IRONMAN 70.3 Geelong 7th Feb 2016
Officially according to IRONMAN I got a DNF because I finished outside the cutoff time which is kinda sucky because I DID finish and that can’t be taken away from me. Personally I think they need another acronym like ECT ( exceeded cutoff time) and may well lobby for that but I entered this event with the end goal of just finishing even if I had to walk the last leg or crawl across the finish line.
And no, this is my one and only before anyone else asks when is my next one, I did what I set out to do, it was bloody hard on not just the body but also the mind and once is enough for me.
I love the training, the camaraderie & my club. So sit back grab a coffee if you’re inclined to read to the end because this is going to be long winded but no apologies for that!
Most people know my health history so I won’t bore you but sore back, surgery blah blah blah, needed a goal to keep me motivated so why not enter a half ironman?!
I signed up on the 23rd February 2015 then proceeded to entice club mates to come along and share the glory or pain of such a big event. Along the way several had to forgo competing for various reasons but continued to encourage those that were heading towards the big day.
Lots of training, negotiating and balancing of what should be done for such an epic event and what physically could be done to ensure I made it. It’s only a couple of months ago that I actually read my surgeons letter of clearance that in fact stated that he did not feel that triathlon was a good idea given my history. Oh oops, needless to say after this was shared with my coach Drew and my friend and training partner David they had even more concerns but I was determined to do this.
Drew set my plans weekly, and I endeavoured to do it all but there were some days I just couldn’t or had to swap rest days or do less than what was already a light workload.
Months trickled down to weeks and then to days and in between there were a lot of tears that poor David had to listen to and pep talk me into being realistic about my goal.
Tyre changing practise was a farce and I had to pray that I wouldn’t cop a flat on the day( prayers were answered thankfully)
I flew down Thursday, had a night with my parents before we picked Drew up on the Friday.
Between Colin and Drew my bike was put back together then Saturday Drew and I rode from Highton down to eastern Beach where we checked in and racked our bikes. Nerves still yet to sink in and it was still all a little surreal. Bought myself an ironman cowbell and stubby cooler as a memento then Drew wanted to do a practice swim in his new wetsuit.
Met up with clubmates Mark Foster and Sara Wodyk and off we wandered to find somewhere for lunch.
I wasn’t particularly hungry and was still looking at the menu when a familiar but unexpected voice asked me a question. Completely overwhelmed by seeing David here, who’d been picked up by my parents from the bus he’d booked his ticket a month ago and not told me.
Having him there was something I’d wanted as he’d been training with me all this time so especially sweet. Lunch over we returned to my parents and it was setting up of gear time. Laying everything out and packing everything into seperate bags to ensure I didn’t forget anything and David working out when I needed to eat or drink something on course because I tend not to.
Dinner done and it was bed time.
Race day!! It’s here!! Raceday tattoos applied, Yoghurt and sipping on a water bottle as instructed then mum dropped us down to transition where Drew and I set our gear out and pumped up tyres. A bit of a wander to the swim start, a whinge that I didn’t want to be here, a banana eaten, last minute dash for the loo and before I knew it, it was time. 7.39 wave and I’m off.
The start wasn’t too messy, I just got into a rhythm and just kept swimming in the immortal words of Dory. The water was beautiful and I’m positive I was the only one in my wave not in a wetsuit. 1. 9 k is a fair distance in a pool but feels longer in the open water, I eventually gotten overtaken by the wave behind and Mark Foster even managed to give me a hello as he swam past me. I waded out where it was super sludgy and seaweedy underfoot, had a chat to the volunteers and into transition.
Helmet on first, a munch on a cliff bar, swig of water bottle then out I went.
There’s a decent climb not far from transition and my fear was I wouldn’t get clipped in in time but I made sure I was in my small chain ring and had no issues getting up the steady climb. All the hills that Drew had me doing at Mount Gravatt and Brookfield paid off. The worst hill was actually a really small one in the Botanical Gardens it was short but very steep and the road surface was less than great. Out towards Point Henry and just steady turning the legs over, even Leopold Hill wasn’t as nasty as I feared and coming back into town was great. There didn’t seem to be much wind and my average speeds were as expected.
