IRONMUMS ambassador takes on the Geelong Ironman 70.3 on February 18, 2018 here she tells us about how it all unfolded.
I have to admit that Geelong 70.3 had never been a race that I was particularly keen to do. I had completed my degree at Deakin University there 20 years ago and really had no desire to revisit the city that for me, held nothing more than blurred memories of pub crawls and vile hangovers. Not to mention that everyone who had done this race seemed to love to hate it and I had heard many a story of gale forced winds, searing heat and even hail storms. However, my favourite 70.3 race, Challenge Melbourne, had recently changed its date to one that I wasn't able to commit to, and so I found myself somewhat reluctantly pushing the "submit" button for my registration on the Ironman website and expecting the worst for my 7th time around at the half-iron distance.
After much umming and ahhing about the logistics and expense of getting four kids to Geelong for the weekend, I finally decided that I'd go by myself and hubby would stay home. After all, the kids would hate standing around waiting for me to finish in whatever miserable weather Geelong was going to throw at us - because if nothing else in life is guaranteed, the one thing I had been led to believe I could count on was that Geelong would throw the very worst conditions at us! On the upside, Coach Naomi's (aka Nac) dad had kindly offered up his house in Geelong for us to stay at, so it quickly began to shape up as a great girls weekend away!
I picked Naomi up on my way to Geelong and I don't believe we stopped talking from that moment until we separated into our wave starts the next day for the race! We spent a great afternoon checking in, having coffee and then gazing longingly at all the goodies in the lolly shop window, debating the merits of chocolate coated raspberries versus strawberry clouds...oh, if only it wasn't for the small matter of the Lycra we needed to squeeze into the next day! (You promised we'd go back after the race too!!! -NAC)
And speaking of Lycra - I finally got my hands on my brand new Ironmums Tri suit which had arrived just in time for the big day. I hadn't worn a one piece suit since my first Olympic distance tri four years ago, and I was hoping that no toilet emergencies were going to spoil my maiden voyage in this suit on Sunday! It fit perfectly (phew! Glad I'd said no to the lollies!) and even looked quite flattering on - I had a great feeling about the day ahead.
The next day we were up and chatting well before dawn and headed down to transition. Naomi was a Geelong local for years so found us the perfect spot to park just a short walk from transition (as for me, I had a vague familiar feeling about the place...I'm pretty sure I had swam in that bay on one or two drunken occasions in my hazy past...) And wouldn't you know it - the weather was absolutely spectacular, cool and with barely a breath of wind to blow the palm trees on the foreshore. I don't know why I had been so lucky, but the conditions of that day were the best I'd ever had the fortune to race in.
I met up with some members of my beloved Eltham Tri club for a quick pre race photo, then slid effortlessly into my wetsuit and headed down to the beach for the start.
As I get older, I seem to be slipping further and further down the wave start times. Geelong was no exception and I found myself in the second last wave before the teams. The 40-44 females waited, and waited and WAITED while everyone else set off on their race and sure enough, right when I was deciding whether to do one last loo run, it was our turn.
The swim itself was beautiful, if uneventful. There was no current or swell, which meant that while we didn't have to battle against the sea, it also offered no assistance on the return trip. I still harbour a dream to hit a sub-30 minute half-iron swim; despite feeling like I pushed myself the whole way, my sub-30 sadly went begging again that day. I must have swam long .
Result: 32.48 (7th place in age group)
As I ran into T1, I knew I'd gone slower than I'd hoped for in my swim but had to push any disappointment aside to focus on the ride - my weakest of the three legs. This was the part that I dreaded most - the two-lap course starts with a short, sharp climb out of town before heading out onto the open roads. It wasn't long before I realised the real reason people had told me they hated this race - it stinks! Literally. The first assault on the senses came at around 10k, from the tip. A bit further down the road and it was time for the smell of what I guessed was human waste. Ewww. Good incentive to ride faster to get out of there! Out past the stench and I found myself riding on a long, undulating road straight into a headwind. I had a mini-heart attack when I thought I had a flat tyre and pulled over, prepared for the worst, but finding that the suspicious noise coming from my front tyre had only been a bit of black tape I'd picked up off the road. I breathed a sigh of relief and got stuck back into it. Ahead I could see a long climb and even though I knew the ugly truth, I still held onto a vague hope that we would turn around before we had to face it. But where would be the fun in that? Up, up, up we rode - it wasn't the world's steepest hill but it sure felt like it was up there with the longest, and the pain in my legs was made worse watching people heading back down it in the other direction; they were flying! It was the sweetest feeling getting to the top of that thing...until I realised I'd be doing it again on the second loop. Finally I made it to the turnaround and the downhill ride was just as sweet as I'd imagined. I looked at my time for 30k and realised I was going to be on track for the sub-3 hour ride I'd hoped for. The ride back into town though was a long one and as I headed back into the 45k turnaround point at transition, I had slowed and came in just under 90 minutes. I knew I was going to have to push hard to stay under 3 hours. My lower back was starting to hurt at this stage and I was spending a lot more time sitting upright than in aero position (this was only the third time I'd ridden my tri- bike since last April...the lack of conditioning was starting to show!) It was definitely going to be a tough second lap. Naomi caught me at about the 50k mark absolutely flying! I was quietly pleased I'd been able to stay ahead of her that long and had made it a mini-goal to get through half the bike course without her overtaking me. I made it...just!
The second lap didn't disappoint - the same stench, the same hills and the same joy of pedalling flat out down that big roller coaster. And the same slow ride back into town. I was panicking about not getting in under my 3 hour bench mark time - and nothing makes me ride harder than fear of failure! So I roared into the final 3km of the ride just as everyone else seemed to be making their way leisurely through the final winding section back into transition. I even scared myself with my speed...I'm a scaredy cat going downhill usually but my pride was at stake and I was going to get in under 3 hours or die trying, dammit! And I made it - by a tiny margin but I'll take it! Pride intact.
