Well I’m going to take this back a few months and fill you in on a few ups and downs I have had in 2014.
I considered Ironman Cairns a key race in my season and was hoping to hit the start line feeling strong and confident. However my performance expectations for this race were going to have to change.
In February things were going well coming off fourth place at Challenge Wanaka and planning my build up to Ironman New Zealand. While I thought I was training well, in hindsight I was probably training too well. My life balance was out of whack and training was dominating my focus. I was training with too much intensity and not enough recovery especially coming off the tough Challenge Wanaka race. I was feeling really good three weeks from Ironman New Zealand, then after a great weekend’s training I starting feeling a bit off which was the beginning of a virus which left me in bed for a week. I felt totally smashed and while I was optimistic about being on the start line, as the week wore on those hopes diminished and were finally crushed after speaking with my coach, Matt Koorey. I had known what he would say but I was still holding out some hope. Race day was tough watching everyone competing but it was the right call.
The next step was to identify the mistakes I had made post Wanaka and pre Ironman NZ. I needed to look at balancing my life better, training, racing, family and work. After a lot of consultation (and counselling) with Coach Matt, he devised a new programme to better focus on all aspects of my life more evenly. I had a few quiet training weeks to get my mojo back and then started looking at Ironman Cairns as my next race.
In the next few weeks I got back in to training, focused on listening to my body, life balance and also changed my nutrition after consulting with Mikki Williden, moving to a high fat, low carb with the occasional pizza but no more 250g blocks of chocolate right before bed diet. Mr Stressed and Grumpy went away and I enjoyed all aspects of life a bit more, I ticked off the training days, caught up with mates for some of the training – nothing like talking crap with the boys to chill out a bit, and looked forward to work as well.
One other little drama pre race – crashing on the North Western motorway cycle path when a lady pulled in front of me, a tiny bit of damage to the Cervelo P5 frame meant it was a right off two weeks before Ironman Cairns. Thank goodness for Chris at PRV who sorted out a replacement – he was very calm and organised considering I was very stressed!
Landing in Cairns to warm weather and sun was amazing – such a change from what I had just left. With a few days of training left, the cycling and running was great. The water at Palm Cove was horrible, rough, choppy and very dirty but nothing worse than St Heliers on a crappy day. Was good to relax a bit and catch up with the other guys racing, Rob Dallimore, Brodie Madgewick, Larisa Marsh, Dan Crowther and Coach Matt.
Race day and the forecasted weather turned up, rain, rain and more rain. It was an early start as the shuttle bus left for Palm Cove at 5am. Race start time was 7.45am so I had loads of time to spend in the rain getting my bike ready in T1. Fortunately I was in good company with Brodie Madgewick right next to me and a fancy hotel just up the road that the athletes and their supporters had taken over for some shelter.
At race start, the sea was still rough, choppy and dirty but lining up next to legends like Cam Brown and Courtney Ogden was a buzz. The swim took me 55 minutes which wasn’t a great time but I was happy to hang on to a bunch and come out with Cam Brown, Brodie and a few others. The rough conditions suited me and allowed me to keep up with the guys who are usually a bit quicker than me. I was looking forward to having some company on the bike.
Coming out of transition was a nightmare – the road was cobbled with lots of bumpy speed humps, but hitting the highway everyone took off. Matt Burton took off like a rocket followed by Brodie and myself, Cam Brown had flown by on a mission to catch the guys ahead of us. Next minute Brodie is pulling off the road with a broken spoke which ended our plan to ride together. Such crap for him right at the start of the ride. Luke Martin was behind me and I was feeling positive about the ride ahead. Unfortunately my legs were not responding as I’d hoped and pretty soon I had dropped off the back of the group. This was disappointing, it was raining, I was feeling a bit crap and my plan wasn’t going to plan. After giving myself a talking to, the old “harden up” speech, I got going. Jimi Johnson flew past me and I let him go – it’s a long day and anything could happen. I just needed to stick to what my body was telling me.
The ride up to Port Douglas was rolling with some good fast flat sections and rolling bumps and hills. I realised that the leaders were not too far ahead of me but also knew their group was about to get bigger with the second group catching them so they would then be flying.
Leaving Port Douglas, Jason Shortis was behind me. If he caught me I was planning to try and stick with him, Casey Munro was also down with a flat he would likely catch me as well. Both these guys caught me at the 70km mark and while I tried to go with them, my legs just weren’t playing the game so it was going to be a long solo ride. On the way back up to Port Douglas, I saw Brodie changing a flat tyre – he was having a way worse day than me! Finally at the 100km mark my legs decided they wanted to race and I started to feel really good for the ride back to Cairns.
Coming into Cairns I passed Jimi Johnson. My bike time of 4 hours 58 minutes was ok for a long solo day in the rain.
Starting the marathon and I was feeling positive, my legs were ok and there was a lot of crowd support in Cairns. I was planning a steady marathon. It was a tricky course of three laps and numerous turns, several of them 180 degrees that really mucked up my rhythm and pace. Shortis passed me at about 4km, he wasn’t looking great and was running really fast, I let him go hoping he wouldn’t last and stuck to my pace. I passed him not long after which gave me confidence that this was the right plan for me. The first lap ticked over as did the second, although it seemed to drag on a bit but I managed to pass Casey Munro who was walking. Seems my day was looking up.
Getting the third armband was a good feeling knowing this was the last lap. I hit a bad patch at 30km, hitting the coke helped but my calves were pretty tight and sore, much of the run was on concrete which seemed to hammer my legs. Going around the last (of so so many) turnarounds was a good feeling and I made the most of the last 4km, I was pretty happy running down the finish chute with a 2 hour 59 minute marathon. Once I stopped and looked around I thought f**k, glad that is over.
After a bit of time in the recovery tent, a massage and some food I hobbled out to Paula. It was still raining as it had been all day.
Congratulations to Brownie for taking out the win, it was great to see as he was all class all day.
My final placing was 8th pro in a time of 8 hours 57 minutes, still some work to do but I am happy with the overall race.
Thanks to my coach, Matt Koorey, for all your time and advice.
Huge thanks to all my sponsors. New Balance NZ, Cervelo, Schwalbe NZ, 3T, Magellan GPS, Smith Optics, Compressport NZ, Triathletes Corner, Aloe Up Sunscreen, Vital Greens, Bonk, Bont, ISM, Hobsonville Phsyio, PRV, Blue Seventy, Zen, Goodhealth and Cliff Bar. Your support means a lot and I wouldn’t be able to do this without you guys behind me! Absolute Legends!
Finally, thanks to my amazing wife Paula. Number one support crew! I would be a lost sheep without her!
Until the next one, thanks to everyone for their support!