Darren is an Ironman

Did you know that team Rogue member Darren has been an ironman since 2010? Below is the race report to prove it. It can give us non-triathlon types an eye into the world of ironman racing, and also a (somewhat disturingbing) eye into the mind of Darren. PS – another team Rogue racer, Deb, is an ironman 9 times over, but she doesn’t like to brag. So, over to Darren….

For those interested about the Australian Ironman at Port Macquarie on Sunday, in short my overall time was 11hr7min6sec. 68minutes slower than I wanted but given it was my first one and that I wasn’t hugely prepared for it I was happy enough. Doing the Ironman really was an amazing experience, for those wanting a little more info, here’s how the story goes…..

I’m not into triathlons but the ironman was something I had always wanted to do for some reason so I decided to do a half ironman in 2009 to validate an entry and give the full one a crack this year. I must admit slogging out those long distances on mundane road courses was a little out of my comfort zone and boredom on the course one of my biggest fears. Distance was never a concern, just the time on flat road.

As I was inflating my tyres two hours before racking my bike I found my nice Zipp 404 rear carbon wheel was cracked. A few frantic phone calls to try source another decent wheel and a trip to the Zipp distributor at the show and I was told there was a good chance the wheel would get me through the race so I stuck with what I had (worrying later knowing the cost to replace would be over $1000).

Start of the race was at dawn on Sunday morning. 1500 competitors were assembled in the water, all to start at the same time. I was warned about this experience that if you’re slow and at the front the people will swim straight over the top of you. Well, they weren’t kidding. It was amazing and the first 500m just felt like war on water. Awesome fun. Twice I had to quickly pause to fix my goggles that had been knocked, and I reckon I gave my fair share of body and head kicking and slapping to other competitors too. The swim is by far my weakest leg and I had been working on drills to improve my technique once or twice a week for 2 months before the race. These certainly paid off as I exited the water after the 3.8km swim in 67minutes, 8 to 15 minutes ahead of my predicted time (position 895 out of 1500). I was feeling great as I ran through transition to collect the bike. Coming through transition was an experience. It’s not like a normal race where you sort things yourself, instead competitors collect their gear bag, run into a tent where volunteer officials help get the contents of the bag, get wetsuits off, dress ourselves for the bike and off we go.

The bike course was 3 laps of a 60km course. Supposedly it’s one of the hardest bike courses as far as ironman triathlons are concerned because of the hills. Personally I thought the hills were great as they break up the monotony of slogging out 180km on a flat road. I didn’t take the ride out too hard, opting to pace myself. Completed the first lap on track with my race plan but the next 2 laps the wind had begun to pickup causing a headwind coming back into town. My pace was falling off a little in the next 2 laps but I decided against busting my guts trying to up the pace and risking blowing up in the marathon to come. Apart from a tiring back in the last 30km, the bike course was actually really enjoyable and quite fun. Finished the bike in 5:47:59, 30minutes off the pace I was after, so hoping to pull in a bit with a good run, usually my strongest leg.

Off the bike and onto the run. Again through a transition tent with lots of helpers. First 8km I was pacing along nicely at about a 5min/km pace. At about 10km mark though I decided a toilet break was required. Rules are that competitors must use the portaloos provided or risk disqualification. Opened the door on one and shocked a female competitor in there trying to hurry about her business. I opted for peeing at the door on the outside and giving the lady inside a similar fight when she exited (technically I don’t believe we had to pee INSIDE the portaloo, just use it, which I did). It was just after this that I hit bit of a wall. I eased of a bit and walked through a water stop and skulled 2 big cups. From then on things just seemed to get harder and harder and harder. Pace fell off and I was at times struggling to keep around 6min/km. Water stops were every 2km and they were my goals, my rewards for plodding on. The run course must have been the most boring, mundane, uninspiring run I have ever done. Why the hell do these triathletes enjoying running 3 laps of a 14km course on a road??? BORING!!! Hated it! There are some amazing parts of the run however, the mass of competitors, spectators and volunteers. One of the highlights was a teenage kid armed with rubber gloves loaded with sunscreen. As I plodded past a water drop he yells “sunscreen? Want some sunscreen?”. I asked for some and he runs beside me and goes slap slap slap on the legs, chest and arm making me look like a ghost. He was having a blast.

At the finish of the 42.2km run (the most mundane, boring run EVER) it was through the finish line and I had become an Ironman. This too is amazing. As soon as competitors cross the line, 2 volunteers grab hold and walk us to a tent where we sit down and get checked out to make sure everything is OK. I’d never had anything like it. From there it’s either off to the doctors for treatment or off to the massage tables where there’s a couple of hundred student masseuses. Being one of the better looking competitors with a more desirable body, I had 2 girls massaging me at the same time (yep, they were all fighting over me).

The people competing in these races are all so determined, competitive and the pace is intense. What a bunch of nutcases. Reckon they must all be missing a bearing upstairs. Unlike adventure racing where the course and obstacles are unknown and competitors need to think more, the known course of ironman allows athletes to switch the brain off and let the bodies go on autopilot for a set distance before they breakdown.

Anyway, the experience was amazing and anyone who is into these sort of things really should checkout an ironman race one day, whether as a competitor, spectator or volunteer. Will I do another one? Not sure, adventure racing is a hell of a lot more fun. If I do decide to do Ironman again I will focus 3 to 4 months before the event specifically to training in a time trial bike position and slogging out boring road run marathon type training to try get that sub 10hr time.

PS. And for those wondering how I pulled up afterwards? Well, the legs and lower back are stuffed. I didn’t event commute to work on the pushy the last two days.

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