Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Iron Ore What

Having moved to the Rio Tinto family 6 weeks back from MineSight it was time to get my feet wet and go and visit one of the sites. This would be a great way to see how RTIO (Rio Tinto Iron Ore) do things, from a geology, systems and mining point of view. The trip I managed to piggy back on was to the Brockman 4 mine, about 60km from Tom Price in the WA Pilbara region.

The trip started on Tuesday afternoon after a normal work day with a flight from Perth to Paraburdoo on a Network Aviation plane operated by Qantas. Fortunately this isn't a particularly long flight and we checked in to the Rocklea Palms camp in town around 630. Then it was dinner and bed before heading to the mine the next day.

We left camp, picked up one of the Technical Assurance team members (3 from that group and me from the Geology Systems department in the travel group) in Paraburdoo and then had the drive to Brockman 4. This takes you through Tom Price, a lot of rolling landscape and some beautiful country. You just need to be aware of cattle and kangaroos. And 150 kilometres later we were there.

Through the boom gates, past a fully loaded train waiting to depart, and then arriving at the mine offices and in to meet the geology team. The trip itself was actually so the TA group and the mine geologists could all get on the same page for a project to be implemented over the summer. This allowed everyone to get on the same page and share knowledge and thoughts. This certainly helped me with my understanding of the RTIO mine geology work practices and also allowed me to see how the systems could potentially be improved as well.

The day was spent going through the processes involved for all stakeholders in the new processes to be brought in on site. Commitments and reassurances from the different groups (the implementation as well as the geology and management divisions). This then led on to a more informal geology meeting where specific examples were discussed and information gathered so that the tools in use could be improved, both software and manual steps taken. This allowed for the technical difficulties to be better discussed and understood by all which will allow for a much greater success margin in the future. So after a hard days talking and learning it was time to head back to camp and enjoy a bbq dinner put on for an informal team building exercise. 

Thursday was shift change day and we were down a team member for the day due to illness. Prior to heading up to site I had been in contact with the metallurgists in order to get a look around the LGPP (a pilot plant to see how different iron ore materials go through the separation process before being stockpiled and transported to the customers), so this was first on our mornings agenda. It may not have been the full sized plant, but it had all the same parts and processes. A tour of the plant for an hour was very informative and allowed us to see the basic process of the ore separation, from removing the lump product to separating the fines through a flotation tank.

The rest of the day was spent with both geology and sampling teams to convey more information relating to the project. For me this started with actually meeting the other half of the crew, then absorbing a handover. I haven't had to do one for most of a decade now, but those I've seen since all follow the same basic formula. There's still some frantic note passing, a pit tour and the zoning in and out of the new and old crew. I just made sure I kept out of the way.

By the time the old crew flew out and we had a few minutes with the new crew, it was home time for the day. This let the new guys get on with their work while we went and relaxed. So I figured an 8km run was a good thing. I won't complain about it being 35 degrees after what Sunday was for those who were competing in the Mandurah Half, but then I haven't been doing any training of late either. That's just starting.

Friday was our fly out day. And almost as good was the chance to get down into the pit and see what was going on, play with some rocks and pretend to be a geo again for just a little bit. The Brockman 4 deposit has a multi decade mine life and it's still very early days in the mining cycle. That said there are already 5 separate pits being mined and some of these will merge together over time.

The geology of the area is actually pretty interesting (if you like that sort of thing) and of importance to all the mining companies and mines in the Pilbara is the stratigraphic sequence and where you are in them. There are several marker horizons that show through the Brockman 4 pits that are easily discernible and match up with many other pits in the Pilbara. So I got a little bit of a geology talk while we were in the pit as did the new geos from one of the more experienced Pilbara geologists who was in the car with us. Plus we looked at some faces, watched a little bit of mining and got out and played with some of the rocks in an area away from the trucks. The rest of the morning was a little more serious and similar to the first day on site, but the morning was certainly interesting (and fun).