Result: 2:57:10 (14th in age group)
Oh, the joy of getting off that bike! By now my back was really giving me grief and I had no idea whether it would feel better or worse once I started running. I took a quick look at my watch - 11.11am...two hours max and this thing would be done. Let's go, little legs!
But again with the hills out of transition! I'd rather run a hill than ride it any day though and I felt good. My back niggled slightly for the first few km but then the pain disappeared completely and I was happy. My first few km went by at around 5min/km pace and I got to see a few people I knew from my Tri club and one of them asked how I was feeling as we passed. I answered, "feeling great, what a perfect day for it!" After all, at this stage of the game it's about faking it til you make it, right?
My highlight of the day happened at the second aid station, where a row of young teenage girls stood holding water cups out to us. I wasn't going to grab one but as I came to the last girl, she looked me dead in the eye and said "You are going great. I believe in you". What an amazing thing to say to someone. It lifted me for the rest of the run - such is the power of words. I saw her again on the last lap and stopped and told her what a great job she had done and that her words were making everyone's day better. She was rapt. What a great kid!
As usual, I hadn't even looked at the course map for the event before starting, however I was sure I had heard Naomi saying that the run course was three laps with a small hill at the turnaround point. This was appealing as in my mind, I only had to run out 3.5km then back into the cheering crowds three times. Easy peasy. Approaching the 3.5km mark I could see a small hill. Piece of cake. If that's the worst that Geelong was going to throw at me I was going to KICK ITS ASS. I turned around and headed happily down hill, sure that the worst was behind me. The course then detoured down a skinny path along the sea front...it was well protected from any breeze that one might appreciate whilst running a half marathon, was too skinny to fit an aid station on and holy heck, did it stink! The smell of old stagnant seaweed wafted up unpleasantly and that path seemed to stretch on forever. Never mind, I only had to do it two more times, I could handle it. Before I knew it I was back in town running in front of some of the most supportive crowd I'd ever heard. My watch was saying I'd done 6km and I began looking forward to the turnaround point for my second lap. I was going great! But wait, why had I run out past the other side of the crowd and past transition and still not come across the turnaround point? 8k then 9k came and went and we were still running away from town - what was the deal with this course? And now a steep path from the running path to the road? Bugger, but no problems, I could run up that one too - surely THAT was the hill they'd warned me about and I was about to turn around now? OH SWEET JESUS WHAT FRESH HELL IS THIS?? Suddenly the road turned steeply upwards and all I could see were a pack of weary legs tramping slowly but determinedly up the steepest hill I'd ever seen in a Tri. Up, up, up we went - admittedly my devilish hill to run home is tougher....but only just, and I've never run up it after 4 hours of exercise! But at the top - the glorious turnaround point at long last, and a much more pleasant run back into town to do it all again.
It turns out that the run course was actually two and a half loops and in true Ironman style, there were wristbands that you collected as you did the loops. And sadly for me, I'd seen people running up that godforsaken hill who were wearing the magical second lap wristband - the only thing worse than an unexpected hill is one that you know is coming and that thing haunted me while I headed back into town to start it all over again.
A bit of joy as I headed bank into town when Naomi, finished after her swim and cycle in the teams event, caught up with me and ran with me for a couple of minutes. We were straight back into the chatter chatter as she told me about being stung by a bee on her bike and I told her about my near miss with my "flat" tyre. What a great way to spend a kilometre!
The run got tougher after she pealed off - the sun was out in full force, the smell of the seaweed was stronger than ever and the shadow of that hill I had to climb again before I finished was on my mind. The volunteers were amazing - from lovely older men calling out gentle encouragement to the teenage marshals whooping it up with their mates beside them. Even though I was suffering, it still brought a smile to my face that people could happily give up their day to help all of us athletes out however they could. I knew from my splits that I wasn't going to finish in the fastest time ever, but boy, was I going to make sure I loved every minute of being part of such a huge experience on such a stunning day.
I passed through town again and received the coveted final wrist band. I tried to imagine it was giving me super powers that were going to push me up that hill one last time and finally into the long, easy run to the finish line. It didn't work out exactly that way of course, but I got up that hill again, thanked all the volunteers at the aid stations as I edged closer to the finish, and made sure I stayed strong and steady as I got closer and closer to that beautiful moment of this whole thing ending!
And wow, that feeling of turning off the course towards the finish line was as delicious as I imagined it would be. The final few hundred meters, the red carpet, the sound of the crowd and the noisy and robust sprint with some random guy to the finish line (he beat me - he was super strong!) along with the high fives and congratulations we gave to each other as we crossed the line - this is what I love about long distance triathlon. It's an epic, tough, brutal race - but at the finish line there's nothing but joy and appreciation for what our bodies can do. It wasn't my fastest run ever, but any day I finish a half marathon in under 1:50 is a great day in my opinion and I was more than happy with my result.
Result: 1:48:45 (10th in age group)
I collected my medal, had a cheeky hug with Pete Murray (the "voice of Ironman" in Australia) and headed to the recovery tent for some well deserved watermelon. As you do.
The final result was a finish time of 5:25:25. 10th overall in my age group out of 33 finishers . Not a PB for the distance but I am still amazed that I can consistently complete this distance under 5 1/2 hours so I feel no regret whatsoever over my final result.
Today, almost two weeks later, I look back on it with nothing but happiness and satisfaction. This was a great day, a wonderful weekend and a fantastic event in my life. Geelong, I may even come back and see you again next year!