Monday, January 15, 2018

Ironman WA 2017, the day that wasn’t.

Because not every day can be a good day.

So that wasn’t the end to the year I had planned. Basically December was an athletic failure for me and what I aspire to do, but I also learnt a lot. So I guess it wasn’t all negative. So before I move into 2018, let’s get through the end of my 2017.

To be honest I don’t think my build-up was too bad. I know I was a little light on swimming (haven’t needed that much in 2017), and a little light on cycling, but I was definitely feeling pretty strong with my running and figured that would make up for it a bit.

Thank you to some interesting challenges on Running Heroes for the incentives for getting the running kilometres up.

And for the first time I ran around the hilly paddocks of Donnybrook for True Grit ( This is the first of the last 3 years that True Grit has been more than a month away from me doing an Ironman, so I happily joined Tamara, Carissa and Nathan for the muddy 11km obstacle course. This was a fun event to change up the training and best of all I came away from the day injury free.

A little bit of training and two weeks later and it was off to Rottnest for the day for Sufferfest Rottnest ( and the half distance triathlon. 3 weeks before IMWA this was a day to fine tune and see how the body was going. Actually, it ended up being a couple of options closer to IMWA than planned on the day. The swim would have been a little longer than 2km for the faster swimmers. The beautiful clear water of Thomson Bay at Rottnest however was also attractive to the sea life as besides the regular fishes, a shark decided to come past. So I swam almost 1900m, and for the second long distance tri this year had my swim cut short by a shark. Still, unlike the shorter distance races starting afterward, at least I got to go for a swim.

A long transition run later and it was on to the bike for 4 laps and 78km of dodging quokkas, snakes, lizards, tourists and buses. Add in a dropped chain on lap 4 as the legs were slowly tiring and it was a challenging day. But this all just makes the bike course one you have to concentrate on and the ocean views on the north side of the course certainly lift the spirits as well. Plus a quick hallo as I passed T while she was on one of the Oly distance laps was great motivation to push a little more back between the lakes towards the Rottnest township.

The run was a warm 18km and the volunteers were great with helping to pour water on the runners, plus hand out liquids and gels (and melting lollies for those who wanted them). But even with shoes sloshing with water I was reasonably happy with my pace for the run and throughout the day.

After that confidence builder it was just time to not overdo it (pretty much my whole training regime it would seem, will improve that in 2018) and prepare for Busselton.

As usual leading to the event an eye was permanently kept on the weather. It was looking warm but nothing too bad for a December day in WA. Pack the car on Wednesday, get home Thursday from work, load the bikes and pick up Tamara from the airport and a late drive down. After warm days in Perth it was a little bit of a climate change to have 12 degree evenings.

Friday morning means go and join in the Xterra practice swim for a leisurely out and back. Pre-swim we see a guy wearing an Ultraman Australia top and it’s a good chance to say a quick hallo and ask some questions as that’s the aim for May 2018. Matty gives some good advice before we part ways into the ocean. Then back to the apartment to change before getting some breakfast and then it’s check in day for us. The new registration and expo location is nice and intimate at the bottom end of main street Busselton. So we do the usual routine, register, walk around the exhibitors, buy some Bindi, new shoes and some cheap kit before spending the rest of the day relaxing as much as possible. By relaxing really I mean lay out the bike, nutrition and different kit required to get through the weekend as this will be needed for dropping off on Saturday.

Saturday morning is pretty quiet. I get a gentle run in and stretch before we go and do the bike check and rack. Brief encounter with Callum and Alise from The Cupcake Cartel, a little help to some of the 70.3 athletes the other side of the fence, hang the transition bags for tomorrow and out the other side of the tent to collect my timing chip and chill. This was also the convenient time to say hi to James and Muzz who were also in town to do and support the 70.3. Then back to the room to rest up for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

This is the first Ironman I’ve changed my day before food a little compared to the previous two. I might just go back to pretzels and lollies the day before instead of pasta. But maybe not. I’ll hopefully have a handle on this come mid-2018.

Sunday = race day J

Up at 315 so we can have breakfast and get down early for Tamara to start the 70.3. Pre-race it’s back through transition to pump up the bike tyres (when will they make tubulars that don’t lose +30psi overnight?) and then join the wetsuit clad hoard down to the swim start line to watch Tamara and the other half competitors swim out to see.

Unfortunately ¾ of the way through this process the safety crew swings in to action, the chopper circles a shark (two were sighted) and everyone is evacuated from the water. Tamara was about 100m out, so a quick return for her, and no swimming at all for another hundred or so competitors in the 70.3. So the swim stage is nullified and the half resumes ‘drip fed’ from transition on the bike.

I think while all the reorganising is happening I spend a little too long on my feet. I pick up a glass splinter in my foot which I get the ambulance crew to remove and then like most of the Ironman competitors, I don’t drink enough liquid while standing around on the beach waiting for our event to start. Needless to say we don’t get to swim. This completes the trifecta of long course triathlons with sharks for me in 2017.

Eventually the athletes are released 2 every 5 seconds to run up the beach into transition (no need to take off a wet wetsuit today). At least while I’m waiting for 20 minutes to start (thankfully I wasn’t one of the hour long waits) I’m next to some guys wearing Fusion Multisport kit who are cracking jokes and discussing where on course to stop for a coffee seems they’re not doing a full Ironman anyway. This keeps the mood pretty light for the surrounding people which is a good thing.

