Saturday, 23 June 2012

Cairns Ironman

It has been almost two weeks now since I cross the finish line of the first Cairns Ironman along esplanade drive.
All those months of preparations and sacrifices I had to make since January just to make sure I have no excuses for myself not to perform. And I am glad I made the right choice. If having to put up with all of this to break a new PB of 20mins for my bike and overall 4mins for an Ironman, so be it. I will keep doing what ever I am doing and not let it break me.

Cairns is a beautiful place with its nice coastal area, people and awesome coffees.

I didn’t know how much to expect for Cairns as I was also realistic about my Kona chances this year, having moved up to a new age group and being the youngest in it. The one thing I was very sure of was that I needed to break a new PB for myself as what happen to me in Kona, given the short span of time to rest and train after I qualify in Korea, didn’t put me in the best position to enjoy and embrace my very first Ironman World Championships. I had unfinished business.

I had 3 days prior to the race to do all my equipment check and test my gears but the skies decided to come down on us every single time I put on any form of lycra. It was indeed frustrating as I spend most of the days waiting out the rain and storm.
Eventually, I only managed to do a short run on Thursday and a short ride on Friday before the bike check-in on Saturday. Without any swim, I had no idea what to expect but just hearsay from other fellow competitor that the water were calm.

The short run on Thursday helped calm me down a little as I know that my legs were good and I should have no problem with my shoe.
I could not say so for the short ride on Friday. Equipment wise I choose to use my F6R over my F9R generously sponsored by ENTRO Cycles taking into consideration the slight undulation and wind conditions that I will be riding along the coastal road of Port Douglas.
Traffic was live as due to the rain, I had missed the road closure window in the morning for athletes to ride so huge trucks and speeding cars were very much real. Just barely a few kilometers onto the Captain Cook Highway, I had to make a turn back to the hotel with Alan as I could not take the close proximity the trucks were driving alongside and the air turbulence they were stirring. It was really intimidating as the trucks in Cairns were all way bigger than the one in Singapore!!!
Not being able to do a complete ride left me clueless about how my legs will be on Sunday.
I guess I just have to relax and that everything will turn out just fine on race day.
Without wanting to stress myself out too much with the pre-race tension, decided to sleep in later on Saturday just in time to have breakfast and check in my bike at T2.

It was like the calm before the storm I guess as I spend much of the day relaxing at all the neighboring cafĂ©’s, trying out all the different types of coffee with my partner in crime, Alan, before we started looking a right place for dinner. I went straight back to hotel for an early night right after that.

With one big stretch and one big yawn, I jumped out of bed. I never felt this fresh, I never felt this good before an ironman. I had a perfect and undisturbed sleep and I can already feel it was going to be a good day.
Alan and I packed up out street gear and headed down to the race start at 0530hrs. He’s racing his very first triathlon and already a 70.3! I have seen him on a good day and he can be really fast!! Huge potential from him
It’s nice going to a race with someone who is not stranger to you, their presence seems to help.

Swim start was as hectic as ever just like in every race. Ironman Cairns was unique in its way as it was a water start. Strong swimmers prefer starts like that as it gives them the confidence and edge over the average swimmers. The only downside of a water start is that you will first need to get on the pontoon via a narrow bridge, which acts like a choke point and cause some major human traffic delays and late starts for the competitor.

Off the sound of the horn and I frantically throw my arms as fast as possible to try and get into a good position and group for the swim. The murky water condition did not make it a fantastic swim for me. Visibility was low and I could not see past my elbow. Yes, it was that bad. I eventually make it out of the swim at 1.17hrs. Not the time I was expecting but the race was still long. I know I can and need to make up time on the bike.
It was a long run to the transition area, as we had to cover the full stretch of the jetty approximately 300m. The pebbles on the road made it really painful to run and I was really concern I may injure my foot again just like the stupid lump which plagued me just before Aviva. Thankfully, everything went well and I managed to slip on my bike shoe to run from the changing tent to the bike depot.

Had a smooth sequence picking up my bike and gears and I wasn’t as frantic by this point. I knew the bike would be strongest leg. All I needed to do was to do what I do best, love riding my Argon bike! As the saying goes, plan your race and race your plan!
One by one as I overtook the faster swimmers, I was feeling even more confident in my ability. One look down on my right wrist was all I needed as I continue to power down with every stroke of the pedal. On the first u-turn point at Port Douglas, I spotted Adrian and tried to Gauge his distance from mine. It was not as much as I expected, it was either Adrian was easing off the pace or I was going much better on the bike this time round compared to Korea.
By the final u turn point, I knew I could and should not hold back, I needed to give myself a good ride rather than finish the race not giving anything at all. By this time I was climbing the Infamous the 4th time back, it was a brutal 900m climb with a max gradient of 11%. I ate a bar and fill myself up with all the nutrition I will need for the run later on. I was so dialed into my position and wouldn’t swap my beloved Argon E116 for any other bike; I actually ate a bar while climbing and overtook the other competitor on the climb with me at that point of time. This is indeed turning out to be a good ride compared to the murky swim start!

30km soon turned into 10km and before I knew it, I was jumping off my bike and into T2 to change into my favorite pair of Newton Running shoes proudly sponsored by Key Power International. Thank you Robert, Joey and Raymond for making it happen for me!!!

Just like any ironman race where if you give too much on one leg, the following leg will have to pay for it. The initial 23km of my 42km run went pretty well for me as I always enjoyed running from one point to another, I clocked in a time of 2hrs 10mins. My form was good and I had a steady rhythm running through the scorching cane fields. Having been accustomed to running in such heat, I saw many other competitor resort to walking, boosting my confidence even more.
With 19km more to go, it was than at this point where the fatigue begins to take its toll on me. I reach out into my pocket to grab my secret stash of electrolyte gums only to find my 300calories worth of nutrition transformed into a lump of sour-smelling goo. It had melted in my pocket under the heat of the day. I was more concern about having an upset tummy after consuming it for the remaining of the run and decided to throw it away.

With no more nutrition left, I resorted to the remaining cokes left at the aids station for whatever calories I may be able to consume. On my way to the final three loops I needed to do along esplanade drive, my trusted supporter Alan appeared and shouted and cheered me on. It gave me the assurance that the day was all coming to an end soon as long as I pressed on hard. My legs were giving way as my left thigh was retarded in keeping up with my right. Still, it was never an option for me to quit or start walking. One stride at a time, I travel and move with my arm swing in sync with the motion.

 I crossed the line at 11:21:00. It was not good enough for a Kona slot this time round but I broke my previous record of 11:25:07. An extra sweet consolation this time round for me would also be my bike timing of 5hrs 35mins. I may not necessary have the best run this time round but and I won’t make up excuses why it didn’t work out for me. Rather, I am already looking into besting myself even more for the next race and how I am going to do it. I went through crap and back again for this and I am proud of my achievement as a woman.

I would recommend anybody who is looking to take on a beautiful bike course Ironman to race Ironman Cairns. The course overall was great, people were all very helpful and friendly and most of all, the food here are awesome!!!

For everybody who made it happen, thank you all. I couldn’t have had a better race than this.

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