack Hughes » 15 May 2018 11:59

CCS wrote: miles in a 16m pool!!! That's quite something!

I have a sneaking suspicion that there are a lot of transferable skills from the day job.... mainly coping with monotony without losing focus.
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Re: Ironman Australia 2018

Postby jonathon.e » 16 May 2018 00:13

Yes Kev, the bisons were excessive and unruly on the bike, they wouldn't sit still, :lol:

Jack is right, regarding transferable skills, and creating a balance. The day job is very sedate and at times monotonous, with the need at times to pick up the speed when needed. The day job is sedate and requires planning, where as racing is physical and requires planning, planning being a fulcrum to the sedate balancing the physical.

thank you for taking the time to read the report, sometimes I feel the lack of clusters and race errors makes for a boring read. :?
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