Lap 2 was more of the same although by now the wind had picked up and there were definitely far fewer people on the course. I was fearful that I wasn’t going to make the cutoff and get pulled off before I couldn’t even hit the run leg. Cheers from club mates on course and from the sidelines brought a smile and kept the legs turning over.
I can no longer balance on one leg so sitting down to change into runners allowed me a chance to have another few bites of my cliff bar and check if I’d eaten all my chews I should have on the ride( I had) and even downed three bottles ( it did result in a toilet stop however but I was not prepared to pee while riding then rinse)
Ahh running… My nemesis. What can I say? It was ugly, the walk through of the aid stations placed every two kms allowed me to gulp down some icy Coke and grab some watermelon and in between I had more chews. The plan to run 4 minutes then walk 1 flew out the window but I tried to run as much as I could between aid stations. Friends and family at Rippleside Prk were a much welcome sight and the run along the waterfront was gorgeous. The section at the opposite end was horrendous being mostly uphill and by the 2nd lap I was walking a lot more than I was running.
Cass came looking for me and ran with me for a while which helped but every time I saw an official on a bike I thought it was over. I’d resorted to looking the other way with a typical head in the sand though that if I can’t see them they can’t see me and the dreaded tap on the shoulder wouldn’t happen. Running through again on the last couple of Ks was fantastic because of all the people cheering and calling out my name (I’d think they were people I knew and then realise I have my name splashed across my butt and boobs that they were reading) but hey what ever works I guess. Less than 1 k to go my right calf started cramping badly and I had to stop to massage it a few times. I could see David, Lisa and James just up ahead and kept going.
A last turn out onto Cunningham Pier and Lisa met me at the end and ran with me to the start of the red carpet. It was done, I was done. I’d done it!
I heard my name being called out, the cowbells ringing and my wonderful friends and family right at the end waiting for me.
A wet towel around my shoulders, a medal placed around my neck and a cuddle with my mum. A hug from Drew and then it was off to the recovery tent where they had ice cream!!! Yes ice cream, I even asked for extra because I wanted to share it with my ice cream partner in crime. Lisa produced promised pear ciders which went down very nicely indeed and I was able to spend sometime with everyone still there waiting for me to finish.
We hung around for a while listening to the roll down for those offered places at Worlds up on the Sunny Coast then it was time to take David to the bus station to get back home to Brisbane for Monday work then home time where my parents had a fantastic spread of salads and cold meats on offer. Friends and family also brought food to share and with some of the Sbtc crew and supporters we celebrated the end of an amazing day. I was very sore and stiff as the evening went on and very tired with getting to bed about 10pm.
A good nights sleep with no cramping and felt a lot more limber the morning after than I expected.
It’s been an epic journey and I’m ecstatic I did it and grateful to everyone and thankful it’s done xxx
If I forget to mention anyone I apologise in advance as I have so many wonderful supportive friends and family to thank.
Drew, my Coach and my friend who devised a plan to get me across that finish line ( even if I had to crawl in my own words) Coaching anyone can be a tough ask let alone someone with health issues to be considered. Creating a weekly plan only to have me shuffle it around as I dealt with ongoing pain must have been frustrating to say the least. Drew was patient and genuinely concerned for my well being whilst recovering from his own injuries, coaching others and training for his own events. You are a legend and love ya loads!! To have you there on race day was a huge honour and a show of your generosity as a coach and a friend.
David, my stalwart training buddy & gorgeous generous friend who has literally been there every step of the way, when all I was allowed to do post surgery WAS walk, then graduated to cycling before finally shuffle/jogging with me. It would not have been the same on Raceday without you there. I know you have shaken your head internally on many occasions, taken me to task on other occasions because you’ve worried but I did listen when it mattered and I made it. Everyone should be so lucky to have someone like you on their side.