Then the drive back to Paraburdoo for the flight back to Perth in the evening. The drive was certainly a little more subdued compared to the drive in to site, but I think that is normal. We were comparing it to heading home after a holiday, everyone's a little tired and worn out. So through the metal detectors and board a Skywest plane operated by Virgin. But then they did buy them out for the mining contracts in the not too distant past.

Overall it was a good trip. The chance to see how the site processes work in a production environment was really informative and the LGPP was an interesting place to wander around as well. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

MineQuest Perth 2014

The MineQuest Perth 2014 at the Esplanade Hotel in Fremantle was quite a successful one, with nearly 40 clients coming down to see the new improvements to the software, and hear a bit about some of our new family companies in the Hexagon group. The news of sale of Mintec to Hexagon some months ago now has been positively received by clients, especially as they know that the MineSight product and service will not be diminished by the move. MineQuest provided an opportunity for SafeMine and Jigsaw to show their product as well, both of which were very interesting to those in attendance. MineQuest is always a great time to catch up with clients, both new and existing. It is particularly good for allowing both clients and MineSight staff to put faces to names, as well as discuss ways to improve the process for both sides.

Thursday started with registration before Glenn Wylde gave an overview of how MineSight fits in with the Hexagon group, the newly developed Hexagon Mining and the companies and services making that up, and a quick overview of the new functionality coming in MineSight. The more detailed product development would come through the presentations relevant to that particular program. Mark Gabbitus then presented the Implicit Modeler tool and the improvements and functionality that have been added to the tool over the last year since its release. This is a very useful tool and one I made good use of a week ago while running training with Phonesack at their Kaleum coal project.
MineSight Atlas, Planner and the unfolding utilities made up the next three presentations. This was good as Atlas continues to be a flagship product, MSPlanner is a new tool for us and replaces the outgoing MSIP toolset. And Grant McEwen presented the unfolding utilities, comprising Relative Surface Interpolator and the Dynamic Unfolding tools. This was important for a few of our clients and allows MineSight to accurately calculate the true distances along a fold instead of just the vector distance. This brought us to lunch and another chance to catch up with the clients and discuss more than just work.

Verne Vice led the after lunch presentations by bringing out some tips and tricks to working with MineSight 3D. This is always helpful and people tend to learn something new, regardless of how small it is. Rohan Anchan then presented the new and improved Reserve utility. This works in that is combines the 4 different ways of reporting reserves in the past and brings it all together in a new and modern way. The ease of which this tool is set up and used was a surprise to one of the Boddington representatives who is looking forward to implementing its use on site.
After an afternoon break the final presentations for the first day were under way. Mark was back to talk about the Performance Manager. This tool allows users to track key metrics regarding the drill and blast process, dig rates and truck locations which allows the user to reconcile and hopefully improve the blasting and mining process to better improve productivity and profit. The last presentation of the day was Andrew Baxter showing the new Stope and underground design tools. When combined with MSAtlas this allows for MineSight to be a complete underground solution for the engineering department. A quick discussion with the attendees then commenced regarding future development. This included both where MineSight is heading as well as what the clients would like to see added and improved in the software. The good news arising here is the potential for the MineSight software to leverage some of the tools and abilities from the other softwares within the Hexagon group. Whether this be to give more functionality to our plotting tools, add in some GIS abilities or just better interact with the likes of Jigsaw and SafeMine, the potential for the software group and Hexagon Mining is huge.

Then it was time for some drinks and canap├ęs for those attending MineQuest. Again, this allowed for clients and MineSight staff to have a chat, whether it be the mining industry, software usage, needs and wants, or the world cup. The only solace to Australia being knocked out already is that so too are England. And the odd quality team like Spain, who really aren't that quality so far.

