When I first signed up for my first triathlon 8 months ago, I had no idea how much the sport was really going to change my life. Since doing my first one at Port Mac (70.3) I have raced in Noosa (OD), Auckland (70.3) and on the beautiful south coast of NSW at a place called Huskison for their long course race. The Thursday before last I made my way down to an awesome part of Australia called Melbourne, to race in the grand daddy of all the triathlon distances, I went to race a full distance IRONMAN the following Sunday.
A full distance IM consists of a 3.8km swim, 180km bike and finally a full marathon, 42.2km run. "What the hell have we got out selves into?" was the exact words I said to Bacon as we packed our bikes into the Giant van and made the trip down to sunny and sometimes not so sunny St Kilda.
When you arrive in a town that is about to hold an Ironman it has a vibe to it that can only be felt and not described. Maybe its all the overflowing nervous energy from the 2200 competitors all milling around the expo looking for last minute gadgets that might save them seconds or even minutes. In a race of physical endurance that can last up to 17hours the saying "every second counts" really does comes true.
After a few commitments with the company's that have supported us along the way finally Saturday night rolled around and we were about to get our last night sleep before one of the biggest days of our lives. By this point I wasn't nervous anymore, I knew the big day was just around the corner and I just wanted to be out there on course with my fellow "Ironmen to be" giving it everything I had.
|Pete Jacobs did our IM Live interview. Legend!|
|Tips off Crowie, handy!|
|Im definitely the slowest bloke in this photo.|
4:30am: My alarm goes off. I looked up to the ceiling and said to myself "It's show time".
4:31am: Nervous pooh time! This to me is the most important part of race day. On the toilet I take a few deep breaths and ensure I rid my body of any waste that may decided it wants to weigh me down or slow me up later on. A port-a-loo stop the morning of or during race day is nothing short of the most traumatizing experiences of any athlete’s life. They must be avoided at all cost!
4:45am: Eat breakfast and get together everything I need for my race. This gets checked three hundred and forty two times before I walk out the door.
5:10am: Bacon and I roll on out of our St Kilda HQ and head over to pick up the other boys, Whippet, Bagas and Quinno. Unfortunately today we had to leave Bisho behind. Bisho got sick as a dog the night before and was unable to race.
6:10am: We arrived in "windy" Frankston and I'm like a freaking jack in the box. The stench of race day is saturating the sleepy town and I couldn't be more excited. As we park up at Maccas, Whippet and Bagas make a bolt for the toilet. Clearly they had unfinished nervous business to attend to so myself and the other boys make our way to bike transition where we add nutrition and pump the tyre's on our bikes to make sure they are ready to roll when we come screaming out of the swim. Fortunately for us we got to rack our bikes with the pros and who happens to be in there tinkering with his bike, yep you guessed it, 3 time World Champion Craig "Crowie" Alexander, our god father. Crowie was there for us during our BSc Tri Trip when many of us lost our half Ironman triathlon virginities back in October. Today, here he was again, ready and willing to give us some advice on the big day of it all, THE IRONMAN! He said something along the lines of "Go out there and have fun, it's a race to the finish but enjoy the journey along the way". What a legend.
|Making it easy for us to find our bikes.|
6:40am: *Breaking news* Due to unsafe water conditions the race has been cut short. The swim will now be a one-lap course measuring 1900m. My first reaction was "WHAT THE, I’m not going to be a full Ironman by the end of the day. I'll be 1.9km short. How will this affect my calf tattoo? Do I shave some ink off the M?". In all seriousness though, after assessing the condition myself I can understand organizers reasoning for the shortened the swim. Conditions were probably about the worst you can get in the bay at Melbourne. There were 2 foot waves breaking way out the back and the wind gusts were just down right crazy so unless you were lucky enough to have been training with Spot Anderson at Bondi Fit or you were a regular surf swimmer, the full 3.8km swim distance in those condition would have been unsafe to say the least and I respect the organizers decision.
8:15am: After watching the pro field take off it was now time for me to experience my first mass start. Two thousand plus people all taking off together. It's a tradition in Ironman and boy, didn't I underestimate it. My previous race plan was to start wide but with the changing of the course, that went out the window. if I started wide I would have been swept down the bay with the current and had a to do a much longer swim. Instead, I some how ended up smack bang in the middle. NOT IDEAL.
Swim leg: As soon as Mike Riley (voice of Ironman) said "GO" it was like I'd entered the UFC octagon cage and I had to fight the best of the best to get my way out of there. In the first 10 minutes I reckon I got 5 punches on the chin and 25 people swam directly over the top of me. Once I got into some clearer water I finally got my rhythm going and was making my way to the first turning can but it was game on again. 500 people all trying to get around 2 little white cans bought me back to the octagon and the gloves were back on. All might be fair in love and war but Ironman triathlon swim leg is a whole other level. On my way back to shore I found some clear water again and started making up for lost time. I even managed to snare a couple of little chops along the way. Due to the strong current dragging everyone away from the finish chute of the swim I had two options. I could either swim against the current so I would swim straight up to it but It would be a much harder and longer swim or I could just swim straight back to shore but drift down the bay away from the chute. Being a faster runner than swimmer I chose the latter. I feel it paid off as I ran past several people along the shoreline.
|Made it out alive, just|
T1 (transition 1) Swim to Bike: Coming out of a short swim in those conditions my HR (heart rate) is always going to be quite high so I just did my best to take my time and try and lower it. Once I changed into my riding gear I jogged out to find my bike and as expected, it was sitting all alone as the other Bondi boys had smashed me in the swim and were already a good 5mins in front.
