Total time: 11:45:42
Swim (3.8km): 01:09:35
Bike (180km): 06:18:55
Run (42km): 04:06:18
By the time my big race of the year came around (my first Ironman) I was surprisingly zen. I had a really great year of training leading up to it and had seen major improvements to my shorter distance races, which I was hoping would translate to completing an Ironman in (ideally) under 12 hours. My toughest leg is always the bike and I had seen enough hard (windy) sessions on the lead up to the race that I felt as good as I could about the big day. I kept expecting to be nervous, but the closer I got to the race the more excited I got. The atmosphere in Cairns was amazing and seeing the course laid out, all the volunteers milling about and getting the tours of transition made me realise how massive the event was going to be. I was hoping for good weather and Cairns didn't disappoint.
The swim was fairly choppy and the single-loop course seemed like a great novelty - I'm used to multi-lap courses for even short distance races, so it was awesome to do 3.8km swim in a there and back format. I had a great swim and fell into a pretty sustainable rhythm straight away. The rolling start meant that there wasn't the usual urgency to power ahead of the pack and I managed to keep a solid pace throughout the swim. I left the water feeling energised and ready for the ride.
The first two thirds of the ride were great. The Cairns bike course along the Captain Cook highway was breathtaking and I actually got to enjoy the view on the first loop up to Port Douglas. Leading into the 'big' climb on the first lap (Rex lookout) was a bit nerve wracking, but I was thrilled to realise it was much less steep than the hills I had frequently trained on. Once I'd done the first of two loops I knew I was in pretty good shape. The only problem was when I realised the last 70kms would all be facing a headwind going back south into Cairns. The last third of the ride started to get very hot and windy and I knew I was starting to dehydrate, so tried my best to take in as much fluid as possible, whilst not neglecting my nutrition. Only the last 30kms, south of Palm Cove, started to feel very long and the headwind seemed relentless.
I started the run dehydrated and I knew I could be in trouble. I had to back off my planned pace and concentrate on taking in as much fluid as possible at the aid stations. I spent the first two (of three) laps feeling like I might vomit and I was afraid if I pushed too hard that I might pass out or dehydrate too much to finish. The volunteers on the course were all amazing, though I did get frustrated when I asked for water and kept getting handed ice instead. I should have stopped to go back for water, but forged on, which might have been a bit of a mistake.
I started to think that my goal of coming in under 12 hours might be too ambitious. Thankfully I had family and friends cheering me on to keep my spirits high and I kept battling on without stopping or walking. Once the sun went down and I managed to get enough water, coke and red bull in me I started to pick up and felt suddenly full of energy. I had been running at a much lower pace than planned for most of the first 30kms, so the last 12kms felt very easy and I was able to surge on to a sprint finish at the end. I came in at 11:45:42, smashing my target of 12 hours and really happy to have finished feeling strong.
I couldn't have done any of it without the support and understanding of my wife Jenny and my amazing supporters out on the course (Mum, Dad, Sarah, Gav, Mindi, Bruce, Clarinda, Rob, Jay and Ben) and training buddies Will, Carolyn and Courtney and so many others supporting virtually! Big thanks, of course, to Nathan and the Project M crew who made sure I got a great result and went in with the confidence to finish (and finish strong).