We've all heard those fish stories that start and end with: my rod took a massive hit...the line almost snapped....I had to battle to bring it to the boat, and it was so big I could barely lift it!!!
I kinda feel like the swim at Ironman Melbourne 2013 will always have that tone... I can try and explain it, but it just won't ever seem like enough. But before I go into detail about the race, I will tell you a bit about the lead up.
Getting ready for my departure was fairly standard.
I was pretty unprepared and was going about this in a bare bones kinda way. Bike: check. Helmet: check. Shoes: check. Goggles and gear: yep. Ok, anything else I need I'll get there...or else I just don't need it. I had no nutrition plan, no real agenda, no expectations. I entered on a whim, and kinda spent the last three months training as such. Arriving and getting settled in the city was really fun. I was in a great spot just off Fitzroy Street in the St. Kilda area. Very close to the race expo and the actual finish.
The three days leading up to the race were pretty low key. I ate at a few great little spots, with the Banff restaurant being my favourite. I 'sussed' out Acland Street with my trusty camera on attention. I met new friends and enjoyed many yummy extra hot, skinny flat whites while people watching.
Melbourne is gorgeous. Yes, the weather seems to have a personality disorder, but even that seems charming now... It's the perfect mix of city, grit and gloss, and sea exposed beauty. Don't tell Perth, but I've got a mad crush on Melbourne.
Race morning was fairly typical. My belly was a bit upset and my arms felt a little jello like. Feelings I've felt many times before, however, this time my tummy was unusually temperamental. Hmmmm...
Arriving in Frankston, which is about 40k from my hotel, I noticed the wind immediately. Well, I thought, maybe it's not as bad near the water.
Hahahaha...ahhhh, my ignorance never seems to surprise me.
Getting in the que for the dunny's I could hear the announcer talking about the swim. It's been changed. Oh. Ok. Delayed by 30 minutes, now two loops of 1.9k. Alright. No big deal. People were chattering about it. You could feel the nerves buzzing. I didn't pay much attention. I still hadn't seen the water.Another change was announced.
Later swim start, it's now a 8:25 start. And only a 1.9k swim, out and back. Oh. Ok. No big deal.
I could hear coach Kev saying, it's all in the process, not the outcome. Stay away from the chatter, don't over think it. I had my phone with me, so I called my Mom. I knew she'd be losing it if she heard all the panic about the wind and water conditions. Then I called home. It was only 4:30am, so I got the answering machine. I'm pretty sure I said something like this: Hi guys, I just want you to know the swim's been changed, conditions are bad, and it's windy (voice chokes here) and I'm terrified, I love you". I hung up quick knowing I was about to start crying. I wasn't really scared, just feeling more alone than anything.
With about 20 minutes to start time I finally decided to get down to the beach.
We had to walk around the Sophia restaurant, along the path, down to the beach. Just as I was about to hit the beach the wind just pounded against me. It was like a physical feeling. The waves were pounding the shore, which was littered with wetsuit clad bodies and red caps...and worried faces.
The zodiacs were trying to secure the buoys and no one knew what was going on.In a complete fluke I bumped into Reggie and Mark along the shore and it made me feel a bit better. Irish by birth, but living in Dubai, this was their first Ironman and I was in awe of their determination to get in and swim. When the gun went off I stayed veryyyyy far to the left and veryyyy far behind. It took me a bit to walk out and start swimming. The waves were relentless.
I thought of my kids immediately. I thought of the countless hours they've spent in those exact waves...purposely being knocked down and sloshed around. I thought about "Livin' like Larry"... In fact I may have verbally said, I'm f#%kin' livin like Larry right about now!!I just kept moving forward, keeping the pier in my sight when I could, because there was no point in looking out, the waves were too big. At one point, about 500M out we started getting smashed by swimmers coming back in. Going out the buoys should be on you left and then going back they again should be on your left. But the whole thing was such a gong show, the swimmers coming back were on the wrong side. Only once did I stop just to see where I was going (I'm shocked that I had such great lines, I did surprisingly well with sighting). When I stopped, all I could hear was an Irishman yelling the F word over and over, it was so funny! I made it to the last buoy and I gave a little yell, I was so happy and so proud of myself. On the way back I thought of all those that I knew cheated and skipped out before the last buoy. I thought, you poor buggers. The next time you need to dig deep, or your scared, or unsure if you can do it, you won't have this to draw on. You'll have to remind yourself that you couldn't hack it and that you cheated. But I let it go completely and was elated to be going back to shore.