Day two brought out most of the same people, with a few clients not making it and a few others showing up who couldn't attend Thursdays sessions. While Thursday had been a single room for the feature presentations, Friday would have MineQuest split into two rooms, one predominantly for the engineers and the other more geologically related. I was lucky enough to spend my day in the geology room so I didn't have to interact with the engineers (ewww, icky people :p ).
The geology day started with Anurag Sharma running a workshop about the workflow of sub-blocking in MineSight. The only real query about sub-blocking was about how we treat the child blocks compared to other software providers. In this way we are unique in that we store our sub-block information to an SQL-light file which allows for greater flexibility and quicker response times within MS3D. After a break Andrew was back up and talking about using Implicit Modeler and Unfolding to create better grade models. This led to a lot of healthy discussion regarding our implicit modelling tool, surface generation and manipulation, and work flows. The conversation also somehow moved into a little bit of MSAxis and validating and archiving data for later auditing and recreation if required.

Then it was time for lunch again. Though on the way to lunch I stopped and helped Dallas from Crystal Sun Consulting and we had a bit of a chat through the ease of use with MSTorque and its ability to reproduce and exceed the abilities of the files 11 and 12. This would allow for better abilities when it came to compositing, but also for him to access the abilities of the unfolding tools and Implicit Modeler.
The first discussion after lunch was given by myself regarding using Value of Information to better define drill programs to use to improve the mine revenue. This would incorporate using conditional simulation and MSEP to create the values for the blocks and then produce an optimised pit around it. Due to available time, we then talked about MSAxis and using the Process Manager for not just grade control, but also resource work as well as an engineering case. Basically using the utility to create a process work flow that must be followed and validated in order for it to work. The primary reason for finding time to do this was in response to queries earlier in the day about the archiving of the process at different stages to make the data auditable and recoverable in the future. This was seen to be of great benefit to the clients in the room when we were discussing this. The last geology room workshop was by Grant who went through the MSTorque improvements over the past year. MSTorque is Grants baby in that he has presented something MSTorque related every year we’ve had the tool. This year the onus was on the compositing functionality that had been brought into and improved within the tool.

The last session of the day had everyone brought back together for the all-important prize giving and then Plotting for Productivity by Rohan. This went through the changes that have been made to plotting within MS3D that have made the process a lot easier for users to work with. The prizes were given for best idea to improve the software (the winning idea was done asked for by 4 different people, so the runner up idea got the prize, Matthew Cotterell from Snowden for a dump design tool where the dump design angle only went to one direction instead of all directions) and best question (Alex Hatch from Alcoa was the first to ask for the best idea, can we get an importer to import GIS software poly information easy). There were many other questions, requests and thoughts to come from MineQuest Perth 2014 and it was positive to see so many clients there and good to catch up with those who haven’t needed technical support for a while. Thanks to all the clients for attending, to our new partners in the Hexagon family for attending and sharing, and to the MineSight staff for presenting quality product and putting together a well detailed MineQuest.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Coal in Laos

June had me off to Laos (incidentally, it is supposed to be spelt Lao, but a French grammatical error now has the western world adding the silent "s" at the end) to meet up with some MineSight users working for Phonesack Group at their Kaleum Coal Project. This was going to mean I was a week on site going through some geology modelling and seeing a new part of southern Laos. This should be a nice return to geology again.

A routine flight to Bangkok, overnight and then an early afternoon flight to Pakse and then a couple of hours in the car to site. Nope. Unfortunately Laos airlines wont fly when only two people are booked, so the Bangkok to Pakse leg was cancelled. This meant day one ended with a late flight to Vientiane instead. Now normally I wouldn't mind this, but the 10pm arrival at the hotel and 5am departure was not conducive to experiencing the food and sights of Vientiane which I do enjoy. The karaoke club next door wasn't particularly helpful either, so I wouldn't recommend the Vientiane Mercure Hotel if you don't sing. So the six thirty flight to Pakse means that we would be on the road by nine, this actually would be a good thing. The roads and drivers in Laos are similar to a lot of Asia in that the driving rules aren't really rules. So red lights and green lights all mean caution, 50 means go flat out and well, just don't crash if you can avoid it. You certainly have a vast mix of vehicles, speeds and abilities on the roads. So in this regard, having a morning drive to site certainly beat having a late afternoon journey as was the original plan.

