A tragic week with cause to reflect during exercise

In a week of tragic events on Victoria Road Rozelle, Martin Place, Peshawar and Cairns my exercise involved some deep thinking.

You may note a change in my run routine below. There will time for hopefully more positive reflections in the Narrabeen 12 hour race on January 3 (edit ) 2015

Friday 12 December 21 km Avoca loops 59 minutes

Friday 12 December 8 km 6 km run 2 km walk 59:31

Saturday 13 December 21 km Avoca loops 59:42

Sunday December 14 21 km Avoca Loops 48:32

Monday December 15 21 km Avica Loops 49:16

Tuesday 16 December 25 km Avoca loops 1:01:07

Tuesday 16 December 9 km 6 km run and 3km walk. 1:03

Wednesday 17 December 8 km 6 km run 2 km walk 57:37

Wednesday 17 December 21 km Avoca loops 47:19

Thursday 18 December 21 km Avoca loops 49 minutes

Friday 19 December 21 km Avoca loops 48 minutes

Friday 19 December 8 km 6km run 2 km walk 58 minutes.

Centennial Park Ultra 50 km

Centennial Park Ultra 50 km Race Report




After the Ironman in May I had two months off with just running 6 km runs when I felt like it.  Then I started some weekend rides and to date I have not done any swimming.  The Centennial Park Ultra was started a few years ago and only a few of us have done all the events.  So I have built a rod for my back having the desire to keep the streak up. Fortunately it is an event which I want to do and can keep doing in the current structure.  The 50 km race is also during the 100km race which means I can in reality have 11 hours to complete the 50 km.


Just a thought how about a 50 mile race – I might be able to fit that in the cut off.


In the past the race has been organized by April  and now it is being set up by Sean   and Mel of Mountain Sports. In both cases the organisation was excellent though different due to personal touches.  The first race was in February which I liked- nice and warm and the last two have been in September.  This year the race was in August and I did not fully appreciate the difference with sunrise and the cold.   So for someone like me who likes to go to bed late and get up late that was the mental challenge.


I arrived and it was dark and people were wandering around with headlights; a new experience for me.  I could hear Colin’s voice at the timing area and then when the sun rose I could not find him anywhere.  He had set up and left to time another race.  I finally got to say hi to him several hours later.  I went to the registration area with one person and a torch handing out the bibs.  While there, I had a chance to chat to the eventual 50km winner Alex Matthews about his recent work in Dubbo.


After watching the start of the 100km I went back to the car to get another jacket to wear.  I am a wimp and I was cold.  With the Ironman training I have been out of the running loop for a while and I enjoyed catching up with many long term running friends, met a few new runners and put faces to names of several Facebook running friends. While walking to the start I was talking to Glenn about his Ironman aspirations.


Once at the start I felt comfortably warm with beany, cycling undershirt, long sleeve thermal, tri top, long sleeve cycling top and a wool based V neck jumper. On the first lap the jumper went, on the second the cycling top and the third the beany.  I think I made a mistake with the cycling under shirt as it was soon wet and I was getting cold.  After a while I took that off, leaving for the rest of the race for the long sleeve thermal and tri top.


During the first 25 km of the race I was completely unsettled.  The sun did not warm me up and in the shadows I was cold.  There was some relief as I passed the time chatting to Helen Helen Pretty , Sonia  Sonia Graham  and Heather Dwyer at different stages during the race,  cheering on the faster runners as they lapped me and stopping for a chat to Paul Every at his aid station – each lap a different topic of discussion.


My Garmin was set to 6 km intervals (no surprise there) as I viewed the race as 8 by 6 km runs and a 2 km top up, rather than laps of the park. I was hoping to keep the average under 45 minutes per 6km.  The splits for the first 25 km between 37 -40 for 18 km then a 53 minute last 6 km. This half of the race included taking off the layers of clothes and removing my orthotics as my feet were cramped.


In the second half of the race I decided to do my 12 minutes running and 3 minutes walking for the rest of the race.  I thought if I got myself into mental routine the second half of the race would go faster than the first half which I felt was dragging on and on.


(NB: I am sensing the tone of what I am writing – not that positive.  I did enjoy many aspects of the race.  Anyway – to continue the story.)


Instead of me calculating 12 minute intervals I start my 3 minutes of walking at 12, 27 , 42 and 57 minutes past the hour and if an aid station comes up I stop there as well even if I am running. I started to enjoy myself more as I got into the routine. My times for the 6 km slowed to between 49-53 minutes and my pace was very even – the time variation was more due to stopping.  I managed to get to walk at the end of the hill for 3 minutes at around the public café strip and on the other side near the horse riding on a regular and consistent basis.


Well that is probably it.  I trotted into to finish about 10 minutes after Brendan did his 100 km in over 7 hours compared to my 6:35 hours for my 50 km – yes the leaders tended to lap me every two laps. I promptly went to my gear, put on  several layers of clothes, placed the rest of my gear in the car and had the best part of the day watching other runners come in while to speaking to Sean, Colin ,  Brendan , Will from FootPoint, Russell,  Trent Morrow (MarathonMan) and Marcus  of @ultra168 and thanking the volunteers and other supporters.


