Yesterday was the 2010 Ironman Australia here in Port Macquarie. For those of you who were not following the lead-up to this race, there were a few of the top competitors that withdrew over the last few weeks. The race lost Leon Griffin, Mitch Anderson, and Pete Jacobs.
While losing some of these top competitors, there was still Patrick Vernay, Scott Neyedli, Olivier Marceau, and Jason Shortis in the field, as well as a few others that could upset the mix. I didn’t have the best preparation, as I came down with the flu about 3 1/2 weeks out from the race. I got myself on some antibiotics, which was great for the flu; however, it zapped all my energy and affected my guts in a bad way, but I won’t go into those details…
It was frustrating to not have the energy to do the big blocks of training that I needed for the race, but I needed to let the antibiotics take their course. Once I felt that I was over the infection, I got out of town and headed up to Alstonville to do some training with the boys up there. I stayed at Clayton Fettell’s place, and we got some really good training in. I really like training up in that area because we are able to push each other in our training sessions, and the roads are better and have a lot less traffic.
I stayed away from town until Monday, which only had me dealing with the media frenzy for four or five days, which was a good thing. After coming in third at Ironman Australia last year, and considering that last year’s second-place finisher, Pete Jacobs, had withdrawn due to a broken collarbone, there was a lot of local media that were making this a showdown between Patrick and me.
Patrick is strong, and he has the experience, but I knew there was a lot of other guys in this field that were capable of winning this race over Patrick or me. I had several media commitments throughout the week, and all of the questions were geared towards how I would race against Patrick or how I would go compared to last year. I tried not to get too caught up in the focus on Patrick, and tried to focus on keeping my head clear so I could race the race as it unfolded.
The Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, was doing his first Ironman event, and that took almost all of the media attention away from us professionals. I’ve never seen so many cameras and reporters covering an event, and fortunately for us, they weren’t in our face while we were preparing ourselves for the race.
The race start was going to be slightly different from last year, so the race organisers were going with a mass start. Also, in the pre-race briefing, we were told there would be a cannon firing to signify the start of the race. However, once they had positioned us to form a floating start line, we all began to drift forward, not wanting anyone to have any advantage over the rest of us. We were all jockeying for positions, when someone on the shoreline sounded one of those “air horns.” I saw a few guys make the jump, and suddenly there was thrashing water all around me. I started swimming with the rest of them, but could faintly hear the announcer on the sideline trying to stop us and call us back to the start line. I could see that no one around me was willing to stop, so I wasn’t going to be the only idiot to swim back. After about another 5 to 10 seconds, they decided to ignore our false start, and the cannon went off. It was a bit unnerving to have a start like that, but I was trying to find a quick rhythm.
Several of the faster age groupers made it quickly up to the lead pack of professionals, and I could see on the one side of me a few swim around the outside to move ahead of me. We were moving along at a pretty good pace, and as we came around to start our second lap, I slowly started drifting back out of the draft zone coming off the swimmer in front of me. I tried to get back up to him, but I eventually gave up and swam the second lap on my own, with about seven or eight guys off my feet. A little frustrated, I led the second group out of the water and made a quick transition to get to my bike. I needed to find out who the guys were that were out ahead of me, and I would only know that once I got to the pro bike racks. Unfortunately for me, that group included Vernay, Olivier, Paul Ambrose, and Scott Neyedli. I led the second group out of the water, but we were already one minute and 30 seconds down from the first pack.
Once I got out on the bike, I tried to settle into a good rhythm, and most of the groups that came through the transition area with me were all hanging off the back. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to see what the time gap was until I reached the turnaround at the southern end of the course. I felt we were holding a pretty good pace throughout the southbound leg, but when we pass the leaders on the Ghost Road, I knew they were putting some more time into us.
When I saw the pack was being driven by Olivier Marceau, I was concerned because I know how good of a cyclist he can be. I tried to get the pace increased, but some of the other guys I was riding with didn’t seem to have the legs on the day. So it was frustrating to see the leaders continue to pull away from us at each of the turnaround points.
By the time we reached T2, I think that group had 6 1/2 minutes on us. I had a quick transition, and set out on a pace to run them down. Just after I finished my first lap, I was able to overtake Olivier Marceau. Then halfway through my second lap, I overtook Paul Ambrose. And on the latter part of that second lap, I was able to catch Adrian Cominotto along the break wall. But I also was starting to feel the effects of the pace that I had been holding.
Very quickly, I had a feeling of sluggishness come over me, and as I passed through the carpark at Town Beach, I was dreading the hills that were ahead of me. Just as I was hitting the first big climb up Windmill Hill, I had Matty White overtake me. Up until that point, he had pretty much been holding pace with me, but running about 150 m behind me. So I felt a bit demoralized as I realized that the sluggishness I was feeling in my head had passed on to my legs because Matty flew by me, and I soon walked part of the way up the hill.
I got some inspiration from the Team Berkel supporters that were camped out at the top of Windmill Hill, so I was able to get into a decent rhythm again coming back in through town and all the way out to Settlement Point. I was feeling quite crook as I was approaching that turnaround point, and I ended up throwing up in a portaloo (toilet). It must have been while I was sitting on that fiberglass thrown, that Paul Ambrose overtook me again. With my body back on track, I was able to finish my third lap, but unfortunately I was not able to make up ground on any of the leaders ahead of me, so I ended up finishing seventh on the day.
The 2010 Ironman Australia was not one of my better outings, and I’m still a little disappointed that I wasn’t able to stay with the lead swimmers back in the earlier stages of the race. But it’s all a good reminder to me that I need to stay focused at all times. I would have loved for this to come down to a running race with Patrick, Scott, Courtney, Matty, and me. It would have been interesting…
But it’s no longer time to dwell on the past, so now I’ll put all of my focus and training into racing the Half Ironman in Busselton in early May. After that race, I will be heading to the USA for six months of racing in the northern hemisphere. Looking forward to that, but I will keep you all posted on my website and on twitter.
Cheers for now,