2013 Ironman Melbourne

1703 Mike O’Brien, IRE
Place in AG 45-49: 143  // Overall Time: 14:29:15
Swim: 0:32:36 // T1: 0:09:15 // Bike: 7:13:37 // T2: 0:09:13 // Run: 6:24:34

Coach’s remarks: A nice straight up report card from Mike and his IM Melbourne battle! Like I said on a few emails team, anyone can do an IM when you look at Mike as it was all new to him, he had some real private setbacks and, is on a plane every 3-5 days. Super effort and not sure what the committee is doing but, he had my March AOTM award. Melbourne was a hard hard day of racing. Thanks for sharing this Mike and it was a pleasure training and chatting to you leading up to this one, Enjoy the read team and thanks Stuey who always love reporting back with feedback on these!!

Jason – here’s my race report – it’s a bit emotional but I guess that’s me – at least after the challenge of my first IM…..

Hi all – I have been putting this off for a while – just enjoying fat food, lazing about and being normal – below is my experience of IM Melbourne – it’s a bit long – but so was the race !! 🙂

The built up to the race in my head was a huge thing in my life for the last 6 months. It was a goal I had set for myself several years ago and eventually committed to the challenge about a year ago and started to ramp up the training after the Summer.

Jason’s advice – which was very forthcoming and much appreciated leading up to the day was to swim, cycle and run a bit of the course before the event. I did a bit of the swim the day before and that proved to be a huge advantage. The swim on the day was halved due to high seas and a strong drift – I experienced the effect of a strong drift during the practice swim so it allowed me to plan my route for the actual event. So I positioned myself as close the pier as I could, and not too far from the front – and entered the war zone when the whistle blew. It was simply survival for the first 300 / 400 meters. The swell felt like a 2 meters high with crashing waves, kicks in the head, froth everywhere – pretty much a washing machine effect – bodies everywhere. It was frustrating but when I got past the pier which was about 200 – 300 meters long thinking it was taking forever, I realized I was making pretty good ground. The swell seemed to increase passed the pier as we faced directly into the drift and waves but having got this far pretty much unscathed, I started to feel exhilaration and that I was really enjoying it. Around the first buoy – pretty much half way – I distinctly recall looking up at it and there was a wave coming passed it with what seems like a million heads everywhere – but there was a huge party atmosphere there with people shouting and cheering jubilantly to have made it half way – it was really a great feeling. For the return back to the next buoy, the drift was completely behind which felt good but after that buoy you needed to turn left to swim back to the beach. This is where the swim the day before helped so much. Because of the drift – I was probably swimming at a 45 degree angle to the direction I was actually going – all the time trying to get closer to the pier. I felt alone and wondering what the hell I was doing because there wasn’t many people around me – and I breath to the left which meant I couldn’t see anyone to the right – and the swell was just too rough to start looking around. But when I touched land and looked to my right, there were literally hundreds of people way down the beach to the right who hadn’t allowed for the drift and now had to make a long run back up along the beach. That was a really good feeling – that I had played it smart – but not realizing that until it was evidently the right thing to do.

Transition took about 10 minutes – I felt that my goal wasn’t to break records – but to complete the IM and with a long day ahead I made sure I just got myself fully organized for the bike – that seems to be the trend in the transition anyway. There was a head wind pretty much for most of the 1st 45km cycle out on the first loop. My target was to maintain around 80% HR irrespective of speed and what the rest of the athletes were doing. A good few people passed me which bothered me a little but like a stubborn Irishman, I just said to myself ‘f…em’ I’m doing my own thing’. The first 45 k took around 2 hrs – it was hard work – and the odometer speed was demotivating to say the least but I felt that I’d have the favour of a strong tail wind on the way back. This happened – which was very re-assuring and I made the first 90 in a little over 3 hrs.

