Foster Half Ironman 2013
My Ironman journey is in a number stages and my blog is a reflection of these stages.
Stage 1 – commitment- May 2013
Stage 2 – Half Ironman racing August to November 2013
Stage 3 – Summer base building December – January 20013-2014
Stage 4 – Ironman Port training February – May 2014
Including this race I have completed three Half Ironman events in 2005 I did Port and finished in over 7 hours, this year at Port I managed 6:29:33 hours and on at Foster I attained a PB of 5:34:30 a 55 minute improvement. Even allowing for a short swim I am pretty chuffed with this race. Despite feeling good there were a number of things that went wrong which I need to address for May 2014.
This is not a model to emulate. Many posts ago I developed a systematic program to follow and I soon dumped it trying to get in a few runs, swims and rides a week. I just trained when I could.
Since Port from 20 October to 23 November:
Swim 2 2 2 2= 8km
Cycle 100, 36, 25 = 161 km
Run 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6= 60km
For a range of reasons from family, work, weather I went to Ironman website to pull out of the race in May. I was two days late for the 75% refund and that stopped me going ahead with the plan to withdraw. Around this time I was in an exchange of ideas and readings with a friend on nonduality/nondualism, the work of Jeff Foster and this got me focusing on the here and now. I won’t go into the details, needless to say it helped.
There are two competing half and ironman distance circuits in the world. Once is known as the Ironman series and the other is the Challenge series. This was my first of this series and they are making an effort to establish a point of difference. There are differences.
The logistics of the event was doing my head in fortunately I stayed with a friend in Smiths Lake, thus freeing up my mind for other issues. The race started in Foster Keys and finished 5 km to the north in Town Beach. I could not get my head around leaving my car at the start and getting back to it in the later evening with all my gear and the bike – the race started on Saturday at 1:00pm.
I thought he best way to approach this was to drop off the bike on Friday night and park the car at Town Beach and get a taxi back to the start. I took me a while to work out when to drive to Foster from Smiths Lake as there were rolling road closures due to the sprint events in the morning.
Anyway I managed to arrive in Foster Keys before 7:00pm to rack my bike in the pouring rain. I called Ric who was coming up for the race and staying at Taree and we arranged to leave my car at the start and his car at the finish. So one issue was ticked off I felt for Ric as he along day cong u as is daughter was in the sprint race –she won her age group- and then headed to town to kill time till I picked them up at 11:00am to take him back to the start.
On the food front I had a normal lunch at school and some wraps and sandwiches in the car on the way down. Gordon provided me some dinner and we cooked up some extra potatoes for me. On the morning of the race I had the normal three weetbix and orange juice and at 9:45 a bowl of potatoes was consumed before the drive to Foster to pick up Ric and then Foster Keys
I parked the car in the street leading to the race start, there were no signs saying I could not park there. There were a number of things we had to do. We had two plastic bags for our gear. One was for T2 where our gear would be transported the Town Beach for the start of the run. The other bag was to put in our swimming gear after the swim which also was to be transported to the start. I hesitantly handed over my T2 bag double checking my shoes were in there. I was listening to the announcer whipping up the crowd and making announcement, one of which asking people to move their cars off the start of the bike leg.
Did I mention the weather? From many days out we knew it would be challenging I was planning to ride with a long sleeve top and a spray jacket that I could wrap around my waist should it get warm. I wanted to be able to get myself warm if I needed to and I wanted to be able to practice carrying the gear for May next year even if I did not use it in this race. I attended to this and the final check of the bike in T1, ably support by Sue and Tim as technical officials, and only had to put my personal bag to be transported to the finish.
Ric came up to me needing to go to the car to get some money to buy some bike equipment for the race. At the same time another announcement about moving cars off the course. I had been ignoring these messages as I knew my car was on the course. This was not something I wanted to deal with and we looked at all the cars in the street and decided to leave the car there.
We headed to the race start and all the competitors were very relaxed lying on the grass chatting waiting for the race briefing and the start. I was chatting with some Hills Tri club members and friends, Ric, Greg and Dipak including some good nature sledging and evasion about times.