After seeing the top five places of the 100km race finished it was time to head home. I enjoyed the race and the company but I am feeling older.  I have pulled up fine just some normal DOMs and quite looking forward to no planned races except for the mandatory Nepean triathlon in November.


So for me the future holds six km runs and some traffic free safe riding and swimming on sunny days. No early morning sessions normal late nights with Penno Road runs, social media catch up, Foxtel and reading.


I think I’m just going through the motions at the moment. My headspace is somewhat directionless, though I am suitability content despite being pretty much goal less at the moment.

Ironman Reflection 2014

Ironman 2014 Reflections

Well it is almost two weeks since the race. All the emotion came out when I brought the finishers gear with Ali on the Monday – the reality hit home that I had finished the race and achieved the goal.

Recovery:- My students had an 18 hour run walk for charity on the following Friday and I did the 3:00am -7:00am shift, so to keep warm while supervising I did a 3 hour walk and ended with a 1 hour run walk for a total of 27 km. Since then I walked home from work one evening. Otherwise, I am still resting. No plans at this stage – just a little run down at the moment.

What follows are some reflections about my Ironman Journey.

1. Cost: – clearly not a cheap sport. I have kept a log of costs and I know I could have kept them down but I was only planning to do this once. There was no intention making a hobby out of these kinds of events. Once I take into account Triathlon Australia and Club membership, swimming entry fees, race entry fees, accommodation for race and lead up races, bike services, foods and gels, running shoes…. there was not much change if any under $5000. On top of this I was concerned about the state of my bike and did not want it to break down during the race so I got a modest average entry level new bike to replace the 10 year old bike which replaced the 20 year old triathlon bike

2. Journey: – Clearly the race was important but I got so much more out of the 30 year journey. It has touched so many aspects of my life from a personal, family and work perspective. I am who I am because of 30 years of exercise. For me the 12 months has been about closure, a long held goal achieved and a rite of passage to other things I might want to do without the shadow of unfinished business.

3. Preparation: – An ironman is not only about being physically and mentally prepared, it also is about being organisationally prepared. In my case it involved seeking leave 12 months out, entering the race, arranging where to stay, developing a training approach for the race and lead up races, preparing clothes, nutrition equipment, organisation of time and establishing priorities.

4. Riding: – Do lots of long riding not only to finish the ride but to finish freshly for the run. It is about the bike. You spend most of your time on the bike; it is the leg where the most things can go wrong and the place where you can lose to most time. Yet still for me it was the most enjoyable leg. The more you ride the more you are prepared physically and for all practical eventualities. You don’t realise the benefits till, you reach about 5 hours – you know when you have it right when a three hour ride feels short and you are looking forward to it

5. Self-indulgent:- it is probably the way I approached the 12 months but I found myself more self-indulgent if not selfish. I gave family and friends notice I would not be going out. I would only eat certain things at certain times. Basically it was just about me and at times did not like this.

6. Sacrifices: – yet at the same time as self-indulgence many sacrifices are made. Most of the sacrifices are made by those around you, though you do make some yourself. In my case I did not feel I made any sacrifices as the training was just an extension of what I normally do. In fact the perceived sacrifices were good for me – no beers, cross training, going to bed early and even getting up early…

7. Trust: – have faith in yourself. It is about doing what works for you. There is and will be a lot advice coming your way through reading and you will seek it as well. It is important to listen and learn and apply what works in your circumstances. In my case I started to doubt my 6 km runs even though I knew this was the approach that enabled me to be able to run at all. Any longer and I get injured and would never make any progress.

8. Health: – in the last month I did everything to make sure I did not get sick. I kept the chest warm, tried to eat well (though still enjoyed junk food, diet coke and ginger beer), slept a lot and probably under trained and tapered too much so as not to run myself down.

9. Injuries: – I was very lucky on this front. It took me a couple of years to get my body to the point where I felt I could train for the event. Once I got the hip and metatarsal right I had to train to well before the edge of further damage. In February I a few sessions to get my neck fixed and a week out I kicked my toe – otherwise 12 months injury free.

10. Perspective: – I do feel I have a different perspective on life due to the journey. I had lots of time for reflection while training and all these ideas about what I want to do, how I live my life and relate to people. I just need to process them a bit more, prioritise some of the thoughts and not let them slip by making sure I engage in some sort of action.

Ironman Report Part 4: Run – mindfulness

Ironman Report Part 4: Run – mindfulness

As I walked into the T2 I heard a volunteer say there were 100 bags still on the racks. I was surprised there were so many behind me as I did not seem to see them on the way back. Anyway I picked up bag number 1495. I walked into the change area and was interested in seeing a fair few competitors there. Maybe they were around me and I was just in my own head for the whole ride. As you can see there was a lot more thinking happening now as I started the run.

run combined

In the T2 transition I decided to go for a full change of clothes with the exception of the arm warmers and cycle thermal t shirt. I thought I had an ice tea to have but I forgot to pack it. I put on the Six Foot Track Tri top, R4YL cap, racing glasses with clear lenses, Line break skins, a pair of black shorts and ankle socks. Slipped in the middle tri pocket the red North Face spray top and right pocket was the home for a second contact case of salt tablets and panadols. I wrapped a long sleeve thermal top around my waist and strapped on my Garmin above my watch, wearing two timing pieces – one for real time and the other for pace.