Finally I’m away, a measured dash to the transition tent (thankfully the temporary overpass isn’t soaking wet and as slippery as it would have been had we all just exited the water) to grab my helmet, cleats and cycling nutrition before getting my bike and heading out on course. The first few hundred metres are a little technical, but it’s fun and then it’s out of town and into the Ludlow State Forest.

It was a little breezy out on the road and it was already getting warm. The first person on the side of the road was about 30km in, and he was still there 3 hours later when I went past again. I can only assume it was a comfortable spot in the shade. There were people out on course though which was really good, balloons, signs, cheering. I possibly pushed a little hard for the conditions on the first lap and covered the 90km in 2:45 but was feeling good so you go with it. Then it was back into the headwind for the second lap. By the time I reached about 110km I knew it wasn’t going to be a good day. My speed had dropped off, I wasn’t eating enough, was getting a little wobbly on the bike and I assume I was overheating as my body wasn’t really registering whether it was hot or not by now.

The 2nd and 3rd aid stations on the second lap I stopped at just to try and stretch a little and cool down with more water over my head and replenish my liquid supplies. The second lap took about 3:27 which was a fair reflection of my struggles to get around. Still, I got to finish the cycle leg in full as I wasn’t unlucky enough to be taken out by a kangaroo or diverted because of the bushfire out on course.

So I slowly rolled back into Busselton and into the transition again about 230 in the arvo. I assume it was warm by now (Garmin says 37 while out on the bike) and it was carnage in the transition tent. There were a lot of other people who were also in bad shape. It’s amazing to think it takes almost 10 minutes to change some shoes and put on some sunscreen and have a cup of water. It shouldn’t, but it did for me.

Back out of transition and into the run. Well jog. For a bit. The foreshore in Busso is a beautiful place to run, lots of crowd support a good view of the ocean, and a little bit of shade. Turn south and go past the Fremantle Tri Club tent (thanks for the cheers Michelle and Vic), through the first aid station and to the southern end of the course. At this stage I was jogging along ok, sitting on about 5:45 and hoping to do my marathon in around 4 hours. The plan was to walk through each aid station to have a drink and try and keep the energy up. And this worked ok for the first 2/3 of the lap though my gut was starting to give me trouble. Then the walking stretched out a little more. Then in between aid stations.

Going past the PTC tent I got to say hello to Tamara (which was much needed by now) and Carissa and I’d get to say hello a couple more times as I tried to loop the course. Hello to some of the other PTC supporters, Slim, and a couple of Sufferfest crew and the random strangers around the course as well.

There were hoses set up along the northern end of the course. This was great the first lap to help try and cool down. By the second lap I was avoiding the water as I couldn’t regulate my temperature and would get the chills if I got wet. But thanks to Kieren, Fred and Nicole for cheering the athletes on along the northern desert stretch of the course. And throughout it was helpful to have other competitors to chat with. Some doing better, some worse, and some doing it just as tough.

By 20km I was really starting to struggle and not able to down anything except for the odd tiny sip of water. And at about 23 the wheels started falling off. The walking became a shuffle and for the last 3 kilometres the benches along the foreshore became my friend as I shuffled along the path between them before sitting down and resting at each one (because you can’t show favortism when it comes to these things).

Around the northern end of the course one last time (for me) and then it was time to crouch over, throw up the watermelon that I was not enjoying by that stage, and stumble to the next aid station. At least I wasn’t the only one to be throwing up. Or pulling out. I don’t think there would have been that much puke at leavers.

So at 28km into the run I called it a day and for the first time I earned a DNF.

I’m not really sure at this stage I couldn’t complete it. I know I was struggling to move my legs and I had a really upset belly and was incredibly tired. I assume at least heat stress was a big cause. Maybe a nap at the aid station would have been a good thing? I know the front lawns were starting to look really comfortable. Again, I wasn’t the only one with this thought as while me and my co-28km and outer were being given a lift back to the recovery tent, we picked up another athlete who had passed out on a front yard. But looking ahead at the big picture, it wasn’t worth risking longer term damage to finish. But oh I wish I had.

So after being taken to the recovery tent, staring jealously at the (incredibly well deserved) finisher towels, shirts and medals, I met up with T who was good enough to get hold of all my gear from transition, and head back to the unit for a good nights sleep.

Monday was pack up day and drive back to Perth in the rain after a good breakfast. Lots of water to help rehydrate, and once unpacked at home I went out and ran the last 14km to make up my marathon distance. It didn’t get me a medal, but it did help the mental healing process a little.

Congratulations to all who finished the event (and the half) as it was a tough day. The last 5km I managed were for me the hardest steps I’ve had to take in any event (more so than at any stage of the UTA100), so I applaud all those who managed to mentally and physically get through the day.  As always a great big thank you to the Perth Tri Club supporters, club mates, and competitors for their support and cheering and for bringing along Bruce for the day. And thank you to all the volunteers who continue to do a great job at every stage pre, post and throughout the event. I'll be back in 2018 and I won't let you (or me) down again.

Friday, May 26, 2017

2017 Ultra-Trail Australia 100

This is my UTA100 experience. While I enjoy running, cycling and triathlons, I enjoy the challenge of stretching myself in different ways with those sports I love. So the big new challenge for 2017 was to do a 100km running event.

