Friday, April 10, 2009

2009 Ironman Australia

2009 Ironman Australia Race Report
Port Macquarie, NSW, Australia

The morning started with a gaze out the bedroom window to see what the day had installed for us. Over the past couple of days, the weather was not ideal for Ironman, but it is Ironman and the race needs to go on. The gaze out the window brought some relief, it wasn’t raining but it was very overcast and cloudy and, of course, the sun was nowhere to be seen. Never the less it was full steam ahead, everyone else was up and about too. Darren and Suz (who were staying with me) were also competing and the nerves were building in all of us, including the coach! It was a little after 4.00am when we began the last bit of preparation, the blue gear bag was packed with all the relevant gear for preparing the bike for the race, the drink bottles were packed and the swim gear was double checked for the last time. The new Jaggard race gear went on, Timex HR monitor on (the only gadget to be utilised throughout the race) and last of all, anti chaffing cream in all the right places.

A bite to eat was next on the agenda, the pre race eating is something that I believe I have to get the right balance. The formulae is all about eating enough, but not too much and ensuring it is about 2hr before race start. The menu consisted of 500ml of Endura Optimizer, a couple of pancakes with maple syrup and a banana.

With all the pre race rituals at the apartments out of the road, it was time to walk down to transitions. The time when it begins to ‘hit home’ what I had ahead of me. The Ipod shuffle is an important part of this walk it was time to get ‘fired up’ for the challenges ahead, it was time to have a quick visualisation of the day ahead, it was a time to reflect on the blood, sweat and tears that got me here to this point. There was no turning back.

The goals for the days were simple:
1. Finish
2. Go Sub 11
3. Not walk on the run
4. Enjoy and have
5. Be the 3rd BTS athlete home

I reflected on these goals on that walk down to transitions and did feel a little pressure. It wasn’t like last year where it was just to finish, I now had a time goal to push me, this was the BIG motivating goal, all the others where a little less critical but the sub 11 was the main goal, there was going to be no compromises on this. I knew I could achieve this, I had done the training, and it could be achieved.

My general feeling was very relaxed and I was enjoying my 2nd IM experience, I wasn’t stressed about much at all and I was just going about the job of setting up my bike in transition. This seems to be relatively simple compared to last year. I had to laugh, I think 5 people used my pump before I even got a chance to use it myself, ah...why not, it's all about supporting each other whether you know them or not, we are all going through the same thing today. Finally I got to pump up my tyres and decided to put a little bit extra in them, not a lot, just a little, even with the wet conditions. The other pre race transition setting up that went on was attach the snack bag, tape all my gels to the cross bar, fill the bottles (the aero bottle), check the brakes, check the tyres for any foreign matter that may come to ‘puncture’ my race and then reset the bike computer. The bike set up was now complete, felt good, wasn’t stressful, it was all good.

With a little extra time up my sleeve I decided to check on a couple of the other BTS athletes who were relative close to me in transitions. They were all upbeat and keen to get going, there was a real confidence in the air.

Throughout the night it had rained on and off and the already saturated ground of the IM village was well and truly starting to look like a muddy swamp. From my rack position I waded through the ankle deep mud to the special needs area to place a bag in for the run leg. The bag consisted of just reserve items that I may need if required. However, I did deviate from the race plan a little and included a bottle of Endura Optimizer for a little something special to give me a ‘pick me up’ on the 2nd lap of the run. I was lucky to escape the special needs with both my thongs attached to my feet, the mud was trying its best to swallow up many of the athletes thongs, and I can assure you some thongs had become victim to the angle deep mud. I considered that mud also has therapeutic value and it was rather soothing to have the mud squeeze up between your toes....rather relaxing and certainly good for the pre race nerves.

I managed to escape the transition swamp to slowly make my way down to the BTS tent and the awaiting supporters, it was now getting close, it was only about 5min before the Pro’s were starting and then once they had begun, it was 35min before we start. Standing on the side of the Hastings River looking out towards the mouth of the river, in the dull light of an overcast day in Port Macquarie, I took a couple of moments to once again find my ‘own’ space to ponder my day ahead, the goals I wanted to achieve and the strategies that were important to achieving these goals.

