A return to long distance multisport racing.
Ironman 70.3 Vietnam 2017
My first long distance multisport event since Ironman Melbourne in 2014, and it was a weekend of mixed emotions.
After 2014 I went straight into training for The North Face 100 in Singapore and after that straight into training for Mission RASI in April 2015. I realised shortly after TNF 100 that I'd fallen out of love with racing. It was no longer fun & was just about trying to find my limits mentally & physically.
Fast forward a few years & I'm in a much better place mentally, a few spartan races & a cycle to Everest basecamp to keep the body challenged & I coach a friend to her first marathon finish & she shares with me that she wants to do a triathlon, so I offer to help her get there. She puts in the hard yards & along the way we chat all things Ironman and she tells me it's on her bucket list to do a 70.3 but she doesn't believe someone like her can complete it.
I don't have a single doubt in my mind that she can & will so we agree that we will race together, I'll train her to finish & hopefully beat me and I'll train myself for a personal best over that distance. So we sign up and start the journey.
Next thing the interest in the race has gained momentum and we have 15 people going to Da Nang to race & for support, this is all now very real!
A few months into training & E tells me that her friend has found a Tri coach that does group sessions and does she mind if she joins them. So I stop coaching her but continue to check in to make sure she's ok & answer any questions she has.
My training is plagued by niggling injuries to my knee, ankle, hip and the ever present left shoulder!
As race day looms, I feel a bit underprepared especially for the swim, but I'm happy that I've got the bike & I can hang on in there for the run.
We get to Da Nang & the group is in high spirits, a few nerves but we are all good.
Race day & I feel that gut wrenching adrenaline rush as we head to transition, this is what I'd lost and it's so good to have it back!
Flag off and I hit the water, the swim is as tough as I expected and a long way off the sort of times I've done before for that distance, but I've not drowned so it's objective met.
Out onto the bike and I'm up to cruising pace & feeling good passing people, at the first aid station I grab a bottle of sports drink to go with the water I've got already, I'm drinking regularly and grab a water bottle at the next aid station, this time as I go to drink the lid comes off and 3/4 spill, so I'm left with around 200ml, when i reach the next aid station I need water so call for it, a volunteer hands me a bottle and says 'water' so I rack the bottle and off I go. A few kms along I discover she's given me sports drink, so now I've no water and the cramps are starting. By the time I get to the next aid station and the chance to get 2 water bottles, the damage is done both thighs are cramping with every pedal stroke and my speed continues to drop. I push on for the last 20km, hoping it's going to get better as I drink the 1.5ltr of water I now have on the bike.
As I get to the dismount line & unclip my left foot the sole stays attached as the shoe comes away except for the toe, it's really not my day!
After a less than graceful dismount I walk into transition and the cramps are bearable. One slow transition and I head out onto the run, I stock up with lots of fluids at the first aid station and fill my hat with ice.
Less than 2km into the run and I've cramped up so badly that I can't even bend either knee, it takes me 5 minutes to be able to move. During this time I made the difficult decision to step off the course and accept my first DNF in 12 years of racing.
In the end it came down to the question could I look at myself in the mirror the following day and be ok with the person looking back at me.
I walked slowly back to the transition area and met with the team of supporters who were all great & supportive. A short trip to the medical tent & it was down to the finish line to wait for the other guys to come in.
Seeing E running down the finishing chute I was filled with a huge sense of happiness for her on achieving something she doubted she could do. In crossing that line she inspired a few others in the group to seriously consider taking up the challenge too.
It was a bittersweet photo of the two of us holding our post race beers, but I'm certain it won't be the last time I get to have a post race beer with that lady, I hope her 4 kids realise what an amazing woman they have for a mum. I'm immensely proud of what she did and thankful for her getting me out of semi retirement and reigniting my passion for racing, thank you E you're a star!