I’ve been running with my mate Jens for a few years now. We met back in 2013 when I was training for my first Albany Half triathlon and he helped design Tamaras engagement ring. The running back then was mostly casual beach running and has since involved trail runs, half marathons and an ultra-marathon as well. Over the hours of running side by side we’ve discussed previous and future athletic accomplishments and the desire to run a 100km ultra at some stage. It was likely to be the Kep Track ultra, but this hadn’t really gotten anywhere do to other commitments.

So doing my regular running and cycling and during one of our runs Jens brings up the idea of doing the Ultratrail Australia UTA100 run in May, two weeks after the Busselton half Ironman. The opportunity came up to do this run in Katoomba, NSW and it seemed like a good idea at the time. So this of course changed my training plan for triathlon season. Less biking and less swimming (I didn’t mind that compromise) than I had originally planned and a bit more running, particularly trail running and hills. The upside to hills is they pretty much double as interval training, and training with a backpack makes everything easier when it’s not on as well.

This also meant entering a couple of the Perth Trail Series runs, which was a lot of fun and where I met Ash, who instigated the whole thing before dragging Jens and myself on board. So the Yanchep and Swissmurdie events were completed as long course options.

With only 1300 spots available, being on the wait list in order to get a place in the event was something different, but enough places change hands pre-event due to injuries and circumstances that deciding in February to do this meant there was plenty of time to confirm a spot. Once done it was pay some money, organise flights and accommodation, and keep lifting the running kilometres.

Cycling still tried to happen a couple of times a week just to keep some fitness up in a non-impact manner. And due to triathlon season the odd swim also took place. But for running with some sort of minor elevation, Mount Street and Kokoda Stairs in Kings Park, and loops through John Forrest National Park were the main workout areas. Plus some flatter loops throughout Perth in order to get some longer kilometres in. From the way my ankles and knees felt towards the end of the run, more Kokoda stairs may have been needed.

So for a taper it was the Busselton 70.3 triathlon two weeks beforehand and a gentle lead in to Ultra-Trail Australia. Early flight out on the Thursday morning and then the train ride up to Katoomba arriving at 3 in the afternoon before a half hour hike to the accommodation.

This meant we arrived about 330 and just missed the chance for an early registration, but that was ok, there was all day Friday to sort that out. Instead it was check in to the CMS Conference Centre next to Scenic World, dump the bags, and go for a wander up to the KCC Conference Centre 200m away to check out the event expo. The expo had a good selection of gear from the sponsors and others, as well as information on a lot of other trail running events throughout Australia and New Zealand. Hmm, more things to add to the wish list to do in the future. Then with the early nightfall it was time for some carb loading (pizza for dinner) and an early night.

Friday was a relaxing day, breakfast, a quick trip to the town centre to grab additional food for lunch (and a compass for Jens), then back for registration and to peruse the expo again. The day became increasingly wet as it went on and the afternoon was time for the UTA22 and the Furber Stair run to take place. It was good to watch and cheer on the finishers for both these events and it helped to lift the mood prior to our run on the Saturday. This was followed by dropping off the checkpoint bags and a buffet dinner, the final race briefing, and the organisers working their butts off to finalise the changed course on 12 hours’ notice due to the wet weather.

Double check everything for the next day, backpack full of gear, clothing and race number.

Early night, early morning. Get excited.

And it’s still raining, at least it’s slowly getting lighter. So that’s good. Breakfast, stretch, get dressed and meander the 100m from our room to the start line.

Jens, Ash and myself are in group 4, which is a 6:41am start. We start about mid pack not really knowing what we’re getting ourselves in for and off we go for the first 5 kilometres before we start on the stairs down past the Katoomba Falls to the Federal Pass Walking Track.

This has some great soft detrital trail to run on as well as some technical rocky sections and the rain pretty much stops but the morning remains cool to give us some great running weather. Then the course climbs back out of the valley up the Golden Stairs and puts us on the fire trail for the last kilometre before the first check point.  

Narrow Neck Fire Trail gives us about 10km of easy running now on wide gravel access road as we head south away from Katoomba. Apologies to Ash as Jens and myself plod along a little quicker than we should have. But it was just nice running at the time. Eventually we reached the site of the Tarros Ladders where ladders are set up each year for the event instead of just steel pegs in the rock face. And as much as I wanted to see and experience this obstacle, there was quite a wait (about 30 minutes) so instead of the ladders it was a muddy little rope assisted goat track down instead. Then a great little downhill section (and a bit of up) along the ridge line through the clouds. Given this was only 23km in and everything was still feeling good and the line of people had stretched out a little so you had some space, this was probably the most fun I had on the run.

Once off the ridge it was on to the Medlow Gap Management Trail, which is another access trail. This gave everyone plenty of space to run on the wide gravel track and this rolled up and down a little allowing for our pre-race strategy of walking the uphills to be put to good use. It seems like this is the strategy of choice for most people as pretty much everyone adopted the same process throughout the day.

Turning on to the Bellbird Ridge trail took us to checkpoint 2 at about the 31km mark. This was the chance to refill water bladders in the backpack, grab some gels, bars, bananas and fruit bread, have a quick stretch and then continue on our way.