A quick stop was made at the Phonesack Padou camp in order to refuel the car and change driver, and then it was back on the road. But while most of the first segment was flat land driving on reasonable roads, this second segment was mostly driven through range country and most of that was gravel roads. The roads had been worked on in the not too distant past, a lot of new concrete bridges had been put in and the gravel was reasonably smooth. Then just before midday we arrived at the Kaleum Coal Project camp.

This meant time to say hallo to the more senior guys who I would be working with during the week before being shown to my room and then heading to the mess for lunch. This would be the start of a week where rice was the staple. Not that that was a problem as the opportunity to exercise wasn't high so at least this way and with no dessert options weight didn't become an issue. 

It must be nice to have an outdoor kitchen. Barbeques for the meat and the big rice vats are just around the corner.

I must remember on the next visit to site that they do not provide you with a towel as in normal at other mine sites I've visited. And as the laundry lady air dries all your clothing, she doesn't work on rainy days. So going to site during June (wet season) means the best way to not run out of clothing is to do your own washing and dry it on the chairs in your room. But at least being put in the management rooms means there is space to do so. Unfortunately the day I chose to start doing my own clothes washing was the day the laundry lady came back and took my dirty clothes basket away. So it was a very restricted range of uniforms for the rest of the week. 

One of the best things about the buildings on site, be it the office, mess or sleeping buildings, is that the rules are no shoes inside. So there ends up being a collection of footwear (mostly thongs) outside the doors and a lot of bare or socked feet within. The best thing about this is (especially with the amount of rain and mud about) the floors stay very clean. It also helps promote better aim in the bathrooms too it would seem ;)

The training group ended up being 8 people, from the Mining Manager and a few other engineers to the senior geologists on site and some of their juniors. The training ended up being more focused on the process of taking the drilling and creating a resource model, and all that entailed. So while not all the usual CAD tools were put on show, most of those that would be helpful were. Plus we had a little time to show off some of the newer tools that would be helpful now, and others for when production gets going, hopefully in the next 12 months.

The camp and office area is actually built above part of the coal resource and marks about the half life of the mine. The pit will hopefully provide 35 years (or more) of mine life and the camp area would disappear around year 15 if all goes to plan. And a clearing happening above the camp up the hill is actually so the land owner can build a nice new house. I'm not sure what they think of having to relocate in a decade or two. I learnt these facts as I received a brief pit tour prior to the final mornings training. 

The pit tour gave me the opportunity to better see the complexity of the coal structures, as well as the current trench sampling and mapping program that has been taking place. Around the area there are also about 20 drilling rigs in operation, which keeps the core shed quite busy. But ultimately the aim is for a 35 year plus mine life to feed a coal fired power station that will be built on site. This should be achievable given that the coal deposit stretches for upwards of 50 km. it's whether a second power station at the other end of the deposit is feasible or not becomes a question for Phonesack in the future.

So the rest of Saturday was pretty busy with going over last minute queries prior to leaving site. The drive from Kaleum to Pakse was reasonably uneventful. Wet muddy 4wd roads for the first half hour were very much like some of the mining pits and roads I've visited. The road was a little narrower in places on the trip back where some of the weeks rain had helped slump some of the roadside batters. There was still the mandatory vehicle change at the Phonesack Padou office followed by the butt clenching flat land local driving to complete the trip. "Professional" drivers in Laos (and Philippines) are not the most patient of people. It probably won't change how I drive, but it should. I would love a day to do the trip though as there are some fantastic photo opportunities out there.