While chatting we were putting on our wetsuits and my one has a few holes in it hoping I will get to May without a new one. My left leg went in really easier and I thought that was strange as it had always been hard to do in the past. My right leg was a little harder to do. Then I stood up to pull the rest of the suit on and realised I had placed my left leg into the left arm of the wetsuit. Greg politely watches my error without saying anything.
Ric was on his back having sleep as he had been up since 4:30 am for his daughter’s race early in the morning. The again the announcer said people had to move their cars or the race would be delayed. Ric woke up, looked at me. I got up knowing my keys were in the bag section and with 15 minutes to the start I could move the car but could not guarantee I could find a park and get back for the start of the race. We sat down and hoped for the best.
We noticed the elite competitors were entering the water so we walked over to watch them. The race paperwork said it was a two lap course and then we heard a rumour it was one lap and looking at the location of the buoys we thought it had to be one but at that stage nothing was confirmed. After they went to the deep water start we entered the water to the sound of distant thunder.
While I was in the water the wording of the car announcement had changed to the race was being delayed until the road was safe.
The wave starts are a bit more civilised than the mass starts of the 1980s. I decided to line up on the riverbank in line with the start and with two minutes to go I swam across to the other side next to the buoy on the starting line with the goal of swimming to each buoy. What I lacked in pace I was going to make up with smart swimming. I really enjoyed the swim only having to concentrate avoiding kicks to different parts of the body at the turns. I finished the swim in 30 minutes and I was not pushing it – so I suspected the course was at least 400m short.
After 5 minutes in T1 I was on my way and consuming a banana. I was using my watch for the overall time and had my Garmin attached to the bike for the ride. On the way out the road was clear for the first 400 m and there was my car the first of a series of car that did not move.
The course was mainly flat with a small section of undulations at the turnaround. I was comfortably riding above 30 km per hour on the big chain wheel completing all but one of 18 5 km sectors between 8-9 minutes averaging 32-33 km per hour. Only three times I dropped to the small chain wheel.
Now for a few comments about the ride and lessons learnt. The 9.7 km was completed in 2:50 hours – the fastest I have ever ridden that distance. The horizontal pelting rain on the undulations of the second lap was really cool (i.e.: fun) and would have been interesting if the turnaround was at Smiths Lake we would have had hail.
In a race I am a convert knowing your speed and thus using a Garmin. I learn a lesson in concentration during the ride. I only dropped under 30 km per hour a few times and had to concentrate to keep up the pace and even push hard in sections and this took concentration. I had two lapses in concentration.
On the way back into town it was not traffic free and there was a narrow verge with cars backed up as we passed through on the inside for a few 100m with less than a metre width. We would all have to slow down and I could see how a lapse on concentration would cause a fall – and I saw a few out there on the course.
On the second occasion I lost focus it was on the final left hand turn back to the beach and I was going too fast and the road wet oily. I overshot the turn and only just made it through a gap in the barricades onto the other side of the road. I was thinking whether I should run with a spray jacket or not during the run to keep warm.
All told I was very happy with the cycle.
I was in a bit of a shock at the start of the run I had never started a run in a half Ironman under 4 hours. If I held things together I would be able to finish under 6 hours. Anyway in transition because of this realisation I was not as calm as I should have been I made a few errors. I fumbled with getting the Garmin off the bike and instead of pressing lap at the start of the run I press stopped and though the whole run I could not work out why my 6 km intervals were not registering.
I was on my way not knowing where I was going or which direction. So the first lap was like an adventure looking a people coming the other way and judging the source as I knew I had to complete two and a half laps. My Garmin is set to one screen so I can read it while I run and I seemed to running at 5:30 per km pace which was much better than Port Macquarie and my back was not hurting. I was surprised at this as I spent the whole ride in the tri bar position. In the run we were spoilt with nutrition available every two km and I felt obliged to take something at each station.
On the bike I had about three bottles of drink, two bars and a honey sandwich and a salt tablet each hour. Now on the run I had a choice tending to have a sports drink, a cola and a gel at each successive aid station. I was not noticing the rain anymore more and still took water out of habit and pulling off my glasses and cap to wet my head down every now and then.
