What a weekend we had at Port Mac. In a special edition race report you will hear from the supporters, coach and competitors to find out a little more about the Ironman experience.
FROM THE SIDELINE – Eric Brace
If you haven’t heard the saying before, let me tell you, Ironman is a long day out. And whether your day is 9, 10, 11, 12 or even 16 hours long, it’s just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Having watched our entire Ironman crew prepare for this year’s assault on Port Mac I can safely say that it’s the many long lonely hours of training and the tough mental preparation that lays the foundation for the 30 seconds of euphoria as they cross the line to the immortal cries of “You are an Ironman”
But……….. As tough as it was out there last Sunday, I spent the day with another group of high performance athletes. Fast, agile, tech savvy – juggling tracker apps and web pages that wouldn’t load, timing splits and gap times on their watches, following roughly drafted expected timetables, managing complex communication networks and keeping those at home informed. It was the Bayside army of the creature known as the Ironman Spectator and this is their story – The View from the Sideline:
Now don’t underestimate the stamina required to complete a Spectator Ironman. Your special needs bag is on your back all day, there aren’t too many aid stations to quench your thirst, no change tents to ‘slip into something more comfortable’ and you certainly don’t get an early morning dip and a nice sit down for six hours in the middle of the day like some! (ok, excluding the odd schooner at The Royal Hotel as the marathon unfolded). But what a day it was.
Our hardy group of IS (no, not the terrorists – the Ironman Spectators) woke to a spectacular Port Mac day. Barely a breeze, a light mist sitting on the water and just the slightest of chills in the air. Perfect race conditions. The excitement / nerves / apprehension of the athletes was contagious but we all did our best to collect last minute gel wrappers and water bottles before sending the warriors off to battle.
Now, spectating a swim leg is never easy. You all look the same in the water! The vantage point of being up on the bridge as they swam underneath helped. Brendon Boyd saved the day by wearing a bandage on his foot making him easy to spot. Just by chance we managed to sight Sian, having a good swim out in clean water. Darryl came through looking strong – but we couldn’t wait for Nelly! If you ever wanted a good swim tutorial standing above and watching the different stroke styles and their efficiency was an eye opener.
Before long the cheer crew of Sue, Toby, Carol, Al and I made the mad dash (via the aid station / coffee shop) to the exit of T1. It didn’t take long for our team to start pouring out onto the ride leg. This was where we managed to catch up with the 70.3 team who were right in the mix due to the shorter swim leg. As always the mount line didn’t disappoint on entertainment value, and I’m happy to say all Baysiders made a perfect exit and mount with the only incident a stray water bottle that was quickly retrieved. Groups of Red Dog supporters and Shark supporters were starting to mass, so to keep the advantage we regrouped with Second Battalion consisting of Lisa, Steve and Nicola and two little champion cheerers Ella and Dan. After a quick walk up to the PM Hilton (the backpackers) to recruit young Bracey we jumped in the car and headed to Matthew Flinders Drive.
(at this point Nicola Glasper was involved in hand to hand mortal combat with a Sharks supporter and lost a contact lens – but you should have seen the state of the other chick – and had to retreat to the camp ground. Although she did say Nelly looked in better form after she lost the use of one eye!)
Located at 83km into the bike leg (7km before the return to town and start of the second lap or T2 for the 70.3) a fair bit of effort has already been put in before they face the wall that is Matthew Flinders. It’s only a guess, but I’d say 15 to 18% incline, so horrible they put a carpet up the side so if you need to take the walk of shame it doesn’t destroy your cleats! And before long they started to appear. Sian was first, flying up the hill and smiling. I didn’t pay enough attention at the time, but there’s a good chance she was in the big ring! Followed quickly by Brendon who was pulling so hard on the bars his guns were popping out. Then Darryl and then Nelly came flying through. By this stage the perfect weather had started to change and a strong wind coupled with cold rain had hit. The steep incline was getting pretty slippery and quite a few cyclists went over in their attempt to power up the hill.
We started to see the 70.3 contenders coming through with ex-pres Ronan and Kath Smallcombe leading our group. Everyone was looking in good form and racing well. But with the weather closing in we decided to retreat back to town to see the run begin. We were back in time to see the pros hit the run course and they weren’t hanging around.
After a quick stop at Ridgey Didge Pies (gluten free as well) to warm the insides I was standing under the umbrella on the road side at the return to town when Sian came past me doing about 45km / h – in the pouring rain – and still smiling. I didn’t know at the time but her rear tire was completely flat! After watching a few more come home it was time to relocate to the run course and cheer on some more.
First position was at the northern end of the course to catch the 70.3 runners. Our crew was smashing it out and we saw all of them come through, Ronan, Kath, Denise (who had now formed a solid racing group) with Stewart, Aaron and Rachael. It was great how close they all were at this stage of the race.
But now was the time to dig deep and find the extra energy to see this marathon! First and Second Battalion were back together and caught up with Third Battalion made up of Rebecca Woods and the Woodlets. The race was hotting up on all fronts. Our 70.3’s were coming across the line and our IM were well into the first of four run laps. All of our runners seemed to look a lot more comfortable on the second lap than the first, but the weather was turning it on now: cold, wet and miserable. I even considered running 42km just to warm up! The ground in places was turning into a muddy swamp and quite a few people were slipping and sliding as they tried to jump over the worst of it.
