Race report: By Kieran
I got home a week before I was due to travel up to Cairns, so I had plenty of time to get things ready and packed, but typical me, I left it to the last minute…increasing the risk of leaving something behind. The week before the race felt somewhat weird, there was little training to do as realistically, what else I could I actually do that would help me in the race? The answer is nothing, I had done all the hard work in the months prior, so I spent the week getting my body totally ready including a trip to my wife’s beautician to get the go fast treatment! Much to the girls humour this was the best part of their week watching me get my legs waxed for the first time…im used to getting my chest done but geez leg waxing hurts!
The week consisted of just really light exercise, like a 3km swim on the Monday with my swim squad but at super easy pace, two rest days, a 1hr ride on the Wednesday followed by a light 30 minute jog, Friday was a really light jog along our beachfront as a squad stopping at intervals to stretch and ogle at the sunrise over our ocean, and then time to go home, pack the car, feed the kids, pick up the bike from the bike shop as it was getting a service and clean prior to race day, many thanks to my bike mechanic, the bike was looking spectacular, new cables, new race tyres, new bar tape, it got the full treatment.
The pic of my bike and everything on the table is what I would be taking as my race kit – my coach had his squad go through everything on the Monday night after swim training on what we would need to pack, somethings you would never think of if you have never done this before. Here’s a list of everything I had on the table
1) Bike & my 5 hydration bottles I would need for my ride – 1 bottle on the handle bars that I would refill from my other bottles to save me fiddling around constantly with the other 4, this way I only had to remove them once and put back in the bottle cages, drinking from the handle bar bottle was far easier for me as I could keep both hands on the bars.
2) Hydration electrolytes in the 2 black containers rear of pic, these I would mix with my water bottles on race day morning, they are just electrolyte replacement and something very much needed during the race
3) 2 running visors, always pays to have a spare and one of each colour
4) Bike shoes and socks
5) Race belt which would be worn in the run and also holds my race number placard – is compulsory to wear during the run, it also had my salt tablets in case of cramping on the run (I have cramped in the past on longer runs so it’s better to be safe than sorry and have a few)
6) Sunglasses for the ride and another pair for the run so 2 pair of sunnies
7) Garmin bike computer – it tells me vital stats while im on my ride and also helps me keep things under control, it’s very easy to over exert yourself on the bike and destroy your legs, but you only know your legs are cactus when you start to run, the bike computer is set up to show me my cadence, heart rate, speed, distance etc, I mainly concentrated on cadence as I knew in the gear I wanted to ride and at 90-100 cadence it would have kept me up over the 30km/h average which was my plan
8) Garmin multisport watch in triathlon mode, tracks my swim ride and run details, brilliant for the run as again it shows me all the same stuff that my bike computer does, except it would be in run mode when I was running
9) Race outfit! Yep my brand new lycra racing outfit
10) Chain lube for my bike
12) Running shoes
14) Swim goggles x 2, one pair with clear lenses, because if it was overcast and dull clear goggles would help me with my sighting of the buoys in the conditions, and one pair of goggles with dark tinted lenses, for conditions of bright sunshine it would help reduce the glare off the water, Palm cove really turned the weather on with the roughest swim they have had in years, pouring down rain, waves and murky water…so it was clear goggle day.
15) Tub of Vaseline and baby oil to coat over my arms and legs before putting wetsuit on (helps with removing wetsuit) and also to coat the outside of my wetsuit so when it folds back on itself it doesn’t get stuck
16) Tub of 3B cream to coat the nether region and crack – riding and running in these conditions for hours on end can and does take the toll on the skin, so keep it lubed to avoid that
17) Gummy bears and Emma and toms bars from woollies, that was my nutrition for the ride along with 2 bananas, I would be eating every 15-20 minutes on the bike
18) Two spare tubes for my bike in case I got flat tyres on the ride! Ironman is an individual sport so you need to be self sufficient
19) Bike tool kit including two co2 canisters to pump the tyres up after a flat.
20) Plastic shopping back to assist in getting the wetsuit on! Yep its true, a grey woollies plastic bag, you would never have thought hey!