Then I looked at my left foot. I had a problem. I could not get my cycling shoe off. The volunteer and I just looked and wondered what to. My cycling shoes had two Velcro flaps and the top had a corrugated strap passing through a mechanism that clicks as the strap progresses through. For some reason the strap had passed through too far and the release mechanism would not work. After three attempts, the last almost taking the back of my heel, provided me a foot to put on the second Hoka Tarmac so I could start the run. After a slow walk to the exit, checking the time (4:20 pm) and eating some food I was on the way.

The run was an attack on my senses and I needed to be mindful about what I needed to do. Runners are close to you, people are all over the course cheering there is a huge buzz at the aid stations and I passed the finish chute 8 times with music blaring and hearing the announcer declare “You are an Ironman” to all the finishers ahead of me. As I ran past this area several times I refused to look ahead neither at the finishers chute as approached it nor to my right as I ran past it.

I had formulated several plans for the run but never got around to posting them because I could not make up mind. In the end this was a good idea as I had to use all the options. The course involves four just under 10 km loops. From the transition we went towards town past the swim start, along the river foreshore of Town Square and the finishers chute. Then we diverted right along a road and up a hill to circle through the park adjacent to the break wall and back through the finisher’s area back to the transition area. From here the western side of the course involved heading out along Settlement Point and returning through one of four chutes 400m to the west of the transition. There was a specific chute for each lap and as I went through I received a different coloured wrist band.

Lap 1 was during daylight with a cold strong wind blowing in my face as I headed to the western side of the course. This is why I wore the clear sunglasses so I could wear them into the evening protecting my eyes. The plan was to use the Martin Fryer inspired 12 minute run and 3 minute walk at 12, 27, 42 and 57 minutes past the hour in real time and walk through the aid stations and the hill up on the loop around the to the break wall.

The first and the second lap felt great with people saying things like “go Six Foot Track runner”…he will know how to finish” – which gave me confidence. There was an aid station every km 2km and just varied what I had each time.

I had a Cadel bar in my pocket which I flicked to 21b on the hill section of the course which was the location I was to see the family for each lap till the finish. The spray jacket was weighing on my back and I moved it to the right pocket and that felt better. My back was hurting from the ride and at one stage I laid down on grass holding my knees and pulling them back towards my face. This stretched out my back and the issue was gone for the rest of the run.

Towards the end of the second lap I could feel I was off balance and thought this is not good. In fact I thought if I did not arrest the situation there was a possibility I would not finish. I was not being mindful as to what was happening to me.

I started to take note of all the factors influencing my body. My mind was being distracted in trying to see the time for my run walk routine. I was wet from sweat not cold. I was aware of the wind and was stalling putting on the thermal top, though I had rolled up the arm warmers. I was sick of Gatorade, water, coke and gels but I was still fine with bananas and watermelon. My toe which was sore in the first lap had warmed up. I had had a panadol at 4:10pm on the run and was ready for another one after 7:10 pm and I had forgotten to take my salt tablets thus far into the run. I was mentally distracted as I felt I needed to finish sooner rather than later as the family had to drive home that night after the race and I was worried for them.

In short, I had dropped the ball by not being aware of what was happening to my mind and body. Fortunately I thought I have been in this situation before but I had to act decisively if I was to rectify the situation. I know this is sounding a bit melodramatic but I was really quite concerned because I was only at 18 km and the wall normally hits after 30 km into the run. I was in newish territory now 11 hours into a race. I found out later I ran the first lap in 1:10 hours and the second lap in 1:30 hours.

21b said to me after the race when he was speaking to me on this lap I was slurring my words.

I needed a plan. Firstly I abolished the run walk routine and vowed not to look at my watch till the end of the race when ever that would be. The plan now was to run from aid station to aid station, walk for a few minutes and then run to the next aid station. After collecting my wrist band for the second lap I had a 1500m run to the next aid station. Once there I decided to force down some more nutrition. I had three cokes, banana and a gel which I gagged on and I almost threw back up.

Conscious of the fact that it would take a while for the nutrition to sink in I started off for the next aid station. I felt bad because now I was being rude ignoring all the cheering around and support, even friends on the course (some of whom I have had a chance to offer an apology). It was a matter of moving forward hoping I had done enough to stall the wobbles and hopefully reverse the situation.

Before the next aid station was the section of the course with the special needs bag. My plan was to use the bag at the end of the third lap when I was in the 30+km region. I decide to act on the lap I was on because things might deteriorate too much by the time I got back. Normally there was a volunteer at the bottom of the hill who would message ahead to have a special needs bag ready. When I reached the base of the hill there was no one there.

Once at the top I asked for the bag and fortunately I was able to find it for them. I sat down on the ground and had some of a ‘real’ Gatorade and felt that if I had something of substance in my stomach over time I would come well. There is a photo of this. There was a honey sandwich which I started to eat and it was like glue and a forced down as much as I could. I handed the bag back to the volunteer and I ain I would be back for it on the next lap.

