My Journey to Ironman
My name is Rod Smith, I am married with 2 girls aged 6 and 3. I am a self trained from a small Country town called Bairnsdale, which is 3hrs drive east of Melbourne. We have a great club and I get the opportunity to train with some fantastic people including my two older brothers, who make the training a lot easier and fun. It is sometimes difficult to live in the country and not have coaching readily available, but the big advantage we do have is the area we live in is one big playground for a triathlete, with endless training opportunities that just makes you want to get outdoors and train. I hope that some people will read this and think to themselves, “gee if he could do this why couldn’t I”. I often hear people say “I could never do that” I believe if you are willing to do the work required and believe in yourself, just about anyone can do an Iron distance event.
For me my journey into triathlon started about 6 years ago. Not long after I got married we got our wedding photos back from the photographer and I was not happy with what I saw. At the time of getting married I was nearing 90kg which is pretty heavy for me (I now weigh 65kg). At this stage I couldn’t even run one lap of the oval at the local secondary school without stopping, which is only 400mtrs. Being a smoker at this time didn’t help things either.
I started walking and riding to lose weight and got my weight down to about 75kg, it was at about this time I would see people riding past the front of my house every Tuesday night who were competing in the local Mini Tri’s, and it got me thinking I should go and give this triathlon thing a go. I rocked up to do my first Mini Tri (200mtr swim, 9km ride, 2km run) on my trusty old Mongoose mountain bike, the 200mtr swim nearly killed me, having to stop at each end to catch my breath. Once out on the bike I remember doing it hard and watching all these people flying past me on their road bikes and I thought to myself “I need to get myself one of those things”. The run felt like it was 22km not 2km, but I finished and I loved every minute of it. From what I remember I think my first ever Mini Tri time was somewhere around 35minutes
I went home that night to tell my wife Crystal all about it, and how I needed one of those road bikes. Chances have it that the next day there was a road bike in the local paper for sale, so I went and checked it out, and at the hefty cost of $1100 second hand I thought this thing must be one of the best bikes in town. So now I had my road bike I was set, I just needed some of those funny looking shorts that they all wear, but you would never catch me in one of those suits, not a chance (funny how things change, I now have quite a collection of suits). With my new bike and shorts I managed to drop 5 minutes.
It was about this time I started thinking maybe if I gave up smoking I could do even better, this took a little longer than it should of but I got there in the end. I still struggled with my breathing for a long time after quitting (being asthmatic doesn’t help either). One day while at work, my work mates and I had a peakflow meter that we were trying out, I had the worst reading of everyone. I thought how could this be? I’m heaps fitter than them and some of them are smokers as well. So off to the doctor I went where I had a lung function test done, to my shock I found I had the lung function of a 73 year old. I was prescribed a preventer to help with this which I still have to use to this day.
Back to the triathlons, I remember the local club president trying to talk me into doing one of the local sprint races at Eagle Point, and I was saying “but its a 500mtr swim, there is no way I can swim that far”. He ended up talking me into doing it and had a wetsuit for me to borrow. The night before the event we had a massive down pour of rain and the event had to be cancelled, I was far from disappointed as I was absolutely crapping myself. I ended up doing my first Sprint Distance triathlon at Marley Point not long after that. My next step up in distance came when I did the last Olympic Distance triathlon in Bairnsdale, at the time of doing this it felt massive to me, and just to get through it was a huge achievement. The swim seemed to go on forever, then the ride and that run!!
It was a while before I decided to look at doing anything longer than this, and I remember saying to Crystal at one stage “I would maybe be keen to do a Half Ironman one day, but I have no intentions of ever doing a full Ironman”. I decided to do the Triman Half Ironman triathlon in Torquay, which once again was a huge thing for me to commit to. Leading into this race was the most nervous I have ever been before a race (even more so than when I did my Ironman). I remember finishing and being a bit emotional and saying to Crystal “oh well there is only one more to go now” and it was at that time I knew I had to do a full Ironman to finish my journey.
Crystal rang me at work one day and told me that she had been reading a race report on a guy from Marlo that did the Port Macquarie Ironman, and that entries opened on that day for the following years event (Ironman entries usually open and sell out 12 months in advance). “you should just do it” she said to me, and I thought why not. Only having a few hours to think about it before entries opened was probably a good thing as I didn’t have too long to think about it and change my mind. By 12:30 that day I was entered for the 2012 Port Macquarie Ironman, no turning back now.
I did a 20 week training program in the lead up to the Ironman, and spent many hours a week swimming riding and running. This was the most prepared I have ever been for an event, possibly a little over done as I had three sinus infections in the lead up to the Ironman. The last infection was only two weeks out from the Ironman and really knocked me around, so I went with the less is more approach and had complete rest for a week, then just did some light training the week leading into the Ironman. The forced rest may have been a good thing, who knows? The thing is there will always be set backs and things that hinder your training, but I think it is how you deal with the setbacks that makes the difference. I just went with a positive approach and thought to myself “oh well maybe the rest will be a good thing” and tried not to let it get me down.
Finally race day arrived and I was feeling good and not too nervous, and ready to go. I loved every minute of the race, ok maybe not every minute because at about the 25km mark of the run it started to hurt a lot, but that makes finishing that bit more satisfying and special. It definitely helped having my kids and family there cheering me on when it got tuff. The day does go really quick and I guess in some ways is easy compared to the time you put into training, for me I kept telling myself ‘it’s only one day’. I finished my first Ironman in a time of 10hrs 37 min.
Since completing my first Ironman at Port Macquarie I have had the privilege of completing a Half Ironman (Canberra 70.3) and another full Ironman (Ironman Melbourne) with my two older brother’s, which is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life as one of my major highlights. My two older brothers Paul and Toby have a similar story to myself and were both overweight before deciding to give this triathlon thing a go. I think it’s safe to say that they are hooked on it as well. The main focus here was to ensure that I beat both of them at these two events, who doesn’t want to beat their own siblings? I am happy to announce that I achieved this.
My race at Canberra went well apart from a flat tyre, but I was happy with my finishing time of, 4 hrs 38min. The Melbourne Ironman was a very tuff day and started with the swim being shortened to 1500mtr, the ride was very windy and took a lot out of my legs. I struggled on the run mentally to push through the pain, but overall I am fairly happy with my result. I know I could have done better if I could have pushed through the pain a bit, but that’s ok because that just means I will have to do another Ironman to make up for it. My finishing time at Melbourne Ironman was 9hrs 33min.