Out of the checkpoint and along more trail before entering some of the valley paddocks and running on some short grass for a bit. And some creek side access tracks. And across more creeks. At least with a little bit of sunshine poking through the clouds the damp socks from the odd water splash were drying out reasonably quickly. The run then took us on to Megalong Road for a bit, with a decent little incline and decline along it before taking us to the third checkpoint just before we joined the Six Foot Track. Just before we enter the checkpoint there is a bag check to make sure everyone is carrying their compulsory kit. Headlamps and high visibility vests must be shown before being allowed to move on. Once we enter CP3 the stop allowed for more nutrition to be taken on board as well as a bit more of a stretch knowing that the next 13 kilometres we going to take us back up and into Katoomba.

By the time we reached checkpoint 3 I had a couple of little niggles just starting to enter my day. Nothing unexpected, but still not required when not quite half way through the distance, especially when you know you’re not close to half way through the time the day will take. Going forward I knew this was also going to slow up Jens, but he said he was ok to wait. Especially after promising Tamara that Jens and I would stay together for safety reasons.

From checkpoint 3 we got to slowly run a little along the Six Foot Track for a few kilometres before the incline picks up enough to turn it into a hike. This leg takes us back into Katoomba and the incline really steepens and turns into a stairway. Slowly working up the steps creates a line of people to which Jens and I join. With the extra length in the legs Jens slowly moves up the line while I hold station a little more. Plus he’s obviously a lot stronger than I am at this point. The trail is really nice though and there are a lot of hikers and campers on the trail enjoying a day out. It was nice to see both the competitors and the trekkers both respectfully giving way to each other along this narrow and steep section.

Once the steep climb is done with we are on the Cliff Walk and on our way to the outskirts of western Katoomba. There is still a bit of a hill and bitumen roads to run for the next 3kms which take us to the Sports and Aquatic Centre for checkpoint 4. This is the big checkpoint for the day, nearly 60km in and my mental halfway point. I meet Jens inside (he’s been there for 5 minutes already) and I take the opportunity to grab some food and drink, refill my electrolytes, grab my checkpoint bag and sit down. I’ve got a full change of clothes and shoes, but as the day is actually quite nice, I just change my socks and relax for a moment and stretch. We’re heading out of here early enough in the day that the fleece top and rain pants are not required gear to be carried for the next 40km. It’s always nice to hear you don’t have to carry any more weight then you already are.

And off we go again. As we run out into the sunshine I give T a call to let her know how we are going. She’s been keeping an eye on the timing screens anyway, so she knows roughly how we’re all doing. But I let her know Jens is in great shape “a mountain goat up the hills to my mountain pig up the hills” (I’m not feeling very light on my feet now), I’m chugging along and sore, and Ash we left behind a while back. A love you and goodbye later and the end of the phone call. I tell Jens to just do his own thing from here as he’s going well, and I settle into a slow rhythm. We get through town and on to the edge of the scarp, finding our way on to the Three Sisters Track. This is a nice trail for running on, avoiding puddles and tourists, with lots of little elevation changes on it. It also helps that it’s early afternoon and the sun is out with a few clouds across the sky. "Oh look, sandstone ripples".

Somewhere in here the leaders of the 50 and maybe the 100 kilometre races are heading back past me towards Katoomba. These guys are certainly quick and a quick sidestep to get out of their way is sometimes required. At least most of them are considerate enough to say thank you. After roughly 11 kilometres, we go through and around part of the Leura Golf Club and make our way to the Fairmont Resort where an aid station has been set up. It’s 65km and over 9 hours into my day. Jens had waited 15 minutes for me to arrive to make sure I’m ok. I am, just tired and sore and after reassuring him and making sure he goes on to ‘enjoy’ his last 35km, I refill my little water bottle and grab a couple of gels and a muesli bar to put in my bag, a couple of bites of watermelon and a fruit bun to eat as I leave the station.

Out on to the Grand Cliff Top Track, and as usual a little line of runners forms. This is good as you get some company, make some conversation with previous and new runners to the event, or just listen to others talk along with the steady crunch of gravel under the feet. Wee descend again on a tight little section of uneven gravel and wood stairs. Half way down we see some people below us in high-vis overalls and helmets and we fear the worse for someone on the track. Fortunately it is just a tour group who have done a bit of zip lining and are packing up. We cross the same creek a few times, climb back up the hill, follow the crest around the south of Wentworth Falls and slowly up and down some more technical step areas before the descent to the Wentworth Pass.

It’s now 5pm and dusk is rapidly passing. There is a steady stream of people passing in the opposite direction and lots of verbal “good job” and “keep it up” from both directions of travel. I think everyone needs it at this stage regardless of which direction of travel you’re on. And this is something that continues throughout the night to the benefit of all. Climb out the other side of the pass and try and get as far as possible before it gets too dark and the headlamp is required. We exit the park and the trails and back on to normal roads for a bit now and the runners are told that the reflective vests we all carry are now required to be worn (otherwise time penalties and potential disqualification will apply). So keep walking, swing the backpack off, find the headlamp and hold it with my teeth. Keep searching through the backpack for the vest and then put the backpack on with the vest over top of everything. Put the headlamp on and by now it’s pretty much night time so the only illumination is your own light and that of those around you.

