It’s been a week since Ironman Melbourne, and I thought I had better sit down and smash out a race report, before it gets too late and I can’t remember anything. To be honest, I’ve been drunk for most of the past week, so anything I can remember is probably pretty hazy. Just kidding (I’m not).
For anyone that was there, or has read some of the other race reports of the day, you’ll already know that Melbourne really turned it on for us – Armageddon, that is. After months of the most glorious, perfect weather, Melbourne decided it was about time it smashed out some 40km/h winds, and whipped the bay into a tempest of unprecedented proportions. As a result, the swim was initially changes to a two lap course of a shorter circuit, and then at the last minute, reduced even further to an out-and-back 1.5km swim. This was obviously disappointing, as you train for a long time to cover the distance well, but safety has to be the priority.
After having a bit of a warm up and trying to get to grips with the roller coaster sensation of swimming in the swell (Melbourne-based triathletes aren’t that adept at swimming in surf!), I tried to position myself somewhere in the middle of the crowds at the edge of the water, and around as many other female athletes as possible. It felt like we had to wait forever, and I was freezing cold, but alas the cries from Mike Reilly of “GO GO GO!!!” signalled the start of the age-groupers’ day, and I waddled into the water to start the swim.
The swim start was ridiculous. Frankston beach is quite shallow anyway, but the waves seemed to make people even more tentative, and everyone around me seemed to be wading out forever. So I just started swimming, in between legs and torsos of people who were still walking. As I got pulled along in the draft, I kept swimming into people who had stopped swimming – intimidated by the roller coaster of the swell (in fact people were yelling out in the crowd “just keep on bloody swimming you idiots!!”. It was a total calamity.
I found this youtube clip of the start, in case you’re interested:
I managed to stay on feet all the way to the turnaround point, with the voice of our open water swim coach ringing in my memory (“STAY ON FEET! STAY ON FEET!”). But after swimming out past the turnaround buoy, I dropped off the back of the group I was in. Dammit. Up until this point, I had been having a great swim; I was calm, confident and powering much faster than I had planned, as I knew it was a really short swim. My heart rate was up and I felt like I made great time to the turnaround buoy – especially considering that we were swimming out against the tide.
On the way back in though, with the absence of any feet dragging me along, I had to power along on my own. I had only a vague idea of where the course was going, so was relying on sighting the other swimmers to follow them in. Only problem was, every time I lifted my head to sight, the swell heading back to the beach obstructed my view. For anyone familiar with this area of the bay – I couldn’t even see Oliver’s Hill when I lifted my head, as the waves in front kept coinciding with my sighting. I had no idea. I swam and swam and swam, only for a kayaker to come over and tell me that I was now miles away from the race, and all the other swimmers were ‘about 300m that way’ (pointing frantically in the opposite direction to the one I was swimming in. Classic Piper FAIL. Oh well.
I changed direction, and started heading back onto the correct course. After what felt like an eternity, I arrived at the beach – about 500m away from the finish point, so I had a significant sand run to contend with. No matter, we were back on dry land. An abominable swim time, but at least I was alive!
Swim time: 37:14 (50th in age group)
Having never done an Ironman before, the transition is a bit intimidating. I had been used to just running up to my bike, chucking my crap on and getting out. But here you’re in a tent – people were getting naked WTF??? I was NOT expecting that. I started to second-guess myself; should I be getting drying myself off and getting changed? Doing my hair? Fixing my make-up etc. All I had planned was to grab my bag, chuck my stuff on and get out? I did all that, and then bumped into a fellow first-time ironman and triathlon blogger Margaret – it was great to finally meet in the flesh, and what perfect timing – we had a quick chat, before I ran out the wrong way and hung my bag back up on my hook. Then I ran out of the tent the right way, being told I had to go back through the tent and get my bag, run back through the tent AGAIN and drop it in the bins. Shucks, I need to pay a bit more attention at the briefing. I took so long in transition I could have done my hair and make-up…
T1 time: 6:57!!!!!!!!!