Once I saw the pier again I felt amazing. I was tired, yes, but I was so excited to be almost finished. I ended up wayyyy down the beach and had to run along the sand. I wasn't alone, there were dozens of athletes strewn down the beach all making their way back to the pier. I remember feeling the sand beneath my feet and thinking, wooooow, my legs feel like lead. Right from my toes to my hip flexors...they felt soooo cooked. I think I just worked so hard that they were fried! I've never felt that in a swim before.
a little sample of the chaos
I pulled off my own wetsuit (there were no wetsuit strippers), grabbed my bag and went into the tent. The volunteer dumped my bag. Helmet, shoes, glasses. "Wow, you pack light," she says. You have no idea, I reply.Out onto the bike, I think ok, just like Aaron told me, this is my bread and butter. I love the bike. Wellllll, I like the bike when I'm going 29-31k/hr..... I don't like it so much at 23-25k/hr.... Reality soon set in that it was going to be a tougher bike than once expected. First, there were no kilometre markings, they had all blown away. Second, I had no computer. And third, it was lonely. The bike course itself is pretty cool. It's the toll highway in Melbourne, basically two loops of 90k. If you look at the profile it gradually builds into a climb and then comes down the other side. My first 45k took about 1:45, a solid 15 minutes slower than I expected. Shit. Ok.It's ok. It'll turn around. Focus on the process.The next 45 was 1:20. Ok. So a 3:05 split. Well, with this wind I can handle that. I'll try and work really hard on the last quarter.
The next 45k was like the first and then on the way back into Frankston the wind turned and it became a dogfight for the last 30k. I started to get low, at one point feeling so flat I was unsure of what I was doing. At the aid station they had run out of Gatorade. Serious?Ok. Regroup. Feeling low usually means you need fuel. I had a few Eload tabs so I popped about 4 and drank some water. I swear to you, about 15 minutes later I was signing and smiling. I couldn't believe how my mood shifted.
"I threw your shit into a bag and pushed it down the stairs, I crashed my car into the bridge... I don't care, I love it, I don't care, I love it, I love it...." Yep, I was singing. Out loud.
When I finally got into T2 it was like a graveyard! No spectators! Everyone had vanished.
Holy crap, am I that slow? 6:30 bike isn't anywhere near fast, but still, it felt like I was the last person out there.I quickly got on my runners and visor and was on my way. I tried to hold 6 minute K's for as long as I could. It only lasted about 10k, then it got a bit slower and slower....by kilometre 28 I was starting to fade. My tummy had turned and I was hitting the dunny at every aid station. I couldn't hold much down and was now in this dark place. Ok. Regroup. Keep moving forward. Think about why you're here. Look around you. Feel the love.
I just kept repeating those things over and over. I thought about Aaron asking me at Ultraman if I was "hurt or injured".... I tried to stop the self deprecating thoughts.... I tried to not put myself down because I had chosen to walk.
I looked around a lot. Once I was on the coastline I really soaked it in. The setting is incredible. The volunteers were amazing! And I really was loving it. I remember thanking one older man for volunteering, his reply was "it's our pleasure dear..." So awesome!I remember this one sharp, steep, short hill from the sea wall to the road....at the top this volunteer says "how great was that hill?" I looked at her and rolled my eyes, "it sucked ass!" "Well, we haven't heard that one yet," she says laughing.
I remember the harmonica playing crossing guard. The lady with the massive boom box pounding out Niki Manaj. And all the signs made for LEON! Leon, you rock. Leon loves his bike more than his wife. Leon is a champ.I don't know who this Leon is, but he is loved.
Seeing Mark, from Dubai, cruise past me at about 30 k was very cool. I have no idea how I knew it was him, but I called out his name. He turns around and stops, and we give each other a hug, he grabs my hand and kisses it....I tell him how proud I am of him, that he's killing it....and he's off. That was a highlight for me. Just a really cool moment I'll always remember.
I thought about my brother, Scot. His birthday is March 24th, which was race day in Melbourne. I thought about watching him do his first Ironman 16years ago, and how, unknowingly, that day mapped out my love for the sport. I made a decision right then as I was running along the street in Melbourne that I want to do a race with him.I've decided he needs a little incentive to get back into the Ironman lifestyle. So I'm thinking I'll give him a choice of venue....Texas, Wisconsin, Florida.... My treat. Just him and I. 2014.
The second to last aid station was the best. Music, kids, dancing. I really took it in. Danced my way through it, high fived everyone, laughed and sang.....and the last km was the best. Giant Bikes had a massive crew out there cheering and I soaked it up. I sang the Justice Crew song "this is the best, this is the best night, this is the best....this is the best night...."I thought about Penticton and it's amazing people and the 6 other times I've ran that last kilometre...I thought about all the times in training when I've YouTubed Ironman finishes and you see that last bit...I reminded myself that this is what I love. I love to push, I love the personal suffering.... The unknown.... The amazingness of it all.... I heard every cheer, I relished every high five and congratulations, and I thought about all my friends and family and how lucky I was to be finishing yet another Ironman. As I turned right on the red carpet I felt no pain. No pain. Just pure joy. And this feeling of love. As the crowd yells and bangs the fencing, you raise your arms to the sky. Pump pump. And they love it. You love it. How can you not....?And that is it.... Another day, another experience, another memory.It was awesome.Thank you Melbourne, you were a fantastic host!