Given I had no idea how far I had run nor for how long I had to run according to the terrain and the runners around me at the turnarounds. I caught Ric at 25 km on the ride and estimated I had pulled ahead by about 5-6 minutes by the last turnaround. I knew Ric would run faster than me so I was using him as a yardstick expecting him to run me down.
After the turnaround at the Tuncurry side I looked at my watch and I spotted Ric 4 minutes later which meant he was 8 minutes behind if he was running at my pace. The next time at the same place he was closer to me at 3 minutes having made up two minutes and 6 minutes behind, A lap later he was within I spotted him 2 minutes 4 minutes behind. I was doing the same calculations on the Foster side.
I was also measuring my pace off Greg who would normally have passed me on the ride. After spotting Greg on the first lap he made a lot of time each lap and passed me on the Tuncurry side on the second lap. I was also looking for Dipak another faster runner and I first spotted him on the bridge and then later more on the Tuncurry side. The other person I was judging my pace off was a lady on the bridge each lap Karen – though I did not know it was her at the time but she said hell to me a few times.
Now in relation to the terrain this run, like the ride was very different. Normally I run and just try and hang on. With the people I was pacing off I found myself concentrating better and every time my pace popped over 6 minute pace I was able to increase the pace again to under mid to high 5 minute pace. This was very different to Port where I spent most of the time at 6:30 pace.
As I approached the Foster side for the third time I realised I had no ideas where the finish line. I ran past the beach on the left hand side I could see the finish. What I could not understand was whether I had to do a sharp left or go to the far turn around and back. Soon I saw some runners coming down the road towards me and went in the finishers Shute.
Because I was so much living in the here and now I was genuinely not sure which end the half lap was meant to be on. I finally remembered I had two watches on and noted I was at 1:12 minutes so I had a full lap at the very least to go. At this stage it was still pouring and I was wearing my glasses for a bit of gamesmanship so no one could see I was hurting and concentration. On the Tuncurry end I mustered some strength, which I have never done in the past and picked up the pace reducing the gap on the runners whom I was judging my pace off.
As I came past the finishing for the last time I was breathing hard, at or below 5 minute pace and found myself wobbling a bit. I refocussed, slowed down and went up and down the hill and came back to the finish receiving a towel medal and this cool beer glass. I waited for Ric to finish and we had a beer provide for all the finishers – that went down well.
I finished with a clock time of 5:39; 40 and remembered later that I was in wave 3. So my finish time was 5:34 and I thought my run time was 2:10 but the results suggested 2:06 which I was really pleased with.
I just looked at my Port time because I originally thought my finish time was a 43 minute improvement when it is actually a 55 minute improvement. I am a bit blown away by this.
To finish off I would like to take you back to the beginning 29 years ago when I started running and triathlons in Bowral and three friends.
My recently deceased friend Bernard completed two ironman race Foster races 17 years apart and I felt nostalgic riding the roads he raced on all those years ago when I did not have the courage to participate in an Ironman. Thanks Murry for the inspiration.
Another training partner in the Bowral days was Glen who competed in the Akuna Bay Ironman in the 1980s, now farmer now in Texas QLD still winning local races. We travelled together to compete in sprint race in New Zealand in 1985. He too is another inspiration even though we have not seen each other in over twenty years. Though I had no connection with him in person at this race he is another person in an era which took me along the path of triathlons
Finally, at the end of the race and I was entertaining ideas of possible finish times and I met Shane another Bowral friend- now in Lennox Head. He was there with his son Lucas just finished year 12. Shane held off his son in the swim and the ride putting the gap in the run to both finish in the mid 4:30 hours. Shane recently completed the Hawaii Ironman and was first in my age group for Foster.
In my excitement of my unexpected finish time I was talking to him about my possible Ironman finish time. Shane’s comment, don’t focus on the time just concentrate on finishing the race, reminded me of my original goal of completing not competing.
Stage 2 – tick.