Down Tableland Road which has one lane closed for the participants (I really can’t call us runners at this stage as there is at least as much walking happening) and the other lane has a lot of vocal motorists. Not vocal like in Perth, these people are cheering out encouragement as they pass. Ahead is a line of lights and reflective vests and I’m sure behind me is the same. In the distance there is a stand of trees with some light, and the increasingly loud sounds of an announcer and music. It’s checkpoint 5. At last.

But I’m wrong.

I’m sure I’m not the only person disappointed to see that while we go past the checkpoint, we have to go past the checkpoint. The turnaround is another 1.5km down the road. That’s ok, 3 kays isn’t far. Down at the turnaround are two very very very bored girls, but they have a little Bluetooth speaker and some music and are trying to dance some warmth into themselves. I’m happy I’m heading back to the lights and a chance for a breather and some water and it’s all back to the finish from here.

Checkpoint 5 is full of life. A good size crowd cheering on the competitors, and a nice tent set up with plenty of options inside. While I’m faffing around one of the volunteers checks in with me to see how I’m going. Maybe I looked a little pale to him, but I said I was doing ok, just tired and sore but about where I expected to be at that time of the evening. I had a couple of pieces of watermelon, grabbed another fruit bun, had a good stretch, drank and refilled my water, and got on my way again. By this time my stomach was pretty much over the days diet so I didn’t have to top up my electrolyte bladder in my backpack. And my food intake for solids and gels certainly dropped as well. It was just the odd bite of something from here on and pretty much just water intake and the odd electrolyte sip for the final 20-ish kilometres.

Out of the checkpoint I had cooled down a little so a small run walk for a hundred metres and then while walking up the hill of Tableland Road it was time for another call to T. This was a nice ten minute catch up where I reassured all was going ok, just slowly and I also got to hear a bit on how her day was going. It was great for the spirits as was knowing there was only about 20km to go once we disconnected.

Back along the roads (thank you to the nice person who left out a bowl of mini Snickers and the like for us) and then down the trail to Wentworth Pass and back up the other side. Continue to dodge puddles and other competitors while also continuing to give and receive positive affirmations about how one is doing. Thankfully I’ve warmed up a little again so I’m not going to try and go through my backpack for something warmer to put on, be it gloves or a jacket. I manage to run just enough to also keep some sort of pace happening when the trail flattens out a bit. It’s just hard to do in any section with steps, especially at night.

From the turnaround point just below CP5, it’s pretty much back to Katoomba the same way we came out. There are some small differences, but at night on unfamiliar trails it really doesn’t make much of a difference to me. But the slow undulating ascent back to the Fairmont Resort water point involves more stairs, boardwalk, single track and is probably nice when you’re not in pain. By now the stairs up are easier than the steps down as the jolting on the ankles and knees are definitely being felt. Up is just using the muscles of the quads and following the feet of anyone in front of you. And everyone is being really courteous as well, when people hear others coming up behind them there is often the question of “do you want to pass?” By now the answer as often as not is “nah, I’m right for now”. But the comradery between the runners is pretty good.

At the Fairmont Resort I top up my water, get told I look like I could use a rest (still not really eating anything solid or drinking any electrolytes since I was here a few hours back), have a drink of water while I stretch, and then get moving again. There are only 13km to go and there are still plenty of people heading the other way. It’s about 8:15 at night, it’s getting cold, and I’m sure they’re even more tired than I am. But everyone is in their own world and doing this for their own reasons. But I’m sure I’m not the only one who decided on doing this just because I wanted to challenge myself.

I run (and walk) back around the southern side of Leura and then back along track we ran hours ago. There are now people going the other way few and far between and then I realise that there are no more heading the other way. The last few who left CP4 before the cutoff have now passed and they have a long night ahead. Then after a little descent to a creek we come across a volunteer who tells us we have about 6km to go and to turn left. This puts us on a new trail past the Leura Cascades and Linda Creek. This is a technical descent losing 200m elevation with a couple of rises throughout. And it’s mostly stairs. Shallow stairs, steep stairs, wooden, rock, gravel and metal stairs. And it dark, wet and slippery. My knees and ankles hurt and I’m trying not to whinge too much in my head, but it’s slow going and it feels like the steps just won’t end. But I’m in a slightly better place than some of the other people I pass (going down the steps sideways due to really sore knees), but not doing as well as a few who pass me.

Follow Federal Pass around the 3 Sisters (not that they can be seen at night and in the cloud) and run walk along the trail, passing over the Kedumba River and then the Furber Steps are upon us. This means there is only about a kilometre to go and I’m happy now. I know it’s a tough last kay, but it means I’m nearly done. I’ve been looking forward to this part of the adventure for a while.

Steps steps steps, and some more steps. And then the timing point at the bottom of the official Furber Step climb. Excellent, we’re on our way. Just keep going, pull yourself up a little with the handrail and about half way up the times section I pass a guy and we have a quick chat. Unfortunately, just after I pass the steps become steeeep and I almost stop. I apologise and ask if he wants to come back past but he says no. Once I get some momentum again I pull away anyway and the steps flatten out a little. There are even a couple of down steps just as a sweet surprise. Then a little flat bit of gravel and I recognise a lookout from the day before when we were watching the end of the UTA22 run. I know there are only about 50 more stairs to go so I start running again. Hooray I’m almost there.

On to the boardwalk and around the second last corner, I see the light!!

