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Ironman Western Australia Race Report 2012

December 29th, 2012

Ironman Western Australia 2012

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do” Confucius – Chinese philosopher (551 BC – 479 BC)

“Swim 3.8KM – Bike 180 KM – Run 42.2Km …. Brag for the rest of your life” (John Collins: Founder of the Hawaii Ironman) in a 1978 speech to the first contestants prior to the first ever Ironman.

……..with the 17 hour deadline rapidly approaching I shuffled slowly and painfully towards the final turnaround in dark lonely solitude. The only sounds, the echo of my shoes slapping the pavement coupled with the humming of the diesel generator for the light towers, my beacon and objective seemingly far in the distance. In the Ironman away from the crowds and the finish line, deep in the darkness, life becomes so simple. It’s just you and your aspirations. A never ending mental conflict with the mental demons furiously debating how bad you want that finisher’s medal versus the all too easy choice of not completing the journey at hand. Painful blisters on my left foot a constant reminder of what I was doing and my body’s subsequent response. Intermittent muscle spasms racked my quads and calves soliciting concern. Quick calculations revealed that my slow walk probably wouldn’t get me there in time and a concerted effort in the form of a run would be required. “Eat the Pain!” a phrase shouted out to Pete Jacobs in the latter stages of the 2011 Hawaii Ironman sprung immediately to mind. I was determined to finish this Ironman my 8th attempt at Ironman Western Australia, and slowly but surely, painful step by painful step I increased the pace, only 4km and the pain ends…..or at least is diminished by the reassuring weight of the finisher’s medal draped around your neck.