I struggled to my feet and saw 21b was watching me in the distance – hence the few photos. I told him I was struggling and potentially in trouble, meanwhile he was on the phone to friends in Sydney relaying what was happening. Jenny and 18g were a bit further up the road. I went past them mumbling and headed down the hill to the next aid station. By the time I got there the family had taken a short cut to be there for me. They had found a good spot and I thought they had found a good place to be a spectator on the course. When I went through an aid station I felt obliged to take something from a volunteer – they took it as a sort of competition to have their offering taken by a competitor.

By this stage I was now into my third plan for the run course. I thought back to my PMC run for Gosford to the Opera House in 2009 and how wobbly I was at Chatswood. I had some food there and it took till almost St Leonards before felt better and that was after an hour of walking. So I thought I just needed to walk. I did not feel stable while running and felt better while walking.

At this point Ian for the third time was cheering me on – the only energy I could muster was the raising my hand in acknowledgement at this stage. He stopped to offer me salt tablets when I said I was struggling. I said I was fine and that reminded me to take a salt tablet and panadol at the next aid station. Soon after Big Chris passed by me for the second time offering me encouragement. I thought now was the time to put on the thermal top in case the coldness was effecting me.

I felt like if I threw up I would feel better but could not bring myself to do it and I did not want to lose the effect of the salt tablet. I then decided to sit on the loo for the next aid station. I rationalised at least I would get a rest but in reality I just wanted to have a sleep. Time was being suspended now and though I was not in there very long I did feel a bit better when I emerged

There was no pattern to my running I would walk for a lot and jog for what seemed like a few seconds and I did this though the next 4 aid stations after the honey sandwich. I finally reached the chute to pick up my third wrist band. 21b later said I had done another lap in 1:30 hours.

On this final full lap (I still had 10-11 km to go) there one aid station to go before the special needs bag area and felt I was now running more than I was walking. I also felt good because the cut off for starting the third lap was 10:10 pm and though I did not know the time I was sure I was well ahead of that. The next cut off was at the end of Settlement Point at 11:10 pm which I felt as long as I continued to improved I would be fine.
I got to the aid station, managed some banana and watermelon which were going down well. AT the special needs bag station I stopped and sat on the gutter speaking to the family while a consumed a peanut butter sandwich. It went down better than the honey sandwich the lap before. 21b said later I was still slurring a bit but was moving better. I jogged down the hill to the next aid station and the family was there again.

Now I wanted a bit more a system to my running as I still had over a lap to go and just wanted to finish. So I adopted the street light routine of running a certain number of street lights and then walking a few while identifying the next street light I would run again. Every lap I finished left less people on the course and I was running more I was starting to pass more and more people who were walking.

I came in to the car park area just after the transition heading west and the runner in front of me face planted from tripping on one of those small speed humps. I was aware of them and was careful but he like me was a bit wobbly and laid face down for several seconds. I called out for first aid and by the time they got across he was up saying he was fine – as you would – no one wants to be pulled off the course. A bit later I saw a big guy wobbling on the road in front of me – probably what I looked like- and I stopped to help him. I gave him my dates and said he needed to force food in if he was going to finish and I pressed on. On my return from the out and back I saw he was still moving through the course. Clearly I felt my brain was starting to function better.

As I walked through the fourth chute collecting my final wrist band I had less than 2 km to go. I jogged and walked through to the next aid station in the car park of the swim start not really feeling anything except perhaps a sense of relief. After the aid station I thought of my family and friends, crossed myself and said three short prayers and a Zen meditation I often say to myself and made my way to the finishers chute – this time knowing I could have a look.

I ran into the chute and stopped to walk greeting all the supporters on the right hand side of the chute and soaking up the atmosphere and music. I could not find the family but saw Ian to the right just before the ramp to the finish. After giving him a big hug I looked to let the runner behind me finish and I slowly jogged up to the finish line. I did not hear them say ‘Martin Pluss you are an Ironman’ but knew I had made it.

I stopped at the top of the ramp on the other side of the banner, exhaled a big breath of relief and spotted my catcher Pamela Green who has been a huge supporter of my triathlon journey. She placed an Ironman towel over my shoulders and I was given my medal by one of the fire burn victims who had an official involvement in the Ironman. Pam heard my family calling out to me from the side and she took me over to see them and I introduced her to them. Pam guided me around to the get my race chip removed and the finisher’s photo with the medal and then took me to the refreshment tent.

I sat with Paul and Di Every, who were still around chatting. I loved every mouthful of some pumpkin soup, ice cream, fruit salad and a cup of tea. I spotted a massage tent and decided to head outside to Jenny and the kids. It was great to see them and after chatting for a few minutes Jenny and 21 b had to head back to Sydney and 18g was staying to look after me.

I had finished my Ironman at 10:10 pm in 15:18 minutes 1:40 hours ahead of the cut off with a run time circa 5:54 hours. I headed back into the race compound for my massage and back to the hotel when I realised I had not turned off my Garmin – so much for mindfulness.