As the run developed Sian was deep in battle with two other runners (only one was in her age group) and I had to take Toby for a beer to calm his nerves! Nelly must have slipped into some camouflage run gear because in his 4 laps I didn’t see him once! Messages were flying from the Rock Wall to the Finish line and everywhere in-between.
The atmosphere at the finish line was electric. By this stage we were all in the stands, cheering, clapping and screaming as they all came home to the unmistakable voice of Mike Reilly calling out “You are an Ironman!”
And in case you’re wondering, it’s true. Our very own Darryl Keast has the fastest time in the Strava segment that is the last 30 meters of the race! No one sprints the chute quite like him!
Having moved house on Friday I was feeling a tad guilty of leaving Nicola to unpack the boxes! Duty called however and I was really keen to get to Port to support the Bayside athletes competing in the 70.3 and full Ironman race as well as a few other Next Level coached athletes. Arriving mid-afternoon, courtesy of driver Alwyn Smit, I met up with the athletes on the Rock Wall for a Club photo and some last minute words of encouragement. All the athletes were excited and ready to go.
Race morning saw perfect conditions with warm water and no breeze. The swim went well for all athletes although the 70.3 swim was at least 250m long so the times were slow for everyone. Out on the bike course it was clear that Sian meant business averaging nearly 35kph for the first 90km. While the full distance athletes were back for another 90km lap, with increasing wind and heavy rain having set in, the 70.3 athletes were hitting the run. Denise, Ronan, Stuart, Katherine and Aaron were all within a few minutes of each, other with Rachael not far behind. All of them finished strongly with great times and high placing’s in their age categories.
A word for the spectators: Sue Boyd, The Glaspers, Lisa Jones, Alwyn and Carol, Eric and Ethan, Jowley and Gino were rushing from one end of town to another clocking up over 25km themselves in the wet and now cool conditions. We were not complaining at all and the athletes put on a great show. Special mention to Neil who took around 54 minutes off his previous best Ironman time and of course Sian. Not only did Sian win her age group and placed 6th female overall, it was the manner in which she raced that was so inspiring. She was head to head with her immediate competitors and held her nerve and dug deep to take her win. For over 3 years Sian has had a dream of going to Kona and now she will realize that dream. She is a fine example of what can be achieved with hard work and patience.
Guy Constant 9:33:05 5th Place Kona Qualifier
Sian Reece 10:07:41 1st Place Kona Qualifier
Andrew Palmer 10:27:53
Neil Jones 11:04:52
Brendan Boyd 11:36:16
Darryl Keast 12:43:59 Complimentary trip to Kona!
Denise Sweeney 5:27:38
Ronan Sweeney 5:30:14
Kath Smallcombe 5:31:02
Aaron Woods 5:36:00
Stuart Kemp 5:40:44
Rachael Wicks 6:28:48
Once again Port Mac delivered an epic, unforgettable, challenging, emotional, crazy and amazing day. So many goals were hit, dreams achieved and plans made (ie for the Bayside assault next year) but here are a few things you might not know:
– Gino was a party animal in the grandstands at the finish line, catching the M-dot bug perhaps?!;
– Alwyn Christie bought his special massage magic to some of the crew (he is quickly becoming the club’s secret weapon);
– it poured with rain on the bike and we found out that riding with an aero helmet with rain pelting down on you creates some really strange sounds;
– the run course resembled a tough mudder course in places – everyone’s shoes and possibly Darryl’s feet may never be the same again;
– Brendon proved (mostly to himself) that a car accident, glass embedded in the foot and the general accumulation of a few years is no obstacle to smashing out a very respectable 4th IM finish (and Darryl proved that he thrives on a, shall we say, lower volume training load);
– team Jones and team Glasper took to campervanning with gusto, which was helpful as it gave the team a great viewing point to watch Nelly run a sub 4hr marathon (respect!) with some dubious chiropractor types (aka Sian’s future bridesmaid);
– Sian followed the example of her Jedi master (aka Toby) well, including by riding the last 4k on a flat tyre in the rain, having someone run on her heels for 40 of the 42k run (so annoying!) and enjoying beating the majority of the pro women who were racing; and last but not least
– the Bayside support crew popped up all over the course, giving the athletes racing a massive boost when they needed it most. Thanks everyone so much!
Now that the dust has settled and the legs are starting to ease off, it’s time to reflect on another Ironman race.
So many people have contributed towards my ever improving race day and some will probably be forgotten as I ramble though this post. I apologise now.
Lisa Jones has once again given me all of her support and encouragement as I take up countless hours of our family time. Along with Ella they have been a constant rock in my journey.
Toby Somerville tirelessly pushes me to achieve better things and still believes in my ability to further improve, even in the swim (which takes some belief!). It’s a slow process but the times are falling. Thank you for your belief and guidance.
Nicola Glasper and Steven Glasper you guys rock and help out like no others. Thank you.
Sian Reece, Brendon Boyd, Eric Brace Aaron Woods Gino D’Arienzo Jeff Gordon and all the other countless members of the best Triathlon club you could wish to be part of. You guys help to push all athletes to the next level and beyond.
Rebecca Elkington whilst I didn’t feel exactly as I would hope to have on race day (all my fault (and yes I should have stayed exactly on race plan I know) and certainly not yours) we are working towards a great race day down the track.
Ramble over, 5 1/2 weeks and we get to do it all again at Ironman Cairns!!
What a difference a year makes!