So four and a half months ago I went to a social SBTC gathering at Cowch to suss it all out as I’d gotten word that I had to hang up the basketball boots because the old knees just weren’t having it anymore. I was a bit apprehensive because triathlons seem a bit far fetched and triathletes were a different kind of person but I met some great people, a few drinks were had and I left with the mentality I was going to complete a half ironman (Thanks Simone and Scott). I had never run more than 7km, couldn’t ride a bike and the last time I was in a pool swimming was in grade 10 when they made me so naturally it all made sense.
So here I am on the eve of my first 70.3 after only ever hobbling through one other triathlon at Straddie Salute carrying plantar fasciitis and I was absolutely shitting myself. Saturday morning came way too fast and I waited for Paul to pick me up while I packed and unpacked my bags dead set I was going to forget something. I was glad I was going into this with somebody who was a seasoned triathlete because he had been there, done it and lived to tell the tale. We headed down the Coast and I pestered him the whole way asking every question under the sun and making him go through what we had to do when we got there about 700 times which I know he loved.
We arrived and unpacked, went to the expo and checked in. I received my race pack, they rang the little bell for the first timers, people clapped and I suddenly realised shit is getting real now. Classic me forgot all of my race day nutrition so I had to go buy everything there. You know what they say, don’t try anything new on race day….. but everything was new for me because I hadn’t done this before so what the hell. Next stop: TRANSITION I got a bit carried away looking at everyone else’s bikes, getting crazy bike envy and analyzing their set up.
This was pretty intimidating because you suddenly realise these are all REAL triathletes. I was racked right next to Emma Quinn who I secretly admire. She’s one of the head coaches at T Zero Multisport and just such a workhorse. She’s achieved so much for her age and her transition stuff was so neat and tidy. I put everything out and walked out of transition even more scared than before. We went back to the apartment and hung out, was such a good group of people to share a hotel with. The banter really calmed me and for a few hours I forgot what I was here to do. We got all of our race gear ready for the next day, had some dinner and off to bed we go.
I woke up incredibly early and incredibly nervous at 445am. We all had breakfast and headed out the door to transition to set up everything for the final time. Weather was perfect, water was calm and I met a fellow newbie next to me who gave me a banana which was kind of like a sign that we were in this together. We joked about how ridiculous what we were about to do was. I saw Daz and grabbed his pump off him because I almost forgot to pump my tyres back up and then it was time to dump my bag and head to the start line. I found Emma Sunley’s smiling face on the way out and she headed up to the tent with me and helped me get into my wetsuit (which I had only used once). She taught me how to get it off quickly and then all of a sudden I looked at my watch and it was show time. I got down to the start line with 5 minutes to spare, no time to warm up and freaking the f&*% out. I saw Cassie at the start line thank god and she helped me just get my shit together. The only two open water swims I’ve done I’ve had mini panic attacks in the water and have to doggy paddle for a good twenty minutes before I calm down so I was just hoping against hope that wouldn’t happen. And off we went.
I waited for the crowd to jump in and then felt the cold water hit my toes and I thought to hell with it and jumped in head first. I just kept talking to myself in my head and telling myself to calm down. I felt a little bit breathless about 300m in and rolled onto my back to get my head together and then continued on. I swam really wide of everyone and although it probably added on quite a bit of distance it was one of the main reasons I think I got through the swim without many troubles. I came out of the water at 37 minutes which I was happy with and ran up the tunnel to transition. As I was running through transition I saw my family and instantly wanted to cry because I really wanted them to be there. I stopped to take a few photos and wiggled out of my wetsuit, put my helmet and shoes on, unracked my bike and ran up to the mount line.
A few people almost hit me on my way out but I got out onto the road and just felt a rush of relief. The bike is my favourite leg and the only one I feel really comfortable in so I was in a little wonderland just riding out on the open roads. I managed to catch a fair few people which was great for my confidence and just started to actually enjoy it. All I could hear in my head was David Witham saying “Don’t smash yourself, be conservative so you can get through the run”. I was so tempted to smash the bike leg but I took it pretty cruisy and soaked it up, saw some familiar faces which made it all the more enjoyable.
The only dampener on the ride was the fact my chain came off and I was a little paranoid of drafting so I was either super far behind people or super wide when I passed but other than that it was a success. It was an awesome track with a couple of hills but nothing too wild and before I knew it I was heading back into transition. This is when I realised I enjoyed it a bit too much and forgot to eat. I’d only had 2 gels and a bottle and a half of Endura but it was too late to think about it now. I rolled into transition with a 2:49 on the bike which I was stoked with because my only goal was to go sub 3 on the bike. I racked my bike, got my shoes and the hell of the first half marathon I have ever done was about to begin.
This is where the wheels all came off. It was hot and I had been training in winter early in the morning, my nutrition went out the door on the ride and I was playing catch up to stay cool, hydrated and keep my energy levels at some kind of normal. I came up over the first hill and back over and immediately felt like I was going to throw up. 3kms in I ducked into a toilet just in case and it was the most disgusting thing I have ever seen (only beaten by the toilets on the Inca Trek). I came out and just struggled on the first lap, my watch kept beeping every km and I could see my pace was not where I wanted it to be, I was getting frustrated, feeling really defeated and the feeling of being sick just kept building so I turned my watch off and thought screw it, you have come this far, just get to the end.
On about the 9th km I stopped feeling sick but my energy levels were pretty much shot so I walked through every aid station, skulling red bull and taking a clif blok at every one to get to the end. I came through the first lap and saw my family again and it lifted me out of the dark depths of wherever I was. I came over the hill to hear the cheers from the Green Army and realised I was on the home stretch of a HALF IRONMAN. I started to relax into it, started chatting to fellow competitors and before I knew it I had caught up to a Gavin Tye who was also doing his first 70.3 from Southbank and we were staring down the barrel of the 20km mark. There are no words to describe the feeling of knowing it’s almost over. I heard the cheers from the SBTC tent as I was coming up over that bitch of a hill and came down into the finishers shute and crossed the line at 5:50.
I was so relieved for it to all be over and the realization that I just completed a Half Ironman became pretty real. I walked out and my family were there to hug me and told me how proud they were. I can’t explain that feeling but all I know is I want to feel it again.
Featured photo credit: Taryn Richardson, used with permission.