Im Sure the kids pack more than my wife and I when we go on a trip away – they have no idea how to pack lightly anyhow it was time to hit the road for the four hour drive north with all of us very excited and the kids on a first and final warning not to annoy their mother and I on the drive
The drive went surprisingly well, normally the road north from Townsville to Cairns is a nightmare with roadworks and crap road conditions, to my surprise we only came across one lot of road works just north of Innisfail and only held us up for a few minutes, we have travelled extensively with our kids both domestically and internationally since their birth and we have a pretty good routine down now when we all go away so things went well on the way up. One thing we love doing on our road trips is support our local farmer who put produce out the front of their farms, and this one near the Russel river always has good stocks of bananas so I just had to stop off and grab a dozen or so, my kids both love bananas and its good for them to learn how important it is we support our farmers, worked out to be about 15c a banana…not bad hey!
As the road winded its way into Cairns we made the call to go and check me in for the race as our first stop prior to going to our accommodation, this would make the Saturday less hectic as it was bound to be going absolutely crazy with approximately 5000 athletes and all their supporters hovering around the check in area and transition areas on the Saturday. So off we went and found a carpark in the city as close to race HQ as possible and made the walk down along the Cairns esplanade to check-in. The check in process was seamless, I showed my ID, they had helpers there to go and get our race kit bags, we then moved down to timing check in where I was given my timing chip which was to be worn on the left ankle throughout the race as this would pick up our times for each leg of the race. That was how simple check in was, so it was off to our accommodation to get settled in, but not for long as we had to be back on the Esplanade for the Cairns bright night family 5km fun run for a 6pm start. We chose to do this as a family and a way to make our kids feel a part of the action and fun of the weekend. So a quick feed at our accommodation and back into town for some family fun. The plan was to jog a bit and walk most as I had to look after my legs for race day and plus I didn’t see my 6yr old daughter wanting to run very far at all.
We had a great time at the fun run, the kids had a blast, we had fluoro everywhere and it was amazing to see the Cairns esplanade all lit up with thousands of people all dressed up in fluoro having an absolute hoot of a time, there was music pumping, fire twirlers, dancers, smoke machines etc and plenty of time to stop for photos along the course.
Well after a long day of travelling it was time to go to bed but not before I went through my goodie bag from Ironman check in. first thing I saw when I opened it was a packet of strawberry champagne Tim tams…OMG! But they had to wait until after the race and they did! The goodie bag contains important race stuff, it has your race number tattoos, one for your arm, and your age group classification letter that goes on your right calf, race sticker for your bike seat post, race sicker for your bike helmet, red run bag and Blue bike bag, swim cap.
So I spent a good hour getting this sorted, stickering up everything that need to be stickered and packing my ride and run bags.
Saturday was all about getting the bike racked in Palm cove at transition 1, dropping off my run bag to Transition 2 in Cairns and then just chilling out with the family, this weekend was really all about me and the ironman but I was very conscious about getting everything done early so we could try and do some family time, so we chose to do breakfast on the Cairns esplanade and even though the lace was absolutely buzzing we managed to find a table and get a good feed into us, the good thing about this is that transition 2 was just over the road so we could check my run bag in at the same time. Again run bag check in was easy, I literally had to just find my spot on the bike racks where we would hang our bikes as we get off them and go on our run, everything was numbered, my name was sticked on the bike rack so all I had to do was hang my run bag and then take a few minutes to look at where I was located in transition so I could remember on race day where I had to run, it can get very very confusing with so many red bags and bikes. I was four rows back from where we get off the bike so that wasn’t very hard for me to remember.
Next we hopped in the car and drove up to palm cove so I could rack the bike and have a look through the transition area….WOW what a site to see, transition was about 900m long and there were bike the whole way along, this was my real first glimpse of how crazy this was going to be after exiting the swim, I was lucky, my bike was rack spot was about 700m down transition which meant I would only have to run about 200 meters with my bike before I could mount and ride off toward Port Douglas, I feel sorry for those who had to run the whole 900m with their bikes…it’s a recipe for disaster with so many people in close proximity with their bikes ( I should mention the cost of these bikes are phenomenal so damaging one isn’t really something you want to happen). I was stoked to bump into my coach at bike racking and he gave me a couple of tips on how to get my bike racked. The whole bike racking went smoothly, I took my time while the kids had a play in the park, I looked around for some land marks so I could remember where my bike was after exiting the swim, for me it was a big aqua coloured building on the other side of the road, a 40km sign post and yellow “dip” sign. I was now all ready to go and it was now time to go put my feet up and rest. Surprisingly I wasn’t feeling nervous at this stage, I honestly thought I would have been by now. My coach snapped this pic of me waiting to check my bike in, we had to wear our helmets so they could be inspected
This is what the transition 1 area looked like for the 900 meters
The Saturday night we just had a nice quiet night in at our accommodation with my wife cooking a nice meal and simple for me, im not a believer in carb loading etc before a race so I just had a steak with sweet potato and some greens, it works for me, then it was off to bed as we had decided to drive up to Palm Cove instead of catching buses as this would be easier for my wife to get out of palm cove with our kids at a time suitable to her and not be relying on buses and battling the thousands of supporters who were also using buses. So it was up at 0230 and on the road by 3am so we could get a car park close to the action and go find a café that was open to sit and relax in before the race start.
