Monday, 7 December 2009

Non participation report – Ironman western Australia

Its post race day morning and Bussleton is a town littered with gel wraps and plastic cups and people cruising very slowly around town on fast bikes between long coffee stops. Race day anecdotes, sore limbs and post race treats as well as respite from all that training (until the next time) is a large part of what makes this pretty mental past time so enjoyable. So, today I’m feeling somewhat envious of those who did participate. Was I feeling envious yesterday? Well, of course it’s a great day and despite the horrific heat induced suffering that I saw on the run course whilst spectating the part of me that felt I could do a better job of it desperately wished to be involved. However even after a 3 hour ride around the area which took me out to a section of the bike route, I was totally heat-sick and my legs ached from a week of hard riding on mostly flat roads. So I was very content to stop and leisurely munch my cheese and jam sandwich without any envy of those who I saw trudging back and forth on that straight, relentlessly flat forest road with strings of gel and snot trailing behind them in the wind….

Having dropped Steven off at the race venue in time for the opening of transition at 4.30, I had time to drive back, eat breakfast and jog back up to beach in time to spend a few moments with him before the start. It was a beautiful morning, sky and sea clear both and calm and the anticipation in the atmosphere was sensational as they warmed up. I felt surprisingly excited myself, especially watching the small Pro field start …and visualizing myself amongst (behind) them. When Steven set off with the mass start 15 min later, I started my stopwatch. My estimate was that Steven would be done in just over 50min, which gave me just enough time to jog back to our place change and collect my bike and be at the bike exit to see him. I was also in time to see the leaders in the pro race leaving for the ride – and was somewhat heartened to see that there were several girls leaving after what must have been an hour or more swim time. I was slightly concerned at quite how many age groupers were out on their bikes ahead of Steven, as he’d usually post one of the fastest swims – but this is Australia and they do seem to swim well here! He came through with a low 50’s time though , which I knew he’d be happy with. Took some pictures of him getting on his bike with a little less elegance than a drunk donkey, which I knew he’d not be so happy with ;o) but certainly not as bad as some of the disasters that I’d witnessed up to that point – and that was looking at the very top end of the race!! I waited 5 minutes to see Martyn and Russell’s exits and then headed off for a bit of my own training. I had a planned route that would take me about 3.5hrs and allow me a little time watching the race where my route intersected the course. If I was lucky I’d see Steven or someone o knew pass, but knew that it was unlikely. As it happened I caught the back end of the field returning to town on the end of their first lap and then the leading male pros come past on their second. The difference in speed was comical! An Irish girl pulled over to me and asked if I was ok. ‘yes!! i’m spectating- you get going!!’ I told her…’oh I’ve had three punctures already ,I’m calling it a day’ she said, pulling to a stop beside me.. Perhaps she was a lot more used to being near the front of the race and had totally lost heart. But we were less than 3 hours into a very long day. She must have seen my look of shock horror, as she soon decided to continue for a while at least. I made a note to look out for her on the run. But unfortunately forgot.

With my ‘race timer’ running I realized that I couldn’t really afford to hang around log at my drink stop in Capel – I had 2 hours to get back to see him finish. The plan was to return to the house, drop the bike and then do my brick run to coordinate with Steven’s likely arrival into transition. As it happened that required a very rapid turn around at the house, and a faster paced run than really felt comfortable –especially with road closures diverting me away from the most direct route – and I approached the race area just in time to hear “Steven Lord from the UK” being announced in off the bike!! Fishing the camera out of my belt as I sprinted to the run exit point, I made it just in time to see him, beaming and running. He’s ridden around 4.45 – shit hot. I jogged back to the house alongside the course with my brains absolutely boiling and felt for these dudes who’d be running on a further 3, or 4, hours. Concerned marshals thinking that I’d veered a long way off course in some sort of heat stupor called me back are you racing?’ ‘ I’d be going a hell of a lot faster than this if I was racing!’ I teased.

The rest of the afternoon was based around Neil and Lorraine’s back garden, which backs onto the run course. The family come over with their Eskies of beer and food for Barbie and they sit and cheer every athlete who lops by in the burning sun. In order to get some varied photos of him, as well as surprising him by cheering appearing in unexpected places, I walked quite a lot of the course cheering and trying to sound genuinely encouraging to all the athletes that I saw. Most were pretty bad states even this early in the race and that was when, bizarrely. I wanted to be out there too! Perhaps it was because I believe myself to be a decent runner, and cope well with the heat – I found it frustrating to see so few people really running well. I felt that I wanted to help these people – and was able to at one point when a guy doubled over, screaming clutching his leg just in front of me. He clearly had very severe cramp in his hamstring and, though I know it’s not really allowed to give ‘outside assistance’ of course I had to ask if there was anything that I could do to help. He told me to massage his hamstring, which I did until it was loose enough to shake out and wished him good luck.

Meanwhile, Steven had been suffering from cramp himself, and general lack of run form due to having been out of run training for almost all of 9 months since his injury, and the age-group lead that he had at the start of run would sadly be short lived. Russell was running well, but a little off the pace required for his sub 9hr finish – though a 3:20 (ish) marathon and 9:19 race time were enough for 2nd in his age group and a Kona slot – evidence of a tough race and slow times.

Steven finish in 10hrs 14, with run of 4.30. I tell you, athletes, do not underestimate what a tough day it is for your loved ones – 12 hrs on their feet in the beating sun (or rain!) - and the waiting is the worst part of it! That final lap seemed to take an age, and really I was lucky that ‘my’ guys were all home in good time – there were still folk bravely heading out for their first lap of the run as we wheeled Steven’s bike out of transition. I was exhausted – and their support crew would be out there well into the dark, fuelled by beer and good Aussie humour, making a night of it!

Of course it was very tempting to make assumptions as to what I would have done in the race; I’m beginning to feel in decent shape again after Kona with the right amount of rest and 3 weeks good training. There really was not much strength evident in the ladies age group file– and I’m pretty sure that I’d have managed a good result as an age grouper. But that’s no longer the game – and I do need a full 3 months solid training to prepare me to race at a higher standard than that in New Zealand. So, this morning, amongst all the relaxed, tired triathletes, I head out for a 2.5hr run in the wilderness. Though I will of course be indulging in the post race beers at the awards party tonight!!

1 comment:

Nick said...

great report Jo, pass on regards to Steven and hope the pair of you enjoy Epic Camp, I will be watching with envy.

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