2015 Ironman Western Australia

Coach’s remarks: A very honest and typical race report I would expect from Capt J. It really tells his journey well and one of the main reasons I started race reports 8 years back. It teaches newbies what Ironman racing is all about. It also can relate to the seasoned IM athlete on how races can unfold. I particularly enjoyed the part where he “asked himself why” which he also states is his favorite part of IM racing. Whether your an 8 hour or 16 hour Ironman, you get that section very well 🙂 Great report Jeroen, thanks for sharing this mate to the team!!

Race report Busselton 2015

Let if be noted: this is not a show off, but merely a display of humility and emotional weakness after a come back from a 2 year ‘tough’ time in my life which is still ongoing as well as a struggle to get back to becoming the person I always wanted to be: an ironman finisher at the world championship in Kona, Hawaii. As I am not fast enough or talented to qualify for Kona I have to resort to finishing 12 ironmans and be registered for a 13th one to be able to sign up for a lottery that will hopefully get me to the big island one day. I would like to do that race once and call it a day on the full ironman distance as I don’t think it can be too good for you, although I am totally addicted to how it rips your body and mind down to it’s core and then some.

Anyhow, you started reading this to get some info on a race, not on my psyche. So here it goes:

Arrived on Friday in Perth, rental car ready and started the drive. 220km said google maps and off I went, by 180km to go I remind myself that this is the bike distance to go and recall thinking that it is a long way. By 42km to go I think about the marathon. After 4 years of driving here, I think next year I will try to fly into Busselton airport to avoid these reminders of how long we actually race and how crazy it is what we do.

Arrived at the hotel at 9pm to hear that the restaurant just closed and the bar already closed at 5pm and that the room service does not start until 10pm. No questions asked, but the obvious crosses my mind. Food ordered at 10 and was surprised by a home made lasagna and a can of Guinness to set me off on a good sleep until 7am.

Went to the ironman village and tried to claim my late athlete sign in by faking a delayed flight story. Long story cut short, I got away with it thanks to Kristine, the chief of volunteers showing her compassion  to allow me a late sign in together with 20 more athletes that had corresponded with her  before to get the same. Thank you Kristine!

Saturday, 1pm, race pack received, set it all up in the car park. Not ideal, but you can get away with it. Bike racked, race bags put into place, incl nutrition as they don’t allow you access to your bags on race day. Bought arms warmers and a $5 poncho at the expo as the weather did not look to great and I am glad I did.

In bed by 3pm with melatonin, good sleep until 8pm, restless until midnight, what can you expect. Coma until the wake up. Got the nutrition ready. Hammer sustainable energy for 5 hours and Heed also for 5 hours for on the bike.

At transition 04:15, tires pumped, nutrition on the bike, back to car at 5am for a power nap until 05:30. Pros started, time to got the swim start. Always awesome to see 1900 athletes all nervous to get going, I’m not, why would I, it’s a hobby!

Here we go, mass start, I’m on the far right so I can breath on the right with everybody trashing away on my left. Water is 20C and clear, you can see the bottom of the ocean at all times and plenty of vegetation making you feel you swim in a forest. 1800 athletes in a mass start is never pretty but somehow I always end up swimming alone after about 400 meters and wonder where everybody went. As I am a ‘mid pack’ swimmer it always surprises me that the first straight line 1800 meters of the swim here in Busselton is such a lonely experience as I head straight for the lonely buoy just of to the right side at the end of this beautiful wooden pier. Together with staring at the sea bottom you can’t help but wonder what else lurks out there. Is Jaws hungry today and will he appear out of nowhere to snap you in half as a quick breakfast. I must not be the only one who thinks this as you can hear people scream and being rescued by the life guards in their speedboats that are watching over every swimmer out there together with an army of kayaks. I swear I heard somebody scream ‘shark’ out there as a speedboat races past me to the direction of the sound. But what am I gonna do, panic? What’s that going to do? All these thoughts keep you from thinking about how far the swim is and that first buoy as reached in a respectable time as I glance quickly at the garmin. As I do that I notice, just like previous years that I am not the only one who made it to the first buoy and I now find myself into a nice pack of about 40-60 athletes and it’s here where the swim becomes a struggle. The wind must have picked up as the waves are now pretty large. This years DIT race large and I am having trouble watching the only other buoy out there. Luckily there is a pier to get you back to the beach and our group hugs that pier pretty good. It starts to become a narrow group as the current and waves push us towards the pier all the way back to the beach. The  swim becomes unpleasant with arms and feet crashing into each other and swimmers changing direction left and right navigating badly. This is where I loose a lot of time trying to find some clear water and I can feel that the forward speed is not there anymore. A strong currect makes the progress very slow. It starts to rain and it’s starting to become dark, so does my mood as my patience with this group is gone.. I keep getting bumped in by the same guy in his illegal 5mm 2 piec de soto wetsuit as he once more changes swim direction from going left to going right. Time for a break from this pack and I pause for a while and have a look around me. Still plenty of people swimming around me and I must not be doing too bad, just looks like a slow swim this year as I look for the 2nd time at the garmin and see that my target swim time has come and gone and the beach it still not in sight. Time to man up and get myself out of the water. A nice gap in between 2 large groups of swimmers and off I go on my own again, looking at a target on the sea bottom and trying to get there and so onward until I finally hit the beach and storm out of the water to try to cross the timing mat just before reaching a swim time that I wanted to avoid.