Then the rain started! And it rained and rained and rained, as we had taken shelter in a café with prime views of the race start we decided it was best to stay there nice and dry, the owner was awesome and was happy for us to stay put and allow me to get ready for my swim, all while the kids enjoyed their pancakes and ice cream and got aquainted with their cow bells to ring during the race to support the competitors…….much to the enjoyment of their mother!! Best $5 gift I’ve ever bought I reckon.
As the minutes ticked down closer to 5am competitors started to mill around the entry to transition so we could all go in and get our bikes ready, things like pump up our tyres, lube our chains, put our bikes in the right gear to take off on, fill our water bottles with electrolytes, put our helmets and shoes out so we didn’t muck around too much in transition after our swim. Once I had that all sorted it was time to go back to the café and my family and get my wetsuit on to my waist, there seemed to be a few of us doing this at this time outside the toilets of the café where they had set up a little area for us, it was here the woollies shopping bag came in handy, the trick is, put the bag over your foot and you will slide your leg in and out of the wetsuit with ease, but first coat my calves in Vaseline and baby oil to help the wetsuit come off easy, who has time to muck around trying to take a neoprene wetsuit off and wasting precious time. Wetsuit on now to my waist, race suit on under that and the rain had eased to a light drizzle, so we headed down to the end of transition as a family and we let the kids have some sword fighting time on the grass while I got fully kitted up in my wetsuit with my wife’s help, arms lubed up, wetsuit on and zipped up, then the coating of lube on the shoulders and legs of the wetsuit, again this would make stripping it off to the waist while running all the more easier. Time was now right to head down to the beach and have a quick swim with my wettie, swim cap and goggles, one last check that everything was ok and ready to go, calm the nerves a bit but like I said earlier I wasn’t feeling nervous, and I still wasn’t much to my own surprise there was no butterflies, no nervousness to describe, maybe it was because I had put in all the effort and hard training and my body knew it. my wife thinks I was nervous but honestly, I couldn’t feel it.
I had grouped myself in group three timing for the swim, it was a rolling start and when we checked in I had to nominate a time that I would swim the 1.9km in, I selected 30-45 minutes feeling confident I could do this in that time frame depending on conditions, if conditions were going to be good I would have gone 35-40 minutes comfortably, if they were bad I would be 40-50 minutes, this was to be my first distance open water swim. Race start had now happened and group one swimmers (the quick ones sub 30 minutes) were off and racing, it was a rolling start so we had plenty of time before our grouping would be set off and into the water, by this time the predicted 40km winds had arrived and the ocean resembled conditions similar to what is whipped up during a cyclone…..the swim was going to be tough, but I had time for a quick photo with my kids just before I ventured into my first half ironman race officially. Photo is probably not what I had expected but hey it is what it is and I can always count on my son to make the moment memorable…..turns out he dropped his thong in the sand and he had lost the plot, so this is my photo with my kids 2 minutes to my swim start.