About 10 minutes later it was time to slide in to the neoprene to insulate my body from the 21.4degree water of the Hasting River. All the BTS athletes were there, we were preparing together, we were there in support of each other, our supporters were there, quietly geeing us on and wishing us all the best for the 226.2km ahead of us today. It was time....time to head down to the swim start, there was an eager murmur of voices along with some quiet nerves, the queued slowed, it was an opportunity where all the BTS athletes wished each other good luck and best wishes for the race, we moved through the swim start gate and moved off to our respective start zones.
The water was cool; it took about 10-15min to get all 1400 athletes into the water. There was a nervous wait while the national anthem was sung. The 90 second warning went by, the 60 second warning, then the 30 second, the blue caps were sneaking forward, then there was a bang from the shore and all of a sudden there were 1400 IM athletes beginning their 226.2km journey, which would, for many, read like a suspense, or thriller, or mystery, or drama, or dare I say it a love story, but whatever the story, it was the culmination of approx. 12 weeks of hard, committed and trying training.

The strategy for the swim was to be consistent throughout, not to go out too hard and not to fade on the last leg coming home, but to hold a consistent pace. In say this, there was no holding back, I was in the middle of it all, it was all about having a new found confidence in the water, there was no sliding to the side at the start, it was to work to my race line and stick to it (well the best you can do anyway). The first 320m of the swim was tough, not a bit of clear water to be seen, there was always someone giving you a ‘wack’ to a part of your body or you giving a ‘wack’ to others, it was hard work. However, I was staying relaxed aware that this could burn up extra energy if I wasn’t careful, so I remained calm and persisted with trying to move forward towards the first of the main buoys on the course. These sorts of conditions continued well into the slight right turn to head up the river. At times my patience were running out but I continued to remain calm and slowly work towards some clear water heading up the river, which appeared to be into a slight current. Throughout this 790m stretch of the course I was trying to draft off other athlete’s feet and build up my rhythm...working on the glide, pull and recovery and staying relaxed. The wetsuit that I was wearing and in particular the Velcro tab around the neck had a notorious reputation to come undone throughout a race and again it was true to form!

Reaching the upriver turn, athletes again began to bunch and again there was a fair bit of argy bargy, it was here I received one of the more memorable wacks to the side of the head. It was now to get back into that comfortable rhythm that I had been working with previously; always remembering not to burn up too much extra energy, there is still a long day ahead. Approaching the down river 1st lap turn I began to pass a number of blue and white caps, this does do wonders for the ego, and does make you feel confident and positive about your swimming, but there was a need to take a fairly conservative approach. By this time, the athletes had begun to ‘thin’ out a little and there wasn’t as much argy bargy around the buoys and you could maintain a good rhythm for an extended period of time.

On the second lap, I did change my race line a little to a more direct approach taking a straight line from buoy to buoy, as it appeared that most athletes were swimming on the inside of that line based on a buoy on the house boat on the upriver leg. Rounded the upriver turn and again experienced a little argy bargy, but I was on the homeward stretch and I needed to stay focused and not get too excited, and work on the rhythm and consistency. Rounded the last buoy and headed for the swim finish, initially it was hard to pick but after a longer look, I found where I was headed and made a bee line to the swim finish. Nearing the river’s edge, you could hear the applause and cheers of the crowd; I could feel the adrenaline pumping through the veins. I continued to stroke until my hand touched the floor of the river and then stood up wading quickly towards the ramp and through the swim finish showers to realise I had completed the swim in 63mins, a 4min improvement from last years time. The plans and strategies had worked for me throughout the swim, it was now to the bike.

Running through that therapeutic mud, removing my wetsuit half way down my body, I picked up my bike bag (out of the mud) and made my way into the transition tent (or more accurately...transition swamp). I was lucky enough to have a fabulous volunteer to assist me with my transition and it wasn’t long before I was making my way back out of the transition tent to my bike (T1 was in a personal best time of 3min 40sec, a 4 ½ min improvement on last year).

I made my way out to the mounting area and did an IM mount of the bike (as opposed to a flying mount that other triathletes do). I was on my way for 180.2km of cycling bliss.
To set the scene a little here, this year I had changed a number of things to last year, I was now a lot more IM savvy and little less “OCD” about things on the bike, so some of these changes included:
  • No laminated check list for hydration and nutrition
  • No extra nutrition taken with me, if required I could get food off the aid stations.
  • There was the ‘Turtle’ aero helmet.
  • No special needs on the bike.