One last set of 5 steps to run up and I trip the second last one. Manage to save myself, kind of. Semi-hear the crowd and then it’s around the last corner and the finish ahead. Lights, clapping and cheering, I don’t really notice the announcers, just the finish banner.


I’m done.

100km and 4200m. That is something I’m proud to have achieved. I’ve completed a 100km running event. I get passed a belt buckle for finishing and a towel and told I have one last gear check to get through.

It takes a bit to sort out my shaking hands and take a breath and get the coordination to open my backpack and show that yes, I do still have my thermal top and bottom and beanie with me. And now I can go to the recovery tent and just try and relax. A quick message to Tamara to let her know I finished and then back to the room so I can congratulate Jens on a great effort and sit down for 5 before a shower. After 2000 people have used them over the last 30-ish hours, they’re not exactly clean and fresh, but they serve the purpose of washing away most of the mud and sweat and grime. Then wearing something clean and warm it’s time to go and get something useful in the belly. Apparently not a good idea as I feel a bit nauseous so just water it is. A quick call to Tamara and then I’m off to bed to sleep for a few hours.

Note to self, if ever doing a long distance leg heavy event, don’t get the top bunk.

I wake up about 3 after about that many hours sleep and now I feel a little better. Go into the recovery room and grab a hot chocolate and a coffee and then go out and cheer on those who are completing their adventure in the early morning hours. It’s quite inspiring watching people finish something tough. So after a couple of hours Ash comes across the line and it was good to see and cheer someone on I know. Which also means that it was nearly time to go back to bed for an hour before getting up and packing and watching more people continue to cross the line.

It was great morning weather to conclude the Ultra-Trail Australia event, with people finishing as the award ceremony was taking place. This meant lots of loud clapping and cheering and then it was time to get back on a bus and head home.

The event itself was brilliant, from the volunteers throughout the whole weekend, the townspeople who are happy for 4500 plus people to run around their town, and the event organisers who worked their butts off especially with the weather and having to adjust the course on short notice. So if anyone is looking for a different challenge, it is definitely an event worth considering. And I think the 50km event would be a great one to do in the future so as not to need quite so much training and not likely to break the body as much. Like doing a half instead of a full distance triathlon. I know I missed writing in some of my experience and I hope you'll forgive me. But the challenge is there, I’d just like less steps please J

Friday, May 12, 2017

SunSmart Ironman 70.3 Busselton 2017

A few months back the plan to enter the SunSmart Ironman 70.3 Busselton triathlon was a simple choice. In 2016 I won an entry care of Endura Sports Nutrition and with a poor training preparation I pulled out a 5:11:54. So this year I wanted to do it right and do some proper training and aim for a sub 5 hour.

Somewhere around Christmas, Tamara also decided that this was an achievement worth considering, so she booked in to the Perth Triathlon Club novice course to see if this would be attainable. And a few weeks in, with my belief in her abilities, T also signed up for the half. Being able to share in a common goal, even if our trainings weren’t always the same, was a lot of fun and something I look forward to being able to do over the second half of the year.

So to start the year we were doing our thing and easing into the triathlon season around sickness and poor preparation. Grateful to be a Sufferfest Triathlon ambassador I competed in the Olympic-ish distance triathlon in Albany and the Olympic distance enduro (basically two sprint distance triathlons back to back) run by Sufferfest. These were tough events and through luck I managed to come out 3rd in the WA Sufferfest Olympic distance Championship. That was a nice surprise and I’ll be trying a little harder this coming summer and if well doing the half distance championship.

Then my regular running partner Jens brings up the idea of doing the Ultratrail Australia UTA100 run in May, two weeks after the half ironman. We’ve done a bit of running together and talked about doing a 100km run previously, but the opportunity came up to do one this year in Katoomba and it seemed like a good idea at the time. So this of course changed my training plan for triathlon season. A little less biking and less swimming (I didn’t mind that compromise) and a bit more running required, particularly trail running and hills. The upside to hills is they pretty much double as interval training, and training with a backpack makes everything easier when it’s not on.

So trundle through running, running and a little bit of cycling. Throw in some swims and the Mullaloo Olympic and Hillarys Sprint triathlons to finish the local short distance season and bring on a long weekend in Busso.

Cruisy drive down on the Friday, and turn in via Tuart Drive so we can drive the bike course. This allows for a quick check of road conditions (still rough at the north end of the course) and some familiarisation for T as well. Once we arrive at the Busselton Festival of Triathlon we meet up with some friends (Carissa also doing her first half) and register and peruse some of the bits for sale. As always purchasing a few goodies for use and then it was down to the resort to relax a little. This was followed by a quick dip in the ocean in the afternoon, some pizza for dinner and an early night.
Saturday was bike check in day, so a quick run to stretch the legs after breakfast while the ladies went for another paddle and then back to the event village to drop off the bikes, have a coffee and catch up with some of the Perth Tri Club crew, help set up the tent for race day, and a quiet night with carbs and another early night. Early starts for events and training and work are overrated, but I guess it’s one of the things you get used to doing after a while.

Sunday = race day J

Early up, nutritious breakfast, stretch, grab the transition bag and off we go. Through the gate, “make sure your helmet is on and your race band is showing”, and set up your own little space for the day. Towel, shoes, shoes, hat, glasses, socks, helmet, race number, nutrition, drinks. Keep the wetsuit, goggles and swim cap as they’ll be needed shortly. Exit transition and keep stretching and try and relax.