….almost 17 hours earlier, I had stood on the shore of Geographe Bay adjacent to the iconic Busselton Jetty surrounded by numerous aspiring Ironmen (and women), one of whom was my lovely wife, Christine, traditionally my greatest supporter as a spectator, who this year was taking the plunge literally for the first time years after almost 10 years of spectating my triathlons. She was part of what was a large proportion of first timers commonly referred to as iron virgins, many of whom I’m sure were suffering nervous tension far in excess of mine contemplating the significant distances the Ironman encompasses . I’m also sure it was with a shared sense of trepidation that we gazed together at the rough waters, as no doubt the majority had been hoping for a relatively flat water swim. I had no real concerns about the swim having previously completed it seven times in previous years here. I made a real commitment to myself at the end of last year after withdrawing from the 2011 Ironman WA 21km into the marathon to step up my training to ensure a finish this year. Having completed the first five Ironman WA’s, it was a sense of huge disappointment to have not finished the last two and so I had completed my largest yearly volume of swimming in 15 years in preparation, over 200km, coupled with over 6000KM on the bike. Unfortunately due to fairly debilitating calf injuries all year, my running had been virtually non-existent as every effort to run ended up in either an extremely painful walk or ultimately pulling up or withdrawing for the most part.
On this occasion I had decided to move off the beach and out into the water prior to the start. Might as well save myself a few meters. The gun sounded and almost simultaneously the water around me erupted in furious movement. Ironman Number 16 was underway and the biggest washing machine cycle in triathlon had commenced. It always takes a few hundred meters to find your own personal space and even then there’s always a few that want to share it with you, whether it be too draft or through an impressive display of non-existent navigation skills. My navigation is not always the greatest, although once I settle into a rhythm the swim is usually fairly uneventful. As we approached the turn at the end of the jetty and headed back the swell became noticeably larger making it hard to choose a good line, no doubt adding a few meters to the overall distance. I was hoping to go under the 1:30 mark so was a bit disillusioned to see 1:33 on the watch as I exited, never mind I still felt OK.
Into transition one and I spent longer than usual to get dressed into the cycle outfit and out onto the bike. My wife’s bike was still sitting beside mine as I ran out into the transition as expected; however, I was surprised to still see numerous bikes still racked as I ran out. Perhaps others had also had trouble battling the ocean as well. Onto the bike and every cyclist’s arch nemesis, the wind made its presence felt almost immediately. I had set myself a sub-seven hour goal on the bike to allow myself sufficient time to walk the marathon home due to concerns over my calf injuries. So pedal to the medal, hug the aero position and try and get as close to 2:10 on the first lap as I could. Despite the wind I felt OK on the first lap and was able to maintain the goal pace, even passing my friend Jill early who I know to be a fairly strong cyclist/swimmer. I passed her strongly to at least give the semblance I was feeling good and she fell into a position a couple of hundred meters back of me. Coming out of Forest Ocean Road I saw my wife for the first time entering it, so was happy for her knowing she had made the swim cut-off Ok. I knew it had been a major concern of hers for most of the year leading up to the Ironman. She just had the bike to conquer which is always an unknown when you haven’t done the distance before. My gradual effort on the bike displayed in lap one slowly but surely diminished as the distance and the day progressed becoming a real effort…….
The weather gods almost always serve up a hot day here at Busso and today did not break that trend. Into the 2nd lap I could feel the burning sensation in the balls of my feet slowly intensifying. Year after Year it results in me taking my feet out of my shoes during the ride and placing them on top of my shoes to enable me to continue as the pain become excruciating. Although I felt that I have put in plenty of cycling throughout the preceding year, my lack of long rides started to make its presence felt as the kilometres ticked off. In what became a trend throughout the last ½ of the cycle leg I started stopping at Aid Stations and replenishing my bottles due to difficulty getting enough fluids into the hydration system on the aerobars. On a couple of occasions I suffered severe and racking cramps almost causing me to fall over as I put my feet onto the ground. This has never happened to me before and was a serious concern. I had been taking saltstick tablets regularly throughout the ride, something I don’t normally do, so was at a loss to explain why this happened. I lost a lot of time in the last lap and was frustrated by the fact that most competitors I had passed earlier re-passed me. However, 7 hours and 30 mins after mounting the bike I rolled into Transition number 2. I had not seen Christine since the 2nd lap of the bike so was pretty certain she had withdrawn for some reason. I found out later she had crashed on a roundabout at the end of the 2nd lap and after having her bike fixed and injuries tended had decided to withdraw thinking she could not beat the 3rd lap bike cut-off in the allotted time.
With the earlier than normal start we may have been spared some heat on the bike but not so for the Marathon. I spent almost 20 mins in Transition 2 fully strapping my calves with tape that I had packed in my run bag. 7 hours 30 mins remained as I walked out into the stifling heat to commence the 42km Marathon. Totally doable but would still require some effort on my part. One other given at Busselton is the flies, swarms of them constantly haranguing every competitor especially those walking. I had made a decision to walk the 1st 10.5km lap of the Marathon and then see how my calves felt. It was slow and very hot and with the constant stream of flies crawling over my face very frustrating having to use the extra effort to continually brush them away. I’m not real fast in the Marathon given I normally walk a significant proportion of the run leg so I always calculate my effort to make the cut-off. To finish the Ironman for many is the only goal, myself included and times to a large extent are irrelevant. Over the next 2 laps, I combined the occasional shuffling with walking and didn’t think I would be as tight as it become in the last lap time wise. Night is always a welcome respite in the Ironman, bringing with it, respite from the heat and flies. After I collected my band at the start of the last lap and was coming back from the western end of the course I could see there were still more than a dozen competitors behind me. I thought that quite a few wouldn’t make the final cut-off as I know that Officials pull competitors off course if they consider they won’t finish in time. Always a sad ending to a heroic effort. Volunteers as always are fantastic and often amusing with the red morph suited cheer squad with their megaphone toasting me with beer and promising to save a cold one for me, the medical aid station dressed up as Doctors and Nurses, along with friends also competing and family shouting non –stop encouragement. It’s important to finish for them as well as yourself. About 3 KM to go and it was tight. I was running and settled into steady run pace, my fastest by far in the Marathon. I was bringing this one home !
Out of the darkness, one of the volunteers materialised, my friend Tolley rode up beside me on a mountain bike and said “Don’t do this to me again Wayne!” He was referring to my 2008 finish here when I had to run the last 8Km and crossed the line in 16:58 as the last official finisher making the television coverage of the race that year, running down the finish Shute between the volunteers who linked their arms over the top to create a tunnel for me too run through for my 10th Ironman finish. The next day Tolley had presented me with a bottle of Champagne saying I had totally inspired him with my effort. We have been friends ever since. I was determined not to run it so close this time.

As I approached the finish line I knew I was going to do it with a few minutes to spare but continued to run it home anyway. The finish Shute is always a magical place with the loud pumping music, bright lights and screaming supporters. All the pain seems to disappear as you see that finish line you have visualised all year long in training and dreams. It all becomes a blur. I raise both fists in the air. Once again an Ironman. Mission accomplished.

Of course I have now signed up for Ironman Western Australia 2013 as has my wife, Christine.

SWIM: 1:34:38 – BIKE: 7:30:32 – RUN: 7:22:04 – 16:56:19

By Wayne Metcalfe

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