Getting to the bike racks is always disappointing for me, and today was no different; it was easy to spot my bike, as it was parked all alone – the gun swimmers having blitzed the tiny course (probably without getting lost) and collected their bikes decades ago.
But Coco (aka White Steel aka my Cervelo P3 that I bought second hand about 8 weeks ago) didn’t mind. She knows I’m a crap swimmer. She doesn’t mind waiting. Because she knows what we do best: WE CHASE DOWN SWIMMERS!!!!
That’s right, me and Coco spent the next five and a half hours trying to chase down swimmers. Male swimmers, female swimmers, fat swimmers, skinny swimmers, young swimmers, old swimmers. She loves it. It’s like dangling a big buoyant carrot in front of her. Sometimes I hear her whispering to me “Lucy, I wish you had swum a little bit slower, as then I would have even more swimmers to try and chase”. Don’t tell anyone, but I only swim slow to keep her happy…
But back to it: the bike. My favourite of all the triathasports. The reason my legs look like big hams. It was carnage out there on Eastlink, and the bottleneck onto the start of the freeway seemed to lend itself to people who wanted to draft. I was embarrassed for some of them – it was like a recovery ride on Beach Rd. There were people hiding from the wind in tight packs – I’m not talking a cheeky 10m instead of the legal 12m – they were wheel to wheel. I guess people just got out on the course and thought “shucks, this is a bit tougher than I had imagined – I’ll just have to do whatever it takes to finish”. In which case I kind of feel bad for them. But that’s ok, it made no difference to my race – I dropped back when I was passed, and pushed hard to overtake when I had to. That’s the nature of the beast.
I feel like the bike was pretty straightforward; it was crazy-windy, and I was racing on Zipps that had been generously lent to me by my friend Frank (thank you Frank!!!!!!). With a 404 on the front and 808 on the back, the wind was very hard to negotiate at times. And aside from a 10km practice ride on them last month, I have never used race wheels. So when the cross-winds blew up, I nearly came off a few times. It was very sketchy. But I just tried to hold my nerve and stay aero. Sometimes I was scared. I’m not gonna lie about this…
Anyway, I felt comfortable on the bike, and the time seemed to pass quickly. As I rode through the turnaround point, I yelled out “I LOVE RIDING MY BIKE”. It was AWESOME. The second lap was pretty similar to the first: hard grafting uphill into a head wind on the way out, and a bit of downhill and a tailwind/crosswind on the way back. When I came out of the swim I was in position 1482, and when I finished the bike I was number 772. So I think that means I passed 710 swimmers. I worked really hard, and was absolutely stoked with my bike.
Bike time: 5:36:19 (16th in category)
I jumped off my bike, ran into the tent, found my bag and sat down. A really nice girl emptied out everything onto the floor, and I chucked my socks, shoes and race number on. Someone then lathered me up with sunscreen, and I really wanted to ask if she could massage my shoulders while she was there, but I thought it inappropriate.
I had been trying to pee all day on the bike, but it wasn’t happening (too dehydrated), so I tucked into one of the toilets in transition before heading out on the run.
T2 time: 6:01 WTF am I doing in there????!!!!!!!!!
As soon as I started running, I had to stop and chuck some body glide around my timing chip, as it had lacerated my flesh as though it were some kind of cilice (as if competing in an Ironman wasn’t self-flagellation enough). Then, as I started running, I took in some nutrition. I HAVE NO IDEA WHY. I NEVER, NEVER, EVER have nutrition in the first 15/20 mins of the run – my heart rate is going ballistic and it makes my stomach go mental. Well guess what? MY STOMACH WENT MENTAL. It was a disaster. But I kept calm knew I had to run slow until it passed.
The run went along the boardwalk, and then then best part was that it went along the back of my in-law’s house, so when I ran past, all my friends and family were there with huge signs and banners. It was a fantastic pick-me-up. Thanks guys, you are the best.x.