A quick kiss from my wife and a look of “you’ve got this” “swim strong”, there was a fleeting moment of emotion from me, nearly a tear, not because I was nervous, more proud of the journey I have made and that the moment had arrived. So off I went and joined my group of 30-45 minute swimmers, we got led through the corrals 2 at a time and given the nod to cross the timing mat and start our race, the waves were rolling in and it was a real initiation swimming straight out into the ocean before turning right and swimming parallel to the coast before turning out to sea and then left to come back along the coast and finally left again to head into the beach to complete our 1.9km swim, it was a tough swim but I did myself proud out there, I didn’t stop, with so many athletes out there swimming, some not very straight, I had one guy that was swimming at a very similar pace to me and he kept swimming onto my right shoulder, I gave him a big push away from me as he was disrupting my rhythm, only for me to cop a big punch in the rib cage from him…that came as a bit of a shock but I didn’t let it bother me, I put in a few quick strokes to get in front of him and the rest is history I guess. My sighting in the swim was excellent, I swam straight and close to the buoys, I was very conscious of the fact that I needed to swim straight, if I was all over the place I would lose time and potentially not make the 1hr swim cut off, if I didn’t make the 1hr cut off my race would be over, so im very very proud of my swim in a time of 46 minutes in very trying conditions. This pic is from race day and the swim, for my part of the swim the conditions were not as bad as this, this is taken not long after my swim though, so the people doing the full ironman would have had to cop these conditions. Race reports have said the swim for both the half and full ironman race were the roughest they have had in years
To look at my watch on exiting the water and see 46 minutes I was ecstatic and quickly ripped my swim cap and goggles off followed by ripping down my wetsuit zipper and peeling off my wetsuit down to my waist whilst making the approx 700m run down to my bike in transition, it was here I saw my wife and kids cheering me on from the sidelines, to see the smile and look of how proud my wife was of me was a great feeling I won’t soon forget and one that brings a bit of emotion, my kids yelling out go daddy and ringing their cow bells like crazy was also fantastic, so it was a big two thumbs up I gave to them, that was also my signal to my daughter to let her know that I was ok, she was concerned that I would get eaten by a shark or crocodile. A few pics of me exiting the water, these are never great pics as we have sand all over our faces and its more apparent if you have a few days stubble like I did.
The run to transition was wild, with bikes going everywhere, slippery cobblestones on parts of the road, but my wife managed a quick pic of me tearing my way down to my bike whilst trying to maintain my composure and not screw up my transition
Transition went well, I got to my bike, ripped off the rest of my wetsuit, helmet on, socks on, bike shoes on, food in my back pockets of my race suit, ate a banana, put wetsuit, swim cap and goggles back into my ride bag and grabbed my bike and ran down to the mount line. We had to put our swim gear into our bike bag as the amazing volunteers would then need to collect our bags and have them transported to Cairns so we could collect after our race. As I went to mount my bike I accidentally kicked one of my rear mounted water bottles out of its cage, so I was luckily enough a lady behind me picked it up and gave it to me, a quick thank you and I was off again, I spotted my wife and kids again so gave them a big smile and another thumbs up and then I was off on my 90km ride, heading up towards Port Douglas.
The bike I feel really strong on so I was off and feeling really good on my bike, I was passing people at a rapid rate, the ride is officially described as the most scenic of all ironman cycle legs worldwide, I have driven this road so many times but riding it was something special and something I won’t forget, by this time though the weather had deteriorated significantly, being in far north Queensland we are subjected to monsoonal conditions and so I know what it’s like, but boy oh boy did it rain and blow hard on that ride, it was still amazing though and I enjoyed the ride immensely, the hills were not too bad, the flat parts of the ride were fast and the rain kept it cool, I followed my nutrition plan I had devised to the letter, I had to to make sure I was fuelled right. I feel I left a bit in the tank pace wise on the bike, but being that this is my first endurance event I was happy to leave a little bit in the tank, I had planned for a 3hr ride and I did it in 2:53 so im still very pleased with that effort considering the conditions. If conditions were better I would have gone around the 2:40 mark I feel. Riding in along the Cairns esplanade towards transition 2 was amazing, the whole place was alive and to see everyone supporting was amazing, it brings a smile to my face. Even the random supporters who lined the sides of the highway, lining the sugar cane farms as we rode past was just pure gold, I cannot wait to experience that ride again.