I broke the ride up into simply, a 6 x 30km cycle, which, within it incorporated 3 parts (10km of undulating hills – heading out of town; 10km of flat riding; 10km of undulating hills – the Ghost Rd). Each of these parts had particular strategies associated with them and the strategies stayed relatively the same whether I was riding in or out bound.

The nutrition and hydration plan was simple:

  • Drink every 15min
  • Gel on the 30 of the hour
  • The odd hour it would be an energy bar
  • The even hour it would be a vegemite sandwich.

I am pleased to report that this worked out brilliantly and apart from accidently dropping an energy bar, it all went off without a hitch.

The first 30km was important; it could make or break my race, if I go out too hard, I would certainly suffer for the rest of the race. To prevent this from happening, I worked on the principle that I stay in the small chain ring until I reach the flat section of this first 30km, once I get there, I am into the large chain ring but very conscious of the cadence, it must be between 90-100rpm until I reach the turnaround. There was a reasonable head wind along the flat section of the course (outbound).

The time for the 1st 30km was 54min14sec, I was happy, but had I pushed a little too hard, but I had stuck to my race strategy. Time shall tell!

The time splits happened as follows:
2nd 30km - 49:18
3rd 30km - 56:26, by this time, there was still a reasonable head wind with persistent rain. It was ironic, I began to dread the flat section, probably a part of the bike leg I should really enjoy, it was not the most enjoyable experience at this moment as the left hip flexor and lower back was giving me some issues, but I pushed through it and focussed on the cadence. I think through this section of the course because there isn’t much happening and very little to take you mind off the pain of being in the aero bars for approx. 20min, the mind begins to focus on the things that hurt and I found it such a relief to get to the golf club.

It was only little, but you grab onto every little motivating thought to get you through this race sometimes but I was saying to myself sometimes....’look out the TURTLE is coming through’ a little silly you may think, but it worked an absolute treat, to motivate me to pass someone, to get myself up a hill, to overcome a minor niggle. It does work; it takes the negativity out of the mind.

Reached the turnaround out on Ghost Rd for the second time and I was still happy with the progress, particularly in the damp and wet conditions. I had an unfortunate reminder that this is a long race and it is wet and to take it easy in these sorts of conditions if I was going to get to the run leg without trouble. Turning left off the Ghost Rd there was a rider in front of me who was maybe going a little too fast for the corner, broke on what appeared to be on a white line in the wet, missing the turn, going straight on, appearing to then hit the front break and after that, the poor guy hit the bitumen. A lesson learnt.

The trip back was again happening to plan, nutrition, hydration to plan and focussed on cadence and now watching the HR as I began to get a little fatigued, however, it was averaging round the 135 to 145bpm. All good!!

At this stage all the liquid I was taking on was catching up on me; in a bladder sort of way, whether this was my competitor nature or just my stubborn self, I wasn’t going to stop to go to the toilet. I pushed through; it just wasn’t going to happen for me on the bike.

Reached the 120km mark (the 4th 30km – 54min 51sec), this full lap was a lot more consistent with the outbound and inbound laps being very similar in times.

Heading out on the last lap, conditions were very similar to the last lap, the wind may have picked up a little more and at times I struggled to maintain a good speed above 30km/hr and a cadence in the acceptable zone, but I perevered and knew that I was well ahead in terms of the bike time and I still had 42.2km of the run to go. I was very conscious not to push it too hard at this point and then destroy my chances of a good run.

Got to the turnaround for the last time (150km), the 5th 30km – 1hr03min23sec. Quite a bit slower than the previous splits, but I wasn’t concerned, it was now about leaving enough in the legs for the run. The bladder was still screaming out for some relief and the lower back/hip on my left side was rather painful. I was hoping the back/hip issues weren’t going to catch up with me in the run. Time would tell!

The feeling heading through Port for the last time was great, it gave me that added boost to hit that was to be a non stop run!

Got to the dismount line; the clock on the bike finish was reading 6hr44min23sec, I was wrapped, this was a 19min improvement from last year at this point in the race.

The bike time for the 180km was 5hr37min24sec (last year it 5hr48min11sec). I was now focussed, this was all falling together for me, and it was now up to me to put together a good solid run. This is an aspect of my training, which Mark and I have been concentrating on.

