Many thanks to Adam Page, who recently raced Ironman Melbourne, for his race report. For those of you who don’t know “Pagey”, he’s quite the character, always smiling, happy to sledge (and be sledged), passionate about health and fitness and fiercely proud of his beautiful family. What you might not know is that at the age of 11, Pagey was diagnosed with diabetes following a viral illness. Diabetes is one of those conditions that can have a severe impact on the body when doing vigorous exercise so undertaking an Ironman event while managing this disease is a feat unto itself. Hats off to Adam for his honest words about his second Ironman experience.
During my first race (Port Mac) there were often occasions on the bike when my mind would wonder and I would relax, this is when the demons would attack, it was like a little voice saying over and over. ‘Just give up’…to be honest…I reckon I was close to just saying yep, had enough…was tough keeping them at bay, but got it done.
On the weekend at Melb they came more often and with venom. .. During the swim when my right hip cramped and I thought I was going to sink it was Grants advice on 3 key factors which helped me keep going, long arms, do catch up to get stroke back and breath and pull all the way through…by concentrating on those three things it distracted me from my hip, which with 400m to go thought was going to hit my left hip and then I was a goner….I won’t lie…cried when I got out of water and thought to myself. ‘ f () k I nearly drowned then’. Glad no photos of that!
Bike was hell, the 27km mark was one of the big demons, I was going at 28km/h and the wind started punching me in the face, I thought that I couldn’t get through it , my body said give up but my brain said ‘km at a time. .. Give you another km body to recover. .. So slowed up and before I knew it I was at first turn around…Got to bottom of tunnel and clicked down gears quickly and threw the chain…usually I’d throw a tantrum but just hopped off, stretched , put chain back on and took off again…next hour was fun and I reckon I sang Mr Jones 10 times in a row and finished with Better Man for 4-5 times (I can’t sing either , would have been horrendous hearing it).
The 2nd turn around was fun because I got to see Amy.. Can’t explain it but when you see a familiar face you stick your chest out and smile …sort of like saying. ‘Im all good’ when often you feel like death warmed up but you don’t want to worry your loved one.
It’s funny how things occur because the night before the race I watched a movie called John Wick which had a character called the Boogee Man in it which John Wick kills…so for some weird reason my brain used this to shoot down these Boogee man demons which kept trying to slow me down or stop me…picture me going ‘ratta ta tat, ratta ta tat, BANG BANG along a highway with noone around as loud as I could ….yes..weird but it’s amazing the games the mind plays to keep you going on a 180km ride.
At 150km I stopped to test my blood sugar and to stretch …not because Demons got me but because I’d overcome them…I could feel I was being drained so checked and I was 3.6… On the way to what could be a bad scenario and I nipped it in the bud…cost me 5 mins but I didn’t care, whereas in the past I wouldn’t have stopped…kept going and probably wouldn’t have finished.
Off I went again and then the ‘son of a bitch wind’ decided to turn and go from a northerly to a southerly …the last 20km became harder than I had thought but again…started laughing and sang ‘you’ve got to go now, you’ve got to say goodbye’ can’t remember which song it was from but sang it for 3 km and then pissed myself laughing cos wind didn’t listen. Why the laughing I can hear you say, well on my bike I had written on strapping tape ‘Don’t forget to have fun – laugh ‘.. I’d also written my wife’s name and the kids names. … Just to keep me inspired. Laughing was the key ..yes it was painful laughing but I do think it helped me relax the muscles.
Knew once I got to 3 km from end of bike that my arse could get a rest and I could stretch the legs out …..it was dead set gold when I saw the specialised sign with people standing waiting to grab my bike ….I did say ‘thanks bike … You rock….wind…you are still a f() kwit’.
It was hard coming into transition cos there were fat guys, old guys and very unfit looking people in there, tough to see that they were in here before you but took slight pleasure in them all saying the same thing ‘don’t think I’ll make the run’…my PT brain took over and when I was dressed and about to leave I yelled out ‘f king nice day for a jog boys, let’s go grab ourselves a medal at St Kilda’ , turned my hat around and did my best Lleyton Hewitt impression ‘Come On!’…it brought a laugh so hope it worked.
