Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ironman Busselton 2011 Race Report ....Searching for the Promised Land

As I sit at home 2 days after the Busselton Ironman 2011 was done and dusted , it is a different world. It is raining , actually , hailing. It is cold and wet .I now have the full blown symptoms of the flu and a hacking cough .

I finished the race and it was my slowest Busselton time of 12.47. No excuses and as I have blogged , the race is very much a microcosm of life .You can be prepared , train and life is such you will have curved balls thrown.Obviously the better prepared you are the better able you are to face these curved balls.

I reflected on the past year of training and what I learned. As esoteric topics such as Ironman training/racing go and not to get too philosophical , I knew it was always a hard race for me by the nature of my training , my lack of race weight , up and down motivation and difficulties with my asthma .But like most triathletes , come what may you want to be standing on that start line after all those hours of training. I did what I could to get there .A DNF is just not something you want to contemplate or consider after the effort. Better to crawl and have the most miserable day but say I have finished.

That attitude is not necessarily the correct one but it is part of Ironman Folklore. As Courtney Ogden , last years winner with an injury walked the run course in 6 hours and finished in a time of 11.50.Not for anything than the respect to fellow athletes and himself. But I don't think any less for those who did not finish . Any Ironman is tough and Busselton throws up its own demons on the day.

On Friday I got the sniffles. I downed as much flu and panadol tablets and vitamin C. I felt OK but my voice could not hide I had a cold. I did my usual race preparation on Saturday and fortunately Rod Marton had come down to cheer the Exceed athletes . As the family were not coming down I had a spare bed and he was a great help after the race.

It was a 3am wake up. I slept well and set about getting ready . I got to the transition early and whilst it was still dark it was warm suggesting a rather hot day ahead. The water was nice and was at 22C .Got everything set up and with wet suit on chatted to everyone I knew . There is a raw level of anxiety. I am always excited and a little nervous but I have learnt to be comfortable with the nerves and enjoy being in the moment. After the pros started off , I warmed up and felt really good in my wet suit , I literally ran into Rusty Cook , a guy who for the past few Busselton races was next to me in transition before moving up an age group.

A handy triathlete , he went on to finish the race in 11.10 . We chatted for quite a while till suddenly everyone started off . No fanfare and off we went. I tried to draft behind various swimmers and thought I was going fairly well.There was a little swell further out at the end of the jetty .Then came the turnaround and I think I went a little too wide. The swim back I thought was slower and as my Garmin suggest I swam 4.05km in a slow 1.25 . I am not sure why as I felt good and possibly I was not pushing myself and drafting behind slower swimmers . I was  not taking the most efficient route  and my lack of discipline in keeping up my swim training did not help as well. I was clearly not as swim fit as I was in Lanzarote. Lesson learnt . Practise , practice and more practise for someone who is just an average swimmer.

I came out a little disappointed in the time. I had to refocus on the race. Got through transition and out as quickly as I could ...still slow in 5 minutes. Once on the bike I tried to just to get up to speed and start my nutrition. I knew the course and I had my plan. Within 20 minutes I was just not finding any strength and I was really struggling to get in an average speed of 32kph which I had to maintain. I did the first lap in over 1.50hr and after that the second and third laps were slower. I just did not have the strength and worse by the third lap I was cramping a little. It was not for the lack of salt or electrolytes .I had far more salt this year than last year.

I suspect my cold and the diarrhoea I had leading up to the race were indicative of the weakness .The cylinders were just not firing on the day.Not a lot I could do .I had no nutrition issues and kept taking the gels and water at every aid station .In all I had nearly 10-12 bidons of 500ml of water . It was hot and windy but I could not say the condition affected my performance. My general level of health and preparation for the race had more to do with how I was performing on the day. I came off the bike again disappointed with the time . A slow 6.08 hrs. I was also in alot of pain.I had huge blisters on each foot and my quads were just hurting so much . The run was a battle of attrition and survival. There was no chance of salvaging a good result. Every step hurt from the start .To make it worse as I grabbed a drink at Transition I started running down the swim to bike chute. I had to run back and out the correct way . A wasted few minutes . I started off just feeling good to be off the bike but each step hurt and despite the gels and Gatorade and water and coke and salt every hour , 6 km into the run and I was already walking the aid stations and contemplating a walk run regime.On the 2nd lap I was doing just that and by the third and final lap I was walking 2 minutes and running 800m . It was a slow marathon for me . I finished the run in just over 5 hours.

The disappointment was that I really could not control the cold I had and to what extent it influenced my result I do not know. I think it had been a long year with training and that too may hours of training have been counter productive for me.

The pain blurs the recollection , but with the support around the run course , quitting was not an option. For one , I made a commitment to do this race for myself and fund raise. Secondly lots of people were having great races and many others were struggling with their inner demons. I was not alone.

The disappointment is that another Busselton race was over with a less than optimum result. Having said that , as I finished , it was relief .I was struggling and with Rods help got home and my bike out of transition.
After each race , I have these huge negative thoughts about why do you do this. It hurts and I seemed to be going backwards. For everyone , there are setbacks , Giving up is an option. I think at the core I cannot keep doing what I am doing but giving up is not an option. It was not a good day for many reasons and some more that I may not figure out. I am not about to over indulge in too much analysis now.

I can say I am disappointed but I also gained a lot from being out there. Lots of support from the volunteers and friends who cheered as well as the strangers who were out there for 10 over hours. Many first timers who blitzed the course and many friends who had Pb's .

I admit a sense of selfishness in what I do . I want to improve and I want to get to that Promised Land. Invariably we all know where that is for each of us .Whether in careers , sports , love or life.

What I don't know is when and how long it will take me . At the moment it has eluded me . I have spoken about it many times the sweet spot . It is unimportant to others because it is no measure of success for them but everything for me. It is not about beating others . You know when you cross that line and laid it all out and got to that goal you set for yourself and achieved . It may never come and I will not be any less a triathlete but that is the joy of the journey , the planning the execution and hopefully the joy of a result well deserved. For now I enjoy the results of the many who finished what they started and draw from them their strength and inspiration.

I don't usually go to the draw downs where the Kona slots are allocated . I went after breakfast on Monday morning with Rod . Sadly there are never enough slots for the many I know who deserve them and there is always a tinge of envy for those who have got them but they are all deserving winners of these coveted slots. I envy their strength and athleticism .For this is what it is about . From my very myopic view point for 3-4 days of the year , life is about Ironman and about achieving such goals and the Promised Land. I don't worry about work , or life or world affairs.
I had a brief chat with Kate Bevalaqua , last year's winner at the cafe we were having breakfast . She didn't have the race she wanted and she felt it was just more the mental preparation and a long season. Time to have a break and refocus for next year.

It is a wonderful sport and has wonderful inspirational people in it.

I will recover and get better and reset myself for next year.For the many who did achieve their goals , congratulations and well done . For those who did not , don't be disheartened , sometimes , we need adversity and testing outcomes to strengthen our resolve . I would rather TRI than falter and lose all hope at the first hurdle.