In the gloomy conditions, I handed my bike over to another of those fabulous volunteers. Point to note, socks and mud....don’t mix! It was again a part of my good planning that I had a fresh pair of socks in my run bag for such a scenario, my OCD tendencies do pay off in this sport. Again I had a fantastic volunteer who assisted me with T2 and I was soon plotting my path through the mud in the transition tent out onto the course. The T2 time was incredible, 3min 40sec (compared to the 8min last year).

I made some radical changes to my race plans and strategy for the run this year, they included:

  • No fuel belt
  • No Garmin...yep that’s right...NO GARMIN!
  • The plan hydration and nutrition plan was based on the aid stations, but using gels for both bottom and top of the hour, only up to the 24km mark, then after that it was just cola and water or cola and Gatorade at every aid station.
  • There was to be no walking!

Out onto the run, focussing on initially not to go out too hard and a high leg cadence. Remember earlier where I said time would tell about the hip/back issue, well it reared its ugly head about 1km into the run. It was at this point my bladder had had enough and I decided to give it some relief and bowed to my ego and used a porta loo at the first aid station. During this short toilet break, the back/hip pain was really concerning me. I knew I needed to get going again and try and work through it, it was tough, but there was not to be walking; I shuffled on, trying to warm it up. Out at the Settlement Point turnaround, it was still creating some issues, COME ON, I murmured in anguish, shuffling on. At least the bladder was happy now, I only had one other thing to work through. At the aid station where I had the bladder relief, I decided to lighten the load and get rid of some of the rubbish that was in my pockets from the ride. Running past the bin I reached out to throw the rubbish in the bin and ......OH my GOD the pain or cramping that went through my hip/lower back was hurting me bad, BUT I wasn’t going to let it beat me, I pushed on! I knew my body, I knew if I could keep running, it would loosen up and things would come good.

I passed Mark just near the Seers Bike shop and he gave me a bit of a REV up, gave me the real facts; that I was on my way to smash my PB. I knew I wasn’t looking too good...the face was I passed the BTS supporters the face was not telling a story they wanted to see or hear. The support of the fabulous BTS supporters and the rev-up from Mark gave me that added lift and energy to work through the pain to keep the legs turning over. The continual support from all supporters along the break wall, at Town Beach, along Flagstaff Hill and out at Rocky Beach Lookout gave me that added lift and I began to ‘come good’. The short hill behind the Town Beach Surf Club and the Flagstaff Hill helped as I consciously shorten my stride and the slightly different running form assisted in the recovery from this issue, by the time I reached the Rock Beach turnaround I was back to my expected form for the run.

It took a lot of things to get me through this part of the run, but at NO time did I have negative thoughts, at NO time did I have ‘the voice’ overcome my positive outlook on it all, mentally this was a monumental victory and I used this as further motivator for the rest of the 42.2km run.

The return run from Rocky Beach was either downhill or flat and I knew that I running downhill was something that I could use to my advantage. I really strode out on these downhill parts, again giving some relief to the legs and stretching them out. By the time I reached the break wall, I was keeping a good pace and was happy with my progress, even though there had been a couple of obstacles placed in my path....but mentally and physically I was able to hurdle those and continue on.
Past the BTS supporter tent again and this time the face was telling a very different story...a happier, more pleasant story. I picked up my first scrunchie and this alone was a small motivator. I find that just the little things you can use as positive influence on your state of mind throughout a race of this nature. Again I passed Mark, again I receive the raw facts and again it did the job. Chatted with him a little explaining the issues I had overcome....gave him the thumbs up and ran on! Out to Settlement point again, this time picking up the Endura Optimizer from my special needs, for a bit of an added boost, it kind of did the job...well at least psychologically. Pushed on, passed Mark and then the BTS supporters. Again I was using the thought ‘the TimO (turtle) is in the house’ or ‘the TimO (turtle) is coming through’ as a positive thought over and over again to work through the hurt which, at this point, wasn’t anywhere in particular, well maybe every part of my lower body that I was utilising to run the last part of the run.

I reached the Rocky Beach aid station, on the 2nd lap it was time.....time to use the cola. Last year it worked a treat and this year wasn’t to be much different. It was cola/water then cola/Gatorade alternatively for the rest of the race.