Ironman Race Report Part 4: the ride – concentration

Ironman Race Report Part 4: the ride – concentration

The rolling start seemed to work well. At any one time there seemed to be a manageable number of people in the change area. This was new to me. As you came in a volunteer would be there with their hand up willing to help you. My person opened my bag and just pulled everything out. This threw me a bit as I had packed the bag with what I needed to do first at the top.

bike d bike a

After consuming half a container of peach iced tea – my logic was I was going to be sick of water and Gatorade not before too long- I put on in succession, my helmet, a cycling thermal layer t shirt, the volunteer helped with my arm warmers and then we realised I still had on my wetsuit. He expertly removed the wetsuit. Next was the Cool Running tri top which was never to see the light of day as on top of this I had a long sleeve cycling top and a wind vest.


I had placed my sun cream in helmet with my glasses to remind me to put it on. When my bag was emptied on the ground it was not visible but fortunately I saw someone putting on cream and ask for some from the volunteers. It was nice thick cream and I emerged from TI with a white face as if I had applied zinc all over it. I was about to leave and I saw a plastic bag to the side and thought OMG. I was about to walk off without my nutrition. Now that would have been a disaster.


With relief I put in my back left pocket Cadel bars and a peanut butter sandwich. In the middle pocket I had my North Face lightweight spray top and in the right hand pocket I had enough gels for one every 45 minutes. At this stage I spotted Ian Elgey who started in the chute after me – he had a ripper of a swim – and after a little chat I was on the way to the bike area to pick up my bike feeling pretty pleased that my planning and long ride practice had me out of T1 with errors rectified.


By 8:20am my cycle started exiting T1 sneaking down the side of some cameramen filming one of the visually impaired riders starting their race with a partner. Normally I start a ride with my shoes on but I had the cleats on the pedals as I wheeled the bike out. I had to stop up the road to finally get the shoes on. It was windy and it was cold but I was well rugged up, though I was still in awe of many riders just out in the elements in their tri suits.


In a mass start for a swim there are often a lot of bike riders around me but with the rolling start I was essentially alone from the start. In a sense it was quite good not having to worry about the 12 metre drafting rule every time another rider passed me. The 12 metre drafting rule means that we have to keep 12 metres from the back of the front bike and the front of the rear bike. Sue Horsburgh mentioned to me the cycle technical team look to see if the back rider stops pedaling as they are passed. Accordingly, I was doing a lot of stopping and starting riding in the first few kilometres. The other drafting rule is that you cannot ride side by side which I think is a pity as it is nice to ride next to someone chatting. It is the only time there is no traffic on the road.


The course was a two lap out and back section south to Dunbogan (though the name is never mentioned in the literature) with a 90 km turnaround back in Town Green. Two things to note about the first lap: the first 10 km (also 90-100km) is through rolling hills out of town and the winds were strong and cold with gusts I was to hear about and experience of up to 50 km per hour. For example, on the the second lap I was heading down a hill not on the tri bars and the wind picked me up and jumped the bike to the left. As this happened I went “whoooo….” and the riders coming up the hill on the other side thought I was gone. I would have been if I was on the tri bars. Fortunately, I had learnt through training rides to stay on the top bars on descent – the increased speed was not worth the risk of an accident.


My training pace was 25 km an hour as an average and often easily 27-30 km per hour. It soon became evident that I would have to concentrate and focus for the next 7- 8 hours. When I was in the tri bar position I had to work harder than normal to hold 25 km and hour into the wind which seemed to be 360 degrees and relentless. I was feeling I was over exerting myself and settled on being as close as I could to my target pace. As soon as I sat up to stretch or rest I would drop to 18 km per hour and have to work hard while more upright to get to 22 km per hour. I did manage to hold around 25 km per hour heading north back to Port.


In the Port Half in 2013 the turnaround was at about 22 km south of town, beyond this were new roads to me. I rarely check courses prior to a race – I sometimes like the unknown. On Saturday I did get some advice from Shane, from Bowral days, and Geoff Myatt about lowering the PSI on my bike for the bumpy roads on the southern end of the ride. I normally ride at 120 PSI and I was concerned about this as the lower pressure increases the chance of pinch flats. Needless to say I did take the advice of an Ironman legend and a knowledgable cyclist. Once I got past the 30 km mark the roads were not as bad as I expected.


I was feeling good because I had ridden in gale like conditions for 180 km in training and knew I could come in close to 8 hours and I had done 142km in pouring rain as well over 6 hours. I was rugged up, warm and happy to ride. Every now and then I checked my thinking that I was going to finish the ride so as not to jinx myself. I was to have a good ride although slower than I would have liked.


It was a surprised to me that I was noting the effect of the rolling start. I was very much at the back of the 1700-1800 competitors. Except for in Port and the aid stations along the way I was pretty much by myself. Ian flew past me in the first few km and I had trouble recognising people on the way back. At one stage a rider passed me with the number 20-82 and I spent some time trying to work out what that meant. It was a nice distraction for a couple of km but I had lost concentration and needed to work the rises a bit more to keep my pace up.


A bit later 20-82 passed me again and it was BigChris Stephenson. He was one of the legends who had finished 20 of the races and was given the dedicated number of 82 as the 82nd competitor to complete 10 races and now he was up to his 20th. We chatted for a while and he soon disappeared into the distance. There were a couple of other riders that I played leapfrog with in the first 90 km and one was an aunty of a student from my school who was out on the course supporting her race.