I hadn't been to Pakse before (with the exception of driving the central bypass on the way to site from the airport), so a chance to spend an evening there was good. Unfortunately it was rather dark by the time I arrived so I didn't get to see too much of town. The Athena Hotel was my supposed place of stay, however the travel agent hadn't actually reserved a room for me. Fortunately there were rooms still available so I had the night there as planned. Then in the morning it was to the airport for the flight from Pakse to Bangkok via Savannakhet. No cancellation this time. Then 13 hours of thumb twiddling at the airport and now the red eye back to Perth.

Plenty of rice fields on the outskirts of Pakse. But that's not unusual for this part of the world.

All in all it ended up being a good trip. The chance to see plenty of new countryside, eat local food and train some newer users in  the software with the potential to go back again. Now to prepare for MineQuest Perth.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mild Mongolia

Ok, so going to Mongolia in the middle of winter isn't mild as such, more like bloody freezing. When you look at a temperature forecast and see the warm day is from -17 to -29 degrees (Celsius for my international friends), you know you’re in for a bit of a shock.

So leaving Perth on another balmy 30 degree day to begin the double (yay for business class) leg to Beijing via Kuala Lumpur with Malaysian Airlines.  The stopover in KL was brief and then upon reaching Beijing after a few hours sleep it was about trying to find ways to occupy nearly 6 hours until the next flight. With no wi-fi unless you have a Chinese mobile number or want to pay the extravagant Australian mobile company roaming fees, it’s not all fun and net surfing. Unfortunately as the next leg was on Air China and only economy (oh boo hoo I hear you say), no use of the airline lounge either. Fortunately on this trip to site I had a travel buddy (thanks Verne) which certainly helped ease the boredom of the 24 hour trip to Mongolia. So a wander around, feeling a little chilly (only -10 in Beijing at time of landing, but figuring it was good acclimatisation for later that day) and a coffee break later and it was time to board the flight to Ulaanbaatar.

We landed in UB, picked up the bags and then proceeded to put on extra jackets and beanies before even leaving the airport terminal. Then it was meeting the driver who would take us to the Corporate Hotel where the night would be spent. After checking in, a quick afternoons walk around the city centre involved a couple of stops in the nearest stores to help warm up a bit. It would take two minutes for any exposed (and not so exposed) body parts to feel numb again, so half a dozen shops were entered for browsing and more importantly, reheating purposes. Once back at the hotel there was some relaxation time before dinner and bed.

The defined pickup time the next morning of 5am wasn’t such a big problem. The biggest issue was opening the door of the hotel to exit the building as the pressure difference when stepping outside to -30 degrees was a little more substantial than expected. After the flight check-in, the flight to the Oyu Tolgoi mine site from Ulaanbaatar was quite relaxing. The view of the sunrise and the landscape was incredible and the breakfast was certainly interesting. But it was eaten regardless.

The Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine is located in southern Mongolia in the Gobi Desert. It will be Mongolia’s largest copper and gold mine and one of the largest in the world upon its completion. It started commercial production in 2013. Oyu Tolgoi LLC is a partnership between the Government of Mongolia, which owns 34%, and Turquoise Hill Resources, which owns 66%. The Oyu Tolgoi operation consists of open-pit and underground mines, a processing plant and supporting infrastructure.  It produces high-grade copper and gold concentrates. The open-pit mine will be a large tonnage operation expecting to move over 100 million tonnes of dirt per annum using traditional shovel and truck fleets.

My job on site was to help the geology department change over to using our software, with particular attention to implementing a full grade control process on site. This process takes the drilling results, working with the data to figure out what is actually in the ground (high grade dirt, low grade, waste, etc) and then after classification, pass this information on to the surveyors to mark it out in the pit and to the engineers so they can plan how best to order the mining of the dirt. It’s a reasonably simple process, but getting it wrong means you’re literally throwing away gold (and copper at Oyu Tolgoi).

Tuesday night had a light snowfall. This made a nice change to it being cold and clear. A little snow always adds something pleasant to the chilly days. So waking up on Wednesday there was some minor snow cover, and the crunch underfoot was a little different to normal. The only reason the snow slowly disappeared from the ground over the next few days was the wind and bright sun shiny day. The temperatures continued to hold around the -5 to -20 range throughout the fortnight on site.