Natasha, my number one girl… Whilst you may be proud of your mumma, your mumma is prouder.
I love you always and forever and you too can achieve anything you want if you work hard and keep trying if plan A,B or C doesn’t work. You will always be my biggest and best achievement, anything else is just icing xxx
Swimrunridefaster team Damien and Michelle who prepped not just my bike but also provided advice and much needed calming words when I needed it. Several bike fits done to get the bike Emma friendly and reduce back inflammation as much as possible. A fall off the bike the day before I flew out, resulting in an emergency visit and a restorative coffee while Damien worked his magic on the bike that bit me.
Tory and the PURE team that has made a product that makes me actually want to hydrate.
I’m notorious for not drinking or eating during a race so anything that tastes as good as Pure gets my tick of approval.
All my training buddies who over the past 12 months or so have joined me on this crazy journey, often at short notice, including but not limited to Lisa, JoJo, Stef, Michelle, Sara, Fatima, Susan, Sonya, Sarah, the SBTC GreenArmy and the Standing Start crew. Early morning starts, hill training( lots and lots of hills) all made that much easier with friends to share the pain and sense of accomplishment when done.
My freaking awesome Southbank Tri Club, I know I’m biased but holy heck you guys rock. From the beginners to the long distance champs and everyone in between. The support and words of encouragement given leading up to Raceday and on Raceday itself was truly humbling.
I felt guilty as I was not the only SBTCer out there and yet you all made me feel like I was IT.
My phone when checked post race was a mass of texts, FB private and public messages.
I am proud to be part of such a truly inclusive supportive group of people.
My fellow GreenArmy teammates David Witham, Bianca Cairns, Mark Foster, Drew Standish were all incredible and pushed themselves to finish their own races on their terms. Former clubmates Jemma, Brielle and Mark all provided a keep going cheer when they passed me as did Chris Moor, Matt and Wayne Baajtes No matter the club, we all know what it’s like out there and a friendly face and a cheer is always welcome and that’s the beauty too of triathlon in general I think.
My beautiful sirens Sonya, Susan, Gen, Bel, Ruth and Cass for daily support and wisdom of all things Tri and non Tri related. Having Cass there too was wonderful and to have her come looking and run with me along the waterfront was a bonus for the dying spirits as I finished the first lap of the run. Can’t wait to see if the official photographer caught your jazz hands Cass.
Lisa who chose to spend some of her limited time with James by dragging him along to the madness that is our passion. Your sideline cheering was awesome and to share the last 100 metres before the red carpet was special. Your turn next babe and I’ll be there doing the same for you.
Juan, Sara, Tim, Jane and Samantha for cheer squad duties along the course… I was never quite sure where you’d be each time I went past but I knew you’d be there somewhere ready with loud cheers and a Loud Go Emma xx thank you.
My parents Helen and Colin who played chauffeur all weekend including several airport trips into Tullamarine, opened their home to not just myself but also to my Tri family and friends on the Sunday night. I love you both very much and grateful you were able to share such a great milestone with me as well as meet some of my awesome friends.
My brother Ben, SIL Narelle and nephews Atticus and Castor, adopted family Hillary & Julia Newman as well as Isaac, Phoebe & Anton who cheered me on from Rippleside Park. High fives all around. Second lap especially hard and a bit teary by then so was nice for the boost of seeing some familiar faces.
Family and friends that joined us back at the parents for a slap up meal, including sister Katherine and partner Wal, Paul Gunner and Reina. A great way to finish off an epic day and bask in the glory of a goal accomplished whilst also rejoicing in everyone else’s race day journeys.
Reading everyone’s well wishes has taken me the better part of the day and has been a big part of reflecting on how very lucky I am, including those from my extended family, my awesome workmates, overseas mates ( Ben) and everyone in between.