Port Mac is an Ironman event which I have wanted to do for a long time. I have done the 70.3 there a number of times previously, however never the full. When the time came to plan out my first Ironman in the Pro field, Port Mac was the obvious choice. I really wanted my family to be able to see the first one. The only person from my immediate friends or family circle who has ever seen me do an Ironman is my wife, Bree. The thought of having my parents there at the finish line was a real driving factor.
I traveled down to the race on the Tuesday and did the 7 hour or so road trip, stopping for a swim along the way and met up with the Titan Performance Crew once I was down there. The plan was always for my wife and family to come down on the Friday. Thursday afternoon came around and things changed pretty rapidly, my father-in-law was all of the sudden down for open heart surgery the following Monday. My wife Bree was superb throughout this time and tried to make all sorts of arrangements to be down there for the race and then go straight back. As much as I appreciated Bree's efforts it was crucial that she was there with her dad throughout this time. That phone call really changed things for me that weekend and It gave me a whole new perspective on the race. For months leading in, I had been pretty selfish (as you have to be in this sport at times) in making sure that my TrainingPeaks was always green and I was doing the best to make sure that I didn't get my arse handed to me in Port. All of the sudden, what I was doing seemed really insignificant, and it was. I found it really hard to think about the race and I even had thoughts about going back to Brissy to see Colin before his surgery. Some of my family and friends started to arrive from Friday and this settled my nerves a fair bit.
Race morning came around and I must say - it was super weird not having Bree there with me. This is the first race EVER that she wasn't there. I got into the water and I was just looking around thinking how good is this. Here I am, a country kid from Boonah who used to look at these guys in magazines and I am here, I am actually doing it. It was super cool. The gun fired and I surprised myself with how well I started, I was right where I needed to be. The thing with racing in the pro field is that EVERYTHING is done fast, and EVERYTHING is aggressive. The turn buoys are flat out, if you aren't ready for that you will be off the back. A small gap opened from the person in front and by the time I acknowledged that gap - bang I was off the back. I tried to bridge the gap but I couldn't get across. What a start - 600m into the race and I am solo. I decided to just swim the rest of the swim at my own pace and get a split when I came out of the water. I think from memory I was about 4 minutes down on the main pack. WTF. 4 mins! I normally come out at the front of an AG swim pack and IM 4 mins down?!
I got onto my bike and I knew that Levi Maxwell was only about 60 seconds up so my first thought was to catch him. As I was leaving T1 I heard that Dougal Allen and Nathan Shearer, both uber bikers, were coming in to T1. The plan was to catch Levi and ride my power and try to hold those guys off for as long as I could. I was actually really comfortable riding and although I didn't catch Levi as I hoped my power numbers were OK. I was really suprised that I held of Nathan and Dougal until the 85km mark of the ride. How good was it to have some company. For 85km I had just been looking at the heat shimmer of the road. I rode with the 'Fitter boys' until about 130km when we caught Levi Maxwell. My mood instantly picked up, I knew that Levi was only just down on another group and I was pumped because I had ridden my way back into the race. Insert - dropped chain. I honestly couldn't believe it. It took me over 3 hours of hard work to get myself back into a reasonable position and then I am back out of it in 5 seconds. I got the chain back on pretty quickly but the guys had well and truly gaped me. I went deep, too deep and then I suffered, badly. For about 15km I was in a dark place and I wanted to quit so badly, but I just knew I couldn't. I stopped at aid station got some solid food and then surprisingly came good heading back into town.
Getting of the bike - shit! The roads at Port Mac are so bumpy that it felt like the life had been shaken out of my legs. Not a word of a lie - I walked the aid station 400m into the marathon. I took my time and started to get into a rhythm. By 3km in - I actually felt really good. I chipped away at goal pace until about the 25km mark when it got really hard. I knew that I was running in about 9th spot and I decided to just make sure I got sub 9. I chipped away and actually posted my fastest ever Marathon (which by no means is the finished product). I came across the line and I was just happy I was done. I got a call from Bree and her dad was there as well and it just made it all worth while.
I learnt a heap about myself as an athlete but also as a person over the course of that weekend. I went sub 9 on a pretty tough course and my Mum and Dad saw me finish an Ironman which was super special. Overly, I am happy with that performance - I keep having to remind myself that it was my first pro Ironman and that it is ok to make mistakes.
Onwards and upwards to Japan 70.3 :)