The second week on site was more about the training of new (and existing) users in both MineSight and particularly the MSAxis utilities. The production geology group on site hadn’t been exposed to MineSight other than a training course a few months previously. As these users would also be now working in close collaboration with the Ore Control engineers in the MineSight Grade Control project, it was important for them to understand and be comfortable with the software and the specific utilities within.

As the trip wound down on the last day (yeah right, things never wind down on the last day), we found an opportunity to go and have a quick look at the pit and the stockpile area of the mine. Due to the vast space available, the mining complex covers a large area, with camps, processing facilities, ware houses, store yards, the pit and the various stockpiles being spread out.

It was good to see how the actual process takes place on the ground compared to the computer version of mining. Then it was time to thank everyone on site for their help, have one last night of sleep and prepare for the even longer trip back home.

This meant a flight from site back to Ulaanbaatar, 5 hours sitting around the UB airport, a flight to Beijing and 8 hours sitting there. Remember, if you’re flying with Malaysian Airlines, check-in is only 2 hours before scheduled departure, so a long wait with baggage after heading through immigration is required. I did manage to find the most unhelpful airport restaurant in the world within the terminal though so the already frustrating wait became that much more fun. Then it was a comfortable seat for the flight to Kuala Lumpur, a brief stopover and back in the plane to finally get back to Perth on the Monday afternoon. It’s a strange travel arrangement when out of the 30-ish hours, half of them are spent in airports waiting for that next flight. But hey, it’s what we do.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Albany Half Triathlon 2014

Well, it's not really a half triathlon. I mean, how do you halve three disciplines? It actually refers to the length of the triathlon, meaning it's a half ironman, or a 70.3 distance triathlon. Only the word ironman can't be used in the name of the triathlon unless it's run by the ironman corporation. Anyway, it involves a 1.9km swim, 90km on the bike and a 21.1km run to finish off.

So why did this event appeal to me? Well as I try to add a new experience to my life each year, I find an event that requires a little effort on my behalf. For 2013 the aim was to add a half ironman to the list of achievements. With my work schedule I aimed to compete in the Mandurah half in November. It seemed like a good idea as I hoped to have the marathon legs from the City to Surf even in August still useful. But I missed entering early enough to book a spot.  Well, without utilising a foreign address anyway. So the WA Country Builders Albany Half was the next event available that would be feasible to enter . That it would be in the first weekend of 2014 (January 4th) was close enough to 2013 to be my 2013 achievement. 

So after booking myself in back in June, the training really started to pick up in October. A little bit of knee pain (I think I'm getting old) and a visit to The Running Centre to help improve my running style (which has definantly helped, thanks Marc). Heck, I even went out and purchased a wetsuit. Expensive, but I hoped that I might even use it again. Then after being pretty happy with my cycling and running training, I finally hopped in the pool a month before the event.

Having not swum for 6 months, the "she'll be right" attitude kicked in. After 1500m I called it a day, had a reasonable pedal home and all was good. The morning after upon reaching for my towel, "ping", can't move my head and a good dose off neck and shoulder pain. I did manage to see a physio that day and was advised not to do any cycling running or swimming for a couple of days. Not what you need to hear four weeks out from a physical event.

So rather gently a week later I hopped on the bike for an hour without too much pain. Just the obligatory stiff neck. Excellent, I can deal with that. Let's add in some running again which was good. It's amazing how restricted life can feel when you're not allowed to exercise for a week. And then after two weeks I thought I should do another swim just to make sure nothing was going to fail again. Phew, 2100m and no extra pain. So I was confident I had a chance of doing this. 

Now let's bring in Christmas and New Years and almost some self control when it comes to the delicacies on offer and my four weeks prior to my first 70.3 triathlon was certainly not one from the book of good. But off we go anyway. 