Soon I was at Mathew Flinders Drive hill where the atmosphere was great. There is a section of carpet up the road where people walked the bike. I had ridden in races 4 times before and had not needed to walk. Rob had mentioned the night before that the gradient for the first section was 21% and the next section 17-18% – means nothing to me – it is just steep. I felt like I was in a real cycle race. People were yelling for me to keep going and running up next to me. All I could do was look at the ground in front of me, sneaking a peek at the top with 10 metres to go. It was a good feeling especially with a lot of riders walking up the side of the road next to me.


I turned left of the hill for the next rise and there was Chris on the side of the road off his bike having a chat with friends. It was sort of comforting knowing a 20 time finisher was around where I was on the course. He would know how to pace himself. On the rolling hills back into town I knew the family would be out of bed and I was hoping to see them on the course into town.


On the roll into town Ian called out to me, he was still moving well. As I was stretching my back on the hill down to the turnaround I saw Jenny and the kids cheering me on the side of the road and just as I entered the turnaround the second place competitor passed me on his way in to start the run. The leader had passed me 7 minutes earlier. I was at 90 km and they were at 180 km and the time was 12:03pm and I had covered the first 90 km in 3:42 hours. On the way back up the hill out of town I chatted to the family and then onwards to my second lap.


Once again I was entertaining the idea I would finish and was even thinking of the finishers chute. I quickly killed those thoughts to try and concentrate to keep my cadence up into the wind and now the hills on the way out of town. At 30 km out there were a series of signs indicating 30 km, 60 km and 120 km roughly in the same spot. I got to 120 km and thought gee I still have almost three hours to go. It was the only time I thought like this given I thought the previous 5 hours had gone pretty quickly.


It was around here that Chris Stephenson joined me again. We chatted for a while though it was difficult 12 m apart so now and then we got closer and even side by side. Once again I felt very secure with Chris being around me due to his positive encouragement rending my doubts to the back of my consciousness and his experience. This time for some reason it was me that cycled ahead. I was not to see Chris again till the run.


By this stage I was getting the aid stations under control. There was less luck opening the contact case and getting a salt tablet every hour so. On gradual climbs I would open the case, spill a few tablets on the road and manage to get one in my mouth. Also in the benton bag on the bike were the dates and Cadel bars. Every 45 km I made sure I had solid food aka a peanut butter sandwich pieces. When I remembered I would have the gels. From what I learn about the quality of the water I had transferred the ‘real’ Gatorade I brought with me to the course bidons in the first lap and picked up two more in my special needs bag at 90 km.


So I treated the aid stations differently to how I had in the past as I was savouring the ‘real Gatorade’ and grabbing different bottles drinking most of them in few hundred metres. The aid stations were well set up with tables extending for a couple of hundred metres. In other races there are usually a lot of cyclists heading through a station and hence you had to be careful of running into bikes or hitting bidons on the ground. The rolling start meant I was by myself most of the time, so it seemed a bit safer. The aid stations had in order, water, Gatorade, coke, food (I had kgs of bananas) and back up bottles. I only got off my bike twice for a toilet stop, one of which included applying more sun cream. As I passed through each aid station for the last time I made sure I thanked the adults and kids.


My concentration was so good on one of the southern aid stations on the way back for the last time things went like a ‘Perfect Storm’. As I approached I finished the bidon of coke, flicked the bidon which landed in a bin to a cheer, then I had a water (the water in the townships to the south tasted better), flicked that one to a volunteer then collected a bidon of coke deftly swapping it into my right hand as I grabbed a banana from the next volunteer. I felt like an elite athlete though I am sure I looked like an old guy at the back of the pack ambling through an aid station. I have to admit to the experience feeling good.


Before long I was approaching the Mathew Flinders Drive hill for the second time. This time all the riders around me walked, there were only a few people to cheer you on and they helped. I crested the top with a sense of satisfaction looking back on the cyclists who were still walking up the hill. I rode through town to see Jenny and the kids now with cow bells ringing as I headed to enter T2.

The bike ride was finished in 7:42 hours, averaging 23.5 km per hour with the first 90 km in 3:45 hours and the second in 3:57 hours. I had improved my buffer to the cut off ( 5:20 pm) of 10:30 hours by 10 minutes to 1:10 hours. I was off the bike, I had got no flats, was well hydrated and fed and ready to start the run. I had 7:50 hours to finish the 42 km run.

Ironman Race Report Part 3 – relaxation

Ironman Report Part 3 – relaxation


The Ironman is an event with three stages relaxation, concentration and mindfulness – all happen to be linked to a swim, cycle and run.


Pre- Race


After a good sleep I woke up at 4:00am and had my normal breakfast of three weetbix, OJ, and psyllium husk. After putting on my ankle chip – would not want to leave that behind-  and a peek out the window to see the flags still  blowing in the wind,   I was relaxed enough to have another  20 minute sleep.  This also allowed time to check that the bowels had settled for the morning.


Not wanting to wake the family I struggled by myself with getting all the gear to the start.  There was the swim gear; a very large special needs backpack and smaller bag for the bike special needs and the pump needed to be carted the 15 minute walk to the transition area.  After lugging and sweating, due to all the layers I had on,   the gear to the transition, the goal was to keep warm while the waited for the race start.  I mistakenly left my water for the next hour in my special needs bag and had nothing to drink.