Back through the BTS Supporters, by this time they were ‘stepping up’ the support up a notch. Received the next scrunchie and I was mentally feeling on top of the lap to go...reached Settlement Point for the last time. The legs were VERY crampy but...hey....who cares...nothing was going to stop me now! A quick look at the watch indicated that if I continue on the way I had been travelling, this was going to be a successful day. Through the transition area, through the BTS supporters, this time I got the ‘come on – bring it home’ butt slap. There was a mention that a 10:45 could be on the cards, I acknowledge that too, but knew that either way, it was going to be a great performance.

Oh how my face was telling such a different story to the first time I passed the BTS supporters. I began to push a little harder; I was determined to give it my all throughout this last 6-7km, there was going to be nothing left in the tank. I arrived at the Rocky Beach turn around, I was smiling, in fact I was smiling quite a bit after I came good on the run, I was enjoying the run, I was enjoying everything about this IM racing. Reaching the breakwall I tried to get a little more out of the legs, but they were not wanting to participate, got to the IGA carpark tried again, there was some response, but the 10:45 had slipped past, it was now to be a goal of around 10:50. I ran past Webby and Tommy just before the Surf Rescue Centre, there were some serious high 5’s and I continued on to pass the fabulous and congratulatory BTS supporters, who were also going for the serious high 5’s and bum slapping!
This time, instead of being directed right, I was directed left down the sacred IM Australia finishing chute, the chute was lined 3-4 people deep. It was brilliant, the atmosphere was electric the support was overwhelming. The finish sign was getting closer and closer. Then I heard Pete Murray say Tim Osborne you are an IRONMAN. It was a PB, not just a small PB, it was a 32min PB, I smashed it. I was so wrapped!

Finishing Time of 10hr 50min 54sec

Once over the finishing line, I received my IM finishers’ medal and towel. Again it is amazing that all of a sudden after 226.2km, when you cross that line, the legs just forget how to work properly. The wonderful volunteers (2 of them) supported me into the recovery area. I needed it, last year I was pretty good, but this year, I left nothing in the tank and I now knew I had, it took quite a considerable amount of time before I could get up out of the chair I was sitting in. It was then off for a massage, that was soooo good, I helped me get the legs functioning a little more normally.

After the massage, went round to get a bit to eat...just ice cream, that all I could stomach at this stage. Picked up my finishers shirt and gear bag and made my way back around to the BTS supporters.

There were congratulations all round, the coach was pleased, and I was pleased. All the goals I had set out for the day were successfully achieved. What a race, I’m hooked on this IM racing. Bring on the next one....10:30 here we come!

This journey started out early January 2009, there were a lot of early mornings, tired and sore bodies throughout that time. There were tantrums and dummy spits, there was sheer exhaustion, and plenty of mental battles along the way, with my arch enemy ‘the voice’. When I look back now at the result and performance I put together it was ALL worthwhile (and that does include the Computrainer sessions). Throughout this time, there have been many people supporting me and encouraging me to get out there and get the job done.

First of all, I would like to thank my wonderful and supportive wife, Karen, who was always there in the background encouraging me throughout the training and helping me to achieve my goals.
Secondly, Mark, this is my second IM campaign that he has coached me through and my second successful one. In both campaigns he successfully assisted me in achieving my goals. As a coach, he has had to take on many roles to get me through the 2009 campaign, these definitely included being an invaluable knowledge and skills related to IM racing, counsellor, negotiator, listener, dietician and weight watcher. I have found over the past 2 campaigns that following the program critical in my overall success. Thanks Mark I have much appreciated and enjoyed you coaching me again through this campaign.
To the fellow BTS IM athletes, it has been great to have someone to train with throughout this campaign! I have learnt a lot from you all and appreciated getting to know you. Thanks for your support and encouragement, it was invaluable throughout the day and during those long training hours. Hope to see you there next year!
To all those who supported me and/or the other BTS athletes including all the BTS supporters who travelled down to Port, your support was unbelievable, it certainly made my day! Thanks heaps!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

You are an IRONMAN

It was today I completed my second Ironman Australia. It was a race that I was extremely happy with, it went off without a hitch.

I achieved a 32min PB, completeing the swim, 180km bike and 42.2km run in 10hrs and 50min.

Stay tuned for my full race report in the next week or so.