Started the run and both hips were cramping as was right quad, took 4 salt tablets but forgot to grab water, so had them sitting under my tongue slowly evaporating until I got back to transition after you have to do a 1.6 Km run south before heading home to St Kilda. Saw Amy at about 2km mark and she perked me up,..needed that ….and headed off…cramps wouldn’t release so could only run 300m and walk 300m…the first part of run was weird as it was along a trail next to houses, good though as people would spray you with water. Got to 6km and I could feel my quads cooking, took on board some water, Endura and coke but got to 8km and cramps hadn’t gone and was feeling crap….two blokes caught up to me both in my age group and they said they were going to run to 10km mark and said come with us…I couldn’t say no but that was an extremely painful 2km as cramps kept going…made it to 10km and more food and drink and salt tablets and when I got to 15 km Amy was there with a Calipo ice cream which was awesome …I reckon I would have killed anyone who tried to take it…don’t know why but it worked and cramps went….pushed on running 900m and then walking 100 m.
Made it to 21km and saw Amy again, she got me to pose for some photos and off I went…heading home….the worst section though came at 30 km when both hammies and quads cramped at same time…picture me walking like a zombie with legs out at 45 degrees yelling. ‘Come on ya f;( king stupid legs … Just work’…. Cramps lasted for 2-3km and it was then that I thought..don’t think I’ll make it Pagebet…it was that comment Pagebet that got me thinking, i would bet on me every day of the week to finish this race so come on, harden up and let’s just get it done….body started to listen and at 35 km mark I could run freely again….it wasn’t til I reached 40km mark that I could honestly say I’d get there …when I reached 41 km I decided to just go and finish race off and leave nothing in the tank, I remember seeing Andy then Dave and a glimpse of Amy as I ran down finish chute….I was excited but to tell you the truth…I just tried to stay upright, I barely made it to the priority viewing seats where I chatted to people who were waiting for their mates to arrive… A lady asked ‘how are you feeling?’ I cried and said ‘I got nothing left’.. She hugged me and said ‘you made it mate, you’re awesome’
Finally got into recovery area and the guy who I had played leap frog all day came over and gave me a hug and thanked me for keeping him going…said my little ‘keep going buddy’ every time he overtook me or I overtook him helped he keep going. I said he did the same.
Most people would ask why do an Ironman? Well, I did my first to say I could do it…but this one was more important…I did this one to push my body to the max, go as hard as I could and see what could happen and if I had the mental strength to overcome obstacles. Did I train enough? No, I did not , didn’t ride over 90km or run over 22km or swim over 1.5 km in a session….honestly. ..just didn’t have time with 2 jobs, kids and normal stuff, I did as much as I could, no excuses but it’s hard to train with ‘life’ happening. Another negative or positive was that 95% of all sessions were done by myself…a lot of time by yourself but I learnt to push myself and deal with boredom.
For most poor swimmers it’s lonely on the bike because you hardly have anyone around you, you can’t get done for drafting because now one to draft from, and run is boring cos everyone is nearly finished…is it harder for slower people… I reckon it is because you have to do it yourself. I know in half marathons you can pace off people and catch people etc but in an ironman when you do 14 hours plus…it’s a lonely experience and that’s why you need to deal with both boredom and demons.
I can’t harp on how very important it is to have a support person there on race day, Amy wasn’t coming to start with but I wouldn’t have made it if she wasn’t there, I only saw her for 4 mins of entire day but those 4 mins were so important. Just seeing her and getting her encouragement was gold….kept me going.
So, what do I honestly think of Ironman Triathlons? It is physically and mentally the hardest thing I will ever do, you can’t hide, you can’t fake it and you sure as hell can’t complete it unless you are willing to pay the price, the price is physical and mental exhaustion beyond your wildest dreams. In my honest opinion if you can beat the mental part of race and if you’ve done ‘enough’ training you can finish it!
Would I suggest people try one? I would, but I’d ask this question before entering ‘if your body goes, over and over and over again, do you have the mental strength to keep going, even if you have to lift your own legs for 300 or 400 m with your arms if the cramps or fatigue get so bad? If you can say YES, then give it a go, but if you pause then Ironman racing isn’t for you.
Finally, just getting to the start line is an achievement , the race, well, it’s not all about the base, it’s all about the pain and mental management !
Will I do another ? Probably not, not unless Sam or Ryan want to do one with me when I turn 55. Til then…well…I might aim to swim English Channel or ride in Tour De France …actually I might stick to my strength and try and run a sub 4hr marathon…should be easy without a 3.8km swim and 180km ride before it!
Pagey…always a glass half full sort of guy.