Drive down to Albany on the Thursday to allow a day and a half of walking and stretching and carbing up. And Friday afternoon spent going over all the kit required for the following days activity. During the mid afternoon the bike was taken down to the triathlon registration area to be submitted into the transition zone for the night.

And there were certainly some beautiful bikes there. I was one of the minority without a time trial bike and an even smaller minority without time trial bars. But I knew my bike and was comfortable with it anyway, but a little bike envy never hurt anyone. Then back home and quadruple check and then some with the kit bag for Saturday. Shoes, check, cycling gear, check, food goodies, check, everything else, check.

So early Saturday morning and it was time to get dressed and do something new. Check all the gear again, have some brekky and in to the triathlon transition area to set up my gear and try and relax. Once that was done it was time to try and wrestle on the wetsuit, listen to the briefing, put on the swimming cap and goggles and wander down to the start line on the beach. Maybe even ponder what the rest of the morning was all about.

The elite athletes, male and female, are started at 0630 with the general "athletes" starting at 0634 and the teams at 0700. I'm not sure why the elites need the headstart (well aside from not having to mingle with the generics like myself), but they get one anyway. Not that I could make them look bad even if I tried. But the siren goes, the elites run, splash and swim into the distance and then "booooop", it's our turn. Splash splash splash and swim.

Out onto the triangular swim course on a beautiful flat oceaned day. The Middleton Beach leg was a lot easier than I expected. This may have been helped by doing two laps with a quick sand dash in the middle of it. And also by swimming in salt water and having a wetsuit so I didn't have to lug my normal weight around.

Then out of the water for the second time and into the transition zone. Having not done a triathlon transition before it took a few minutes for me to emerge minus the wetsuit, but with a bike and cleats and a few edibles instead. For anyone who's watched professionals doing this, it's a thirty second thing, not my three minute thirty second thing.

Bike in hand, run along some grass, around the base of one of the pines with exposed roots for a minor challenge, then to the transition exit line where you must now board your bike. Then it's straight up and over Mount Clarence before passing around the bottom of Albany and out of town. It's a lot easier to share a joke a kilometre into the ride than it is 88km later heading back past the same place.

The cycling route follows the Lower Denmark Road west before the turnaround at the 45km mark. The ride itself is reasonably flat, but the headwind keeps the speed a little slower than wished for on the way out. The upside to this is you get a good tailwind for the second half of the ride. Thank goodness for that. Back over the hill and into the transition area to swap the cleats for runners.

Excellent, on time so far and only a half marathon to go, being two laps out to Emu Point and back. Out to Emu Point is "flat", meaning small rolling hills of half to a metre or so in height. Not so bad for the first out leg, before some flat near the turn and a return almost half way back the same route. Then a left hand bend takes the runners over a sand dune (soft running) and down to the beach for some flat forgiving running.

Then up off the beach and up the boardwalk before turning, running back past the transition area and on for lap two. This was a struggle for me. A little bit of walking, then a decreasing jogged distance between walking and a lot of verbal self encouragement and name calling to myself. More name calling to be honest. But two hours later the last step was completed and across the line with a self clap of completion.

My aim for the event was to finish in 6 hours. I was hoping for about 45 minutes swimming, 3 hours cycling and 2 hours running. With a few minutes for transitions and error margin. But according to the timer on my ankle, I swam 39:26, cycled 3:04:58, and ran 2:00:38. So the running was the only one I was honestly a little disappointed with. But when the transitions were added in I still managed a 5:51:06, so no complaints there. It was nice to achieve a time I was happy with with my prior four weeks, but I was happier to have achieved something beyond my previous experiences.

For those who want something to do, this even is brilliant. It's well run, and only having to deal with 200 individuals and another 40 teams makes it free of the clutter of Busselton and Mandurah. The winner finished in 4:01:25 and the time cutoff is 7 hours 30. But believe me, there were some who finished beyond the time in order to accomplish something for themselves. I've already booked in for the (January 10th) 2015 event.

Now to do another couple before trying the full ironman.