Bike leg: Being 5mins back on the boys and trying to stick to my race plan was going to be hard but I knew I had to respect the distance of a full IM and not go out to hard. My plan was to race off HR and the first 45km was going to be at 130bpm, which meant I was about to sit back and watch half the field go past me. Yep that’s right, all those people I had fought and battled to get past in the swim I was going to sit up and let them sail on past. It doesn't seem right does it? But my coach, Spot Anderson had said to me earlier in the week "If 500 people haven't past you in the first 45km your going to fast." Funnily enough, I did pass someone in that first 45km and guess who it was, coach clown head, Spot. Spot likes to show us that anything is possible if you are willing to push yourself and on this occasion he was showing us that if your as naturally gifted as him you can complete a full Ironman with 4 weeks of training! After riding with Spot for a while and him reassuring me my race plan would pay off I dropped him. Not because I was going to fast but because he was going to slow. Although, all joke aside, 20 years earlier he would probably be winning the pros race at this point.
Headwind, its a dirty word in triathlon and on this particular day we had plenty of it. Our first 45km was pretty much straight into it. It didn't bother me as much because I'd turned my speedometer on my Garmin off and was only looking at HR but for some of the field that were looking at their speedometer’s and saying "wait a minute, I should be going much faster than this, better pedal faster." they were heading for a very long day.
One of the coolest parts about the Melbourne IM bike course is you get to ride on a brand spanking new highway and just at the turn around point is a massive tunnel with a very fast up and down section. The only problem is for all the gadget junkies like myself, your GPS looses satellite and you can never find out how fast you were going. I guess it’s like “the one that got away” story for triathlon. Only you yourself will really know how fast you were "actually" going.
Heading back into town with a tailwind and the slightest of descents was the greatest thing ever. Anyone that rides a bike and has climbed a mountain can understand what we were going through when we got to enjoy the ride back down although the only problem with getting back to Frankston was having to turnaround and do it all again.
My 3rd 45km back out and into the headwind my HR was sitting on 145bpm and I was still feeling very comfortable and that’s where the magic of my race plan started to unfold. Coach Spot had said to me when we road for a while on the first 45km out "You watch son, from 90km onwards its going to be like a war zone out here, there will be people dropping like flies and you will start to pass all the Muppets that have blown up from going out to hard." Guess what, that’s exactly what happen, and I did it with the biggest smile on my face. The real fun began for me at the turn around for the second time. I had 45km to go, a tail wind, a descent, 2 caffeine gels and had never felt better in my entire life. At some points during that last 45km I was sitting on 60km per hour and laughing out loud while saying to myself "This is the best feeling ever". I was literally high as a kite on triathlon racing! Oh and not being a coffee drinker maybe a little high on caffeine but who cares it was so awesome and I didn't want it to end.
|Out of the saddle, very rare for me. Haha yeah right!|
T2 (transition 2) Bike to Run: Unfortunately all good things have to come to an end but it wasn't going to happen just yet for me today. I did have a little case of Jelly legs as I dismounted the bike but nothing to bad. I was still feeling really good and ready for my marathon.
As most of you know, myself and the other Bondi Lifeguard boys are quite competitive so when I got off the bike and was getting changed in transition I was asking people how far in front the other guys were? Some people told me both Whippet and Quinn were about 20 minutes. 20 minutes is a long way, thats 4km at 5 minute pace. Having already run 3 marathons I had my suspicions that Whippet, who had never run one before was going to underestimate the distance and go out a little hard. Well I hoped he would anyway, so off I went, on the hunt…
Run leg: People are always guilty of going out too hard in a marathon and I am one of the main offenders. Today was no different, my first kilometre was 4:20 minute pace which is way to fast for the marathon I had intended to run, so over the next few km's I bought it back to 5 minute per km pace. Thanks to coach Spot I made my marathon decision based on risk. What pace could I maintain, 5:15min or 5min. The risk of me being able to hold 5:15 for the entire race was 100%. I 100% felt I could hold that pace but would that be enough to catch Whippet and Quinn. i didn't think so, so I went for an 80% risk of 5min pace knowing at some point I was going too hurt but catching the boys would be worth it.
