With the decision made after Kona in 2012 that there would be no Kona this year, the build-up to Ironman Cairns was quite relaxed. This was to be my 5th Ironman in my 3rd year of Triathlon after throwing myself in the deep end three years ago. I was really looking forward to this race in beautiful Cairns with just my own personal goals to chase. I was aiming to go sub 9 hours (1 hour swim with transitions included, 4:55 bike, 2:55 run), win my age category and, at a stretch, be the first age grouper home.
The build up pretty much went to plan. There were no injuries and all the main sessions were completed. It was starting to get a lot cooler at home and I was heading to tropical Cairns, however I avoided catching a flu. We arrived in Cairns the Monday before the race to get a little bit of training and acclimatisation in. While it was still quite warm. Everyday seemed to be the same weather wise -strong southerlies, rain and a little bit of sunshine. Race day was to be more of the same.
Race morning arrived and, as usual, the nerves kicked in. I wasn't overly nervous, just keen to get the big day started. With a later start of 7:55am, there was plenty of time to get all the gear ready and say good bye to my girls. With a long walk from T1 to the swim start I got myself to the start line early so I could get into the water early and do a little warm up.
With the ever present danger of crocs, bull sharks and stingers this swim had it all. The course was set up really well. It had a wide open start line, numbered buoys and a rectangle course which all made it easy to navigate. I pretty much started front and centre, minus the usual claustrophobic feeling that you normally get at the start of an IM swim. After the usual 5 minute sprint without a touch, the rest of the swim was quite peaceful. With my swimming not fast enough to go with the front pack, I once again found myself in clear water without any feet to follow. Ah well, you can't have it all. The return portion of each lap was quite difficult as there was a noticeable current and slight chop. I was out of the water in 56 min, which was about what I was expecting. So far so good and feeling fine.
It was a long run to T1 in Cairns which suited me fine. I passed about 10 guys on the way to transition so my position was improving. With my wetsuit off and helmet on, I was away in good time.
Heading out on the bike, the road was wet so I was conscious to keep the Giant upright through town before I got out onto the highway. With the southerly at my back, I was flying (Well I thought so anyway) I was averaging 40kph. As Pete Murray said at the presentation night, "There were about 1500 cycle PB's for the first 70 km." The first turn point was at Port Douglas and things began to get a little tougher. I had a quick chat with Ben Squires who was having some more bad luck on the bike after another blistering swim (third time lucky mate, I hope). Back over the hills for about 20 km and into a stiffening southerly I was starting to hurt. Relief came at the next turn around. I was heading back to Port Douglas with the wind at my back. Happy days! I turned at Port Douglas for the last time and with about 60 km to go I was now hurting. Cramps and Hot Foot started to kick in so now I was in damage control. I rode the last 60km solo, into the head wind and the thought of what once seemed an easy sub 5 hour bike split, was starting to fade. I was off the bike in 5:03. It wasn't a disaster but I had plenty of work to do.
After having the fastest T2 in the World last year, this was where the race was at. I was through T2 in 47 seconds! Fastest in the race. Yee haa.
As I passed the airport, a spectator told me I was now the third age grouper and not far behind 2nd. This gave me a real boost. Onto the esplanade and the crowd was fantastic. At around the 25 km, I managed to catch Matt Craft, who was the second age grouper, but Nick Gates was a fair way up the road and I didn't hold a great deal of hope in catching him. Over the next 10 km or so I just tried to stay relaxed and I started to make small inroads into Nicks lead. With about 5km to go, Xavier Coppock gave me a rev up and a time split. At the last run turn I saw that Nick walking and he was only 100 metres up the road. I passed him and headed for home. I was now the leading age grouper. I just had to hold it together for the last 3.5km.
Into the home straight and the atmosphere was amazing. I managed to find Kendra and my two girls in the finish chute for an emotional hug and kiss just before the finish line. I was the first age grouper home in 9:03 with a 2:59 run split. Not quite my goal time but it was tough day out. I was over the moon to be the first age grouper home.
We didn't make it to watch the Kona roll down on Monday, after being held up at breakfast. That was probably lucky. I might have been tempted to take the spot! In all seriousness though, it will just make me hungrier the next time that I venture to the Big Island.
Now for the thank you's.
Thanks to everyone for the messages of support and congratulations. They were very much appreciated and helped me get through the tough times out on course.
Ryan, Jess, Dave and the crew at Spearman Cycles and Giant Bikes - I can't thank you enough for the support you have given me.
Karl from Trizone.com.au – Thanks for the photos, mate. Project M and the guys that I train with – Thanks to the crew for making training so enjoyable. My best mate, Adam Coble and all the Coble family – Thanks for your ongoing support and for following me on this triathlon journey.
Lastly and by no means least, thanks to my parents and in-laws and my amazing wife Kendra with our two beautiful girls Alexis and Skye. Kendra and the girls are at every race supporting me and allowing me to chase my dreams. I love you all very much.
We had a great time in Cairns. It truly is a wonderful course and a great venue for an Ironman. I plan to take a short break before full training for season four kicks off in August. Hopefully there will be a return to the Big Island in the not too distant future.