Just a comment on my special needs bags. There was a lot of time reflecting on the cold weather, possible rain and hitting the wall on the run. So the run special needs bag had more clothes than I needed and plenty of food for all eventualities. The last thing I wanted was to have to pull out of the race because of poor nutrition and/or hypothermia. The planning was over the top and in the end the best thing I did given what was coming.


Having pumped up my tyres, packing  my peanut butter sandwich, Cadel Bars, dates, salt tablets in  a contact case and two containers of Gatorade,  I was finally ready stay warm and to kill about 80 minutes before my swim start at 6:50 am. I walked the 10 minutes back to the race start against a sea of people heading to the transition – yes I was early again.




Swim a


The swim this year was a rolling start instead of a mass start. I sat down on the concrete car park on the lee side of a green bin to keep out of the wind and a few other people followed the lead. As I was reflecting on when to put on the wetsuit and place the street gear in the truck I was interested that I was still very relaxed.  In my mind it was just a swim another long ride which I had done for weeks on a Saturday and then the run.  I have done over twenty marathons and longer races though there was an unknown after almost 9 hours of exercise. As long as I was patient and relaxed burning fat I was confident, provided the wheels did not fall off and I had time in the bank, I would finish the run.


Once snapped out of my reflection it was time to put the wetsuit and I left my jumpers on for another 15 minutes. The rolling start required us to enter a chute based on the time we thought we would finish the swim: less than an 1 hour, 1 hour to 1:12 hours, 1:12 to 1:23 hours and 1:23- 2:20.  I honestly felt I could go at the back on the second last chute as I my swims for 3.8 km were between 1:20-1:25 hours.  People started filing into the chutes and for a moment I felt like I was in an Apple Store as people started clapping as the swimmers walked down the ramp to enter the water.  I just stood there watching all the swimmers snaked between the white boats on the river. At one stage I needed to ask a spectator for a drink of their water.


It was my turn.  Once thorough the chute on the way done the ramp we had to pass through the single chute to ensure our timing ship engaged. After a handshake with the announcer and turning off my 6:50 am alarm that went off on my watch, I guided into the water and just floated a bit in my wetsuit before I started swimming.


Having spent the last six months bilaterally breathing and improving my swimming immensely, as soon as I started I went back to breathing on the right hand side for several strokes and then looking up to see where I was going. I still felt I was stroking well through the water without the bilateral breathing. On passing the first lot of boats I realised I had not turned on my watch and I was kinda relieved.  I did not want to be constrained by time.  Since my alarm went off I knew I had started at 6:50 am; so my race would unfold in real time.


This year the course was one loop with a weir climb which in the end felt a bit like a boot camp. The tide was low so the swim upstream was quite easy and seemed fast.  The only hitch was when the course bent to the right around an island and the too few lifesavers were trying to push us to the right in the right direction.  I am increasingly focally challenged and did have issues working which were the race buoys I had to follow.


When I am not focusing on times I have always found the swim relaxing though at times you need to be careful not to be kicked by someone  and be wary of swimmers who seem to be swimming at an angle and pushing yourself off course or towards the bank. It is also the stage of the race where you need to be relaxed and exercise patience as it is a long day.


Soon I could see a weir in the distance and hundreds of swimmers converging on a narrower section where the race organisers had built a ramp so we could climb up and over the weir.  I was concerned about not being pushed too much to either side as I did not want to have to stand on any rocks and risk being cut by oyster shells. I managed to position myself in the middle of the stepped ramp and was most please to be greeted by local triathlete and cool runner Andrew Lister.  I went to stand up and my feet gave way.  All my blood was in my upper body.  I gracefully used my hands and feet to scramble up the steps blindly as my googles had fogged up.  I got to the top and had a quick glance forward and back to see how many were behind me – not many- and what lay ahead – two turnaround buoys


It did not take long to circle the buoys and climb back over the weir.  As I approached the weir I guy was in scuba gear checking that the carpet laid into the water over the rocks was still intact.  I made a note to check my footing as I climbed the weir. Now with much more experiences from 5 minutes earlier I clinged to the side rails went over the top, turned off the stop watch and noted I was at 46 minutes, less to time I missed turning on the watch at the start,  and reentered the water safely.  I say safely because Orange Triathlete Brett stubbed and broke his toe on the weir.


On the way back I did feel I had to work harder against the current.  At one stage I could see swimmers standing up on a bank walking. Though illegal I did stand up to walk a few steps to see how strong the current was and the lady next to me was said that I was going faster than I was swimming. We both had a good laugh.  I welcomed the little standing break as the wetsuit was constricting my chest.  I felt I was making no progress and saw a buoy in the distance. When I reached the buoy I was pleasantly surprised to see I was at the finish.  I was expecting another section. As I rounded the buoy I asked some girls on the surf ski how cold it was out of the water and they said freezing.


I exited the water in 1:19 hours – clearly the best time I have swam 3.8 km. The swim cut off was 2:30 so I had 1:10 hours up my sleeve.  I was onto a good start. As I was walking up the ramp I was met by Pam and started reflecting on the ride.  It was 8:10 am and if I could be on the bike before 8:30am from T1 I might be back for the run by 3:30 pm – it was not to be the case. The race is not over till the race is over.