Drop off the bag, put on the wetsuit, keep hold of the goggles and cap and wander down to the beach to prepare and watch the earlier waves get swimming. The elites started at 0700, I had until 0805 before getting underway. Tamara had the 0745 wave, so it was nice to wish her well and love and a good day before she splashed off.

That was my cue to go and have a 2 minute swim to warm up the arms and then join the final group of age groupers into the water.

2 minutes.

30 seconds.


Wade in at the back of the pack, throw the arms over and start swimming.

I’m not the fastest swimmer in the world, but not quite the slowest either. So I just keep swimming, just keep swimming and hold my position about three quarters back in the pack. Actually I’m feeling pretty good and holding a slightly better line then normal for my open water efforts. Two corners done and heading back to shore. For some reason there seems to be a little more chop as I’m heading in and this is explained a few minutes later by some water craft coming up behind me and a couple of guys I’m swimming next to with the operators blowing loudly on whistles and yelling “get out of the water, everyone out of the water. NOW”. Ok, I’m swimming to you, you’re the closest boat to me. One of the competitors already picked up puts his arm out to help lift me in the boat, then pull in another guy and with four passengers splayed on the floor of the boat we speed in to the shore. 

“Shark?”, “yeah”.

Well that’s a first for me, being evac’d due to a shark. Just as well we had training on getting out the water due to shark alarms at Floreat Beach occasionally with the tri club.

So that saved me about 300m of swimming, and I’m happy to have all my limbs and I’ll add 6 minutes to my time at the end of the day.

Into transition which is something I’m getting slightly better at. Usually.

Wetsuit off smoothly, grab a gel, put on socks, cycling shoes, grab bars, have a sip of water, put on helmet, glasses, grab bike and out of transition.

Enter the cluster fridge of people trying to mount their bikes and not paying attention to anything around them, start pedalling, look over shoulder for any cyclists on their second lap and away we go. Around the first two corners and a wave and cheer from the Perth Tri Club tent (thanks guys), have another drink and try and settle into a rhythm.

Along the waterfront, back across town, then head north on the smoother stuff and have a bite from the bar. As usual there is a photographer at the bridge as I’m chewing away, but that’s ok, I’m eating something J Get passed by the faster people on their second lap, pass some slower than me. Towards the top end of the ride on Tuart Drive the road roughs up a little. A gel bounces out of my bike box so I put the rest in my back pocket. Actually, eat one now for some more energy as I’ll be needing that soon.

A quick cheer to Tamara as she’s going the other way is a nice perk up. Then around the far turn and back to town. Pass Carissa and a “good effort, keep it up” before getting to the aid station. Empty one of my bottles into my front one and have a drink so I can grab a fresh electrolyte bottle from the volunteers (who are all awesome, never forget that!!). It’s probably the worst electrolyte mix I’ve ever had, sorry Endura. Warm and weak, so I’ll have some as a last resort and mix it in with my existing mixture if I need to.

Coming into the outskirts of Busselton for the first time and I pass Michelle who tells me it’s just mean to catch my wife on the first lap. I smile, agree, wish her well and continue to the PTC kit just up ahead. It’s great to see T out on course, so we ride next to each other for about 15 seconds and have a nice quick chat. We’re going well, nothing hurts, love each other, see you soon J And I pick up the pace again before a referee tells me off for not passing completely within the 25 second allowance.

Back through town, wave and cheer past the club tent again. Hit another pothole on the way out of town and hope that it’s not the one to crack my wheels (while it’s always nice to upgrade, I don’t want to have to do so just yet). And back north again. Fumbling around to try and open my second bar wrapper on the rough road has me drop it, swear about the lost energy and hopeful to not be pinged for littering and a 5 minute penalty. It’s not deliberate but you never know. But I’m not the only one to have fumbled. There are unopened gels, bars, rogue bottles, food bags and even a couple of bottle cages that have worked their way loose from their previous owners. A lot of flats on my first lap, not so many on the second. Not sure if that’s just because there are now less people out or if the course has decided that’s enough puncture victims for the day.

Unfortunately there have been other victims of the roads. Earlier someone was being cared for by an ambulance in the aid station zone (remember to take it slow through these if you’re after anything and if there are people in front of you collecting bottles then be aware as bikes don’t always react well to bottles under the wheels) and out on the second lap someone was being tended by an ambulance on one of the bridges with everyone being told to slow down through the area.

Reach the turn around after cruising a little slower than I should the last 5-10 minutes, only 22km to go before the run, have my final gel and get back on my pace. Cheer Tamara as we pass each other, cheer Carissa. Throw out the horrible bottle of bleh, grab one of water (it may not be needed (it was) but the Funky Trunks bottles are worth collecting) at the aid station and keep cycling. There are still a couple of people passing me, but mostly I’m passing others as being in that last group out there aren’t too many who really started the run behind me unless they were a little closer to shore than me in the swim when the alarm was raised. So a good ride back into town and back to transition.

Remember to dismount cleanly from the bike, hear my name and look to say hallo as Nathan takes a quick pic (thanks for the help and support all weekend), run in my cleats (thankfully it’s mostly grass which is slightly easier than running on the pavement) and rack the bike, off with the helmet, have a quick sip of water, off with my shoes, on with my running shoes and grab my hat and running belt with number to put on as I’m running out of the transition area. Use the underpass and now the run starts.

