Seeing our customers take on huge personal challenges like Ironman races is one of the best bits of our job. Nicola has done a few Ironman races already but this time she started with one of the athletes she coaches [Carly, our Head Mechanic, Tim’s sister]. Nicola is also recently joined Greensbrough Tri Club as their new swim coach. Read below her race report from last Sunday’s race
Cairns Ironman 2018 [Swim 3.8km, Ride 180km,Run 42km]
I have always been told ‘an Ironman never goes exactly to plan’ but after finally arriving in Cairns and being three days from the race I was sure we were on the home straight, and race day would be somewhat of a smooth celebration.
Saturday morning the three ‘trimegos’, as we have called ourselves [Nicola and her friends Kate and Carly] headed out for a 30minute easy spin through on the bikes…when 8 min from home two of us clipped wheels at very low speed…both slowly toppling sideways to the ground. What could have been a funny and harmless stack resulted in my friend Kate breaking her elbow less than 24 hours before race start.
Needless to say two of the three of us were lucky enough to be lining up on race day and the excitement was bursting from both of us.
Looking out across the water, which had a small swell, there was a moment of quiet reflection. I was in awe of just how many people were standing next to me, all waiting to fulfill a dream, in one of the most beautiful locations on earth.
As the age groupers commenced their rolling start, Carly and I shared one last hug and smile before we ran down into the water.
My plan was to go relatively hard in the swim and to utilize my strength, but as we got going and I got a rhythm I settled into a pace that was, upon reflection, slightly below ideal. It’s difficult to judge the pace and stroke rate when you know just what is ahead of you…but this is a skill that can only be learnt through race experience.
The water was choppy which made sighting a little tricky, but when your in the water for 3.8km you need something to keep you entertained right?!
Exiting the water, although my swim was slower than I was hoping, I couldn’t believe how quickly the time had passed. I have to say that there was a moment when I though ‘shit do I actually need to do another lap of that?’, but nope I was out and ready to hit the bike.
Through transition with cheers from our amazing support crew and off I headed on the 180km ride.
For some reason I had been very nervous about the ride. Not for lack of distance in my preparation, but perhaps because I felt I had not trained as hard as I normally would in the lead up. I’m not sure what it was but I could not seem to shake a nervous and some what dull cloud that was hanging over my head.
This was a difficult space for me to be in as I usually have such a buzz on race day. But today I just was in a bit of a rough place, which I knew I needed to get on top of. My race plan was to relax and take it easy for 110/120km then finish strong, so I decided I needed to focus on my coaches words and just try to relax and let myself take in the stunning course.
As I rolled around the course, at each distance marker I was puzzled that I was way faster than my predicted speed, and especially surprised because I was just rolling the legs along…but hey this was going quite well so I stuck to that plan and decided I needed to now focus on trying to achieve a 4 year goal…yep for 4 years I have been trying to nail the ‘pee on the bike’…this was my chance with plently of down hill. This may be too much detail for some, but I have to say this is what gave me so many giggles as I battled the other mental demons that threatened to get on top of me. Sometimes it’s the small things that get you through the bigger things.
150km of rolling hills, along the coastline, through the sugar cane, sandy beaches and rainforest was nothing other than spectacular, and although the head wind was difficult to contend with at times, it was a refreshing temperature.
Into the final 30km of the bike and aggghhh I knew to expect a strong head wind…but man it still bites the legs like a teething puppy, just grabbing the quads and slightly burning. That was a long way through to transition…but now it was time to throw the runners on and dance. And man was I ready to dance after smashing my bike PB and feeling confident in my planned run pace.
The first 10km was rough, the pace was good but my lower back was in trouble forcing me to stop and stretch. I was feeling fresh in the legs and all I wanted to do was lock in the pace and run.
I knew I had to draw on my skills of mindfulness and relaxation, just to get me to special needs for some pain relief…so my mantra became ‘this is fine little mate, this is just an unfit marathon’. Holly cow I don’t think I want to do an ‘unfit marathon’ if that what it feels like hahaha but still I needed that to mentally comprehend what I needed to do.
10km down and I stared to find my rhythm, I started to get into that zone and began to tick off the km 5km by 5km. However, as all those Ironman athletes know…there are highs and lows and the lows always hit like a ton of GU smack in the face.
From 15km I started to gradually fade, and all I could think was ‘just keep moving’, and so that what I did…I just kept running forward…luckily because sideways would have made things difficult.
This is when I realized I had left my salt tablets in transition…now I was a 14km loop until I could get back around to my special needs, but finally I arrived and NO salt tablets (how did I mess that up?!?!) But what I did have was a tube of vegemite…random I know but ½ tube down the hatch (it turns out that much vegemite is quite spicy) and we were tapping away again.
Unfortunately that buzz I was searching for just didn’t come, but as I looked around I still could not help smile at just what I was a part of. This race that thousands of people have trained for months and months with the dream of running down that red carpet and knowing you have accomplished something incredibly fulfilling, and something you will be proud of for the rest of your life.
So as I approached the final lap, my heart wanted to explode with joy, desperation and love for our support crew cheering us on, running with us and lifting us up at the exact moment we needed them most.
Finally I felt my watch tick over the 41km mark and I could not have been happier to see the finish line so close. And like I had told Carly for weeks, that finish line feeling is worth every bit of pain…
At last I was on the carpet and I exploded with happiness…Ironman number three, done, dusted and many lessons learnt.
I hadn’t looked at my watch since the 20km mark of the run, so I had no idea what my time was…nor did I care. All I wanted was pasta and more pasta.
Turned out I did a massive PB and I guess I learnt that if you relax as much as possible your body will do what it’s trained to do.
Lying on the massage table I knew Carly was still out there and all I wanted was to hear her cross the line. 1 min into my massage I heard her name and those all important words ‘you are an Ironman!’.
With one leg massaged and a quick apology to the confused masseuse, I jumped up and finally, after months and months of training, there we were covered in sweat, salt, pee and sand…Ironman finishers…we did it. THAT was the best feeling of the day…we did it and we did it together.
Over all I am delighted in my race, not just the huge PB, especially on the bike, but that I also worked through a hard mental day. I cannot wait to get back to training and work on the areas I know I can improve.