Transition goes through a grass field with a big white tent and I decide to put socks and biking shoes on in the tent to keep the feet dry and protected when running with the bike to the mount line. Temperature is chilly at around 16 degrees and I am glad I bought the compressport ‘armwarmers’ at the expo the day before. It is going to be a cold and wet ride.

Setting off on the bike with a good tailwind I keep it at a low HR as it is easy to get too excited too early. Still nobody passes me and I am already making good progress through the field and starting my 10 minute interval nutrition plan based on Hammer sustained energy sips washed away with water and Heed filled with electrolytes and taking in gels every 30 minutes. The bike course changed from a 3 loop course into a 2 loop course and I look forward to the new road to be discovered as well as the quick changes from tail- to headwind sections. After 30k the first aid station which surprisingly don’t carry cola this year, but enduro and water. Water it is then and I top up the sustained energy 5h mix and the fuel bladder inside my Shiv frame filled with Heed mixture. It all makes it such an easy 2 bottle setup that gives me confidence about the nutrition plan as I ride strong  but mostly smart as I keep the first 90k fairly easy at a heart rate 5% lower than what I was planning to do for the 2nd loop. Aid stations are spaced 30k apart and are very well manned with people holding the bottle properly and running with you to hand them to you on the fly. The only thing to watch for is the people that decide to stop just before you get to those bottles and I remind them of what I think about their decision to stop right in front of my nose.

Some good headwind on the way back and it feels like I’m cutting through the wind and the field fairly easy. Comfortable in my setup and feel in the legs I decide to push it a bit on the 2nd loop. Riding upright at a low heart rate on the downwind sections and having my body act as a sail to the wind and pushing it 5% harder in a tucked position into the headwind sections gives me a much faster 2nd loop without killing the legs.

Nutrition plan must have been too many calories for me as after 2 hours of the plan it made my stomach into a brick filled with Hammer products and I now have to sip water only for 2 hours to get the bloated feeling away. After that I sipped my way through the rest of the calories at 15 minute intervals.

The weird shape bike course with 6 180 degree turns is not complicated but it sure must have been for a certain nationality on a red cervelo P5 dressed in complete yellow outfit as I pass this colorful athlete 3 times on the 2nd loop without him ever passing me. I swear it must have been the same guy wearing the illegal de soto wetsuit or at least his twin, but who knows, people from that peninsula do look a lot alike. Anyways, I tell him how I feel about his decision to do a different bike course than the rest of us and I hope he was the only one to do so. Almost every 180 degree turn is armed with a timing mat, but not every one so he might have gotten away with it.

It was a good moment to get a bit angry as the last 10k is into a stiff headwind and I’m pushing it again to stay below a certain bike time target.

Flying into transition, the bike gets mounted for you and off I go for the one and only toilet break before getting fresh socks and the runners on. I take the bottle of coke with me that was in my transition bag in case I would have needed that boost after the bike and I am hoping that the aid stations on the run not only carry ‘enduro’.

The 4 loop affair runs along the coast line and has 6 aid stations on each loop. Plenty to make it around. First aid station already after 1k and there is the cola I was hoping for. Ditching the bottle I was carrying and off we go and settling in the planned rythm. It all went to plan for 15k and then my knees start to hurt as it’s raining again and the combination with the stiff wind makes my joints hurt like hell now and the power is fading from my legs.

This is the moment I love the most in all the ironman races I have ever done and here it is again. The moment where you doubt it all and would rather throw in the towel and head back to the hotel and pack up and retire from this stupid sport. How dumb are we to do this to ourselves voluntary and pay a fortune to travel the world to compete with other insane people to make it to  a world championship of insane dumbos to see who is the dumbest of us all and get a medal for being this stupid.

Funny how this happens every time and I need to convince myself that it is the pain talking as I truly love this mental and physical battle that eventually shows who you really are deep down. A quitter or somebody who finishes what he started. The 180 degree mental turnaround happens very quickly as I am fast walking and contemplating what to do and the decision is easily made. I came here to get a finisher tick in the box on my way to finishing 12 of these and trying to stay below my personal one day event limit of 12 hours. Looking at the watch with 27 k to go, there is still plenty of time to get to the finish line before my personal cutoff and I decide to walk/run the rest of the way. Run at the same pace I was doing for 4 minutes and walking 1 minute together with the aid stations. It seems to work as the pain in the knees now switches to top of the quads, the tendons and stays there all the way. Maybe it’s time to start stretching as I am not a spring chicken anymore is my thought as I am starting to enjoy the Ironman marathon shuffle again.

4 loops is great I tell myself, 1 for warm up, 1 for getting halfway, 1 for getting to only 1 more lap to go and I enjoy the fact that you get a wristband after every lap and with 4 around my wrist I can now finally take the left turn for the last 180 degree turn into the finishing chute. No emotion this time as I did not push it too hard and averaged a not too bad low HR.

Straight into the massage tent with pizza in hand and enjoying the short calf massage I requested I decide to not hang around here too long and catch the early morning flight back to Dubai instead of the evening flight the next day.

Not having a drink after for the first time I pick up all the gear, head for the hotel and pack everything up. I make sure to eat well before a 2 hour nap and off I go back to Perth.

Passing the 180km to go point I ….

You get the idea 😉

Sorry for the long read, but I do try to give some race information for all those who are thinking about racing this race next year and for  all the T2A newbies, my name is Capt J and I love the ironman distance races because all the other distances will never give you a story like this. These races stay with you forever and are truly special. Join me on the 2016 edition and see yourself how much fun an ironman with fellow team members can be.