But I felt tired after the first 90k – and was beginning to wonder how the hell I was going to face into another 45 k of demotivating head wind, and then a marathon after it. I can tell you the next 4 hours was probably one of the hardest 4 hours I have ever endured – mentally. It was really tough – feeling fatigued, demotivated with the 18 – 24KPH speeds eating at me – I stopped once for about 5 mins at a water station to gather my thoughts and stretch my aching back. When I got the turnpike for the last 45K, that’s where it just got harder again. Naturally I was dearly hoping for a sailing tail wind but it never came – the wind was blustery and had pretty much changed to a side and head wind. I went through a lot of emotions on that last 90k and particularly the last 45 K. It feels so easy to simply write the words now but man, I was angry, furious, frustrated and fatigued. I was in no mood for talking or being nice to anyone – was feeling sorry for myself – the flow of emotions seems hilarious now but it was a real test to just keep going. I think the only three things that kept me going were as follows:

1: If I pull out now, I am going to have to explain to everyone why I DIDN’T get through it – and while that might get sympathy votes, it would be a defeat – end of story.
2: if I pull out now, I’ll have to go through all this pain again, and the marathon, to prove to myself that I can actually do it – and I might not ever try it again anyway.
3: I thought of people who were at war who just can’t get home or escape their predicament – and kids in hospital who have long suffering illnesses who couldn’t escape – I at least have an escape in a few hours – if I just keep at it. Sorry about the emotion here – but really – this is what was going through my head – and it didn’t really make it any easier – but I think it just helped me keep going. The bike took 7 hrs and 15 mins – very disappointing when was doing Al Qudra in 6:03 – but I was glad to have finished it when I did.

Amazingly as I neared the end of the bike – I started to feel a bit better – and seeing some friends at the last KM was a huge lift. I think my nutrition, hydration on the bike was all in order – taking gels every half hour, bananas and lots of fluids – I had one brief toilet stop on the bike which seemed normal – so I think I had no issues with nutrition – it was more of a mental battle – but maybe I just have a bit more to learn about nutrition.

Again – I took about 10 minutes in the transition – I really needed to get my head together for the next 42K – it seemed like a huge task ahead but when I stepped out of transition for the first KM – I really felt that I am going to make this. The 15 / 5 strategy was working and for the first 5 K – I had no issues with it – I was a little sore and stiff – but the psychological benefit of looking forward to the 5 minute walk – worked really well.

I had never run anymore than 22K in my training for before in my life – so while the 42 K seemed like a lot to take on after the bike, it just didn’t feel insurmountable. In hind sight – maybe I had gone through all my negative stuff on the bike – and there was a lot of that – but I just felt positive now, envigorated and in a much better frame of mind to get to the end. At around 12 k – the 15 / 5 strategy was starting to hurt a lot – I don’t believe it was nutrition – but perhaps my non attention to the youtube clips on hip flexor and those suiss ball exercises which I didn’t do much of in my training was the reason – and that started to show I think. I started to get sore in the whole pelvic area and a bit on the knees so I needed to rethink this whole marathon on how I was going to get to the end. So I started to walk a lot – with the occasional trot when I felt a little relief – all the time thinking that the goal was to finish – not to get injured or burn out. I took heaps of sugar sweets on the way, hydrated frequently and kept the gels and bananas flowing. I met a number of old friends along the way which gave a huge emotional boost and I just felt that I was unstoppable now – despite the pace of 10 – 11 min kms! A person I hadn’t seen for 15 yrs even chalked my name onto the pavement wishing me well – I can’t tell you how emotional and good that made me feel.

The last 6 k were hard physically – a lot of pain and not too many people out on the track – but I didn’t really care – the mental strain of the bike was a long way in the past and I just knew I’d get there and really started to enjoy the journey to the finish line.

When I did a half iron some years ago, it was at a rough time in my life and I got very emotional after it – that’s history but I was expecting a similar emotional outburst might happen at the finish of this event – but it didn’t – I was smiles from ear to ear and happy to talk to people now 🙂 which was very different form my mood on the bike ! – I didn’t give a s…t about the time 14:30 – but was so happy to be over the line – there were no tears – just joy, relief and I really enjoyed the massage and the jubilant atmosphere in the tent straight after it. Having friends and family to share it with at the finish line was tremendous.

I think this report is a little different from the others I’ve read – perhaps my next race will be more of a technical analysis but this event was really all about completing it and the journey through it.

The support from the team with emails, FB messages both before and after it was just wonderful and made all the mental torture I felt on the bike well worth it.

I also need to say a huge thanks to Coach – he always believed in me – called me frequently leading up to the day and just showed tremendous encouragement, and through the whole 9 months of training leading up to it – maintained a constant proactive and positive approach to all the training. It’s been a really positive experience culminating in crossing the line on two legs.

Look forward to hopefully a less painful and mentally less challenging Roth !! See you out on the track soon…..

Irish Mike 🙂