IRONMAN ASIA-PACIFC – Cairns 12 June 2016
By Tiffany Dahl
What a way to spend my Birthday!
When I did my very first triathlon my amazing friend Natasha and I discussed that it is “just a bit of a swim, a bit of a ride and a bit of a run”… Sunday for me was exactly that, with the addition of the most amazing amount of support and happiness thrown in. People told me before doing the race that it would be one of the toughest things I would do, that during the course of the day there will be mental challenges and (metaphorical) sharks to battle. I saw people scared at the swim start, cringe at the wind and the rain on the ride, and battle throughout the run… I loved it all!
Swim – 1:01:51
T1 – 0:07:20
Ride – 6:41:53
T2 – 0:08:58
Run – 4:51:39
Total – 12:51:41
I started in the first group for the swim, a rolling start alongside the ambitious men and women hoping to crack under 60 minutes. Chatting at the start line with woman about to start her 5th Ironman (she ended up being the quickest in my category) and observing the other athletes around me, I wanted to bottle the energy levels. I ran across the timing mat, started my watch, and dove into the water. And so began my Ironman adventure.
I would like to say that I remained focused through the whole swim, but I will admit to getting distracted by thinking about limits – then thinking about the mathematical equation in Mean Girls in which the answer is that the limit does not exist, then being further distracted by recollecting scenes from the film and finally remembering that I was in a race. Good times! There was quite a bit of swell, but if caught at the right time it felt as though you were propelled through the water.
I knew at the 3500m point that I would not make my goal time, but I didn’t care – I was loving it already!
Out of the water, on to the beach, cheer squad in fine form – the swim was over. Tick!
I am the queen of transitions. Not in the “lightening fast” respect, but as someone who relishes the time to be able to get prepared for the next leg. I will admit, however, it is a bit embarrassing when one of the volunteers comes back and comments “Are you still here?”
Two words – Liquid Sunshine!
Yes, there was wind; yes, there was rain. My only complaint with that was that my mouth and teeth were dry from smiling so much. The plan for the ride was to stay safe and eat. Eat every twenty minutes, get through the fluids. It was always exciting swapping my bottles out at the aide stations – I felt guilty on the times when I didn’t, not because I should have been drinking more, but because the volunteers spent the whole time in the rain, calling out their offers and I felt bad leaving them hanging.
Rex Lookout was a joy (especially compared to Noosa a fortnight ago), and I loved going past people (we should all know by now I am not competitive, but I do love getting up those hills) – they took me on the descent though; Safety First.
My lower back hurt from about the 120km point, but my shoulders were great (one inch makes all the difference – I discovered the armrest on the left tri-bar was about an inch higher than the right on setup, the adjustment to this I made 10 days earlier made all the difference!)
Coming back into Cairns, it was so exciting to see friends and family on the esplanade. It was bitter-sweet though, as it meant that the ride was done. Tick.
Another speed session! I had decided that a full costume change was in order, so while the lovely volunteer held up my cycling jersey to shield the other athletes’ eyes, I changed into the driest and happiest shorts I own. A quick bathroom stop and of course a chat with the drinks volunteers and I was off!
Three laps; 14km per lap.
“First Lap?” – Red Band.
I was enthusiastic for the first 2km, enjoying the atmosphere. I soon settled in to smiling at runners, volunteers and spectators and reminding myself that one foot in front of the other will get me across the line. Seeing everyone on that first lap (Tarn, Stephanie, Simon, Melissa, Melissa, Jaimee, Bianca, Steve), I made a mental note of where people were so I could prepare and get excited for when I saw them again…
“Second Lap?” – Green Band.
The sunglasses were still on to start – the fact that I was on to lap two and it was still bright was more than I could have asked for myself. Still smiling around the cruise terminal, some of the random spectators commented that I was looking too fresh. Runners moving all over the place to avoid puddles; I told one of them who apologised for knocking me that dodging puddles was a fun part of the challenge.
Coming up to my parents, brother (Rhys) , friends (Alicia) and some new random supporters on the course, Happy Birthday was being sung at full volume and I couldn’t help but smile and laugh at what a crazy and wonderful way this was to spend the day.
I had told myself early on that I could walk through the aide stations, but everywhere else I had to run. Just keep running!
“Third Lap?” – White Band.
At this point there were no doubts, no questions, no sharks, no mental challenges; I knew I was going to finish it – I had known this the whole day. I looked at my watch and two things crossed my mind: I only have one lap to go which if I do in under two hours I will get sub 13hours. The second thing to cross my mind was “Gosh I want to brush my teeth” – so much sugar and flat coke.
Running out to the cruise terminal for the last time, I said goodbye to the volunteer at the turn around point. Running past the SBTC tent, I knew that the next time I saw this awesome bunch of people I would be in the finisher chute. As I ran along the section where you come back on yourself I could hear a booming voice calling out from the darkness “Keep running! I can see you! Stop Laughing! Stop Smiling! Pick up the pace!” – bless my brother and his words of encouragement! In a few hundred metres I would pass them for the last time before the finish line. One last rendition of happy birthday and I was heading out towards the airport for the last time.
Coming along the esplanade was amazing! So many people cheering and supporting, I couldn’t stop smiling even if I tried!
And then…. the finisher chute.
Grabbing my sparkley hat and party blower from Bianca and Steve I was ready to hit the carpet!
It felt automatic…. systematic…. hydromatic! It felt like Grease Lightening!
The sounds of the cheers coming down that line were overwhelming, and my excitement to see all the wonderful people who had supported me over the day cannot be put into words. Those at Cairns in person, and those there in spirit made that finish line even more incredible – thank you all so much!
I danced across that finish line, feeling so happy, so excited and so fortunate to have had the opportunity to do this, to have the support of so many people who made my day awesome.
I danced across that finish line, smiling ear to ear and will always remember the words:
Tiffany Dahl… You are an Ironman!
(The additional thanks – Michelle (Super sister support!), Drew & #teamSST, my girls’ night girls (both groups!), the H2O crew, everyone from Belmed, #shawnutrition everyone who liked my facebook page, commented, supported, trained, encouraged, yelled, fed, high fived…. Thank you all so very much. Cairns Ironman was incredible – I loved every moment and was happy at every moment because of all of you!)
I feel so fortunate to have had so many people that there is the possibility I forgot someone.