In marathons you run with people that are trying to maintain the same pace and I ran with a lovely fellow also named Andrew for quite some time. He was a few years older than me but boy; he was fit and a lovely fellow to boot. Having two Andrews running side by side also gave the spectators that read our race bibs quite a thrill and they cheered extra loud for us which we thought was great and really kept us going. Unfortunately I lost Andrew at about the 17km mark but I had demons to chase down and my race was only really beginning.
At the 30km mark I was still feeling surprisingly good. I had nailed my nutrition thus far and was so excited to bring it home. I did think I would have caught Whippet and Quinn by now but it wasn't to be and I had almost given up… Until... one of the many legendary supporters from team Bondi Fit that showed up. Laura Siddall, a Sprint distance world champion and friend of mine pulled up next to me in a full Zebra outfit on a push bike and said, "Reidy, I know you don't like being told this, but your looking really good and Whippet is only 1 km up the road". That was it, that’s when I said "Right, lets do this shit" and I turned on the after burners.
From the 31st km to the 36th km where I finally caught Whippet I really dug deep and pushed myself to run faster. I was really starting to hurt around then but my competitive nature and the fact that I have never, and probably after this will never beat Whippet at anything again in my life, totally took over me. When I saw him up ahead a big feeling of relief just came over me. Finally I had caught him. From then on I did what any other athlete in my position racing a mate would have done. I did my hair, wiped the sweat from my brow and pretty much made myself look as fresh as I possibly could. I then casually jogged up behind him and whispered in his ear “Now is a good time to be thinking about your running technique” then cruised on past him. I’m pretty sure his response was “You bloody a-hole” but little did he know what was “really” going on inside me. I was starting to hurt pretty badly and at the 38km aid station I thought it was going to be all over. I slowed down to grab water from one of the lovely volunteers and my right calf and hamstring went to rocks. It was like someone had just poured quick dry cement in my leg and I couldn’t go anywhere. All I could think was “holy shit, he is going to catch me and go past me just like I did to him”. The next minute one of the volunteers saw what was happening he raced over with what he said was the miracle cure and smeared it in my mouth. As first I was like “What the bloody hell is that” but no sooner did I realize it was none other than Vegemite? Vegemite contains salt and helps cramps but at the 38km mark when you have been racing for over 9 hours and have the breath of a thousand Goannas a paddle pop stick of vegemite isn’t exactly tasty. But it did do the trick and after thanking the volunteer I hobbled for a bit and then found my stride again. I had a quick look back for Whippet but he was nowhere to be seen.
The next 3.2km really hurt, I started to feel it everywhere and was at some points a little delusional but that was all forgotten when I got to 1km out from the finish and arrived at the Giant Bikes on course party. Running through there was nearly as good as the finish line. I knew a few people there and one especially named Clint Kimmins screamed, “This is it, this is what you have trained for. You’re gonna be an IRONMAN. Bring it home and really enjoy it”. So that’s exactly what I did and I started to feel much better. I ran the last km at 4:30 pace and didn’t even realize. The finishing chute is a bit of a blur of excited emotion now that I think back but I definitely do remember Mike Riley saying “Andrew Reid, Reidy, you are an IRONMAN” and it was the best feeling ever. I crossed in a time of 9 hours 24 minutes and 31 seconds, which was much faster than anytime I had dreamed of.
|Running with the other Andrew|
|Very happy to be finally finishing|
|You are an IRONMAN|
After the race I got a quick massage, ate some food, had a beer and went and hung out at the finish line with friends and watched other legends become IRONMEN. I couldn’t catch Quinn in the end, he was just to good on the day and raced exceptionally to come home in 9 hours 12 minutes. Whippet came in only 6 minutes behind me. If it had of been a longer swim we may have ended in a sprint finish to the line. Bagas (Gavin) also exceeded all expectations and flew home in a blistering time of 9 hours 53 minutes. As for Bacon, what can I say about this guy! He is an absolute machine. In his first ever Ironman he took out 3rd place in his 25-29 age group with a cracking time of 8 hours 38 minutes. He was also the 49th overall home in a very stacked field. Keep your eye on Adriel “Bacon” Young, he is on his way to the world championships in Kona this year and I’m expecting big things.
|Whippet, on the drip in medical.|
I must say a big, huge "thank you" to the wonderful people at USM events, Ironman Melbourne and all the volunteers for having us on the day. They put on such a professional event that leaves everyone with the best memories that last a lifetime. I can’t recommend Ironman and triathlon as a sport or hobby enough. It has already changed my life for the better in so many ways.
I have also got to say "thank you" to all the wonderful companies that helped us along the way. This has been an amazing journey for all of us and we couldn’t have done it without you all.
A special thanks to Coach Spot, you may come a cross as a little insane but there is no way in hell I would have got across that line feeling the way I felt, in the time I did without your training and knowledge.
I’m going to put my focus into getting faster at 70.3 half Ironman distance now with the long term goal to get quick enough to qualify for the 70.3 world championships in Las Vegas.
My next race is the SunSmart Ironman 70.3 Busselton in 6 weeks and I cant wait!
Thanks for tuning in.
Get aero :)