Anthony Fletcher: Race Report
Ironman Australia 6th time, 8th Ironman overall
It has been a long build up to this years Ironman and as usual race day doesn’t disappoint always throwing something different your way and challenging you and giving you new learnings to take into the next one. Allow me to digress while I take you on the journey just to get to the start line of this one. There were moments where I thought circumstances would mean that I may not make the start line. At the end of the day while we endure a lot and put our families through absence and fitting things in around our training, family is the most important thing and I wouldn’t bat an eyelid to put them first and not start if I had to.
You see out family has had more challenges than most in this campaign. My wife was diagnosed with MS at the end of 2017 with autoimmune lesions in the base of her brain stem which have increasingly seen her afflicted with severe neuropathic pain in her left side, mostly head and arm every few hours. While Helene has been an absolute warrior in facing this pain it has had a large effect on the rest of the household both emotionally and supporting her through this time. It got so severe that we had to leave Mooloolaba the day before the Olympic Distance Triathlon in March and go straight to the ER.
We also had our oldest son admitted to hospital during during March/April as well and during the last month of lead up got the flu most probably due to the emotional stress and lack of sleep. This report would have been out a couple of days earlier however we were not home 24 hours and we were back in Emergency to tweak her pain medication after some planned changes were implemented. Helene is home again now but its a rough ride with her pain until the new medication takes full effect.
I have been working with a coach this time. Good friend whom I met on an Ironman Training camp back in 2014, Daniel Mctainsh, who has been coaching me for this Ironman. I felt that I had probably the best preparation physically of any of my Ironman’s and would recommend Dan highly. He had also prompted me to get a bike fit which resulted in a change of tribes and risers to give me a much more comfortable aero position on the bike and led to a much more comfortable run. Kudos and huge thanks also to Brendan McAuliffe from South East Cycles for all the help and support he has given me both with the bike and personally. He is just a champion bloke 🙂
Race week rolled around and we were due to travel down on the Wednesday but had some last minute appointments at the hospital pop up for Helene so ended up leaving mid afternoon on Thursday and arriving after dark that night. While it is a long drive it is getting more bearable every years as more and more of the Pacific Highway upgrade is completed, we are probably 2 years from it being a freeway drive the whole way.
I had a short swim and bike shakedown on the Friday morning and felt great and really pumped for race day.
Did all the usual registering, racking bikes and bags on the Friday and Saturday as usual and prepared the gear I would race in and need from transition and the swim and went to be nice and early Saturday ready for an early start Sunday.
It is very handy to have accomodation across the street from transition, rolled out of bed around 5.15, sorted my bike and back for a nice 45min rest on the couch before donning the wetsuit, cap and goggles and heading to the corral area for the swim start at 6.45. A few last minute obligatory selfies before handing control of my phone to the wife for the rest of the day.
High Five Pete Murray just before hitting the water and we are off and racing. Settled into a nice rhythm early although had to stop quickly a couple of times to empty water out of leaking goggles and had some traffic to swim through, seems some people don’t know how self seeding works lol. Past the 1500m point in just under 23 minutes which had it been an OD swim would have been a PB by a couple of minutes so I knew I was on PB pace, previous PB here was 1.08.50. There seemed to be a bit of a current against us on the way back so was thinking the PB may disappear but ended up finishing the swim in 1.06.07, almost a 3 minute PB which I was stoked with.
Ahhh the bike, if there ever was a leg in triathlon that can be your undoing then it is this one, bike setup, weather conditions, nutrition, pacing, hydration, mental game. While the conditions were far from ideal that probably wasn’t my main issue on the bike, read on …
Many I spoke to post race talked of the “soul destroying bike leg” - not my words but many found it tough. I was talking to a guy while running who noted that he had rode the same average power when he was at Kona last October versus today and was an hour slower today, granted you can’t compare courses and Kona had perfect conditions last year so take from that what you will.
My plan was to stick to 140-150HR on the first half of the bike, realistically on the Port Mac Course it is going to spike every time you go up the many undulations ie hills so I was trying to keep it to that on the flats which was harder said than done as I would have been hardly moving into the wind, realistically I was low 150s when on the flats spiking higher when I went up the hills. This is possibly where my nutrition quantity I had with me started to be lacking as what lasted me the whole bike last year only lasted 1 lap this year (it had been adequate in previous years) and I found my self in a world of bonk starting the second lap having to take the on course product to get home. Learnings from this is that i will use a bike special needs bag next time with additional bottles of nutrition or train some with the on course product. So I eventually got back into town up and down all those hills on the way in 6.56, my slowest bike split in my 8 Ironmans and over an hour slower than my fastest in 2015 of 5.48.
Onto the run, the first couple of kms out of transition is always rough, getting used to carry your own weight after 180km on the bike. Once I got into a rhythm I was doing around high 6min/km to 7 average until just over half way. By this point I was starting to hurt and I caught up to the Hatchman (Shane Hatch) whom I had been coaching for his second Ironman. He had had some knee issues so had been reduced to a walk and as I needed a short break from running I walked with him for a while and exchanged notes on our races so far. Ironman’s are often about reassessing your goals mid race based on challenges you face and Shane’s race is no different from many on course today, I was proud of him for digging in and finishing despite a knee that was being less that cooperative. I left Shane after about 10mins and ran/walked the rest of the run to post a 5.28 run and 13.44 overall. I was well short of my goal for the day. That run time was still the fastest of my 8 Ironman’s and I felt it was an improvement in some respects as I felt better in the first half than I probably ever have despite the bike nutrition issues. Was I disappointed, yes, but still proud of myself for finishing another one of these. I have some good learnings to take into the next one however. Having a PB swim and PB run and knowing what went wrong and that I know I can do better with a few tweaks means Im looking forward to #9 and beating that elusive PB that I set in 2015.
Post note: It just goes to show what a weapon race winner, Cameron Wurf, in setting a course record on a day like this.
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