The course then popped out onto Nepean Highway, and my triathlon angel Meg was there waiting for me on her bike, ready to ride along to support me. It was the best. We had some broken conversation along the lines of:
ME: Am I winning?
MEG: Yes, you’re winning. Smashing it. In the lead.
ME (at the 2km mark of the run): Are we nearly there yet?
The best. Thank you Meg.
So anyway, my stomach felt like crap, and I had to run sloooow. But I didn’t care one bit. I was so happy. Super happy. As my stomach started tp feel better, I began to take in nutrition, water, electrolytes etc, but I never picked up the pace. I just trundled along saying over and over “slow and steady wins the race”. I didn’t stop running (except to hug my friends that I saw along the way). My legs felt fresh and I kept smiling. By the time I made it to Brighton, I was starting to get sore feet and blisters, but by that point I knew I was going to make it, so it was like I didn’t care. KEEP ON SMILING PIPER. As I got to Elwood, I saw Meg and Luke sitting on the grass, and Meg jumped up and ran alongside me whilst Luke took this shot:
Classic Piper/Gillmer joviality.
I can’t remeber much about the final 2km, except for the AWESOME Giant support crew outside the Providore cafe, seeing my good friend Alice on the bridge (who is about to run the Paris marathon – GOOD LUCK ALICE), getting hugs and high fives from my friend Claire in St Kilda (thanks Claire for teaching me to swim!!!), and then seeing Angie with her megaphone near the finish chute (yelling out “GO PIPER – you didn’t crap yourself!!!!” As my biggest fear was being one of those poor people who have diarrhea explosions and then having to get hosed down at the finish haha).
The finish chute was something else. All these people were yelling “LUCY LUCY LUCY LUCY” and banging on the sideboards. I saw all of my good friends from work who came down, and my awesome, incredible friends and family. I slowed down to sweep up as many high fives as possible, and walked over the line, gobsmacked. Pete Jacobs handed me my medal and asked how it felt to be an ironman. If I had any of my usual wits about me, I would have replied “it’s fantastic, you have to try one some time”. But alas all comedy had left the building at this point. Oh and, that’s right – I didn’t recognise him (awkward, what with him being the world champ and all…).
Run time: 4:12:35 29th in age group
And finally… there are so many thank you’s I don’t know where to begin. But mostly to Joe for coaching us.
Thanks to my amazing husband for going through all this torture with me – because I told him I couldn’t do an ironman alone, and that if he loved me he would do it too…
To all my friends and family for understanding that I can no longer come out after daylight hours and socialise (hopefully this week of drinking has made up for it).
To mum and dad for flying half way around the world to support me. Oh, and for sponsoring me all this time… 🙂
To Jo Stewart for the last minute race astro update.
To Slater for this piece of advice: “WATCH OUT FOR POSSUMS”.
To Frank for the wheels!
To Meg and Luke for endless advice, saddles, bikes, training rides, honey, gels, shoe vouchers, ph my gosh the list is just endless – you guys are my heroes – and Ben too!
To everyone who came to support me – I have never felt more loved than last Sunday. It was truly incredible.
This is turning into the fricken’ oscars, but whatevs’ – it’s my blog. And I’m self edited…
But I’ll leave you with this:
My friend and veteran ironman athlete, Nic Everett, told me this quote recently (amongst a lot of other welcomed and oft called-upon advice):
“Half way through the marathon out in the Ironman you meet yourself. There is no hiding from or cheating yourself in this sport. You are stripped bare for all the world to see. It’s at that terrible, painful moment you find out what you are made of. When everything hurts so much you want to quit….. you discover your soul. You are free. You are there because you choose to be. You are there because your desire over comes your fear. You dare to fail….. and sometimes do but you know that you will be back…..you like the person you meet.”
I enjoyed meeting myself and hanging out for a while. I think perhaps we’ll have to hang out again sometime.
*DISCLAIMER* Some shots I have ripped off as I’m broke but I promise to purchase them from finisher pix this week I PROMISE: (Im really sorry)