Ironman Race Report Part 2 – Port Macquarie

Ironman Report Part 2 Port Macquarie

An Ironman is not about the race it is about the journey.

The logistics of participating in an Ironman is quite mind boggling. It involves arranging leave, booking a place to stay, spending a lot of money, plenty of testing and planning while training and gear organisation.


I arrived in Port on Friday morning and was staying at Rydges Hotel which I did not realise was right on the finish line and the race headquarters. The first people I saw were Paul and Di Every. Paul was up for his 27th Foster/Port Ironman. We had not seen each other for a couple of years and it was good to catch up. While chatting Pam Green came out of the hotel and while we were chatting Ken Baggs the original Race Director waled by.

All athletes had to register their arrival on Friday. I popped over to The Glasshouse which was up the corner from the hotel. The set up was over three floors with merchandise on the first floor. I walked straight past it all not trying to jinx my race up to the third level to collect my race kit. This process involved showing proof of identity, and membership of Triathlon Australia (rumblings of formalisation of triathlons in the late 1980s was one of the reasons I opted out of triathlons); collecting the race chip, T1 ( swim to cycle) and T2 ( cycle to run) transition bags and being weighed to ascertain my pre race weight.

After buying some food and organising some gear and set my head about organising food. Port seems to have only two Italian style restaurants and in the past I have not eaten well race weekend being too involved in getting things done. So I headed to Cafe 66 for a quick pasta just as it was opeing and then walked over to the welcoming event a 15 minute walk for the hotel and race finish and location of T1 and T2. The welcome was in a circus size tent, fully catered and fully decked out with a stage big screen showing the 2013 race and music. It was an impressive and big event.

I am not very tribal in the triathlon world so I wandered around looking for the few people I might know. After spotting and chatting with Pam, Paul and Di in the VIP area ( I was outside the fenced off area) I soon spotted Greg and Pete from the Hills Tri Club, then a bit later Cheri, Rob and Brett. I wandered around a bit more then the official part of the evening started. Cheri asked me if I was nervous and I immediately said no and soon reflected that was a bit arrogant of me. The fact was I was very relaxed. Anyway soon after watching a few video clips and listening to the legends I was checked and nervous.

After pleasantly running into and chatting at length with one of my ex-boarding students, Felicity, from the class of 2013 I continued back to the hotel. I spent the next couple of hours planning and over planning the T1 and T2 bags and the special needs bags for the ride and the run. It was doing my head in and I was struggling. Also I tried on my wetsuit for the first time since my last race in 2013. It has a rip in the shoulder and I did not want to risk an issue. If the zip did not worked or the tear got bad I was prepared to buy an new wetsuit the next morning – fortunately all was good.


I wanted to sleep in on Saturday morning and woke up early feeling quite unsettled in the stomach. I had spend the previous weeks wrapping myself in cotton wool and had no idea where this came from. I went downstairs for breakfast and stayed with my normal diet rather than all the options of a hotel breakfast. I was starting to feel a bit bit though was nervous that things might trend in a direction about which I would not be happy.

Today was the day to drop off the bike and T1 and T2 bags. Initially I was planning to go later after a substantial lunch and then I decided to put myself out of misery and drop the bags off and head back for some food. I have been to plenty of triathlons. In the early days transitions were in paddocks next to rivers or beach side carparks with bikes racked on wire between posts or farm fences. The logistics are very different these days.

We had a wrist band we had to keep on till Monday when we picked up our bike and gear after the race. As we entered the bike racks a photo was taken of us and our bikes. In the past people have left with other competitors bikes – it would not have be a problem for my bike. I purchased a new bike in December and it cost $4500 and it just looked like a poor cousin. Once racked then my T1 and T2 bags were placed on their respective hooks. At this point I realised for some reason I had put the bike gear in the run bag and run gear in the bike bag. This would have been a disaster. After I walked through the change area I waited around for the transition area tour with Jason Shortis.

While reading a few of the posters I was chatting to one of the hundreds of volunteers who helped out of the weekend. During the conversation he said don’t drink the Port Macquarie water – not even the mixed Gatorade. I then realised that my stomach issues may have been from drinking a bottle of table water with dinner on Friday night. I made a metal note to but some bottled Gatorade and water for the rest of the weekend and put the bottles in my special needs bags. After a typically humourous transition tour of the transition area I head back to town for some pasta and no table bottle water.

After a nice feed I headed back to the hotel for a snooze and was pleasantly contacted for a cuppa. So I spent the next couple of hours with Ian, Rachel, Natalie, Geoff, Cheri and Rob. It was a great arvo and I really enjoyed speaking to Geoff about bike riding.

In the past I have tended to be myself at races doing my own thing the night before a race. This year Jenny 21b and 18g drove up after rugby and arrived at 6:15pm. On Thursday I had booked dinner in the hotel and we had a pleasant evening and nice meal. Lights were out at 10:00pm and I slept quite well – I got Jenny to bring me a pillow for home.

My stomach had settled, the wind was howling outside, the temperature was going to be between 9 and 17 degrees and I was ready to go after 12 months of preparation.