I’m actually feeling pretty confident at this stage. I thought I may have held back a touch too much on the bike (I did), but at the same time I also really wanted to see how well my run would go as that’s what I’ve been doing all my training on. The plan was to sit at about 4:40 min/km as this has been by comfortable pace when running without a backpack. After cycling for 90km it did require a little bit more of a push, but with shoulders back and a good attitude it was a good starting point.

So lap one of three, past the PTC tent. More waves, cheers and a couple of high fives which helps raise the spirits a little and puts a smile on my face. It’s nice to be running in a club top for the first time as it really does make a difference when more than 2 people are cheering for you. The first lap continues pretty smoothly, just do my thing, try and get a couple of gels in me, water at each aid station and the odd sip of Endura (much better blend at the aid stations on the run). See Tamara heading the other way so a yell across the path of support and love again (probably making the runners around us sick) and quick cheers and encouragement to other PTC crew. Past the club tents (cheers and smiles and low fives), and around the turn for lap two.

This end of the course is always more populated with spectators and the atmosphere is always great. Lots of noise, chalk writing on the road, music, announcer, lots of atmosphere. Around the mid-course for up and back it’s a little more subdued. But then you go past the dancing gorillas. These guys have been dressed up and cranking the music every race I’ve done in Busselton and it’s nice to have a minute in each direction or Grinspoon, ACDC, Metallica, you get the point. It’s a big perk up. Then at the top end of the course it gets a little quiet with just the first aid tent and the other runners for company.

Getting tired so apart from T most of the club mates I pass just get a thumbs up unless I’m actually passing them. Then it’s a quick “good work, keep it up” and I try and keep my pace. Busy end of the course, cheers, turning point, cheers, random stranger comment saying I have nice running form and looking strong (I’ll take it) and I’m well into my last lap. Somewhere along here I catch some runners who are doing 4:55 and I sit for a minute to gather myself before pushing on again. There’s only about 4km to go so I want to push a little again now. I haven’t seen T yet as I approach the final u-turn. Then I see her as she turns 25m ahead of me. We wave in passing, I make the turn and pass Victor and we have a quick hallo before I move up to Tamara and we have a 30 second chat. She’s doing well, looking strong, we encourage each other, a quick touch, say we love each other and it’s back to our own worlds.

I know this is the last 3 and a bit kilometres I have to run today so it’s time to start picking it up. Quick sips through the aid stations, keep picking up the pace. For me I’m going well, compared to the elites, not so much. But I’m happy. Last pass of the tent (thanks for the cheering all day PTC, much appreciated) and the happy left hand turn into the finishing chute. This year I don’t try and pass anyone in the narrow confines towards the finish line, so I don’t get an accidental high five to the face. Remember to smile over the line for the photo and give it a few seconds before stopping the watch. Official time will be recorded and the event photos look better (remember that tip girls and boys) when you’re not looking down at your watch.

Medal, towel, smile, lean on fence. I’m stuffed and I know I pushed it a little as the stomach curdles a little. But that’s also a combination of only having gels bars, water and electrolytes for the last 6 hours.

And seeing 4:53:14 on the watch makes me happy as I expected about a 5:20 coming into it due to a lack of training and taking it easy on the bike. I know, I need to add in 6 minutes for the boat ride. Still gives me a sub-5 hour half so I’m pretty happy with that. And really happy with how the run went which was my biggest aim for the day. The swim on reflection was going a good pace for me as well.

Time to go inside the recovery tent, grab a spearmint milk (Masters, please remember to bring more milks next year if you’re going to be the official recovery protein drink) as it’s all that’s left (and only about 20 of these), some water and sit down on the ground. Time to reflect a little, stretch, take a photo of my number and medal and just relax. When I get up 5 minutes later, it’s time for a couple of lollies, some electrolytes and bag retrieval time. This way I can message Slim at the tent for Tamara updates. She’s just gone past the tent on her last lap so I stretch a little more, then head into the sunshine behind the finish line to await her arrival.

Half an hour later I get a message T is passing the tent for the final time, so I pay more attention and see her coming down the finish chute. It’s inspiring to see someone set out to achieve something and do it. And being able to see Tamara cross the line and hold her 5 seconds later it something I am incredibly lucky to have done. I won’t see you cross the line at your next half my love, but I am glad I was at your first.

Then getting to watch other PTC people and friends (Steve, Carissa) cross the line was very enjoyable and I know what needed to be done to get that far.

Thank you to my beautiful wife Tamara for sharing in the journey with me and for allowing me to share in her first Half Ironman event. I am extremely proud of you. And thanks to Carissa Ball for also doing her first IM 70.3 event and joining in the fun and games. And enjoying it enough to consider doing it again in December. Congratulations to other friends and club mates who also partook in the day, be it competing, supporting and especially volunteering. Thanks to those who have shared photos since, some of which are shown as I was a little to preoccupied to do my own photography during the day. And thanks to Perth Triathlon Club for your support each lap. It was the first time I’ve raced in a club shirt and the extra motivation and cheering and high fives were certainly appreciated.

It was a great day full of PBs, cheering and achievements and it didn’t take long thereafter to start planning for December.

Now back to my taper for the UTA100 trail ultramarathon next weekend.