The run! The dreaded half marathon to go, people dread the run, I was about to embrace it, I was soo ready for this run, I came into transition with a big smile on my face, I was feeling fresh, my legs were good, I knew they were, my nutrition had not let me down to this point, my planning was fastidious. Off the bike at the dismount line, there were people in front of me walking their bike into T2, not me, I wasn’t here to walk into T2, I ran my bike in, racked it, helmet off cap and fresh sunnies on, bike shoes off and running shoes straight on, I had pre tensioned my laces so I didn’t muck around, last thing to go on was my compulsory race belt, and off I went, a quick 4 minute transition! I nailed it! Out I went, I deliberately slowed my pace down as everyone says they always go out too fast off the bike and I have even done so on my training sessions, so I slowed to a nice comfy pace of 6 minutes per KM, I knew I wouldn’t be able to sustain this for much more than 10km so I slowed again to something I knew I could sustain for substantiately longer and that pace was 6:20 per KM, I can run at a lot quicker pace than this but this had been a long day and I didn’t want to let myself down by going to hard that I couldn’t finish. The run was amazing it was 2 laps of the Cairns esplanade and a bit of the marina, there were thousands of people lining the streets, I ran well, didn’t walk and I have had numerous reports of people saying to me that I looked good out there, looked comfy, I drank at every aid station on the run course to ensure I stayed hydrated. The second lap of the half marathon was particularly amazing as I knew I would be crossing that finish line soon enough, knowing I had the second wrist band on meant the next time I got back to the lagoon it was time to turn right and into the finishing chute. As I approached the finish turn I hadn’t been able to see my wife and kids on the run course, on the last left hand turn where the crowds were yelling and screaming I all of a sudden heard a little voice screaming DADDY!, I knew it was my daughter so I stuck my hand out, I didn’t even see her face but I knew it was her and my wife and son, I was so focussed on running strongly right to the very end. 100m down the path just as I turned right into the finishing chute I noticed out the corner of my eye my coach hanging half over the fence and another of my team mates, they were so happy for me, a quick wave of recognition and I was into the finishing chute…now this chute is something I want to experience over and over again, people clapping and cheering, the race commentator calling out your name as you approach the finish line, another of my team mates encouraging me all the way to the end. Even a blonde lady who was saying “Kieran I’m so bloody proud of you”, even though I had no idea who she was, I later found out she is a lady who follows one of my social media accounts and is from Longreach. To know that I had someone, a total stranger to me support me over that finish line is amazing.
My total race time was 6:15:53 I’m very happy with that for my first half ironman and it’s certainly a time I didn’t think I could achieve 12 months ago when I first floated this idea of ironman racing. I have had an absolute blast, the training has not been easy by any means, 95% of it done by myself in remote WA while away at work, but I didn’t sign up to ironman to fail. In life I have generally struggled to fit in, but I have finally found something that I feel I fit in with. Endurance sport is not about being the fastest, I certainly will never be the fastest, but I know I have the mental stamina to keep going when your mind says stop. From being overweight and unhappy 12 months ago I am now the fittest and healthiest I have ever been in my adult life, I have a ways to go but now that I know I can do something as epic as ironman racing I know I can do anything. My intentions moving forward are to keep getting fitter, and keep doing ironman racing, this was my first half ironman, I will probably do two more half’s before I venture up to the full ironman class, a major major step up but something I want to do! long distance endurance sport is my thing, it has me hook line and sinker.
My next event is the Townsville running festival marathon on the 7th of August this year…yes six weeks from now and I can’t wait to run 42.2km on a beautiful Sunday morning in the tropics, but first I need to complete 3.8km of swimming on the Friday night the 5th august and a 180km ride on the Saturday, which means the marathon will be a real test…..I’m excited. That will be followed by the Lake Taupo half ironman in New Zealand in early December, flights and rego already booked.
People say you need to be a really selfish person to compete in an ironman, this is true but it is also true you need the support of your family and friends and I could not have done this without my family of Nicole, Azra and Judd, although I am away most of the time the training still affects them, I have missed calls, missed goodnight messages, missed reading stories on the phone because I have been swimming riding and running, on my time at home I have been up at 330 am to go on long rides just so I can be home on time to go see my son have footy practice, I have had swim training which means I have missed dinners and story time, and had to call the kids and say goodnight between swim reps or on the drive home. So I owe my family a heck of a lot, maybe even an overseas holiday!!.
Thanks again for supporting me by donating to Starlight foundation, I hope you found this a good read, I’ve enjoyed writing it.
And finally a massive thankyou to my coach Brendan from HCB Multisport coaching, he took me on and worked me hard, but hard work gets results, im now officially a half ironman finisher on my first attempt and am on the way to the ultimate of finishing a full ironman.
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